Eli nodded to his younger brother. “I agree. And doctors are such a pain to treat.”
Drake laughed, plopping right next to Eli. “Are you the pot or the kettle, Dr. St. John?”
“Boys,” Bev scolded. “I will make sure your father watches what he eats and gets more exercise.”
“Lifting the remote in his off time does not constitute as a workout,” Eli told her, reaching across to squeeze her hand. “But if I know Dad, this scared him. He may not admit it, but he’ll start being more cautious.”
A cell phone chimed and Eli jerked around to see both Cameron and Drake checking their sides. As the police captain, Cameron tended to be popular even off his shift, and as the local fire chief, Drake was always in demand, too.
Yeah, these rebel teens did all right for themselves, despite what the townsfolk may have initially thought.
Cameron came to his feet. “I’m the winner. Be right back.”
He walked through the double doors and headed out, taking his cell from his pocket. Eli was a minority in that he loved being on call. He’d been home less than twenty-four hours, but he already missed being needed, missed saving people under high-pressure circumstances.
And for the next three months, he’d be right here in Stonerock, Tennessee, treating cold and flu symptoms, random viruses and allergies, if spring hit early.
Eli glanced up to see Nora breezing in. She had on that happy gear again with the bright red coat, colorful scarf and hat. Juggling sacks of food and another sack full of bottles of water, she looked very rushed and worn as tendrils of wispy blond hair slid from her cap.
Both he and Drake came to their feet to help her.
“I had to fit in a last-minute emergency.” She handed over the drinks and food and collapsed into the nearest seat. “Have you heard anything?”
“The doctor just came out and said he did beautifully,” Bev said, taking a bottle of water from Drake.
Nora’s shoulders relaxed, her head tilted back against the chair and she sighed. “That’s such a relief. How are you all holding up? I saw Cameron out front on the phone.”
“We’re doing great now that Dad is out of surgery and food arrived,” Drake told her with a slight wink.
Eli didn’t want his youngest brother winking at Nora. The two may be old friends, but Eli was, well, he was…absolutely nothing in her life. So if Drake wanted to wink, then so be it. That didn’t mean Eli had to like it or watch.
Nora had to be exhausted because she sat stone-still, wearing her coat and hat. Apparently she wasn’t staying.
Eli unwrapped a burger and tore into it, focusing on his growling stomach and not the dark circles beneath Nora’s eyes or the way her face had slimmed down since he’d seen her the last time he’d visited.
The woman looked physically drained and it would be completely rude of him to say anything. Besides, he had no place in her personal life. Perhaps working herself like mad was her only way of coping with Todd’s death.
And even though Todd had died a hero to his country, the man didn’t deserve Nora’s tears…or Eli’s heavy dose of remorse.
“How are you feeling?” Bev asked Nora.
Nora lifted her lids and turned to smile at his mother. “I’m just tired. Thankfully the weekend is here and I have the next two days off. That is unless someone needs me, in which case they’ll call me at home or just come knocking on my door, pet carrier in hand.”
“You should consider hiring someone else to help you or getting stricter on your hours,” Bev offered.
Nora shook her head. “I’m going to have to pretty soon. I have a couple of people in mind. It will all depend on what they will accept for payment.”
Eli listened, but refused to get involved. Over and over he kept telling himself he was only here for a short time. Whatever was going on now would still be going on long after he was gone.
Five years ago, when he’d considered coming back, he’d discovered Nora and Todd had started dating. Eli knew then he’d blown his chance for a reunion ? ?. Now Eli needed to stay focused on his own goals of helping his father by working in his clinic and getting back to the potential new job when he returned to Atlanta. End of story. He wasn’t back here to do anything but to be a fill-in…and not for a late husband.