Authors: Carrie Cox
“If I didn’t have to use my hands to support myself right now, I’d knock you out!” Jack growled.
“Really, why don’t you come over here and say that?” the other male voice said. He had a slight Irish accent and there was a definite mocking tone to his voice.
I cringed. That was a pretty cruel thing to say.
I couldn’t resist a peek. I edged closer to take a look around the corner of the door. I was sure I was going to have to rush in and break up a fight at any moment.
But I stopped suddenly in the doorway.
Inside the other room, Jack stood between two, what looked like, parallel bars. He gripped the smooth bars as if his life depended on it, holding himself up.
His chair was in the far corner of the room. Beside Jack, dressed all in white, was the hugest man I’d ever seen. He stood there with his arms folded across his prominent stomach.
Jack’s torso was bare. He was wearing a pair of cargo trousers that hung low on his hips. His chest was covered in a light sheen of sweat from the physio session, and his muscles strained with the effort of keeping himself upright.
I stood there, silently gawping, taking it all in. My God, his body was perfect. It didn’t seem possible that there could be anything wrong with him. Suddenly I felt very hot and flustered as unexpected thoughts swarmed through my mind. Thoughts I definitely shouldn’t be having about a patient.
“You’re enjoying this aren’t you, you sadistic bastard,” Jack snarled at the physiotherapist.
Jack’s dark hair hung over his eyes, and his arms shook with the effort he was putting in. My eyes couldn’t leave his torso. My gaze locked on the toned muscles of his abs which led down to a V and disappeared under the waistband of his cargo trousers.
I must have made a noise because both of them looked up at the same time and noticed me.
The therapist smiled. “Looks like we have a visitor, Jack.”
“Do you always sneak up on people?” Jack’s eyes were blazing.
“I, uh... ” My voice trailed away as I just stood there like an idiot.
“Be nice, Jack,” Brian said. “Don’t scare her off on her first day.” He looked at me and smiled. “His bark is worse than his bite. Just ignore him.”
“Oh, sure, just ignore me.”
I felt awkward just standing there. I had no idea what to do. Was I supposed to help him with his physio session?
I swallowed. Honestly, I was being ridiculous. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t be intimidated like this. I had to take control of the situation.
I wiped my sweaty hands on my pants and moved forward with my hand extended to Brian. “Hi, my name is Kristina.”
Brian gave me a wide smile. “It’s lovely to meet you, Kristina. What a gorgeous accent you have. What part of the U.S. are you from?”
I smiled and shrugged. “I’m from all over really. I never settled in one place for long,” I said.
“If you two are done with your charming small talk, I think I need to get back in my chair,” Jack snapped.
Brian looked at me and rolled his eyes. “Always trying to finish early, aren’t you, Jack?”
He wheeled the chair around so Jack could lever himself into it. Jack struggled a little, trying to reach the arms of the wheelchair. I hesitated, wanting to move forward to help, but Brian stood back, happy to let Jack do it himself.
“Well, I guess we’re just about done here for today,” Brian said. “Do you want me to help you with the shower?”
“No, I don’t want you to help me with the shower. I’m quite capable, thank you very much.”
Jack’s prickly nature didn’t seem to affect Brian at all. It was like water off a duck’s back.
“Sure thing. I guess it’s no surprise you don’t want me to help you in the shower. Not now that you’ve got a pretty young lady to help you.” Brian winked at me, and I flushed a thousand shades of scarlet.
Surely that wasn’t in my job description. No one had mentioned it.
I started to panic. “I, um, well … I don’t really think…”
Jack burst out laughing. His whole face lit up. His eyes twinkled with merriment, and his grin showed off his perfectly white teeth. He really was devastatingly handsome when he smiled.
“He’s winding you up,” Jack said. “I don’t need any help with the shower.”
“Oh, right.” I offered up a weak laugh. “Yeah, I should have known that.”
Could this day get any more embarrassing?
Jack turned to me, cocked his finger and beckoned me towards him. He was still smiling and looking far hotter than he had a right to after his strenuous work out.
I felt dizzy. I swallowed and moved forward. My heart was pounding in my chest.
“That is…” Jack said, in almost a whisper, “…unless you’d like to help me in the shower?”
If I thought I blushed earlier, it was nothing compared to the glow I had going on now. I could feel the heat emanating from my cheeks and chest.
I could hear Brian behind me, packing up his stuff and chuckling to himself.
I’d had enough of them making fun of me. I glared at Jack.
“No, thanks. I’ll wait here until you’re finished. Is there anything you’d like me to do while you’re having a shower?” I asked, my tone very business-like.
Jack looked at me curiously, but he kept the smile on his face. God, he really was unbelievably good-looking.
After Brian left, Jack wheeled himself back through his apartment and gave me a quick tour. There wasn’t much to see. He had a large living room with a small open-plan kitchen at the back of the room. There was one bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, which had been specially adapted to use with his wheelchair.
After Jack wheeled himself off to take a shower I looked around the apartment, not knowing what to do. There were so many things I should be thinking about, but the one thought that filled my mind, the one image I couldn’t shake was picturing Jack taking a shower. I stood there remembering his tight abs, his smooth tanned skin and imagining what it would be like to trace those abs with my fingertips and run my hands through his silky dark hair.
“Are you okay?”
My head snapped around to see Jack in the doorway. His hair was still wet and hung down over his eyes, framing his perfect face and accentuating his high cheekbones.
“You looked a little odd. It made me wonder what you were thinking about.”
For what felt like the hundredth time, as if I hadn’t already blushed enough this morning, blood rushed to my cheeks, and Jack gave me a little knowing smile as if he knew exactly what I had been thinking about.
As a World Champion racing driver, I supposed he was used to having women lusting over him all the time.
I tucked a lock of hair behind my ear. “I was just wondering what I should be doing. I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do for you.”
“Well, it’s nothing to do with me.” Jack said. “It’s all my brother’s doing. You’re his employee.” He cocked his head and studied me. “I suppose you’re his spy. Are you going to go back to him and tell him all my secrets?”
Jack folded his arms and narrowed his eyes. “You might be here to tell tales on me. Perhaps you’re going to report to Alexander every night and tell him if I’m doing my physio and taking my meds. If he could, my brother would like to run my life for me. This is just one more step in him getting total control.”
“I don’t think it’s like that. I think he’s worried about you.”
The gaze Jack fixed me with was terrifying. I took a step back.
His eyes blazed, and his jaw tightened. “Really,” he said in a low voice that told me his temper was just simmering below the surface and might explode at any moment. “You have known me and my brother for less than twenty-four hours and you feel qualified to give an opinion?”
I let out a shaky breath. He was right. I didn’t know either of them at all. But from what Alexander had told me, I really did think he had his brother’s best interests at heart. But I didn’t want to get into that with Jack. I didn’t think provoking an argument on my first day was the best way to start my new job.
“So what would you like me to do?” I said, deliberately changing the subject. “Have you had breakfast?”
Jack perked up a little at that. “Are you a good cook?”
I cringed. “Not exactly. I can do simple stuff though.”
“Can you cook eggs?”
“Uh, yeah, how do you like them?”
“Scrambled,” he said and nodded to the small kitchen behind the breakfast bar.
To my annoyance, he followed me, wheeling the chair around behind me. Seriously? He wasn’t going to watch me make eggs, was he?
“The eggs are in the refrigerator and the bread is in that basket over there. I’ll have two slices and two eggs scrambled,” he said as if he was ordering breakfast in a diner.
“Right,” I said. “I can do that.”
I’ve cooked breakfast thousands of times; it’s not as if it was difficult. But with him watching me so intently, I was all fingers and thumbs.
I caught my hand on the refrigerator door, banged my head and almost dropped the eggs as I took them out of the refrigerator. All the time, Jack just sat there, looking at me with a trace of a smile on his lips, like I amused him.
I took a deep breath to try and steady my nerves and broke the eggs into a small glass bowl. I cursed under my breath as I dropped a small piece of shell in there and spent a few seconds trying to fish it out.
Jack’s eyes never left me.
If this was a sign of things to come, it was going to be a very long day.
When I finally served up the eggs, he only picked at them to start with.
After a couple of bites, he said, “Pretty good.” Then wolfed the rest down. “Not bad. Are you not having anything?”
“I already had breakfast.”
He nodded and then put his knife and fork down.
“So, what did you do before this, Kristina? Have you always been in nursing?”
“No,” I said, slowly. I wondered how much he knew about me. Perhaps he had spoken to Alexander again last night.
Jack grinned wolfishly at me. “I get all my gossip from Maria,” he said. “She tells me everything.”
“So tell me about you,” he said, looking far too curious for my liking.
I squirmed under his gaze. “There’s nothing to tell.”
“Sure, there is. There must be. Everyone’s got a story.”
I shifted a little in my seat, feeling uncomfortable. I didn’t really enjoy telling people about my past, let alone people I’d only just met. If he thought I was going to spill my guts to him, he had another thing coming. He looked like he was only after entertainment anyway. It’s not like he really cared.
I shook my head. “Really, I had a pretty boring life. I grew up in Miami, with my sister and our mom. End of story.”
“You’re right. That does sounds boring,” Jack said.
“So, what about you?” I said, trying to change the subject and bring it around to something that wasn’t focused on me.
Jack gave me a sarcastic look. “Because you haven’t heard? My life story was plastered on all the gossip websites and newspapers around the world. You probably know more about me than my own mother did.”
“I don’t really read that sort of stuff.”
Jack took a breath and exhaled deeply. “Well, I used to race cars, had a crash and I ended up in a wheelchair. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.” He gave me a tight smile.
I didn’t know how to reply so I stayed silent.
After a beat, Jack said, “I don’t think much of your small talk. I thought you were here to entertain me.”
He was being obnoxious and it was getting to me. Why was he determined to be so difficult?
“What do you usually do?” I asked. “What’s a typical day for you?”
“Oh, so many things. A little snowboarding, mountain climbing followed by an hour or two of surfing.” He smirked.
I put my hands on my hips. “Very funny. What would you like to do today? We could, uh, maybe watch a movie, or go for a walk... Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean…” I broke off, and I looked away and down at the floor.
How could I have said something so stupid? What was wrong with me?