Christmas in the Billionaire's Bed

By: Janice Maynard

One

Mrs. Maeve Kavanagh and 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.

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