She seemed nervous too. She was wringing her hands and fidgeting.
He was glad he wasn’t the only one, and it gave him a thrill to think that maybe he was affecting her just as much as she was affecting him.
At least he hoped it was that.
“I’ve never seen you in a suit and dress shirt. Usually you’re lumbering around in a flannel shirt.”
“I can say the same about you. Jeans, cotton shirts and flats. And my shirts are woolen plaid. It deals with the moisture and the rain better than flannel.”
“Are you really starting a conversation about flannel right now?” she asked teasingly.
“I do believe that I am.”
Evelyn laughed. “Well, this must be important. I take it Langstrom’s is the nicest place in Juneau?”
“Something like that.” Derek proffered his arm. “It’s not far from the hotel—just down the street. We can walk.”
Derek led her outside. Even though it was seven at night, the summer’s midnight sun was out—which was too bad, because the twinkling lights down by the water were a sight to see. But it was nice to see the mountains and the water in the Gastineau Channel, which was like a mirror reflecting the mountains. At least it was early in the summer still. They wouldn’t have sun till midnight quite yet.
A horn sounded from one of the cruise ships, and music was blasting from another onboard party, but it didn’t ruin the beauty of the evening.
Summer in Alaska was his favorite time of year. Though there were times when he missed those endless summers in Chicago. He missed the heat, the beach, and the complete freedom he’d felt back then, when his heart had been open wide and not closed. Not so full of responsibility.
Still, he loved Mo with all his heart, and Alaska and his patients, but it would be nice not to carry the burden of all the things he was—to let loose and be who he used to be.
Derek held open the door and Evelyn stepped inside.
Langstrom’s was dark. It had plush leather booths, and wide windows that overlooked the yacht club and the water. The walls were painted burgundy and the exposed beams only added to the ambiance.
He’d always liked this place. But if it had just been him coming to meet John for dinner he seriously doubted that they would’ve been dining here. They would’ve probably met at the hotel bar.
John was pulling out the big guns, and since dinner was on him and the hospital board, Derek wasn’t going to object.
The maître d’ led them toward a private booth tucked in the corner, and as they wound their way through happy diners Derek’s heart sank as he saw that Dr. Mark Pearson was at the table.
At first all he felt was a sense of dread at the thought of Evelyn and Mark meeting, but then he thought that this might be an interesting dinner indeed, and relished the idea of Evelyn putting Mark in his place.
John stood up and seemed practically giddy. Mark, the creep, was eyeing Evelyn as if she was the main course, and Derek instinctively put his hand in the small of her back, which made Evelyn take a tiny intake of breath.
And that little sound coming from her responding to his touch made his blood heat.
“Derek—so glad that you and Dr. Saunders could make it.”
“I’m happy you’re accommodating us, John.” Derek shook John’s hand and then turned to Evelyn. “Evelyn, this is Dr. John Collins, Chief of Surgery at Juneau General.”
“A pleasure,” Evelyn said, gripping his hand and shaking it firmly.
“The pleasure is all mine, Dr. Saunders,” John gushed.
“Please call me, Evelyn.”
John grinned again and turned to Mark. “Derek, I know you’re familiar with Mark—Evelyn, this is Dr. Mark Pearson, Head of Obstetrics at Juneau General.”
The warm, friendly smile instantly disappeared from Evelyn’s face as Mark, totally unaware, took her hand.
“A pleasure, Dr. Saunders. I’ve been reading your work for years.”
Evelyn kept the cool, fake smile on her face. “Have you really? Could’ve fooled me.”
Derek coughed, clearing his throat and trying not to laugh as Mark looked thoroughly confused and John seemed completely oblivious to the burn directed at his head of obstetrics.
“Let’s take a seat, shall we?” Derek suggested, and slid into the booth next to Mark rather than letting Evelyn sit there, which he knew Pearson was not impressed about.
“We’re absolutely thrilled, Evelyn, that you’re going to be using our facilities on Sunday. Everything is at your disposal.”
“Thank you, John. I really shouldn’t have to be doing this testing so late in the patient’s pregnancy, but the last doctor who was in charge of this case was lacking.”