Bess looked at the handsome physician still standing opposite her. “I assume by the way you just said that there’s an ulterior motive?”
He lifted his hands. “I need you to talk them out of something.”
Of course he did. His three little girls were known for both their stubbornness and their indefatigable efforts to always get their own way. Fortunately, Jack’s fifty-six-year-old housekeeper and nanny was pretty good at getting and keeping them on track. “Can’t Mrs. Deaver back you up?”
Jack scrubbed a hand across his face. “She’d prefer not to get involved with this one.”
Bess paused, aware that the mystery of whatever was going on in his estrogen-fueled household had already drawn her in. Even though she knew she had to be careful not to get too involved in the sexy widower’s problems, given her current emotionally vulnerable state.
“Which begs the question, then, Doc. Should I?” she retorted, enjoying the switch back to their usual playful banter.
The corners of Jack’s eyes crinkled. “Just join us for pizza.”
As she had many times in the past when he required an extra hand corralling his girls. She sighed. Why was he so damned hard to resist? And why did he keep coming back to her for help, when he could have had any number of other single females in the community rushing to his aid?
Oh, that was right. He picked her because he’d never been attracted to her. And assumed–wrongly, as it happened–she felt exactly the same about him.
As if sensing she was on the edge of refusing, Jack took her hand and said, “Please?”
Her hand tingling, Bess stepped away from him and moved behind her desk to power down her computer. “All right,” she said, pretending the absolute last thing she wanted was to spend time with him. She grabbed her coat and bag. “You’ve convinced me.”
The corners of his lips lifted in a brilliant smile. “The girls will be so pleased.”
But what about you, Jack? How do you feel? Am I just a convenience? A family friend? Backup nanny or mother figure? And if that’s all I am, how much longer can I go on this way?
He walked her out into the hallway, his nearness inundating her with the smell of wintergreen breath mints, hospital soap and the brisk masculine essence that was him. “Six thirty okay?”
Bess nodded. “I’ve got to go home and change clothes, but then I’ll be over,” she said as they reached the elevators in the hospital annex where all the offices were located. As she turned to look up at him, she couldn’t help but think about how much taller he was, and she wondered what it would feel like to be hauled up against his hard, strong body and kissed. “I can’t stay too long, though. I’ve got to visit my new puppy tomorrow.” She was really holding on to that ray of sunshine in her life. She needed that kind of boundless love.
“Well, what do you know?” Jack said, feigning astonishment. “I’ve got an appointment with Winfield Golden Retrievers, too.”
She knew he’d been thinking about putting a deposit down on one of the female pups in the litter because he’d asked her a gazillion questions. About dogs in general, which were good for kids, this particular type of sporting dog and, most important of all, the breeder.
Bess set down her bag and struggled into her jacket. When it got caught around her midriff, he reached over to help her. Tamping down the pleasure the mere brush of his fingertips evoked, she tugged the ends of her long hair from her collar and asked, “Do the girls know?”
“No.” Ever chivalrous, he picked up her bag and handed it to her. “I’m hoping to surprise them with the news tomorrow. If their first meet and greet at the ranch where you’re getting your new puppy goes well, that is.”
“It will,” Bess promised. His children had wanted a pet for as long as she had, especially four-year-old Nicole.
“Let’s hope so,” Jack said as the doors slid open.
As their eyes met, Bess had the oddest sensation he wanted to say or do something else. But the moment passed. Instead, he simply reached out and stopped the elevator doors from closing, holding them for her. With a smile of thanks, she stepped inside. And that, it seemed, was that.
Excerpt from A TALE OF TWO CHRISTMAS LETTERS by Cathy Gillen Thacker, (C) 2019, Harlequin Special Edition
Texas Legends: The McCabes
Will a single dad and three little girls fulfill her secret Christmas wish?
Rehab nurse Bess Monroe is mortified that she accidentally sent out two Christmas letters she never meant anyone to see! Jack McCabe, widowed surgeon and father of three little girls, offers his friendship to get through the holidays. But their pact soon turns into something more. Can a woman who’s been burned by love open her heart to Jack for the holidays–and maybe forever?
About Cathy Gillen Thacker
Cathy Gillen Thacker is a popular Harlequin author of over one hundred novels. Married and a mother of three, she and her husband resided in Texas for eighteen years, and now make their home in North Carolina. Her mysteries, romantic comedies, and family stories have made numerous appearances on bestseller lists, but her best reward is knowing one of her books made someone’s day a little brighter.