Page 2 of Single Bells

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“You’re the new vet,” Joel said as his brain woke up.

“That’s me. Nicholas McLeish.”

“Jolly old Saint—”

“Shhh,” he said with a laugh. “Please don’t. Though I do usually go by Nick with friends. I’m only Nicholas when I’m in trouble.”

“I’m Joel. Brodie. Joel Brodie.” That was definitely his name.

“Hello, Joel. Want me to take a look at your hands?”

Joel turned them over and stared for a moment at the red dots that were slowly blooming. He presented them for Nick to look at.

“Sit down,” Nick said. “I’ll be right back.”

Joel perched on the edge of the sofa, his hands palms-up on his knees. While he watched, the cat rolled over in an elegant stretch, spreading her claws and yawning widely, then curled back up again.

“That’s Bastet,” Nick said from the doorway, making Joel jump.

“Like the goddess?”

“Mhmm.” He seemed pleased with Joel’s answer. “This might sting a little.”

He cradled Joel’s hand in his own and quickly swiped an antiseptic wipe over the scrapes, cleaning away the dirt and grit. Joel stared at him, unable to come up with anything sensible to say. Nick had a long nose, strong eyebrows, and cheeks that were flushed pink from the cold. Joel thought that even if he wasn’t drunk, he’d find Nick exceptionally nice to look at.

Nick picked up a tube of cream that smelled faintly medicinal and gently massaged it into Joel’s hands with his fingertips. Joel’s hands had turned very warm, very quickly.

“There,” Nick said as he finished up. “All done.”

“Thank you.”

“Are you cold?”

Joel considered that. “Not really. I have had a lot to drink.”

Nick smiled, and the corners of his eyes crinkled. “I got that impression, yeah. Do you want a cup of tea?”

Joel thought what he would really like was a large glass of Australian red, or a long slurp on whatever Nick was serving.

“Tea would be great. Thank you.”

But he still had his manners.

Nick wasn’t tired, not really. He’d adapted to working strange hours years ago, and now he could grab a few hours of sleep when he needed to catch up without disrupting his circadian rhythm too much.

It had been a long time since such an attractive man had stumbled into his house in the middle of the night, though. Caramel hair and wine-drunk eyes and a dimple in his cheek when he smiled.Oh, hell.

His kettle clicked, and Nick poured hot water over the tea bags he’d already set in mugs.

“Milk and sugar?” he called out.

“Yes please.”

Nick finished doctoring the tea, and carried the mugs through to the living room. Joel’s palms had stopped bleeding, and he was leaning forward with his elbows braced on his knees, watching the cat delicately lick her own arsehole.


“Tea,” Nick murmured.

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