The One Real Thing Page 73

“That’s what I feel, Doc, when I see her. I don’t see her betrayal anymore. I see his. I see Jack’s. She could have cheated with anyone. Any asshole. But she did it with him and she knew, she fucking knew, that man was like a brother to me.”

I heard the venom mixed with deep pain in his voice and I reached for him, gripping his hand tight as tears stung my eyes. There was so much pain there. So much pain buried down deep.

And I could see, I could recognize now, that it wasn’t for Dana. It was all for Jack Devlin.

“We were friends since we were kids.” He squeezed my hand so tight it was almost painful. “Closer than that. Brothers. Every shitty thing I ever went through, Jack was there by my side. There after my dad left. There when my mom died. Cried at my fucking side at her funeral,” he muttered.

I wanted to cry for him right now. “I’m sorry.”

His blue eyes pierced through me when he suddenly refocused. “Tonight I was ignoring Dana like I always did because I didn’t want to give her what she wanted—my attention. But threatening you . . . trying to fuck up what we have the way she fucked up my friendship with Jack . . .” He leaned in, his voice thick. “That heat I gave her wasn’t about her, Jessica, it was about you.”

His words drew me forward until my mouth hovered near his, and just like that the uneasiness that had resurfaced earlier at the mention of Sarah’s letters was shoved back down by my undeniable attraction to him. “Dana’s threat did the opposite,” I whispered, brushing his lower lip. “It just made me more determined to explore this connection between us . . . to make you happy.”

Cooper groaned and captured my mouth with his. It was a slow, languid kiss, but it was also deep and drugging, pulling my body under a now familiar sexual spell. He gently broke the kiss, leaning his forehead against mine. “You’re doing a great job, Doc.”

“Hmm?” I said, confused and dazed by the lust pumping through my blood.

He smiled knowingly. “Fuck, you’re adorable.”

“I’m doing a great job of what?”

“Of making me happy.”

A thrill zinged through my whole body, a thrill mixed with warmth and tinged with fear. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” He grinned. “Oh.”

EIGHTEEN

Jessica

“You know my vacation officially ends tomorrow,” I said after swallowing a bite of the pancakes Cooper had whipped up along with bacon and scrambled eggs.

Cooper had made me breakfast.

I’d never had a guy make me breakfast before.

I’d never stuck around long enough to give a guy time to make me breakfast.

“How do you feel about that?” Cooper said, sitting across from me, sipping his coffee. He’d already finished his food.

I was savoring mine.

Savoring the moment.

“It’s scary,” I said truthfully. “Not the new job. Bailey showed me the ropes and anything I don’t know I can learn as I go along.”

“So what’s still scaring you, Doc?”

“Well, that, for a start.” I gestured to him with my fork. “The not-being-a-doctor part. That is scary.”

“Remember, there’s a position open at Paul Duggan’s office. His daughter used to work for him, but she moved up to New Jersey with her husband. He needs another doctor in there. Some might call that fate.”

I gave him a wry smile. This town and its belief in fate.

Although, to be honest, I was tempted by the offer and tempted by the thought that maybe it was fate. It would make life easier to believe that, because it was a job I did well and one that had meaning for me, and the money would be better than what I’d make working for Bailey. However, I still wasn’t sure why I’d chosen to become a doctor. I used to think I knew. But everything had flipped on its head since I’d arrived in Hartwell, and I still wasn’t sure that being a doctor wasn’t repentance rather than a dream.

“I just . . . I need some space from it.” I shrugged.

“Sure that’s all it is?” he said.

I tensed at the suspicion in his voice. Looking at my plate, I shrugged again. “Sure.”

Silence fell between us and it didn’t feel as comfortable as usual. I had to fill it before he spoke up with more questions I didn’t want to answer. “What do you want to do today?”

Bailey had told me to enjoy my last day of vacation so I was doing that, and Cooper didn’t work the bar on Sundays. He left the management of it to Ollie on Sunday since it was one of the days he didn’t serve food, and things were a little easier to handle.

Cooper had just opened his mouth to reply when there was a loud bang at the front door two seconds before a tall, pretty brunette strode in with a young boy at her side.

His house was on the north side, a few blocks from Bailey’s small home, and it was very similar in style to hers. Everything was open plan. You walked in off the porch into the main room. There was a staircase in the middle of the space leading up to the second level. To the left of the staircase was a sitting area, to the right a dining area, and at the back of the room was a large kitchen.

We were currently in the dining room being stared at by the brunette and child.

“Oh.” The brunette was visibly confused. “Coop, I’m sorry. It’s . . . just . . . Sunday.”

The boy looked just as confused, his blue eyes boring into mine.

Cooper stood up and I found myself doing the same. I’d already guessed who the intruders were and now I had nervous butterflies in my belly. “Cat, Joey, this is Jessica. Jessica, this is my sister and nephew.”

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