The morning light managed to sneak around the partially closed windows to fall across the face of the man lying on the couch. He grunted in his sleep and turned his head so that he was facing the back of the couch instead of the window. The movement caused his short brown hair to stick up in even more unruly spikes than it normally did. Unable to completely wake him from his slumber, the patch of sunlight continued on its way, bringing light to the room. He was just about to slip back into deep sleep when something landed in the center of his back.
Cameron grunted as the weight hit him. The weight was then followed by the sensation of something licking his back.
“Get off of me, you stupid cat,” he grumbled. Cam pulled his arms underneath him and pushed his upper body off of the couch. The cat hit the floor with a squeal. Cam gave a small snort of laughter. “That’s what you get for jumping on me.”
Cam sat up completely and rubbed sleep-heavy blue eyes. He ran a hand through his hair, doing nothing to tame the wild spikes that were sticking up all over his head. He scratched at the couch indent on his cheek with his left hand as his right hand fell to hang off the couch. Puddles, his cat, butted his hand and started to purr.
“Okay, I’ll get up.” Cam got to his feet with a groan and padded barefoot to the kitchen. He stumbled slightly as he stepped on one of the threads hanging from the cuff of his torn and faded jeans. Thankfully, he had managed to make it to the kitchen, so he was able to stop his fall on the center island.
Pushing away, Cam walked over to the fridge and yawned. He was just about to open it when he noticed the note stuck to it with an annoyingly bright daisy magnet.
You really shouldn’t sleep on the couch, Cameron; it just isn’t good for your back. You should throw out those jeans as well, or else people will think that you can’t afford to buy nice clothes. Don’t forget to pick up your niece at the airport and remember to tell her that I got her a summer job at the vet’s. I bought you groceries so you and Emily will have something to eat for dinner. Have a good day, sweetie. Love, Mom.
Cam sighed and pulled the note off of the fridge. He was starting to regret that he had given his mother a key to the house. She was constantly coming in while he was either out or asleep. Cam looked down at Puddles as the purring cat wound around his feet.
“You know, if you were a dog, she wouldn’t be able to get in the house without me noticing,” he commented. The only response he got was a louder purr from Puddles and the feel of a lick to his ankle.
Cam laughed at the cat and opened the fridge. It was indeed filled with food. Possibly more food than he really needed. It wasn’t like he didn’t know how to go grocery shopping and he wasn’t sure if Emily would like some of the stuff he could see sitting on his shelves. Hell, he didn’t like some of the stuff sitting on his shelves. Pulling the orange juice from the fridge, he walked over to the cupboard to get a glass. As he was reaching for the glass, he noticed the time.
He had twenty minutes before Emily’s plane landed, which gave him just enough time to have a quick shower and change. Shoving the juice back into the fridge, Cam dashed out of the kitchen and headed for the stairs. He really should sleep in his bed instead of on the couch. His room had an alarm clock.
Thirty minutes later, Cam ran into the arrivals area of the airport. There were still people milling about, so he wasn’t that late. He hated being late to pick up his niece. While he loved his sister, he didn’t like the way that she treated her daughter.
His sister Amanda had gotten pregnant young. She’d always been a rebellious child, but when she found out she was going to become a mother, she had attempted to settle her ways. Diane, their mother, had accepted her daughter and her new granddaughter into her home with her usual charm and grace. After several years, Amanda had decided that she wanted to live and raise her daughter on her own, like she believed a mother should. That was when Diane and Cam started to notice the differences.
When Amanda and Emily had still been living at home, Emily had always been full of laughter. Since she and her mother had moved out, she had become more subdued. While she had always done well at school, her letters hardly ever mentioned friends or even class trips. She seemed to brighten while she was visiting and then lose that sparkle when she left again. Emily was spending the entire summer with Cam and he hoped that it would be a good one.
Scanning the crowd, Cam finally spotted his niece. She was talking to an elderly woman who was holding a map. Emily’s sandy-colored hair was pulled away from her face by two butterfly clips, revealing her sparkling blue eyes. She was the image of her mother. She finished helping the woman find her way on the map and looked up and caught Cam’s eye. A bright smile crossed her pretty face.
“Uncle Cam!” Emily launched herself into his arms with a delighted shriek.
Cam stumbled slightly as he caught her. “Damn, Sprite, I think sixteen is getting to be too old for you to do this.”
“You’re just not strong enough to catch me. Stopped going to the gym, did we?”
“Does this look like I stopped going to the gym?” Cam lifted the hem of his T-shirt to reveal a nicely defined set of abs.
“I stand corrected. You must just be getting old.”
Cam slung one of her bags over his shoulder. “Or it could be because you aren’t eight anymore. Do you have more bags?”
“Two more. We need to head to baggage claim.” Emily looped her arm through Cam’s free one and they started walking to baggage claim. “So, what do I have to look forward to this summer?”
“Your grandmother got you a summer job.”
“Yep.” Cam grinned at the shocked look on her face. “Hey, she got me my first summer job when I was sixteen and would have done the same for your mother, except she had just had you.”
“So Mom got out of a summer job because she had me?”
“Yep, my big sister was a bad influence. I wanted to have a baby of my own so I didn’t have to work.”
“Hey, do you think that will work for me?”
“No, and don’t even think about it. Your grandmother would kill you and then she would kill me while telling me that she always knew that you should have stayed with her instead of me.”
“Well, we don’t want that,” Emily replied with a laugh. She stopped at the baggage carousel and started looking for her bags. Luckily, not only were they two of the first pieces, they were also actually together. Bags in hand, the two headed for the parking lot and Cam’s truck.
“So, Sprite, where to?”
“Do I have to start my summer job today or do I at least get to wait until tomorrow?” Emily asked, climbing into the slightly battered pickup.
“I think you’re clear for today. Although we should probably stop off and see when they need you.”
“Where does Grandma have me working?”
“At the vet’s.”
“So I get to spend my days with Dr. Montgomery? That is not a bad way to spend the summer,” Emily replied. She made a happy sound and licked her lips.
Cam shook his head at her actions, but privately, he agreed with her. Dr. Jeremy Montgomery had been fueling his fantasies for years. The local veterinarian had been two years ahead of him when they were in school. Cam still remembered when Jeremy had been assigned as his math tutor when he was in the ninth grade. That was when he had come to accept that he was gay and realized that he was in love with his math tutor. Nothing had really changed over the years.
“No drooling over your boss.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever. Can we go to Maude’s? I’m hungry.”
“Sure thing.” Cam put his truck in gear and headed into town. “They didn’t feed you on the plane?”
“No, and I didn’t get breakfast.” Emily shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Mom says that I need to lose weight.”
Cam noticed how Emily seemed to shut down after that comment. He also noticed that she was looking pale and a bit too thin for his liking. Amanda had always been obsessed with her weight. It had been hard for their mother to make sure that Amanda ate enough when she was pregnant. Every time she gained even a pound Amanda immediately went on a diet. Unfortunately, it seemed as though she was starting to drag her daughter with her.
“You’re beautiful, Em. You don’t need to lose weight. In fact, I think we should head over to Maude’s and let Betty spoil you,” Cam announced. He got a slight blush and a small smile from Emily. For now, that would have to do. Everything would get better once they saw Betty.
Betty was the granddaughter of the original Maude and had taken over the diner with grace. She still used all of her grandmother’s recipes and, when she made them, they tasted just as good as the originals, or so people said. Betty was in her sixties and not many who had known her grandmother were even around anymore.
Cam pulled the truck to a stop in the parking lot of Maude’s. Turning the truck off, he looked over at Emily and grinned. It was common knowledge that Betty spoiled the people that she liked, and she absolutely adored Emily.
“Come on, Sprite. Let’s get moving.” Cam got out of the truck and headed for the door of the diner with Emily practically on his heels. She was obviously excited to go see Betty. Either that, or her mother had been starving her enough that all she wanted to do was eat. Cam really hoped that the second thought wasn’t the reason. He loved his niece and wanted her to be happy.
“Now, that can’t be little Emily Walker, can it?” Betty called when she saw Emily. She came out from behind the counter and pulled Emily into a hug. “Darlin’, look at you. You’ve gotten so big.”
“I haven’t changed that much, Betty,” Emily remarked. She returned the hug with a slight blush.
“Nonsense. You’ve become quite the stunning young lady.” Betty pulled away and gave her a beaming smile. “Now, you and your uncle sit down and I’ll bring you some juice while you look over the menu.”
Cam put a hand on Emily’s shoulder and steered her into a booth. They had just gotten comfortable when Betty placed a pitcher of juice, two glasses, and two menus on the table. Cam smiled his thanks. Betty gave him a wink and patted his shoulder as she walked away. It seemed as though she had noticed the change in Emily as well. Cam poured them each a glass of orange juice while Emily gazed at her menu.
“It all looks so good.”
“I’m having waffles.”
“You always have waffles, Uncle Cam.”
“I like waffles.”
“You should try to broaden your horizons,” Emily remarked slyly. She shot him a smirk that was more like her old self and continued to study the menu.
“I like waffles,” Cam muttered. He gave his smirking niece a halfhearted glare over the top of his menu. He couldn’t really be mad. He did always order waffles when they ate at Maude’s. Betty made the best waffles that he had ever eaten.
Betty came and took their order. Cam got his waffles and Emily ordered eggs Benedict with a side of bacon.
“Are you still seeing Paul?”
Cam nearly choked on the orange juice that he was drinking. “What?”
“Are you still seeing Paul? You haven’t mentioned him since I got here.”
“No, I’m not seeing Paul anymore,” Cam replied. He tried to ignore the memory of the hurtful words that Paul had shouted at him as he stormed out of the house and out of Cam’s life.
“Good. He wasn’t right for you,” Emily stated. She smiled her thanks at Betty as their food was placed in front of them. “I didn’t like the way that he talked to you.”
Cam simply stared as Emily started to eat her food. He hadn’t realized that his problems with Paul had been that obvious. Emily was only around in the summer and on holidays and she had noticed. Cam was just thankful that he had never asked Paul to move in with him. He didn’t think he could have handled the breakup if Paul had been living with him.
They managed to have a nice breakfast. The conversation turned away from Cam’s personal life to what it was that Emily wanted to do while she was in town. They succeeded in finishing all of the food that Betty gave them, including the extra plate of bacon that Betty had deposited on the table when she saw that Emily had polished off the first one. Emily ate most of the food herself, which made Cam wonder if his sister was feeding her daughter at all.
As Cam paid for their meal and took the pie that Betty shoved at him he noticed that Emily was starting to relax and her old smile was starting to surface. Holding the pie in one hand, Cam opened the door and let Emily precede him to the car. He could only hope that the smile stayed on her face.
Dr. Jeremy Montgomery stood and stretched his back with a wince. He had spent the past twenty minutes trying to pry a stuck thorn out of the paw of a puppy that wouldn’t sit still. Eventually, the puppy’s owner had been forced to hold the squirming animal. Jeremy had managed to pull the thorn out while bent over at the waist to get at the puppy in the young man’s arms.
“Thanks, Dr. M.”
“You’re welcome. Now be sure to keep Spot out of your mother’s rosebushes from now on. Okay, Todd?”
“Sure, Dr. M.”
“Head out to the desk and settle with Tammy.”
“See you later, Dr. M.” Todd smiled and placed Spot on the floor. The puppy bounded out of the room pulling on the leash, the thorn already forgotten.
Shaking his blond head in amusement, Jeremy followed Todd and Spot out of the exam room. Todd refused to call him Dr. Montgomery, and insisted on adding “Dr. M” to the end of every exchange. He was stretching his back and rubbing a hand over his shoulder when he heard Spot barking happily and Todd apologizing to someone. He was heading to the front to see what was going on when Melanie, his nurse, came from that direction.
“Mel, what’s going on?”
“Todd is trying to flirt,” she replied. Brown eyes dancing with merriment behind her glasses, she motioned for Jeremy to come closer to the door. Leaning next to her, Jeremy peered into the waiting room.
Spot was happily lapping up the attention that a pretty girl was giving him. When she looked up at the lightly blushing Todd, Jeremy recognized the face of Emily Walker. Glancing around the room, he spotted Cam standing at the desk talking to Tammy. Jeremy’s breath caught as he looked at the younger man, just as it always did. He couldn’t help himself. He found Cameron Walker absolutely breathtaking.
“What are they doing here?” Jeremy asked, hoping that the tremor wasn’t in his voice.
“Getting Emily’s schedule. She’s working here for the summer to help out since Tammy is about ready to pop that baby out any time now.” Melanie gave Jeremy a sly look. “I hear Cam isn’t seeing Paul Stevens anymore.”
“Paul Stevens is an asshole,” Jeremy growled. He gritted his teeth as his hands clenched into fists. Jeremy was not a fan of Paul.
“I’m not going to argue with you on that one,” Melanie replied. “You know, you should come out and say hello to your new employee.”
“Sometimes I hate you,” Jeremy muttered darkly. Melanie simply laughed and headed into the waiting room. Taking a deep breath, Jeremy followed her.
Emily was still playing with Spot, but the blush on Todd’s face had faded. It seemed as though Emily was returning his interest. When she spotted Jeremy, a bright smile crossed her face.
“Hi, Dr. Montgomery.”
“It’s nice to see you again, Emily.” Jeremy smiled at her as she gave Spot one last pat and got to her feet. “He seems to like you.”
“I like dogs. My mom won’t let me have one. She says they take too much time.” A hint of sadness that Jeremy had never seen before crossed her eyes. The expression was gone so quickly he almost thought that he had imagined it. “That doesn’t matter now, since I’m sure that you’ll have some dogs here that could use some attention.”
“We take boarders, so there are always animals here to look after. I’m sure that you’ll find that you fit right in.”
“How about I take you to look at your schedule?” Melanie suggested. She gave Emily a bright smile then led her behind the door to the exam rooms. Jeremy watched them go with a slight smile then turned back to Cam. As he turned back, his sore back protested and he winced.
“Are you okay?” Cam asked. “You look like you hurt yourself.”
“I may have pulled my back a bit while I was getting that thorn out of Spot’s paw.”
“You should take a hot shower when you get home,” Cam suggested. “It should help to get the tension out of your muscles.”
Jeremy was suddenly glad that he was wearing a lab coat. The mental image of Cam and showers sent all his blood rushing straight for his groin. Jeremy couldn’t help imagining what the 5′11″ frame would look like naked and covered in water. He hoped that his thought didn’t show in his eyes. He nervously tucked several strands of blond hair that had come loose from the braid hanging past his shoulders behind his ear.
“I’ll have to do that,” Jeremy responded. But I know that I’d like it more if you were in the shower with me.
“I’m ready to head out if you are, Uncle Cam,” Emily announced, walking back into the room. She had several sheets of paper in her hands and a bright smile on her face.
Cam tossed an arm around her shoulders when she reached his side. “So, when’s your first day?”
“Well, I’ll be sure to get you here on time.”
“If you don’t, I’ll tell Grandma.”
Jeremy laughed. “I don’t think you want that, Cam. I’ve met your mother.”
“You’ve got a point there. I’ll have Emily here on time; don’t you worry.”
“I won’t.” Jeremy turned his attention away from blue eyes he wanted to drown in and smiled at Emily. “I look forward to having you here.”
“Thanks, Dr. Montgomery. I’m looking forward to it as well. See you tomorrow.” Emily waved as she left the clinic with her uncle.
Jeremy sighed as he watched them leave. He couldn’t keep his eyes off of Cam’s retreating form. His gaze kept darting to how nicely the snug denim hugged Cam’s ass.
“When did you meet Mrs. Walker?” Melanie asked. She hadn’t missed the looks her boss had been giving the other man.
“Fourteen years ago.” Jeremy smiled at the confused expression on Melanie’s face. “I used to tutor Cam in math.”
“Wow, you’ve known Cam for a really long time, haven’t you?”
“Not as well as I would like to,” Jeremy muttered. He gave Melanie a dull smile and headed back to the exam rooms. He had more patients to see. And if he spent most of his time picturing a pair of blue eyes, his patients wouldn’t mention it.