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Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas Jules Bennett 2022/8/5 16:55:29

Eli glanced to his wristwatch and glared at her. “It’s nearly three, Nora.”

“I really wasn’t hungry and I didn’t feel that great. I just wanted to clean and get back home.”

“No one expected you to tidy up the place. Not to sound ungrateful, I appreciate the gesture and so will Mom, but you have to listen to your body.”

Well, right now her body was saying to stay in this cozy bed and let someone wait on her hand and foot.

“I’m listening, Doc.” He continued to glare and Nora tapped his very toned, very chiseled biceps. “Smile. I’m fine.”

“Your color is coming back.”

“See? Told you I just needed to lie down for a bit.”

She glanced beyond his shoulder to the photos displayed on his old dresser. A picture of him in Iraq, one of him graduating from medical school, another of him in some type of surgical field. No doubt his mother had proudly put these photos into frames. Just more reminders that he wasn’t staying and his life was elsewhere. He’d worked hard to become a prominent doctor and she was so glad he’d not only chased his dream, but he’d captured it with both hands.

“Why am I in your old room?” she asked, bringing her eyes back to his.

“Because I wanted you to lie down.”

“What about the couch?”

His eyes roamed over her face, to her mouth and back up. “I thought you might need to rest and you’d be able to do that up here away from the commotion of Mom and Dad coming home in a bit.”

Nora started to sit up. “I better put a casserole in the oven. It has to bake for a while.”

Eli put his hand on her shoulder and eased her back down. “I can do it, Precious.”

She froze. He’d always called her that when they’d dated.

As if realizing what had just slipped out of his mouth, Eli cursed. With his hand still on her shoulder and their faces only inches apart, she trembled. No man had ever affected her the way Eli did.

Not even the man who’d promised to love, honor and be faithful. Her heart clenched from so much emotion. Even though Todd obviously hadn’t cared for their marriage, he was the father of this unborn baby and he didn’t deserve to die.

“Relax,” Eli whispered. “When was the last time someone looked out for you?”

Nora swallowed. “Actually, your mother dropped off a few groceries for me last week when I couldn’t get to the store.”

And that would be when she’d been hugging the toilet—her own that time. She was doing way too much of that lately.

“I meant really care for you,” he corrected. “I know you’re independent, but even you need to rest sometimes.”

Nora wanted to sink back into the bed, his bed, but she didn’t want to leave the warmth of his firm hand on her shoulder. He was right, though. She was independent. She’d always had to be between her mother and Todd, who’d been deployed most of their brief marriage.

“I don’t mind fending for myself, Eli. I’ve honestly never known any other way.”

His hand slid down her arm, leaving gooseflesh in its path even though thick fleece separated them. “That’s a sad statement. You will rest here for at least an hour, no arguments. I’ll put the casserole in the oven.”

“But you are a terrible cook,” she insisted. “I remember that Valentine’s meal you tried to cook for me that even the stray dogs turned away.”

Eli’s eyes widened a moment before he chuckled. “That was pretty bad, but you’ve already thrown the ingredients together. Surely I can pop it in the oven without causing too much damage. I do have a PhD, for pity’s sake.”

She couldn’t help but smile at his accomplishments. “I’m really proud of what you’ve done, Eli. You had a dream and went after it.”

His eyes held hers, the hand he’d slid down her arm rested atop her own. “But at what price?” he whispered.

Her heart clenched. Was he referring to her, to them? Did he regret leaving all those years ago? This was the first inclination he’d ever shown that perhaps he wasn’t 100 percent confident in his decisions.

Nora took in his thin lips, his tense shoulders and eyes filled with anguish. Obviously he had his own demons to live with and she didn’t feel it her place to say anything.