CLAUDIA-JEAN NICHOLLS STOOD on tiptoe, stretching as high as she could to the top shelf. ‘Nope.’ She relaxed back with a sigh and rubbed the large baby bump. ‘It may help, little one, if you didn’t continue to stab me with your elbows. Hmm? How about giving Mummy a break?’ She stepped back to look at the item she wanted with longing. ‘Why didn’t I wear my platform shoes?’
‘Do they make platform shoes that high?’
CJ turned to look at the owner of the deep voice but all she saw was a firm chest beneath a navy polo shirt. She lifted her chin to meet the man’s gaze and saw a small grin on his lips. ‘Are you teasing me about my height?’ she asked, her tone light and jovial. When you lived in a small country town, it was almost second nature to have a chat with anyone you met, even if they were a stranger.
He shook his head, his grin widening. ‘Not at all. Merely posing a question.’
‘Well, to answer your question, no, I don’t think they do.’ Her own smile increased and she pointed to the item on the shelf that was out of reach. ‘Would you mind helping me, please? Coffee beans. The red bag.’ She placed a hand on her belly. ‘There are a few at the back but how they expect me to get them in my condition is beyond me. I should demand a step stool for every aisle.’
‘Or enlist the help of a tall friend every time you want to go shopping,’ he offered. ‘A safer option to platform shoes and step stools, especially in your condition.’ He quickly obliged, obtaining the coffee for her. ‘How tall are you?’
‘Five feet, two inches tall and thirty-five weeks wide.’ CJ chuckled at her own joke as she placed the coffee beans into her disorganised grocery trolley. ‘Thank you for your help.’
‘You’re more than welcome.’
With another smile in his direction, she pushed her trolley a little further down the aisle, looking for the next item on her list. She could feel him still watching her and when she looked over her shoulder, almost hitting herself in the face with one of her blonde pigtails, she saw him frowning and looking down the otherwise empty aisle. ‘Something wrong?’
‘Er…no.’ He looked up at the sign above them. ‘This is aisle eight.’
‘It’s just I was told by the store manager that I’d find Dr CJ Nicholls in aisle eight.’
‘And you did.’ CJ spread her arms wide. ‘And then you helped her get coffee beans from a high shelf.’
The man did a double take. ‘You’re CJ Nicholls?’
‘But…but…you’re…er…too young.’ At her arched eyebrow, he quickly continued. ‘What I mean is…you look about eighteen years old.’ He shook his head, his wide grin returning. ‘You’re having a laugh, right?’
‘You think I look eighteen? How very flattering but add at least another twelve years to that and you’ll be right on the money.’
‘You’re thirty!’ The incredulity in his tone should have been flattering.
‘I guess wearing my hair in pigtails doesn’t help the argument that I am indeed a qualified general practitioner. It’s just that wearing my hair up gives me headaches, keeping it loose makes me hot, and I really don’t want to cut it so…’ She allowed her sentence to trail off as she held out her hand. ‘Claudia-Jean Nicholls. Dr Claudia-Jean Nicholls. I went to medical school and everything.’ Her smile was wide, bright and absolutely dazzling. Her green eyes twinkling with merriment.
‘Uh… Ethan Janeway.’
‘Oh, you’re Ethan.’ She shook his hand enthusiastically, ignoring the small wave of heat that spread up her arm at the touch. ‘I wasn’t expecting you until this evening.’ She gestured to her shopping trolley. ‘Hence the reason for this last-minute shop. There’s nothing in the cupboards.’ Why, all of a sudden, did she feel so self-conscious? Perhaps it was because she was faced with a very tall, very dark and very handsome stranger who had the most amazing blue eyes she’d ever seen. A stirring of something foreign sizzled in her tummy and it definitely wasn’t indigestion! He frowned and she flicked her pigtails back over her shoulders. ‘Problem?’
‘Why should it matter if there’s nothing in the cupboards?’
CJ shrugged and glanced at her watch. ‘Whoa, look at the time.’ She started pushing the trolley and was pleased when he fell into step beside her. ‘I guess I like to eat food when I get home from work,’ she remarked, answering his previous question. ‘I naturally presumed you would, too.’