‘I don’t follow. Why should you be concerned with where and when I eat?’
‘Your lodgings, while you’re in town, are at my house.’
‘I thought you knew. It was in the paperwork I sent through. We share a kitchen, laundry and lounge room.’
‘The paperwork stated that accommodation was provided with the job. It’s why I’m here.’ He indicated their present surroundings. ‘I went to the clinic to pick up the key for my lodgings, only to be directed here and told to find you.’ His gaze rested momentarily on her pregnancy. ‘I’m the locum to cover…maternity leave.’ He spoke the last two words slowly, as though finally realising that she was the person he was locum for.
‘That’s right. I’m going on maternity leave as soon as we’ve got you settled, although why Donna doesn’t think I can work up until—’ She stopped. She and Donna had had several discussions about this maternity leave, namely that CJ didn’t think she needed to take leave at all. Decreasing her workload to part time would have worked just fine but Donna had stood her ground and insisted CJ employ a locum. CJ had finally agreed to find someone for three months, Donna had insisted upon six months. ‘Never mind. Any other questions?’
‘Er…do we share a bathroom?’ He glanced once more at her pregnant belly.
‘No.’ Her smile broadened. ‘Which is just as well because, with Junior jumping up and down on my bladder all night, I need a clear path.’
‘And that’s why you’re shopping? Because I’ll be living with you?’
‘Sharing a house,’ she corrected. ‘The bedrooms, with en suites, are at opposite ends of the house. We only finished the renovations last week.’
‘You and your husband?’ A small frown puckered his brow. ‘Or partner?’
CJ dropped her gaze to her ringless fingers. ‘My husband passed away. It’s just me and the baby now.’ She flicked a pigtail over her shoulder.
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be…indelicate.’
‘You weren’t to know and, besides, Pridham is a very small town. I’m sure you’ll know all there is to know about me from the patients by the end of your first week.’ She grinned. ‘At any rate, the “we” I was referring to was myself and Brett, the builder.’ She turned into the next aisle and checked her list again, then looked at the shelves and lifted a hand dejectedly.
‘Why is everything on the top shelf today? I swear it’s a conspiracy to stop pregnant women from getting what they want. Ethan, would you mind getting that jar of pickles down, please?’
She grinned again. ‘Oh, yeah. Pickles and bananas are high on the list at the moment.’
‘Your body must be low in sodium and potassium.’
‘Excellent deduction, Dr Janeway. If I hadn’t already been impressed with your extensive résumé, I am now.’ She chuckled as she added a few more things to the trolley, checked her list and nodded. ‘That’s it…unless there’s something you’d really like or need?’
He scanned the contents of the trolley before shrugging. ‘I can come back tomorrow if need be.’
‘OK.’ She headed for the checkout.
‘Ah, I see you found her,’ Idris, the store manager, said as CJ started to unload the contents of the trolley.
‘In aisle eight, just like you said.’ Ethan quickly took over unloading the trolley, especially when she picked up a large tub of ice cream and almost dropped it. ‘Allow me,’ he stated.
‘It’s OK. I can manage.’
‘I have no doubt but still, this one time, allow me.’ Ethan continued to put the groceries onto the checkout conveyer belt. ‘I thought, as you’re almost to term, that you would have given up work a while ago.’
‘Ah…the life of working in a small town. It’s definitely a vocational calling because it’s all work and no play. Plus, it’s usually very difficult to get locums to agree to come this far away from a major city for any extended period of time.’
‘Which means you’re rare and valuable.’ She smiled at him as he finished emptying the trolley. ‘Thank you. It’s also nice to meet a true gentleman.’
‘Do you mean because I helped a pregnant woman?’ He shook his head. ‘That’s not what makes me a gentleman because in my opinion anyone, male or female, should help a pregnant woman, especially one in her last trimester.’ There was a slight vehemence to his words that CJ admired. When her phone rang, she pulled it from her pocket. ‘Dr Nicholls.’ Her words were absentminded, still thinking about what Ethan had said, but her mind quickly cleared as her practice manager’s voice came down the line.