'Nothing wrong with being dedicated,' Jake said. He'd had that accusation thrown at him a few times, too. And if Vicky was dedicated, that explained why she'd been so confident during the craniotomy.
But an Hon....
It was only then that Jake realised he had been thinking about acting on his attraction to Vicky. Asking her out for a drink, perhaps. He already knew she wasn't married so he didn't think he'd be treading on anyone's toes. But being an Honourable put her miles out of his league socially. Someone who was used to mixing with the likes of royalty wouldn't want to go out with a boy who'd grown up on a council estate.
Better to know now before he made a fool of himself. And that would teach him for thinking about breaking his personal rules. Vicky was a colleague, so she was off limits. For good.
After a fortnight at the Albert Memorial Hospital in Chelsea, Jake felt as if he'd been there for years. He'd been accepted as part of the team and he'd been included in invites to drinks to celebrate a staff nurse's twenty-fifth birthday, as well as the team night out at the local Indian restaurant. He'd gone to both and had had a great time—though he'd noted that Vicky hadn't been to either event. Technically, she'd been on duty, covering for other staff-but after a couple of glasses of wine Gemma had let it slip that Vicky always covered staff nights out. Vicky worked on bank holidays, Christmas and Easter, too, so staff with children could spend time with their families. And when she did take time off, she was booked onto a course or had arranged to shadow someone and get more experience.
And he still hadn't apologised to her, he remembered, feeling guilty. Not that he'd had the chance. She'd kept all conversation to a minimum, and what she'd said had focused entirely on their patients. But he didn't think she was a snob: her manner with patients was too good for that. So was she just avoiding him? And was that because he'd been rude to her the very first time they'd met—despite the fact he'd given her a genuine compliment on her surgical skills since?
He'd do something about it today, he decided, and did the last five reps on the lateral raise machine before leaving the weights room for the pool. Twenty lengths, and he'd hit the shower. Then a bacon sandwich and a strong, sweet cup of coffee in the staff canteen, and he'd be ready to start the day on the ward.
And he'd talk to Vicky. Today.
There were already three or four people in the pool. But only one of them arrested his attention. She was doing lengths—but the front crawl she used was a precise and neat stroke, rather than flashy. She looked as if she'd been trained professionally, to get the maximum speed from the minimum stroke, and her whole attention appeared to be focused on her swim. Up and down, up and down, face in the water, turned to the side for a breath between strokes, then straight again. Jake couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something about her drew him.
He dived cleanly into the pool when she was part way through a length. Surfaced beside her. And nearly forgot to swim when she turned her face towards him for a breath and he recognised her.
Well, he shouldn't have been so surprised. Clearly she was as focused when doing exercise as she was at work. But one thought wouldn't go out of his head: was she that focused when she made love?
Oh, for goodness' sake. They were both professionals. She was his colleague. He wasn't supposed to be thinking about her in those terms. He didn't have room in his life lor a relationship right now.
But the thought wouldn't go.
And when she climbed out of the pool—how on earth could she manage to look so elegant, scrambling out of the pool?—Jake found himself swimming straight for the side, ignoring the fact that he hadn't done the twenty lengths he'd promised himself, and also climbed out of the pool.
He fell into step with Vicky just before she reached the entrance to the changing rooms, and tried his best to sound casual. 'Hi.'
'Oh. Hello.' Cool, no flicker of friendliness.
'I didn't know you were a member here.'
She shrugged. 'It's the nearest gym to the hospital.'
Mmm, he'd worked that one out, too. And it meant no wasted time travelling to the gym—so he wouldn't have to get up at an unearthly hour or rush to the ward after a training session.
Her words were perfectly polite, but there was no hint of invitation in her voice. She was just the cool, calm professional he knew from the hospital.
And he wanted to know what lay beneath the smooth, unruffled mask. What made Victoria Radley tick? What made her smile? What made her eyes light up? What made her angry, and what made her laugh?
'Will you have breakfast with me?'
Those beautiful blue eyes widened. Clearly she hadn't expected that. He hadn't expected it either. His mouth had worked before his brain had gone into gear.