‘That’s all well and good, Hal, but I’m just trying to think of what’s best for you. Can’t you see that?’

 ‘And what about you, Kit? Do you really think it’s best for you that you leave me high and dry with no new job lined up, after you’ve promised to stay with me at least until I’m mobile again?’

 Hearing the sincerity in Hal’s tone, along with the fear that she might just up and leave him, Kit couldn’t deny her relief that he wanted her to stay. He was right—she’d made him a promise. And, no, she didn’t have another job lined up, and it would hurt her just as much as it would hurt him to walk out now.

 Knowing she should stay if she wanted to preserve her hard-won reputation with the agency and secure another job afterwards, she resigned herself to doing just that.

 As far as her relationship with Hal was concerned she wouldn’t expect anything more from him other than his thanks and respect when her job here was done, and as long as she had that, given time, she would get over this heartfelt attraction for him. If she was going to live the dependable and comfortable existence that she longed for and buy herself that little bolthole she’d been so diligently saving for, then the sooner she got over him the better she would be for it.

 ‘Okay. No doubt you’re right. I would be letting myself down if I didn’t see the job through—although I am disappointed in myself because I broke a cast-iron rule not to get personally involved with a client. If I’m to continue to do my job well, Hal, I can’t risk a repeat of what happened between us tonight. You know, I can’t.’

                       CHAPTER NINE

 HAL STARED AT Kit in disbelief. Did she really think to draw a line under what they had just shared as if it had never happened? It looked as if she did. She was already getting out of bed and turning her back on him, her hands tugging down her pretty silk chemise as if to hide herself—almost as if she was ashamed of succumbing to their passionate union  . He couldn’t bear the thought that the only reason she’d agreed to stay was to fulfil her contract with the agency, not because of any personal regard for him...

 Manoeuvring himself upright, he ground out, ‘Did I delude myself that what we just shared meant something to you, Kit? I mean, other than just fulfilling a very basic need?’

 She turned her head at that, and her oval face was as pale as a winter moon even in the dimmed light that streamed in from the corridor.

 ‘I’m not saying it didn’t mean anything. I’m just saying that it can’t happen again. You must know it can’t. I’m a realist, if nothing else, and this impetuous turning in the road that we’ve suddenly taken can only lead to a dead-end. When you’re back on your feet again you’ll realise that and be glad that we didn’t take it any further.’

 ‘Will I? You know that for a fact, do you?’

 Her eyes were downcast for a moment. Then, as if garnering more determination to stick to her decision, Kit lifted her head. ‘Now, tell me—do you need anything before I go back to my room? I can help you into the bathroom, if you’d like?’

 ‘So you intend to play the coolly professional nurse from now on rather than my lover?’ Hal found it hard to prevent the anger and resentment that seeped into his tone. ‘I know which one I prefer, and it isn’t the nurse.’

 Her lovely blue eyes reflected her anguish at his stinging remark.

 ‘My intention is to fulfil my obligation to both you and the agency.’ Her restless twisting hands confirmed that his words had hurt her. ‘I won’t say any more than that. I’d better let you rest. I’m very tired and I need to get some sleep. You must be tired too, so I’ll say goodnight.’

 She stooped to collect the scrunched-up underwear she’d disposed of earlier, when Hal had enticed her into bed, and as he watched her Hal’s resentment curdled like bitter aloes in the pit of his stomach. He was so sick of being abandoned. It was becoming a soul-destroying pattern in his life. It had started with his mother, and then his father, who—no matter what Hal achieved or did—would never be proud of him. He hadn’t even been able to put his cynical judgement of his son aside to visit him in the hospital when he’d been injured. And now Kit—the woman he found himself more attracted to than any other—was turning her back on him...

 Gritting his teeth and shoving his hair back from his forehead, he said scathingly, ‘I’ll be sure to call on you if I need anything. I’d keep your door open, if I were you...just in case you don’t hear me should I call out your name. It wouldn’t bode well for your exemplary record at the agency if I were to fall out of bed again and injure myself, would it?’

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