Mitch nodded slowly. ‘So Daniel’s loss was my gain. That’s why you were available to do this job.’
Her eyes met his. Was he being sceptical? Or just matter-of-fact? She wasn’t entirely sure. It was almost as if he was trying to weigh things up in his mind, and for some strange reason she felt as though he was finding her wanting.
It was the oddest feeling. And this was nothing to do with her nursing skills. This was about her, and her methods. Her, as a person. Her goals. Her values.
She’d never felt like this before. Never been so much on the spot. But the bottom line was, yes, she was here for the money.
Would she really leave her mum at Christmas for any other reason?
Her Christmas agency shifts were the only reason she’d managed to keep her head above water these last few years. This way she paid her mortgage, paid her mother’s mortgage and paid the nursing-home fees. They’d tried selling her mother’s house to help with finances. But the market was dead right now and homes just weren’t selling, and, the idea of selling her mum’s house didn’t sit well with her anyway.
This was the answer. This was the thing that she could manage to do.
So why did it suddenly feel so wrong?
The food in front of her had lost its appetising aroma. Her stomach was still empty but churning. She couldn’t even force a sip of her wine.
With a simple few sentences he’d made her mind spin. This was all because she’d crossed a line. Without even meaning to, she’d mixed business with pleasure.
Sometimes it felt as if he was looking at her, really looking at her with something special in his eyes. More than just a friend. More than just a colleague. As for the kiss?
Who was she kidding? Half the females in the world probably wanted to be kissed by Mitchell Brody, and she was a fool if she thought she’d managed that through anything but default.
Sure, there was sometimes a twinkle in his eye when he talked to her. On occasion it did feel like he was flirting with her. But maybe that was just Mitch? Maybe she’d misread everything. Including the fact he’d murmured he didn’t think it had been a mistake.
Her warped brain was letting her imagination run wild and she’d actually believed that Mitchell Brody could be interested in her.
It was time for a reality check.
Then something else struck her. If this tour was really so important to Mitchell, could there be a chance that he was playing her?
Trying to get her to say that he was fit to do something he might actually not be? Now, that worried her all the more.
That compromised her professional integrity. Something she really didn’t want to happen.
This night had started out so perfectly, with so much promise.
But the course of one conversation just seemed to have killed it, and all the friendly tones, stone dead.
So much for the festive spirit.
WHAT WAS WRONG with him?
Samantha had spent the last few days tiptoeing around him. And no wonder. He was acting like a bear with a sore head.
Every day she met him halfway up the slopes, their coffee drunk in silence as she watched him check his blood-sugar level and administer insulin.
Afternoons were spent avoiding each other at the children’s hospital. She still seemed happy to go there—in fact, it was the only part of the day she seemed to enjoy. She’d developed an even better rapport with Lisa, the rest of the staff and the kids, which made him seem even more unreasonable.
But he just couldn’t get things out of his head.
And it was all his own fault anyway.
For the first time in his life money was keeping him awake at night.
Samantha was here because she wanted to get paid. She had no loyalty to him, or interest in him personally.
After she’d spoken about the other family she normally spent Christmas with—for a price, of course—he’d felt a lousy second choice. Something else that he wasn’t used to.
First there had been the comments from Lisa about finally picking ‘a good one’, then there had been the implication that Sam was desperate for money. Almost as desperate as he was.
But it was worse that that. Much worse.
Because her lips, her skin, her curls were haunting his dreams. It was like having an impossibly ripe peach sitting in front of him that he couldn’t touch. Even though he tried to forget about her, he couldn’t.
Samantha Lewis had burrowed her way under his skin.
He was trying to stay focused. He was trying to think of a way to make sure he could keep on top of the diabetes long enough to get through this tour. Once he was at the end of the tour he could take as much time as possible to look after himself.
The worst thing was he wasn’t in control. No matter what it looked like from the outside. He was trying his best, he really was. But last night he’d woken up shaking, with the bed drenched in sweat.
Thankfully, Sam had already warned him about night-time hypos and there had been an easily accessible bar of chocolate next to the bed. He hadn’t even waited to check his blood-sugar level. And, yes, he knew it was wrong. But he’d been gripped by an unholy terror. Usually, he was in his house alone. What if he hadn’t woken up? What if he’d slept right through? Would he have been dead in the morning?
He couldn’t face going through in the middle of the night and waking her up to tell her, because if he did, he might see her in that short satin nightdress again and start to imagine unthinkable things. He’d just slammed the chocolate down his throat and waited until he’d eventually stopped shaking. Then he’d stumbled through to the kitchen and made himself some toast. It was becoming his staple go-to food.
By the time he’d eventually got around to checking his blood sugar it had come up to six. He could only imagine what it had been before. And that scared him. That really scared him. The whole out-of-his-control element was unbearable.
But he just didn’t feel he could talk to her about it. Would she understand? Would she care?
This whole thing had him tied up in knots.
But one thing did make sense. Whether she was only here for the money or not, she’d told him that they needed to assess how his time on stage affected his diabetes. At some point he was going to have to do a mock gig—probably more than one. Three hours of full-on stage performance, checking his blood sugar before, during and after.
The thought of it made him cringe. Why had this happened to him? The very last thing he wanted to do was collapse on stage in front of thousands of fans and be unable to perform. He could only imagine what the press would speculate about then.
That hypo last night was really playing on his mind. It had been his first experience of dealing with a hypo himself. Granted, Sam had only been down the corridor and had disaster struck she would have checked on him in the morning and intervened. But he couldn’t rely on that. He didn’t want to rely on that.
He wanted to be able to look after himself. He didn’t want to be second-guessing himself every minute of the day—or minute of the night.
How on earth was he going to get through a tour if he didn’t have things under control?
He sighed, leaning forward and running his fingers through his hair. He had to find a way through this.
He sat upright. Money. Maybe if he offered her enough money she would stay for the tour. It was four months, but she could travel with him, stay in luxury hotels and make sure his diabetes stayed on track.
But no. She had a permanent job back home. This was her holiday time. And it was unlikely she’d want to give up her permanent job and travel the world for four months when her mum was in a nursing home back in England.
He let out a long stream of air from his lungs. What else was there? He could always find another nurs
e. But that thought appeared like a big black smoking cloud. Another nurse wouldn’t have Sam’s blue eyes, cute curls or even cuter bum.
She’d said that money was her motivating factor and he believed her. But he’d also heard how she’d spoken about her mum. Somehow he knew he could offer Samantha a big wad of cash and she still wouldn’t want to be separated from her mum for too long.
Then there was the other stuff. The crossing-the-line, I kissed her and wanted to do a whole lot more kind of stuff. He groaned. What was wrong with him?
Mitchell Brody. See a girl, like her, ask her out. That’s the way he’d always been. And for the most part it had served him well.
But this time was more than odd. For a start, he was sharing a house with said girl. He wasn’t seeing her at gigs or occasional parties. For another, he wasn’t entirely sure he was reading things correctly. They’d kissed. They’d flirted. They’d said things to annoy each other. So why was this different from any other time?
The diabetes was like a floating elephant in the room. He wasn’t sure he could handle this on his own. In fact, he was quite sure that in these early stages he couldn’t.
But he didn’t want Sam here because of his diabetes. He wanted her here for him.