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First Impressions

First Impressions

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First Impressions

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393 Seiten
5 Stunden
23. Sept. 2015


Family Practice Doctor Clarissa Rogers’ first impression of Padric Cleary is biased and based on gossip. The handsome, charming veterinarian is considered a serial dater and commitment-phobic by his family and most of the town. Relationship shy, Clarissa refuses to lose her heart to a man who can’t pledge himself to her forever. Pat Cleary, despite his reputation, is actually looking for "The One." When he does give his heart away, he wants it to be for life. With his parent’s marriage as his guidebook, he wants a woman who will be his equal and soul mate in every way. Can Pat convince everyone – including Clarissa – she’s the only woman for him?
23. Sept. 2015

Über den Autor

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes Romantic Comedies about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them. If she can make you cry on one page and bring you out of tears rolling with laughter the next, she’s done her job as a writer! Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, she brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she’s created the families she wanted as that lonely child. When she’s not writing Peggy is usually painting, crafting, scrapbooking or decoupaging old steamer trunks she finds at rummage stores and garage sales. As a lifelong diarist, she caught the blogging bug early on, and you can visit her at where she blogs daily about life, writing, and stuff that makes her go "What??!"

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First Impressions - Peggy Jaeger


Chapter 1

Dr. Rogers, the dog-bite patient from the veterinary clinic is here.

Thanks, Lexi.

Family practice doctor Clarissa Rogers buttoned up her lab coat and made her way the few feet from her cozy office to the exam room.

Well, I never expected to see you sitting on my table, she said with a smile after she knocked and entered.

Seamus Cleary’s green eyes twinkled at her. Never expected to be here myself, he told her. Sorry to take up your time with this. I thought I could tend to it at my place. He nodded to the corner of the room. I got vetoed.

Clarissa turned and found a pair of startling blueberry-colored eyes gazing back at her. A pair of blue eyes she’d dreamt about more than once in the past few months.

Hey, Pat Cleary said.

Seamus’s oldest son nodded to her as he stood against the exam room wall, his hands in his pants pockets.

Pat. Clarissa prayed her fair skin wouldn’t give away the heated flush being in the same room with him caused to well up from inside her.

A tailored shirt, the color of a cloudless summer sky, draped over his wide and substantial torso, the cuffs folded back to reveal thick and corded forearms. His trim waist tapered down into a pair of dark blue Dockers, which fit him as if they’d been sewn for him, his muscular thighs pulling against the fabric enticingly. Thick black hair capped his head, badly in need of a trim, and for a hot second, Clarissa wondered what it would feel like to twine her fingers into it.

You know the wound is too deep for you to fix on your own, Pat told his father.

You could have stitched it up for me, Seamus said. Save this lovely young lady the bother.

I’m not a people doc, Dad. Pat shook his head. And neither are you.

Clarissa smiled. It’s never a bother to see you, Dr. Cleary. You’re one of my favorite people. Now, let’s get a look at why you’re here.

She glanced down at the blood soaked bandage covering his forearm. Seamus was pressing down hard on it.

Clarissa moved to the sink, washed her hands, and asked, What happened?

I was trying to inject a Labrador and he objected, the senior veterinarian told her. I thought I had a good grip on him, but he bucked and hip checked me. My hand slipped, and the syringe flew across the room, while the dog clamped down good and tight on my arm. He held his arm up to show her. Took a chunk out of it.

Clarissa donned a pair of surgical gloves. How did you get him off?

Seamus grinned. He may have gotten the drop on me, but I still know how to disengage a biting dog.

Do I want to know how? she asked, while she removed the bandage.

Probably better if you didn’t.

Seamus sucked in a breath when the cool room air hit the exposed wound.

This is going to need some of my fancy stitch work, she told him, peering through her glasses at his suddenly pale face. And a round or two of antibiotics. The dog wasn’t rabid, was he?

No. It was Pat who answered. He’d pushed off the wall and come to stand next to the exam table. "Jesus. Dad, this looks worse than it did a few minutes ago."

He stood so close Clarissa could detect the subtle tangy spice of his aftershave. His six-foot plus form towered over her diminutive five foot three one, despite the three inch heels she wore, and Clarissa felt even tinier than she usually did.

We need to get this cleaned first, she told Seamus. Do you know when you had your last tetanus shot?

Two years ago, Pat answered. We all got updates at the clinic at the same time.

Convenient. She removed her gloves and tossed them in the hazardous waste bin. Any allergies I should know about? Latex? Betadine? Antibiotics?

No, I’m good. Seamus rubbed his free hand across his suddenly damp brow.

In a heartbeat, Clarissa crossed back to him and caught him before he pitched forward off the table.

Grab his feet, she calmly told Pat, while she laid Seamus backward. She called out for her nurse while Pat did as she instructed.

Two more people crowded into the tiny room. Get me a blood pressure, Clarissa told one nurse while unfastening the top buttons on Seamus’s shirt. Does he have any cardiac history? Hypertension? Anything? she asked Pat.

He didn’t respond, his gaze fixated on his father. He’d paled considerably in the few seconds it had taken to get Seamus positioned.

Pat. Her voice was firm and slightly louder than it needed to be. She watched him pull his gaze to hers, the pupils constricting, the blue in his eyes vivid against the white.

Clarissa repeated her question.

No, he said. No. He’s as healthy as a horse. His eyes went back to his father’s ashen face. Dad?

I’m fine, son, Seamus said, trying to grin. A little queasy for a second, is all.

Lie still, please, Dr. Cleary, Clarissa told him. I’m going to do an EKG, and I need you not to move for a few moments.

Seamus’s thin grin spread. I think, young lady, since we’re getting so well acquainted here, you should call me Jim.

Clarissa smiled down at him while she attached the cardiac electrodes to his now bare chest. For a man in his sixties, Seamus Cleary was remarkably fit. His chest was broad, his belly firm, and his torso tanned from all the work she knew he did outdoors.

Clarissa looked over at her nurse. Get a set of vitals for me, please, Sandy.

Blood pressure is 80/40, she said, after a moment. Pulse is 110.

For an old horse doctor, I’m pretty good.

Color was coming back to his face and his eyes were clearer as he focused on her. Clarissa glanced at his son and saw the opposite reaction. Deep worry corrugated Pat’s brow, and his color was a little gray.

Your heart seems fine, Clarissa said, as she evaluated the EKG strip. Your blood pressure is a little low for my liking. Sandy, take it again, please.

There was silence in the small room as she did.

Better. She nodded. 110/70 now.

I think this little episode is transitory, Clarissa told Seamus. Did you eat anything today?

Excuse me, but you do know who my wife is, right?


Clarissa heard the subtle censure in Pat’s voice, knew it was out of concern and nothing more.

My mistake, Clarissa said. Okay, since I’m confident this episode is probably a result of the stress of being bitten, I think we can safely turn back to your wound. But I’m going to leave the cardiac leads on for a while, she added, to get a longer strip to compare with. Okay?

You’re in charge, Seamus said.

Clarissa turned to go gather the supplies she would need to clean and dress the wound. She caught Pat’s eye and gave him a quick nod. Sandy, stay with Dr. Cleary for a moment.

Pat followed her out of the room.

Are you okay? she asked, when he joined her in the hallway.

He ignored the question. What happened in there? My dad’s never fainted in his life.

Worry cascaded in his tone.

It’s probably nothing, Pat. Maybe seeing the extent of the wound caused a momentary sensation of lightheadedness. Plus, he’s lost some blood from the bite. I left him hooked up to the EKG machine while I work on his arm, so I can keep an eye on his heart rate and get a longer cardiac strip to see what his baseline is. She pulled down a box of gauze, a bottle of peroxide, and sterile gloves from the cabinet outside the room.

You don’t think there’s something seriously wrong, do you, and you’re not telling me? He grabbed her forearm and turned her so she was forced to face him.

Fear. It was stark fear she saw in his eyes. Her knees almost gave out at the thought this virile, strong man could be afraid of anything.

The need to soothe washed through her. She put her free hand around the one holding her arm. Pat, he’s fine. But don’t worry. I’m not going to let this little blip go. I’ll make sure he’s okay. Promise.

The color in his eyes deepened. He glanced down at his hand, now covered with hers. A red spot danced around his shirt collar, and she was charmed to see his skin flush.

I’m sorry. He removed his hand. I—

Where is he? They heard the raised voice at the same time from the reception area.

Great. Pat rolled his eyes and blew out a jagged breath. Now I’ve got both of them to contend with.

A grin came quick to her lips. Go get your mom and bring her in. I can go over everything while I stitch your father up.

She turned, supplies in hand, and reentered the room. Seamus’s color had improved even more, and he was sitting upright on the exam table, chatting with Clarissa’s nurse.

Your wife is here. Clarissa washed her hands again at the sink. I sent Pat to bring her in.

Before he could respond, his wife barreled into the room. Clarissa watched Serena Cleary’s expressive eyes widen when she saw her husband on the exam table, the EKG leads attached to his chest.

"Seamus." She flew to his side, her gaze raking across his face, his chest, and settling on the wound Clarissa was preparing to clean.

I’m fine, Rene, he told her taking her hand with his free one. Clarissa is taking very good care of me.

Pat said you passed out. Serena’s voice broke. Are—

Serena. Clarissa’s firm interruption halted her. Serena was shaking, her hands visibly trembling under her husband’s. I was about to clean the wound. Do you want to stay, or do you want Pat to bring you out to the waiting room and I’ll come get you when I’m done?

N—no, I want to stay.

Okay then I can use both of your help, she said to mother and son. Pat, could you open those sterile gloves for me? She nodded to the ones she wanted. And Serena, I need you to hold on to your husband. This is going to burn and I don’t want him to jump.

Serena nodded and kissed her husband’s cheek. Be a big boy now, she told him and was rewarded when he grinned at her.

Nice, Pat said softly at her side. Clarissa nodded, the hair at the back of her neck standing at attention from the feel of his hot breath, and set about cleaning the wound.

When the cold mixture hit his arm, Seamus hissed. Serena’s grip on his hand tightened while Clarissa stole a quick glance at the EKG readout. She washed away the dried blood from the area, then spread it open wide to get the disinfectant into the deep punctures.

I’m sorry, she said when he inhaled sharply again. I want to make sure I get every cranny cleaned out before we stitch you up.

It’s okay, He gritted his teeth. I understand.

Do you need me to do anything? Pat asked.

If you could get the silk ready for me, I’d appreciate it.

Pat opened the two packages of thread, their needles attached.

To try and quiet some of the deafening tension bounding in the room, Clarissa asked, Where’s the dog now?

Pat’s got him isolated in a kennel, Seamus told her.

And you’re sure there’s nothing I need to worry about concerning him? No infection, no threat of rabies?

No. It’s Jacob Neederly’s dog. He brought him in for his annual checkup.

That dog’s never been nice, Serena said, her lips thinning. Whenever I’ve seen Jacob walking him downtown, he’s very aggressive with people and other dogs. A menace.

Seamus’s lips twitched as he brought his wife’s hand to his mouth and gently placed a kiss across the knuckles. You’re only saying that because he bit me, Rene, and you know it. He lifted his gaze to Clarissa. Mamma bear syndrome. The dog’s known me his entire life. Never had a problem before.

"Well, maybe something is cooking in him, then, Clarissa said. Isn’t aberrant and unusual behavior in an animal the same as in people? It can denote something may be off?"

She took a second to look at her patient and then to his son. Both their expressions told her they were giving the question serious consideration.

I’ll check on him when I get back to the clinic, Pat told his father. Do some blood work.

Seamus nodded while Clarissa readied a syringe. I’m going to numb the area so I can stitch. You probably know this already, but I’ll say it anyway. This is going to sting.

Serena squeezed her husband’s hand and said, Look at me while she does this.

His smile pulled a little tight in the corners as Clarissa began injecting the skin around the red and swollen bite. I’ve been looking at you for thirty years, Rene. I’ve never gotten tired of the view once.

When he kissed her hand again, Clarissa’s heart melted, and she couldn’t keep the sigh locked within her.

He winced when she threaded the first stitch through the wound edges, pulling them together.

I know Clarissa gives stickers and lollipops to her patients who behave. Be good and I’ll get you a cherry flavored one, Serena told her husband.

The tension in the room cleared significantly, laughter shoving it away.

Father and son spoke while Clarissa sutured the wound. When she was done, she covered it with antibiotic ointment, placed a sterile pad over the area, and then wrapped his arm in gauze. Keep this dry, she told him. I want to see you back tomorrow when you’re free, to change it and get a look at the stitches. If all goes well, and it should, I’ll take them out in ten days. I’ll fax in a prescription for an oral antibiotic to be on the safe side, until we know whether or not the dog has anything to worry about.

Better safe than sorry, Serena told her husband.

Clarissa took one last look at the cardiogram strip. When was your last complete physical?

It was Serena who answered. Two years ago.

Same time as your tetanus shot, Clarissa said. I think it’s time you had a complete workup. Blood analysis, a full EKG. All the preventative stuff we’re always pushing on our patients, she added with a smile.

Seamus nodded. Probably not a bad idea.

Who’s your private doc?

You are, officially now, he said. Doc Williams was our family practitioner.

Then it will make this easier, since I have your records on file, she said. Have my receptionist get a glance at my schedule in about ten days. We can take the stitches out and do the physical at the same time. It’ll save you having to come back twice.

She removed the cardiac leads from his chest. Go ahead and get dressed. I’ll meet you in the waiting room.

With a last glance at husband and wife, Clarissa moved around Pat and into the hallway.

After faxing the local pharmacy the med order, she went out to say goodbye and give them a set of printed care instructions. Husband and wife were holding hands, Pat standing off to the side, his hands in his pockets.

Everything’s set, she told them. Here’s how I want you to take care of the wound. She handed the paper to Seamus. You can pick up the meds before heading home.

Serena reached out and pulled Clarissa into a bone-crushing hug. Thank you so much.

It’s my pleasure, Clarissa replied, equal amounts of embarrassment and gratification running through her. I’ll see you tomorrow, she told Seamus, putting out her hand to shake it. Like his wife had, Seamus drew her in with his free hand for a hug. She felt dwarfed within the enclosure of his arm. At six foot four, Clarissa’s height was no match when she was pulled against his broad chest.

She felt the skin on her face and neck redden and silently cursed herself for it as she pulled away. I hope you’re taking the rest of the day off. She adjusted her glasses, which had gone askew during the hug.

Yes. He is, Serena said. She graced her husband with a stern take-no-prisoners glare, while one sculptured eyebrow shot up her forehead.

I guess I am. He grinned.

Clarissa silently wished she possessed the kind of power Serena Cleary wielded.

The trio walked out together and she turned to go back to her office to ready herself for her next scheduled visit. Before she got to the door, she heard her named called.

When she saw Pat walking back toward her, she had to mentally will herself to take a deep breath and remain calm, a struggle since the first day they’d met. In an attempt to compose herself, she twined her fingers together in front of her.

I want to thank you, personally, for everything you did for Dad, he told her.

Clarissa had to tip her head back a little to see him clearly through her glasses.

He smiled at her and her toes curled inside her shoes when his mouth took a slow roam from one side of his face to the other.

You don’t have to thank me, Pat. It’s why I’m here. I’m glad I could help.

His brows drew in a little at her response. You did more than simply help, he told her. It was impressive the way you handled those two, especially my mom. She was pretty shaken up when she arrived. I didn’t know how she was going to handle seeing my dad injured.

It’s never easy seeing someone you care about sick or hurt.

He’s never been sick a day in my whole life. He shook his head. I know it scared the hell out of her. But the way you spoke to her helped her focus. It was exactly what she needed.

Clarissa smiled. Your mom’s stronger than you give her credit for. You forget, I’ve seen her in action.

Yeah, well—he relaxed a shoulder against the wall—as I said, Dad’s never had anything happen to him like this before. To have him admit he was a little slow on the uptake with the dog has me worried.

Clarissa frowned. Nothing else has been out of the ordinary with him lately, has it? Nothing he’s said, or you’ve noticed?

No. Probably working harder than he should at his age. We’ve been extra busy the past few months. With Quentin back to work now, maybe Dad can start to cut back some.

Clarissa nodded. Pat’s twin sister Moira, and his best friend and partner Quentin Stapleton were married a month ago. After not having any vacation time in over four years, the couple had opted to take an extended three-week honeymoon and had arrived back in town a few days ago.

Anyway, he said, his brows furrowing again. I wanted to say thanks. I’ll make sure Dad follows up with the physical. And maybe I can get him to take a few days off.

Clarissa nodded. They stood, silent, staring at one another for a few heartbeats. You’re looking a little tired, too, you know, she said, before she could stop herself. When was the last time you had a day off?

His eyes warmed as he stared back at her. It was all she could do not to reach out and push back the shock of hair falling across his forehead. With a mental shake she fisted her hands and shoved them into her lab coat pockets so she wouldn’t give in to the urge.

It’s been a while, he admitted.

The weariness in his voice made her heart soften a tad. You should take your own advice.

He continued to stare at her, and for the life of her she couldn’t read the expression in his eyes.


Next patient’s waiting, Doctor Rogers, Lexi called from the desk.

With more trouble than she’d ever admit to, Clarissa tore her gaze from Pat’s and said, Coming.

When she looked back at him, her stomach did the little flip thing it perpetually did whenever she was around him. The look on his face was abjectly different from what it had been a moment ago. He stared at her so intently, so seriously, she could see his pupils dilating, the beautiful ripe color of his irises disappearing. Without thought she reached out a hand and grabbed his forearm. Are you okay?

He blinked a few times, and then his gaze lasered onto her mouth.

Her little stomach flip capsized into a full-blown ripple at the heat in his eyes.


Sorry. He shook his head, a crooked, self-conscious grin tugging at his lips. Lost in thought for a sec.

You’re sure you’re okay? Your dad’s fine, you know. Really.

I know. He glanced down at his watch. Look, I need to get back. I have a full schedule this afternoon.

Confused at his sudden mood shift, she nodded as he pushed off the wall and walked away from her. Over his shoulder he said, Thanks again.

Clarissa stood, rooted to the spot, until Sandy said from behind her, There goes one fine-looking man.

When she hummed, Clarissa turned to see the fifty-year-old grandmother of three gaze longingly at the front door, her lips pulled back into a broad, lusty smirk. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed how hot he is, Doc. Because one thing you’re not, is blind.

Clarissa gaped at her through her glasses and rolled her eyes. Sandy’s propensity for bluntness was one of her best, and worst, attributes.

For the next several hours Clarissa ran from exam room to exam room.

Her afternoon was filled with two ear infections from a set of twin four-year-old boys who practically demolished one room in their fever to get away from her, a bad case of gastritis from a local bar owner who spent more time drinking than managing his establishment, two worker’s compensation cases, and several school physicals.

For most of the busy afternoon she’d been able to put Pat Cleary from her thoughts. But when she’d sneak into her office for a quick drink of water, or to check her texts and emails between patients, his handsome face always drifted back to the front of her mind.

He was, as Sandy had declared, one fine-looking man. She’d noticed it from the moment she’d set eyes on him at the first local Rotary meeting she’d attended after coming to town. Usually shy and reserved with new people, Clarissa was determined to crack out of her shell since she’d committed to the practice and had introduced herself to everyone she’d met. The community leaders in the tiny town of Carvan, Connecticut, were very supportive of their local businesses, hospital and doctors, and Clarissa had been put at ease immediately.

When she’d been introduced to Quentin Stapleton, Pat’s partner, she’d been instantly charmed by his quiet and friendly manner. The fact he was built like a fortress, his green eyes soft like warm moss, didn’t hurt either. When she’d turned and shaken hands next with Pat, a tiny spark of awareness had shot through her system when her hand was swallowed in his. An awareness alien to her. His assessing eyes had run a slow course from her face down to her toes and then rested on their joined hands. The warmth of his hold had a soothing quality to it and had her thinking he must have a wonderful way with animals if they responded to his touch as she did.

A tiny stab of awkwardness gouged into her mind when she realized the two of them had been staring at one another, wordlessly, for a few moments after Quentin had introduced them.

Flustered, Clarissa had given Pat a crooked, nervous smile and moved on to the next person. But she’d been acutely aware of him for the entire time the meeting took place.

On the way back to her car when the gathering ended, she heard her name called.

Pat jogged up to her, smile in place, and as she had when they’d met, her heart sped up.

It’s a little daunting meeting such a big group all at once, he said.

She smiled because she’d been thinking the same thing.

It’s always easier, I think, he continued, to get to know people one-on-one, so how about I take you to dinner as a welcome to your new town?

Surprised was too tame a word to describe how his request made her feel. Stunned would have been more accurate. She wanted to say yes, but knew she had too much still left to do before the clinic was up and running the way she wanted it to be.

Thanks, she said, shaking her head, but I have so much to do and really no time to spare right now.

She thought he’d looked surprised by her refusal. A few days later she found out why when she overheard one of the staff nurses in the hospital commenting on his most recent breakup with one of her friends.

The guy’s a player, the nurse had said.

A description that didn’t warm Clarissa’s heart.

Since meeting his sister Moira, the two women had become fast friends and she’d been thrown into his company several times over the past few months. And every time Clarissa was around him, a sense of utter and complete awareness overwhelmed her. He’d never asked her out again and the more she came to know him, the more she realized why. Pat Cleary was a man who seldom heard the word no from a woman. She’d wounded his ego with her refusal, even though it hadn’t been her intent.

Clarissa wished—not for the first time—she was more outgoing and confident with men. She knew there was no reason why she couldn’t initiate an invitation. Pat’s reputation was the biggest deterrent. Clarissa had no desire to repeat the mistakes of her mother. Despite his charming manner and good looks, a player was the last person she wanted to be with.

Chapter 2

What’s the smile for? Pat asked his father when he came into the Cleary kitchen the next morning.

Seamus tapped his cell phone and sipped from his coffee mug. Got a text from Clarissa Rogers. She’s checking up on me.

Like I’ve said before—Serena handed her son a filled mug of tea—any doctor willing to text and email her patients is one worth having.

How are you feeling, Dad?

Seamus held up his bandaged arm. My arm’s a little sore, but my pride’s worse. Still can’t believe the dog got me.

Serena sat next to her husband and reached over to take his hand in hers. Admit it, Seamus, she said, laughter pulling at the corners of her mouth, you’re not as fast as you used to be.

I’ll show you who’s fast. He moved so quickly, Pat blinked and his mother was pulled into his father’s lap, his arms securely around her. Capturing her lips with his own, he gave her a resounding kiss that had her laughter bubbling through to the surface.

"Oh, come on! seventeen-year-old Alastair Cleary cried, entering the kitchen. Is that all you two think about? You’re parents. And I’m an impressionable teen."

Pat laughed out loud at the sight of his youngest brother, clad only in gym shorts, his ink-black hair flat on the side he’d woken on, a look of utter disgust twisting his mouth. Since when have you ever been an impressionable anything? he asked, and gave the younger man a good-natured shove.

You don’t live here anymore, Pat. You don’t see these two everyday. Every time I turn around they’re like this. He tossed two breakfast pastries into the toaster. "I walked in on them the other day, the middle of the day, and Dad had her pinned against the sink. I swear, my eyes are gonna fall out of my head one of these days."

Serena disentangled herself from her husband’s arms and moved toward her youngest son.

You may be an impressionable teen, she said, her lips pulled back in an evil smile, but you’re still little enough for me to do this.

Before he could protest, she grabbed his nearly naked frame, snaked a hand up his neck and pulled his head down to hers. She doused his cheeks with sloppy, loud kisses.

Oh, Mom, come on. Alastair swiped at his face, a smile lurking at the corners of his mouth. "How come you

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