Dating The Millionaire Doctor

By: Marion Lennox

‘Tori. Barb says she’s the vet up on the ridge, part of the group that rent your house. I’m thinking I should have met her before this, but since the fires life’s been crazy. Any negotiation’s been done through Barb. Then tonight…I couldn’t make her talk, but at least she stayed the full five minutes. Unlike you. You didn’t say anything to upset her, did you? Barb’ll have me hung, drawn and quartered if you’ve hurt her feelings.’

‘How could I have hurt her feelings?’

‘You say it like it is,’ Rob said. ‘Not always best.’

‘I don’t tell lies, if that’s what you mean.’

‘So what did you tell her?’

‘Just that I was here to make up the numbers.’

‘Right,’ Rob said. ‘That’d be a turn-on. I’m speed dating because I’m being kind. Woo-hoo.’

‘Look, it doesn’t matter anyway,’ Jake said, shoving his hands into his pockets and staring out at the vast night sky. Hankering for Manhattan where stars were in shop windows and not straight up. ‘I’ll get the house on the market and leave again, though I don’t know why you can’t do it for me.’

‘I offered, if you remember, and for once you decided to take an interest and come do it yourself.’

‘The figure seemed ludicrously low.’

‘Who wants a house on top of a fire-prone ridge?’

‘It was snapped up pretty fast after the fires.’

‘Only because there was still green feed around it,’ Rob said bluntly. ‘And you offered it rent free. But six months on, there’s feed everywhere, and it’s smoke damaged. Property values on the ridge will rise again but not until the memory of the fire fades a bit. So many of the people round here lost someone. You’re lucky you weren’t living here yourself.’

Yeah, well… Luck had all sorts of guises, Jake thought, as they headed back down the valley towards the second property his father had left him-a lodge with attached vineyard. His mother would definitely say he was lucky not to live here. His mother would be devastated that he was here now.

But how could he help but come? Jake was wealthy before his father died, but his father’s death had made him more so. The combined properties, even at post-fire prices, were worth a fortune.

Why had he held onto them? That was a question he was having trouble facing, and maybe that’s why he was here-seeking some final connection to his father.

Apart from financial support-given grudgingly, according to his mother-Jake’s father had played no part in his life. He hadn’t contacted him all through his childhood. There’d been nothing. But twelve years ago, when Jake qualified as a doctor, he’d finally received a letter. Congratulating him and wishing him all the best for his future. Intrigued, he’d written back. That’s when he’d discovered his father was working as a country doctor in the hills outside Melbourne.

He’d decided he wouldn’t mind getting a personal idea about this man who’d cared for him financially but in no other sense. Tentatively he’d suggested a visit.

But, ‘I hear your mother’s ill and she’d hate it,’ his father had said bluntly. ‘I’ve married again. We’ve all moved on. After all these years, what’s the point? I’m glad you’ve graduated and I’m proud of you. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to contact you before, but now I have…let’s leave it there.’

So he’d left it, and then life grew busy. He’d immersed himself in his career. He’d visit Australia one day, he promised himself, but then five years ago his father died, suddenly, of a massive coronary.

Jake had finally come then, to a funeral that shocked him with the community outpouring of grief. He’d sat at the back of the church and watched strangers cry for a father he didn’t know. A father who hadn’t even objected when his mother had changed his name back to hers. Who seemed to have little connection to him at all.

But when tentatively he’d confessed to the elderly lady beside him who he was, to his astonishment she’d known all about him.

‘I’m one of Old Doc’s patients-and you must be Jake,’ she’d said, sniffing and beaming a watery smile at him. ‘His American son. Doc had a baby picture of you up on his clinic wall. I used to say to him it was a shame your mother took you away, but he’d say, “Just because he’s in the States doesn’t make him any less my son. I love him wherever he is.”’

He’d loved him? That was the first he’d heard of it. The woman had wanted to introduce him around, but he was so shocked he’d simply walked away.

Maybe he should have sold the properties then, but it had seemed wrong. Troubled by the conflicting messages he was getting-had his father indeed cared?-and by the morality of accepting such an inheritance, he’d employed Rob to manage the properties and he’d retreated to the States. To his all-consuming career as chief anaesthetist at Manhattan Central.

But now, finally, he’d returned.

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