He finished scrubbing up before he answered her. 'All right. But you talk me through exactly what you're doing and why.'

Her mouth tightened behind her mask. 'Like a junior?'

'Like any other senior registrar on their first operation with a new consultant. It's a quick way of getting to know how we both work.'

Fair enough. He was still a bit abrupt for her liking, but maybe he'd discovered that she was the daughter of a baron and thought she was just playing at being a doctor. This whs her chance to prove to him that she was serious—and she wasn't going to blow that chance.

As part of the preparation, Declan's head had been completely shaved. Instead of making him look like a thug, the haircut made him look like a defenceless little boy. Which was exactly what he was.

But there was no room for sentiment or emotion here in Theatre. Vicky had a job to do. And she was going to do it well.

'This is where I'm going to cut,' she said, indicating the area on Declan's head.

'OK,' Jake said.

Deftly, she cut through the layers of skin, muscle and membrane at the site. 'Burr-holes next,' she said, drilling a series of tiny holes. 'The bone's not too thick at this point, so I don't need to drill them very, very close together.'

She talked him through the rest of the operation—using a Gigli's saw, passed between the burr-holes using a malleable saw guide, then lifting the lid of bone back on a hinge of muscle so she could open the dura mater to reveal the inner membranes. 'Here's the clot. Suction and irrigation,' she said, working carefully to remove the clot. 'Here's the ruptured blood vessel. I'm going to clip it here.'

When she'd finished and was sure the blood vessel had stopped leaking, she gently replaced the bone, ready to sew the membranes, muscles and skin back into position.

'Want me to close?' Jake asked.

It wasn't really a question. He'd assessed her; now it was time for her to see how he worked. She nodded and stood back.

He was good. Fast, thorough and very deft. She'd never seen such neat stitching—and said so.

'Thank you.' He inclined his head slightly at the compliment, but didn't allow anything to detract from his focus.

That, Vicky thought, was impressive. She had a feeling she was going to enjoy working with Jake Lewis. A like mind, focused on his job. He really didn't care what people thought about him—the patient came first. Refreshing.

When they'd finished, he walked back to the ward with her. 'Do you want me to talk to his parents?'

She shook her head. 'I'll do it. They know me from the emergency department, and it's better that they have continuity of care as far as possible.'

'I agree. You know where I am if you need me.'

Meaning that he trusted her. Quite why that should make her feel enveloped in a warm glow, she had no idea. She already knew she did her job properly, so it shouldn't matter what he thought.

She went into the relatives' room, where the Fosters were waiting anxiously. 'I'm pleased to say the operation was a success. Declan should be coming round in a few minutes and you'll be able to see him straight away. We'll need to keep him flat for the next day or two so his brain can settle down again, and gradually we'll raise the head of the bed. We'll be assessing him very, very frequently and he'll have more CT scans over the next few days, so we can keep an eye on how he is and pick up on any little niggles before they turn into problems.' She decided not to mention the fact that the CT scan would pick up extra fluid; it was perfectly routine, but would sound scary to the Fosters and they were already upset enough.

'So he's going to be all right?' Mrs Foster asked.

'He should be,' Vicky said with a smile.

'Oh, thank God. Thank you.'

'And my consultant. If you have any questions, please, ask for me or Mr Lewis and we'll do our best to reassure you.'

'So that's everyone—oh, except Vicky, but you were with her in Theatre,' Gemma said.

'Dr Radley.'

Gemma grinned. 'Don't stand on ceremony. She doesn't even use her title around here.'

'Title?' That was news to Jake. What title?

'She's an Hon.—the Honourable Victoria Radley,' Gemma explained. 'Though she's always made it very clear she's a doctor first.' She smiled. 'You've probably heard of her brother, Charlie. Baron Radley.'

The name rang a bell, though Jake wasn't sure why. He never bothered with celebrity magazines or gossip pages in the paper.

'But don't go thinking she's a snob or anything like that. I mean, she doesn't tend to go on ward nights out, but it's not because she thinks she's too good for us. It's because she's writing a paper or she's got the chance to shadow someone on a particularly interesting case.' Gemma sighed. 'She works too hard.'

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