A Christmas Kiss with Her Ex-Army Doc(3)

By: Tina Beckett

The light touch had deepened into an actual kiss that had had his hands cupping her face. When they’d finally parted, they’d both stood there staring at each other, and she’d whispered his name. The wonder in her tone had almost transformed a friendship into something else. Almost. Until he’d remembered that she was the apple of her daddy’s eye, and Clancy was a motorcycle-riding rebel.

A few days later his best friend had told him he’d asked her to their prom and that she’d said no, but he was hoping she’d change her mind. Clancy had instinctively known that Jacob was right for her in all the ways that Clancy was wrong. So he’d set out to prove that to her. And had succeeded far too well, since she had indeed accompanied Jacob to the prom.

Only what he’d found out about his friend later had made him rethink that decision.

He shook off the thought.

“Clancy, what are you doing...?” Her eyes widened slightly when they passed over his chest, and it took him a minute to realize she wasn’t looking at him, rather at his lanyard. Maybe she’d been hoping he was just here to visit someone.

No such luck, sweetheart.

And since she was sporting a matching lanyard and had a stethoscope draped around her neck, she was here on business as well.

His gut tightened. So much for this job being a godsend. “Did you change professions?”

“I did, actually.”

His gaze strayed to her left hand. Jacob’s ring was gone and no one else’s graced it. Dammit. It was none of his business whether or not she was involved with anyone.

More people were entering the room, a few of them sending quizzical glances their way as they passed. “Well, I guess I’d better head in,” she said. “I was waiting on someone, but they’re evidently running late.”

Waiting on someone. A boyfriend? Friend?

His gut gave a painful spasm. She’d already been married once. And Jacob wasn’t around to care.

But Clancy was.

Again, none of your business.

“All right. I’ll see you in there.”

He let her go, purposely waiting a minute or two before moving into the room. That way he wouldn’t feel obligated to sit by her. Not that she’d want him to. If anything, she’d made it pretty obvious that seeing him hadn’t been a pleasant surprise.

Why would it be? He had done a good job of playing the field. He’d convinced her and everyone else—including himself—that he was not the settling-down type.

He grabbed the first seat he could find, forcing himself not to try to locate her in the group. But of course he did, because what his mind dictated wasn’t always followed by his body. She was two rows ahead of him, talking to the person next to her. The same woman she’d stood outside with.

She was a nurse.

Hollee loved animals, so he was surprised by her career change. And dismayed. It was going to be hard to avoid her, and after not seeing her for five years... Well, the memory of their past and that kiss had hit him a lot harder than it should have.

She hadn’t changed much, that red hair combined with the tiny freckles that dotted her nose were all still there, and still just as beautiful.

Fortunately, before he could dwell on that thought any further, the hospital administrator went up to the podium and called for everyone’s attention.

“Thanks for coming. I’ll try to be brief.” A few chuckles went up, which Clancy took to mean that brevity wasn’t normally the man’s forte.

“First of all I’d like you to welcome the hospital’s newest addition. Clancy de Oliveira will be joining our reconstructive surgery team. Dr. de Oliveira, could you stand so people can see you?”

He did as he was asked, nodding to those who turned to look. He gave a small smile at the one head that hadn’t turned toward him before taking his seat again.

The administrator went on to talk about the terrible tragedy that had befallen several small towns in Appalachia. The poverty-stricken area had suffered flooding from the record rainfall, and just as the waters had begun receding, and they’d been trying to dig out from beneath the mud, a tornado had ripped through, leaving a wide swath of destruction. Dozens were dead, and a big part of the population was in misery. People in the area had opened their homes to those who were without. But there was a lot still to be done.

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