‘You don’t like it here?’
‘I don’t like sharing.’
She pondered his words. ‘That would have been interesting for you and your siblings while you were growing up.’ It also rang some alarm bells in the back of her mind that she needed to watch her step where Ethan was concerned. Quinten, her husband, hadn’t liked sharing things, except his bed. Quinten had also become overbearing and controlling. Was Ethan really like that or was that just the image he liked to convey so that people didn’t question him too deeply? Either way, she had no room in her life right now for a drama king.
‘That’s not what I meant.’
‘I know what you meant. You’re not used to sharing accommodation. I get it.’ CJ smothered another yawn. ‘I don’t think you’ll find a furnished apartment in town available for the length of your stay. Most of the bed-and-breakfast places around here are booked up for the weekends and school holidays.’ She rubbed her belly. ‘However, you’re more than welcome to try. If you’re uncomfortable here and you feel that’s what you need to do, then I guess that’s what you need to do.’
‘Just like that? You’re OK if I go, even after you went to so much trouble to remodel your house?’
CJ hooted with laughter. ‘I didn’t remodel it for you.’ She put the banana peel in the bin and stacked the dishes in the dishwasher.
‘Uh…of course not,’ he said. ‘But is it OK if I stay here until I can arrange something else?’
‘Of course.’ After she’d finished tidying up, she headed to the door that led to her part of the house, but paused and turned to look at him. ‘I’m guessing you’re not used to being sociable and chummy with your work colleagues?’
‘Did Melody tell you that?’ He was annoyed with his sister and didn’t disguise it.
‘No. Your manner does.’
‘Is that so?’
‘Yes. It tells me that you’re used to being respected, to not having your decisions questioned and that you don’t particularly like interacting with subordinates.’
If he’d been uncomfortable before with the way she just blurted out her thoughts, it was nothing compared to now, and it was mainly because she’d hit the nail right on the head. In a matter of hours of their first meeting, CJ Nicholls had seen right through to the heart of him and it completely unnerved him.
‘Ethan, if it makes you feel better, stay somewhere else and only interact with the staff and patients when absolutely necessary. So long as my practice is in one piece when I get back from maternity leave, I don’t care what else happens.’
‘I’ve upset you,’ he stated.
‘No.’ She shook her head sadly. ‘I’m not angry or annoyed, Ethan. I feel sorry for you. I thought we could be friends, but it’s OK if that’s not the case.’
‘Look, Dr Nicholls, all I want for the next six months is to get out of bed, do my job and spend my evenings in peace.’
She stared at him for a long moment before nodding. ‘OK. If that’s the way you want it, that’s fine.’ There was no anger in her tone, no girlish outrage, but there was definitely a hint of pity, which was the last thing he wanted. ‘Goodnight, Ethan. I hope you’re able to sleep.’ With that, she headed through the door that led to her part of the house.
Ethan stood in the kitchen for a while longer, pondering their conversation. He’d survived pity before. He’d been the source of gossip, people whispering in the corner, stopping whenever he walked by, then starting up again the instant he left. He’d locked himself away, just as he’d locked his belongings away and it had been working…until he’d met CJ Nicholls.
It really did leave him with one major question—should he stay, or should he go?
WHEN SHE WOKE on Saturday morning, CJ felt as though she’d been put through the wringer. She turned on her side, swung her legs over the edge of the bed and slowly pushed herself upright, keeping her eyes closed in an effort to stop the spinning sensation.
Gradually opening her eyes, she tried to focus but it was no good and a wave of nausea hit with force. She clamped a hand over her mouth and rushed to her bathroom. Once her early morning dash was over, she showered and dressed, beginning to feel much better, even though she was already exhausted.
‘No one said the last trimester was easy,’ she mumbled as she shuffled into the kitchen.
She stopped. Ethan was sitting at the kitchen table dressed in a pair of casual trousers and navy cotton shirt, eating a stack of pancakes drowned in maple syrup. She sniffed appreciatively and smiled as she walked over to the stove.