Ethan nodded. ‘She says she, Doug and Joshua need a new start, one away from her parents.’
‘Huh. Good for Margaret.’
‘Sometimes when we face our worst fears, we become stronger,’ he said as he crossed the room to stare down into Elizabeth’s crib, putting his arm around CJ’s waist. ‘I’m glad Joshua didn’t die because the death of a child is…heart-breaking and soul-destroying. It can take years of therapy, of working through things, of having a complete change of scenery, before something clicks and life starts making sense again.’
She knew he was talking about himself, as well as the very long road forward that both Doug and Margaret would face.
‘You faced your fears when you were left alone and pregnant and now…’ He gestured to Elizabeth. ‘Look at that gorgeous girl.’
‘She’s stolen my heart.’ As CJ spoke, her emotions welled and tears pricked at her eyes.
‘I love her so much, Ethan. I never knew I could love someone that much before. I certainly never loved Quinten like this.’
‘It’s a mother’s love.’
‘It’s a parent’s love,’ she said as she leaned into him further. ‘And I’m still scared. I’m scared I’m going to let her down in the future, I’m scared I’m going to make mistakes, I’m scared that there are so many things that can go wrong. I don’t want her to skin her knee falling off her bike. I don’t want her to be teased in school. I don’t want her have her heart broken when she’s older. I want only the best.’ CJ’s emotions bubbled up and over.
‘Oh, CJ.’ He ground out her name and in an instant he’d gathered her closer to him. He knew her emotions were that of a person who desperately cared about her patients, not only their medical issues but their personal ones as well. Added to that was the fact that she’d not long given birth herself. He knew she’d be thinking about how she would feel should something terrible happen to Elizabeth. Even as the thought passed through his mind, he felt a surge of empowered protectiveness fill him completely. Elizabeth was vitally important to him, she’d become a part of him and he loved her. If anything were to happen to her…
CJ pulled back slightly, sniffing and rummaging in her robe pocket for a tissue. She blew her nose and looked up at him, overcome with love when she saw tears glistening in his eyes.
‘I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to our Lizzie…or to you.’ He shook his head. ‘I missed you both, so much.’
‘In Sydney. I slept in a sterile, bland apartment. I chatted with people in the hospital corridors for all of thirty seconds because they were always busy going somewhere or doing something, having no time for real discussions or connections. My world there is…empty, and it’s empty because you and our gorgeous Elizabeth aren’t in it.’
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It was what she’d been dreaming about, desperate to hear him say that he wanted to stay, that he wanted to be with her. She knew he’d suffered terrible pain but surely he could see that he was just the type of man who deserved to be loved? She loved him. Loved him desperately and she wanted him to know that, to understand that she would do everything she could to make him happy, to make his heart smile once more, to shine her whacky brand of sunshine into his life—for ever. She wanted to tell him, she was bursting to tell him, but would he…could he…really feel the same? Was she hoping for too much? There was only one thing to do—she needed to ask him.
‘But here?’ The words were soft yet held the strongest thread of hope. ‘In Pridham? H-how does your world look here?’ Even after she’d spoken, she tried not to hold her breath. This was the moment. What he said now might make her the happiest woman in the world…or… No. She wouldn’t even contemplate what that ‘or’ might mean. Swallowing over the nervous lump in her throat, it seemed for ever before he spoke.
Ethan’s smile was bright and filled with hope. ‘Here…’ He gazed into her eyes and her heart turned over with a new wave of love for this incredible and wonderful man. ‘Here, my life is in technicolor.’
‘Really?’ Hope flared higher.
‘Yes. It’s so vibrant and alive that I need to wear sunglasses.’
CJ laughed joyously at his words. Ethan loved being here…with her.
‘You once asked me where my life was and at the time I didn’t know.’ His gaze hovered momentarily on her mouth, her lips parted and quivering with anticipation. ‘I do now. I know where my life is, CJ.’ He looked deeply into her eyes before he continued, his words filled with absolute certainty, ‘My life…is with you. You and Elizabeth. You’re my everything.’