Authors: Carrie Cox
Jack just looked at me as if I was crazy, but he kept a smile on his face, too.
“What?” I asked.
“You know you look beautiful when you smile. You should do it more often.”
My breath caught in my throat at his words. I bit my lip. I’d love to believe him. I’d love to stay there with him for hours. Instead, I bent down and started gathering up all our cutlery and paper plates from our picnic.
“We better get back, Jack. Everyone will wonder where we’ve gone.”
“You know what I think?” Jack said.
“What’s that, mister?” I said, expecting him to say something silly and teasing again.
“I think you like me, despite your best efforts not to.”
I didn’t look at him. I couldn’t. I just concentrated packing everything up in neat piles and then putting them back into the picnic basket.
Finally, I stood up. “You know what, Jack?”
“You think too much, that’s your problem.”
He collapsed into a fit of giggles, and I couldn’t help it. I laughed with him.
We started walking back, and he stumbled a couple of times on his crutches, but thankfully he didn’t do any damage.
When we made it out of the woods, I looked up at the sky.
Oh, my God. How was I going to get Jack back in the house without anyone seeing him and without anyone realizing I’d got him drunk?
“You know, I think you might be right. I might be a little tipsy,” he said with a grin as we got closer to the spot where we’d left the wheelchair.
“What would my brother say if he knew you were getting me drunk? Were you planning to take advantage of me, Nurse Kristina?”
“You wish,” I said, trying not to blush. “Now hurry up.”
He wasn’t walking in a straight line.
“Are you sure your legs don’t hurt?” I asked.
He shook his head, “They’re fine. But I still can’t believe you took me out here and got me drunk to take advantage of me.”
“Shut up!” I said blushing furiously, “I thought it was alcohol-free!”
Jack grinned as he walked beside me, refusing to get back in the chair. I knew he was only teasing me, but I was really worried that somebody would see us and report this to Alexander.
It took us ages to get back because Jack was weaving about from side to side, and he refused to get back into the wheelchair. So I had to push the chair back to the house while he wove about on his crutches. But luckily, we managed to get back inside without anyone seeing us.
As soon as we got home, he slumped on his bed and fell fast asleep.
I sighed with relief and hoped I’d gotten away with it. I was worried about the effects of alcohol combined with the painkillers, so I fished out the bottle from the bathroom cabinet and read the label. There were no warnings on the label.
But I couldn’t risk it. I had to get medical advice. It might get me in trouble but I couldn’t risk anything happening to Jack.
I phoned Brian.
“Uh, hi Brian … It’s Kristina… I’ve done something pretty stupid. I took Jack out for a picnic lunch and we had wine…I thought it was alcohol free but…”
“How much has he had?” Brian’s tone was abrupt and I winced, but I knew I deserved it.
“Two glasses. He seemed pretty drunk. He’s fallen asleep now. I’m really sorry. It was such a dumb thing to do.”
“Jack’s an adult, Kristina. He makes his own choices.” Brian’s words didn’t make me feel any better. “Has he been sick?”
“No we just got home and he fell asleep pretty much straightaway.”
“I don’t think two glasses will have done any damage. The tablets have just lowered his normal resistance to alcohol. Keep an eye on him. If you’re worried or if he gets worse, call me.”
“Ok, thanks,” I said meekly and hung up the phone, feeling like the stupidest person on the planet.
I made a pot of extra strong coffee for when Jack woke up, and poured a cup for myself. I took mine into the bedroom and sat on the wing-backed chair beside his bed to watch him sleep.
I guessed he would think I was a total weirdo when he woke up and found me watching over him, but I couldn’t let him out of my sight.
His face relaxed as he slept, making him appear younger than he was. His beautiful dark lashes rested on his tanned cheek. There was the tiniest amount of dark stubble along his jawline, and I imagined running my lips along his cheek, anticipating the raspy feel against my lips.
I was in trouble.
I really liked him, and I had no idea what to do about it. I mean, of course I knew what I should do. I should pack my bags and get the hell away from him before I fell any deeper. This wouldn’t end well.
For one thing, he was way out of my league. He was a world famous racing driver who could have any woman he wanted, and if I was to believe my internet searches, he had had most of the eligible women in his social circle.
But I didn’t want to give up. For the first time in years, I actually felt like I was doing something good with my life, like I was heading in the right direction. I needed to stay professional and help Jack, but I couldn’t get too close.
I had already been broken once. I couldn’t afford to get my heart broken, too.
After Jack woke up, he drank the coffee I gave him — two strong cups straight down — and smiled at me a little sheepishly.
“I’m a cheap date, huh? Half a bottle of wine?”
“It was the tablets,” I said. “I shouldn’t have let you have any wine. I really did think it was alcohol-free. I’m so sorry.”
He frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous. It wasn’t your fault.”
“But I’m supposed to be taking care of you. I shouldn’t have taken the risk. It is my fault. You could have gotten really sick.”
“No, I’m an adult,” he said. “I can make my own decisions.”
“But I’m here to look after you and make sure things like this don’t happen.”
“That’s not what you’re here for.”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
He wasn’t making any sense. Of course that was what I was here for. It was my job.
But he didn’t reply. He just shook his head. “I’m going to have a shower,” he said. “I think I’ll have dinner with you and Alexander tonight.”
For a moment I was lost for words, then a grin spread across my face. This was a step in the right direction, but I didn’t want to make a big deal over it, in case he backed out.
“Okay. I’m sure Alexander will be pleased.”
This was awesome progress. Alexander was apparently always trying to get Jack to come to dinner and Jack usually refused and ate by himself, so this was a good sign.
I bustled around the apartment, tidying things up, plumping pillows and humming to myself. I was in a ridiculously good mood. I knew exactly what was causing my good mood, and I knew exactly why I was feeling like this.
But it was no good, I couldn’t fight it.
I was falling for Jack Harding.
I hadn’t completely lost my mind. I was fully aware it couldn’t end well. Despite that, my stupid mood refused to fall, and for the rest of the afternoon, I walked around with a daft smile on my lips.
I left Jack early as I wanted to get changed for dinner. I’d only brought a couple of dresses with me, but for some reason I felt like dressing up tonight.
The dress I picked out wasn’t really a stunner. It was just a black wrap dress, but it was cut well and the fabric clung to my body, emphasizing my curves. I put on the gold locket that my sister Kate had bought for me before I left the US, and I added the pearl earrings she’d leant me for my trip.
I brushed back my hair at the sides and pinned it back with a comb, so it was in a half-up, half-down style. Not exactly a knock-out, but I didn’t think I looked too bad.
I applied some mascara and lip gloss and a little blush to my cheeks, and then I headed over to Lauren’s room so we could go down to dinner together.
“Wow!” Lauren said. “You look lovely.”
“Oh, thanks.” I shrugged. I hoped she didn’t put two and two together and realize why I had dressed up.
I started to worry that I’d made too much effort. Was I too obvious? My hands went to the comb in my hair, ready to take it down.
“Do you think it’s too much?” I asked.
“No, you look fantastic, leave it. In fact, I think I’ll put on a dress, too.”
Lauren quickly changed. That was one of the great things about her. She was so minimalist — definitely not a girly girl. She was happiest when she was elbow deep in mud working in the garden. So I guess that said it all.
I asked how her day had gone and she chatted a little about the garden and how she was getting on, telling me her plans and things about the gardens she wanted to change. As we started to walk down the stairs, she asked me how Jack had been today, and immediately I blushed.
Seriously, my body was such a traitor.
“We had a good day,” I said, keeping my voice light. “He’s going to join us for dinner.”
“Oh, really?” Lauren’s face broke out in a huge, knowing grin. “So that’s why you’ve dressed up.”
I gave her a nudge in the ribs with my elbow. I did not want Jack or Alexander to hear that!
“Shut up! That has nothing to do with it. I just felt like making an effort tonight. Anyway are you implying I normally look bad?” I joked, trying to lighten the mood and distract her from asking any more questions.
She laughed as we entered the dining room.
“That’s such a lovely sound,” Alexander said. “It’s been a while since we have had much laughter around here.”
And this time it was Lauren’s turn to blush.
Jack was already seated at the table, opposite his brother, and my heart did a little flip in my chest.
He looked so good. He was dressed in plain black trousers and a white shirt. The top button on his shirt was open, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of his tanned skin, reminding me of the first time I’d seen him bare-chested during his physio session with Brian. I remembered his perfect body, his toned abs…
I could feel myself starting to glaze over, so I forced myself to snap out of it and took my seat. Alexander stood up as we sat down. He was so old-fashioned, but it was charming.
Dinner was surprisingly pleasant. Normally, I couldn’t help feeling tense during dinner with Alexander. He was just so very proper. I was always worried I was going to use the wrong fork or do something dumb to embarrass myself, but Jack’s presence made me feel relaxed. Even Alexander seemed to enjoy his brother’s company, and the tension practically flowed out of him as we all laughed over a story Jack told us about a fellow racing driver, involving a missing car part and a tattoo of a pink rabbit.
After the main course was out of the way, I was completely relaxed when Alexander said to me, “Well, Kristina, I’d like to know what you’ve done to my brother.”
My heart leapt in my chest as the blood drained from my cheeks. “I’m sorry?”
“Well, look at him,” Alexander said, nodding towards Jack. “I haven’t seen him look so happy in months. Whatever you did today, keep doing it.”
Jack grinned and smirked into his glass, and I flushed beet red.
It had to be really obvious that we’d been up to something, but Alexander didn’t look angry at all.
Judging by the small smile on his face he actually looked pleased.
I swallowed. For some reason that made me a little uncomfortable.
Did he know about the wine this afternoon? Why didn’t he look angry?
Luckily, before I could do something stupid like confess I’d let Jack get drunk this afternoon, Alexander was distracted by something Lauren said about the gardens.
I sat back in my chair, unable to relax now. I could sense Jack staring at me, but I refused to meet his gaze. I felt completely out of my depth, so much had happened today and I had no idea how to handle all these feelings that were overwhelming me.
The truth was, I’d had the best day with Jack, and I’d like to do it again and again, but I knew I was getting too attached. This might be a bit of light-hearted flirting for him, but for me, it was so much more than that.