Authors: Lucy Clark
‘Oh?’ She immediately pulled her cellphone out of her pocket to check if she had any missed calls.
‘I didn’t leave a message. Luc said you were in the research labs so I didn’t want to bother you.’
‘But the patients are all right? Tessa?’
‘The patients are fine.’ He was impressed at just how much she really cared about them. ‘I hope you don’t mind me joining you.’ He was calm and polite. ‘Have you ordered any food yet?’
She frowned at him, unsure what he wanted. Why had he been looking for her? Had he reached a decision regarding Spencer? Did he have more questions?
Sean put his arm in the air to get Ronan’s attention. The proprietor came over. ‘Ready to order?’
Sean looked at Jane. ‘Antipasto and another coffee?’ he asked, and before she could think what she was doing, Jane had nodded her consent, rationalising that if she was nibbling on some food, perhaps it might assist her with not being so distracted by every little move the man opposite her made.
‘Antipasto for two and coffees,’ Ronan confirmed, before nodding. ‘I’ll see to it immediately.’
‘Thank you, Sean,’ she said, once they were alone again. ‘I guess eating something isn’t such a bad idea, especially as I want to spend some time with Tessa this afternoon before the meeting to go over the medical students’ preliminary results.’
‘What’s your gut telling you?’ he asked.
Jane shrugged. ‘A few different things.’
‘Do you trust your instincts or do you prefer to deal with cold data and facts to make your decisions?’
Sean grinned. ‘Me too.’
They continued to discuss a few more patients, Jane determined to keep the conversation nice and professional for the moment so she could regain control over her wayward senses. Sean had the ability to shatter her usual calm. It wasn’t just his good looks and charm, it was the way he genuinely seemed to care for others, not only the patients but the staff as well. In fact, just last week she’d overheard him talking to Romana, reassuring the nurse, who’d been upset because her dog had been ill.
‘Did you take him to the vet I recommended?’ Sean had asked gently.
‘Yes. He was very nice, very caring.’
‘He’s a good vet.’
‘I know. I’m just worried.’
‘He’ll take care of little Kelad,’ he’d promised, his tone so absolute there was no way even Jane had doubted him and, thankfully, Romana had come in just a few days later and announced that little Kelad was much better.
With the arrival of their food and drinks, she was glad, not only of the delicious morsels before her, only then realising just how hungry she was, but also the welcome distraction eating provided. Sitting opposite Sean, seeing him away from the hospital setting, sharing a plate of food with him, Jane found herself becoming more and more intrigued by him. With his dark hair and blue eyes, he was still as incredibly handsome as she remembered and she wondered whether he had a girlfriend or partner. Had he been able to move on to a more successful and healthy relationship after his disastrous marriage?
If she knew he was involved with someone else, it might help her to curb the increasing desire she felt for him...but how did she ask him such a thing without it becoming awkward, especially when they seemed to have only just found a more even footing to build on?
Sean pointed to the toy catalogue beside her on the table as he swallowed his mouthful. ‘Looking at investing in some new toys?’
Jane flicked her fingers over the pages and smiled. ‘Actually, I was hoping to get some ideas for Spencer. It’s only seven weeks until his birthday.’
‘Yes, but you don’t have to factor in posting time this year. You can give him your present in person.’
‘I can?’ Jane shifted in her seat, sitting up a little straighter at this news.
‘Jane.’ He put his knife and fork down before looking at her. ‘First of all, I’d like to apologise for questioning you about Luc. Even if anything was going on, it still wouldn’t have been any of my business.’
Jane stared at him, blinking once then twice.
‘What is it?’ he asked, when he realised she was looking at him with a confused expression.
‘I...just hadn’t expected you to be so—’ She quickly stopped what she saying and looked down at her hands.
‘To be so...what?’ he probed, the small curve returning to the edge of his mouth. ‘So...gracious?’ Jane stared at him. ‘So...reasonable?’ Jane’s lips began to twitch into the beginnings of a smile. ‘So...perfunctory?’
Jane’s smile increased as she slowly shook her head from side to side. ‘So
.’ Good heavens. When this man turned on the charm, he
turned on the charm
Sean gave her a quizzical look. ‘You hadn’t expected me to be honest?’
Jane spread her hands wide. ‘Our few dealings in the past haven’t always been the most straightforward.’
‘True, but hopefully we’ve managed to clear the air a little.’ He gestured to the empty plates before them. ‘As well as clearing the plates,’ he continued with a chuckle. The warm sound washed over her and she sighed out loud. ‘I think today’s been a good start.’ Plus it had helped to solidify his decision in allowing her to visit Spencer. The fact that she was poring over toy catalogues, wanting to find the perfect present for a little boy she didn’t even know, gave him some indication that she did have Spencer’s best interests at heart.
Jane smiled shyly, bring her hair forward to hide her face a little. The action on some women might look coy and practised, but on Jane it only made her appear more genuine. ‘So do I,’ she told him.
‘Jane, I want you to meet Spencer. I want him to get to know you and for you to spend time with him.’ For what seemed like an eternity Jane didn’t say a word, only stared at him across the table.
Finally, she managed to clear her throat and ask, ‘Are you sure?’ She needed to check, needed to make sure because she’d been let down too many times in the past. She had to double-check before she allowed her elation to burst forth. ‘I don’t want you to think I’m pressuring you into this.’
Sean closed his eyes for a second, trying not to be disappointed that she hadn’t instantly exploded with happiness, hugging him and smiling brightly up at him with those rich, green eyes of hers.
‘That’s not the case, Jane. I really do want you to know your nephew. Family is important. I understand that. Spencer
your family so it shouldn’t matter whether we’re friends or colleagues or...whatever.’
Whatever? Jane wondered what he might mean by that comment. Whatever?
‘Huh?’ She blinked quickly, clearing her wayward thoughts. ‘Sorry. You were saying?’
‘I was saying I think it’s only right for you to have access to Spencer.’
‘And you’re really sure?’
Jane stared at him for a moment, his words slowly sinking in. Sean was going to allow her to get to know Spencer! It was as though all her dreams had come true. Slowly, very slowly, she allowed her emotions to shine out.
‘That’s...’ She sighed with relief as the smile continued to spread over her face. ‘That’s very good news. Thank you, Sean.
Sean stared at her, unable to believe the utter delight reflected on her face. He’d wanted to see a bright beaming smile and she was definitely giving him one. He’d wanted her eyes to twinkle with delight and that’s exactly what was happening. But what he hadn’t counted on was the way the two combined would make her look so incredibly beautiful, it momentarily robbed him of breath.
Inner beauty, he’d learned, was far more important than external beauty. Daina had been a knockout on the outside and broken on the inside. Not that he was comparing the sisters, but to say Jane’s natural radiance was presently knocking him off balance was an understatement.
The other thing he hadn’t counted on was the fact that, a moment later, she seemed to be struggling to keep tears at bay. She bit her lower lip, her cheeks becoming tinged with pink as she tried to suppress her emotions. ‘Thank you, Sean,’ she whispered, and this time he heard the pure gratitude in her voice. She clutched her hands together at her chest. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy.’
‘Really?’ He was astonished by the statement but didn’t pursue it. Something so simple had made her happy?
‘And you won’t change your mind?’
Sean couldn’t help the tingling of annoyance he felt at her question and was about to tell her that he was a man of his word and that she could rely on what he said when he remembered she’d endured years of Daina’s behaviour. One minute nice, the next horrible. Perhaps Jane wasn’t questioning
but rather seeking reassurance because she’d been let down too many times in the past.
Sean reached over and took her hand in his, noticing she gasped a little at the action, her green eyes flashing with something...was it repressed desire or just surprise? He hoped it was the former because ever since he’d met her he’d had a difficult time removing her from his thoughts. ‘Jane.’ His tone was slightly husky and he quickly cleared his throat. ‘I promise that I’ll always try to be open and honest with you—I think it’s what we both need after the way we’ve been hurt in the past.’
‘Uh-huh,’ she agreed, completely mesmerised, not only by his touch but by the way his gaze seemed to see right into her heart, stripping her of all her defences, leaving her naked and vulnerable before him.
Was that a good thing?
‘All finished here?’ the waiter asked, as he came over to clear their plates.
‘Oh.’ Jane quickly jerked her hand out of Sean’s grasp and looked down at her empty plate and cup. ‘Uh...yes. Yes. Thank you.’
Had she just been staring across a table into Sean’s eyes, holding his hand...in public? This place was so close to the hospital that anyone could have walked in and seen them together and not have understood that it was all quite innocent and that nothing was going on between them except for the fact that he was granting her wish, that he was allowing her to see—
‘Hmm? Huh? What?’ She looked across at him to find him smiling brightly at her, as though he could see the redness she could feel staining her cheeks. She looked away, dipping her head, using her hair as a shield against her embarrassment.
‘When would you like to see Spencer?’
Jane wiped her face with her napkin before picking up the toy catalogue from the table as the waiter cleared everything away. She thanked him then opened her purse to get out some money. Sean quickly held up a hand to stop her.
‘It’s fine. I have an account here.’
‘You do? You eat here that often?’
Sean nodded, instructing the waiter to put the food and drinks on his account. ‘The food is made fresh and it’s healthy. Besides, Ronan’s daughter goes to school with Spencer so why not eat at a place you can trust?’
‘Why not indeed,’ she said. ‘Well...then, thank you for lunch, Sean.’
‘You sound surprised,’ he remarked as he stood and came around the table to hold her chair for her.
‘Thank you again,’ she murmured, wishing he wouldn’t be so chivalrous and gorgeous smelling and close and warm and inviting. It stalled the logical thought processes in her mind.
‘You’re welcome.’ His smile was smooth, teasing and a little inviting, and Jane quickly picked up her bag and the catalogue and started for the door. She remembered to thank Ronan and his staff and to compliment the chef before she headed out of the cool air-conditioning into the heat.
‘What time’s the meeting about Tessa?’ Sean asked, swatting away a fly.
‘Not for another hour.’
‘OK.’ He nodded. ‘Then, if you’re not needed at the hospital, what would you like to do?’
Jane stared at him, surprised he hadn’t simply made an excuse to leave. Did he
to spend more time with her? ‘We could go to the toy store.’ She held up the catalogue. ‘Take a look around, see if there’s anything there Spencer might like.’
‘Great. Mind if I tag along?’
‘You really want to?’
‘He is my son after all, so I’ll definitely be able to give you some pointers as to what he might like.’
Jane’s smile was bright and her eyes twinkled. ‘OK, then.’
‘Every year you send him the most wonderful presents. He loves them.’
‘He does?’ She hadn’t been sure whether Sean was passing on the gifts or whether he preferred Spencer not to have any contact whatsoever with her.
‘It must be difficult, buying for someone you don’t know.’
Jane shrugged. ‘I just buy him what I wanted when I was his age. I know we’re different genders but I was never really girly.’ She’d left that to Daina. ‘I loved cars and model aircraft and chemistry sets. Boys always have the better toys, as far as I’m concerned.’
‘Well, you’ve always picked winners.’
‘Wow. Yay, me!’
That gorgeous beaming smile was back and Sean drank it in. To say Jane was captivating him more and more with each passing second he spent in her company was an understatement.
‘You’re always so good with remembering his birthday,’ Sean said. ‘Never once have you forgotten.’
‘It’s a bit hard to forget Spencer’s birthday.’
‘Because it’s the same day as mine. We share a birthday.’ Jane delivered the line as though she was telling him the weather.
‘You—? Wait. Spencer was born on your birthday?’
‘He was.’ Jane smiled up at him. ‘That’s why I’ve always felt such a strong connection with him. He’s my birthday buddy. He’ll turn seven and I’ll turn thirty.’
Sean shook his head in astonishment. ‘I had no idea. Daina...she never—’ He stopped, both of them still strolling along. Jane looked up at him.
‘She never talked about me, right?’
‘And I’ll bet when she did it was usually derogatory in some way.’
‘In the beginning, well, I guess I took everything she said as gospel.’
‘But after that?’
‘Do you mean when I realised my wife had serious mental health issues?’ They stopped at a set of traffic lights and Sean pressed the button, both of them waiting for the lights to change. Jane turned to face him.