Dating The Millionaire Doctor

By: Marion Lennox

When she left the room she’d looked confused. Now, however, she looked relieved, as if she’d spent her bucket-filling time figuring things out as well.

‘I know now why you’re here,’ she told him. ‘You’re Old Doc’s son. Jake. I loved your father.’ She hesitated as if she wanted to say something else, but then thought better of it.

‘So you’re here to put this farm on the market,’ she continued briskly. ‘That’s fine, but first I need to thank you.’ She abandoned her bucket, put her hands out and grasped his, holding them in the same strong grip of the night before, a grip that made him wonder how he’d ever thought her a mouse. The connection felt strangely…right.

But Tori wasn’t noticing connections. She was moving right on.

‘I can’t tell you how grateful we’ve been,’ she said. ‘It’s been fabulous-and Barb said you won’t take any rent. It’s been truly lifesaving.’ She looked across at the little koala in her cage, and her business-like tone faltered a little. ‘And now you’ll sell. That’s fine. We don’t need it any more. As soon as this one goes…’

‘She’s the only one here now?’

‘We release as soon as we can,’ she said, efficient again. ‘Wild animals respond to captivity with stress. There’s a few that are too damaged to survive on their own, but we’ve relocated them all now to bigger animal shelters. Places where they can have as close to a normal life as possible. So yes, there’s only this little one here now. And me.’

He frowned. ‘You’re living here?’

‘I… Yes. I hope you don’t mind. It’s easier.’

‘You’re on twenty-four-hour call?’

‘Not many of my patients buzz me. It’s not as hard as it sounds.’ She was opening the door onto the verandah and ushering him out, almost before he was aware of what she was doing.

There was a small dog lying on an ancient settee by the door. He’d seen him as he arrived. He was some sort of terrier, a nondescript brown-and-white mutt who hadn’t bothered checking Jake out when he arrived. Too old to care? He glanced up now, gave a feeble wag of his tail and then went back to what he was doing.

Which wasn’t sleeping, Jake realised. He was staring down the valley, as if he was waiting for someone.

Tori touched the dog’s ears, and the dog nosed her palm and went right back to looking. Waiting to go home?

‘You’ll be looking forwards to going home,’he ventured, and saw a flash of pain, hidden fast. Uh-oh, he thought. Stupid. If she was staying here… She’d be one of the hundreds burned out.

She hesitated and he knew he was right, but it was too late to retrieve the situation. ‘I guess I must be,’ she said slowly before he could think what else to say, and she shrugged. ‘No, of course I am. It’s time I moved on.’

‘Is that what you were doing last night-moving on?’

‘What I was doing last night was being conned by my friend. I gather you were conned as well. So when do you need me to move out?’

‘I don’t-’

‘It’ll be soon. You’ll need to clean the place up before you put it on the market. There’s a lot of smoke damage. Do you want to look through now?’ She glanced at her watch. ‘I have a teleconference in five minutes with our local shelter staffers, but you could look around yourself.’

‘I’d be happier if you could show me personally.’

Why had he said that? Surely he could see what he needed from here. What point was there doing a detailed inspection, and why did he need a personal tour from Tori?

She had him fascinated. There was something about the way her hand had shaken his, brisk, efficient, but also…there was something vulnerable about her. Something he couldn’t figure out.

She wasn’t sounding vulnerable, though. She was organising. ‘I can show you,’ she said, ‘but if you want the personal tour it’ll have to be later in the day. But tomorrow would be better.’

‘Is nine in the morning all right?’

‘Sure. When are you going back to the States?’

‘Monday.’ Six days away.

Suddenly six days seemed okay. If he kept the resort there was only this place to organise. He could be here again tomorrow and be shown over the property by Tori. Those jeans… He’d never seen jeans look this good on a woman.

‘I do need to get in to my teleconference,’ she said, a bit sharply, and he pulled himself together. What was he thinking? This woman was a country mouse-a vet who lived on the other side of the world to him. If she hadn’t stood him up on a five-minute date…

Was that what this was? Bruised ego?

‘Thank you very much for saving my koala,’ she said, starting to edge away.

‘What’s she called?’

‘I don’t name them. You get attached if you name them.’

‘You don’t get attached?’

‘I try hard not to. Now if you’ll excuse me…’

‘Of course,’ he said, but he was still surprised when she stepped back inside the house and closed the door sharply behind her.

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