After a near fatal car crash leaves him scarred both physically and emotionally, Matt Harmon finds the solitude of his huge, lonely house too much to bear. Hiring nurse James Hayden to look after him seems like the best idea for Matt, whose fierce independence has been compromised by his injuries. The two men clash from the start as James struggles to help Matt rebuild his shattered body and heal his crushed soul. The bond they form is forged in fire and ice, and the wounds they inflict on one another can only be erased by Matt’s admission that he can’t live without James’s loving touch. Will Matt realize too late that James is the only one who can rescue him from himself?
This is a previous release.
The nurse he had hired greeted him. A buxom blonde, surely barely out of nursing school, she seemed more qualified at leaning over him and showing her cleavage than attending to his nursing needs or administering regular analgesia. After two days, Matt let her go. It troubled him that despite her attractiveness, he never once got an erection from her attentiveness. He had already been warned at the hospital that nerve damage from his fractured pelvis could lead to impotence. He should have been grateful for still being continent, although he didn’t feel grateful. He felt robbed, with no guarantees from his doctor that sensation would return. He tried not to dwell on this issue. He didn’t need his equipment in working order at the current time. But this was no good. What if he could never have sex again?
The next nurse mothered Matt in a way he never had been before. Kind and competent enough, she made him feel a little child-like, a little submissive. He felt emasculated enough, lying helplessly in bed, without being made to feel completely dependent. He asked her to leave after a week.
He thought about the type of nurse he should specify when he phoned a different agency. The solution struck him. A man. But then a male nurse spelt only one thing for Matt: gay. A little on the homophobic side and well aware of his superb body, he wasn’t sure he wanted some queer getting his rocks off at having to look after Matt intimately. Specifying a straight guy to the agency could hardly be seen as politically correct, though.
In the end he just asked the agency to send him a man, and predictably didn’t have the choice of whom, as they only had one on their books. He agreed to this nurse coming the next day for an interview.
The nurse arrived promptly at nine the next morning. Severine, his housekeeper, had already brought Matt his breakfast, and he lay wincing at the pain in his pelvis and ribs as he tried to get comfortable against his pillows. The door opened.
“Mr. Hayden to see you,” Severine said.
The nurse entered Matt’s bedroom. He was perhaps in his early thirties and smaller than Matt, a shade under six feet. He had a lean, well-proportioned body and wore a black shirt and black trousers, smart in appearance. Matt had to grudgingly admit the nurse was attractive, startlingly so, his features regular and even, his mouth pink and full, and his hair jet black and spiky. He was way too well-groomed for a guy though. If he wasn’t gay, Matt would eat his hat.
He approached Matt’s bed, and Matt tensed as he always did since the accident when he met someone new. He waited for that inevitable flicker of the gaze onto the scar before the person quickly tried to pretend they hadn’t noticed and looked him too firmly in the eye. Matt always reacted with a stony glare to tell the person they were a shallow idiot. He watched the nurse like a hawk as he drew closer, and he waited to despise him as much as he despised everyone else.
“Hi,” the nurse greeted him, hand out, gaze on his, not straying from his eyes. “James Hayden.” He smiled, his teeth perfect. Aquamarine eyes, like pale, glassy seawater, surrounded by thick lashes appraised Matt. The nurse seemed at ease. He didn’t seem uncomfortable as if Matt was a deformed freak. Matt felt both confused and grateful.
“Matt Harmon,” he replied, taking James’ hand. “Take a seat.” He indicated the chair close to his bed and James did so. “Can I get you a drink?”
James shook his head. “Your…girlfriend already asked me. She’s bringing me one.”
Matt laughed for what might have been the first time since his accident. “That’s my housekeeper. She’s forty-nine and married with four children.”
James flushed a little and grinned. “Well, you never know…”
Matt smiled. “So. You realise this is a live-in position for the duration of my recovery?”
“Five days on, two days off.”
“Who looks after you on my two days off?”
“My friends. I don’t need you twenty-four seven.”
James eyed the long leg-cast, the sling, the bruising all over Matt’s bare torso and the newly-undressed surgical wounds. “Don’t you?” he asked sceptically.
Matt lifted an eyebrow. “You’re offering to work seven days a week?”
James shrugged. “Why don’t we just see how it goes? I’ll assess your needs.”
Matt regarded him. His needs were far more than James could provide. Like a fucking shrink, although that was something he’d never admit to anyone. He nodded.
“I’d say your immediate needs are adjusting those pillows behind you,” James added and stood up.
In relief, Matt leaned forward awkwardly, wincing in pain. His shoulder brushed James’ as he reached behind him. Matt got a whiff of expensive cologne, some brand that he owned himself. He felt the warmth and muscle of the man’s body, and he sank back quickly as James moved away.
Even his friends didn’t hug him when they came to visit, because it hurt him too much. They had all always been touchy-feely, and it made him feel awkward. He hated being touched, had always hated it, except during the act of sex, and even then he kept kisses and caresses to a minimum and tried to get to the business in hand as quickly as the woman would allow him. Something in the back of his mind sometimes told him this was a little abnormal, and he had never felt this more acutely than when he was in the hospital. When his nurses had leaned over him, when he had smelled their fresh, feminine scent and felt the warmth of their bodies, it had left him a little desperate for… something. He wasn’t sure what. He felt the same when James leaned over him. It made him angry that the accident, the altered body image and the enforced dependence on others had appeared to leave him not just physically weak, but emotionally weak, too, and he vowed that no one would see this weakness displayed.
“Are you okay?” James moved back to his chair. “Did I hurt you?”
Matt shook his head. “I’m fine. When do you want to start, James?” His question surprised even himself. He hadn’t given James any sort of real interview before hiring him. He was simply too tired to care anymore. If James didn’t work out, he would fire him like he had done the two nurses before him and just get another.
James smiled, which lit up his handsome face and almost made Matt smile in return. Almost, but not quite. James had already made him laugh once—that was more than enough for one day. “Let me go back for my things, and then I’m all yours. Do you want me to wear a uniform?”
“No. Unless you want to. I’d rather not be reminded I’m sick.”
“So you’re okay with jeans?”
“Sure. Whatever you want. Unless it’s a tutu.”
He regretted the quip when James narrowed his eyes a little, not looking amused. He might as well have called James queer to his face, curse it. James murmured a goodbye, turned, and left the room.
Matt stared from the window. He couldn’t help suspecting that James had got the measure of him from one meeting—a reclusive, cold, unemotional man. A front to hide his desperate need for help.