Christmas in the Billionaire's Bed(5)

By: Janice Maynard

He looped back toward the square, passing Silver Screen, the community’s one and only movie theater. Way back in the forties and fifties, someone had decided all the stores in Silver Glen should be named with the theme of silver. As a marketing ploy, it was brilliant.

The town had grown and prospered, drawing visitors and business from all over the country. Despite his unease, Aidan found himself feeling distinctly nostalgic for this charming valley that had been his home for twenty-plus years.

As he turned the car one last time and headed for the narrow road that would take him up the mountain to the lodge, his headlights flashed across a darkened storefront that didn’t look familiar. Silver Memories. From what he could see of the window display, the merchandise appeared to be antiques.

He frowned, almost positive that the last time he’d visited, this particular spot had been a leather shop. Operated by an ornery old guy who made saddles and guitar straps to order.

Odd. But then again, at Thanksgiving, he’d been in town barely twenty-four hours.

When he made it up the mountain, he pulled onto the flagstone apron in front of the Silver Beeches Lodge. After grabbing his bag and handing off his keys to a sleepy parking attendant, he sent a text to his brother. I’m here. Go to bed, old man. See you tomorrow.

A neatly uniformed employee checked him in. After that, it was a matter of minutes to make it onto the elevator, up to the top floor, down the hall and into his quiet, dark, pleasantly scented room.

He kicked off his shoes, plugged in his phone and fell facedown across the bed, prepared to sleep until someone forced him to get up.

* * *

Emma kept one eye on her customer and the other on her laptop. The elderly woman came in a couple of times a month, mostly to window-shop. She actually sold Emma a few items from time to time, clearly in need of cash to supplement her social security check.

Since the white-haired lady seemed content to browse, Emma refocused her attention on the website she’d been perusing. Catriona’s Closet was a designer boutique in London that had been Emma’s go-to spot for special occasion clothes when she still lived in England. Fortunately for Emma, the shop now boasted a strong online retail presence.

Trying to decide between a cream lace duster over a burgundy long-sleeved jersey dress, or a more traditional green velvet cocktail number with a low, scooped neck, was impossible. With a few quick clicks, she bought them both, with express shipping. If she were going to see Aidan face-to-face, she needed armor. Lots of it. From the cradle, she had been taught the finer points of social etiquette. Mingling socially with the well-regarded and diverse Kavanagh family would pose no threat to her confidence.

But seeing Aidan again? That was another matter.

Finally, the customer left without buying so much as an embroidered hankie. Emma sighed. Her father, if he had lived, would have been horrified at his only daughter stooping to something as bourgeois as trade.

The Braithwaites were solicitors and clergymen and physicians, at least the menfolk. The females generally presided over tea, rode to hounds and threw dinner parties, leaving their offspring to be raised by nannies.

Emma had been eight years old before she understood that her dear Baba was not a member of the family.

Shaking off the bittersweet memories, she prepared to close the shop. This time of year, business fell off in the afternoons despite the holidays, so she rarely stayed open past four o’clock.

Outside, people hurried about their errands, braced against the stiff wind and the swirling flurries of snow. Emma would have much preferred to go upstairs to her cozy apartment and snuggle under an afghan, but she was completely out of milk, and she couldn’t abide her tea without it.

Bundling into her heavy, raspberry-pink wool coat, she wrapped a black-and-pink scarf around her head, tucked her billfold and keys into her pocket and walked quickly down the street.

At the next block she shivered, impatient for the light to turn green so she could cross the street. So intent was she on making it to the other side that she didn’t notice the silver Accord running the light until it was too late.

Her heart beat sluggishly, everything easing into slow motion as she hopped back. But not before the reckless driver clipped her hip, sending her tumbling airborne for several long seconds and then crashing into unforgiving pavement.

Though she was aware of people crowding around her, she lost herself somewhere internally as she catalogued all the places that hurt madly. Teeth chattering, she forced herself to sit up. Nothing appeared to be broken. A man crouched beside her, his scent a mix of warm male, cold air and an oddly familiar cologne.

“Don’t move,” he said, his honey-toned voice sharp with command.

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