‘What do you mean, “Not any more”?’

‘I used to live in the place you described but I don’t now.’ How had they ended up on this topic? Why had he even answered the way he had? All he’d had to do was say she’d been wrong…but he hadn’t.


‘The commute time was too long. I wanted to be closer to my patients.’

‘How long have you lived in the city?’

‘Er…’ He cleared his throat and sipped his tea. ‘Six years.’

‘Oh.’ There’d been a defensive thread in his tone and he could tell she wondered if she’d said something wrong.

‘Why is it important where I live?’

‘It’s not important. I was just trying to figure out why you couldn’t sleep here. Now I realise Pridham is probably too quiet for you.’

‘That’s probably it.’

‘Probably? You mean you don’t know why you’re not sleeping?’

Ethan was instantly on guard. ‘Why are you so concerned?’

‘Because I don’t want my patients being seen by a doctor who suffers from insomnia.’

‘I do not have insomnia.’


He frowned. ‘Are you intent on questioning me because of something my sister told you?’

‘Melody?’ She seemed genuinely surprised with the question. ‘Why would she tell me anything?’

‘You said you spoke to her, spoke to other people at St Aloysius Hospital before I came to work here. What did they tell you?’

‘They told me you were a brilliant surgeon.’

‘They didn’t tell you the rest of the gossip?’

‘What are you talking about? What gossip?’ she asked, clearly perplexed.

Ethan closed his eyes and slowly shook his head. His own paranoia had been his undoing. ‘I’m sorry, CJ. I didn’t mean to snap just now. ‘I…uh…’ He hesitated. ‘Things happened to me and, uh…’

‘I wasn’t prying, Ethan, and I know what it’s like to work in a big hospital where people love to gossip. Believe me, working in a small country town is just as bad.’ She smiled, hoping it might settle him. ‘I was just concerned that you weren’t sleeping. That’s all.’

‘So you don’t know why I’m here? Why I’ve taken the job as your locum?’

‘Because you wanted a break from the rigours of Sydney life. At least, that’s what you wrote in the email you sent me with the application. However, given the conversation we’ve just had, I’m thinking there’s more to it.’

Ethan toyed with his half-full cup on the table before wiping his sweaty palms on his robe. ‘I…uh…’ He paused and took a moment to concentrate on his breathing. ‘I had a mild heart attack. It was just a warning,’ he added quickly. ‘I’m on a forced sabbatical from the hospital.’

‘Oh, Ethan.’ CJ shook her head sadly. ‘I didn’t know. Honestly. No one I spoke to said a word about that. They only told me how brilliant you were. No confidences were betrayed, just as I won’t betray this one.’ She placed one hand on her heart, her gaze filled with genuine concern. For a man who, only a few days ago, had told her he liked to keep his colleagues as colleagues and nothing more, she deeply appreciated him sharing such a personal piece of information about himself. ‘Thank you for telling me. I appreciate your confidence.’ They both took a sip of their teas, CJ mulling over everything he’d told her. ‘So being here is supposed to be a change in pace for you?’

‘Something like that.’

‘I know you’ve only been here a few days, but how are you feeling so far?’

He breathed in deeply, filling his lungs. ‘No tightness of chest.’

‘You were having chest pains? For how long?’ Her tone was inquisitive but professional, as though she was speaking to one of her patients.

‘Professional concern?’

She shrugged one shoulder. ‘I’m a doctor. I diagnose everyone—as do you. It’s a habit.’ When he didn’t immediately answer her question, she prompted, ‘How long have you been having these pains, Ethan?’

‘Increasing in severity for the past six years.’ His words were quiet yet matter-of-fact.

‘Six years!’ CJ gaped at him. ‘What happened six years ago?’

‘I moved to the city. I took up the position of Director of General Surgery. I began back-to-back research projects, which finally ended two months ago.’

‘As well as heavy clinics, admin and operating lists?’


Tags: Lucy Clark Billionaire Romance
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