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Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas Jules Bennett 2022/8/5 16:55:28

“The doctor said we could go back and see Mac, but not until later,” Bev said, pushing her silver hair behind her ears. “Why don’t you guys take a break and come back this evening.”

Cameron came striding down the hallway, sliding his cell back into the pocket of his jeans. He leaned down, placed a very innocent peck on Nora’s cheek, and Eli had to take another bite of his burger to keep from reacting.

This was a widow, for crying out loud. Not only did his brothers have no room to wink or give kisses, he sure as hell had no business getting jealous.

“Thanks for the food,” Cameron said, grabbing the last burger. “You’re an angel.”

“Your standards are low if you’re that impressed over a cheeseburger.”

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The banter between his brothers and Nora took Eli back to when they were all teens, before life intervened…before he’d grown strong feelings for her and watched her marry another man.

She’d fit into his family beautifully. Everyone had thought he and Nora would end up together. Their ultimate dreams and the bigger picture just didn’t match up. But that didn’t mean he’d ever stopped caring for her…or loving her.

“I’m going to head to the clinic and check things out.” Eli came to his feet and tossed his trash in the wastebasket beside his chair. “I’d like to glance at the schedule for next week and look at some charts.”

“Don’t mess too much up in the office area,” Drake warned. “If you do, Lulu will have your head.”

Eli groaned. His father’s receptionist, real name unknown, was not a typical receptionist. In fact, she was flat-out weird and if she hadn’t been at his dad’s office for the past twenty years, he’d suggest his father hire someone else. But she knew the place inside and out and could answer any questions he had.

Eli only hoped she’d keep the flask at home, the nail files put away and her cleavage covered while she assisted him for the next few months.

“I promise not to bother any of Lulu’s things,” he stated.

Bev stood, wrapped her arms around him and kissed his cheek. “You don’t know what it means that you’re here, Eli.”

Easing back, Eli looked her in the eye and smiled. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else, Mom.”

After making sure one of his brothers would be there for their mom until he returned, he said a quick goodbye to Nora, who had also come to her feet.

“I’ll walk out with you,” she said. “If that’s okay.”

Eli nodded. This was going to be a long three months if he didn’t get over these emotions that kept sliding up and choking him. He’d managed to dodge such strong feelings before when he’d visit because the occasional “hi” as they passed in the yard didn’t resurrect too much. The thought of spending actual time with her, probably learning more about her personal life, had Eli’s mind all in a jumbled mess.

Nora walked by his side toward the double sliding glass doors leading outside. They’d passed the concrete fountain in the middle of the circular drive-up area and visitor benches before she finally broke the uncomfortable silence.

“You don’t seem happy to be back.”

Eli squinted against the afternoon sun glistening off the light dusting of snow on the grass and guided her down the sidewalk toward the visitor parking. “I’ve been nervous with Dad’s surgery. And to be honest, I’m anxious about his practice. I hope the people in town will accept me as their doctor while dad’s recovering.”

Nora’s delicate hand came up to his forearm as she stopped walking. Eli turned to look at her. The unusually bright winter sun almost created a halo effect around her colorful hat. When he noticed her squinting against the sun, too, Eli shifted his stance to cast a shadow over her.

“What I meant to say was, you seem uneasy with me,” she said, holding his gaze as if she dared him to look away.

Inwardly he smiled. He’d forgotten how she’d always been a take-charge type, never one to back down even if a topic was uncomfortable or awkward.

“I am,” he told her honestly. “I didn’t get to make it back for Todd’s funeral and I’m not quite sure what to say to you now that I’m here.”