‘Have you?’ Melody eased back slightly and George immediately dropped his arms.

‘You’d be surprised.’ George slumped down into the chair and sighed heavily. ‘I guess for some people sex is just sex. It isn’t linked with emotions or consequences, but for me, well, I’m afraid it comes with both.’

‘So you never took anyone up on their…offer?’ She walked around her desk and sat in her chair.

George met her gaze and slowly shook his head. ‘I haven’t been interested in anything but work—until yesterday morning when I met you.’

‘Oh.’ Again, there was that honesty. He was being as open and as forthcoming as he’d been last night when she’d finished in surgery. Both of them were clearly perplexed by this instant and mutual attraction yet both of them also knew it was pointless to give in to their feelings. However, when George held her the way he was, Melody had a difficult time remembering anything to do with rational thinking. ‘I guess that does change things.’

‘It does, Melody. It really does and I have this overwhelming urge to tell you about my life, to share my thoughts and concerns with you.’

‘Such as whether or not to take up your previous position when you return?’

‘Well, that and—and I want to tell you about my life, about the things that matter to me, about what movies I like, about what makes me laugh and—and about—my wife.’

‘Your wife?’ She was surprised at this.

‘Yes. You see, the way you make me feel—which I had never expected to feel again—is making me question everything.’

‘It is?’

‘Yes.’ He buried his face in his hands for a moment before standing to pace once more. ‘Look, I’ll just blurt it out because chances are, as I sneaked away from the lunch without Carmel’s permission, she’ll be calling me in a minute to tell me I’m late for my next appointment. Also, you have clinic so—Right.’ He stopped pacing and shoved his hands into his pockets. ‘I’ll just come out and say it.’

‘OK.’

‘My wife, Veronique was her name.’ He paused and looked down at the floor, clenching his jaw. A moment later he lifted his head and met her gaze. ‘She was my admin assistant for about a year before we were married. It was her idea to apply for the VOS and, in fact, when I was successful in obtaining the post, Veronique was the one who arranged everything.’ He clenched his jaw then forced himself to relax before saying softly, ‘She died in a road accident six months before the VOS began.’

‘She was supposed to be with you on this tour? In Carmel’s job?’ Melody sighed and nodded, realising how difficult things must have been for him.

‘Yes. We were supposed to be experiencing all of this together. She was proud of me and my work and she wanted the world to know about it.’ He shoved his hands into his pockets again. ‘After she passed away, I felt I owed it to her to do the tour, to carry out her wishes, as it were.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘Obligation, eh? It makes us do things we don’t want to.’

‘Your wife was right to be proud of you and to want the rest of the world to know about your techniques and the device you’ve invented. Obligation or not, the VOS will help so many surgeons to perfect their techniques and, in turn, will help their patients and that, George, is very noble. You are noble.’

‘No.’ He shook his head for emphasis. ‘I’m far from it because what man has these sorts of feelings for another woman eighteen months after his wife’s death?’ He gestured to the two of them. ‘That’s not noble. That’s not respectful. That’s not the type of legacy I want to leave to Veronique.’

His words were raw and painfully honest and it allowed Melody see that the man before her was still a man very much in love with his wife. He may have feelings for her but they were clearly feelings he didn’t understand and neither did she. Both of them were trying to make some sort of sense of this undeniable instant attraction they felt for each other.

His phone rang and he sighed heavily when he saw the caller.

‘Carmel?’ she asked.

He nodded and connected the call, not bothering to say hello but just listening before saying, ‘I’ll be right there.’ He disconnected the call and put his phone back into his pocket. ‘Duty calls.’

‘For both of us,’ she added, as she crossed to the coat rack near her door and picked up her white clinic coat. George, the gentleman that he was, took the coat from her and helped her into it before passing her the stethoscope from her desk. ‘Thank you for being honest.’ She angled her head to the side and smiled. ‘It’s refreshing.’

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