“Oh, no. I don’t mind at all.”
Eli shuffled his feet behind her and Nora turned to see his eyes directly locked on to hers. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t block old memories from sliding into the forefront of her mind.
Her mother may have been a drifter, but one of her boyfriends that had come and gone had lived in Stonerock. When Nora had been a teen they’d moved here and Nora knew this was the place she’d stay. Her mother had hung around for a few years, allowing Nora to actually make friends, find teen love and experience her first heartache.
Speaking of, Eli now held her gaze with those dark-as-sin eyes that used to mesmerize her. They still did.
“Bringing lunch would mean a lot to us, Nora,” he told her.
Why did she have to still find him attractive? Why did that new scar intrigue her and make her want to know all about his life since he’d left?
Stupid hormones. She did not have time for this.
Nora turned to see Mac coming down the hall, a huge smile on his face and arms open wide. She loved this family, she honestly did, and they’d cared for her for so long she didn’t know what she’d do without them.
They’d been there for her when Eli had gone off to the army and her mother had moved on. Mac had actually helped her with vet school, covering what financial aid hadn’t.
They’d been there when Todd was killed. Mac and Bev were the loving, doting parents she’d always longed for.
And the thought of Mac having open-heart surgery terrified her. She knew he needed it, but there was always that chance that something could go wrong. Even though she treated animals, she knew more than enough about the surgery to be worried.
“Oh, now.” Mac took her into his arms and patted her. “Don’t tear up on me, Nora. I’ll be fine and back home grumbling in no time.”
Nora sniffed and eased back in Mac’s arms. “I’m just tired, that’s all. I know you’ll be in good hands and I’ll be there to make sure your family is taken care of.”
Mac squeezed her shoulders and nodded. “I couldn’t ask for a better daughter.”
Nora’s heart squeezed. He’d often referred to her as the daughter he’d never had. Being friends with Eli’s younger brother Drake had introduced her to the family, but it wasn’t until she started dating Eli that she truly felt the family bond she’d always craved. She’d thought watching him leave was the hardest thing she’d ever face. Boy was she wrong. The past few years had been difficult, but the past several months had been a whole new level of hell. One day at a time she was crawling out, trying to get back to some sort of stability in her life before she brought a baby into this world.
“I better let you guys go.” Nora moved toward the door, careful not to touch Eli. “I’ll be praying for you, Mac, and I’ll be by the hospital after work.”
She fled the family scene before she really did something stupid like break down in full snot-and-tears mode. Who knew pregnancies could produce such a juxtaposition of emotions?
Heading to her home next door, Nora crossed the lawn, speckled with a hint of snowflakes. She knew there was no way just one pint of Rocky Road would soothe her tonight and wine was out of the question.
There was only one thing left to do: she’d have to pull out all the stops and liberate the large supreme pizza from her freezer emergency stash. And seeing Eli looking all perfectly intriguing and mysterious with his scar and demanding presence definitely constituted an emergency.
While she hated pity from others, Nora felt she was entitled to throw herself a pity party. Once she gorged herself on junk and maybe indulged in a bubble bath, she’d feel better.
She placed a hand on her bump and smiled. She had four months to regain control of her life and emotions because, no matter the turmoil, Nora would provide stability and love to this baby…even if she was alone.
The surgery went beautifully and there were no complications.
Eli breathed a sigh of relief once the cardiologist confirmed the news. He also told them Mac would need to be monitored for a few hours before he could have visitors.
“Now we have to focus on getting him better and making sure he takes care of himself,” Cameron said, taking a seat back in the waiting area.