Sometimes love is the biggest risk of all…
Claudia Nichols and Aaron Sinclair never should have fallen in love. He was a maverick hounded by his reputation as a bad boy, but Claudia made him want to be a better man. Claudia was always the level-headed one until she threw caution to the wind and fell for Aaron. Everyone said it couldn't last, and they were right. When their whirlwind marriage ended, Aaron seemingly went back to his old ways while Claudia retreated into her career.
When their son is injured in a life-threatening accident, they put aside their differences to see him through. The old flame between them still smolders, but Claudia’s not sure if it's warmth she feels or heat from old burns. Aaron's never been afraid of risk—it’s how he made his fortune. But is a second chance at love just too big a risk to take?
A few minutes later, the sedan arrived at Aaron’s Park Avenue residence. Claudia’s driver had barely pulled into the private entrance before she stepped out of the car. She had no time to worry about the niceties of waiting for the attendant to open her door. When she identified herself, the doorman ushered her inside the vast lobby. At the concierges’ desk she asked them to contact her former husband. Moments later, she was in a private elevator heading to the twenty-first floor.
Her heart thumped and her palms grew damp as she wondered how to break the news. The elevator slowed, then stopped, and the doors slid open. Aaron was right there, confusion and concern in his face. She’d never been to his home before, and rarely contacted him unless it had to do with their sons, so he had to know something was wrong.
The moment she saw him, she wanted to fall into his arms and feel them close around her. Wanted him to hold her the way he so often did when they were married and still in love. His embrace always anchored her and made her feel stronger, as though he were lending her his own strength.
Thank goodness she resisted the urge to fling herself against him. Before he could say anything, words tumbled out of her mouth.
“Andy’s in the hospital. He had an accident, a bad one, and they’ve put him in a medically induced coma while they treat him. You have to come with me. Right now.”
“Andy?” he asked, his face pale, his expression blank with shock.
“Yes. Please, Aaron. Hurry.”
“Yes. Hold on.” He fumbled in his pockets, then turned and glanced around. She followed as he headed into the living room and grabbed his phone from the coffee table. She vaguely took in her surroundings. They were impressive, but of course they would be. Aaron never settled for less than the best.
“Let’s go,” he said, jamming his phone into his pocket and taking her hand. It felt like coming home. She didn’t try to fight the impulse to curl her fingers around his palm.
They were back in the hall when someone called “Wow. That tub of yours. It’s amazing…”
Claudia froze, then turned to see a young woman standing in the bathroom doorway, wrapped in a plush terry-cloth robe much too big for her.
The girl blinked. “Oh. Hey. Uh…” she gestured to herself. “I, uh, found this hanging on a hook so I borrowed it.”
“That’s fine, Summer,” Aaron answered tightly as Claudia pulled her hand from his grasp. “I have to go now. I don’t know when I’ll be back. You can stay here as long as you need.”
“Okay. Um, is anything wrong?”
Claudia clenched her teeth as humiliation flooded her. She didn’t want to be here while her ex chatted with one of his little girlfriends. “I’ll meet you downstairs,” she muttered, turning away.
“Claudia, I’m coming. Summer, if you need anything, just call me. All right? I have to go.”
They descended silently to the main floor while Claudia kicked herself all the way down. She’d almost fallen into the same old trap. She’d let memories of the love they once shared color her view of him. But they’d divorced for reasons.
He’s not yours, Claudia. He never was. You tried to hold him, but he can’t be held. It’s not his nature.
It didn’t matter, she reminded herself. Only Andy, their son, mattered now. His life was more important than her silly embarrassment, or the sting of knowing Aaron’s little friend was young enough to be her daughter. It’s not my business.
The moment of connection they’d shared, when he’d taken her hand, might never have happened. The warmth she’d felt so briefly became a chill. A chill which turned her voice frosty when they reached the lobby. “My driver’s waiting for us.”
“Fine.” Aaron’s tone was just as cold as they walked side by side, not touching, not even looking at each other.
She hasn’t changed at all, Aaron thought as he sat beside her in the back seat of the sedan. True, she’d aged, but the years had made her even lovelier and given her a mature beauty that youth couldn’t compete with. As he gazed at her now, his heart still gave that foolish bump he’d felt all those years ago when he first laid eyes on her.
It was that tight-lipped judgmental frown of hers that hadn’t changed. The narrow-eyed suspicion in her gaze, reminding him of all the times she’d played judge and jury, convicting him of crimes of which he’d never been accused. The crimes of being thoughtless, careless and immature. Of selfishly putting his own needs before those of his family. And it never mattered how he defended himself, how he pled his case. Claudia always found him guilty. And she was a hanging judge. When she’d decided their marriage was over, it was over. Case closed.
And yeah, that still burned. Not that he was perfect. He never claimed to be. But she never gave him a chance to try and do better.
Aaron knew she was judging him now, because of Summer. Instead of asking who the girl was, Claudia had already made up her mind that he was hooking up with someone no older than his own sons. She really thought that poorly of him.
Well, let her. He could try explaining that his relationship with Summer was completely innocent, but why bother? Claudia wouldn’t believe him anyway. She was too invested in seeing him in the worst possible light. He wouldn’t grovel to defend himself.
Instead he’d focus on who was really important. Andy.