And she spent hers studying. Neither of them had space in their lives. So it wasn't going to happen.
'So that's settled, then,' she said.
He shook his head. 'I don't think this is going to go away, Vicky. I've been dreaming about you since the day I met you. Dreams that...' A flush stained his cheekbones. 'You don't need to know the details. Just that I can't stop thinking about you. I thought maybe we could be friends, that it would be enough for me. But it's not. And kissing you didn't break the spell, either.' A muscle tightened in his jaw. 'And don't say it's not the same for you. You look as if someone's just dropped you into a pool of ice-cold water.'
Which was exactly how she felt. She dragged in a breath. 'I can't do this, Jake. I know what I want to do in my life, and...'
'Why? Why can't we have it all?' Jake asked softly.
'You'd distract me,' she said again.
'Actually, you might find it an advantage.'
Her eyes widened. 'You mean, sleep with you and I'll get a promotion? That's disgusting!'
He took a step backwards, as if she'd slapped him, and his face darkened. 'That's not what I meant at all. But I've been a doctor for four years longer than you have. Worked in different hospitals. So I've dealt with cases you might not have come across, and maybe I could think up some really tough questions for you when you're studying.'
Advantages...as in being with someone who understood what she wanted to do. Someone who'd support her studying and help her expand her knowledge. Someone to bounce ideas off and discuss things with.
He'd already told her of his plans to develop the staff, through shadowing and mentoring as well as courses. She knew from working with him that he was friendly to everyone but hadn't tried it on with any of the staff. He wasn't a flirt or a tease. If he said something, he meant it. So why on earth had she said something so stupid?
Because she'd panicked.
Because she was scared that Jake would matter too much to her, if she allowed him near enough.
She counted to three. Slowly. To make sure her voice didn't wobble when she finally spoke. 'I owe you an apology. I jumped to conclusions.'
'The wrong ones,' he said, turning away from her. 'I'll drive you home.'
She realised she'd dropped the bear when he'd kissed her. She picked it up and dusted the sand off its fur, then followed Jake miserably back to the car. How had it all gone so wrong?
And that was exactly why she'd given up on relationships. Hers always ended up in a mess. Her boyfriends wanted to come first, not seeing that she needed to prove something to herself first—prove that she could make it right to the top. And when she hadn't been prepared to drop her studies for them, they'd walked away.
Just like Jake was walking away from her now. By the time they reached the car, she'd made up her mind. 'You don't need to drop me home. I'll get the train back.'
He matched her for coolness. 'I have to drive myself back to London, so you may as well come with me.'
'Just get in, Vicky.' He sounded tired. Hurt. Lost. That made two of them.
She climbed into the car in silence. He didn't bother trying to engage her in conversation—he just turned up the volume on the stereo. Keith Urban was singing a song of love and loss, about being strong and letting go. Crying. Something Vicky never did. She always kept her self-control. Always.
So the dampness on her cheeks took her by surprise. And although she tried to rub it away without him noticing, he must have seen the movement of her hand out of the corner of his eye because he swore softly, turned into the next road and parked in the first available spot.
'What are you doing?' she asked.
'I've made you cry. And that's not how today was supposed to be. It was supposed to be fun. A way of saying thank you for your support.' He grimaced. 'And I did a Georgy Porgy on you.'
'Kissed the girl and made her cry.'
'I'm not crying because you kissed me.' She took a deep breath. 'I'm rubbish at this sort of thing. That's the other reason I don't date. I'm not good with people.'
He scoffed. 'No way. I've seen you with patients.'
'That's different—that's work. I'm talking about outside work.'
'Is that why you never go on team nights out?' he asked softly.
She nodded. 'I know what I'm like. I'll say the wrong thing and hurt someone's feelings. Like I hurt yours, just now. I... The only people I go out with are Seb and Charlie, because they know me well enough not to take offence. Except they're married now.'
'And their wives don't like you?'
She shook her head. 'Sophie and Alyssa are lovely. They accept me for who I am. But they want to give me a happy ending like theirs. And I can't face another Saturday night dinner party where I get paired off with someone they think would be right for me.'
'Someone you'd never pick for yourself in amillion years.' Gently, he wiped away her tears with the pad of his thumb.