The Fearless Maverick. Robyn Grady
fine.’ Her voice lowered to a serious note. ‘I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that we’ll need to work hard. Consistently.’
‘I’ve no doubt you’ll bring me through in time.’
Frowning, she cast her mind back. Had she overlooked something?
‘In time for what?’
‘I’ll miss Round Three this weekend.’ A muscle in his cheek flexed twice. ‘Can’t be helped, I’m afraid. Round Four’s three weeks subsequent to that.’
Libby almost laughed. He was joking. But while his expression might be relaxed, the set of his square jaw was firm. He’d never been more serious in his life.
‘I was told you’d been declared unfit by your team’s doctor to drive professionally for at least six weeks.’
‘We’ll prove him wrong.’
She sat forward. He should be set straight.
‘Your trackside physician wasn’t able to perform the reduction. As you’d have been told many times now, delay can cause complications. An axial view showed stripping of the inferior glenoid and rotator cuff tearing …’
Her words dropped away as any patience she’d seen in his eyes on the subject cooled.
‘My assistant informs me,’ he said, ‘that your clients think you perform miracles.’
‘I’m not a saint, Mr Wolfe.’
‘Alex. And, believe me, I’m not after a saint.’
His eyes smouldered and that hot pulse in her belly squeezed and sizzled. When the beating slid to a lower dangerous point, Libby pushed to her feet, too quickly as it turned out. She tipped to one side and threw out an arm to steady herself. But Alex Wolfe was already there, standing close, an arm circling her waist, his solid frame effortlessly providing the support she needed.
She was five-six, but she had to arc her neck way back to look into his face … which was a mistake. When those entrancing lidded eyes fused with hers, she imagined that his hold around her middle cinched, bringing her front to within a hair’s-breadth of his … close to his chest … to those legs.
Giddy, she broke his hold and took two steps back.
As she willed the fire from her face and got herself together, he asked, ‘Are you all right?’
‘Perfectly. Thank you.’ Shifting the bangs off her cheeks, she gathered herself and resumed a businesslike air. ‘I presume you know where my practice is.’
‘All treatments will be conducted here.’
Her brows shot up. ‘My equipment’s at work.’
‘I’ll be honest.’ His free hand slid into his trouser pocket and his legs braced wider apart. ‘I’m concerned about the press. I have enough on my mind without watching out for headlines speculating on whether I’m a washed-up cripple.’
Her insides wrenching, Libby flinched.
In the second it took to compose her expression, Alex frowned as if he’d glimpsed and wondered at her lapse. With knees locked, she offered an indulgent smile.
‘I understand you might want to shield yourself. But I’m afraid—’
‘Everything you need will be brought in. I’ll have my assistant organise it. And I’ll double your fee to cover any inconvenience and time difficulties.’
She shut her dropped jaw.
Was she reading him right? Double your fee …? We’ll prove him wrong …? You’ll bring me through …? Did he think he could bribe her into cutting short his treatment so he could make his Round Four? Clearly Alex Wolfe wasn’t familiar with the terms caution or compromise. He knew only one way to get things done. His way. If she didn’t agree to his conditions—his offer—no doubt he’d find someone who would.
Which left her two choices.
She could bow to the inevitable, agree that all work be carried out on his private premises and take the fortune he offered as well as give the all clear when he deemed, whether he was fit to return to driving in her opinion or not. Or she could tell him she couldn’t be manipulated by his charm or his pride. That her ethics were more important to her than money. More important than anything.
But there was a third option.
Decided, she looked him in the eye. ‘I’ll speak with your assistant. Get the ball rolling. We’ll start tomorrow morning.’
A shadow swept over his expression, so fast she almost missed it. She recognised the emotion. Disappointment. He’d thought she’d put up more of a fight before capitulating to his terms, even for show’s sake. Pity she couldn’t set him straight, but that would come … when the time was right.
She headed for the door. ‘I’ll be back in the office in half an hour. Your assistant can call me any time after that.’
With long fluid strides he caught up, a satisfied smile tilting his lips. ‘I do believe I’ll enjoy working with you, doc.’
Doc. Walking side by side down the hall, Libby grinned.
‘Perhaps I ought to wear a white coat and stethoscope when I call next,’ she said, a slightly mocking edge to her voice.
‘Feel free to wear whatever makes you comfortable. I will.’
‘Oh, there won’t be much need for clothes,’ she said, stopping before the front doors. ‘On your part, at least.’
His hold on the handle froze.
Swallowing the grin, she brushed his hand aside, opened the door and stepped out. ‘See you tomorrow. Nine sharp.’
Walking away, she felt his surprise and curiosity drilling her back. But if her last comment was loosely inappropriate, she was okay with it. He’d needed to be pulled up and using his own level of language.
Alex Wolfe didn’t know how well she understood his mind. She knew about burning passions. About setting a goal and never losing sight of it. She also knew how it felt to lose the capacity to chase and hold onto your dream. To have to reinvent yourself and leave that other more natural you behind.
Six weeks rehabilitation? Hell, Alex Wolfe didn’t know how lucky he was.
But slow and steady won the race. This race anyway. She’d get him into a routine, he’d feel the positive results and when the time came she’d make him see how detrimental—possibly catastrophic—returning to the track too soon could be. Until then she’d be on her guard. She couldn’t deny that those subtle looks, his unmistakable body language, his casual touch, affected her, and Alex knew it. He assumed he could manipulate her, charm her, perhaps even intimidate her into getting what he wanted.
Unfortunately for Alex Wolfe … not a chance.
Libby slid into the driver’s seat. She was about to turn the ignition when her stomach twisted, like it had earlier when he’d tossed off that unconscious slap in the face. Her hand ran down her left thigh, over the patella. Then her fingertips traced the line where she and the lower limb prosthesis became one.
Washed-up cripple …
Long ago she had finished crying and asking herself, What did I do to deserve this? With the support of family, friends and professionals she’d moved from beneath those dark clouds of self-pity. Helping to rehabilitate others had brought new and worthwhile meaning to her life. But sitting here, remembering the gleam in Alex Wolfe’s eyes when he’d looked at her that certain way, she couldn’t mistake the pang in her chest or the choking thickness in her throat.
Her hand skimmed the shin she couldn’t feel. Would Alex Wolfe see her as less of a woman if he knew?