A Christmas Miracle for the Doctor(2)

By: Victoria James

He looked down and swore. “It’s almost Christmas. What, you’re just going to fall of the face of the earth?”

She shrugged, embarrassment staining her cheeks red. “I wanted to go to Paris with Bruce.”

Revulsion slammed into his gut, but he forced himself to think clearly. “Let’s deal with this through our lawyers,” he said, needing physical distance from the woman who was even more selfish than him, not wanting to hear any more. He wasn’t thinking straight right now and didn’t want to agree to something he’d regret later.

“I knew I’d be able to count on you,” she whispered, taking a step closer to him, the smell of her Chanel perfume filling his nostrils. “I’ll make sure you’re well compensated.”

“I don’t need your money,” he said, backing up a step, disgust replacing the smell of Chanel. Jill came from a very wealthy family, but he didn’t need it. Just the idea of needing “compensation” to take care of his own daughter was revolting.

She gave a nod and a wobbly smile. “I’ll call you tomorrow. We can figure things out.”

He held onto the door frame tightly, giving her a nod. She turned and walked away, her lithe and sculpted body shown off to perfection in her clinging dress and three-inch heels. She gave him a wave before entering the elevator. He let the door close and slowly turned around, wondering what the hell he was going to do now.

Shame burned through his body as he saw Isabella standing at the end of the hallway. He stared into his daughter’s green eyes—his eyes—and he knew she’d heard. She’d heard them callously talk about her as though she were this worthless object neither of them wanted. They had broken her heart. He may have been an absentee father, but he wasn’t so far gone that witnessing the pain on her face wouldn’t affect him.

“Mommy doesn’t want me anymore?” she asked, her large eyes wide but void of tears.

He cleared his throat, and in all his years, all his mistakes, all his regrets, nothing had ever prepared him for the self-hate he felt at this moment, at hearing the pain in his daughter’s voice. He was better than this. His parents had raised him better than this. He was a smart man, but he didn’t know what to say, what he could do to make any of this better. “You are very loved, Bella. Your mother needs a little more time to…sort things out. Sometimes, adults need time on their own.”

She looked down at the ground, and he knew he should go over there, but he didn’t know what to do; he didn’t know how to comfort her. “Am I going to live with Brenda?”

The moment that Jill had told him she was pregnant flashed in front of him, their shock, their panic. They had never wanted to be parents. They had both mistakenly thought that if they could provide for their child, they were doing enough. There had been a nanny from day one, and they hadn’t missed a beat when it came to work. They never ate together, they never played together… He slowly walked to his daughter, each step feeling as though it would never be enough, that the divide was too great, that it was all too little, too late.

He stared down at his daughter’s head as shame suffocated him. She hadn’t even thought that living with him would be an option. She thought she would have to live with her nanny. He crouched down in front of her and reached out to gently grasp her little shoulders. “You’re going to live with me,” he said, waiting for something, even an ounce of relief, to flicker across her green eyes.

She looked nonplussed. “What happens if you need time alone away from me like Mommy?”

“I will never need time away from you,” he whispered hoarsely. He knew one thing about himself—he never broke his word. It was just that his words hadn’t been good enough this last decade, they hadn’t been about promises to other people, they’d been about promises to himself. He didn’t know if his word would be good enough, because Bella stared at him with skepticism.

“Okay, Daddy.”

He tried to smile, but it was a sorry attempt because there was nothing to be happy about. He and Jill were ruining her life.