Frowning when he finally reached the counter, Eli noticed the name tag on the young man standing behind it read Jonathon Krevin. He held out his hand as he introduced himself. “Mr. Krevin, I’m Dr. Elijah Preston. I’m filling in for Dr. MacDonald until his leg is healed.”
He waited, hand outstretched, until he noticed the man’s attention was held elsewhere. He turned his head to stare in the direction of the rapt pharmacist, only to view tight denim jeans hugging a curvy derriere. He immediately recognised who the luscious appendage belonged to. Constance Thyme had obviously bent down to retrieve something from a bottom shelf on one of the aisles and was contemplating a range of shampoos.
Eli’s scowl deepened, his lips twisting into an unhappy kind of kiss as he contemplated his options.
Crap! Constance would know that wintery voice anywhere and it was right behind her. She bent quickly and pretended to concentrate on the display at the bottom of the shelves. She had no idea what she picked up, but there was no way she was going to talk to the cold block of ice if she could help it.
The masculine chill aimed directly at her, hit her senses. She straightened her shoulders and stood, turning slowly to prolong the charismatic effect he seemed to unleash on her. Once she’d fully turned and could take in the view, she understood it was the wrong move. She should have fled from the building the moment she’d heard his voice.
She was surprised he’d acknowledged her. He certainly hadn’t seemed the chatty type on the boat.
“Captain Thyme, not supplying fish to strangers this evening?” He smiled, but it was with a measured observation. Constance ignored it and smiled warmly back. “No, there aren’t many strangers that come to Thornapple, Dr. Preston, and please, call me Constance. I always think of Captain Thyme as my father. He owned the boat before me.”
She was suddenly mesmerised. Did his eyes just soften a little? Had she said something significant? Why did the tiny change of expression make her insides feel all gooey?
“Then you’ll have to call me Eli.” There was a warmth to his gaze that had Constance slightly taken aback. It was sincere, a complete turnaround to the man she’d met the day before. Maybe he was bipolar? “All right, Eli. Did you enjoy your first day of work?”
“No!” That one word said in such a dry and succinct manner made Constance laugh and elicited a chuckle from Eli as well.
“They mean well.” She hoped her smile showed the right amount of pity.
“No, they don’t. I take it you heard about my directive?”
Constance was fascinated by eyes suddenly alive with blue fire as his smile turned to such a naughty-boy grin. Had he just asked a question? “Oh no, a directive. It must have been bad.”
“I’m sure you’ll hear about it soon enough. I informed my waiting room that if they spoke to me above a certain decibel, or came to me with nothing more than a stubbed appendage, I’d give them an oral exam they’d not soon forget. I also charged a few of them.”
Constance stared wide-eyed for a few seconds. “But the NHS?”
“The National Health Service doesn’t need to be charged for women trying to pledge their daughters to me in some medieval hand fasting event. The charge was barely minimal, and those with true grievances were signed off.” He sounded irritated. She didn’t understand why losing the pleasant accord from before made her sad.
“Absolutely brilliant tactic, although you’ll have to bear the brunt of some serious gossip. I get the feeling you’re tough enough to weather it. The last doctor was quite young. The poor bugger was inundated by good meaning mothers and daughters until he all but ran from the place. You might actually last your term.”
“Not only will I last, but I have every intention of doing so in peace.”
“I doubt you’ll get your wish, but I’ll hold out hope for you.” Constance had become very comfortable all of a sudden. They’d actually had a conversation. It had flowed easily and what was worse, she didn’t want it to end. Especially since her gaze had slipped from those melting blue eyes and was now fascinated with those taut lips. They appeared to move sensuously over every mundane word. She mentally berated herself for her stupidity.
“Hope is a very strange thing, Constance Thyme, and something I haven’t had much of, as late. Yet all the signs lead me to believe there may be some left in the world for me, after all.” This time a secret kind of smile played at his mouth. Her stomach dipped. It was… Oh God, he looked better than good.