Which meant there was a problem.
Everything froze. She couldn't remember how to speak. How to walk. But somehow Jake was there, strapping her watch back on her wrist, putting her identity card round her neck again and supporting her out of Radiology.
She had no idea if anyone spoke to her. She didn't hear them if they did. Couldn't hear anything. Just a weird humming, as if she was still lying in the middle of the huge circular magnet.
It took her a while to realise that they were sitting on a bench in the hospital grounds. 'I thought we were going to your office?' she asked shakily.
'No, I thought we needed some fresh air.'
'But...' He had a clinic to run. So did she. They must have been in Radiology for forty minutes. So they were going to be late and—
'Vicky,' he said softly.
Her stomach lurched. 'You saw the results, didn't you?'
He wasn't telling her anything. He wasn't saying what she needed to hear—that he'd overreacted and he would grovel for the next six months.
Which meant he'd been right.
She had a cerebral aneurysm—where the wall of one of the blood vessels in her brain had become weakened and started to balloon outwards. As it stretched, the wall would become thinner and thinner until finally it burst.
'How big?' she whispered.
Anything over ten millimetres had a larger risk of bursting, causing a bleed inside the brain. She knew the stats: Forty per cent of people with a ruptured aneurysm died within the first month. Another third survived but had residual nervous system problems—long-term memory, thinking, perception and even carrying out simple everyday tasks could be difficult. She swallowed. 'So my career's over.'
'No, of course it's not. It's an unruptured aneurysm, Vicky.'
So life could carry on as normal. Except she had a time bomb in her head. Every drop of blood that pulsed through it would cause the swelling to grow, just the tiniest fraction. It would get bigger and bigger, until it was pressing on her brain and causing symptoms.
And then it would burst.
'You need to think about how you want to handle this,' he said softly.
'I can't...' She could barely get the words out. 'I can't think straight.'
'Vicky, it's a hell of a thing to take in.' He held her close. 'And you don't have to make a decision today. I think you should take the rest of the afternoon off.'
'I've got a clinic'
'I'll get cover.'
'You think I can't work?'
'I wouldn't expect anybody to work after news like that. You need some time to come to terms with this.' He raked a hand through his hair. 'I don't want you to be on your own, but I've got wall-to-wall patients this afternoon.' He shook himself. 'I'll cancel them.'
'You can't cancel your patients,' she said immediately.
'Watch me,' he said grimly.
She placed a hand on his chest. 'No. I don't want you to cancel your patients for me. I'll be fine.' Even though it meant she was going to have to walk away from him—and break her heart in the process. She couldn't expect him to stay with her now. They didn't have a 'tomorrow' any more.
'Can I ring one of your brothers?' he asked.
'No. Charlie'll probably be in Theatre and Seb'll be knee-deep in a trauma case.' And she didn't want them to know. Didn't want them to make a fuss.
'How about your sister-in-law, the one with the baby? Will she still be on maternity leave?'
Yes—but if she told Alyssa, Alyssa would tell Seb. 'I'll be fine.'
'What about your mum?'
'My mother,' Vicky said icily, 'is the last person I'd want around me.' At his look of surprise, she added, 'Your mum might have been wonderful. Not all mums are.' Hers certainly wasn't. Mara would either make a fuss that Vicky was inconveniencing her, or use it as an excuse to be a drama queen and weep all over the place so she was the centre of attention.
'I'm sorry.' His dark eyes were inexpressibly sad.
'I'll be fine.'
Jake took his keys from his pocket and offered them to her. 'Go to my place. It's nearer. And I'll bring us a takeaway later.'
She didn't take the keys. 'I don't think I could eat. Look, I'll be fine at my place.'
'Please, go to mine. Do whatever you want. Play my piano—' he'd started teaching her, and she could pick out simple tunes now '—read my books, curl up in bed and have a nap... Ah, hell, I'm coming home with you.'
'No.' And his flat wasn't her home, anyways.
At the look of hurt on his face, she added, 'You don't have a TV. I'm going to spend the afternoon on my sofa watching old Audrey Hepburn films.'
'It's going to be OK, Vicky. We're going to get through this. Together.'
'You're late for clinic. Better go.'
He held her close, as if not wanting to let her go. 'I love you, Vicky. And you're going to be fine. I promise you.'
'Go back to work.' She wasn't going to say it back. Not until she knew she could do it as his equal.
'I'll be with you as soon as I can. And I'll bring dinner home with me.'