Can passion heal a broken man?
Ethan Hendrix never needed anyone. But when a car accident leaves him wheelchair-bound, Ethan has nowhere to turn. Ethan’s terrified he may never walk again, much less run the business he worked so hard to build. Angry, alone, and afraid of being forced into a long-term care facility, Ethan reaches out to an unlikely source for help.
Physical therapist Sarah Portman has no patience for self-pity. So when Ethan asks Sarah to move in and be his caretaker, she thinks he’s lost his mind. But Ethan is desperate. In such close quarters, Sarah isn’t sure she can fight the intense sexual connection between them. Can Sarah help Ethan overcome his physical disability or will she be overcome by physical attraction?
“I can’t do this.” Ethan’s muscles trembled as he strained against the unmoving bar. “I can’t fucking do this.” He slumped back into the chair. A bead of sweat had formed at his left temple.“Don’t beat yourself up. It’s your first day. Besides, it’s only been, what…?” Sarah flipped up a page on her clipboard to look back at Ethan’s intake form. “Three months since the car accident? You’re doing great.”“This is pointless.”“It’s not pointless. The initial eval helps me to put together your physical therapy plan.”“I’m not talking about the goddamn evaluation. I’m talking about everything. Everything.”Sarah put her pencil down and looked at Ethan, studying his face. “So why are you here?”Ethan opened his mouth to speak and shut it again. The question was simple enough, but he couldn’t seem to find an answer.“I’m serious. What did you come here for if you really think it’s hopeless?”“It is! Do you even know what the doctors said?”“That’s not an answer.” Sarah’s eyes were trained on Ethan, daring him to say something. “No one forced you to come here, which can only mean one thing. Whatever the doctors said didn’t convince you.”Her voice was level and calm, but that tone of practiced patience grated on him. She spoke to him as if he were a dull child, not a man whose life had just been ripped away from him. She patted his legs soothingly, and he stared down at the place where she’d touched him. He hadn’t felt a thing.Ethan huffed in response. “Whatever. It’s a waste of time.”“You’re not wasting my time. I get paid the same whether you do the work or not. It’s your dime, buddy.”“That’s right. What do you even care? I’m just another paycheck to you.”A wry smile spread across Sarah’s lips. “You caught me. Physical therapy isn’t just about the glamour.” She gestured around the room at the workout machines and therapy tables. “We’re really just in it for the money. I mean, look at what my disgruntled patients’ hard-earned dollars get me.” She nodded to the window. Through it he saw a ten-year-old Honda Civic with a fading paint job baking in the sun.Ethan’s shoulders sagged as he let out a slow breath, like a balloon deflating. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Smart ass.” Though he tried hard to bite it back, a wisp of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.The front door flew open, and the bells hanging from it jangled when they crashed against the glass. Ethan looked up just as a young boy on a skateboard whizzed inside. With a grunt, the boy popped the board up into the air, and it skidded across the bottom bar of one of the exercise machines. He landed with a thwack and slammed his back foot down on the lip of the board, causing it to leap up into his hand. The kid didn’t seem to be in need of any physical therapy. What was this, a clinic or a skate park?“New board?” Sarah held out her hand for a quick high five.“Yep, got it for my birthday.”“Sweet.”The boy plopped onto the floor and dug a large box out of his backpack. Ethan cleared his throat in annoyance, yanking Sarah’s attention away from the boy.“Oh sorry,” she said. “Ethan Hendrix, meet Bradley the Bionic Boy.”Bradley nodded and uttered a quick “’sup.”Ethan crossed his arms over his chest. Just then, Bradley got the box open and handed Sarah a large metal object shaped like a scythe.“Bitchin’.” She turned it over in her hands, admiring the strange-looking object. Finally, she held it out to Ethan. “Bradley here just got his first set of running legs. Wanted to stop by and take them for a quick spin. This should only take a minute.”Running legs? Ethan heard the words but couldn’t work out what they meant until he saw Bradley roll up his jeans and remove his standard prosthetic legs, revealing stumps just below his knees. The realization took Ethan’s breath away.Bradley set the prosthetics to the side, still clad in sneakers and white athletic socks. Sarah handed over the running leg, and he fitted it onto his left stump. Compared to the standard prosthetics, the running blade looked sleek and futuristic, like something out of a sci-fi movie. Bradley pulled the other blade from its box and placed it onto his right stump. In an instant, he was up onto the blades, bouncing and feeling them out. Ethan couldn’t believe how quickly the kid adapted to the new limbs.Sarah probed around the base, checking the fit. “How do they feel? Any pinching?”“Nope. They feel good.”She demonstrated the proper motion and checked Bradley’s form while he took a few practice steps.“All right.” She gave the kid a conspiratorial glance. “Let’s do this.”With that, the two of them took off through the aisles. The jog turned into a run when they took the corner and reached a full-blown sprint by the time they made their first lap. Ethan felt like he was watching a bird take flight for the first time. The boy’s movements were awkward at first, but quickly turned graceful, effortless. Sarah jokingly put a hand on his chest and pushed herself ahead, which only spurred him on.“Really push off and throw your weight into it.” She was running as hard as she could, and the words came out in a short staccato between breaths.Bradley took to the running legs like a duck to water, and he was pulling away from her with every step. She finally gave in and slowed to a stop. She was breathing heavily by the time she made her way back over to Ethan. Bradley ran another full lap before bringing it home. He spread his arms open for a hug, but misjudged the distance and wound up tackling Sarah to the ground. The two of them collapsed into a heap, laughing hysterically. They could have been brother and sister. Ethan couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed like that, and he didn’t think he ever would again.“A little rough on the landing, but not bad for your first time out.” Sarah gave Bradley a push, and he bounded upright. He was already stuffing his everyday legs, calves first, back into his backpack by the time Sarah managed to get herself up off the floor. The sneakered feet stuck comically out of the unzipped compartment.“I’ve gotta go,” he said. “I’m meeting my friends at the park to show these babies off. Think I’ll be good enough for the track team next year?”“No question.”Bradley nodded in Ethan’s general direction and turned to leave. The bells clanged just as hard when Bradley hit the door on his way out as they had when he came in. Sarah was still smiling when she turned her attention back to Ethan, who was eyeing her curiously.“Did you plan that?” he asked.“What?”“Did you ask him to stop by here?”“No, why would I do that?”“To make me feel like an asshole.”That earned a round of laughter from Sarah, and for the first time, Ethan realized how pretty she was. Her cheeks were flushed from the exercise, and a few strands of hair had fallen from her ponytail and hung loose about her face. She collapsed into the chair in front of him.“No,” she said when she finally caught her breath. “But I should have.”“He’s a real pity-party pooper.”“That he is.”“What happened to him anyway?”“Nothing. Bradley was born without any legs. Can’t miss something you never had.”“You’re good with kids. You treat him like he’s a grown-up.”“Well, sometimes kids can be very grown-up, and sometimes adults can be big old babies.” She looked pointedly at him.“Touché. I guess I don’t have it as bad as I thought.”“Tell me, what exactly did the doctors say?”Ethan leaned back in his wheelchair and stared down at his lifeless lower half. “That even though my spinal cord wasn’t severed, I’ll probably never walk again. They said I’m lucky to be alive, and if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt, I wouldn’t be.”“You are lucky. Probably is better than definitely.” She patted Ethan’s thighs. “No catheter or colostomy bag?”Ethan reddened at the suggestion and shook his head vehemently.“Look, if you’ve still got control of your mind and your bowels, you’ve got nothing to complain about.”“Are you always such a goddamned optimist?”“Comes with the job. You want someone to listen to you whine? See a shrink.”“I don’t need a shrink.”“Okay then. Time to buck up and get your ass to work.”