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Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas Jules Bennett 2022/8/5 16:55:30

Eli had no idea what to say to that because his anger would only make the situation worse. More than ever, he wanted to protect her, keep her safe, but this wasn’t his wife, nor was this his baby.

“Did Todd know about the pregnancy?” he asked.

Nora closed her eyes, shaking her head. “No. He was killed before I found out. I took a home test the day of the funeral.”

Eli muttered a curse at the terrible, cruel timing. The pain in her voice sliced through Eli’s heart. No wonder she’d been going full speed ahead; she was trying to push beyond the hurt, trying to stay busy so she didn’t have to think about the pain. He’d seen this tactic numerous times when he’d been overseas. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

When her eyes met his again and a soft smile curved her unpainted lips, Eli’s breath caught. She was stunning. Not because of the whole girl-next-door appeal she’d always had, but for her strength in all she’d endured through life. The woman before him was so different from the girl he’d left behind. This woman was a warrior.

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No matter what fate threw her way, she always smiled as she marched right over any obstacles that would cause most people to give up.

“It’s okay,” she assured him. “I’m excited about the baby and I know you were shocked. I was pretty shocked, too, when I found out.”

That was an understatement, he knew. The timing couldn’t have been any worse for her. But at least she didn’t know everything about her husband. The secret Eli carried would have to remain hidden because there was no way he’d kill that light in Nora’s baby blues. She wanted this little girl, wanted a family, and that’s what she’d have. Eli would make sure she kept pleasant memories of Todd with her and passed those down to their baby.

“Did you go to the doctor’s appointment alone?” he asked.

Her brows drew together. “Well, yeah. Who else would go with me?”

That right there was the problem. She’d nearly always done things alone.

Great, Eli, just charge right in and take over. Pity and attraction were a bad combination because he wanted to help her from all angles. And he absolutely hated that he felt guilty for Todd’s sins.

“I don’t need anyone to go with me, Eli,” she assured him with another soft smile. “I can handle this on my own.”

Not backing down, he moved closer, close enough she had to tip her head slightly to look up at him. He could stare into those mesmerizing eyes forever… If only he’d chosen to stay, where would they be now?

“We’re friends, Nora. Let me be there for you while I’m here. With Todd not having any family here, you need someone.”

Her eyes widened as she licked her lips. Desire that had nothing to do with the old feelings he had for her twisted in Eli’s stomach. Those were gone, those were a lifetime ago.

This thread of attraction was for the woman she was now, the stubborn, sexy, vibrant woman who kept insisting she didn’t need anybody.

“I have friends, Eli.” She offered an innocent, sweet smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “You’re here to take care of your father and work. There’s no sense in you adding anything else to the mix.”

Unable to help himself, Eli reached out, slid a hand across her silky cheek and stroked his thumb across her lower lip.

“Maybe I want to add you to the mix,” he murmured as he stepped closer. “Maybe I want to help because you’ve always had crap thrown at you in life. And maybe I have emotions that won’t be ignored.”

Nora took a step back, causing his hand to fall away. Her eyes narrowed again and that vulnerability he’d seen only moments ago was replaced by anger.

“I don’t want you here out of pity, Eli. I don’t need help because you feel sorry for me.”

Damn, he was going about this all wrong. Could he be more of a jerk? Friends. That’s all they could and would be. The end.

“Nora, please. I’m not offering because I think you’re incompetent. I know you’re strong and resilient—you wouldn’t have gotten this far without that spine of steel you have. Why can’t you get that chip off your shoulder and admit you need someone?”