Page 61 of The Secret Father

‘I wouldn’t mind a brother or even a sister. I don’t think Mom can have any more children.’

‘That’s a shame,’ Sam replied. It wasn’t his place to dispel this misconception.

‘You’re an actor?’ Sam nodded. ‘I want a proper job…’ The provocation was deliberate. Ben waited for his words to have some effect.

‘Very wise,’ Sam approved. ‘Did you have something particular in mind?’

‘A doctor, I think.’ He looked at the various selection of tubes attached to his pitifully thin frame. ‘It seems pretty cool.’

‘Rosalind’s a doctor.’

‘Cool!’ She’d obviously just shot up in his estimation. ‘I nearly died, you know,’ he told her with the ghoulish relish common to the young and very old.

‘We know.’ Lindy shot Sam an anxious look, but beyond flinching he didn’t react.

‘Do you cut dead people up?’

‘Only living ones.’

‘Cool!’

The nurse came back into the room. ‘I think our patient could do with some rest now.’

Lindy’s nose twitched and she cynically wondered if the nurse reapplied Shalimar for all the visitors.

‘Fine, Nurse,’ Sam replied.

‘You can come back if you like.’ The offer was issued in a gruff, offhand manner.

Sam stared at the thin white hand; an intravenous line poked out of it, stretching the resilient childish flesh. The expression in his eyes was shaded by the sweep of his dark lashes. Lindy blinked back emotional tears as she watched them formally shake hands. The strength of Sam’s big, capable hands somehow emphasised the fragility of the child.

‘I’d like that,’ Sam replied in an equally casual manner.

Back in the corridor he leant heavily against the wall. He held out his hand and looked at it incredulously. ‘I’m shaking,’ he said slowly. ‘I’m actually shaking. Give me a room full of movie moguls out to axe my latest film any day. I was terrified of saying the wrong thing.’

Lindy was moved by his candour. ‘You didn’t,’ she assured him. How did I ever think this man was shallow and insincere? she wondered with amazement.

His brooding gaze shifted to her face and the eagerness in his expression made her want to take his beloved face between her hands and kiss his doubts away.

‘It’s a start, isn’t it? He’s cautious…’

‘That’s natural enough,’ she said earnestly. ‘You’re not the only one feeling your way, Sam.’

‘He liked you.’

‘I liked him,’ she said huskily. How could she fail to like anyone who reminded her so poignantly of the man she loved? Sam’s expression was making her skin tingle with that familiar, dangerous electrical surge.

‘Our conversation was just getting interesting when we were interrupted.’

Lindy sighed. She’d been wondering when he was going to remember that. ‘I don’t think there’s much point in raking over all that.’

‘Don’t you?’ he grated. ‘Well, I do.’ He grabbed her by the arm. ‘Not in here,’ he said, looking around the corridor with distaste. ‘I’ve hated hospitals, ever since Dad died.’ He shuddered. ‘I want the sky over my head.’

A fine sentiment, but does he have to drag me along like a sack of potatoes? God knows what people are thinking, she thought, smiling with some embarrassment at a group of nurses who turned and stopped to stare at the spectacle she and Sam presented.

‘Sam, really, you can’t behave in this…this Neanderthal manner.’

‘Regression is a very liberating experience.’

She twisted her wrist but his fingers were like a manacle. ‘I’m sure bank robbers say the same.’

‘I have no intention of robbing a bank.’

Cold comfort, but what was his intention? She didn’t have much opportunity to ponder this question; she was too busy keeping up with his long-legged lope.

‘Not that way, Sam!’ she cried in panic as she realised the direction he was taking. ‘The press!’ she wailed—too late.

Five minutes later, feeling as though she’d been through a rugby scrum, she sat back in a cab and glared at Sam resentfully.

‘You did that on purpose!’ she accused. ‘You could have avoided them. I feel…’ She shuddered.

‘Soiled?’ he suggested enigmatically.

‘If you knew that,’ she whispered incredulously, ‘why…? Were you trying to punish me?’

‘Don’t start that again,’ he replied, a shadow of anger crossing his face. ‘It’s a lot like falling off a horse. The longer you take before you get back on, the worse it gets. Do you think you’re unique? Do you think I like people rifling through my garbage? I cope and you can cope.’

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