“Thank you,” he said, his voice hitching.
Their eyes locked and they didn’t say anything. Against every rational thought in his head he reached out and touched her cheek. She sighed when he touched her, closing her eyes, and he bent down, his lips barely grazing hers. His pulse thundered between his ears…
Evelyn jumped back, as did Derek when he heard Mo call from the other room.
She came into the kitchen. “Evie! You came!”
Evelyn smiled and cleared her throat nervously. “You bet I did. A promise is a promise.”
Mo looked at his hand. “What happened, Daddy?”
“I cut it. Just an accident. Dr. Saunders fixed it for me.”
Mo beamed. “Good job, Evie.”
Evelyn picked up the box of cupcakes. “I brought you these from Sally’s. How’s your head?”
“Ooh, yum! My head hurts a little. Do you want to come see my room?”
Evelyn looked at him, as if asking for permission. He appreciated that. He nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Sure,” Evelyn said.
Mo took her hand and led her out of the kitchen while Derek tried to regain some of his composure.
It had just been a light kiss, barely a kiss, but it had seared his soul. Then Mo had almost walked in on them, and that was a scary thought indeed.
He couldn’t let that happen again.
Even if he wanted it to happen again.
EVELYN DID NOT sleep a wink that night.
The rest of the evening had been completely awkward, but little Mo hadn’t seemed to notice at all. She’d been happy as a lark as they’d had a dinner of macaroni and cheese with a side of chicken fingers.
Derek had barely looked at her, and when he had talked to her he’d referred to her as “Dr. Saunders.” Still, there had been some stolen, heated glances which had made her pulse quicken, her blood burn and her guilt to go into overdrive.
Mo had almost caught them kissing.
She didn’t even want to think of what it would have done to Mo if she’d seen them. She remembered when she’d walked in on her father kissing Jocelyn and how it had made her feel to see her father with someone who was not her mother.
Evelyn didn’t want Mo to go through that confusion. Or feel guilty later for destroying her father’s happiness. She would never forgive herself for ruining her father’s happily-ever-after.
As much as she had wanted that kiss to continue, it was good that it had been interrupted. It was good that it hadn’t continued for Mo’s sake.
And she did really like Mo.
Mo was the sweetest, most darling girl Evelyn had ever met. When she pictured having a daughter, someone like Mo was what she pictured.
But being with Mo just reminded her of what she would never have. Of course she didn’t deserve to have it.
Finally her alarm went off and she rolled over and shut it off, groaning because she’d spent the night tossing and turning.
She just hoped Derek and their almost kiss didn’t make things awkward.
Evelyn dragged herself out of bed. She got ready as quickly as she could and saw that it was still early. She could probably beat Derek into the office and then lock herself away in an exam room until Jennifer came.
Even though it meant that she would have to drink the horrible instant coffee that had been left in the apartment because she hadn’t had a chance to go shopping yet.
It would be worth it.
She didn’t want to run into Derek at Sally’s and have some weird, tension-filled meet-up that Sally would be privy to and that would soon become the talk of the town. She might have been away for a long time, but she still knew how these towns worked.
As she rounded the corner she ran smack-dab into something hard and warm.
Arms came around her to steady her. “Hey, watch out… Evelyn.”
Evelyn winced and looked up to see that Derek was the warm, hard wall she’d managed to run into.
“Derek,” she said uneasily. “I was about to start my day. How’s your hand?”
She knew she was babbling, but it couldn’t be helped. This was exactly what she’d wanted to avoid. It didn’t have to be awkward. They were professionals.
“Me too—and good,” he responded, slightly stunned.
“You were trying to avoid me, weren’t you?” she teased. “Just like I was trying to avoid you. Unsuccessfully, I might add, as we’re in such a small town.”
“Yeah…” He chuckled and rubbed a hand over his head. “I suppose I was.”
“Look, what almost happened was a mistake. It doesn’t have to happen again. It won’t happen again.”
He nodded. “It’s not that I… I have Mo to think about. But I want you to know that I don’t regret what almost happened. Just that with Mo I have to be careful.”