Tears stung her eyes as she stared into the dark eyes of Joe Yazzie Sr. She could still see him standing on the Tarmac of the airport all those years ago when she’d been forced to move to Boston.
“I had to see with my own eyes,” Yazzie whispered. “I thought my son was bluffing me.”
Her stomach twisted into a knot as she wondered if he would turn his back on her. She wanted to run. She was afraid of his rejection in person, because his silence had hurt her as a child.
No. You have to face him. Good or bad.
“Uncle Yazzie…” she whispered, her voice faltering.
Derek was highly confused. “What’s going on here?”
Evelyn sighed and turned back to Derek. “I’m from Wolf’s Harbor. I’m a local.”
* * *
She’s a local?
If Evelyn Saunders was a local he would know that. He’d lived here for fifteen years and he knew everyone in this town because he was the general practitioner.
And he would remember her.
She was local?
He was still in a bit of disbelief over it all, but there was no denying it when he saw Joe Yazzie Sr.’s reaction to her.
The man who was usually stone-cold and emotionless had his arms wrapped around her, holding her and crying.
Derek did a double-take. He’d never seen Joe Sr. cry. Ever.
“Am I missing something?” Derek asked.
Joe took a step back, tears glistening in his eyes as he spoke some words in Tlingit.
Derek could only make out a piece of what he was saying. Something about someone being home?
Joe turned to him. “Dr. Taylor, this is my sister’s child. She’s been missing for over twenty years.”
“Missing?” Derek asked, confused.
Evelyn smiled up at Joe and then looked back at Derek. “My father died when I was ten and my guardian was my grandmother in Boston. A social worker came and—”
“Took her away,” Joe interrupted. “We were her family. Her father left her care to me and my mother. Evelyn is half-Tlingit and we would’ve cared for her, but we lost out to the Matriarch Saunders in Boston. There was no will, and a judge determined Georgina Saunders a better fit. She had the finances…we didn’t and couldn’t afford to fight. Georgina had sole custody. It broke my mother’s heart, being separated from her. We tried to call, but Georgina changed her number and blocked us at every turn.”
“I see.” Derek was in shock.
Joe turned back to Evelyn. “We tried to get in touch with you, Evie. I swear!”
Evelyn nodded, only Derek noticed a strange expression on her face, as if she didn’t quite believe it. “I know.”
“So you’re related to the Yazzie family? You didn’t mention it before,” Derek said.
Evelyn shot him a warning look. “It didn’t come up naturally in conversation.”
“I asked where you were from.”
“I am from Boston.”
Joe frowned. “Well, I’m glad you’re back, Evie. We have a lot to catch up on.”
“I think that’s my cue to go,” Derek said as he stood up.
“You don’t have to,” Evelyn said.
“I have things to do. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He quickly slapped down money for his beer.
He had to get out of this place. He had to put some distance between him and Evelyn. Fast. He’d overstayed anyways. He’d only come for a quick drink before he had to head home to relieve the sitter and deal with a cranky, fussy five-year-old who wanted the sitter to stay longer because Jessica read stories better than Daddy.
Derek looked back at the reunion scene. He smiled and for one brief moment wished he could stay. Evelyn’s smile made his heart skip a beat. It made him feel like his old self.
Seeing Evelyn with Joe Yazzie made him feel lonely.
She was from here.
She had family.
He frowned at the realization.
Evelyn had a reason to stay, and if she stayed…
He didn’t want to get his hopes up that another doctor would stay. They never did. So he was going to carry on believing she was like every other doctor before her. A doctor with a time limit.
Even if secretly he wouldn’t mind if she stayed, because he was so drawn to her and it would be nice to share the load—
That thought scared him.
There was no room in his heart for anyone else.
His heart was too broken, too damaged, for him to make room for someone again.
EVELYN GOT UP before her alarm in the morning. Of course it had been hard to sleep, because her emotions were all over the place.
The reunion with Uncle Yazzie had wrung her out completely, even if she had managed to keep it all together. And every time she’d closed her eyes she’d seen her father, her mother or Derek. And the fact that Derek had invaded her thoughts irritated her greatly.