A Christmas Kiss with Her Ex-Army Doc(5)

By: Tina Beckett

“It’ll be no different than working at the hospital together, right?”

Except if Clancy had known she was here, he would have given more thought to accepting the position. Would it have stopped him? He couldn’t honestly say for sure. And she didn’t know what he’d done back then. Just that he’d turned a cold shoulder to her a few days after that kiss. “True. Only I’ll be working on a different floor.”

He was still surprised that she was a labor and delivery nurse, although he wasn’t sure why. Having children wasn’t a prerequisite for working there or anywhere else. But it was a relief to know her face—as beautiful as it was—wouldn’t greet him every single day. Because the question that had beaten in his skull for years was: Had he done the right thing?

Jacob’s confession that he’d asked someone to the prom hadn’t been what had shocked him into silence back then. Neither had the fact that his friend had thought he was in love with that person. It had been the who behind the speech. Because it had been Hollee. Their Hollee. His Hollee. Only she hadn’t been his. One shared kiss did not a relationship make.

Returning to the present, he stood firm, meeting her eyes. “It doesn’t matter where either of us works, so don’t worry about it. If you’re worried about what...happened, don’t. It was a long time ago. Before you and Jacob ever got together, and it was obviously a mistake.”

At the swift look of pain that flashed through her eyes he went back and tried to soften his words. “Let’s just let bygones be bygones.” And like his retirement from the military, it was best if he just kept moving forward.

“Thanks for that, Clance.”

The shortened version of his name made him clench his jaw. Mainly because hearing it on her lips brought back memories that were better off forgotten.

And if he couldn’t forget?

No, he’d grown harder and wiser during his time in the military. And part of that included discipline. The discipline to compartmentalize areas of his life so that they never touched. If he had been able to do it then, he could do it now.

So he forced a smile that was less than sincere and said, “Nothing to thank me for. I’ve moved on. And obviously you have too.”

Up went her chin in that familiar stubborn tilt. Only he wasn’t sure why she’d feel the need in this case. He was giving her an out. And himself as well. There was nothing to discuss. Now. Or ever.

“Yes, I have.” She moved a hand as if to brush a strand of hair behind her shoulder. Except her hair was pinned up with a clip, exposing the long line of her neck. Nervous gesture? It didn’t matter if it was. “Well, anyway, the hospital is very fortunate to have you here. I’m sure I’ll see you later.”

He was sure she would. Only Clancy was pretty sure he’d rather just avoid her whenever possible. But if they were both going to help in the flood-damaged area, there would be no avoiding anyone. They would be working closer than they’d ever imagined possible.

And he’d imagined all kinds of “closeness”... Once upon a time. His jaw tightened. Why was all this coming up again? Was it the shock of seeing her after all these years?

That had to be it.

As she walked away he was pretty sure it was more than that. And that he was doomed. Doomed to dig up things best left in the past. Doomed to sleepless nights of hearing her whisper his name. But there was one thing he wasn’t doomed to do, and that was to dwell on the mistakes of the past.

No matter how difficult that might prove to be.

* * *

Hollee punched her pillow for what seemed like the thousandth time and tried to get her racing mind to take a break. God. Why did he have to land at Arlington Regional of all hospitals?

And why did they both have to volunteer for this trip?

She could stay in Arlington, except the thought of pregnant moms not having access to health care wouldn’t let her take the coward’s way out. If she’d stayed the course with being a vet tech, she wouldn’t be in this predicament. She’d loved her old job with a passion, except for one thing. Putting animals to sleep. She’d thought she could get past it with time, but while she had been relieved when an animal’s suffering was finally over, it had been the decisions made for financial reasons that had killed her.

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