Christmas in the Billionaire's BedBy: Janice Maynard
Mrs. Maeve Kavanagh
Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Larin
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their children
Dylan Edward and Mia Elaina
on Saturday, December 20th
The Chapel in Silver Glen
Aidan Kavanagh stared at the cream vellum card edged with tiny holly leaves and berries and shook his head in reluctant admiration.
Game. Set. Match.
His mother had won the war without firing a single shot. The last thing Aidan wanted to do was visit Silver Glen, North Carolina, during the holidays, but Maeve knew he wouldn’t miss his own brother’s wedding.
The first of his siblings, Liam, had tied the knot recently as well. That event had been a huge, splashy society affair at Zoe’s home in Connecticut—a hop, skip and a jump from New York City. This time Aidan wouldn’t be so lucky.
It wasn’t that he didn’t love Silver Glen. He did. But going home for Christmas brought back too many ugly memories. So, he chose to visit his large, close-knit family at other times of the year: Easter, Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July...and October, when the fall foliage in the mountains was at its peak.
But December? No. In the last decade, he had managed it only once and only then because one of his brothers had been in the hospital. Aidan would have felt like a total jerk if he had let his family down.
That visit had been both uncomfortable and unpleasant. His mother and brothers had walked on eggshells around him, everyone far too aware that Aidan carried the weight of past tragedy. He’d done his damnedest to prove to them he was fine...that he had moved on.
Unfortunately, no one had been convinced by his deliberate facade of Christmas cheer. Least of all Aidan himself. Because the truth was, December sucked. He was fine. His life was good. He was content. But not even his family knew the worst of what had happened so long ago.
He stood and stretched, tossing the offending invitation on his desk. The view from his office window stretched from the Statue of Liberty all the way to the George Washington Bridge. Aidan loved New York City. The constant pulse of life. The fact that he could stop for lox and bagels at three in the morning and no one batted an eye.
Most of all, he loved the anonymity. No one here cared about his past or even his future. The emotional breathing room had become as essential to him as food or water.
Growing up in Silver Glen provided an idyllic childhood—at least until his father’s death when Aidan was a young teen. The little alpine-like town would always be home. But living in a fishbowl where everyone knew his business became unbearable when he was twenty-one and his entire world crumbled around him.
Moving to New York had been his salvation. With a hefty nest egg of Kavanagh money—long since repaid—he’d started a high-end real estate company. The lessons he’d learned as a youth working in his family’s swank hotel stood him in good stead. Although the Kavanaghs were very wealthy, the crème de la crème here in the city took that definition to a far greater level. Aidan enjoyed the challenge of matching socialites and business magnates with their perfect homes on the rooftops of Manhattan.
His phone pinged, reminding him of an upcoming appointment. Once more he sat down, then picked up his favorite pen and rolled the heavy gold cylinder between his fingers. He had inked his first real estate deal with this pen. Beyond the leather blotter, the wedding invitation lay innocently. He read it a second time, finding its elegant cursive font no less stomach tightening than he had before.
December 20th. That meant Aidan would need to be in Silver Glen no later than the weekend before. Knowing his mother, she would undoubtedly have planned a series of social events to fill the days leading up to the wedding. And then he would be expected to hang around until the family celebrated Christmas together on the 25th. Almost two weeks. Might as well be a lifetime.
He glanced at the paper calendar his assistant kept updated on the corner of his desk. She was as tech savvy as the next person, but she had discovered that Aidan liked to keep tabs on his schedule in more than one medium. The month of December was notably blank.
No one, with very few exceptions, shopped for high-dollar real estate during December. His clients were too busy hosting parties, overspending on their spoiled children and taking trips to exotic locations. Which meant, unfortunately, that Aidan was free to do as he pleased.
Or in this instance as he did not please.
For a moment, he flashed back, his vision blinded to the present but very aware of the past. Two young women. Both beautiful. Both charming. Both full of life and fun. And he had lost each of them.
The familiar burning sensation in his gut was more than a mix of guilt and regret. It was a longing for what he would never have. Absolution. A woman and a family to call his own.
Spending Christmas at Silver Glen would undoubtedly resurrect a host of old memories that he’d rather not face. But if he were honest, the memories lived with him everywhere. The painful part of going home was having other people share the memories. The empathy and concern on the faces of his siblings and his mother would be his downfall.
He didn’t want their love to heal him. He didn’t deserve that. And he didn’t want to feel anything. Family knew his weak spots. Family refused to let him cling to the cloak of indifference that made it possible to live from day to day.
Aidan Kavanagh was a charming shell of a man, interested only in closing a deal or cashing a check. Ask anyone. The persona was one he had crafted carefully to keep people away. After loving and losing three times in his life, he was through with emotion...with caring.
In Silver Glen, especially at the holidays, he would have to be himself—the young man who had enjoyed life and reached for happiness with the careless naïveté of the innocent. He would be forced to open himself up to the warmth of family celebrations that would make him terribly vulnerable.
Could he do that and still survive?
Doggedly, he reached for the peace he had created here in the city. Emotional anonymity. A pleasant shield that kept other people from inflicting hurt.
He didn’t hurt. He wouldn’t hurt. Loving his family was a given. But beyond that, he had nothing to offer. Loving and losing meant vicious, unrelenting pain. Only a fool would walk that path again.
* * *
Emma Braithwaite leaned into the bay window, perched precariously on a stepladder that had seen better days. Creating the shop’s storefront display was usually the highlight of her workweek. Today’s theme, not exactly original, was teapots. Twitching the edge of a lace drape into place, she tried to visualize what her handiwork looked like from the street.
On the other side of the glass, a woman stopped and waved madly. Emma smiled. Even through the reverse gold lettering that spelled out Silver Memories, she recognized her visitor. Maeve Kavanagh, matriarch of the Kavanagh family—mother to seven sexy, über-masculine, wildly attractive grown men, and heir to the Kavanagh fortune.