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A muffled conversation, barely audible, filtered in through the closed hospital room door. Laura Bishop raised her bandaged head off the pillows and, concentrating, pricked her ears. One voice was female, the other distinctly maleher fiery sister and equally passionate husband. Laura rolled her teeth over her bottom lip and strained to make out the words. No luck.
But neither Grace nor Bishop sounded pleased.
When Laura had taken a tumble at her home this morning, Grace, who was visiting, had insisted they have the bump on her head checked out. Waiting to see a doctor in a cell phone-free waiting room, Laura had asked Grace to contact Bishop at his Sydney office. She hated to bother him but stints at Casualty could wind on forever, and she didn't want her husband coming home to an empty house and worrying.
Besides, Bishop would want to be informed. He was a protective man at times, overly so. With her congenital heart conditionand his own family historyLaura supposed he had good reason to be.
The door clicked. When it cracked open an inch, Laura propped up on her elbows.
"I won't have her upset," Laura heard Grace hiss from the corridor.
Laura's husband growled back. "I haven't the least intention of upsetting her."
Wincing, Laura eased back down. How she wished the two people she cared about most could get along, but Grace seemed to be the one woman on earth who was immune to Samuel Bishop's compelling brand of charm. Laura, on the other hand, had been smitten by his sizzling charisma and smoldering good looks from the moment they'd met. Even so
Lately she'd begun to wonder.
She loved Bishop so very much. She was certain he loved her, too, but given what she'd rediscovered about herself this past week was it possible they'd jumped the gun and had married too soon?
The door fanned wider. As that familiar athletic frame entered the room, their eyes connected, locked, and suddenly Laura felt dizzier than she had all day. After six months together, Bishop still stirred in her this breathtaking, toe-curling effect, the kind of reaction that flooded her core with want and left her quivering like a half-set jelly.
He looked as magnificent in that dark, custom-made suit as he had that first night, decked out in an impeccable tuxedo, a wicked gleam igniting his entrancing blue eyes when he'd affected a bow and had asked her to dance. Today his eyes were hooded in that same heart-pumping way, but his gaze didn't glow with anything close to desire. In fact, his eyes seemed to reflect no emotion at all.
A shiver crept over Laura's skin.
He was always so caring and attentive. Was he annoyed that she'd slipped? That she'd pulled him away from his work? Shaking herself, Laura broke the spell and touched the square bandage that sat above her left temple. She gave a sheepish smile.
"Apparently I fell."
His dark brows swooped together then his head slowly cocked. "Apparently?"
She hesitated at his single word reply and cast her mind back. "I I can't remember it now. The doctor said that's not unusual. A person has a fall, knocks their head and they can't recall the incident."
He was unbuttoning his suit jacket, running a deliberate palm down his crimson silk tie. His fingers were long and lean. His hands, large and skilled. She loved his hands. Loved the way they knew precisely where, and precisely how, to please.
"So what do you recall?"
Her gaze bounced back to his questioning expression and she examined the sterile but comfortable private room.
"I remember arriving at the hospital. Meeting the doctor. Having a scan.and other tests."
Bishop's mirror blue eyes narrowed.
He wasn't fond of tests, as she'd found out two months into their relationshipthe night he'd proposed. He'd presented a dazzling white diamond ring and, overwhelmed with surprise and new love, she'd instantly agreed. Later that evening, curled up in his strong arms in his penthouse's sumptuous bed, she'd told her fiancé about her heart conditionhypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Never one for attention or pity, she normally kept that information to herself. But if they were to be married, of course Bishop needed to know.
"Grace said she saw you when she was driving up the path to the house," Bishop said now, flicking back his jacket to slide his hands into his trouser pockets. "She saw you tumbling from the garden's footbridge."
Laura nodded. A drop of around six feet. "That's what she told me, too." Like she'd said. She couldn't remember.
A pulse pumped once along the dark shadow of his jaw.
"Grace also said you're feeling fuzzy. That you seem uncertain about some other things, too."
"I'm clear on everything else." She pulled herself higher on the bank of pillows at her back. "In fact, I feel clearer today than I have in a long while."
His eyes flashed. She knew he'd heard the backbone in her tone, but he didn't probe. More tellingly, he didn't come near, gather her up and comfort her, the way he had that evening after he'd proposed.
That night, when she'd confided in him about her illness, he'd drawn her extra close, had brushed his lips tenderly over her brow then had asked about the odds of any offspring inheriting her disorder. She'd done lots of research. Statistics attested to the fact that a baby could inherit the condition as she had done, however, screening precautions were available. An early termination, due to medical considerations, could be performed. Thankfully, from the hard set of his jaw, she'd gleaned he was as uncomfortable with that scenario as she was. But neither was he convinced that they should take a gamble and simply hope for the best.
In the quiet of the hospital room now, Bishop's head angled and he continued to study her as if he wasn't certain who she was. As if she were some new and curious anomaly. Laura's nerves frayed more and she thrust her hand out, beckoning. She couldn't stand the distance a moment more.
"Bishop, please come over here. We need to talk."
The ledge of his shoulders went back and, as an almost suspicious expression darkened his face, her stomach knotted more. When his eyes skimmed her brow, her cheek, her lips, her skin heated, and not in a pleasant way. The vibes he gave off.
If she hadn't known better, she'd think he disliked her.
Finally he came forward, but his gait was guarded, as though he expected to be ambushed at any moment. Had the doctor spoken to him about more than her fall? If not, she'd
better tell him now, herself, before someone else could. How would he react when she told him that, no more than an hour ago, she'd taken a pregnancy test?
Pulling herself up, she swung her feet onto the floor so that they could sit side by side. Bishop cut the remaining distance separating them in three purposeful strides. Her stomach jumped when, in a commanding gesture, he cast the covers back more. Avoiding her gaze, he tipped his head at the sheets and a lock of his immaculately groomed hair fell over his brow.
"Get back in bed."
She contained the inappropriate urge to laugh. This was absurd.
"Bishop, I'm fine."
His gaze slid to hers and his brows lifted. "You are?"
"Do you know where you are?"
She suppressed a sigh. What was it with a knock on the head and endless questions? She'd been barraged by them half the day.
"I've been through this already with the doctor." As well as Grace and a handful of nurses. But when his implacable look held, she exhaled and supplied the name of the hospital and added, "Which is west of Sydney and east of the Blue Mountains." Where they lived.
"What's my name?"
She tacked on a smug smile and crossed her legs prettily. "Winston Churchill."
Familiar warmth rose up in his eyesa comfortable, sensual glow that left her aching to reach for him. But then that serious line cut between his brows again and he cleared his throat like he did whenever he was uneasy.
She almost rolled her eyes. But anyone who knew Bishop knew his stubborn streak. The sooner this was over and he
was assured, the sooner she could get her change of heart out in the open, the sooner they could work this issue through, and the sooner they could get on with their life together. God willing.
"Your name is Samuel Coal Bishop," she stated. "You enjoy reading the Financial Review cover to cover, long distance running and the occasional good bottle of wine. Furthermore, tonight you're celebrating an anniversary." She smiled soft, inviting. "Three months ago today, you and I were married."
Her words hit Bishop squarely in the chest, knocking him completely off balance. It was all he could manage not to cough up his lungs and reel back from the blow. Instead he ran a rather unsteady hand through his hair.
Good God in Heaven. She'd lost her mind.
Grace, the nurse.they'd said Laura had hit her head and was a little hazy. No one told him that she'd lost two years of her life! That she thought they were still married. As for falling off that same footbridge.
Bishop hid a cringe. Was this some kind of sick joke? Would the host of a lame candid-camera show jump out, sock him on the arm and point out a hidden lens?
But looking into Laura's unsuspecting emerald eyes now, Bishop knew she was deadly serious. Gazing up at him, with such unabashed innocence and adoration, was the face of the fair-haired angel he'd married. He hadn't been able to figure out why he'd been asked to come here today. Now Laura's request for her sister to call him made sense. So did Grace's inability to look him in the eye when he'd hammered her for details a few minutes ago.
Bishop resisted the urge to drop his head into his hands and groan out loud. He should have insisted on seeing a doctor. He'd been set up. He knew by whom and he could sure as hell guess why.
Laura's sister set the blame for their marriage's breakdown solely upon his shoulders. Chances were that Grace had hoped when Laura laid eyes upon the fiend who'd deserted her, a deluge of sordid memories would come flooding back. Laura's memory would be restored. Once again, Belligerent Bishop would be the bad guy and control freak Grace would be number one in her little sister's life. If he'd had a low opinion of Grace before, this took the cake. He'd deserved to know the facts.
Laura had deserved that courtesy, too.
After so long of a silence, worry began to cloud Laura's eyes. His brow damp, Bishop adjusted the crimson knot at his throat and scanned through the maze in his mind. But the harder and longer he searched, the more dead-ends hit him in the face.
Only two things were certain. He couldn't throw up his hands, walk out and leave her here, wondering. Neither could he callously dump the truth of recent events on her. He and Laura might have said goodbye under less than amicable termsdownright hostile, actuallybut now she was ill.
And, dammit, he'd loved her once. Deeply. She may or may not thank him for it later, but he had to make an effort to ease her though this.reunion.
He found a small, amiable smile. "Laura, you're not well. You need to stay overnight. I'll speak with the doctor and" He stopped. Blinked.
He cleared his throat. "And we'll go from there." She uncrossed her legs only to ravel hers arms over her waist and ease up her chin. "No."
He frowned. "What do you mean, no?" Her arms unwound and, her expression imploring now, she reached for him.
Bishop froze. He should pull back. Crush any possibility of
physical contact. He'd never been able to resist her whenever they'd touched.
But the last time they'd been anything close to intimate was well over a year ago. Perhaps that part of himthat primal, perpetually hungry partwas largely buried, along with the love they'd once known.
And so, to curb her suspicionsto keep her calmhe reached out, too, and allowed her delicate fingers to lace through his. Instantly his blood began to stir, and when her sparkling eyes looked into his, the awareness he saw there delivered a pleasure-pain jolt that pierced his ribs and stole his breath.
"Darling," she murmured, "I've spent enough of my life in hospital rooms. I know you mean well, but I don't need to be wrapped in cotton wool. I'm not a child. I have my own mind and I know I'm okay."
Swallowing the dry brick lodged in his throat, Bishop eased his hand from hers, slid a foot back and, determined, injected a take-no-prisoners tone into his voice.
"I'm afraid you're not in a position to object."
Her eyes darkened and her lovely mouth turned slowly down. "I didn't give up my rights when I married you"
Stopping mid-sentence, her head went back and she flinched, as if someone had slapped her. Gradually her dazed expression faded and her face filled with all shades of remorse.
"Bishop oh, God. I'm sorry." Confusion swam in her glistening eyes. "I didn't mean that. Not a word."
Bishop let go of the breath he'd been holding. Apparently, a lack of memory couldn't suppress her true, less than charitable feelings toward him. The person who'd challenged him a second ago had sounded like the Laura who'd glared at him when she'd told him to get out. The Laura who had mailed divorce papers a year to the day after that.
Laura was the one who'd ended their marriage. Of course
he'd been upset. Hell, he'd been wounded to his core. But he'd never hated her. He didn't hate her now. Nor did her love her. Which should make this situation easier than it was.
He nodded to the bed. "You need to lie down."
"I need to talk to you."
He held the cover back again. "Lie down."
When she stood up, refusing, he fought the urge to force her to act in her own best interests and do as she was told. But that was out of the question, for more reasons than one. She was still a beautiful woman.more beautiful than he even remembered. As much as his brain knew they couldn't live together, his physiology understood only that she was uniquely, tormentingly desirable.
How easy it would be even now to sweep her up, whisk her away and take shameful advantage of this situation. So easy And more destructive than any act that had ever come before.
He loosened the knot at his throat. He'd try to reason with her one more time.
"You might think you're all right, but"
"I thought we were pregnant."
The back of his knees caved in. Tipping sideways, Bishop propped his shoulder against the wall then, mind spinning, slid to sit on the bed. His ears were ringing. He felt as if a bomb had exploded inches from his face. Holding his brow, he waited for the stars to fade then finally found the wherewithal to question his ex-wife.
His voice was a croak.