Moving as silently as possible, she put Rose into her pram and walked her down the corridor towards her brother’s room. She gave her mother a signal through the glass and left the pram outside.
She wasn’t sure what room Mitchell would be in but strolled slowly along the corridor to see if she could hear his voice.
But it wasn’t his voice that she heard. It was the sounds of a reverberating guitar filtering through the door. Lisa gave her a smile as she hurried past, nodding her head in the direction of the room. ‘Soundproofed. Just as well!’
Samantha’s hand hesitated at the door handle. Should she go in, or should she wait?
She was curious about Mitchell in this environment. He seemed to have left the rock persona at the door. This was all about the kids and there was something so nice about seeing that.
Lots of things about him were surprising her. With the exception of Dave and the cleaning service, he wasn’t surrounded by ‘people’ doing his bidding. He didn’t have an entourage. She hadn’t even heard him mention his manager.
The house was gorgeous, and the furniture and equipment were miles out of her price range. But his stubborn streak and lack of acceptance of his condition were still a major headache. If he didn’t start following the rules, this could all end in disaster.
Truth was, the most disturbing thing about Mitch was being at close quarters with him. The photo shoots and calendars didn’t do the man justice. He had a way of looking at you that made you feel you were the only person in the room. On some occasions she had been, but the rest of the times?
It made her feel like a fool. It made her feel unfocused and unprofessional. She was here to do a job. That was all. In a few weeks’ time she would be back in rainy London, working in a school in Brixton again.
The revelation about the hospital had been a bolt out of the blue. She’d never heard a word in the press about any of this. But he had been quite clear that no one knew he helped out here—and it was to stay that way.
She turned the handle on the door. The noise almost blasted her backwards and she quickly stepped inside and closed the door behind her.
Neither male had noticed her, because both of them were on the bed, playing some kind of electric guitars and shaking their heads like mad rockers.
She recognised the tune—of course she did. It had been number one in numerous countries around the world for weeks.
But watching this kid, this teenager, rocking out with Mitch was something else entirely. Mitch might have been sick, but he looked a whole lot healthier than this young boy with no hair left on his head and skin so pale it was almost translucent. What was magnificent—what really pulled at her heartstrings—was the absolute energy and commitment the young boy had to the task at hand. He was having the time of his life.
The music built to a crescendo. The speed of their hands on the strings increasing, followed by a scream from each as they leapt off the bed towards her. They’d obviously done this before.
Before the last echoes of notes had even left the room they were high-fiving each other and laughing loudly.
‘Fabulous, Brian, you get better every time.’
The young boy’s eyes sparkled at the praise from his idol and Mitchell looked genuinely happy to be there. This wasn’t a rock star doing something to help his image. No one even knew that he came here. It surprised her that one of the kids or their relatives hadn’t spilled the beans to the press. But maybe his obvious pleasure at being here motivated them all to keep quiet. This place was a haven, very much like Mitchell’s home.
If the press knew about his involvement the quiet and sanctity of this place would be destroyed in a heartbeat.
‘I don’t know why I’m getting better, my teacher’s old enough to be my dad!’ Brian’s teenage bravado was coming through, but the look on his face and his trembling lips told Samantha that he was barely containing himself beneath the surface. Her nursing instincts kicked in straight away and she walked over then put her arm around his shoulders.
‘Well, old teacher or not, that was the first time I’ve heard you and I thought you were fabulous.’ She gave him a conspiratorial wink. ‘In fact, I think you might even have been better than your teacher. You look tired after that. How about we find you something to drink and some cakes? I’m sure they’ll have some around here.’
Mitchell gave her a little nod and she steered Brian out of the room and down the corridor to the TV room, where one of the staff was just setting out sodas and cookies. Once she was sure he was settled she went back to find Mitchell.
He was sitting at the nursing station with his feet on the desk, sprawled out across a chair, breathing heavily. It wasn’t just Brian who was tired.
She pulled up a chair next to him as he opened one eye and looked at her. ‘Did you bring me a cake, too?’
She shook her head. ‘If you behave and check your blood sugar, I’ll hunt you down a coffee and an apple.’
It was almost as if an unheard clock struck somewhere but doors started opening around them and kids and their parents all started filtering down to the TV room, where more food was being set out.
Mitch saw her curious expression and shrugged. ‘Some of the kids can’t eat around dinnertime. They like to have a constant supply of food around this place, and while most of it is healthy, they are pretty lenient with the kids.’ He pulled his feet from the desk and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. His voice had lowered, ‘Sometimes, if they’re midway through chemo, they just can’t face regular food. At that point the staff will give them anything that they can stomach to get some calories in them. I once had to go out at midnight to try and track down a particular kind of candy bar.’
She smiled. There was no one around them now. It was just the two of them, alone.
She sat forward too, her hair cascading around her shoulders.
‘Brian’s got the same kind of leukaemia that my brother Shaun had—acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. That’s why I spent a lot of time here as a kid.’
Her eyes widened and her stomach flipped over but he waved his hand. ‘Don’t ask. Not now. I’ll tell you later.’
Of course. Things were starting to make sense. She’d wondered why he spent time here. Only someone who had firsthand experience would have such a good relationship with the staff. She just hadn’t expected this. It was like a bolt from the blue.
But Mitch was focused again. He kept talking. ‘Brian’s not been so lucky. Even though it was caught early, his leukaemia’s been really aggressive. Some days I come to visit and he can’t even lift his head from the pillow. Days like this are good days.’
Her head was spinning but as he said the final words with a big sigh it made her realise he was still a little more out of breath than he cared to admit. The onset of his diabetes had implications for his health. With the skiing this morning, followed by more this afternoon, his body wasn’t quite ready for all the physical exercise, but somehow she knew that asking Mitchell Brody to slow down would be pointless.
And a little part of her didn’t want to. She didn’t want to hide the person that Mitchell was, and would continue to be. Even though he was probably in recovery mode, it was important that she help him mould his diabetes to his life—within reason, of course. He had to be able to live normally and function on his own.
She looked up. Their heads were so close they could be touching, but Mitchell had his eyes closed. It could be fatigue, or it could be the emotion of what he’d just shared.
She couldn’t think of him as a patient right now. Every instinct in her body wanted to comfort him and she did the most natural thing in the world for her. She reached out and touched him.
His hand was warm and soft, and as her palm brushed over the back of his hand he flipped it over and intertwined his fingers with hers. There were no sweaty palms here. The
re was just a whole host of tingles shooting straight up her arm.
He closed his fingers a little more. Locking their hands together. His eyes were still closed and his breathing was slowing. She was mesmerised by the rise and fall of his chest.
Suddenly his eyes opened, darker brown than ever, and fixed on her face. He leaned forward a little more and she felt her breath hitch in her throat. He rested his forehead against hers.
What am I doing? her brain was screaming in her ears. But she couldn’t move—she couldn’t pull her hand away from his. She didn’t want to break this moment. No matter how many messages reverberated around her brain.
They stayed like that for more than a minute. Then his head lifted slightly and his eyelashes brushed against her forehead, before he dropped a gentle kiss on her head. His other hand came up and rested at the back of her hair. ‘Thank you for coming with me today, Samantha.’
Words were stuck in her throat. Anything that came out right now would make her sound like a blundering idiot. This was crazy, but it felt special. She didn’t feel like a teenage fan girl any more. She certainly didn’t feel like his nurse. She felt something else entirely.
She stared down at their still intertwined hands. It was so much easier than looking up—if she did, they’d be nose to nose and she didn’t even want to guess what could happen next.
She sucked a breath to steady her nerves and licked her, oh, so dry lips. ‘Any time, Mitchell.’ Her voice sounded so much steadier than she actually felt. She pulled back a little. There. That was better. Now she could look at him.