Additional Excerpt posted over at The Romance Studio
To Aidan Keegan, a doctor who has lost a wife and child in a careless accident and seen his career as a heart surgeon come to a blistering halt, Christmas marks the end of a year of loneliness and the beginning of another. Aidan fears not even the delicate stirrings of longing and desire, his young receptionist Liya Emerson incites within him, can thaw the ice around his shattered heart.
Hoping to get away and clear her mind of Dr. Keegan, Liya finds herself up in the mountains at an isolated cabin belonging to none other than Aidan. Determined to break through the layers around his heart, Liya offers herself for three passionate days, without a promise of the future.
But will Aidan be able to see beyond his own pain to the love Liya has to offer and realize that their passion doesn’t have to last for one Christmas only?
Liya nodded. She couldn’t fault him for holding on to his memories. She guarded the memories of her parents and brother fiercely. Nothing would ever delete those precious people from her heart or mind.
“Are you spending Christmas here? What about your in-laws?”
His lips quirked, giving him a boyish appearance. “They’ll be fine without me this year.”
“All right. I’m gonna leave now.” She issued him a rueful smile. “I’m sorry you came here and saw me.” He stood beside her as she rested her hand against the car door. Taking a tremulous breath, Liya turned to him. She hoped her words would give him some peace. “If I could find a way to give her back to you, I would. I swear it, Aidan. I know that might not mean much to you at this point, but I want you to know I get it. You don’t have any space left in your heart.”
His lids lowered as he stalked closer. “And if I did? What if I wanted to make space for someone else, do you think it’s that easy? Who would want to be with me?”
He was testing her. She held his gaze. “I would. I’d want to be with you, Aidan Keegan. I know the man who exists beneath the sadness.”
“Do you feel sorry for me, Liya? Are you thinking of ways to bring some Christmas joy into an old man’s heart?”
“Don’t diminish my feelings for you.”
“I never should have hired you,” Aidan confessed, his voice taking on a raspy edge. “I should have slammed the door in your face and told you to stay the hell away from the clinic.”
Liya folded her arms. “But you didn’t.”
“Why are you making this so damn hard? I came here to find some peace. You walked out of the clinic. I tried to call you today and I thought––” He paused and lowered his head, letting out a loud whoosh of air before lifting his head. Stormy eyes greeted her. “Damn it, Liya, I thought it was the last time I would see you.”
Liya gazed at him. “You care? Would it bother you if we never saw each other again?” All she needed was an affirmation from him. Something to show he cared as much as she did.
“I care. God help me, I shouldn’t, but I do.”
Liya hedged closer, seizing the moment. “Do you want to spend this holiday alone, Aidan?”
His eyes held hers captive, pain as harrowing as the blade of a sledgehammer, slicing into her. Aidan was a man fighting an internal battle. He didn’t want to be alone but was terrified of starting over.
Slowly, he shook his head. The guilt and confusion flickering across his face caused her chest to wheeze in anguish. Aidan thought he was weak for allowing himself to feel again. Liya swallowed back the nerves and hurt feelings. She cared too much about him to let him suffer alone, even if it meant wearing her heart on her sleeve and relinquishing her pride. “Three days,” she stated. “We have the weekend together. For three days, Aidan. Let’s pretend it’s just us. No past. Nothing between us. I won’t ask for a commitment from you and you won’t do the same to me. After that, I’ll walk away.”
She could see the rise and fall of his chest as he contemplated. “You don’t know what you’re suggesting.”
“I do,” she beseeched, placing a hand on his chest. “Let me take care of you. We’ll take care of each other for these three days, and then you’ll go back to your life and I’ll return to mine. No guilt, Aidan. It’s not like there’s a chance of you losing your heart to me. Sarah will still be your number one.”
“It’s not fair to you…” Anticipation dripped from Aidan’s words. He wanted this as much as she did. Needed it.
Liya locked her eyes with his, hoping Aidan could see the honesty and candor within her. “I don’t want to spend the holiday alone. We’re two adults, right? I just want to pretend for a little bit how it could have been between us. I know you do, too. You can’t lie to me about that. I know what’s deep inside you, beneath all those layers.”
He glanced at her hand on his chest. “I never realized how selfish I was until this moment.” Touching his forehead to hers, he whispered, “I want that so much, sweetheart. God help me, Liya. I don’t want to be alone either.”
Liya felt his body relax into her touch. Carefully, she weaved her arms around his waist and held him close. “We don’t have to be. It’ll be just you and me. Aidan and Liya. Just three days and then you can return your heart to her.”
His lips brushed across her cheek and she felt his warm breath against her ear like a lover’s caress. “Don’t make me lose my heart to you, Liya. I can’t do that, sweetheart. Please don’t make me lose my heart.”
Her heart ached for him. Pangs of jealousy stabbed at her, seeing the devotion he had for Sarah. What it must have felt like to be loved by him. She stroked her fingertips to his jaw. “I won’t take it from you. That much I can promise you.” I want you to give it to me willingly.