The question nagged away at her as she and Freya were ferried to hospital in one of the rescue vehicles. They were taken straight to A&E, where they were met by the senior registrar. Bella quickly explained what had happened, nodding when he immediately decided to send Freya down to X-ray. Once they knew for certain if Freya’s ankle was fractured, he could decide on the appropriate course of treatment.
After Freya left, Bella reluctantly agreed to be checked over as well. Although she was sure she was fine, there were procedures to follow and it would be wrong to create a fuss. As expected, she was given a clean bill of health and told that she could leave whenever she wanted. And that was when the tricky bit started. As she exited the cubicle and saw Mac sitting in the waiting room, she had no idea what to do. Had she correctly interpreted his reaction as rather more than relief for the safe deliverance of a friend?
Bella’s heart began to race as that thought unlocked the door to several others. Did she want him to feel more than friendship for her, maybe even love? But if he did then how could she be sure that she wouldn’t ruin things and that her inability to show her true feelings wouldn’t destroy whatever he felt? Pain shot through her. Quite frankly, she didn’t think she could bear knowing that yet again she had failed as a woman.
* * *
Mac could feel the tension building inside him as he waited for Bella to return. He knew that his behaviour must have aroused her suspicions and he was honest enough to admit that the thought scared him too. However, if he intended to win her then he couldn’t back down. He had to fight for her. Tooth and claw!
‘They said I could go home whenever I liked.’
He started when he realised that she was standing in front of him. He shot to his feet, almost overturning the chair in his haste. ‘No damage done, then?’ he said and winced at the sheer inanity of the comment.
‘No, I’m fine.’
She gave him a quick smile and headed for the door. Mac followed her, pausing when he realised that it was still raining outside. Bearing in mind the soaking she’d had already that day, it seemed decidedly off to drive her home on the back of his motorbike.
‘I’ll phone for a cab,’ he said, hunting his mobile phone out of his jacket pocket.
‘What’s wrong with your bike?’ she asked, one brow arching in a way that made all sorts of complicated things start to happen inside him.
‘Oh, ahem, nothing,’ he murmured, trying to wrestle his libido back into its box. ‘I just thought you’d prefer not to get drenched again.’
‘I don’t think it matters. I’m soaked as it is, so a drop more rain isn’t going to make much difference.’
She gave a little shrug, her breasts rising and falling beneath the clinging folds of her wet jacket, and Mac’s libido won the battle, hands down.
‘Oh, well, if you’re sure, then.’
Mac didn’t give her chance to reply as he led the way to where he had left his motorbike. Quite frankly, he couldn’t believe how crassly he was behaving. Usually, it took more than the lift of a brow or the wiggle of a woman’s breast to arouse him. He groaned as he took the spare helmet out of the box beneath the seat. Who was he kidding? Bella only had to look at him and he was putty in her hands!
He helped her on with the helmet then swung his leg over the bike, tensing when she settled herself behind him on the seat. He could feel her body pressing against the length of his back and sent up a silent prayer that he would manage to hold out. There must be no stopping along the way, he told himself sternly. And absolutely no thoughts of pulling into a secluded lay-by. He wasn’t a teenager but a mature adult who had given up such behaviour years ago. No, he would drive Bella home, make sure she was safely inside her apartment and leave...
‘Can we go back to the boat?’
Mac jumped when she leant forward and spoke directly into his ear. He could feel the warmth of her breath on his skin and shuddered. It took every scrap of willpower he could muster not to respond as he yearned to do. ‘You don’t want to go home to your apartment?’ he said hoarsely.
‘No. I...well, I would prefer to go to the boat, if you don’t mind.’
There was something in her voice that made his skin prickle. Mac nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He drove out of the car park, trying to get a grip, but it was impossible. How could he behave calmly when every instinct was telling him that the reason Bella wanted to go back to the boat was because she wanted to be with him?
As he followed the familiar route, he could feel his tension mounting, could feel all sorts of things happening which he had steadfastly avoided in the past. He had refused to allow himself to fall in love before—completely and totally rejected the idea, in fact. He had witnessed his father’s devastation when his mother had walked out on them and he had sworn that love wasn’t for him; but not any more. Not now that Bella was in his life.