The meeting broke up, with Green leaving first. When Anna and Nick stood and turned toward the door, Ross decided it was now or never. "Anna, would you stay for a few minutes? There are a few legal technicalities I need to discuss with you."
Nick Valentine frowned and opened his mouth, but Anna put a hand on his arm and said, "That's okay. Go on home. We'll talk later."
Nick nodded once and turned to go, but not before giving Ross a glance that would have peeled paint.
Ross closed the door and gestured Anna to one of the client chairs. He took the other one, turning it so they were facing each other, their knees almost touching.
"What do we have left to settle?" Anna asked.
"We'll eventually need to talk about straightening out your identity theft, but that's not why I asked you to stay." Ross's throat suddenly went dry. "It's personal."
He looked at Anna and remembered the empty feeling in the pit of his stomach when he heard she'd been held at gunpoint, imagining how terrible it would be to see her hurt . . . or worse. That was when he realized that she'd become more than a client to him. That was when he made up his mind to tell her how he felt.
Ross cleared his throat. "Anna, I've come to think a great deal of you. Almost from the start, I've thought of our relationship as more than just lawyer-client. And I was hoping that you might feel that way about me as well."
Those cool green eyes never wavered. Anna nodded almost imperceptibly. "Ross, I'm flattered. I'll admit that I've found myself attracted to you as I've gotten to know you better. But—"
"Yeah, there's always a 'but,' isn't there?" He felt the pain in his heart as surely as if this surgeon had slipped a scalpel in him.
"Yes, there's a 'but,' " Anna said. "I guess I looked at you as sort of a white knight, galloping to my rescue. But when I thought I was about to die, it wasn't you I was thinking about. You weren't the one I wished I could see one more time." She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Ross."
What was there to say? In his heart, he knew she was right. There'd been physical attraction on both sides. More than that, just as she'd been attracted to him as a champion who could save her from her troubles, he'd been delighted to find an attractive woman who needed him for his legal expertise, skills he'd been afraid he'd drowned in an excess of alcohol.
"So there's nothing there for us?" he asked.
"No, but then again, I don't think it was me you had feelings for. I was just a substitute."
He thought about that for a minute. Maybe Anna was right. Maybe he'd transferred to Anna what he still felt for his ex-wife.
As though reading his thoughts, Anna said, "Ross, you're a great guy. You'll be a wonderful husband for someone. Matter of fact, I'll bet you were a pretty good husband to Laura until you let your life get out of control. Why don't you call her and see if she's ready to give it another try?" She grinned. "You can tell her I said the liar and cheat she told me about has been replaced by a caring, considerate, sober man. I'll even give you a note from your doctor if she wants to see it." ANNA FROWNED AS LIGHT FILTERED THROUGH THE DRAPES IN HER BEDroom. She felt as though she'd run a marathon—tired, aching in every muscle, unable to muster the energy to lift a finger. Did she have to get up? Was she due at work?
She dragged her watch from the bedside table and squinted at the tiny window that indicated the day. "SU." Sunday. She could roll over and go back to sleep. No, today she wanted to go to church. It just felt right. Anna swung her feet over the side of the bed and into slippers. She sat that way for a moment, yawning and stretching, before she shrugged into her robe. Half an hour later she was dressed, with her hair and makeup carefully done. She poured her second cup of coffee and took it to the kitchen table, where she picked up the Sunday paper and turned to the comics. The ringing of the doorbell interrupted her amusement at Garfield's latest antics.
She glanced through the peephole, then undid the safety chain and opened the door to admit Nick. He looked handsome in a blue Oxford cloth shirt, open at the neck. The creases in his khaki pants were sharp enough to cut butter. His cordovan loafers were burnished to a dull shine. "May I come in?" he asked.
He looked expectantly at her. "I hope you don't mind my showing up like this. I mean, I know you and Ross Donovan are— Never mind that. Truth is, I want to go to church today, and I'd feel a lot more comfortable going with you. Would that be okay?"
"Of course we can go together. Come in. I think we have time for some coffee. Would you like a cup?"
Nick grinned and seemed to relax a bit. "You know me, always ready for a caffeine fix. And if there's not a Starbucks handy, I'll take yours."
Anna poured a cup for Nick and replenished her own. "Sit down. We need to talk."
"Yeah, I guess we do." He followed her to the kitchen table and pulled out a chair. "I hadn't prayed in a long, long time before I got that call of yours. But I have to tell you, I was praying from the moment I got into my car until the time Detective Green showed up. And I feel . . . I don't know. But I think it made a difference."
"I'm glad, Nick. I prayed too."
Nick took another sip of coffee. "I'm glad it worked out okay."
"It wouldn't have worked out without your help. I owe you."She reached out and touched his hand. "And I'm glad you still had your gun when you got my call for help."
Nick drained his cup like a man just offthree days in the desert. "Well, I don't have it anymore. The police took it for evidence, and I told them to get rid of it when they were finished. I don't like being on either end of a gun. This was the second time. I don't want there to be a third."
Anna picked up the pot and refilled his cup. "But gun or no gun, you were willing to risk your life to save me. I'll never forget that."
Nick swallowed a couple of times before he spoke again."Of course I'd risk my life for you. I guess I didn't fully realize how much I cared for you until I thought I might lose you. I'm sorry you don't feel as strongly about me."
Anna put down her cup. "Who said?"
"Well, I thought you and Ross Donovan had something going."
"That was what my shrink friends would call transference," Anna said. "I was looking for him to rescue me. He was substituting me for the wife he'd lost. We've got that straightened out now."
The look of relief on Nick's face quickly gave way to a frown."So what about you and me?"
"Maybe when my life gets back to normal, I'll have a better sense of where we're headed. Of course, you may get to know me well enough to decide you've had enough of me."
Nick shook his head. "I don't think that's going to happen. But I'm willing to take it a step at a time. That is, if you are."
Anna rose from the table and moved to stand beside him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder. "I guess you'd like some kind of a sign, wouldn't you?"
"It would help."
She leaned down and brushed her lips with his. "Well, Dr. Pathologist, suppose you put that one under your microscope and let me know the prognosis."