They finished their breakfast, making desultory conversation as they ate. Mac sighed as he drained the last dregs of coffee from his mug. ‘I’d better get a move on or I’ll be late. Are you working today?’
‘No.’ Bella picked up her mug and plate. She carried them to the tiny sink and pumped water into the bowl. ‘I’m working over the weekend so I’ve got today and tomorrow off.’
‘Lucky you.’ Mac picked up his dishes and brought them over to the sink. He checked his watch and grimaced. ‘I really will have to fly. Fingers crossed that they haven’t changed the times of the buses, otherwise I am going to be seriously late.’
‘Bus? Why do you need to take the bus?’ Bella queried, rinsing their mugs and setting them to drain.
‘I left my motorbike at the hospital last night.’
Bella sighed. ‘Because you drove me back here? Of course. Sorry.’
‘It doesn’t matter.’ He reached for his jacket, patting the pockets to check that he had everything. ‘Look, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to cut and run...’
‘Here. Take my car.’ Bella picked up her car keys. She shook her head when he started to protest. ‘I insist. It’s my fault that you left your motorbike at the hospital so it’s the least I can do.’
‘But what about you?’ he demanded, his dark brows drawing together. ‘How are you going to get home?’
‘Don’t worry about me. I’ll call a taxi.’ Bella pressed the keys into his hand. ‘Go on, off you go or you’ll be late.’
‘Yes, ma’am.’ Mac grinned at her. ‘Has anyone told you how bossy you are?’
‘Not lately,’ Bella retorted. She followed him up to the deck, pausing when he stopped. His blue eyes were very dark as they met hers.
‘Sure you’ll be OK? I feel as though I’m abandoning you.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ she said briskly, although she was deeply touched by the sentiment. It had been a long time since anyone had worried about her this way. ‘I’ll be perfectly fine. I’ll tidy up then phone for a cab... Oh, wait, what’s the address? I’ve no idea where we are.’
‘Too-Good Lane.’ Mac dug into his pockets and pulled out a crumpled supermarket receipt. He jotted down a number on the back and handed it to her. ‘Phone Dennis and ask him to come for you. He’s a nice chap and very reliable. You’ll be safe with him.’
‘Oh, right. Thank you.’ Bella went to slip the paper into her pocket before she remembered that she didn’t have any pockets. She took a hasty step back when she spotted a jogger running along the towpath, suddenly conscious of her state of undress. She could just imagine what people would think if they saw her standing here wearing one of Mac’s T-shirts. They would assume that she and Mac had spent the night together and, although they had, they hadn’t slept together! Heat flowed under her skin as the thought triggered a whole raft of images: Mac’s eyes, so deep and dark as he stared down at her; the feel of his hands as he stroked her body from throat to thigh...
A shudder passed through her and she turned away, terrified that she would give herself away. She heard Mac call a cheery goodbye as he leapt off the boat, even managed to respond, but everything seemed to be happening at one step removed. All she could think about were Mac’s hands stroking and caressing her.
Bella hurried back inside the cabin and stood there with her arms hugged tightly around herself. She had never felt this way before, never experienced this overwhelming surge of desire. Although she had enjoyed making love with Tim in the beginning, she had never yearned for his touch. However, with a sudden rush of insight she realised that if Mac made love to her it would be very different. She wouldn’t be able to remain detached then—she wouldn’t want to. If Mac made love to her, she would be unable to hold anything back, not even a tiny scrap of herself. Mac would unleash her passion, awaken her desire and, once that happened, it would be impossible to go back.
She shuddered. She would be changed for ever, a completely different person, a woman who not only felt but needed to feel too. She wasn’t sure if she could cope with that.
* * *
Mac was thrown in at the deep end as soon as he arrived at work. There’d been an accident on the by-pass involving a lorry and a coach ferrying children to the local high school. Thirty-three casualties were brought through their doors and each one needed to be assessed and treated. Fortunately, Trish Baxter, one of their most experienced staff nurses, was on duty and she performed triage. The less seriously injured children—those with only minor cuts and bruises—were told to wait while the rest were farmed out between cubicles, treatment rooms and Resus. Fortunately, there were just two children badly injured enough to require the facilities of resuscitation and Mac dealt with them. Twelve-year-old twins, Emily and Ethan Harris, had been sitting together at the exact spot where the truck had hit the coach.