Authors: Amy Andrews
Dropping out and becoming a hermit in a beach shack somewhere was immensely appealing. Maybe he’d even take up surfing.
‘Your arm is better. You can’t hide here for ever.’
He turned to Ethan and glared at him with a trace of the old Finn. ‘Why not?’
‘Because this isn’t who you are. Because you’re using this to avoid your issues.’
‘So I should go back to facing them in a high-stress environment where people’s lives depend on me?’
‘You’ve healed here, Finn. Physically. And mentally you’re much more relaxed. You needed that. But you’re not opening up emotionally.’
He shrugged and took a slug of his beer. ‘I’m a surgeon, we’re not emotional types.’
‘No, Finn. Being a surgeon is what you do, not who you are. Beyond all those fancy letters after your name you’re just a man who could do nothing but sit and cradle his dying brother while all hell was breaking loose around you. You couldn’t help him. You couldn’t save him. You couldn’t stop him from dying. You’re damaged in ways that go far beyond the physical.’
Finn flinched as Ethan didn’t even try to pull his punches. In five months they hadn’t once spoken about what had happened all those years ago. How Ethan had found a wounded Finn, peppered with shrapnel, holding Isaac.
‘But I think you find some kind of emotional release in operating. I think that with every person you save, you bring back a little bit of Isaac. And if you’re not going to open up about it, if surgery is your therapy of choice, then I think you should get back to it.’
More silence followed broken only by the pounding of surf.
‘So you’re kicking me out,’ Finn said, staring at the horizon.
Ethan shook his head. ‘Nope. I’m recommending a course of treatment. You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.’
Finn’s thoughts churned like the foam that he knew from his daily foray to the beach swirled and surged against the rocks with the sweep and suck of the tide. He knew Ethan was right, just as he’d known that this reprieve from the world couldn’t last.
But his thoughts were interrupted by the crunching of tyres on the gravel drive and the arrival of a little red Mini sweeping into the parking area.
‘Are we expecting an arrival today?’ Ethan frowned.
‘Not as far as I know,’ Finn murmured.
They watched as the door opened and a woman climbed out. ‘Oh, crap,’ Finn said.
Ten minutes later Evie leaned against the veranda railing, looking out over the ocean view, the afternoon breeze blowing her loose hair off her shoulders. It ruffled the frayed edges of her denim cut-offs and blew the cream cotton of her loose, round-necked peasant blouse against her skin. She breathed the salt tang deep into her lungs.
‘Wow,’ she said, expelling her breath. ‘This is a spectacular view.’
‘It’s all right,’ Finn said, irked that he was enjoying the view of her perky denim-clad backside a hell of a lot more than the magnificent one-hundred-and-eighty-degree ocean view.
Since he’d slunk away in the night after their explosive session on his couch he’d thought about Evie a lot. Probably too much. Some of it R-rated. Most of it involving her big hazel eyes looking at him with love and compassion and pleading with him to let her in.
Up here he’d managed to pigeonhole her and the relationship she’d wanted so desperately as a bad idea. Standing a metre away from her, the long, toned lines of her achingly familiar, he had to clench his fists to stop from reaching for her.
Once upon a time he would have dismissed the impulse as a purely sexual urge. Something he would have felt for any woman standing here after five months of abstinence. A male thing. But solitude and time to think had stripped away his old defence mechanisms and as such he was forced to recognise the truth.
Evie was under his skin.
And it scared the hell out of him. Because she wouldn’t be happy with half of him. She would want all of him. And as Ethan had not long ago pointed out, he was damaged.
And it went far beyond that awful day ten years ago
He didn’t know how to love a woman. He doubted he’d ever known. Not even Lydia.
‘How did you find me?’
Evie turned to face him, amazed at this version of Finn before her, lounging in a chair, casually knocking back a beer.
Had he ever been this chilled?
Okay, there had been a wariness in his gaze since she’d arrived but this Finn was still a stark contrast to Sydney Harbour Hospital Finn. The old Finn was a serious, driven, sombre professional who oozed energy and drive from every pore. His mind was sharp, his tongue even more so, and his pace had always been frenetic.
His drink of choice was seriously good Scotch.
This Finn was so laid back he may as well have been wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a flower behind his ear. His body was more honed, spare, and his skin had been kissed to a golden honey hue. A far cry from the haggard shadow he’d been when last she’d seen him.
Had he been surfing all this time?
The incredible blue of his eyes, so often frigid with disapproval, were like warm tropical waters amidst the golden planes of his stubbly face. And she wanted to dive in.
She’d been nervous that he’d take one look at her and know she was pregnant. Which was ridiculous given that it would be at least another month, maybe more, before it was obvious to anyone. But she really needn’t have worried. This Finn didn’t look like he’d be bothered if she’d turned up with his triplets.
Something rose in her chest, dark and ugly. It twisted and burned and she realised she was jealous. This was the kind of Finn she’d longed for, had known was there somewhere. The one he’d never shown her.
‘Daddy get a private detective?’ he goaded.
His voice had an edge that she recognised as the old Finn and she found herself responding accordingly. She was like Pavlov’s dog, still salivating over the slightest crumb.
She cleared her throat as emotion lodged like a fist in her trachea. ‘Lydia.’
‘Lydia?’ Finn sat up. ‘
told you I was here?’ Isaac’s widow, the woman he’d had a seriously screwed-up co-dependent relationship with in the aftermath of his brother’s death, had been talking to Evie?
He frowned. ‘You
Evie nodded calmly. Well, she’d met her anyway—she still had no clue as to their relationship. ‘I met her outside your apartment a couple of days after you left. She came to pick up some stuff for you. Told me you were okay. That you needed space. Time … She gave me her card.’
Finn shut his eyes and leaned back into the canvas hammock of the squatter’s chair. Trust Lydia to interfere. He opened his eyes to find her looking at him.
‘Your arm is better, I see.’
Finn looked down at it. He clenched and unclenched his fingers automatically, still amazed that he could do so. ‘Yes.’
Evie pressed her butt hard into the railing. She wanted to launch herself at him, throw herself into his lap, hug him to her, tell him she’d known it would get better, that he’d just needed a little faith and a lot of patience. But he didn’t look so laid back now and memories of what had happened last time she had been in his lap overrode everything else.
There was even more between them now than there’d ever been—more than he certainly knew—and she couldn’t think about any of it until she had him back in Sydney, until after he’d operated on their celebrity patient, until after she’d told him about the baby.
‘You must be very relieved,’ Evie murmured.
Finn didn’t want to make small talk with her. His mind had been clear ten minutes ago and now it was all clouded up again.
Seeing Evie after five months’ break made him realise how much he’d missed her wide hazel eyes and her interesting face. How much he’d taken her presence for granted when they’d worked in the same hospital, when she’d been there for him during his ops. How much he’d come to depend on seeing her, even though he’d pushed her away at every turn.
He’d been able to ignore all of that five hundred kilometres away from her—out of sight out of mind. But it was impossible to ignore now. She made him want things he didn’t know how to articulate.
And he wanted her gone.
So he could go back to ignoring her and all the stuff that bubbled to the surface whenever she was around all over again.
‘Why are you here?’ he demanded.
Evie swallowed at his sullen enquiry. His gaze was becoming chilly again and she shivered. ‘Prince Khalid bin Aziz.’
Finn frowned at the name from his past. Several years ago he’d revived a man who had collapsed in front of him on the street a couple of blocks from the hospital. He’d had no way of knowing at the time that the man was a Saudi oil prince. There’d been no robes, no staff, no security. He’d just been another heart to start and Finn’s medical training had taken over.
But it had certainly worked out well for the hospital, which had benefited from a huge donation.
‘What does he want?’
‘He wants you.’
Not as badly as she did, however
. ‘He needs a quadruple bypass and he wants you
and only you
to perform it.’
Finn gripped his beer bottle harder as Evie opened a door he’d shut firmly behind him and a surge of adrenaline hit him like a bolt from the blue. He could almost smell the chemical cleanliness of the operating room, hear the dull slap as an instrument hit his gloved hand, feel the heat of the overhead lights on the back of his neck.
He shook his head, quashing the powerful surge of anticipation. ‘I’m not ready to come back.’
Evie’s looked down at him as he absently clenched and unclenched his right hand. Her heart banged loudly in her chest.
What on earth was he talking about?
Finn was a surgeon. The best cardiothoracic surgeon there was. He had to come back. And not just for the amir.
For him. For his sanity. For his dignity. The Finn she knew
‘You look physically capable,’ she said, keeping her voice neutral.
Finn pushed up out of the chair as the decision he’d been circling around for five months crystallised. He walked to the railing, keeping a distance between them, his gaze locking on the horizon. ‘I don’t know if I’m going to come back.’
Evie stared at his profile. ‘To the Harbour?’
Finn shook his head as he tested the words out loud. ‘To surgery.’
Evie blinked, her brain temporarily shutting down at the enormity of his admission. Quit being a surgeon?
That was sacrilege
She turned around slowly so she too was facing the horizon. Her hand gripped the railing as the line between the earth and the sky seemed to tilt. ‘My father will not be pleased,’ she joked, attempting to lighten the moment while her thoughts and emotions jumbled themselves into an almighty tangle.
‘Ah, yes, how is the great Richard Lockheart?’
Evie would have to have been deaf not to hear the contempt in Finn’s voice. It was fair to say that Finn was not on Team Richard. But, then, neither was she.
‘Already counting the pennies from the big fat donation Prince Khalid has promised the hospital.’
Evie wondered if Finn remembered that it was through Prince Khalid’s misfortune that she’d first met him. At the gala dinner that the prince had thrown in Finn’s honour the first time he’d donated one million dollars to the Sydney Harbour Hospital’s cardiothoracic department.
Finn had been as unimpressed as she to be there.
He snorted. ‘Of course. I should have known there would be money involved.’
Evie had never heard such coldness in Finn’s voice before. Not where his work was concerned, and it frightened her. She was used to it regarding her and anything of a remotely personal nature. But not his job.
She’d never thought she’d have to convince him to come back to work. She’d just assumed he’d jump back in as soon as he possibly could.
Just how long had his hand been recovered for?
‘So don’t do it for him,’ she said battling to keep the rise of desperation out of her voice. ‘Or for the money. Do it for the prince.’
‘There are any number of very good cardiac surgeons in Sydney.’
‘He doesn’t want very good. He wants the best.’
Finn turned to face her, propping his hip against the railing. ‘No.’
Evie turned too, at a complete loss as she faced him. ‘Please.’
She seemed to always be asking him for something he wasn’t prepared to give. Saying,
please, Finn, please
. And she was heartily sick of it. And sick of being rejected.
And if she wasn’t carrying his baby she’d just walk right away. But she was. And he needed to know—whatever the fallout might be.
She opened her mouth to tell him. Not to bribe him into doing what she wanted but because she could see his mind was made up, and before he sent her away for the last time, he had to know.
But Ethan striding out onto the veranda interrupted them. ‘Finn—’ Finn looked over Evie’s shoulder. ‘Oh … sorry … I thought I heard the car leave,’ Ethan said, smiling apologetically at Evie as he approached.
‘It’s fine,’ Evie murmured.
‘What’s up?’ Finn asked, dragging his gaze away from Evie’s suddenly pale face.