'And also worked out the worst-case scenario—which is exactly what you've just given. I know MS isn't curable at the moment, but there's a lot we can do. Interferon, for starters.'
'I know.' She stroked his hair. 'But I still agree with your patient. I'd want my partner to have good memories of me, not wear himself out and then only be able to remember the bad times, the strain of caring for me.'
'But supposing your partner wanted to be there for you? Supposing your partner didn't want anyone else—he only wanted you?'
'I'd walk away,' Vicky said simply.
A muscle flickered in Jake's jaw. 'That takes the choice away from your partner.'
'No. It's practical. It's the way that's going to hurt least, in the long run.' She paused. 'What would you do, then?'
Jake was silent for a while. She had a point. Be with the one you love for the limited time you had left together and make the most of it, or walk away so they could remember you at your best, not when you were in pain and you were both worn out with trying? 'I don't know,' he said finally. 'It's something I hope I never have to deal with.' He could cope with being a carer. He already knew that, from the short time he'd cared for his grandmother. But being the one who was cared for... That would be so much harder. Losing your independence—a gradual erosion, one tiny part of a task at a time. And seeing your partner look at you in a different way—more like a parent than a lover. No longer equals.
It would be hell.
And to see his patient's hopes smashed beyond repair today—because Jake couldn't offer a full and permanent cure—had been tough. Even though he knew nobody could do more than he'd done, Jake had felt as if he'd failed as a doctor.
Vicky kissed the frown from his forehead. 'If I'd known your day was that rough, I'd have made you a cake.'
'Next time, I'll tell you earlier.' He breathed in her scent. 'And now I'm depressing you. So I'll shut up and go home.'
He was miserable. Hurting, because he felt he'd failed. Just as she would have felt in his position. She, too, hated cases where current medicine just wasn't good enough. Which was one of the reasons why she so wanted to blaze a trail and find solutions. To make things right.
She rubbed her cheek against his. 'Stay. We haven't finished dinner yet. There's still cheese and biscuits. And coffee and petits fours.'
'Home-made petits fours?' he asked, sounding hopeful.
'No,' she admitted. 'I didn't have time to make them.'
He smiled. 'And that annoys you.'
'Well, yes,' she admitted.
'You like things to be perfect. And done your way.' He rubbed his thumb along her lower lip. 'Control freak.'
He didn't sound as if he was sneering. Teasing, yes. But there was affection in his tone, and that made all the difference. 'A bit,' she admitted.
'And honest with it.' He kissed her lightly. 'Thank you for dinner. But I don't want to outstay my welcome.'
'You're not outstaying your welcome.' She'd originally planned to tell him tonight that they could only be friends. But when she was sitting on his lap like this, with her arms round his neck and his arms round her waist... No. Friends, colleagues wasn't nearly enough.
And she'd known that the moment she'd bought a small box at the supermarket that afternoon—without so much as a blush at the checkout. 'Stay awhile,' she said softly, and lowered her head to kiss him.
Kissing Jake definitely ranked up there with one of life's best pleasures. His mouth was so responsive, by turns teasing and provoking and demanding. She could have kissed him all night...except she wanted more.
She felt a slight tug at her hair, and then he'd removed the pins and let her hair tumble down.
'I love your hair loose. It's glorious. All soft and silky and—oh, your hair drives me crazy.' He kissed her throat. 'These are in the way,' he said, gently stroking the pearls.
It was a second's work to remove them and leave them in the middle of the table.
'Better,' he said, and kissed his way along the exact line where the pearls had been. 'Vicky. Tell me to stop,' he whispered as he nuzzled the sensitive cord at the side of her neck.
'I wasn't planning to seduce you tonight. I'm not...prepared.'
So he hadn't taken her for granted. It made her glow with pleasure. 'Just as well I am, then,' she said coolly.
He jerked back, and looked her straight in the eye. 'You bought condoms?'
She flushed. 'And now you think I'm a tart.'
A slow, sexy smile spread across his face. 'No way. I think you're a fairy godmother. Though, um, I rather liked Vicky the Bad Girl'
She kissed him again. 'If you were thinking of the table, my bed's more comfortable.'
He raised an eyebrow. 'You didn't show me your bedroom.'
'Because I didn't want you thinking I was making any assumptions. And because I wanted dinner, first.'
'You said we hadn't finished dinner,' he reminded her.