'Which doesn't negate all the cholesterol,' she shot back.

'Don't care.' He bit into the sandwich. 'Oh, yes. This is seriously good.' He nodded towards the half-sandwich on his plate. 'Sure you don't want to share?'

Vicky adored bacon sandwiches. Had it been Seb or Charlie opposite her, she wouldn't even have waited to be asked. But sharing a sandwich was intimate. She barely knew Jake—and it was going to stay that way. She couldn't afford a relationship. Not when she was so close to getting a consultant's post. If she let herself get distracted, her career would go straight down the plughole. She'd worked too hard, too long, to let that happen now. 'Quite sure, thank you.' She poured yoghurt over her fruit. 'So what did you want to talk to me about besides Declan?'

'I did the getting-to-know-you bit with the rest of the staff on team nights out.'

And because she'd been covering the ward, he hadn't had the chance to have that kind of chat with her. She sighed. 'I'm sure my personnel file will tell you all you need to know about me.'

'That you're a senior registrar, that your exam results were superb, that your appraisals have always been excellent, and you're tipped for the next consultant's post.'

If he'd already reviewed her files, what else did he want to know?

The question must have shown on her face, because he said softly, 'I don't know you. I've seen how you are with patients and staff, and I'm impressed.'

Please, don't let him be trying to come on to her. She knew her willpower was strong, but she didn't need the extra temptation. Jake Lewis, with his dark eyes and the floppy hair that made him look like a disreputable cherub, could be a temptation. Like rich, dark chocolate. Addictive. 'You've reviewed my files and you've seen me work. That's all you need to know,' she said primly.

'Wrong. If I'm to develop the staff on my team—so they're happy in their jobs and work well for me—I need to know what they want out of their job. Where they want to be in five years' time, and what they think they need to get there. Where they think they're weak and need more experience or more training. Things that aren't written in files.'

Was he serious?

She risked a glance. He looked serious enough.

Though he also looked good enough to eat, with his hair still slightly damp from the shower. She thought of rich, dark chocolate again and suppressed a groan. Jake Lewis was dangerous. Someone she needed to avoid.

'So what do you want, Vicky?' he asked. 'To be head of department? Professor?'

'Both.'

He nodded. 'From what I've seen, you've got the skill and the dedication to make it.'

Was he trying to curry favour? No, he looked completely sincere. 'Thank you.'

'So your plan is?'

'Consultant next year. Then a part-teaching, part-practising post—I want to do the academic side and work on some research, but I like working with patients too much to give it up. Plus, theory's worth nothing if it's unworkable in a real-life situation.'

'And what experience do you think you need now?'

'More surgery.'

'Noted,' Jake said. 'When you're in Theatre with me, I'll try to give you the chance to lead as much as possible.'

'Thank you.'

'And let me have a list of the training courses you want to go on.'

'There's a small thing known as the departmental budget,' Vicky said.

'Which is why I'm not promising to send you on every course you want to go on. But when I know what everyone's skills are, and where there are training needs, I might be able to arrange interdepartmental training. Shadowing, mentoring, that sort of thing.'

'Provided our head of department agrees.'

'He'll agree,' Jake said softly. 'I can be very persuasive.'

Vicky looked at his mouth and thought, I just bet you can. Then she stifled the idea. She was not going to start thinking about Jake Lewis in that way.

'And I find a cost-benefit analysis usually does the trick,' he added.

He understood admin as well as medicine? Interesting. In Vicky's experience, most doctors were either people-oriented or paper-oriented. They couldn't do both. That made Jake a rarity.

'Why did you become a doctor?' he asked conversationally, as he added sugar to his coffee.

'Because medicine was interesting.'And because it was a challenge.

'Anyone else in your family a doctor?'

Why did he want to know? It had no relevance to the way she did her job. 'My brothers,' she said shortly.

'Which specialty?'

That definitely wasn't relevant. And why did he want to know about her brothers? Charlie, with his rose-tinted glasses, would've said Jake was trying to be friendly. Seb—well, pre-fatherhood Seb—would've said Jake was a social climber, hoping that by making friends with her he'd get an introduction to the baron and invites to swish parties. Vicky was somewhere in the middle—and she wanted her brothers left out of this. 'Not neurology.'

She'd been short with him—rude, even—but he didn't have that you've-just-slapped-me-down look.


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