Sally shook her head. “Not today. It’s on the house. A welcome back gift from me.”
“Hey, I’ve been your physician for fifteen years—how come I don’t get a free coffee every now and again?” Derek complained.
Sally frowned. “You’re not local.”
“I’ve been here longer than she has,” Derek teased.
Evelyn playfully stuck out her tongue and beamed at Sally. “I’ll see you later, Sally. Thanks for the coffee.”
She felt like skipping out of that coffee shop, but she refrained.
She didn’t get very far before Derek, carrying his own paper cup, came jogging up beside her. “You won over Sally pretty fast,” he said, sounding impressed. “Not many people do.”
“She seems cheerful enough.”
Derek’s eyes narrowed. “She knows you—but you don’t remember her, do you?”
“I told her that,” Evelyn said. “I was young when I left. Are you telling me she’s usually a grump?”
Derek frowned and took a pull of his coffee. “Maybe she’s only a grump with me. She said once that she didn’t like doctors.”
“I hate to break it to you, but I’m a doctor,” she said lightly.
“Yeah, but you’re Thorne Saunders’ daughter, and those who remember you have a warm fuzzy feeling when it comes to you. Which will change when you leave again.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Evelyn asked as Derek sidestepped her to open the door of the clinic. “And how do you know my father’s name? I never told you.”
“Come on—you’re not going to be here forever, Saunders,” he said as he stepped through the door and flicked on the fluorescent lights. “It’s just a phase. And I did some research last night. Your father was the first general practitioner to stay in Wolf’s Harbor. He was the first to stay and help the people here. I’m impressed.”
That gave her a punch in the gut that she hadn’t been expecting, because he was right. They remembered her father with fondness, but really they were just being kind. These weren’t her people.
She’d been gone too long.
And you’re the reason why your father’s dead.
“I’m just here to do my job. I can’t control people’s reactions to me. But if I instill some kind of trust in them while I’m here, then all the better.”
“Don’t get your feathers ruffled,” Derek said as he set his coffee cup on the counter. “I’m just stating a fact.”
“Yeah, because you’re annoyed by the townspeople’s reaction to me. My guess is they never really warm up to the other doctors that rotate through here. Am I right? And that gives you some sort of power.”
Those intense eyes flickered with something close to anger and she realized she’d struck a nerve.
“You have use of exam rooms three and four. One and two are mine for today.” He picked up his coffee cup and stormed away to the first exam room.
Evelyn was going to ask him more when the clinic’s door chimed and a young woman in scrubs came in, stopping dead in her tracks as she looked up at Evelyn.
“Oh, you’re not Dr. Merritt,” she said.
Evelyn sighed and plastered a fake smile on her face, bracing herself to explain who she was again. Hopefully the nurse wouldn’t gave the same contempt for her that Derek did, but she wasn’t going to hold her breath just yet.
* * *
Derek had been managing to avoid Evelyn all morning, but to give her credit she was taking good care of her patients and they genuinely looked happy to see her. Or at least that was what Janet, his nurse and current spy, had said.
He picked up the next file in his pile.
He always had trouble with this patient, and he couldn’t even begin to think why she was here today.
The venerable old woman stood up and fixed him with a stare that meant business. “Well, it’s about time. I’m not getting any younger.”
Derek tried not to roll his eyes—and then a thought crept through his head. If Evelyn was related to Mrs. Yazzie’s son Joe, then she was probably familiar with Katlian Yazzie. For one brief moment he thought about palming her off on Evelyn.
Mrs. Yazzie made it clear time and time again that she didn’t trust doctors. “I like you, Dr. Taylor. I just don’t trust you. I don’t trust any of you.” And he couldn’t help but wonder if she’d trusted Thorne Saunders. Most had.
Thorne was a bit of legend. He had been the first doctor to stay and after his death no one had stayed. Not until he came.