A Christmas Miracle for the DoctorBy: Victoria James
(Shadow Creek, Montana)
To anyone who is waiting for a miracle of their own this Christmas, never stop believing.
“I don’t want joint custody anymore.”
Drew Barrett stared at his ex-wife through bloodshot eyes as she stood in the doorway of his penthouse. He’d just fallen asleep after a long night and then morning of emergency surgery in the ER and was in deep sleep before Jill dropped off their daughter, Isabella, unannounced. It was her weekend to have Bella. He looked over his shoulder to make sure their daughter wasn’t within earshot. “What are you talking about?”
Jill’s chin wobbled, and her eyes filled with tears. “I’m on the verge of a breakdown. I can’t do this single parent thing anymore. I think she’d be better off with you. Just you.”
He scraped his hand across his jaw, stubble pricking his palm. “You’re not a single parent. She goes back and forth. We have a nanny. You have a housekeeper. You have a cook. You have staff. You even have your parents as backup.”
She looked up at the ceiling and shook her head, perfectly highlighted blond hair tumbling around her shoulders. Despite this supposed breakdown she was having, she’d managed to take the time to look as though she was ready for a photo shoot. “It’s not the same,” she said, looking at him. He clutched the doorframe and tried to think of anything to convince her that this was just a temporary blip. “You’re overwhelmed with work. It’ll pass. Hang in there.” The fact that he was telling her to hang in there was pretty laughable, but he didn’t like what she was implying right now.
The truth was they could both be better parents. Every parent thought that, he was sure. The only thing they’d ever been able to offer their daughter was material wealth. He worked insanely long hours because he was a talented surgeon—it was a fact and not an exaggeration. He took his job seriously…but he felt it had been at the expense of their daughter. Jill worked because she loved the fame. Together, they were absentee parents.
“Drew, I want my freedom again, you know? I miss it. We’ve been divorced for a year, and I want to get out there again before I’m old.”
He leaned against the doorjamb. “As I remember it, you had no trouble getting out there when you were married with a child. Shouldn’t this be easier for you now that you don’t have a husband to lie to?”
She crossed her arms, and her surgically enhanced cleavage threatened to tumble out of the top of the skin-tight dress she wore. “You don’t have to throw that in my face. I apologized.”
It was a waste, talking about that anyway. He’d fallen out of love, or infatuation maybe, with Jill years ago. They had stayed together because of Bella. But when she’d cheated on him, he was out. “What do you want from me then?”
“I want you to take her full-time. We both know neither of us signed up for this whole parent thing. I never wanted to be a mom. You fell into this role much easier than I did.”
Panic slammed into his gut, and he forced himself to remain calm. That was never part of the plan. He had a demanding career. He saved lives; he wasn’t able to just put everything on hold while Jill had some kind of life crisis.
He stared at her, wondering how they’d gotten here. How he’d gotten here. He didn’t know how to be a father; he never had. When it was his turn to have Bella over, Brenda, their nanny, came along to help. “Okay. Fine. So, what? Weekends, every other weekend?”
She shook her head. “Maybe I can take her on holidays?”
He pushed off the door and stood straight as anger swept through him. “So, she stays with me every day and then you get her at Thanksgiving, Christmas…? What the hell, Jill?”
She shook her head, shrugging, her eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry. I don’t even…if you want her at holidays too, that’s fine.”
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.