‘Yes. She is rather awesome.’ It was then that CJ looked out the car window and realised they weren’t headed back to the hospital. ‘Where are we going?’
‘To the lookout.’
‘Donna mentioned it today and as I haven’t managed to get here yet, and as it’s sort of on the way back to the hospital, I thought you wouldn’t mind stopping and taking in the sight with me.’
‘No, I don’t mind. It really is beautiful, especially on a clear night like tonight.’
‘And we have an almost full moon.’
CJ grinned. ‘So we do. A full moon. A clear night. If I was working in a city hospital emergency department, I’d be worried.’ They both chuckled at her words. ‘Out here, the same night holds a different purpose.’
‘And what purpose is that?’
‘That anything can happen.’
Ethan nodded, then drove up a small hill and parked in the car park before coming around to her side to help her out.
‘I’m not pregnant any more, Ethan. I can get out of the car by myself.’
‘I know…but a gentleman always escorts his date.’
‘Is that what I am tonight? Your date?’
CJ giggled as he led her over the low stone wall that ringed the car park. ‘I think the last time I went on an actual date was…probably high school.’
‘Well, tonight you’re with me and that’s all I care about.’
He looked down into her face. ‘Right now, yes.’ He brushed his fingertips across her cheek. ‘You really do look extraordinarily beautiful tonight, Claudia-Jean.’
‘Thank you.’ She dipped her head slightly, hoping he wouldn’t see how much his words had pleased her. ‘You don’t scrub up too badly yourself.’
‘You’ve seen me in a suit lots of times.’
‘Yes, but tonight you’re looking… I don’t know…different. Handsome different.’
Ethan quirked an eyebrow. ‘I don’t look handsome at other times?’
She laughed. ‘That’s not what I meant and you know it. There’s something…different about you tonight. I think it might be more in your eyes, rather than what you’re wearing.’
His gaze was intense. ‘I don’t want to hurt you,’ he said softly, and CJ’s heart was pierced by his tenderness. Again, he brushed her cheek with his hand before cupping her face and drawing it closer to his own. When his lips met hers, CJ sighed into the kiss.
His mouth was soft, gentle, as though she’d break if he exerted any more force. He made her feel precious, treasured and…loved. Was she insane to hope that one day Ethan would come to care for her as deeply as she cared for him?
After a moment, he gently pulled away and gazed at her before gathering her closer in his arms. When he felt the coolness of her skin he pulled back, took his jacket off and draped it over her shoulders. ‘Not that I want to cover up your exquisite dress but neither do I want you to get sick. Bonnie, not to mention Donna, would have my hide.’
CJ nodded but was unable to speak. The emotions he evoked in her were so overpowering, so overwhelming she wasn’t quite sure how to cope with them. Instead, she took delight in being drawn into his embrace, of resting her head against his chest and savouring the scent of him. She closed her eyes, memorising everything she could, filing it away to take out one day in the future when her life might not be so perfect as it was at this moment.
‘The stars in Sydney don’t shine as brightly as here.’
‘Yet they’re the same stars,’ she murmured, opening her eyes and shifting away a little. She couldn’t look at him. She didn’t want to think about Sydney, or the fact that he had a life there—a life without her.
He must have sensed a change in her mood because he whispered, ‘I don’t want to hurt you, CJ.’
‘So you’ve said.’ She pulled back and stepped from his embrace, tugging the edges of his jacket around her. She turned her back to him and tilted her head back to look at the stars. Ethan left her for a moment, desperate to get his own thoughts and emotions under control. Where he never thought he’d come to care so deeply for another woman, here he was, desperate to throw everything away just to stay with her and Elizabeth. He wanted to be in their lives, he wanted to do whatever it took to ensure both of them remained happy and healthy for the rest of their days. Even the realisation of the thoughts he’d been doing his best to hold at bay was enough to scare him.
He had a life in Sydney, a career. Was that enough for him now? He didn’t know. All he was certain of was that Claudia-Jean Nicholls had become incredibly special to him in a matter of weeks! It was impossible, yet here he was, experiencing these emotions.