‘Your plan, or his?’
‘Both.’ Her smile was natural and instant. ‘I love this house, I love the town, I love the people.’
‘And your husband? Was he also a local boy, too?’
‘No.’ CJ finished her drink, then stood and took her glass to the dishwasher. ‘We should get over to the clinic.’
‘I didn’t mean to pry.’
‘You didn’t,’ she said with a shrug before walking out of the house, not bothering to lock the door behind her.
‘Uh…do we need to lock up?’
She shook her head. ‘Crime is low in the town but if locking the doors makes you feel better, then lock away.’ She didn’t stop walking as she spoke, only gesturing back to the door. Her bright, jovial tone had disappeared completely and her words were flat. He really hadn’t meant to pry, especially as she’d been quite happy to chat about her family. At least he now knew the topic of her husband was off limits.
As CJ opened the door to the clinic and headed inside, she couldn’t help but notice the way Tania’s eyes turned all dreamy at the sight of Ethan.
‘Hi, handsome. Good to see you back,’ Tania openly flirted.
‘Any patients for me this afternoon?’ CJ asked, trying to shift the receptionist’s gaze from Ethan to herself.
Tania snapped out of it. ‘Just two.’
‘How many does Donna have?’
‘She told me not to tell you. Just see your two patients, do your ward round and go home to rest. You know that’s what you want to do, CJ.’
She sighed. ‘I guess. When’s my first patient?’
‘Good.’ She walked down the small corridor into her consulting room, pleased that Ethan had followed. ‘Did you meet Donna when you came in earlier? She’s my partner.’
‘OK. Then I guess you haven’t been shown around so I’ll do that once I’m finished with the patients. You may as well sit in, start to learn the ropes.’
CJ sank down into the chair and sighed. ‘I am getting more tired than normal and that frustrates me.’
‘You’re so used to being busy?’ He could certainly relate to that.
‘Yes. Come Monday, you’ll be taking over my consulting work. I’ll be doing house calls with you this weekend…and maybe the odd one here and there over the next few weeks if it’s OK with you. I just don’t want to get bored and I know I will.’
‘Was it Donna who insisted you get a locum to cover your maternity leave?’
‘Donna, Tania, the nurses, the patients and the majority of the town. Yes.’ CJ couldn’t help the sad sigh that escaped her. ‘I feel so useless and it makes me think back to when my father’s health began deteriorating. I was the one trying to pick up the slack and take over from him without him realising it, but of course he did and—’ She stopped talking and sighed again. ‘I just feel big and useless and…fat.’
‘You’re not fat. You’re having a baby,’ Ethan calmly pointed out. ‘And you’re not useless. Your body is growing a human being! You studied anatomy, you know how difficult that is—to grow a human being. I can’t do it. You can, so how about, as my first act as locum to this practice, I advise you not to be so hard on yourself and your temporary limitations.’
His warm, smooth words washed over her in such a relaxing fashion that she felt her earlier tension begin to melt away. ‘I suppose you’re right.’
‘I know I’m right.’
She smiled at that. ‘Well, I’ll accept the advice, even though you don’t officially start consulting until Monday.’
‘That’s very big of you, Dr Nicholls.’
‘I thought so.’ The phone on the desk rang and she picked it up. ‘Yes?’
‘Jed’s here,’ Tania said down the line.
‘OK. Send him in,’ CJ replied before hanging up. Then she pointed to the phone. ‘This is an internal line—usually Tania or Donna—and these two lights are your outside lines.’
‘Always good to know. So, who are we seeing first?’ Ethan stood and came closer, leaning over and pressing a button on the computer, pleased when Jed’s file came up. ‘Good. The same computer programme I’m used to.’
‘Great. Sometimes it’s the little things that can trip us up.’ Like the way his spicy scent seemed to wind its way around her senses. It was nice. She liked it. She momentarily closed her eyes and gave herself a mental shake. That was the hormones speaking. Spices smelled more vibrant to her and she liked it. As Ethan moved back to his chair, ready for the consultation, CJ reset her mind where her new colleague was concerned.