Twice his fingers brushed against hers and in the end Ella stepped back from the trolley because although he was clearly indifferent to her, she didn’t think she had the control to be this close to him and not react. He registered her retreat with a faint narrowing of his eyes and she wished she knew what he was thinking.



Why was he so angry?


He should have been thanking her for making things easy for him.


For quietly accepting his cold email brush-off.


She studied his handsome face for signs of strain—some evidence that the separation of the last four months might have affected him in the same way that it had affected her. Had he lost weight? Did he look as though he’d suffered?


But his face showed no sign of the ravages of worry. He looked strong and healthy, as if the weaknesses that permeated other mortals were afraid to lay a hand on him. The collar of his white shirt was undone and for a moment Ella’s gaze lingered on the strong column of his throat, remembering how many times she’d pressed her mouth to that exact place. And his skin was a deeper bronze than usual, suggesting exposure to a more generous climate than that enjoyed by the South of England. Which reminded her of just one thing.


He’d been back in Greece.


With his beautiful Greek wife?


The pain almost split her in two and with the pain came anger.


He’d betrayed her and she needed to remember that. What she didn’t need was to be seduced all over again by his skills as a doctor.


‘So—her breathing is much improved.’ Having won the child’s confidence, Nikos addressed his remark to the little girl’s mother. ‘We need to try and establish what might have caused this attack. Her asthma is usually well managed?’


Still jiggling the baby in her arms, the woman nodded. ‘Yes. In the winter she sometimes has problems if she has a chest infection, but nothing like this. We’ve rented a house on the coast with my sister and her family. One minute she was playing happily, the next she couldn’t breathe.’


‘And she is well at the moment? No cold? No temperature?’ As he questioned the mother Nikos carried on examining Tamsin, this time checking her throat and her ears, feeling her glands and doing the same with the mermaid whenever required to do so by the little girl. ‘Nothing different?’


Ella’s heart jerked as her eyes settled on his skilled, bronzed fingers. Fingers that could save a life or drive a woman crazy.


She had so many questions.


Why was a billionaire playing at being a doctor?


Why hadn’t he told her the truth about himself?


The mother was trying to give him the answers he wanted. ‘I can’t think of anything. She hasn’t even been on the beach much because the children have mostly been playing in the house with the puppy.’


Nikos raised an eyebrow. ‘Puppy?’


‘I’m on holiday with my sister. They bought a puppy last week. A little spaniel. Tamsin loves the dog. They’ve been sleeping together.’


Ella exchanged a brief glance with Nikos just as the little girl snatched the mask off her face.


‘Want to see Bruno.’


‘Keep the mask on, Tams. Oh, my goodness.’ Her mother was staring at Nikos. ‘You think it might be the dog? Some sort of allergy? I hadn’t thought of that.’


‘It’s possible.’ Nikos reached for the notes. ‘For the rest of the holiday play with the dog outside, not inside. When you get home, go and see your own doctor and talk it through with him. He might want to rethink your management plan.’


‘Do you want to do a chest X-ray?’ Ella asked. ‘Shall I phone the radiographer?’


Nikos shook his head. ‘Her oxygen saturation is improving, her heart rate has come down and her breathing has improved. I’m happy with that. You can move her to one of the cubicles and she can play for a while. If she’s all right in an hour, she can go home.’


‘I wish my sister would pick up my message and call. They’ve all gone for a walk.’ Tamsin’s mother fretted as the baby’s wails grew louder. ‘I want her to take the baby so that I can give Tams some attention.’


‘The baby is probably picking up on your stress levels.’ Ella held out her arms. ‘Give her to me for a moment. I’ll hold her while you give Tamsin a cuddle.’ She took the baby, her heart melting as she studied the child’s miniature features. If she felt like this about a stranger’s baby, how would she feel about her own? ‘There, now, Poppy. I bet you’re wondering what you’re doing in this strange place.’ She murmured nonsense to the baby who promptly stopped crying and stared up at Ella.

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