‘Go lie down.’
‘All right, Dr Bossy, I’m going.’
He heard her chuckle as she shuffled from the room and disappeared down to her end of the house. He sat there, listening to the sounds as she went to the bathroom before getting into her bed. How could his hearing be so acute, so in tune with every move she made? More to the point, how could he have given in to the urges he’d been doing his best to resist ever since he’d entered CJ Nicholls’s world? He’d kissed her! He’d kissed his colleague…his pregnant colleague. What had he been thinking?
Plain and simple—he hadn’t.
The strange thing was, he expected to feel a world of guilt descend upon him again because he’d been unfaithful to Abigail’s memory, but it didn’t. If there was one thing kissing CJ had helped him to realise, it was that he had a right to be angry with Abigail. He hadn’t wanted to before. He hadn’t wanted to tarnish her memory, not when he’d been grieving the loss of both her and Ellie. His sister and brother had stood by him, his parents, too. They’d done everything they could to support him, none of them realising why he’d just shut everything out, why he’d moved into the apartment and why he’d never wanted to talk about it.
Lo and behold, six years later it was a caring and honest woman who had helped him to see the truth. Yes, he’d failed Abigail by not realising she’d found it so hard to talk to him when she’d started drinking. Yes, he’d failed their marriage by not paying more attention to her. Yes, he’d been so consumed with his own ideals of what his life should entail, namely career success and a stable home life. At the time, he’d had neither, so he’d thrown himself into achieving the former once he’d lost the latter.
CJ had helped him realise these things. Even if she hadn’t known it she’d been chipping away at the walls surrounding him; just by being open and honest and accepting, she’d provided him with the tools he’d needed to chip away at those walls from the inside.
Ethan dragged in a deep breath, realising he wasn’t able to completely fill his lungs. He frowned but rationalised it was understandable tonight. He’d stepped from the darkness into the light but even as he stood and began preparing a simple meal CJ could easily reheat later on, he felt imaginary shackles from his past start to fall away. The problem was that as they released him from their holds, new questions arose. If he wasn’t locking himself away, hiding from the past, it meant it was time to face his future—whatever that was.
As he put a container of food in the fridge for CJ then quickly tidied up the kitchen, he glanced towards her door. Was CJ part of his future?
‘No.’ The word escaped his lips almost as instantly as the thought had come. His world didn’t involve Pridham. His life was in Sydney, being a surgeon and saving lives. Wasn’t it? After everything he’d endured, he wasn’t the type of man to enjoy uncertainty but of one thing he was certain—there would be no more kissing the alluring CJ. She wasn’t the answer to his problems and he would be wrong to include her. She had her own issues to deal with and massive changes were about to impact her life. The last thing she needed was to be saddled with his baggage.
‘THIS IS THE third time you’ve been here in under a week, CJ,’ Donna said when CJ dropped around to see her on Friday evening. ‘How are you feeling tonight?’
‘Bit of back pain but a wheat bag will help with that. It’s as though baby’s running out of room in the front so is starting to expand towards my spine.’ She chuckled ‘Or that’s how it feels.’
‘Come and see me tomorrow morning and we’ll do a check-up.’
‘OK.’ She nodded. ‘I just wanted to give you an update on the patient I saw today.’
‘I thought Ethan had taken over most of the house calls.’
‘I’ve done a few.’ CJ sighed, a frown furrowing her brow. ‘Ethan’s so determined to ensure I’m resting, I don’t think he wants me to do anything.’ Every time she’d seen him during the past week, all he’d expressed had been his concern for the baby and that she needed to rest. There had been no mention of their kiss, of what he’d shared about his past, about anything that had occurred that night, and all it had done was to confuse CJ even more.
He’d taken to being out of the house early and when he was home in the evenings, he worked in his room. Oddly enough, he still kept cooking food for her, although he’d do it either when she was in the shower or having a snooze. Yet every time she went to the kitchen to find something to snack on, there in the fridge was a balanced and nutritious meal that she could heat in the microwave. Considerate and confusing. That was Ethan.