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Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas Jules Bennett 2022/8/5 16:55:27

At one time, naively, she’d thought he’d miss her so bad he’d come crawling back. Yeah, she’d held that much hope in their relationship. When he’d been gone for enough time she knew there was no chance, she cut her losses and started dating Todd. She’d been moved around so much as a kid, she simply longed for a home and some stability. Things she thought Todd could offer.

Eli’s fresh, masculine aroma had surrounded her when she’d passed by him in the foyer. There was no way she was letting him help her with her coat because she couldn’t stay long…and she had another reason to hide behind the heavy wool.

After the shock of seeing Eli—with a fresh-looking, jagged facial scar—faded, her mind instantly went to their high school days when he’d try anything to get her to cross the “good girl” line. But as soon as that memory hit her, her mind drifted to Todd. She’d been doing so well lately with keeping her emotions in check. Maybe they hadn’t had the best or most ideal marriage, but she mourned the man who sacrificed himself for his country.

In all honesty Eli had probably spent more time with Todd than Nora had because the two had been deployed months upon months together in Iraq over the past four years. Best friends in school turned army buddies living through some of the harshest conditions.

She’d thought when she’d married Todd that he would get out of the army, but he’d decided to stay. After four years of marriage, most of them spent with him deployed, Nora had finally lost her husband for good.

Now, due to the financial strain of living on one income, she might have to sell her home. The death benefits and pension weren’t going near as far as she’d hoped.

Nora blinked back tears that were so easy to flow. Seeing Eli conjured up that part of her mind she associated with Todd and Eli together. The two men she’d loved. The two men she’d lost. She wanted to be angry at both of them for leaving her, but what good would that do?

While she knew she’d run into Eli over the next day or so, she hadn’t planned on it being after a grueling day at the clinic. Between multiple cases of worms, kennel cough and vaccinations, she was ready to prop her feet up and dig into a big bowl of Rocky Road ice cream for dinner and snuggle with her finicky cat, Kerfluffle.

Most people probably wanted hot soup on a cold day like today, but she wanted the good stuff. The fattening stuff. It’s not like her expanding waistline would suffer any more than it already had. Nora knew she smelled like dog and was covered in fur—occupational hazard—but she hadn’t expected to see Eli before she could at least shower, change from her scrubs and attempt to fix her hair…and a half-falling ponytail did not count as fixed.

Not that she was trying to get his attention, but she at least wanted to look somewhat put together and not like a bag lady.

A pregnant bag lady. This was one time in her life she was thankful for her height. At least the weight could spread out more and her belly barely had a bump. Eli didn’t know she was pregnant, as far as she knew, and it really wasn’t a topic she wanted to broach with him. While she embraced the love of her small town and the folks who’d rallied around her upon Todd’s death and her pregnancy discovery all within days of each other, the last thing she wanted was to see pity in Eli’s eyes.

She’d seen that look years ago when they’d broken things off and she hoped to God she never had to see it again.

“If you don’t mind,” Bev said.

Nora blinked and smiled. “I’m sorry. What?”

Bev patted her arm, offering a wide grin. “You’re exhausted, honey. Go home and put your feet up.”

“No, no. I’m fine. My mind wandered and I didn’t hear what you said.”

Wandered, took a hard right and ended up in la-la land. Such was the story of her life. Always daydreaming, because reality was starting to flat-out suck.

Except for the precious baby she carried. No way could Nora be upset about something so miraculous—no matter the circumstances.

“I just said it would be wonderful if you could bring lunch for us tomorrow if you didn’t mind,” Bev said, still holding on to Nora’s arm. “But only if you’re already coming down. Don’t make a special trip.”