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Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas Jules Bennett 2022/8/5 16:55:42

“I’m a cop,” Cam said. “I’m pretty good at reading people. She’s got hurt written all over her and you’re being a recluse up here at Christmas of all times, which means you’re blaming yourself for something.”

Eli set his full longneck on the coffee table. Resting his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands, he stared at the gray rug beneath his bare feet.

“I hurt her,” Eli admitted, rubbing a hand over his bedhead. “I betrayed her trust just like Todd, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to be with me.”

Drake remained by the chair, hands on his hips. “Nora is down at Mom and Dad’s. They insisted she come over and eat. We really didn’t know anything was wrong until we saw her. She looks as if she’s been crying for days, man. You’ve got to fix this.”

Eli jerked his head up. “You don’t think I want to fix this? You think I enjoy knowing I’ve hurt someone I love? I was ready to stay here, settle down and make a life with her. I even bought her a damn ring.”

Drake and Cameron exchanged a look before Cameron crossed the room and took a seat at the end of the couch.

“I have no idea what happened, but you two can’t go on like this.”

“We won’t,” Eli stated. “I’m going to have to tell Dad I can’t stay and take over his practice. I’ll go back to Atlanta. I should know soon if that promotion is mine or not.”

“So because you’re too much of a coward to face this issue with Nora, you’re leaving Dad in a bind and the only woman you’ve ever loved all alone?” Cameron asked. “You’re a jerk.”

Eli came to his feet. “Shut the hell up. You have no idea what went on. None. So don’t come in here and start spewing relationship advice. What do you know, anyway? You’re married to your job.”

Drake came to his feet. “Calm down, Eli. You know we’re both here to try to help. Do you want to tell us what happened or do you want us to leave you alone on Christmas Eve so you can cozy back up to your beer?”

Sinking back down to the couch, Eli sighed and started from the beginning. He told them about the time he’d planned on coming home for good, he told them about the affair and then he told them how he really got that scar on his face.

Eli had a feeling this wouldn’t be the last time he told this story. Somehow, Nora would have to hear it. But he truly didn’t think he could talk to her, not when she’d been convinced that since he kept the secret it meant he was capable of infidelity, too.

That hurt worse than anything else she’d said. She obviously didn’t know him at all and everything he’d said and done to prove his love up to that point had been moot because she didn’t believe it.

By the time he’d bared his soul to his brothers, it was late and he couldn’t make himself go downstairs to dinner.

“Tell them I’m not feeling well. I don’t care what you say, but if Nora’s down there I don’t want her more uncomfortable.”

Cameron rolled his eyes. “You’re going to have to tell her everything. And you better do it soon before this tears Mom up. She’s worried about both of you.”

Eli nodded. “I can’t right now. I just… I can’t. Okay? Tell Mom I’ll be down first thing in the morning.”

“Don’t be surprised if Mom comes storming up here,” Drake joked. “But we’ll tell her.”

Cameron walked out and Drake gripped the door, turning around to meet Eli’s gaze across the small room. “I lost the love of my life, Eli. I can’t get her back. You still have a chance to go after happiness.”

And with that he was gone. Eli knew Drake lived with that hell every day of losing his fiancée in such a tragic way. He was right, though. Eli still did have a chance and maybe Nora wouldn’t listen to him, but maybe she would.

Once Eli was alone again he took his beer to the small kitchen and dumped it. When he turned back around he had the strongest urge to throw something. He hadn’t seen Nora for almost two days, hadn’t seen her smile, hadn’t tasted her lips, held her body against his…felt her baby kick.

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