The last thing ER doctor Emily Jordan needs in her life is another man to let her down, and certainly not one who uses his fists in his work. She's seen enough of the results of violence in the world, and has no use for anyone who contributes to it.
Professional hockey player Eric Cameron has never met a woman who intrigued him so much. Emily Jordan has it all, brains and beauty, a home of her own, a career she excels at, a son who adores her, and loving friends and family to help her bring it all together in way Eric has longed to be a part of his entire life. The problem is this feisty, independent woman wants nothing to do with him and has no problem letting him know it.
The memory of Emily's healing hands despite her clear-cut opinion of him when she treats him after a post-game barroom brawl drives Eric to find the key to her wounded heart, but success would mean that Emily would have to give up all that she has and depend on a man who's life is anything but settled. Will Eric be able to win her heart despite her opposition to the only life he's ever known? Or when the season ends will he move on again--alone?
**Golden Quill Winner**
**EPPIE Winner 2008**
PRINT ISBN 1-60154-016-7
(383 pages) Spicy
Emily looked down at her hands, once again braced on the railing. "Out with Dr. Caldwell" was the euphemism they used for the one night a week she spent with Augustus at the women's shelter. She didn't want to explain to Robbie where she was going or why until he was old enough to understand. Her work at Harmony House was personal and she didn't need him casually spilling her secrets to everyone he met--like Eric Cameron. God only knew what her son had already told the man about her.
Not that it mattered anymore.
A shiver snaked its way down her spine. The temperature in the rink was frigid. If she didn't want to turn into an ice statue, she'd have to get moving. The song on the radio ended. A more familiar tune wafted on the air, making her feel less out of sorts. "I see. Well, maybe we should have invited Melissa along today. I could use a lesson or two."
"Then I'm the man you're looking for," an amused masculine voice said from behind her. "Skating lessons are my specialty."
Oh no. Not him again. Not now. Am I being punished for something specific, Lord, or are you just playing with me for the fun of it?
"Thanks for calling, Sport. I see what you mean. We've got a real rookie on our hands. White knuckles and all."
Emily whipped her head around. "Robbie called you?"
Eric studied her face before answering, as if gauging her mood. "I gave him my number when we were at Paisan's. Told him to keep in touch."
Robbie had had the man's phone number all this time and not said a word? Emily wanted to cry. She no longer knew her son at all.
Eric misunderstood her upset. "Hey, it's not so bad. Just give me your hands and--"
She yanked them out of his reach, not caring if she fell. "No! Don't you understand? Either of you? I don't want to skate with you. I don't want to have anything to do with you."
The flash of hurt in his eyes made her look away, only to find a matching hurt in Robbie's face. Emily felt ashamed of herself, and embarrassed for all of them. What was it about this man that brought out the worst in her?
"Just once, Emily," Eric said quietly. "Just once around the rink. If you don't like it, we can stop. And if you do, as soon as you're able to skate alone, I'll leave you to it. It shouldn't take long. Fair enough?"
Still too embarrassed to meet his eyes, she looked at his chest. He wore a black turtleneck beneath an open hip-length parka, and looked as big and tall as a mountain. Nobody, but nobody was going to skate over him. The thought was reassuring.
She lifted her head, and met his eyes beneath the brim of his black baseball cap. He hadn't shaved in at least a day or two, and looked a little scruffy, but she understood he was trying not to be recognized again. Suddenly she appreciated his making the trip out here, risking the exposure, to help her out.
"All right. And I'm sorry for ... for overreacting. I'm nervous about..." she nodded in the direction of the speeding skaters. "...all of this."
Eric's expression gentled in understanding as he held out his hands. "Don't be. You can handle anything."
With a dry, disbelieving look, she laid her hands in his. He squeezed them reassuringly and a comforting warmth seeped into her limbs.
"That's it, Mom. You'll be all right now. Eric won't let you fall."
"He's got that right," Eric said, his dark brown eyes not leaving hers.