Authors: Amy Andrews
She shrugged. ‘It’s … complicated.’
Ethan nodded. ‘He’s a complicated guy.’
Evie snorted at the understatement of the century. ‘You’ve known him for a while?’
Ethan picked up a stone at his feet and skipped it across the surface. ‘We served together overseas.’
‘You know his brother died over there?’
‘It’s really messed with his head,’ she murmured.
Ethan picked up another stone and looked at it. ‘You love him?’ he asked gently.
Evie swallowed as Ethan followed his direct question with a direct look. She thought about denying it, but after five months of denying it it felt good to say it to someone. ‘Yes.’ She gave a self-deprecating laugh. ‘He’s not exactly easy to love, though, you know? And God knows I’ve tried not to …’
Evie paused. She had a feeling that Ethan knew exactly how hard Finn was to love. ‘I think what happened with his brother really shut him down emotionally,’ she murmured.
She knew she was making another excuse for him but she couldn’t even begin to imagine how awful it would be to hold Bella or Lexi in her arms as they died. The thought of losing her sisters at all was horrifying. But like that?
How did somebody stay normal after that?
How did it not push a person over the edge?
Ethan looked back at the stone in his hand, feeling its weight and its warmth before letting it fly to skim across the surface. ‘Yes, it did. But I think Finn had issues that predated the tragedy with Isaac,’ he said carefully.
Evie snapped to attention. ‘He told you that?’
Ethan snorted. ‘No. This
Finn, remember. He’s always been pretty much a closed book, Evie. At least as long as I’ve known him. And we go back a couple of years before what happened with Isaac. He’s been much, much worse since then but he wasn’t exactly the life of the party before that. Part of it is the things he’d seen, the injuries, the total … mayhem that is war. A person shuts themselves down to protect themselves from that kind of carnage. But I think there’s even more than that with Finn, stuff from his distant past.’
Evie stilled as the enormity of what she faced hit home. If Ethan was right she was dealing with something bigger than his grief. She looked at Ethan helplessly, her hand seeking the precious life that grew inside her, needing to anchor herself in an uncertain sea. ‘I don’t know how to reach him through all that.’
Ethan shrugged. ‘I don’t know how you do it either but I do know that he’s crying out for help and after that little performance in the workshop, I think you’re the one woman who can do it. I have never seen Finn so … emotionally reactive as just now.’
Evie cocked an eyebrow. ‘Is that what you call it?’
He grinned. ‘Don’t give up on him, Evie. I think you’ll make a human being out of him yet.’
Ethan had been right—word had got out. Evie’s clinic was bustling that first morning with the most pathetic ailments she’d ever treated. But it felt good to be able to practise medicine where there was no pressure or stress or life-and-death situations and the men were flirty and charming and took the news of her pretend boyfriend waiting back home for her good-naturedly.
She and Bob had lunch together on the magnificent homestead veranda serenaded by the crash of the surf. She yawned as Bob regaled her with the details of the nail-gun incident.
‘Sorry,’ she apologised with a rueful smile. ‘It must be the sea air.’
Bob took it in his stride. ‘No worries. You should lie down and have a bit of a kip, love. A siesta. Reckon the Italians have that right.’
Evie was awfully tempted. The pregnancy had made her tired to the bone and by the time she arrived home after manic twelve-hour shifts at Sydney Harbour she was utterly exhausted. She already felt like she was in a major sleep deficit—and the baby wasn’t even out yet! She fantasised every day about midday naps and she could barely drag herself out of bed on her days off.
But it didn’t seem right to wander off for a nanny nap in broad daylight—was that even allowed?
‘Go on,’ Bob insisted as she yawned again. ‘There’s nothing for you to do here and you have your pager.’
Evie hesitated for a moment longer then thought, What the hell?
She pulled the suitcase off her bed—it must have been delivered while she’d been working that morning. She’d tasked Bella with the job of packing two weeks’ worth of clothes for her because, as a fashion designer, Evie knew her sister would choose with care. Her youngest sister Lexi, on the other hand, who was thirty-two weeks pregnant and time poor, would have just shoved in the first things that came to hand.
As her head hit the pillow her thoughts turned to Finn, as they always did. Should she tell him, shouldn’t she tell him? When to tell him? Here? Back in Sydney? When would be a good time?
But the lack of answers was even more wearying than the questions and within a minute the sound of the ocean and the pull of exhaustion had sucked her into a deep, deep sleep.
Evie woke with a start three hours later. She looked at the clock. She’d slept for three freaking hours?
She must have been more tired than she’d thought!
She certainly hadn’t felt this rested in a long time. Maybe after two weeks here she’d have caught up on the sleep she needed.
She stretched and stared at the ceiling for a moment or two, her hand finding her belly without conscious thought.
‘Well, baby,’ she said out loud. ‘Should I track your father down and tell him right now or should I wait till we’re back in Sydney and he’s done the op?’
Evie realised she should feel silly, talking to a tiny human being in utero who couldn’t respond, but she’d spent so much time avoiding anything to do with the life inside her that it suddenly seemed like the most natural thing in the world—talking to her baby.
‘Move now if you think I should tell him today.’
Again, quite silly. If she was going to rely on airy-fairy reasoning to inform her critical decisions, it’d probably make more sense to flip a coin.
But then the baby moved. And not some gentle fluttering, is-it-or-isn’t it, maybe-it’s-just-wind kind of movement. It was a kick. A very definite kick. As if the baby was shaping up to play soccer for Australia.
. The baby had spoken.
Twenty minutes later she’d changed into a loose, flowing sundress that she’d never seen before but which fitted her perfectly. Bella had attached a note to say, ‘Designed this especially for you. xxx.’
It was floaty and feminine with shoestring straps—perfect for the beach and the warm September day. And exactly what she needed to face Finn.
Finn couldn’t be found around the homestead but Ethan came out as she was standing at the veranda railing, contemplating the horizon.
‘Good clinic this morning,’ he said.
Evie smiled. ‘I’ve never known a bunch of tough guys see a doctor for such trifling complaints.’ Ethan laughed and she joined him. ‘I don’t suppose you know where Finn might be?’ she asked, when their laughter petered out.
‘I’d try the beach.’ He inclined his head towards the well-worn track that lead to the safety-railed cliff edge and the two hundred and twenty stairs that delivered the intrepid traveller straight onto the beach.
They were not for the faint-hearted …
‘He normally swims everyday around this time.’
‘Am I allowed to go that far away?’ she asked.
Ethan laughed. ‘Of course. It’s not that far. And even though it isn’t a private beach, we kind of consider it as within the property boundaries.’
She smiled. ‘Thanks.’
Halfway down she stood aside to let a buff-looking guy in boardies and a backpack run past, his below-knee prosthesis not seeming to hinder him an iota. He nodded at her as he pounded upwards and she turned to watch him as he scaled the stairs as if they were nothing.
Her gaze drifted all the way up the sheer cliff face to the very top. She was dreading
back—running just seemed insane.
Her foot hit the warm sand a few minutes later and her gaze scanned the wide arc of yellow, unpatrolled beach for Finn. She couldn’t see him but as she walked closer to the thundering ocean she could see a towel discarded on the sand and she looked out at the water, trying to see a head amongst the continually rolling breakers.
Her heart beat in sync with the ocean as she searched in vain through the wild pounding surf and a hundred disaster scenarios scuttled through her head. She calmed herself with the knowledge that he was a strong swimmer and ignored the ominous power of the surging ocean. Then she spotted his head popping up out of the water. He was quite a distance out but she could see his wet hair was sleek, like a seal’s pelt, and his shoulders were broad and bare.
She sat on the sand next to his towel and waited.
Finn was aware of Evie from the minute she’d set foot on the beach. Some sixth sense had alerted him and he’d watched her advance towards the shoreline, obviously looking for him.
And, of course, she looked utterly gorgeous in a dress that blew across her body, outlining her athletic legs, her hair whipping across her face, the shoestring straps baring lovely collar bones and beautiful shoulders.
Just looking at her made him hard and he was grateful for the cover of ocean.
It had been so long since he’d touched her. He wanted to stride up the beach, push her back into the sand and bury himself in her. But he hated the feelings she roused in him and the loss of control he exhibited when he was with her.
Besides … it would just put them back at square one when he’d tried so hard—and succeeded—at putting distance between them.
He could tell, though, even from this distance, she was here to chat. And, God knew, he didn’t want to chat with her. Right now the only thing he wanted to do with her involved being naked and he was going to stay right here until he’d worn the impulse down.
He swam against and with the strong current until he was chilled to the bone and his arm ached. A part of him hoped she’d get sick of waiting and just leave. Or maybe her pager would go off. But she sat stubbornly staring out to sea, watching him until finally the chill was unbearable and, admitting defeat, he strode from the surf.
She handed him his towel as he drew level with her and he took it wordlessly, rubbing vigorously at his body. When he was done he wrapped it around his waist and threw himself down next to her, taking care to leave a gap. She didn’t say anything to him as they both sat and watched the ocean for a while, the sun’s rays beginning to work their magic on the ice that seemed to penetrate right down to his bones.
Although the ice around his heart was as impenetrable as always.
‘I hear you have a boyfriend,’ he said after a while.
Evie, her brain still grappling with the perfect words to tell Finn he was going to be a father and her stupid pregnant hormones still all aflutter from his sexy Adonis-rising-from-the-ocean display, didn’t register the terseness in his tone.
‘A cosmetic surgeon who owns a Porsche and comes from North Shore money,’ he continued.
Evie bit back a smile at the ill-disguised contempt in his voice. When choosing her fake boyfriend she’d deliberately chosen all the attributes Finn would despise. ‘Well, I figured if I was going to have a make-believe boyfriend I might as well go all out.’
Finn wasn’t mollified. ‘He sounds like a tosser.’
Evie smiled at the ocean. ‘Because he does lips and boobs or because of the Porsche?’
Finn glared at her as she continued to stare at the horizon. ‘Is that what you want, Princess Evie? Some blue-blooded prince to keep up your royal lineage?’
She turned to look at him, her nostrils flaring as the scent of sea salt and something her hormones recognised as quintessentially Finn enveloped her. ‘I think you know who I want.’
And suddenly the roar of the ocean faded as the pounding of her pulse took over. The fact she was supposed to be telling him about their baby also faded as her heart drummed a primitive beat perfectly at home in this deserted windswept landscape. The world of the beach shrank until there was just him and her and the sun stroking warm fingers over their skin, lulling her common sense into a stupor. His bare chest and shoulders teased her peripheral vision, his sexy stubble and wet, ruffled hair taunted her front and centre.
‘I’ve only ever wanted you, Finn,’ she murmured, her breath rough as her gaze fell to his mouth. Wanting to feel it on hers. To feel it everywhere. ‘And right now all I can think about is how good we are together.’
Finn shut his eyes, images of how good they were rolling through his brain as seductively as her voice, like a siren from the sea. He opened them again and her hazel eyes were practically silver with desire. ‘Evie …’
Her breasts grew heavy at the rawness of his voice. Longing snaked through her belly, hot and hard and hungry as she lifted her hand to his face, ran her fingers over his mouth. ‘I’ve wanted to kiss you every day for five months,’ she murmured.
Finn gently grabbed her wrist, intent on setting her away, but the breeze blew the scent of her shampoo, of her skin right into his face, enveloping him in a cloud of memories, and he knew he wasn’t strong enough. Not after five months of denial.
‘Oh, hell,’ he half muttered, half groaned as he slid his hand from her wrist into her hair, pulling her head close and lowering his mouth to hers.