'No need.' She stroked his face. 'There's only one man I want to marry. And now I know I'm going to be OK— that I'm your equal, not an invalid who'd have to rely on you to do nearly everything—there's nothing I want more than to be with you. Love you for the rest of our days.'
He coughed. 'You talk too much. I was only looking for one little word. Three letters. Starts with a Y, ends in an S. Middle letter's a vowel.'
She laughed. 'Yes.'
He held her close. 'If you weren't hooked up to all these monitors and supposed to be lying flat anyways, I'd pick you up and whirl you round.'
'We'll take a rain-check. But we'll do it. Because now we've got all the time in the world.' She kissed him. 'And I'll spend every second of it loving you.'
Two years later
'So why this sudden yen for the seaside?' Jake asked as they strolled along the seafront at Southend-on-Sea. 'And why here in particular?'
Vicky spread her hands. 'Let's just say I want to be back where we started.'
He frowned. 'That sounds ominous.'
'No. This is where you kissed me for the first time. And we danced on the sand.'
He eyed the crowded beach. 'Not much chance of that today.'
'We ate fish and chips overlooking the sea. And you sang "Moon River" to me.'
'Now, that we can do.' He laughed and draped his arm around her shoulders. 'You're getting sentimental in your old age, Mrs Lewis.'
'Mmm. Mrs Lewis.' She savoured the words. They'd been married for three months; their small wedding had taken place at Weston. Mara, to Vicky's surprise, had taken to Jake, and Jake even seemed to bring out a better side of Barry. Not to mention becoming firm friends with her brothers and persuading them to join him in some of his more athletic fundraising. Seb, predictably, had trained hard enough to make sure he came first out of the three of them in the triathlon they'd entered, though Jake really didn't care as long as they raised plenty of money for the Lily Lewis Unit. And Vicky had been promoted to consultant. Mrs Lewis rather than Dr Lewis. Life didn't get much better than this.
Apart from the little bit of news she was intending to give Jake in a few minutes' time.
'Professor Lewis to be,' he said thoughtfully.
Vicky laughed. 'Not for a while. Though I wrote accepting that part-teaching, part-clinical post this morning.'
He kissed her. 'Good. Though we're going to miss you at Albert's.'
'You don't get rid of me that easily,' she teased.
'Good.' He ran his fingers through the ends of her hair. 'Have I told you lately that you're beautiful, Mrs Lewis, and I love your hair?'
He'd kept his word about letting her shave his head as soon as she could sit up again after the operation—and he'd kept his head shaven until her hair had grown back properly. And he'd delighted in unpinning her hair on their wedding day—just as she'd delighted in the way he'd reverted to that slightly scruffy, disreputable style. 'Now who's getting sentimental?' she teased. 'Let's go to the end of the pier.' She wrapped an arm round his waist, and they walked along the pier. When they reached the end, she turned to face him. 'Actually, there is something we need to talk about.' She paused. 'This part-time post. It might have to be very part time.'
'How do you mean?' He stiffened. 'You don't think...?'
He didn't voice his fear, but she knew what he meant. Headaches, floaters—any possible sign of a new aneurysm developing and putting pressure on her brain. 'No. And I don't want to go anywhere near an MRI scanner or X-ray machine for the next thirty-four weeks.'
His gaze narrowed, and then he worked it out. 'Six weeks? You're sure?'
'Did the test this morning. That's why I wanted to come here. I wanted to tell you here, in our special place.'
He whooped, picked her up and swung her round. When he set her back on her feet, he was frowning again. 'How are we going to celebrate? You're not touching any shellfish or soft whippy ice cream. Or anything that might have the vaguest hint of raw egg.'
Uh-oh. She was going to be mollycoddled through her entire pregnancy, by the sound of it. Just as Charlie had mollycoddled Sophie and Seb was mollycoddling Alyssa for the second time.
'How about good old-fashioned English strawberries?' she suggested, and beckoned him closer to add in a whisper, 'In bed.'
His dark eyes crinkled at the corners. He was clearly remembering another first. A moment neither of them would ever tire of repeating. 'Perfect. Let's go home.'