By six o’clock that evening, I was quietly going mad from just sitting peacefully in my flat, with only Tim for company. He took his orders very seriously, and was constantly checking me for signs of injury or stress, as well as testing out my brain power to make sure I hadn’t lost what’s left of my mind.
He would take frequent smoke breaks on my balcony, and I knew that while he was puffing away, he was also analyzing potential hiding spots, sniper ranges, and places where my attacker could be planning his next ambush on my person.
Logic dictated, though, that if he was going to move, he would have done it already. To make a move against me now would blow the element of surprise, and based on his reaction to my tattoo, I didn’t honestly think we’d see him again – not until we found him on our own terms.
Besides, I knew Shane would find him sooner or later. He always did.
My stomach was just starting to grumble with hunger when Tim spoke up from across the room, where he was flicking around on his Blackberry. “Oh, bollocks,” he blurted, disturbing our easy silence.
“You all right?” I asked, immediately on guard.
“Blast it. The Deaconess mission is going live tonight, and not tomorrow like we thought. I was the lead intel, so I’m…” Tim trailed off, and I nodded.
“You have orders to return to London?” I asked, and he nodded in reply. “Go, by all means. Honestly, Tim, I’m fine.”
“But Shane said…”
“Just send Shane a text that you’re leaving, and he’ll be up to speed. And tell him I’m feeling fine, and that I don’t need a sitter anymore. I don’t think anyone is coming back, and if he does, I’m ready for him now,” I explained, despite Tim’s anxious expression. “In fact, I was going to run to the shops to get something for dinner, and then I’m going to tuck in for a quiet night. I promise.”
Tim looked uncertain, but my voice was firm. “Honestly. I’m fine. I’ll take my sidearm to the shops, and I can even take my pepper spray just like a real girly girl.”
Tim barked out a laugh, and I smiled. “You sure?” He asked, still afraid to defy an order from Shane.
“As long as Shane clears it, I’m very sure.”
Within minutes, Tim had contacted, and gotten a reply from, Shane. Moments later, my phone rang, and I reiterated to Shane that I really was in the rosy bloom of health, and to stop worrying like a nervous grandmother, which shut him up right away.
Tim grabbed his coat and headed for the door. “Don’t do anything stupid, now. Go to the shops, and come right back.”
“Yes, Dad,” I teased, and Tim smiled. “Thanks for your help today.”
“Doing my job,” Tim said, and moments later, he pulled the door shut behind him.
Relieved to finally have my space to myself again, I tug on my running shoes and grab my wallet, anxious to go outside for some fresh air, even if it is only for a ten minute trip to the shops.
Pocketing my key, I amble downstairs, and inhale deeply as I step outside. The air is crisp but clear, and I feel decidedly better than I had all day. Instead of taking the path directly to the Meads, where the local shops were, I decide to take a small detour, instead walking down the hill to the seafront.
I needed to hear some waves crashing, I decide, before I settled back in at the flat for the night.
Walking briskly, I cross the street and stop on the pavement, reveling in the sound of the ocean below me. With a small smile, I walk a couple of blocks up along the front, which is virtually deserted. Once the sun goes down, all the people retreat from the beach, but for the occasional dog walker or late night errand runner.
I note one man jogging towards me, and a couple walking their frisky golden retriever, but since both looked fairly harmless, I continue forward, promising myself only one more block before I went in search of dinner.
I had stopped to gaze on the surf below again when I hear footsteps stop behind me, and a tentative voice say, “Emme?”
I whirl around, my hand instinctively going for my pepper spray until I see who it is.
“You know, we really have to stop meeting like this,” I say with a warm smile, and Dr. Connor Cross smiles in return.
He is wearing running shoes and loose fitting clothes, his hair slightly damp from jogging, his cheeks bright red from both the cold and the exercise.
And here I thought he couldn’t possibly look any cuter than he did in his white doctor’s coat.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at home resting, young lady,” he asks in mock seriousness, and I salute teasingly.
“I was obeying your orders to the letter until about twenty minutes ago. My babysitter had to leave suddenly, and I realized I was both hungry and stir crazy. Surely a bit of fresh air is good for a head injury?”
Dr. Cross smiles, then falls into step beside me as I turn back towards the Meads. “As long as you don’t overdo it. Is someone waiting for you back at your home to watch you tonight?”
I shake my head. “I’m fine. Really.”
His face takes on a serious cast. “Emme, really, you shouldn’t be left alone…”
“I feel fine,” I protest, and I can see him relenting slightly. “Really.”
“I was wondering…” Dr. Cross begins, fixing me with a serious stare. “Why you walked out of the hospital when you hadn’t been discharged. I never signed discharge papers, and I wasn’t going to until I got the results of your scans.”
I can feel my cheeks going hot, feeling as though the principal is calling me into his office to scold me for not finishing my homework. “I thought I was discharged,” I squeak, not sounding very convincing, even to myself.
“No, you didn’t,” Dr. Cross says, looking, well, cross.
“I… my friend came and picked me up, and he doesn’t like hospitals much, so we just…” I trail off, seeing that this isn’t helping my case at all.
“I don’t care what he likes,” Dr. Cross says. “If something had come up on that scan that was more serious than a concussion, what would I have done? What if you suddenly dropped dead from brain swelling or something? Did your friend think of that?”
“Um… no?” I venture, and Dr. Cross shakes his head wearily. “Sorry?”
“Well, don’t do it again,” Dr. Cross says. “I was worried.”
“You were worried about me?” I blurt before I can stop myself, and it’s his turn to redden.
“Of course. I’m a doctor. Your doctor. I always worry about my patients. Especially when their ‘friends’ abscond with them before being properly discharged.”
“It wasn’t absconding, exactly…” I say meekly, and he tries to hide a smile. “More like a fast slink out a back door. We won’t do it again.”
“Is he waiting for you at home?”
I shake my head. “No, he had to work. And he really is just a… friend. Not a, you know, special friend. Just a friend friend. Who happens to be a male. You know.”
I feel like an idiot, rambling all this out to a man I don’t know at all, but somehow, I want to convey that Shane is just a buddy, not an obstacle to…
To whatever this could be, in a perfect world.
But the shy smile Dr. Cross gives me assures me that he appreciates the information, no matter how it was delivered.
“But really, I’m fine.”
He arches an eyebrow, but says nothing.
“Just hungry,” I amend after a moment of us staring at each other wordlessly.
“Hungry is good,” he agrees after a long pause. “Maybe…”
“Maybe….” I echo as he trails off.
“I mean, I don’t want to presume, but maybe we could… or I could… perhaps we could have dinner? Together?”
He’s so cute when he’s nervous. Nothing like the confident doctor from earlier today.
“I was just going to grab something from the co-op to take home, but if you’d like, you could…” I trail off, in unsure territory myself. I’ve never really been in a position to ask a boy out, unless it was part of a mission profile.
I’ve never been much of a dater, period.
But he’s so… easy to be around.
He nods, happily, and I grin despite myself. “I just live up the road – we could grab a few supplies, and then take it there? I could make us dinner, a cup of tea? I mean, if you don’t have plans or anything, Dr. Cross. Do you work today, or tonight, or whatever?”
“Sounds good,” Dr. Cross says. “I just got off a two day shift, so I don’t go back in for another day and a half. I have no plans tonight at all, but I do have one condition.”
“That when we’re outside the hospital, you call me Connor.”
I smile. “I think I can handle that request,” I agree, then pause for a moment. “Connor.”
I like the way his name sounds when I say it, and the slight flush it brings to his cheeks.
He smiles, and in easy silence, we walk the remaining steps to the small grocery and step inside.
After spirited debate, we settle on crusty bread, fresh ham, several pieces of fruit, a bag of salad and a large bag of cheese and onion crisps to share, as well as a large bottle of lemonade to split. Connor insists on paying, and we have a small war of wills at the checkout until I relent and let him pay. Ten minutes later, we’re back on the pavement, and I’m leading Connor up the alleyway back to my flat.
He looks up at my squat five story building in wonder. “I can’t believe you live right here,” he says, looking around. “I just live a few blocks away, around the corner from St. Andrew’s School.”
“You’re kidding!” I exclaim, holding the lift door open for him.
He shakes his head. “Funny, us meeting at a grocery across town, then at the hospital when we’ve lived so close to each other for so long. Funny how people meet, isn’t it?”
“It is,” I agree, as we disembark from the tiny lift and I slide the key in my lock, praying that the flat looks fairly clean and well maintained. “Come on in,” I say, closing the door behind us and taking the bags from his hand and into the small kitchen. “It’s not much, but it’s home.”