* * *
Ethan stared out the window at the dark and empty street. There weren’t as many streetlights here as there were surrounding his apartment in Sydney. The night sky seemed darker, the stars seemed brighter, and he could swear there were more stars here than there were in Sydney.
Where was she?
‘Ethan? Are you still there?’
‘Yeah. Sorry, Melody. What were you saying?’
‘That things are crazy at work. The director’s resigned.’
‘Oh, yeah. So who’s going to take over being Director of Orthopaedics?’ He turned away from the window and began to pace around the lounge room, returning a moment later to look out the window again when he thought he’d heard a noise. He’d spoken to his sister more in this past week than he had in the past year, finally managing to tell her the truth about Abigail and Ellie.
After they’d discussed things for a while, Melody had asked, ‘Why are you able to talk about it now? Not that I’m complaining, it’s just…you know, six years, Ethan, and now you can discuss things? You’ve changed—for the better—and I think it all has to do with the different pace of life in Pridham. You’ve been forced to re-evaluate your life, to slow down, to breathe, to—’
Ethan had cut her off, not wanting to discuss every aspect of his life with his sister. However, since then, Melody had taken to calling him, wanting to chat, wanting to share things in her life with him, and he was pleased she’d taken the initiative. It made him realise just how far he’d distanced himself from his family but, thankfully, they hadn’t let him disappear completely. He owed them for that, and he owed CJ for helping him to realise all this.
It was crazy how his housemate had come to mean so much to him so quickly. He’d never thought, when he’d made the decision to come to Pridham, that this sort of thing would happen, that he’d be able to open up and talk about his pain with those who cared about him. He also hadn’t expected to be attracted to his new colleague and end up being desperate to kiss her. Yet that’s exactly what he’d done. It was ridiculous, though, because his life wasn’t here in Pridham. His life was in Sydney, with his patients, his surgery, his department. He liked working in Sydney, he liked operating and was missing it here in Pridham. Granted, the pace of life here was much slower and, as far as his health went, it was doing him the world of good.
Except for this past week. Ever since he’d kissed CJ, he hadn’t managed to get any proper sleep. It was little wonder, especially as his thoughts had been constantly churning about what the kisses might mean.
Why did they need to mean anything? That had been his main argument. Perhaps those kisses had just been a means of him releasing the anguish he’d kept locked away for so many years, a way of thanking CJ for helping him to realise he still had a lot to offer the world. However, it was his desire to press his mouth to hers every other time he’d seen her that was starting to do his head in. Where he’d thought the attraction for her would begin to wane, it had, instead, intensified. He’d wanted to kiss her even more, to further explore the sensations only she’d been able to evoke, which was the reason why he’d woken up very early the morning after those exquisite kisses and ensured he had been out of the house before she’d got up.
Since then, he’d done his best to give her a wide berth, not wanting to become a complication in her life. She had enough to contend with and although both districts of Pridham and Whitecorn were watching over her, pledging their support once the baby was born, the desire to gather her into his arms and keep her safe, to protect both CJ and her unborn child, was something Ethan was constantly fighting. He wanted to protect her. He wanted to keep her and the baby safe. But why? Was he merely trying to appease his subconscious? To save CJ and her child, when he’d been unable to save Abigail and Ellie?
Upon hearing another sound from outside, he went to the front door, opening it, but it wasn’t her. He checked that the sensor lights were working so that whenever she finally did come home, she wouldn’t be navigating her way to the door in the dark.
‘Are you listening to me at all?’ Melody asked again.
‘I am. You’re telling me the shortlist for the director of orthopaedics.’ Ethan went back inside. ‘Hey, isn’t your department supposed to be getting a visiting professor or something like that soon?’
‘In another few months. Hopefully, the new director will be installed by the time that happens.’
‘You could do it.’
‘Me? Be the director of orthopaedics?’ Melody laughed at him. ‘No, thank you. I do not want to play nursemaid to a visiting professor, no matter how brilliant he is. That is not my idea of fun.’