Christmas in the Billionaire's Bed(8)

By: Janice Maynard

* * *

When she awoke toward morning, her brain was clearer, but her body felt as if she had gone three rounds with a professional boxer. Maybe the medicine was worth it after all.

In one surreptitious glance, she ascertained that the room was empty. The taste of disappointment filled her mouth. Perhaps Aidan had been a dream after all.

An aide came in with breakfast. Emma’s stomach flopped sickeningly at the scent of scrambled eggs, but the tea bag on the tray caught her attention. When the woman arranged the rolling table across Emma’s lap and raised the head of the bed, Emma thought she might be sick again.

Breathing deeply, she closed her eyes and remained perfectly still until the feeling passed. At last, she summoned the energy to brew a life-saving cup of Earl Grey. With a dash of sugar, a squirt of lemon and a dollop of artificial creamer, the result was not entirely acceptable, but it was better than nothing.

She was poking at a lumpy biscuit when a female physician entered the room. “Ms. Braithwaite. How are you feeling?”

Emma shrugged. “Like I was hit by something big and hard?”

The doctor grinned. “Aptly put. We’ve patched you up, and all your stats are good. Don’t get me wrong. You’re going to be in bad shape for a few days. But you were very lucky. It could have been a lot worse. I’m thinking of releasing you later today once I see how you do with your meals. Is there anyone at home who can look after you? So you don’t have to be on your feet too much?”

Emma opened her mouth to speak, but before she could answer, a man stepped from the hallway into the room. “I’ll get her settled and make sure she has help.”

Aidan. She couldn’t have been any more surprised if the Loch Ness Monster had paraded down the hall. Apparently the sexy phantom in her dreams was entirely real.

“That won’t be necessary,” she said firmly. Even as she spoke, she scrambled mentally for other alternatives.

Mia would be willing to lend a hand, but she had a baby to care for and a wedding to plan. And Emma definitely was not going to ask Aidan’s mother for help. Which left Mrs. Correll, the retired lady who worked part-time at the antique store. But the older woman battled arthritis and couldn’t climb stairs.

Emma hadn’t lived in Silver Glen all that long. Certainly not long enough to have an extensive list of friends on hand to provide casseroles and sympathy soup.

Aidan ignored Emma’s protest. He gave the white-coated physician a high-wattage smile that made her blink twice. “I’ll make sure she follows your orders exactly, Doctor. You can count on me.”

The doctor departed. Emma stared at the man who once upon a time had been her knight in shining armor. “I can explain,” she said, eager to clear the air.

Aidan held up a hand, his gaze wintry. “I don’t want to hear anything about the past or why you’re here. I’m not interested, Emma. I’m going to take you home and sleep on your couch overnight. But that’s it. I have no desire to hear anything you have to say. Are we clear?”

Her heart sank. She had hoped his animosity might have dwindled after all this time. But, no. She was an unwelcome obligation to him. Nothing more. Not even worth the effort of polite conversation.

Her throat tight, she nodded. Though it pained her to admit it, she didn’t have the luxury of arguing with him. If Aidan’s assurances of aid were enough to get her dismissed from the hospital, then she would swallow the words that wanted to tumble forth in a plea for understanding.

She watched him focus his gaze on the muted television as he feigned great interest in an infomercial for egg separators. His profile was dear and familiar, but the boy she had once known was gone, replaced by a man with even broader shoulders and a physique that was honed and strong.

His dark brown hair with a hint of red was expertly cut, his clothing masculine and expensive. The young university student she remembered had flaunted shaggy locks and a succession of rock-and-roll T-shirts that showcased his flat abdomen. Close-fitting denims had outlined long legs and a tight butt. His grin and American accent won over every girl in a ten-mile radius. But at the end of the day, he went home to Emma’s off-campus apartment.

Shaking off the poignant memories, she stared at him. He’d said no explanations, so what else was there to talk about?

Abruptly, he turned to face her. “I’ll ask the nurses’ station to call me when they’re ready to dismiss you. In the meantime, I have errands to run.”

And with that, he was gone.

* * *

Emma ate and drank and did everything that was asked of her. For one panicked hour she contemplated faking a relapse to avoid being alone with the painfully distant man who looked so much like the Aidan Kavanagh she had once known. But as much as she dreaded being beholden to the glacial-eyed Aidan, she also wanted to get out of this noisy hospital and back into her own bed.

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