‘This is lunacy,’ she managed to whisper, right before his lips brushed a feather-light kiss to hers.
THE MOMENT SEEMED to last for an eternity, yet in reality it was no longer than a split second. Ethan pulled back, unable to compute the different thoughts surging through his mind. He’d just kissed another woman. That alone was enough to help him ease back, to stare into her half-closed eyes and resist the dreamy message she was silently sending him to repeat the action. He wanted to do it again, to continue to explore the sweet secrets her mouth offered, but the fact remained that he’d kissed a woman who wasn’t Abigail and the realisation caused his gut to knot with guilt.
Dropping her hands as though burnt, he took a giant step back, almost tripping over the coffee table and knocking several magazines to the floor. To aid in covering his confusion and panic at what had just happened, he immediately bent down to retrieve the magazines, putting them back onto the table and taking another step away from her.
‘I’ll…uh…’ He pointed towards the door. ‘I’ll go get the car ready.’ With that, he gave her a wide berth before exiting through the front door. As he walked out, he heard Tania come back into the waiting room and realised how close they’d come to having their kiss witnessed.
What on earth had he been thinking? He hadn’t. That was the answer. He hadn’t been thinking. He’d allowed himself to get sidetracked, to relax, to let his guard down. ‘This is what happens when you don’t keep focused, when you listen to others and start to interact with the world.’ Ethan continued to mutter to himself as he walked across the road to CJ’s garage and unlocked the outer door.
His car. His beauty of a car. It had always been able to relax his stress. He glanced over to the workbench in the corner and saw a container of polishing cloths. Without further thought, he grabbed a cloth and began to rub it gently over the car’s body, as though wiping away his turbulent thoughts and re-setting his mind to exhibit a more professional demeanour.
He was here to do a job. He was here to look after the patients until CJ’s maternity leave finished. Where he’d been looking forward to spending time with her doing house calls this afternoon, he now longed for the time when he could do the house calls on his own. She would be at home, looking after her baby, and he would be either stuck in the consulting room or his bedroom, not daring to engage with her lest she should once again capture his attention with her dreamy green eyes and luscious smile.
‘I’m sorry, Abigail,’ he remarked as he threw the cloth back into the container and pulled the keys from his pocket. Yet as he slipped behind the wheel of the car, all he could think about was how much his wife had loathed the vehicle. She’d been angry about the time he’d spent with the car, calling herself a restoration widow. It had been an escape for him when their problems had become insurmountable. If he’d known how much she’d been suffering, would he have spent more time with her? And would it have made a difference?
He shook his head slowly as he buckled his seat belt and started the engine. He wondered if Abigail would be happy he’d kissed another woman, that he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about another woman, that he was eager to spend time with another woman? He really hoped so. But she’d probably be annoyed that he still loved the car. He loved to polish it, to tinker with the engine and to feel his tension decrease as he went on long drives.
As he reversed the car to the front of the clinic, he saw CJ come out, a medical treatment bag in her hands. Leaving the engine idling, he quickly climbed from the car and took the bag from her, placing it securely on the small back seat. Then he held her door and helped her into the car, clenching his jaw and doing his best to ignore the powerful surge of awareness that spread from his hands and up his arms, before entering his bloodstream.
She thanked him for his help and once they were both buckled in, he waited for directions. CJ provided them whilst tying a scarf around her hair and slipping her sunglasses into place. After that, they drove along in silence and apart from the occasional ‘Turn left at the next T-intersection,’ and other navigational instructions, they both seemed quite content to absorb the serenity of the drive.
When they finally arrived at their first patient’s house, Ethan stopped the car and turned the key to cut the ignition. The silence enveloped them but neither of them moved. CJ breathed deeply, then slipped off her scarf and sunglasses.
‘It really is an incredible machine.’ She stroked the dashboard. ‘Thank you for the relaxing drive,’ she told the car, then undid her seat belt and turned to look at Ethan. ‘And thank you for doing the steering part.’