‘The vineyard owners have to save water where they can, so it’s recycled into “grey water”. Sometimes it can give off a bad aroma but it’s worse after the grapes have been crushed.’
‘And this is supposed to be fun,’ he stated dryly.
CJ laughed as Donna’s house came into view. ‘Yes.’ She waggled a finger at him. ‘So make sure you enjoy it.’
The house was surrounded with cars parked at all sorts of angles and Ethan managed to find a space not too far from where the festivities were taking place. He came around and helped CJ out of the car, his fingers lingering a moment longer than necessary. It was enough to make her pulse jump into the next gear and start racing with anticipation.
‘Thank you.’ The words came out on a breathless whisper. She glanced down at the ground and cleared her throat before meeting his gaze once more and smiling shyly up at him. ‘I’m not used to playing the damsel in distress but there’s no way I can get out of the car without help—at the moment.’ She tried to laugh off the feelings he was evoking, telling herself she was silly for even experiencing them in the first place. Look at her, for heaven’s sake. What man would find her attractive now?
‘I don’t think you’re a damsel in distress.’ His blue eyes were intense with sincerity, his deep voice slightly husky and filled with promise. ‘I think you’re a radiant mother-to-be.’
She swallowed, unable to look away. They were standing closer than she’d realised and she could still smell the fresh scent of his shower. Everything around them became a blur as they continued to focus solely on each other. Desire—surprising yet very real—raced through him at an alarming rate and he forced himself to take a step away.
As he closed the car door behind her, CJ was thankful for the momentary reprieve as she tried to squash the emotions he was forcing to the surface. She cleared her throat. ‘I’d better go find Donna. Would you mind passing me my bags, please?’
Once she had them in her hot little hands, she took off so fast he was surprised. The only time he’d seen a pregnant woman walk that quickly was when she needed to go to the bathroom! Perhaps that’s where CJ was headed…or perhaps she wanted to get away from him.
Either way, he was very glad there was a growing physical distance between them. ‘Just do your job and get back to your life,’ he muttered to himself as he followed the direction CJ had taken towards the house.
‘Yoo-hoo! Dr Janeway.’ He turned at the sound of his name being called. He was just about to head up the few steps to the front door when Tania, the receptionist from the clinic, came around the side of the house. ‘We’re all out the back. Here.’ She linked her arm through his. ‘I’ll show you.’
Ethan forced himself to smile as he allowed himself to be led by Tania. ‘Look who’s here,’ Tania chattered as they came around the house to the rear entertaining area where about twenty-five people were gathered. There were introductions all around and before he knew it, an empty plate was being thrust into his hands and he was being guided towards a rustic table laden with food. There were cold meats, cheese, salads and loads of fresh fruit.
He was greeted warmly by Donna and her husband, as well as many others, and all the while he made polite conversation he kept an eye out for CJ. Was she all right? Was she inside with her feet up? He wanted her to rest but he also wanted to be around her. She was his anchor in this strange new place and he was a little miffed that she’d deserted him so quickly upon arrival.
Had she felt it, too? That tug? That stirring of desire that he’d experienced yesterday at Whitecorn Hospital but which he had brushed off as ‘ridiculous’? Today, though, when he’d held her hand, when he’d stood close to her, when he’d breathed her in, he could have sworn she’d been just as mesmerised by him as he’d been by her. How was that possible? They barely knew each other.
‘Try the olives,’ she told him, suddenly appearing by his side, plate in hand. ‘They’re grown on the property, too.’
‘You’re hungry again?’
‘Eating for two,’ she stated, loading up her plate. When she went to sit down, he was pleased she’d left room for him to sit next to her. The conversations flowed naturally and after a while of feeling like an outsider, Ethan began to relax. These were nice, genuine people and they were accepting him as easily as CJ had.
* * *
Two hours later, the grape-picking had well and truly begun. Once he’d been shown what to do, Ethan worked quickly and efficiently. He was by no means a stranger to hard work and found the task both enjoyable and, oddly, relaxing.