The Playboy's Proposal (Sorensen Family)(10)

By: Ashlee Mallory

He grinned. “Dr. Sorensen.”

She looked from his niece, spinning around on the doctor’s stool, back to him, clearly confused. Then she seemed to snap out of her shock and came in, shutting the door behind her. “I didn’t realize you were a father.”

“Uncle. This is Ella, my niece, who’s staying with me for a few days.”

She bent down to peer into Ella’s face. “Hi, Ella. I’m Dr. Sorensen. Let’s have you sit up here so I can have a better look. Okay?”

Henry stood and without being asked, lifted Ella to the exam table. The woman didn’t appear to see him, her attention now on her patient. “You know you’re supposed to eat the candy, right?” she teased.

This earned a giggle from Ella. “I just wanted to see if it would fit.”

“I can see that.” She turned to look at Henry, with clear judgment in her eyes. “And you approved?”

He raised his hands as if helpless. “I was getting us root beer floats in the kitchen.”

Her right brow shot up—in question, he was sure, at his diabetes-inspired diet—before turning back to her charge. “Well, I’m going to try a few different things to see if we can get that thing out of there. Okay?”

A few minutes later, however, the Skittle remained.

“Okay, Ella, I’m going to go get a couple of things that might help to get that out. I’ll be right back.”

When Benny returned with a small pair of tweezers and alarmingly large forceps, Ella turned to him in terror.

“I know they look scary and they may be a little uncomfortable, but I promise you’re going to be okay,” she said in assurance. “And I know with certainty I have a root beer-flavored Popsicle for you when we’re all finished.”

Ella shook her head, panicked. “I want my—my mom,” she stuttered.

“Ella, honey, it’s going to be okay.” He grabbed the little girl’s hand in his own and nodded as he met her eyes, now filled with tears. It was like a kick in the stomach to see her so distressed.

It took about thirty seconds to pull out the offending candy, but every second that he saw the fear on his niece’s face felt like an hour. Was this what it was like? Having a kid? Being responsible for every little scratch and cut? It was…terrifying.

Benny held the purple Skittle up to Ella for a moment. “We got it. Great job.” She walked to the garbage and dropped it inside. “I’m just going to do a quick check inside your nose again to make sure I have everything, Ella.” She pulled a scope-looking thing from the wall and peered in both of Ella’s nostrils and her ears. “Looks good. She might be sensitive for a few hours. If there seems to be excessive runniness or she complains of pain, give us a call. Otherwise, she should be fine.” She turned her attention back to Ella. “Now you’ve got to promise me that you’re not going to stick anything else up your nose, okay? That goes for the ears, too.”

“Promise,” Ella said with a burst of enthusiasm. “Can I have that Popsicle now?”

“I’ll be back in a minute.” Benny opened the door and headed down the hall.

“Are we going to tell mom about the Skittle?”

Henry looked at his niece, considering only briefly the possibility of keeping this a secret. “I’m afraid so.” In good time, anyhow.

Footsteps were returning, but before they reached the door, there was a startled yelp followed by a thud. In a few steps, he was at the door, looking out at what caused the commotion.

Benny Sorensen was sitting on the floor, still grasping the Popsicle in her hand. A guy in a white lab coat was trying to help her up. It was hard to miss the stain covering her front—coffee, if the mug tipped over on the floor next to her was any indication.

“Dr. Sorensen, are you okay?” the guy was asking her.

She nodded, barely giving him a glance. “Y-yes. Fine thanks.”

“You were walking so fast around that corner I didn’t have time to get out of the way,” the guy said apologetically before chuckling as he looked down at her. “You’re going to need to keep a few extra coats in the office if we keep running into each other.”

Benny Sorensen was actually blushing? This was intriguing, and Henry leaned against the doorframe to watch the scene unfold.

Benny, however, didn’t appear to realize she had an audience, her gaze on the guy’s coat, which looked like it had suffered a little from the spill, too. “Oh, your jacket. I’m sorry.” She reached out like she was going to blot it with her fingers but realized, hand in midair, what she was about to do and froze.

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