Authors: Carrie Cox
Next to him, I recognized Joanna. Her lips looked huge in the photo. I guessed she must have gotten collagen injections. I didn’t think it looked good. The dress she was wearing in the photo barely contained her breasts. But they looked too round and too hard. There was definitely nothing natural about those, I thought.
I knew I was being a bitch. What could I say? Joanna obviously had me riled, and I was not sure why. For some reason, I felt hugely overprotective of Jack, despite only knowing him for such a short time.
I spent the next hour flipping through gossip columns and pictures of Jack, and I built up his background in my head. I hadn’t been far off the mark when I’d figured he was a womanizer. There were photos of him with famous actresses and even one with a Ukrainian pop star I’d never heard of.
A couple of paparazzi shots showed him staggering out of nightclubs, clearly drunk. I tutted disapprovingly as if I were a model citizen myself and flicked to the next images.
It felt strange when I looked at his pictures. This didn’t seem like the real Jack to me.
I rested the iPad on my knees and gazed up at the ceiling. The real Jack Harding? Who was I kidding? I’d only known the guy for five minutes! What the hell did I know?
Why did I feel like I knew him? My therapist would warn me against forming attachments so quickly. He’d probably tell me it was a natural response during my recovery.
I tried to psychoanalyze myself. I obviously saw something broken in Jack, almost a reflection of myself, so I figured we were the same. We were not. We couldn’t be more different. He’d been a racing driver, earning millions of dollars a month, a success, and I…
Well, I don’t think I’d made a success of anything in my entire life.
It took a lot of willpower, but I closed down the web browser and went to the film app. Within a few minutes, I had found what I thought was the perfect film for Jack and me to watch tomorrow.
I went to sleep with a smile on my face, my mind full of images of Jack Harding.
The following morning I was so excited to see Jack. I hadn’t had this kind of feeling for the longest time. It was strange to actually feel excited about something and to be doing something I thought was worthwhile.
I practically ran down the stairs after breakfast to let myself into Jack’s side of the house.
Jack was still undergoing his physio session with Brian, who was working him hard. They were talking in lowered voices, but again it sounded like they were arguing.
I was starting to think Jack never did anything without arguing about it first.
As I entered the room, Brian was saying, “I want you to use them for at least two hours every day.”
Jack glared at the crutches in Brian’s hands. “I’m not ready for them.”
“Well, I say you are,” Brian said. “And I’m the expert.”
“What about Dr. Silverstein at the hospital? Has he really approved the use of these?”
Brian ignored Jack’s protestations and caught sight of me at the doorway. “I’m telling you, Jack, two hours a day. Kristina will tell me if you don’t.”
I swallowed nervously, not wanting to be the subject of Jack’s bad mood.
Jack turned, finally noticing I was there, and he glared at me over his shoulder. “Can you believe this? He wants me to get up on crutches, and I can barely hold myself up for ten minutes on this thing.” He pointed to the parallel bars, which Brian was starting to dismantle.
“I suppose you could try,” I said.
The furious expression on Jack’s face made me wish I had said nothing.
He shook his head and turned away from both of us, wheeling himself as far from us as he could and stared out of the window.
Brian caught my eye, smiled and moved over to pat my hand. “Keep encouraging him,” he said quietly so Jack couldn’t hear. “It won’t be easy, but I think he’ll get there.”
I nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
As Brian continued to pack up his equipment, I moved across the room to sit by Jack at the window.
“Have you had breakfast?” I asked. “Or do you want me to make you some eggs?”
Jack looked at me and said nothing for a moment. He had a sulky expression on his face, almost boy-like, and I figured I was in for a long day.
After Brian left, Jack glared again at the crutches.
“Are you really going to tell tales on me if I don’t use them?” he asked.
“Why wouldn’t you use them? Don’t you want to?”
He shook his head in disgust. “It’s not quite as easy as that. You don’t understand. I have seen six doctors so far, and every one of them, save the last, told me that I would never be able to walk properly again. My brother won’t take no for an answer so he just employs more and more doctors until one gives him the answer he needs.”
“Brian is the only one who thinks you can walk again?” I asked.
Jack shook his head. “Brian’s a physio, not the doctor. But he’s associated with the doctor that Alexander has employed. Funnily enough, Alexander has also given the doctor a huge donation to his medical practice.”
I frowned. “You mean, Alexander is paying him to say you’re going to walk again?”
But Jack wasn’t listening. He was still staring at the crutches. “It’s as if he thinks I don’t want to do it.”
I shrugged. “I think you should try, but if you really don’t want to, I won’t tell tales.”
He looked up at me, a curious smile on his face. “Really?”
“It’s your decision,” I said. I made my way into the small kitchenette and filled the kettle. “I’m going to make tea, do you want one?”
Jack refused, and when I had turned my back, he reached for the crutches. I know he did because I heard them clatter to the floor. I forced myself not to turn around or go and help him.
I didn’t know much about medical care, but I did know about male pride. This was something he needed to do on his own.
So I did my best to ignore the noise coming from behind me. Although, I was alert and ready to rush over to him in case he fell over or hurt himself.
I poured the boiling water onto a tea bag and watched the steam curl upwards while chewing my lip.
I counted to ten, and I didn’t hear any crashing or banging, so I figured everything was good. I turned and saw Jack had got to his feet, leaning on both the crutches. I beamed at him.
He gave me a sarcastic look. “Yeah, amazing, I managed to stand up. Give me a round of applause.”
I shook my head at him as I pulled the teabag out of my cup. “It’s an achievement. Don’t belittle yourself.”
He made a grunting noise and took a couple more steps around the room.
I wondered if we could go out into the gardens. Should I push my luck? It was such a gorgeous day.
“Do you want to go outside? I mean, not far, but just to get some fresh air?”
He looked at me, uncertainty hovering over his face. “I don’t know.”
“Well, I could bring the chair with us if you want, in case you get tired. I’d love to get some sunshine,” I said, and I pushed up the sleeves of my shirt.
I noticed that Jack was looking at me slightly differently. His gaze was heated, and I felt suddenly very aware of the sheer blouse I was wearing. I’d never noticed how thin the material was before.
His gaze traveled down to my waist and lingered before traveling back up. “Yes, you do look quite pale.”
I grimaced at him. “Thanks very much!”
I left my unfinished tea on the side and headed to get his chair. Grabbing the handles, I wheeled it forward towards the French doors.
“Well are you coming?” I said, and I looked over my shoulder, just in time to see that his eyes were most definitely focused on my backside.
He grinned cheekily, and I couldn’t do anything but just shake my head. I guessed not everything about him was broken.
I wheeled the chair out into the sunshine, and Jack followed me on his crutches. His progress was slow but definite. The muscles in his arms were extremely well developed and obviously didn’t tire easily.
This was brilliant; I didn’t understand why Brian hadn’t got him on crutches before. We walked a little way out into the garden and we chatted about random things. Every now and again, Jack would ask a question, trying to find out something about my life before I arrived here. But I did my best to avoid answering. I had pretty good avoidance tactics.
I knew he was only interested because he thought I was hiding something, but I was not about to spill my guts. We were here to sort him out. To fix him, not me.
I didn’t really notice how far we’d gone until we were almost at the cliff edge. We’d been walking uphill as well but the wheelchair was a state-of-the-art machine that was unbelievably light, so I’d barely noticed pushing it.
The weather was so much better than the day I’d arrived. The sun warmed my skin and glinted off the turquoise sea.
I’d made a comment about how gorgeous the sea looked when I turned and noticed that Jack was looking very pale. There was a sheen of sweat on his forehead. I pushed the lock down on the wheelchair’s wheels and then turned to face him.
I put my hands out to steady him. “Are you okay? You’re looking really pale.”
He blinked at me, and I noticed how tense his muscles were.
“Are your arms getting tired?” I asked.
“It’s not my arms,” he said. “It’s my legs. They hurt; they ache, like deep in the bone.”
“Ok,” I said. “Do you think you can get back?”
We both looked back at the house, and I was shocked at how far it was. How could I have been so stupid? This was the first time Jack had been out on his crutches, and I’d let him go too far. What was I thinking?
No wonder I had to drop out of my nursing program.
“Okay,” I said. “Well, we’ve brought the wheelchair, so we may as well use it.”
Jack looked at it with disgust. For a moment, I thought he was going to explode again, he looked absolutely furious. But then he raised his head, looked up to the sky and sighed. He moved towards the chair. Letting go of his crutches, he reluctantly sat back in the chair.
I gathered the crutches together, put them over the arms of the wheelchair and began to push the chair towards the house.
Even though we were going downhill Jack’s weight in the chair made it so much harder.
The path wasn’t paved so that made it harder too. The wheels sank into the gravel and resisted my pushing.
Jack noticed how hard it was for me. He turned around. “Are you okay? I can push the wheels.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “Just relax. We’ll be back in no time at all.”
He was still really pale, and I was worried. I decided to call Brian as soon as we got back.
It took an age to get to the house. My arms were killing me, and I had sweat running down the small of my back.
Luckily, Alexander had employed people to make sure all of Jack’s rooms were wheelchair-friendly and that included a ramp by the French doors, so Jack didn’t have to get out of the chair to get back inside.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked me again. I didn’t understand why he was concerned about me. He was the one in pain.
“Honestly, I’m fine,” I said.
“I didn’t think it would be so difficult to push,” Jack said. “I’ve got an electric one, but I never use it. It’s much bulkier.”
“Maybe we’ll take that next time,” I said, trying to hide the fact that I was desperately out of breath.
I finally managed to heave the wheelchair up the ramp and over the threshold.
Once we were inside, I tried to make sure Jack would be comfortable. “Do you want to stay in the chair or lie down?”
I chewed on my lip. He was still in obvious pain, and I was worried.
“I think I better lie down,” he said, and his voice was so low I could barely hear it. It was such a dramatic change. My heart thudded in my chest as I wheeled the chair into the bedroom and up to the bed and started to pull back the covers.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ll just lie on top.”