Authors: Amy Andrews
‘No,’ she said quietly.
Finn shrugged. ‘Well, maybe just before then?’
Evie blinked. Oh, when she was as big as a house and needed to get married in a tent? Was he for real? Did he
know how important a wedding was to a woman? Even one who wasn’t into sappy ceremonies or big flouncy affairs? Didn’t he know that most women wanted declarations of love and commitment when they were proposed to?
If that’s what this was …
No, of course he didn’t. Because, as with everything in his life, Finn just assumed that she’d jump to do his bidding when he asked.
‘I’m not marrying you, Finn.’
Finn dragged his attention back to Evie and her softly spoken rebuttal. He snorted. ‘Don’t be ridiculous, Evie. This is what you wanted, isn’t it?’
More than anything.
But not like this
. ‘No. I told you, I can raise this baby without your help.’
Finn shoved a hand on his hip. ‘Evie … come on … I know how you feel about me …’
She gave a half-laugh at his gall. ‘I always forget how capable you are of breathtaking arrogance. Silly of me, really.’
‘Evie,’ he sighed, desperate to get on with plans now he’d made up his mind, ‘let’s not play games.’
Evie felt his impatience rolling off him in waves. ‘Okay, fine, let’s lay our cards on the table. How do
Finn felt the question slug him right between the eyes, which were only just recovering from their brush with the whisky. How he felt about Evie was complicated. But he knew it wasn’t what she wanted to hear.
‘You want me to tell you that I’m in love with you and we’re going to ride off into the sunset and it’s all going to be hunky-dory? Because I don’t and it isn’t. Not in a white-picket-fence way anyway.’
Evie moved to the nearby table and sank into a chair. She’d known he didn’t love her but it was still hard to hear.
Finn shut his eyes briefly then opened them and joined her, taking the seat opposite. ‘I’m sorry, Evie. It’s not you. It’s me. There’s a lot of … stuff in my life … that’s happened. I’m just not capable of loving someone.’
Evie nodded even as the admission tore through all the soft tissue around her heart. Had Isaac’s death and the other stuff that Ethan had hinted at really destroyed Finn’s ability to love?
‘Well, that’s what I want,’ she said quietly. ‘What I need. Love and sunsets and white picket fences. And I won’t marry for anything less.’
Finn’s lips tightened. This had seemed so easy in theory when the marriage suggestion had slipped from his mouth. She’d say yes and the rest would fall into place. It hadn’t occurred to him that Evie would be difficult.
In fact, if anything, he’d counted on those feelings she always wore on her sleeve to work in his favour.
‘Not when there’s a perfectly good alternative,’ she continued. ‘I’m happy … really, really happy … that you want to be involved, Finn. But we’re going to have to work out a way to co-parent separately because I’m not marrying a man who doesn’t love me.’
Her words were quiet but the delivery was deadly and Finn knew that she meant every single one. ‘Contrary to what you might think, growing up without two parents kind of sucks, Evie.
Trust me on that
Evie shivered at the bitterness in his words. ‘Is that what happened to you?’ she murmured. Had Ethan been right about Finn’s emotional issues extending further back than Isaac’s death?
She watched his face slowly shut down, his eyes become chilly. ‘We’re not talking about me.’
Evie snorted. ‘You tell me to trust you, demand that I marry you, but you clam up when I try to get close? Well
, Finn, growing up with two parents who hate each other kind of sucks too.’
‘At least you had a stable home life,’ he snapped.
So he hadn’t?
‘It wasn’t stable,’ she said through gritted teeth. ‘My father just had enough money to buy the illusion of stability. Ultimately my mother was a drunk who came and went in our lives while my father put nannies in the house and mistresses in his bed.’
Finn’s mouth twisted. ‘Poor little rich girl.’ So Evie’s life hadn’t been perfect—it had still been a thousand per cent better than his had ever been.
Evie shook her head. He really could be an insensitive jerk when he put his mind to it. ‘I won’t be with a man who doesn’t love me.’
She reiterated each word very carefully.
‘You seemed to be with Stuart long enough,’ Finn jibed, ‘and Blind Freddie could have seen he didn’t love you.’
Evie gasped at his cruel taunt, the humiliation from that time revisiting with a vengeance. ‘At least he’d pretended to care. I doubt you’re even capable of that!’
‘You want me to pretend? You want me to lie to you? Okay, fine, Evie I love you. Let’s get married.’
She stood, ridiculously close to tears and tired of his haranguing. If he thought this was the way to win her over, he was crazy. ‘Go to hell, Finn,’ she snapped, and stormed out of the room.
Finn’s brain was racing as he took the fire stairs up to his penthouse apartment half an hour later. The lifts were being temperamental again and, frankly, after missing his daily ocean swims he could do with the exercise and the extended thinking time. He was breathing hard by the time he got to the fifth floor and stopped by the landing window to catch his breath and absently admire a large slice of the harbour.
Kirribilli Views apartments had certainly been blessed by the location gods.
The door opened and he turned to find Ava Carmichael entering the fire escape. She looked momentarily surprised and then grinned at him. ‘We really must stop meeting like this.’
Finn grunted, remembering their last meeting in this stairwell when he’d come upon Ava crying over her broken marriage. Actually, they’d been through a lot together, with him helping her the day she’d miscarried in the lift and then she and Gladys finding him collapsed from a major infection after his first operation.
Not that they’d ever talked about those things. Ava was like that. For a therapist, she was very non-intrusive. Mostly anyway. There had been an occasion or two where she’d spoken her mind but even then she’d given it to him straight. Hadn’t couched anything in vague psychological terms.
He liked that about her.
It was good to know that things had improved for both of them since. He had fully recovered from his injury and she and James had reconciled, having had their first baby just before his second operation and his desertion to
‘It’s not too late,’ Finn said, forcing himself to keep things light. ‘We can still make out in the stairwell and no one would know.’
Ava laughed at the rumour she’d threatened to start to blackmail him into seeing her the day after he’d scared the daylights out of all of them with his infection. He’d been in an absolutely foul mood but she’d served him up some home truths anyway.
Not that he’d taken them on board.
He was a stubborn, stubborn man. But she had a soft spot for him because he’d never tried to offer any advice or interfere or make things better when things with James had been going to hell in a hand basket. Unlike others. And she’d appreciated that.
‘I heard you were back and fully recovered. Although …’ she squinted and inspected his face a little closer ‘… you don’t look so good at the moment.’
Finn almost groaned. Did every woman find it their duty today to tell him he looked like hell? ‘What are you doing here? Didn’t you move to your white-picket-fence house in the burbs?’
‘Just visiting the old stomping ground,’ she said.
Finn turned to look back out the window and Ava knew she had been dismissed, that it was her job to walk on down the stairs and leave him to his obvious brooding, but there was something achingly lonely about Finn and they’d been pretty frank with each other in the past.
Still, she hesitated. She knew that Finn was an intensely private man. But then Finn turned his gaze towards her. It was so incredibly turbulent, almost too painful to look at.
‘You’re a therapist, right?’
Ava laughed. ‘I’m a
He shrugged. ‘But you
have a psychology degree?’
Ava nodded. ‘Is there something you want to talk about?’
Finn shook his head. He wanted to talk to Ava Carmichael about as much as he wanted to become a father but … she’d always given it to him straight and he could do with some insight into the female psyche right now.
‘Evie’s pregnant. I suggested we get married. She said no. I need her to say yes.’
Ava blinked at the three startling pieces of information. She and Evie were friends, not bosom buddies and they certainly hadn’t seen much of each other since her own baby had been born, but she knew more about Finn and Evie’s relationship than Finn probably realised.
People told her stuff—it was an occupational hazard.
She knew Evie loved Finn. She knew Finn was a hard man to know and an impossible one to love. She knew that if Evie had turned him down it had been for a pretty good reason.
‘Okay …’ she wandered closer to him, propping her hip against the window sill. ‘So when you say you
? What did that entail exactly?’
‘I said I thought we should get married.’
Ava nodded. ‘So, let me guess … you didn’t get down on one knee and do the whole big proposal thing? You kind of … presented it as a fait accompli?’ Finn looked away from her probing gaze. ‘Am I warm?’
He looked back again, glaring. ‘It was more of a … spontaneous thing. Us getting married isn’t about any of the hoopla. It’s about being practical. About giving our child a normal family with a mother and father living under the same roof. And Evie isn’t the kind of woman that goes for all that romantic rubbish.’
Ava arched an eyebrow. ‘And how do you know that, Finn? Have you ever really even tried to get to know her?’
He looked away again at the view. ‘I know she loves me, Ava. Why be coy about it? Why pretend this isn’t what she wants?’ He looked back at her. ‘This way she gets what she wants and I get what I want.’
‘What? A man who doesn’t love her?’
Finn wanted to smash the window at her gentle insight. ‘Look, Ava … it’s complicated. I grew up in a single-parent household and then …’ He shook his head. He couldn’t tell Ava, no matter what degree she had. He didn’t talk about his issues—he just left them behind in the past, where they belonged. Where they couldn’t touch him any more. ‘I don’t want that for my kid.’
Ava pitied him. Finn was a man on the edge and he was the only one who didn’t know it. ‘Tell her, Finn. Not me.’
He shook his head. He was so used to burying it inside he doubted he even knew how to access the words. ‘I can’t.’
Ava’s heart squeezed at the bleakness in his eyes. ‘I do recall telling you that this would happen one day, Finn. That by pushing Evie away and not letting her in that one day something would happen and you’d find yourself locked out of Evie’s life.’
Finn nodded miserably. She’d said exactly that. Yelled it at him, actually, when he was being rude and stubborn and difficult, refusing to see Evie after he’d been hospitalised with the infection.
‘Seriously?’ he said. ‘You’re going with an
I told you so
now? Where’d you get that degree?’ he grouched. ‘In a cornflakes packet?’
Ava smiled. ‘Coco Pops, actually.’
Finn gave a half-smile before turning back to the window. ‘Fine. How do I fix it?’
‘Maybe it’s time to stop pushing her away. To open yourself up.’
Finn pressed his forehead against the glass. She may as well have told him to stand in the middle of the hospital naked. ‘What? No pill?’
Ava shook her head. ‘I’m afraid not.’
‘You’re a lousy therapist,’ he muttered.
She laughed. ‘What do you expect for free?’
A MONTH PASSED and it was business as usual at Sydney Harbour Hospital. Finn was back on board, being his brilliant, arrogant, grouchy self. Anyone who’d thought that with him now fully recovered from his injury his mood might have improved had been sorely mistaken. Evie’s recalcitrance had taken over from the pain and restrictions that had made him notoriously moody, resulting in a crankier than ever Dr Kennedy.
But given that Prince Khalid’s cheque had made the hospital one million dollars richer, no one was about to call him on it. Those on his team just knew—you did your job with skill and competence and stayed the hell out of Finn’s way.
Even Finn and Evie’s relationship had gone back to that of polite detachment, which was causing an absolute buzz on the grapevine. At twenty-five weeks Evie could no longer hide her pregnancy and with everyone knowing Finn was the baby-daddy, speculation was rife.
Were they together?
Would they get married?
Were they already married and keeping it a secret? Why couldn’t they barely say two words to each other?
Did they even like each other?
Everything from the hows and wheres of the baby’s conception to a potential wedding and the custody arrangements were red-hot topics.