“Once was when Drake broke his arm and had to have surgery,” Mac went on. “And the other time was when you and your brothers decided to spray graffiti on the railroad overpass and I had to do damage control with the chief and the mayor.”
Eli stood back, resting his hands on his hips. “Am I going to get scolded?” he joked with a smile.
Mac looked up, pointing his fork. “Don’t get smart with me, young man. I’m simply stating that I only closed for emergencies and when I was needed.”
Eli waited, glancing at his mother as she came in and took a seat on the sofa with her own dinner. Just like old times, she tried to stay out of arguments, but Eli knew she’d already formed an opinion.
“I’d say what you did today was exactly what I would’ve done,” his father said before stabbing a piece of chicken. “Nora really has nobody in her life and I’m glad you’re here for her.”
Raking a hand over his hair, Eli sank into the accent chair across the room. “I came back for you, Dad.”
His father raised his bushy brows and eyed him across the room. No words were spoken, none needed to be. Mac St. John knew where his son stood.
But his father didn’t know how seeing Nora all grown up and sexier than ever had taken a major toll on Eli’s nerves. He was having a hard time denying the fact he wanted to spend more time with her and get to know her all over again.
“How is Nora after the break-in?” his mom asked.
Eli eased back against the cushion and nodded. “She’s okay. Angry, but she’s fine. Was more worried about the animals than her clinic. None of them were injured, thank God. We would’ve seen a whole new level of mad had something happened to one of her pets or patients.”
Bev smiled as she picked up her tea. “Sounds like her. Always looking out for everyone but herself.”
“I’m looking out for her,” Eli found himself saying before he could think. Damn it.
“Of course you are.” Mac nodded his approval. “I knew when you were coming home you’d be spending more time with her than here.”
Eli opened his mouth, but shut it as his father held up a hand.
“I’m not saying that bothers me. In fact, I’m glad she has you.” He motioned to Bev with his fork. “She’s capable of taking care of me. You’re needed more with Nora and the clinic.”
“Why didn’t either of you tell me she was pregnant?” Eli asked, looking between his mother and father.
Mac dug back into dinner while his mother eased her fork down, gently dabbed at her mouth with her napkin as if she were sitting at a grand dining table rather than a TV tray in her living room. Neither parent met his gaze.
“We knew Nora would tell you,” Bev informed him. “She was pretty upset when she discovered the pregnancy, not because of the baby itself, but because of the timing.”
Eli completely understood and couldn’t even fathom what Nora must’ve felt, and was still feeling, burying her husband and discovering the pregnancy in the same day. The woman was stronger than most men he’d been in the service with.
“She’s having a girl,” Eli said.
His mother’s smile lit up her entire face. “Oh, she’ll be such a wonderful mother. I can’t wait to buy stuff for that sweet baby.”
Eli rolled his eyes, knowing his mother was already mentally shopping. “No need to go overboard, Mom.”
“If I want to go overboard with buying precious baby things for Nora and her little girl, then I most certainly will. Besides, that’s the closest I’ll probably ever come to having a grandchild.”
Eli knew his mother meant the statement playfully, but a part of him took it personally. Yes, he and his brothers were not ready to settle down, but at one time Eli thought he’d marry and have children with Nora.
“Nora wouldn’t be able to do this without you guys so close,” he told his mom. “I know she’s independent, but she’s still vulnerable.”
After his parents finished eating, Eli got his father his medicine and joined his mother in the kitchen as they cleaned up the dishes. “You’ve been seeing Nora quite a bit,” his mother mentioned in that casual yet nosy tone.