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‘Why are you afraid of that?’ he asks, low and intrigued.

‘I’m busy. With work. I have a career to focus on. I’m not interested in someone like . . .’ I drift off, realizing I was heading towards an insult.

‘Someone like . . .?’

‘I don’t know.’ I might not be scared, but I also shouldn’t insult him. Because that would be plain rude.

He smiles a little, amused. ‘Someone scary like me?’

I laugh a little. ‘I already told you, Theo. You don’t scare me.’

‘And I quite like that notion. It’s new. Refreshing.’

‘Because everyone is scared of you?’

‘Well, yeah.’

‘Why?’

‘Come to dinner with me.’

My shoulders drop a little. ‘Didn’t you hear anything I just said?’

‘Oh, I heard, Izzy. And I don’t believe a word of it.’ He moves behind me and presses his front into my back. He sucks in air on contact, and I breathe in heavily. Oh, goodness me. I don’t flinch. Not one bit, but past our audible breaths, I hear an old lady gasp. It reminds me of where I am, with Theo currently pressed into me, unearthing a torrent of . . .

Shit. It’s lust and want and desire, and it’s making me powerless to move away from him. His mouth falls to my ear. I close my eyes and breathe in. ‘You’re safe with me,’ he says, as if knowing those words will work to his advantage. ‘Let’s go.’ He slips a hand around my waist and steps forward, forcing me into walking. Or staggering. I guess I’m staggering, though it’s hard to tell when Theo is practically carrying me. Oh my God, he’s practically carrying me out of the ward, and I have a horrid feeling that it hasn’t gone unnoticed, not by Mable and not by my colleagues.

I don’t look back when an opportunity to check for a peanut gallery arises, letting Theo haul me right on out of there. Safe. It’s like he’s privy to how enticing that little word is to me. Like he’s using it as a weapon.

‘Theo,’ I complain, wriggling a little but freezing the second he comes to an abrupt halt and hisses under his breath.

‘Don’t do that, Izzy,’ he warns. ‘For the love of God, please don’t do that.’

I clamp my teeth together to the point of cracking them, trying to ignore the feeling of something stiff compressed into my bum. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Yeah, that’s not ideal, either,’ he mumbles, clearing his throat.

I frown. ‘What?’

‘Nothing.’ He sighs, maintaining his firm hold of me. ‘Just give me a second.’

‘I’ll let you take me home, just put me down,’ I beg, not bothering to try to pry myself free. It would be a fruitless endeavour, and I can’t risk feeling that hardness again, and, worst of all, liking it. ‘People are staring.’ People would be staring whether Theo had me held against his chest or not. The sheer size of him attracts too much attention. I’m more than surprised when I suddenly feel the ground beneath my feet with no further need to plead. ‘Thank you,’ I say graciously, faffing with my coat and bag. I should just let him take me home. It will be easier and less stressful – as long as I avoid eye contact and keep a safe distance between us. ‘Where’s your car?’

He clears his throat, seeming a little flustered himself. It’s quite an amusing sight. This big beast of a man, all hot and bothered. Over me? Pointing down the corridor, he stands tall, apparently together now. ‘Out front.’

I’m off quickly, Theo’s long strides keeping up with ease. When we reach his car, Callum is holding the door open. His face is unreadable as he nods at me, and once again he moves back, giving me far too much space to get in. I slide into the seat and rest my bag on my lap, getting comfy while Theo joins me. Or as comfy as I can be in the presence of Theo Kane. Especially now that we seem to have . . . have what? What have we done? I shrink into my seat. I should maybe dedicate a bit of time to considering what I have done. And what I’ve done is confess my fear. I’ve told him, pretty clearly, that if he was to make a pass, I probably wouldn’t deny him. I’m an idiot. Why would I do that?

As we pull out of the hospital car park, I stare out the window, wishing I could turn back time to the night I found Penny in that alley. If I knew then what I know now, I would have carried on my way. I wouldn’t have gone back to help her. I wouldn’t have let Theo take me to his mansion. I wouldn’t . . .

I stop right there. I’m kidding myself. There’s no way I could walk away from a woman in need. I don’t know much about Theo Kane, but what I do know is pretty alarming. And I’m furious for wanting to know a lot more. Like everything.


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