RJ is back with the third installment of her Love for the Seasons series.
This story is about Scott (who features briefly in book one) a paediatric oncologist who burns out watching kids die in his care. He’s been celibate for a year. He’s emotionally broken and takes an A&E position in Brighton hoping a sea change is what he needs to get his life back in order. What he didn’t expect was to meet Ben, a childhood nurse with a clinically depressed dog. How does Ben help Scott pick his life up? Just how much of Scott’s history influences his day to day life? You’ll have to read it to find out.
Here’s the blurb:
A sea change could be just what the doctor ordered.
Doctor Scott Penney used to be a Paediatric Oncologist—until he burned out. Watching children suffer and die took its toll on his mental health. To cope, he used anonymous sex as an emotional crutch, thinking it was better than hitting the bottle. But that inevitably destroyed his relationship with the man he loved.
With his tail between his legs and a year’s worth of celibacy under his belt, Scott accepts a position as an Accident and Emergency consultant, leaving his career in oncology and London behind.
Ben Jenkins is a paediatric nurse who loves his seaside city, his job, and his faithful old Labrador, Happy. When he meets the new doctor, Ben falls for Scott’s kind-yet-reserved personality—not to mention his good looks. Scott is great with the children who come to the hospital, but Ben senses there’s more to Scott than meets the eye.
Scott tries to resist Ben’s sunny charm—Scott’s not boyfriend material, after all—but it’s impossible not to fall in love with the sad looking old dog and his charming owner. As Scott and Ben get closer and the weather heats up, tragedy strikes and Ben is left wondering how much of Scott’s history he actually knows.
For them to move forward, Ben must show Scott that no matter what happened in the past, a beautiful day can always start after the sun sets.
**This can be read as a standalone**
(Keep scrolling to read the entire first chapter)
Books #1 and #2 are now available on Kindle Unlimited.
HOW DO you know if you’ve made the right decision? What tells you to go left instead of right? Is the devil you know really any better, or is he just as fucked up as the other guy?
I could stay in London, stay in paediatric oncology—even though it sucked the life from me—and continue living a half-life. I had no partner and no desire. My sex life had become non-existent by choice. My passion for my work had been flushed down the toilet along with my relationship with Noah.
On the other hand, I had an offer to move to Brighton and start a new role as a consultant paediatrician in the Accident and Emergency department at the children’s hospital. Would I be happier there? Dealing with kids who had been in a car accident or unwittingly drank a bottle of cleaner didn’t mean I wouldn’t have to deal with kids dying. I may see less of it than I did in oncology, but…
Should I run away and start a new life by the sea? Was it running or knowing when to move on? Could it be as simple as taking an offer to get out of a city that was sucking my soul to the point I didn’t recognise myself anymore? Wasn’t the ocean supposed to be healing?
When I first received the offer from Brighton, I’d thought about telling Noah, but after the last time I saw him, I thought better of it. I didn’t know if I still loved him or not, but we’d been good together, and I missed the closeness, the intimacy, and the company. You couldn’t call what I’d done at the sauna intimate. It was fucking. Pure and simple. Well, maybe not so pure. But I had used anonymous sex like a drug to get out of my head after a bad shift the same way some people used drugs or alcohol.
I’d become addicted to the endorphin rush sex could bring, and I kept telling myself it was a better form of therapy than illicit substances or booze. Anonymous sex meant I went home to Noah feeling better about my day and not dwelling on the fact I had just told a young couple that their beloved child wasn’t responding to treatment and there was nothing else I could do. I was a doctor, for fuck’s sake. Unless they counted on a miracle, I was their last hope, and to watch that hope sputter and die in front of me killed a little part of my sanity each time.
Maybe drinking would have been less damaging, but I vowed to never touch alcohol.
Looking back—hindsight is a wonderful thing—I couldn’t even say I enjoyed the sex at the sauna all that much. I’d been safe, always, but the men I’d been with—and God knew there were many—had been nothing but substitute hands. Which, when I thought of Noah and how much we’d been in love, made my infidelity all the more foolish and shortsighted.
When Noah kicked me out for the last time, I hit rock bottom. Unless I wanted to end up like my parents and self-destruct, I knew I had to reassess my life and stop going to the sauna. My inability to distance myself emotionally while working in the paediatric oncology department still sucked the life from me, but I had stopped using sex as a distraction. Instead, I cried. I got angry at the world and threw things around my flat in frustration and cursed God for giving babies cancer their little immune systems had no chance of fighting. Then I cried some more, retreating into myself. After all that, I got up the next morning and prayed it would be a good day.
But there were some happy times in amongst all the crap. My job could be rewarding and fulfilling. Not every child I saw succumbed to the disease, and I revelled in the way some patients seemed to take on the world, as well as the cancer, and win. Those were the times that made me look forward to going to work, knowing I could help save a life and save the parents from the heartbreak of burying a child.
That was what drove me.
I’d always wanted to work with kids, had always understood them. They could be brutally honest and innocent as hell at the same time. I hadn’t yet met a child I couldn’t talk to. When I was initially offered the position in oncology four years ago, I jumped at the chance, keen to get my hands dirty and kick cancer’s arse. I was ambitious—if a little naïve—and ready to take on the world. It was almost an obsession to give the patients the best chance of survival I could. I did everything I could to stop cancer ravaging their little bodies. I studied new treatment methods, researched what alternative medicines other countries were trialling, and subscribed to every relevant medical journal I could.
But despite doing everything humanly possible, sometimes it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t just the loss of young lives that had sent me over the edge. It was the loss of my chosen career. As much as I hated cancer, I also loved it. I loved the complexity of it and how it seemed determined to outsmart the medicine I threw at it. Sometimes I won, which made me feel like I’d not only saved a life, but saved the entire world. In the eyes of the parents, I had. I’d saved their world, and to me, there was no greater joy.
So, when I stumbled upon the A&E position at the children’s hospital in Brighton advertised through the BMA website, I thought why the fuck not? I could still help kids, maybe save a life or two. Because God knew, trying to help kids with cancer was slowly killing me.
Maybe trying to save a kid’s life and actually succeeding more often than not would enable me to be me again. I may be able to have a taste of that same joy once more. Maybe the salty air and wide-open ocean would do me some good. Maybe I could have sex again. Then again, maybe not. It’d been close to a year since I’d been touched by another man. I wasn’t sure I knew what to do anymore.
Decisions. Which was the best one?
Stay or go?
London or Brighton?
Only time would tell if I’d made the right choice, I guess.
I signed the contract.
I wondered briefly if Noah was still with that guy with the long hair.
I shook my head. It no longer mattered.
I couldn’t go back now anyway.
I FOUND a small flat not far from Brighton Marina and a short walk to the hospital. After spending most of the day unpacking, I took a walk along the beachfront, sure I’d find a chippie nearby so I could grab some dinner. I had unpacked most of the kitchen items but had yet to come across the crockery. I’d find that box eventually.
I walked almost all the way to the pier before I came across some shops. Most of what I’d seen on my walk so far were mansions and upmarket apartments overlooking the beach. As summer was fast approaching, the weather wasn’t too cold but I still needed a jacket and scarf, and I hoped the nearest chip shop had the heat going. I must’ve walked into the gay part of town, as a few rainbow flags flew proudly from the odd flat window and storefront. I should’ve done some research on the area before I committed to the move, but my head hadn’t been in the right place. When I signed the employment contract, I didn’t care where I went, as long as I left London and oncology behind.
I truly hoped the wide-open spaces of the coast was what I needed.
After paying for my fish and chips, I took my meal down to the beach and sat on the edge of the promenade wall. I wasn’t far from Brighton’s famous pier, and I made a mental note to explore the area more thoroughly after I settled into the flat. I didn’t start work for another week, which gave me plenty of time to check out my new neighbourhood and surrounding area.
Tearing open the chip shop paper, a waft of salt and vinegar threatened to knock me over. It was heaven, and my stomach rumbled loudly after not eating all day. I had lost weight over the last year. There were a lot of days I couldn’t bear the thought of food, and I hoped this was another aspect of life I would be able to eventually enjoy again. I was a mess, but I knew how to fix myself and get back the old me, and as I sat on the beach, dinner in hand and the breeze making sure summer stayed away for a little bit longer, I was confident this was the break I needed.
Closing my eyes, I breathed in the fresh salty air, filling my lungs and mentally purging everything that was my old life in London on an exhale. I opened my eyes, stared out at the churning waves, then dug into my dinner.
I’d nearly finished eating when I saw a guy running along the beach with his dog. There weren’t that many people about, the cold obviously keeping them at bay, but this guy seemed to revel in the wind as he ran. I couldn’t see his features. He wasn’t running fast but his dog appeared to be slowing down. The guy coaxed his dog along with the odd pat on his leg and an encouraging “come on, Happy” but Happy was having none of it. With a final lurch, Happy flopped on the beach, all four limbs spread out as he panted into the pebbles. The guy waved at his dog and kept running. Was he just going to leave his dog on the beach? What if Happy decided to wander off? Surely he was about to turn around and come back for his companion? But, no. He kept going and Happy continued to lie on the pebbles.
With my dinner finished, I should have started the walk back to my new flat, but I didn’t want to leave Happy alone, scared he’d be left behind or roam up to the road and into traffic. My mind wandered. What would I do if the guy didn’t come back? Where could I take Happy? Was there a shelter nearby? I couldn’t have him in my flat, the lease didn’t allow it. Happy got up and sniffed around, occasionally digging then rolling in whatever he’d managed to dig up while I tried to come up with a solution for him. He lay on his back in the pebbles, his feet in the air, and I thought he was about to start rolling in something again, but when he didn’t move, I realised he must’ve fallen asleep. About ten minutes later, Happy rolled over and sniffed around once more. He seemed calm and content to stay in roughly the same spot his owner had left him. It was only a few more minutes before Happy’s tail started going ten to the dozen. I glanced up the beach and saw Happy’s owner running back, minus his shirt, which I could see swaying from the back of his shorts where he’d tucked it in the waistband. Happy didn’t move—except his tail was still wagging madly—till his owner ran past and Happy trotted beside him again. The guy reached down and scratched the dog’s ears while he loped along.
I watched until they ran out of sight.
THE FOLLOWING day, after finishing my unpacking and sorting out my flat, I walked along the beach again. This time I found a kebab shop and I sat in the same spot I had yesterday while I ate. Today was a bit warmer but the breeze was still cool, and I huddled in my jacket as I devoured the garlicky goodness. It was lucky I didn’t have someone to go home to. My breath would be awful.
Just as I was about to head home, I saw Happy running beside his owner again. Sure enough, the large dog came to a slow halt and spread out on the beach as his owner continued running. I watched Happy for a while. He seemed a cheerful sort of dog as the occasional passer-by stopped and gave him a pat. That was probably how he got his name. I had always wanted a dog, but my working hours were long and unpredictable. Still, it’d be nice to go home to someone again.
After throwing my rubbish in a nearby bin, I wandered over to meet Happy. When I got closer, I could see he was an old Labrador. His golden coat was matted with the grit he’d been rolling in and his muzzle showed a hint of grey. When I approached, Happy looked up at me with large, sad brown eyes and a droopy mouth. Now I wondered how he got his name. He looked downright miserable.
I scratched his ears. “Hello, Happy. I see you’ve been rolling around getting dirty again.” Happy pushed his head into my hand and thwapped his tail before rolling onto his back. “Does that mean you want a tummy rub?” I took his muffled grunt as a yes and knelt down to rub the soft fur of his belly. Happy lapped it up. He may have looked clinically depressed, but his wagging tail and soft grunting told me a different story.
A few minutes later, Happy rolled over, got to his feet, and stared up the beach. I was being completely ignored, so I guessed he had had enough of me. When Happy’s tail started swishing, I looked up to see Happy’s owner returning from his run. He was still a fair way off, but I could tell it was him just by how excited Happy had become. That was my cue to leave.
I scratched the old Lab’s ears and gave him a pat on his rump. “See you next time, Happy. Be good.”
I headed towards the road for the walk home. I’d been in Brighton for two days, and it didn’t escape me that the longest conversation I’d had so far was with a dog.
The following day I walked along the beach a little earlier and explored that part of the city. Brighton Pier was bustling with late-April tourists.
From a distance the pier was huge, but it wasn’t until you were on it that you realised just how large the wooden structure was. There were roller coasters and fun rides, games arcades and restaurants, dodgem cars and a carousel. It was a kid’s dream and a parent’s budget nightmare. Standing against the railing, I watched kids of all ages run about, driving their folks crazy. I spotted an elderly couple sitting on a bench eating ice cream. There were people holding hands as they ambled around, arms heavy with bags full of their purchases and winnings. Everyone was smiling and laughing, and I couldn’t help but feel… not happy as such, but more relaxed and content as the late sun warmed me. I vowed to come back to the pier when the weather was a little better and spend the day.
Yes, moving to Brighton had so far been a good thing. I could breathe a little bit easier.
When I stepped off the pier, I saw Happy lying on the beach in his usual position; his owner was far off in the distance still running the other way. I knelt down beside him and said hello before rubbing his belly. Happy stood and licked my hand, his rough tongue scraping over my skin, before nuzzling his snout in my chest then lifting up to lick my face. He still looked miserable, though. Maybe it was just his way. Happy sat next to me and we looked out at the ocean together as I ran my hand down his back and over his fur. Before long, Happy stood and moved away, his focus directed down the shoreline. I knew his owner was returning from his run, and again I took that as my cue to head home. With a light scratch of Happy’s ears, I said goodbye, then walked home feeling lighter than I had for months.
Happy and I continued our routine for the next three days, then it was time for me to start my job at the A&E department at the children’s hospital.
I told myself I wasn’t nervous.