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Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas Jules Bennett 2022/8/5 16:55:31

Eli slid his hand down her arm, removed his other hand from hers off the doorknob. Nora turned, but he hadn’t stepped back and she had to tip her head to look at him. She’d always been tall for a girl, but Eli was all man—big, powerful, muscular. Even with his dominating presence, she always felt protected, safe, cherished.

“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” he told her. “I look at you and see the girl I loved. I smell flowers and remember how you always had some floral lotion on.”

The soft lights from the living room projected a glow around his entire body, framing his broad shoulders, his tipped head. She often forgot that Eli had served and seen just as much as Todd had. So many times Todd would have nightmares when he’d be home on leave and she’d have to console him, comfort him.

Who did that for Eli? He had to have had bad moments, times that haunted him. Had there ever been a special someone in his life to get him through rough times?

“I’m not uncomfortable.” A small lie. “We’re both just so vulnerable right now and so different from the kids we used to be. Between you with your dad and the practice, and me with the baby, there’s just so much stress.”

“What can I do to make things easier for you?” he asked, searching her eyes. “I may only be here a few months, but we’re friends, Nora. I want to help. Do you need the nursery painted? Crib put together?”

A vice-grip tightened around her heart. She didn’t want to feel anything toward Eli beyond friendship. But after he’d opened up and shared a small portion of his time overseas and the fact he was obviously waging some internal battle with himself, Nora found herself getting more and more entangled in his world.

“I’ll be sure to let you know when I need any of that stuff done,” she promised, finding that she probably would take him up on such a generous offer.

Eli reached up, pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “This little girl is one lucky baby to have you for her mom.”

Nora smiled. “I’m the lucky one. A little nervous, but lucky.”

“Nothing to be nervous about,” he assured her, his hand still lingering by her neck. “You’ll be an amazing mother.”

“Who do I have to compare myself to? My mother…” Nora sighed, not wanting to get into that particular part of her life.

Eli’s hands cupped her face, forcing her to look him straight in the eye. “It’s because of your mother that you’ll be so wonderful. You know how it feels to be abandoned, to crave love and stability.”

Nora couldn’t help but get lost in his words, those dark eyes and his conviction. He was the only man who ever really got her, and even though a gap of years stood between them, he still understood her.

“Plus you’ve always looked up to my parents,” he added with a slight grin. “You’ve got great role models. Me and my brothers turned out all right.”

“After a few mishaps.” She laughed.

Eli shrugged. “Just a few.”

His thumbs stroked her cheeks and Nora brought her hands up to wrap around his wrists. She couldn’t find the strength to push him away. If she were honest with herself, she loved having him there, but she also had to face reality, and that cold hard truth was he wouldn’t always be there.

For now, Nora would take comfort from him for as long as he was willing to give it. Maybe that made her weak, but with all that was going on, she just didn’t have the strength to fight his pull.

“I’m just next door if you need anything,” he murmured.

Nora nodded, unable to speak with his lips so close. Why did he have to still appeal to her? Why was she still drawn to the town-bad-boy-turned-soldier-turned-doctor…turned devastatingly sexy, intriguing, unattainable man?

“I’ll check on you after work, Nora.”

She knew it was coming; she had ample time to stop him…but she didn’t want to.

Eli’s lips touched hers, softly, tenderly. Before she could fully appreciate the familiar touch, he backed away.

When he reached around her to open the door, Nora stepped out of the way. Once she was alone, she couldn’t stop her fingers from drifting to her lips, trying to capture that feeling of his kiss.