At six o’clock, he was astonished when his alarm woke him up. He’d slept and, apart from the slight crick in his neck, he felt fairly well rested. As he headed to the bathroom to shower, the hot water helping to soothe his neck, he felt determined to try and enjoy the day CJ had planned for him. Networking was good. Networking was necessary if he wanted to break into the tight-knit community of the town, and this would be the way to do it. The last thing he needed was to be ready to help out in the clinic but have no patients booked in to see him because they didn’t trust him.
Walking into the kitchen, he was surprised to find CJ sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal. ‘Have you been up all night?’
She looked up at him and smiled that sweet and lovely smile he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about. She shook her head as she chewed her mouthful of food. He had to admit that she looked glowing, in a pale green knit top with three-quarter–length sleeves, the colour making her eyes more vibrant. Her blonde locks were once again in pigtails, making her look vulnerable and…adorable. She swallowed, her smile widening.
‘No. Not all night. Junior let me get some sleep because…today is grape picking day!’
‘Do you really plan on picking grapes or are you going to sit and put your feet up and let everyone else do the hard work?’
CJ laughed, the sound settling over him like sunshine. ‘Not you, too. You’re starting to sound like every other over-protective person in this town. I might help out a bit but only with the vines at chest height. My brain hasn’t completely turned to mush.’
‘Glad to hear it.’ He took the cereal down from the cupboard.
‘You don’t need to eat. Breakfast is provided and it’s a lavish spread.’
He put the cereal away and looked at her bowl.
‘Junior was hungry.’ She grinned and carried her bowl to the sink. The black skirt she wore swished around her legs and she adjusted the hem of her top so it wasn’t crinkled over her stomach. ‘So, does the fact that you’re up and ready to shake, rattle and roll mean you’re coming grape picking with me?’
‘Someone’s got to keep an eye on you.’
‘Ha. Trust me, Ethan. Everyone there today will be keeping an eye on me.’
‘They really are protective of you?’
‘Because your husband died?’ He knew he was probing but what she’d said about her husband yesterday had only stirred up more questions. She hesitated before nodding. ‘Were they protective of you before your husband’s death?’
‘Of course they were.’ She looked away and gestured towards her room. ‘I’ll just grab my handbag, then I need to stop off at the clinic to pack my medical bag and then we can go.’ She effectively changed the subject by walking out of the room.
Ethan frowned, his dislike for her husband continuing to grow, which was ludicrous. The man had done nothing to him and up until a few days ago he hadn’t even known of Quinten’s existence. Still, every time he mentioned her husband, sadness came into CJ’s eyes—a haunting sadness that indicated her marriage hadn’t been a happy one.
When she returned, she was her bright, happy self and they went outside. ‘I won’t be a moment,’ she said, heading over to the clinic. ‘You can wait in the car if you’d prefer.’
Ethan walked beside her. ‘Expecting some emergencies today?’
She shrugged. ‘I know Donna will have a well-stocked emergency kit but I still like to have a bag packed, just in case. Besides, there’s the usual ailments—cuts, scrapes, mosquito bites.’
‘Yes. Because the vines are constantly drip-watered, it makes shallow puddles that are an ideal breeding ground for—’
‘Mozzies,’ they said together.
She packed her bag, going over the check list twice before locking up the clinic and walking back to her house. ‘Can we take your car again? It’s a dream to ride in.’
‘Of course.’ He held the door for her before heading round to the driver’s seat. ‘If you weren’t pregnant, I’d even let you have a drive, but the seats don’t adjust all that well.’
‘I’ll hold you to that once the baby’s born.’ Once her scarf and sunglasses were in place, she gave him directions to Donna’s house.
‘What is that smell?’ he asked, as they neared Donna’s house. ‘It’s like…alcohol and…’ He sniffed again, unable to pinpoint the smell.
‘Manure,’ she supplied.
‘Exactly.’ He turned into the driveway and followed it up the winding path.