He shouldn’t be in her thoughts.
She was here to serve Stefanie’s rotation in Wolf’s Harbor and then she’d return to Sitka. And then… She didn’t know where.
There were so many opportunities.
Nathan hadn’t understood that about her. She wanted to keep learning and expanding her curriculum vitae. She wanted to learn from the very best in her field of work. And all Nathan had wanted to do was stay put, have kids and settle down.
You want those things too. You’re just afraid.
Evelyn ignored those thoughts. They were dangerous to have, and she was never going to entertain them. She was never going to have a husband or kids. She didn’t want to put her heart at risk or, worse, have her kids go through the traumatic experience that she had.
Evelyn swore she would never do that. Even if she wanted it badly.
“You’re restless, Evelyn.”
Nathan’s words echoed in her head.
Maybe she was, but she could protect herself better this way.
She took a sip of the instant coffee she’d made from the powder she’d found in a cupboard and winced.
It was awful. Bitter.
She dumped the coffee down the sink before gathering up her things and heading outside. She shivered, even though it was summer. It was brisk compared to Boston, and she was glad she’d brought her sweater.
Down the steps and through the alleyway beside the clinic was a small coffee shop, and she could smell coffee brewing.
The bell above the door jingled as she walked in and a sudden rush of being there before, washed over her. The scent of coffee and the sugary sweet smell of pies wafted in from the back.
She’d been here before, but she was having a hard time remembering it.
A middle-aged woman looked up from cleaning the counter and beamed. “Well, I’ll be…”
“Hi,” Evelyn said unsurely.
“Joe told me that you had come home.”
The woman came out from behind the counter and before Evelyn could stop her she was being wrapped up in the woman’s arms and crushed in a bear hug.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” the woman asked, her smile not disappearing.
“No, I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay.” The proprietor walked back behind the counter. “You left so long ago. Your father used to come in here every day to get coffee. I’m Sally.”
Evelyn smiled at Sally. “Nice to meet you…again.”
Sally grinned. “No worries. What will it be, Evie…? I mean, Dr. Saunders. That’s going to be hard for me to get used to saying. I can’t believe you’re a doctor. Your dad would be so proud.”
Just the simple mention of her father caused Evelyn a pang of longing. And then the memory came back to her.
Yellow curtains filtering in the bright sunlight on those odd days when the sun would peek through the clouds. Chocolate milk and her father blowing the steam across the top of his coffee before he took a sip. And her. That woman Jocelyn with her bright smile and golden hair. The one who’d tried to take her mother’s place.
Evelyn shook the memory away. She had to focus on today.
“Can I have a coffee, please?”
“Of course, Dr. Saunders.” Sally turned and picked up a carafe of coffee. It smelled heavenly. “Would you like it to go?”
“Yes, that would be great, Sally.”
Evelyn took a seat at the counter, her pulse thundering in her ears because nothing had changed. The drapes were faded, but everything was the same. She’d forgotten about this place, but the moment Sally had mentioned her father it had come flooding back to her.
And the pain was just as raw as it had been twenty years ago.
She hated feeling it again.
You knew this would be hard. That’s why you’re here.
The door chimed again and Derek walked in, pulling down the hood of his hoodie.
“Brisk out there today, Sally. Can I get…?” He trailed off as those brilliant gray-green eyes locked onto her, sending a shiver of the dreams from the night before through her.
His eyes were the most intense she’d ever seen.
“Good morning,” she said, breaking the gaze so she could look away and try not to let him see her blush by hiding behind her long hair.
“Good morning,” Derek said carefully, and took the stool next to her at the counter. “I see you got up early.”
“I told you that I would.” She held out her arm and pointed to her watch. “See—it’s set on Alaska time.”
A brief smile flitted across Derek’s face. “So it is.”
“And I have my key. So I’m not going to be a burden for you.”
Sally handed her a coffee. “There you go, Dr. Saunders.”
“Thanks, Sally. How much do I owe you?”