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It was the worst possible way to run into an ex, Lexi thought. There was only one parking space left in the Sydney Harbour Hospital basement car park and although, strictly speaking, she shouldn't have been parking there since she wasn't a doctor or even a nurse, she was running late with some things for her sister, and it was just too tempting not to grab the last 'Doctors Only' space between a luxury sedan and a shiny red sports car that looked as if it had just been driven out of the showroom.
She opened her door and winced when she heard the bang-scrape of metal against metal. And then she saw him.
He was sitting in the driver's seat, his broad-spanned hands gripping the steering-wheel with white-knuckled force, glaring at her furiously when recognition suddenly hit him. Lexi saw the quick spasm of his features, as if the sight of her had been like a punch to the face.
She felt the same punch deep and low in her belly as she encountered that dark brown espresso coffee gaze. Her throat closed over as if a large hand had gripped her and was squeezing the breath right out of her. Her heart pounded with a sickening thud, skip, thud, skip, thud that made her feel as if she had just run up the fire escape of a towering skyscraper on a single breath.
It was so unexpected.
Why hadn't she been told he was back in the country? Why hadn't she been told he was working here? He clearly was, otherwise why would he be parking in the doctors' car park unlesslike herhe had flouted the rules for his own convenience?
OK, so this was the time to play it cool. She could do that. It was her specialty. She was known all over the Sydney social circuit for her PhD in charm.
She shimmied out of the tight space between their cars and sent him a megawatt smile. 'Hi, Sam,' she said breezily. 'How are things?'
Sam Bailey unfolded his tall length from the sports car, closing the driver's door with a resounding click that more or less summed up his personality, Lexi thoughtdecisive, to the point, focussed on the task at hand.
'Alexis,' he said. No "How are you?" or "Nice to see you" or even "Hello", just her full name, which nobody ever called her, not even her father in one of his raging rants or her mother in one of her gin-soaked ramblings.
Lexi's winning smile faded slightly and her hands fidgeted with the strap of her designer bag hanging over her shoulder as she stood before him. 'So, what brings you here?' she said. 'A patient perhaps?'
'You could say that,' he said coolly. 'How about you?'
'Oh, I hang out here a lot,' she said, shifting her weight from one high heel to the other. 'My sister Bella's in and out for treatment all the time. She's been in for the last couple of weeks. Another chest infection. She's on the transplant list but we have to wait until it clears. The chest infection, I mean.' Lexi knew she was rambling but what else could she do? Five years ago she had thought they'd had a future together. Their connection had been sudden but intense. She had dreamed of sharing her life with him and yet without notice Sam had cut her out of his life coldly and ruthlessly, not even pausing long enough to say goodbye. Seeing him again with no notice, no time to prepare herself, had stirred up deeply buried emotions so far beneath the surface she had almost forgotten they were there.
'Sorry to hear that,' Sam said making a point of glancing at his silver watch.
Lexi felt a sinkhole of sadness open up inside her. He couldn't have made it clearer he wanted nothing to do with her. How could he be so so distant after the intense intimacy they had shared? Had their affair meant nothing to him? Nothing at all? Surely she was worth a few minutes of his precious time in spite of the different paths their lives had taken? 'I didn't know you were back from wherever you went,' she said. 'I heard you got a scholarship to study overseas. Where did you go?'
'America,' he said flatly.
She raised her eyebrows, determined to counter his taciturn manner with garrulous charm. 'Wow, that's impressive,' she said. 'The States is so cool. So much to see. So much to do. You must've been the envy of all the other trainees, getting that chance to train abroad.'
'Yes.' Another frowning glance at his watch.
Lexi's gaze went to the strongly boned, deeply tanned wrist he had briefly exposed from the crisp, light blue business shirt he was wearing. Her stomach shifted like a pair of crutches slipping on a sheet of cracked ice. Those wrists had once held her much smaller ones in a passionate exchange that had left her body tingling for hours afterwards. Every moment of their blistering two-week affair was imprinted on her flesh. Seeing him again awakened every sleeping cell of her body to zinging, pulsing life. It felt like her blood had been thawed from a five-year deep freeze. It was racing through the network of her veins like a flash flood, making her heart hammer with the effort.
Her gaze slipped to his mouth, that beautiful sculpted mouth that had moved against hers with such heart-stopping skill. She still remembered the taste of him: minty and fresh and something essentially, potently male. She still remembered the feel of his tongue stroking against hers, the sexy rasp of it as it cajoled hers into a sizzling hot tango. He had explored every inch of her mouth with masterful expertise, leaving no corner without the branding heat of his possession.
And yet he had still walked away without so much as a word.
Lexi lifted her gaze back to his. Encountering those unfathomable brown depths made her chest feel like a frightened bird was trapped inside the cage of her lungs. Did he have any idea of the hurt he had caused? Did he have any idea of what she had gone through because of him?
She swallowed in anguish as she thought of the heart-wrenching decision she had made. Would she ever be able to summon up the courage to tell him? But, then, what would be the point? How could he possibly understand how hard it had been for her back then, young and pregnant with no one to turn to? She hadn't felt ready to become a mother. A termination had seemed the right thing to do and yet.
'I have to get going,' Sam said, nodding towards the hospital building. 'The CEO is expecting me.'
Lexi stared at him as realisation slowly dawned. 'You're going to be working here?' she asked.
'Here at SHH?' 'Yes.'
'Not in the private sector?' she asked.
'Do you ever answer a question with more than one word?' 'Occasionally.'
Lexi gave him a droll look but inside she was screaming: This can't be happening! 'Why wasn't I told?' she asked.
'Wow, that's two.'
'Two what?' he said, frowning.
'Words,' she said. 'Maybe we can work on that a little. Boost your repertoire a bit. What are you doing here?'
She mentally rolled her eyes. 'I mean why here? Why not in the private system where you can earn loads and loads of money?' Why not some other place where I won't see you just about every day and be reminded of what a silly little fool I was?
'I was asked.'
'Wow, three words,' Lexi said, purposely animating her expression. 'We're really doing great here. I bet I can get you to say a full sentence in a month or two.'
'I have to go now,' he said. 'And, yes, that's five words if you're still counting.'
She lifted her chin. 'I am.'