‘It sounds as though—’ Ethan stopped and shook his head. ‘Never mind.’
‘It’s OK, I know what you’re going to say and you’re not the first person to say it. Quinten didn’t respect me. Not as a woman, or as a doctor.’
‘It does sound that way.’
‘It’s true. He told me that my refusal to leave and move to Sydney was what had ended our marriage for him.’
‘Did he leave?’
She shook her head. ‘The business deal fell through, which he blamed me for. He was always looking for that “get rich quick” scheme, and I eventually discovered the truth behind his initial move to Pridham in the first place. He’d lost a fortune on the stock market. Of course, at the time he told me it was something else, someone else’s fault—never his. It was just lie after lie, and I was too naïve, as far as men went, and believed everything.’ CJ snipped a large bunch of grapes with extra force. ‘I’m not now. When you learn lessons the hard way, they tend to stick.’
‘You’re a strong, independent woman.’ It was a statement and CJ nodded firmly.
‘Damn straight.’ She held her snips in her gloved hand and rubbed her belly protectively. ‘I’ve got to be strong. The baby needs me.’
Ethan straightened and smiled. ‘Good to hear.’
‘Thanks for listening to me ramble.’ She moved her hand around to her back and began rubbing in the arch.
‘Thank you for trusting me.’ He looked down at their bucket. ‘I think that’s full enough. Shall we take it in?’
CJ nodded and removed the glove from her hand. Then, as they walked back down the row of vines towards the house, she linked her arm through his, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. When Tania had done the same thing earlier, he’d been slightly uncomfortable. Now, though, when CJ did it, he found nothing uncomfortable about her touch, neither did he see anything in her expressive eyes other than happiness.
Had they just become friends? He wasn’t used to making new friends this fast but perhaps that was because he usually held everyone at bay. Since Abigail’s death, he hadn’t let anyone new get close to him and yet as CJ had been talking he’d felt the urge to share his own story with her, to tell her of his own disastrous marriage so CJ would know she wasn’t the only one who had felt so broken-hearted.
‘CJ!’ The urgent call came through the house.
‘What’s wrong, Tania?’
‘Robert’s been stung by a wasp and he’s not feeling too good.’
‘What?’ Ethan was surprised. ‘There are wasps around here?’ They all headed for the door. CJ headed into the kitchen and rummaged around in Donna’s cupboards.
‘What are you doing?’ Ethan demanded.
‘Getting some pure honey. Grab my medical bag, will you? It’s over near the table.’ He did as she asked and once she’d found the honey they headed out.
‘So why are there wasps?’
‘When the birds peck the fruit, it makes them nice and sweet.’
‘Perfect for bees and wasps.’
‘There aren’t too many about, wasps, I mean. Where’s Donna?’ she asked Tania as the receptionist led the way to where Robert had been picking grapes.
‘She forgot the bratwurst so she’s gone to the shops.’ Tania led the way but when Ethan saw Robert, lying on the ground, his body beginning to shake, he ran ahead.
‘He’s going into shock.’ Ethan felt for Robert’s pulse and checked his breathing. ‘Someone get a blanket and call the ambulance. Robert? Robert, can you hear me? It’s Ethan.’ The response he received was a whimpered cry. ‘Did you know he was allergic?’ Ethan asked CJ.
‘No.’ CJ was working quickly, drawing up a shot of adrenaline before handing it to Ethan. As he was crouched down near Robert, it was easier for him to administer it.
‘Oh, Robert…’ His wife, Amanda, dithered and CJ quickly comforted her.
‘He’ll be fine. I’m going to treat the stings and the adrenaline Ethan’s administered will help settle things down.’
‘Will he need to go to hospital?’
‘I’d like to keep him in overnight just so we can keep an eye on him.’ CJ slowly knelt on Robert’s other side and opened the honey.
‘He’ll be fine,’ CJ reiterated.
‘What? What are you doing?’ Ethan asked as CJ glopped some honey onto the sting sites.
‘The honey soothes the skin. It also helps reduce swelling and any painful sensations. How’s Robert’s pulse rate now?’ She waited while Ethan placed his fingers to Robert’s carotid pulse.