St Matthew's Passion - By Sam Archer

Chapter One

Though there were perhaps two dozen people between Melissa and Mr Finmore-Gage, he was the first person she saw when she set foot on the ward.

He stood at the centre of a cluster of people in nurses’ uniforms and white coats, taller than any of them and with a presence that drew the eye even leaving aside his height. Melissa took in the details in an instant: his dark, casually rumpled hair, his light eyes (were they blue, or grey? she found herself wondering despite herself), the broad shoulders under the white coat. Many consultants, especially ones as eminent as Mr Daniel Finmore-Gage, would wear sharp suits to ward rounds. He evidently preferred to dress like a practising clinician who remained in the thick of the action.

A porter jostled Melissa with a trolley, muttering an apology, and it was only then that she realised she was still standing inside the doorway to the ward. She stepped aside. Across the ward Mr Finmore-Gage raised his head and his gaze met hers.

Grey eyes, she thought.

Melissa gave her throat a discreet clear – it wouldn’t do to start out tongue-tied – and strode the length of the ward to the knot of people at the beds at the end. By the time she reached them and the consultant had stepped forward himself, her heart was hammering. First-day nerves, she told herself.

She thrust out a hand, a little too hastily, she thought. ‘Mr Finmore-Gage. I’m Melissa Havers, your new registrar.’ Her voice was steady, she was pleased to notice: brisk and business-like.

He took her hand, his clasp firm and warm and dry. His eyes, pale and intense beneath slightly arched brows, were locked on hers. A slight smile creased one side of his mouth into a depression that looked quite like a dimple.

For a moment all the staff around them, all the patients in their beds, had disappeared and it was just the two of them in the room.

‘Ms Havers.’ His voice was a baritone, soft but with a tone of quiet authority. Although she’d passed her final examinations in surgery more than a year earlier and had thereby gained entry into the hallowed membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, Melissa still couldn’t get used to being a Ms rather than a Dr.

‘A pleasure to have you with us. I’ve heard some rather good things,’ he murmured.

As compliments went it was artfully understated, yet she wanted to smile, the pride swelling in her chest. Instead she blurted: ‘Please call me Melissa.’ She regretted it immediately. He was her new boss. He could call her what he liked.

His smile broadened a fraction and he dipped his head in acknowledgement. Breaking eye contact for the first time, he glanced around the ward and waved a hand. ‘We tend to start fairly early, as you can see.’

Melissa cursed herself inwardly. She’d meant to be there before the start of the ward round, perhaps even get to know some of the patients before the consultant arrived. Her eyes shifted to the clock on the wall. Six forty in the morning. She’d have to do better tomorrow.

His manner became formal once again. Grave, even. Melissa fell into step beside him, aware that the eyes of the nurses and junior doctors in the group were on her, this newcomer in their midst. Well, she’d been expecting that, and would have to assert her own authority from early on.

Melissa had arrived London in the early hours of the morning, having taken a late train up from Devon where she’d been visiting her parents. She’d unloaded her earthly possessions in the small one-bedroom flat she’d rented in Bayswater – all she could afford for the time being – and caught a few restless hours of sleep, too excited about the morning to rest properly. Five o’clock had seen her up with the dawn and within half an hour she was catching the Underground to St Matthew’s Hospital on the Thames. She’d paused outside the enormous glass doors of the facade, marvelling at the grandeur of the building and feeling as excited as a child going on its first trip on an aeroplane.

She stood in the crisp early morning sunshine, savouring the moment, intensely aware of what she’d achieved. As her tearfully ecstatic mother had reminded her the day before, hugging her before she left, Melissa had done something nobody in the family had ever come close to. Not only had she qualified as a doctor, but at the age of just