The thought made his insides churn and he hurried on. ‘It seems only fair to me.’

‘Sorry, but it isn’t going to happen. I have no intention of trying to justify myself to you or to anyone else.’

She carried on walking, ignoring him as she got into her car. Mac stared after her, wondering why she was being so stubborn. Leaving aside his reasons for wanting to get at the truth, surely it would make sense for her to explain why she had called time on her marriage? Nobody liked being blamed for something they hadn’t done and Bella must be no different...

Unless the truth was that she was too embarrassed to admit that she had been at fault.

Mac’s mouth thinned as he watched her drive away. Bella knew that she had been wrong to abandon Tim when he had needed her so desperately and that was why she couldn’t face the thought of talking about it. Although his opinion of her had already dropped way down the scale, it slid even further. Bella was a long way from being perfect, it seemed.

* * *

Bella spent a miserable evening. Not even the latest bestseller could take her mind off what had happened. Should she have done as Mac had suggested and told him her version—the real version—about what had gone on?

She kept mulling it over, wishing that she had and then just as quickly dismissing the idea. Once she set off down that route there would be no turning back; she would have to wait and see if Mac believed her. The thought that he might think she was lying was more than she could bear. It would be better not to say anything rather than have to endure his contempt.

She was due in to work at lunchtime the following day. By the time she arrived, there was quite a long queue of patients waiting to be seen. Janet waved as she crossed Reception and Bella waved back although she didn’t stop. There was a child screaming and it seemed propitious to go and check what was happening before the other children started to get upset. The noise was coming from the treatment room so she went straight there, frowning when she opened the door and was assailed by the shrill screams of an angry toddler.

‘What’s going on?’ she asked, dropping her coat onto a chair.

‘Alfie fell off his scooter and cut his knee,’ Laura Watson, one of their most experienced nurses, told her. She rolled her eyes. ‘Unfortunately, he won’t let me look at it ’cos it’s sore.’

‘I see.’ Bella crouched down in front of the little boy. He was clinging to an older woman who she guessed was his grandmother. ‘That’s an awful lot of noise, Alfie. You’re going to scare Robbie if you scream like that.’

The little boy stopped screaming and peeped at her through his fingers, distracted by the mention of the unknown Robbie. Bella smiled at him. ‘That’s better. Have you met Robbie yet? He’s rather shy and only comes out of his cupboard when he thinks nobody is looking. I’ll go and see if I can find him.’

Standing up, she crossed the room and opened one of the cupboards that held their supplies. Robbie, the toy rabbit, was sitting on a shelf so she lifted him down and carried him back to the little boy.

‘Here he is. He must like you, Alfie, because he came straight out of his cupboard and didn’t try to hide.’ She handed the toy to the child then glanced at the older woman. ‘If you could pop him on the bed then I can take a look at his knee,’ she said sotto voce.

The woman quickly complied, sighing with relief when Alfie carried on playing with the toy. ‘Thank heavens for that! I thought he would never stop screaming.’ She smiled at Bella. ‘You must have children, my dear. It’s obvious that you know just how to distract them.’

‘Sadly, no, I don’t.’

Bella smiled, trying to ignore the pang of regret that pierced her heart. Having a family had always been her dearest wish, something she had assumed would happen once she had got married, but Tim had never been keen on the idea. Whenever she had broached the subject, he had brushed it aside, claiming that he had no intention of being tied down by a baby at that stage in his life. It was only after she had told him that she wanted a divorce that he had tried to persuade her to stay with promises of them starting a family, but she had refused. The last thing she’d wanted was to have a child to hold their marriage together, a sticking-plaster baby.

‘Then you should.’ Alfie’s grandmother laughed ruefully as she ruffled her grandson’s hair. ‘Oh, they’re hard work, but having children is one of life’s blessings. And there’s no doubt that you’d make a wonderful mother!’

* * *

Mac paused outside the treatment room. The door was ajar and he had heard every word. He frowned as he recalled the regret in Bella’s voice when she had explained that she didn’t have any children. Quite frankly, he couldn’t understand it. According to Tim, Bella had refused his pleas to start a family, claiming that her career came first and that having children was way down her list of priorities, but it hadn’t sounded like that, had it? It made him wonder all of a sudden if Tim had been telling him the truth.