The emotions she felt for him rose up and overflowed. Slowly, she walked towards him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He tensed but when she didn’t move, he shifted slightly so they were facing each other. They held each other, both content just to be. Ethan had never felt comfort like this before, never felt so calm and peaceful.
How long they stood there neither of them were sure but in the end CJ’s yawn broke the moment.
‘I’ll think about whether I want to break the contract,’ he stated softly. ‘I’m just not sure.’
‘OK. If you want to move out, I completely understand. You were never really comfortable here in the first place.’
‘I like it here.’ He looked down into her face, gazing at her lips. ‘I like it too much. That’s now the problem.’
‘I know.’ She waited for a moment, watching him intently. ‘It’s crazy, isn’t it…this thing between us?’
‘Yes.’ Ethan pulled superhuman strength from somewhere and gently released her from his arms. ‘It’s so…real. So powerful and intense.’
‘Yes—but we can’t, Ethan. I can’t.’
He shook his head. ‘Wait—why can’t we, CJ? Tell me why?’
‘Why? Because soon you’ll be gone, Ethan. At the end of your time here, you’ll head back to Sydney to your work. I’m not in that picture, and although I’d love nothing better than to be with you, it wouldn’t work out—for many reasons.’
‘This isn’t just about me leaving, CJ. I know it’s going to be hard for you to trust someone after Quinten and that’s quite normal but I had hoped…that somehow I’d be able to show you not all men are lying cheats.’
‘I understand that, Ethan, but—’
‘Have I shown you that? Do you think that you could trust me?’
Ethan stood at the door to the lounge room, facing her—like a showdown at high noon. CJ didn’t need this kind of questioning, didn’t want to be put on the spot, and she certainly wasn’t sure she could give him a direct answer. She glanced down at the floor before slowly returning to meet his gaze.
‘Yes,’ she said softly. ‘Yes I think…in time… I could trust you, Ethan, and that fact alone scares me to death.’ She bit her lip as it quivered, her eyes as wide as saucers—wearing her heart on her sleeve. ‘I could trust you, I do trust you—to a certain extent, and even that has surprised me. I trust you one hundred percent in a professional capacity, I trust you with Elizabeth…’ She smiled as she said her daughter’s name. ‘You’re so good with her, so natural.’
‘And do you trust me with you?’
The smile slipped away and CJ felt the tears threatening behind her eyes, felt her throat constrict as she desperately tried to swallow. ‘I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do that,’ she whispered—a tear escaping and sliding slowly down her cheek. ‘If I take the risk, if I give you my heart then I… I…’ She shook her head, unable to continue.
‘It’s all right.’ He wanted to go to her. He wanted it so badly and he could tell she wanted him to hold her but both of them stood their ground. ‘It was a foolish question to have asked in the first place. Goodnight. I’ll let you get some sleep while Elizabeth’s sleeping.’
Ethan turned and stalked to the bathroom, stripping off his clothes. He turned on the taps and stepped beneath the spray, willing the water to soothe his aching muscles. At least he could do something about the physical aches he was feeling.
Why had it cut him straight to the heart when she’d been unable to answer that question? She was right! He was leaving in five months’ time to return to his life in Sydney and the uncontrollable chemistry that existed between them would wither and die when he left.
He scrubbed shampoo into his hair and rinsed it. Things between the two of them had gone too far, too fast and now they were both thoroughly confused. He wrenched off the taps and towelled himself dry.
Once he was dressed, he swallowed some paracetamol and settled down to work. Even though it was close to three o’clock in the morning, there was no way he’d be able to sleep now.
It was a few hours later that Ethan heard Elizabeth’s cries come through the house. The little girl certainly had a good set of lungs. A moment later she was quiet and he knew CJ would be feeding her.
It brought back visions of CJ holding the baby tenderly in her arms, her manner natural and relaxed as Elizabeth fed greedily at first and then slowed down to a more sedate pace as her little tummy was filled. It was a sight that had touched him very deeply inside, in a secret place of longing he hadn’t known existed.