Page 23

Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas Jules Bennett 2022/8/5 16:55:32

“I’m on my way,” he repeated. “It’s not up for debate.”

Eli hung up his phone before his brother could argue further. There was no reason for him not to go to her. Well, his patients were several reasons, actually. He’d have to reschedule if he couldn’t get back before his lunch break was over.

When he moved into the front office, Lulu was finishing a salad at her desk. Eli had to blink several times to keep his attention away from the massive cleavage she had on display, outlined by rhinestones riding the edge of her V-neck.

“I’ll be out for the afternoon,” he told her, quickly deciding he needed to stay with Nora. “If there’s an emergency, call my cell and I can come back. I need you to reschedule today’s patients. Squeeze them in tomorrow, even if I have to work later.”

Her brows drew together. “Oh, honey. Everything okay? Your dad…”

“He’s fine. Nora’s clinic was broken into.”

“I heard that when I went out to get my salad,” she told him, grabbing her nail file from the desk. “Crazy people always wanting to steal instead of working for an honest living. Go ahead. This afternoon was very light, anyway.”

She started sharpening her bloodred nails into dangerous-looking daggers. When the phone started ringing, she blew on one finger and stared, filing another.

“You going to get that?” he asked.

Without looking up, she nodded. “I don’t tell you how to do your job. Now go on and see to your veterinarian friend.”

Sighing, Eli wasn’t getting into the annoyances that surrounded his father’s receptionist. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Eli grabbed his coat and keys as he rushed out the back door, the frigid air cutting through him. December was downright freezing, unusually cold for Tennessee, but better than the blizzard-like conditions up north.

In no time he’d gone from one end of the tiny town to the other and pulled behind Nora’s clinic. His brother’s cruiser was parked right outside the back door. Eli killed the engine on his truck and headed toward the back entrance. Before he could step inside, the metal door swung open.

“I knew you’d show up as soon as you heard.” Nora stood in the doorway with her arms crossed over her chest. “I’m surprised it took you this long to hear about the break-in.”

“Cam called me,” he told her as he stepped inside, forcing her to step back. “You okay?”

She nodded, biting her lip. “I’m just angry. I work too hard and I really don’t have time for this. The money I lost today from not working really is what irks me the most. But at least I rescheduled my patients.”

Money? She was worried about money? Todd had always talked about all the savings he’d set aside. Did Nora not have those funds or had she already spent them? The VA had surely covered the funeral expenses. What about Todd’s pension?

“What do you need me to do?” he asked. “Did they tear up anything?”

“Nothing much. My medicine cabinet was broken into, so I need a new lock. Obviously the perp knew exactly what they wanted. I’m just thankful none of the animals were hurt.”

Eli walked through the narrow hallway, glancing into the side rooms. Kennels sat in one oversize room, and only half were full. One dog snoozed as if his world hadn’t changed one bit, another puppy was pawing through the cage trying to seek the attention of said snoozing dog and another mini-dog started growling when Eli popped his head in.

“Oh, Harvard, you’re fine,” Nora said, stepping into the room. “He’s harmless.”

Eli laughed. “Harvard?”

Nora threw a glance over her shoulder “It’s Professor Wilkes’s dog.”

Professor Wilkes taught at the community college, and rumor had it he’d had the opportunity to teach at a prestigious Ivy League school, but he turned it down because his wife was from this area and he’d wanted to stay with her. He had since been widowed, but remained teaching at the small college in dinky little Stonerock.

Nora quickly fed the dogs and moved to the other side of the room where the cats were starting to meow, obviously eager for some lunch, as well.