By Geri Krotow
Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Books S.A.
When Val’s fingers touched his lips, Lucas’s brain did its best to shut off all reasoning. Getting Val into his bed was suddenly necessary, vital, the most important mission of his life.
Her eyes reflected the desire that overwhelmed him—along with a measure of real concern.
“Shit.” He pulled back. The simultaneous rejection and mistrust that crossed her face cut him to the quick.
You’ve done it again. Way to go, Einstein.
“I’m sorry, Val. I shouldn’t have kissed you.”
“And I shouldn’t have kissed you back.”
They stared at each other for a long moment before they both looked away.
Lucas focused on the shadow of British Columbia, where Val had pointed out Victoria.
“I’ve done this before,” he admitted. “Gotten involved with my boss. It doesn’t work out in the end.”
“I agree that this isn’t a good idea, Lucas, not with the two of us working together.”
She rubbed her gloved hands. “Yes, I’m tempted, and it’s not like this is a government organization. It’s for military families, but it’s a completely civilian operation. Still—”
“So was the hospital I worked in when I…had a relationship with my Chief Resident.
“Oh is right.” He wanted to swear a blue streak.
“What happened?” Val had told him about Bob. Now it was his turn to spill.
“Betsy and I lasted for more than a year after my program ended. We didn’t talk about a serious commitment until I’d completed my residency. But she wanted more and ultimately decided I was too young for her.”
“How much older was she?”
“For me or her?”
“Both of you.” Val’s mouth tilted in the lopsided smile he was getting to like, too much.
He grabbed her hand. “Despite what I said, I’m not sorry I kissed you, Val. I am sorry if I’ve made you uncomfortable.”
“Are you kidding me? I’m wondering if I should fire you just so we can kiss again.”
She shrugged as she pulled her hand from his.
He didn’t respond, didn’t know quite what to say.
“But you’re right, Lucas,” she went on. “It’s not possible for us to be more than colleagues—professionals—just now. It’s not fair to either of us. Let’s be adults and just call it a draw for now, okay?”
“Can’t blame a guy for trying, Val.”
“I don’t.” She paused. “I have to ask. Why did you leave so abruptly fifteen years ago?”
Her expression was earnest but he saw the shadow flicker across her eyes. He could tell that she thought it was her fault.
“My mother had a nervous breakdown,” he said bluntly. “My father had been an alcoholic his entire life, and when she was institutionalized it practically killed him. He did die about two years later, after I graduated from Temple.” He looked at her.
“My little sister needed me. She had high school to get through, and I’d be damned if I was going to see her suffer any more because of our screwed up family.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me this? You knew about my family.”
“Precisely. And I knew you’d been through your own hell. You didn’t need to hear about mine. I was also ashamed, Val. I was young and I thought the family problems were mine, that they somehow reflected on me. But by the time I grew up enough to realize none of it was my fault, it was too late. I figured you’d already moved on. Was I right?”