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Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas Jules Bennett 2022/8/5 16:55:41

When he brought her in a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream, she nearly melted into a puddle of love right there.

“You’ve been such a good girl, listening to the doctor’s orders, I thought you needed a reward.”

Nora laughed as she took the bowl. “Whipped cream, too?”

He settled onto the couch next to her and propped his feet on the coffee table. “I stopped by the store on the way home. Figured you’d like some.”

“You’re so good to me.”

She dove into the sugary mess and devoured every single bite.

Eli took her bowl back to the kitchen and Kerfluffle followed on his heels. When they returned, the kitty curled right up in Eli’s lap.

“Looks like I’m not the only one who likes having you here,” Nora said as she snuggled into Eli’s side. “I really do appreciate everything you’ve done for me, Eli.”

His arm wrapped around her and he kissed the top of her head. “If I didn’t want to be here, Nora, I wouldn’t be. But we need to talk about us.”

Her heart nearly dropped. Those were words a woman never wanted to hear from the man she was in love with. “We need to talk” was just as bad as “it’s not you, it’s me.”

“Don’t tense up on me.” He laughed. “I just think it’s time we look at the big picture here, especially since we’ve gotten closer than either of us was prepared for.”

He was right. They’d danced around the attraction for a while, but then spiraled straight into bed and into each other’s hearts again without considering the long-term effects.

Nora sat up and turned to face him, drawing her knee up on the couch. “I know we didn’t plan to sleep together. I told myself I wouldn’t, that you would still be leaving and I would have to let you go.”

Again. The word hovered in the air between them and she truly hadn’t meant to blurt everything out, but if he wanted to talk, she needed to be honest and up front about her feelings and emotions.

Eli looked down at his lap as he stroked Kerfluffle. The muscle ticked in his jaw and he seemed to be contemplating what to say…or how delicate he should be with his words.

“Don’t be afraid to tell me we can’t have any more than just these few months together, Eli.” She swallowed, forcing tears back as the ache in her body threatened to consume her. “I’m not eighteen anymore and I have a more realistic view on life. I didn’t expect you to fall into bed with me and then fall in love all over again and decide to stay.”

“But I have,” he whispered.

Hope spiraled through her. Had she heard him right?

He brought his dark gaze up to meet hers. The intensity staring back at her had Nora’s breath catching in her throat.

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“I did fall in love with you again, Nora. I never stopped loving you.”

“I know you said that the other night when…” She trailed off, shaking her head. “I just didn’t know how strong you felt about me, about us.”

He reached out, put one hand on her stomach and held her gaze. “When you say ‘us,’ I know you mean me and you. But when I say ‘us,’ I’m talking the three of us. I know this baby isn’t mine, Nora, but I love you, and I love this child. I want to see if we can grow together, to be a family.”

The tears Nora tried to hold back earlier came spilling down her cheeks…now for a whole different reason. He wasn’t leaving her; he wanted to be with her.

“What about Atlanta?” she asked. “You loved being away from Stonerock.”

“But I never loved being away from you,” he told her. “I’ve been gone for years. Years. And in all that time I haven’t found anything that comes close to fulfilling my heart the way you do.”

Nora covered her face with her hands as sobs ripped through her.

“Oh, honey, please. Don’t cry.”

Eli’s arms came around her and she found herself crushed against his chest.

“I know you’ve been on a roller coaster lately, so I want to take this slow.” His soft chuckle vibrated against her. “As slow as we can considering we’ve already slept together. But I want to make this right and I don’t want to mess this up.”