“Me, too,” he said easily, shortening his stride to match hers.
Their progress was still awkward, and she was far too aware of being so close to Gabe. “I wish I knew who that motorbike driver was,” she muttered in an attempt to distract herself from his nearness. “I’d report him to the police. He’s a menace on these trails.”
“I’m pretty sure that was Tommy Hinkle,” Gabe said. “I’ve taken care of him a few times in the ER.”
“Annie’s son?” The knowledge almost made her feel sorry for him. “Do you think his father hits him, too?”
Gabe was silent for several moments. “Actually, I think the kid is probably too much like his father,” he said finally. “The last time Tommy was in the ER was because he was under arrest for driving under the influence. He bragged that his dad would bail him out, no problem. I got the impression his dad lets him do whatever he wants. Maybe even encourages him.”
She sighed and shook her head. “Poor Annie. I’m getting the feeling it’s two against one in that household.”
“Yeah, I’m afraid so.” They walked along in silence for a few minutes. Then Gabe’s arm tightened around her waist, drawing her to a halt. “There, see between the trees? That’s my place. Think you can make it that far?”
“Yes, I can make it,” she assured him, even though in truth, her right ankle still throbbed like crazy. Not to mention, being this close to him was wreaking havoc on her hard-won control.
Larissa knew she couldn’t afford to let her guard down with Gabe. No matter how much she wanted to.
Gabe grimly paced off the distance to his place as they made their way along the trail. He couldn’t, in good conscience, leave Larissa to hobble along on her own, but holding on to her like this hadn’t been the brightest idea he’d ever had.
She fit against his side perfectly, her slight frame hiding a strength he couldn’t help but admire. Her ankle looked terrible, but she didn’t whine or complain. In fact, if he hadn’t offered to help her, he knew she would have continued on her way without asking for assistance.
He had to remind himself for the tenth time that she was an ER nurse, which meant she was off-limits. Permanently.
Knowing that Tommy Hinkle was the one who’d run her off the trail made him grit his teeth in anger. Larissa was right, the kid was a menace, but he suspected that there wouldn’t be much the police could do about it now.
“Gabe? Is something wrong?” Larissa asked.
He glanced down in surprise. “No, why?”
“Your arm around my waist is getting tighter and tighter,” she admitted. “You might want to lighten up a bit.”
He mentally smacked himself. “Sorry about that,” he said, relaxing his grip. “I was getting mad thinking about Tommy. How’s your ankle holding up?”
“Just peachy,” she said in a wry tone. “I’m trying to take heart in the fact that your house is slowly getting closer.”
“We’ll be there soon, and then you can relax,” he promised. His modest, wood-sided A-frame overlooking the lake was his private sanctuary, and while he wasn’t accustomed to having women over, it wasn’t as if he could drag Larissa all the way to town on foot. He knew she lived in the same apartment complex that Merry Haines and several of the other staff lived in because he’d overheard the nurses comparing notes one day about an exceptionally noisy neighbor.
“Your home looks very rustic,” she said as they finally approached the driveway. Only ninety more feet to go. “Somehow I expected something more...flashy.”
“Flashy?” He grasped his chest as if wounded. “Do I really look like the type that goes for flashy?”
She chuckled. “No, but doctors generally live a much higher lifestyle than the rest of us.”
He hid a stab of disappointment regarding her observation. Was she like so many of the other nurses? The ones who set their sights on marrying a doctor? And when they didn’t get what they wanted, stooped so low as to tell lies, not caring that they destroyed a man’s reputation?