Slowly he lifted his head, terminating the embrace in his own time. ‘What’s wrong?’
Ella suddenly felt sick because he was so sure of himself and she was so confused about everything and he’d just made things a thousand times worse.
‘Damn you, Nikos.’ Her voice was hoarse. ‘How dare you do that? I work here. I have a reputation.’
‘Kissing the father of your baby has no impact on your ability to heal the sick.’ Unapologetic, Nikos straightened and there was a flicker of satisfaction in his eyes as they lingered briefly on the tell-tale jut of her breasts under the blue scrub suit. ‘Your breasts are fantastic.’
‘You know what?’ Boiling with rage, every part of her body throbbing, Ella glared at him. ‘If that uncontrollable sex drive of yours is bothering you, then next time phone your wife and make some arrangement with her. I’m not interested.’
He stepped away from her, his expression cold.
‘Next time you pick up a magazine, take the trouble to read the words that go with the pictures.’ His face was oddly pale under his tan. ‘Those photographs were taken sixteen years ago, on my wedding day. And they were published a few months ago to commemorate the anniversary of an accident. My wife is dead, Ella. She was killed fifteen years ago, along with my baby daughter.’
What had possessed her to come for a drink when she didn’t feel in the least bit sociable?
Tense, jumpy and unbelievably upset, Ella sat on the harbour wall outside the pub, nursing a glass of orange juice as she stared at the boats. The night was still warm, and behind her The Lobster Pot was alive with laughter as locals and tourists spilled out of the open doors.
The pub on the water was a favourite meeting spot and the team from the emergency department had observed their usual Friday night tradition and were gathered around their favourite table, overlooking the harbour.
Ella had been persuaded to join them and hadn’t been able to come up with a ready excuse, even though she’d known she was going to be lousy company.
One drink, she promised herself, and then she’d leave.
She’d changed back into the same shorts and shirt that she’d cycled to work in and the cool stones of the wall scraped against the back of her legs. But she had no inclination to join the rest of them at the table.
She didn’t feel capable of making conversation or talking about her day.
Her head was still in a spin.
His wife was dead?
She’d had no idea.
Of course she was only human so she’d sneaked off to the computer and typed her question into a search engine—something she would have done months earlier had she not been so sure that she already had the answers.
Remembering what she’d discovered, Ella gave a sigh.
No wonder the man locked himself away emotionally.
He’d lost a wife and a child.
Her thoughts a confused and tangled mess, she watched the tourists wandering along the harbour, eating fish and chips from the paper. Below her, on one of the little boats, a couple with young children were eating hot dogs and laughing together.
Ella envied their happiness. They made family life look simple. Straightforward.
But it wasn’t that easy, was it?
Looking at the father, she wondered what secrets he was hiding behind his benevolent smile.
How long before revelations tore this perfect family unit down the middle?
Her fingers tightened around her glass and she thought of Nikos, and of how angry he was with her.
They’d been together for six months and yet he’d never mentioned his wife and child.
She’d thought they were close.
With a bitter laugh, she took a sip of her drink. Physically, they’d been close. But not emotionally. He hadn’t confided in her.
And she hadn’t confided in him either, had she?
Ella rubbed her aching forehead with her fingers, wondering why life always had to be so complicated.
At least she wouldn’t see him again until tomorrow. She had time to think about what to do for the best. The truth was she didn’t want to let Ruth down and she didn’t want to leave her job. But today had proved that she wasn’t capable of working with him.
‘Unless you want lots of questions, you should smile.’ Helen joined her, a heaped bowl of crisps in her hand. ‘You look as though you’re contemplating jumping head first into the water. Judging from your expression, I’m guessing the reunion wasn’t what you were hoping.’