Her stomach churning, Ella refused the crisps, aware that she was the object of speculation. ‘You’ve heard that he’s here, then. Is everyone gossiping? Do they all know?’
‘That you’re involved with the gorgeous Greek? Of course. He was kissing you as though it was your last moments on earth. I have to say that if a man ever kissed me like that it probably would be. I’d die of ecstasy. The sparks have been crackling between the two of you all afternoon. It’s like pouring water onto chip fat.’
Ella stared at her friend. ‘What are they saying?’
‘Well—you know what the department is like.’ Helen was obviously searching for the most tactful response. ‘Everyone is desperate for light relief. It probably took less than four seconds for everyone to find out that the two of you are involved. From then on they were drawing straws as to who could go and help out in Paeds Emergency so that they could spy on the situation.’
‘Great.’ Every muscle in her body was tense, her head ached with endless thinking and her senses still hummed from a day spent within touching distance of Nikos.
Helen was steadily munching her way through the crisps. ‘I told them you moved down here first because Nikos couldn’t get away from London and that you didn’t mention it because you didn’t want people feeling awkward.’
‘Thanks. That was kind of you.’ Ella picked a piece of ice out of her glass. ‘I’m sorry I yelled at you earlier. You’ve been so good to me. I didn’t mean to be a grouch. I overreacted. I know you were only trying to help.’
‘I’m the one who’s sorry. Sorry for what I did.’
‘I didn’t tell you the whole story, so in a way it was my fault.’
‘Well, I’m still sorry.’ Helen pulled a face. ‘Obviously when I wrote that letter I didn’t think for a moment that he’d actually take a job here. Hospital management must have thought it was their lucky day, finding a doctor of his calibre.’
‘I’m sure they did.’ Ella thought about his clinical skills—about the way he was with every child he treated. ‘And maybe you did me a favour. At least now I don’t have to spend another night agonising about whether to tell him or not.’
‘So how did he take the news that he’s going to be a dad?’
Ella tightened her grip on the glass. ‘Well, it was hardly a loving reunion , if that’s what you’re asking.’ And she was still shocked by how angry he was.
She’d been naïve, she realised, to think he might have apologised.
He wasn’t the sort of man who ever felt the need to apologise because he never entertained the possibility that he could be wrong about anything.
Helen put the bowl of crisps carefully down on the wall. ‘Ella, he came after you. What’s the situation with his wife? Did you ask him? Are they heading for divorce or something?’
Ella glanced at her colleagues, all laughing at something Rose had said. ‘His wife is dead. She died in a car accident fifteen years ago along with his daughter.’
And she was still reeling from the discovery.
He’d lost his family.
No wonder he was cold and emotionally detached. It was probably the only way he could survive.
‘Oh, my God, that’s terrible.’ Helen lifted her hand to her mouth. ‘How can he work in the emergency department? Doesn’t it remind him?’
‘I’ve no idea. I don’t know the details. He isn’t exactly given to talking about his feelings.’ And that hurt more than she could have imagined possible.
A relationship without trust was just sex, she thought numbly.
‘So why did that magazine publish wedding photographs?’
‘It was the anniversary of the accident, or something. I think he gave money and opened a children’s hospital in Athens.’ She gave a twisted smile. ‘Unfortunately I didn’t bother reading the words that went with the photos, so I missed the bit that mentioned the accident.’ And she’d hurt him.
‘That’s really sad,’ Helen said quietly. ‘But it was obviously a long time ago. He must be over it now, Ella.’
‘Is he?’ Ella thought about what she knew of him. ‘I don’t think so. And do you ever really get over something like that? I’m not sure you do. You live with it. You cope, because you have to. It explains a lot about the way he is—the fact that he won’t commit to anyone. I’ve looked him up on the internet.’ Ella kept her voice light. ‘He has a reputation for moving around. He doesn’t stay in the same place for long, or with the same woman.’