“Come inside,” he said, surprising himself.

This was not treating Evelyn like all the other doctors who’d come through town. He’d never invited them over. They’d never known he had a daughter.

Yeah, but none of them had really cared about this place beyond serving their time.

Evelyn came from Wolf’s Harbor. She had an emotional investment in the people. She cared. And it was nice to have that in common with another physician in town.

Derek wanted her to stay, even if he knew it would be hard for her and for him. He liked working with her. He liked talking with her about medicine. He was lonely for that.

Evelyn coming here was like a breath of fresh air—one he didn’t want to end.

He’d felt as if he was suffocating before.

Evelyn nodded and he gently placed his hand on the small of her back to guide her in. Just that simple touch did something to him. It sent a zing of anticipation, of electricity through him and he was taken aback by it.

It made him think things that weren’t chaste.

Don’t think of her like that.

Only around her, it seemed, he couldn’t help himself, and constantly thought about her like that. He thought about what it would be like to run his hands through her hair, to taste her lips and feel her body flush against his.

You’re treading on dangerous ground.

Derek snatched his hand back as quickly as he’d placed it there. Then shut the door as Evelyn stood in the foyer and stared up at the exposed beams.

“Wow, it’s brighter in here. I don’t remember the exposed beams.”

“Yeah, I did some renovations when I first bought the place. It was a bit dark…” He closed his eyes, cursing himself inwardly. Maybe her father had built this home and he was insulting it.

Evelyn smiled at him and unwound the scarf she was wearing to hang it up on the hook by the door. “Yes, it was. It was cozy, but I like the exposed beams and the skylights. That’s a nice touch.”

“Thanks. The kitchen is in the back still.” Derek started walking toward the kitchen that he’d updated as well.

Evelyn followed him silently and it was awkward. You could cut the tension with a knife.

Why couldn’t this be easier?

You know why. It’s because you find her attractive and you hate yourself just a little right now.

There was no time for him to think of his selfish wants or desires. He was a dad first and a doctor second. That was all.

He didn’t deserve anything else.

He couldn’t get involved with someone who would leave town in a couple of months, and he certainly didn’t want Mo to get attached to someone who was leaving soon.

He set the box of cupcakes down on the counter and ran a hand over his head, unsure of what to do. It had been long time since he’d been on a date.

This is not a date. It’s a dinner for a colleague. It’s a thank-you dinner.

“Is everything okay with you?” Evelyn asked, standing in the kitchen door.

“Yeah. I… I didn’t think that you would come,” he admitted.

Evelyn chuckled. “Truth?”

“Yeah.”

“I almost didn’t,” she said.

He smiled and then they both laughed nervously, the tension melting away.

“I will say it’s not because of Mo. That’s not the reason why I almost didn’t come.”

“Then what is it?” he asked, shocked but secretly pleased. Usually it was his status as a single dad that threw women off.

“You haven’t exactly been friendly or welcoming to me since I arrived. Though if you had to deal with Dr. Pearson for the last month I can understand a fraction of that and I don’t even know the man.”

“Ah, yes. I have to apologize about that.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “Really?”

He nodded. “I have control issues when it comes to my clinic.”

She laughed gently. She had a beautiful smile.

“I hadn’t noticed.”

“I care a lot about my patients.”

“I have noticed that, and I admire it.”

His pulse kicked up a notch at the compliment. “You do? Most people…they don’t understand that.”

“I do.”

“I know. It’s refreshing.”

“How so?” she asked.

“Most doctors who come through here don’t care. They do their time, don’t interact and move on. You seem to care. You put yourself out there to get to know your patients.”

“I love my job, and an important part of the job is trust. I give it my all. And Wolf’s Harbor was my home once. My father loved his patients too. Coming here is a way to honor him.” She looked away, pink coloring her cheeks, as if she was afraid of him seeing her get emotional.

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