He supposed a lot of women did but he’d never come across them before. It was a refreshing change. The restoration of his car had been a bone of contention between himself and Abigail. She’d accused him of spending more time with the car than with her.
‘I don’t mind you being at the hospital until all hours, Ethan. That’s your job, I get it. But when you’re home, I want you to spend that time with me, not your car.’
He stood and started pacing around the room. He still felt uncomfortable about sharing accommodation with CJ. He wasn’t used to living with anyone and he wasn’t sure he wanted to adjust. He liked his life the way it was…or the way it had been before his imposed exile from the hospital.
Why had his body betrayed him like that? A prime candidate for a major heart attack? The medical tests had to be incorrect—even though he’d insisted the results be repeated. He exercised. He ate right. Sure, he was stressed but everyone else he knew was also stressed and they hadn’t been told by the CEO to take a six-month sabbatical and de-stress. Why had it been—?
His thoughts halted as he heard a sound nearby. A door being opened and then closed? He strained, listening for more sounds. Quiet footsteps. Was there someone in the house? He shook his head, reminding himself that he was now sharing a house with someone else. Was CJ up or was there someone at the front door? An emergency? Did she need help?
He quickly pulled on a T-shirt, his legs already covered by a pair of pyjama pants. Deciding this was still too informal to greet a possible intruder, he grabbed his robe, belting it loosely before opening his bedroom door. When another sound came, he decided to go and investigate, his entire body alert. He crept into the hallway, keeping to the shadows as he made his way towards the kitchen. Peering around the doorway, all the tension left him as he saw CJ standing in front of the open fridge door, peering inside.
‘Couldn’t sleep?’ he asked, walking into the room.
She jumped sky high and spun to face him.
‘For heaven’s sake, don’t go creeping up on me like that.’ CJ placed one hand over her heart and the other on the baby. She grinned at him and flicked her loose, golden hair over her shoulder. ‘Although, if I do go over my due date, you could always scare me into labour.’ She returned her attention back to the fridge and pulled out the pickles and bananas. As she moved, Ethan took stock of what she was wearing. She was dressed in an oversized nightshirt, her robe open and hanging down her back, and pink fluffy slippers on her feet.
‘Baby won’t settle,’ she offered by way of explanation as she put the food onto the table. ‘Would you mind getting the chocolate spread down from that cupboard, please?’ She pointed in the direction of one of the high kitchen cupboards before turning back to the fridge. ‘Want anything?’ She pulled out a large bottle of ginger beer.
‘No.’ He put the chocolate spread on the table. Her silky hair was cascading smoothly over her shoulders and the urge to run his fingers through it surprised him. It had been a long time since he’d had such an urge, and he instantly quashed it. He’d met his first love at university, sweet Abigail. He ignored the surge of guilt that always came whenever he thought about her. Why, oh, why hadn’t she let him help her? He clenched his jaw. Nothing could be done to change the past. He was done with love. Over. Gone. Finished.
Living here wasn’t what he wanted. He didn’t want to be around people, having to deal with emotions. He didn’t want to be attracted to anyone. He didn’t want to make compromises in his private life and if he’d had any doubts before, seeing his pregnant colleague shift around the kitchen only emphasised that he needed to live somewhere else.
‘Keep me company,’ CJ suggested, as she put a plate and knife on the table before easing herself down into the chair. ‘Whew. I tell you, just getting up and down now is such an effort. I’ll be glad when this is all over.’
‘You’ll still have to get up and down to the baby,’ he pointed out, as he pulled out a chair at the opposite end of the table and sat down.
‘Sure but at least I won’t be lugging him or her around with me twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The baby can sleep in the cot and I can enjoy having my body back to myself.’
‘Except for feedings.’
‘True.’ She sighed. ‘Donna told me the other day that so many women spend so much time focusing on the pregnancy that they give little thought to what happens afterwards. The feeding, the nappies, the constant alertness even when you’re exhausted.’ She took a sip of her drink, then remarked, ‘I think I’ll be good at the last bit. Being a doctor, I’m used to the odd hours and the constant demand for my time.’ She reached for a pickle, before proffering the jar to him. ‘Are you sure you won’t join me?’ Before he could answer, she smeared the pickle with chocolate spread and held it out to him. ‘It’s oddly delicious. Want to try?’