Christmas in the Billionaire's Bed(9)

By: Janice Maynard

After a long afternoon of additional tests and X rays and blood work, a physician’s assistant showed up and announced that Emma was free to go. Aidan appeared just as she tried standing beside the bed to dress in her sadly damaged street clothes.

He cursed quietly. “For God’s sake. You’re going to fall over.” Her tights were badly torn. Aidan took one look at them and tossed them in the trash. “You’ll have to go bare-legged on the way home,” he said, “but I assume you live close?”

She nodded, humiliated by the way he tucked and pulled and fastened her bits and pieces as if she were a helpless child. Tension radiated from his large frame. Her head pounded, but she was damned if she would show weakness in front of this brusque stranger.

When her few belongings were gathered and in her lap, an orderly eased her into a wheelchair and gave Aidan a nod. “If you’ll bring your car around to the front entrance, sir, I’ll meet you there with Ms. Braithwaite.”

Aidan nodded and vanished.

Emma wouldn’t have minded a tour of the hospital, or a quick peek at the maternity ward with all the brand-new babies. Anything to postpone the moment of truth.

If she hadn’t been in so much pain, physical and mental, the pun might have made her smile. Aidan didn’t want to hear the truth. He’d already judged her and found her guilty. He believed that she had betrayed his trust. In his defense, the evidence had been pretty damning.

Outside, the wind was no less biting than it had been the day before. Only now it was dark as well. By the time she sank into the passenger seat of Aidan’s fancy sports car with the heated leather seats, she was shivering. He grabbed a jacket from the backseat and handed it to her.

“Wrap that around your legs.” He paused, staring out the windshield. His granite jaw flexed. “I need your address.”

She sensed that having to ask for that one small piece of information pissed him off. Muttering the street and number, she leaned back and closed her eyes. The car smelled like him. Maybe he would let her sleep here. The prospect of making it all the way to her bed was daunting to say the least.

He parked at the curb in front of her business, his hands clenched on the wheel. “Here?” he asked, incredulity in his voice.

“I have an apartment upstairs. You don’t need to stay. Really.”

Ignoring her statement completely, he half turned in his seat and fixed her with a steady gaze that left her feeling naked...and not in a good way. The hazel eyes that had once twinkled with good humor were flat. It was difficult to believe that anything about this older, tougher Aidan twinkled.

His jaw worked. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that Lady Emma Braithwaite was an heiress. To the tune of several million pounds. I can’t fathom why she would be here in the mountains of North Carolina running an antiques shop when she grew up in a damned castle.” He was practically shouting at the end.

“It wasn’t a castle.” His sarcasm cut deep, but it also made her angry. “You said you didn’t want any explanations,” she reminded him. “If you don’t mind, I’m very tired and I need to take some medicine. If you’ll help me up the stairs, you can go.” She managed an even-toned, reasonable response until her voice broke on the last word. Biting down hard on her bottom lip, she swallowed and inhaled the moment of weakness.

After several long, pregnant seconds, Aidan muttered something inaudible and got out, slamming his door hard enough to rattle the window beside her. Before she could brace herself for what came next, he opened her side of the car and leaned in to scoop her into his arms.

She shrank back instinctively, unwilling to get any closer. He stumbled when her quick movement threw him off balance. “Put your arm around my neck, Emma. Before I drop you.” Irritation accented every syllable.

“Are you always so grumpy?” she asked. If anyone had cause to be out of sorts, it was she.

He locked the car with the key fob and settled her more firmly into his embrace. “Don’t push it.”

To the left of her storefront, a single narrow door gave entrance to a steep flight of steps. The building dated back to the early days of Silver Glen. When Aidan took the key from her and let himself in, she wondered if his big frame would make it up the stairwell, especially carrying her.

But he was a natural athlete. She never even felt a jostle or a bump as he ascended to the second floor and her quaint apartment. His chest and his arms were hard, though he carried her carefully. If it were possible, she thought she might get drunk on the scent of his skin and the faint starchy smell of his crisp cotton shirt.

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