Harlequin Presents #2506
Originally published: 12/01/05
After a head-on collision with another vehicle, Eden Kouros is overjoyed that her unborn baby has survived. But Aristide, her husband, has suffered a partial loss of memory.
Eden’s heart is torn in two. Aristide remembers almost everything–except that he has a wife. Yet perhaps Eden has been given a second chance to save her marriage, which was at breaking point before the accident: Aristide’s body hasn’t forgotten the desire they once shared…and she’s still carrying their precious, tiny child….
Also available in Manga.
“After reading THE GREEK’S CHRISTMAS BABY, I am convinced that Lucy Monroe cannot write a bad book. I suggest having a box of Kleenex nearby during some of the most pivotal scenes and an ice cold beverage of your choice for the love scenes. I also recommend not reading this if you have to go to work the next day, otherwise you just may go to work bleary eyed. This book is a definite must read this holiday season” – Barb Hicks, The Best Reviews
“Gifted Lucy Monroe has penned an attention grabbing tale of renewed love that will gratify even the most romantic of her readers.” 5 Stars – CataRomance Reviews
“You’ll want to add this Presents to your Christmas list!” 4.5 Stars – The Romance Reader’s Connection
“This is such a heart wrenching and moving story, I suggest sit down and read it when you can devote your time to reading the entire story.” – All Romance Writers
“An enjoyable story with an abundance of emotion.” – Romantic Times
“THE GREEK’S CHRISTMAS BABY is another first-rate story from Lucy Monroe!” – Romance Junkies
“Lucy Monroe gives us a fascinating story of lies and mischief.” – Writers Unlimited
“Monroe creates a whole family where honor, integrity and love are very much the cornerstone. Give yourself a holiday gift with The Greek’s Christmas Baby.” – B&N.com Reader Review
“Congrats on making the lists with The Greek’s Christmas Baby. I loved it, and once again you had me staying up all night!” – Romance author, Jill Monroe
“She’s coming out of it.”
Eden heard the words, but didn’t recognize the voice. Her eyelids felt glued together over a layer of sandpaper. It took Herculean effort to force them apart and at first, all she saw was white light and moving shadows.
There were more words, but they sounded like they were coming from under water.
A shadow moved to her right. “Yes, doctor.”
Her eyes began to adjust, making recognizable interpretations of the light and shadows.
A young doctor bent over her, his pale blue eyes intent on her face. “Hello, Mrs. Kouros. I’m Adam Lewis, the doctor on call when you were brought in. How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been hit by a truck,” she rasped. Her tongue felt parched and swollen.
“You were…or at least your car was.”
Images flashed in her mind. Driving rain, a wet road, the sound of squealing tires. Headlights coming straight at them. The grating honk of a car’s horn, long and penetrating. Aristide swearing in Greek and English. His arm coming out to shield her, the airbags rendering the gesture superfluous. Her brown hair swirling around her face, it and the airbag blocking everything else from view.
More distressing images bombarded her and her hand moved restlessly to cover her still flat womb.
Her gray eyes clung to the doctor’s, begging reassurance. “My baby?”
The paramedics had said the tiny life inside her probably wouldn’t survive the trauma, but she’d prayed desperately they were wrong. She didn’t remember anything from that desperate prayer until waking up just now.
“You’re still pregnant.”
“Thank God,” she said brokenly, relief pouring through her slight body.
“Unfortunately, you’re spotting. The good news is that there is no amniotic fluid in the blood. However, the amniotic sac has disengaged from the wall of your womb in one spot. We’ll do everything we can to save the baby, but the next seventy-two hours are going to be critical. You must remain in this bed and stay calm.”
She nodded and winced at the ache in her head. “Hurts…”
“Yes.” He shone a small flashlight in her eyes and made a note on her chart. “You are suffering a minor concussion and have several small abrasions on your right arm from shattered glass.”
Now that he mentioned it, her arm did sting, but her entire body felt like she’d been beaten.
Where was Aristide? Surely he wouldn’t leave her to face this alone. He might not love her, but he adored being a father. Even after their argument, he would be by her bedside for the baby’s sake.
“Where is my husband?”
The doctor laid his hand on her forearm. “You must remain calm, are we agreed on that?”
“Yes.” She willed her emotions in check, despite fear trying to take a choke-hold her. “Please tell me.”
“Mr. Kouros is in a room down the hall. His vitals aren’t bad, but he hasn’t come round yet.”
“He’s in a coma?”
She flinched as if the word had been a physical blow. She felt like it had been. Prior to the accident she’d convinced herself and told Aristide that she was ready for her marriage to end. She had believed there was no greater pain than loving a man she was certain cared for another woman, but she had been wrong.
The prospect of Aristide dying hurt much worse.
“Will he come out of it?” She could barely make herself ask the question, she was so terrified of the answer.
“There’s no way to tell, but indications are good.”
“I need to see him.” If she could see him, it would be all right. It had to be all right.
“Not just yet. As I said before, moving you would be detrimental to your pregnancy. You must remain here.”
“How can I stay here while Aristide is in a coma in another room?” She struggled to sit up.
He pressed gently against her shoulders, putting a halt to her feeble efforts. “Your husband will continue to live without you by his side, but if you attempt to go to him, your baby might not. When he wakes up, we will bring him to you.”
She appreciated the “when” rather than the doctor saying “if”, but his promise was not enough. “Please…isn’t there some way you can take me to him?”
“Your baby’s life depends on you remaining calm and remaining flat on your back in this bed,” the doctor said too firmly for her to ignore.
She gave up trying to move. “Seventy-two hours?”
“If he hasn’t woken up by then and you are no longer spotting, we will arrange for you to be taken to his room to sit beside his bed.”
She knew she had to be strong, but it was so hard. She just wanted everything to be the way it had been before she got married, when she thought Aristide was just poor at expressing his emotions toward her…before she’d decided he didn’t have any.
The doctor squeezed her shoulder in comfort before stepping back. “Bed rest is the best chance you have of ensuring the viability of your pregnancy at this point, Mrs. Kouros. I know it is difficult, but you must stay here. We will keep you apprised of your husband’s progress. I promise.”
“Thank you.” She blinked away tears at the kind understanding she saw reflected in the doctor’s eyes. “I need to make a phone call.”
She called her mother-in-law. Phillippa was frantic at the news of the accident and Aristide’s coma. Even so, she did not neglect to ask how Eden was doing.
“I’m fine. Some minor complications…a concussion…it will keep me on bed rest for a few days, though.” The only family member who knew she was pregnant was Aristide and she had every intention of keeping it that way.
She’d found out very recently herself and the news had come as a total shock. She was still breast feeding Theo, or had been, but her milk had stopped producing and she’d gone to her doctor to find out why. She’d been dumbfounded to discover she was pregnant again so soon after the birth of her first child. Theo was only nine months old.
Even if it had been a planned event, she would have hesitated to impart news of her pregnancy to her mother-in-law when there was a chance it would end in grief.
Her heart contracted at the thought and she sent yet another desperate prayer heavenward.
“I’m so glad Theo is staying with you.”
“You must not worry about your son. All is well.”
Eden actually managed a smile; thoughts of her son always gave her pleasure. “Thank you.”
It had been murder leaving him behind and she went to sleep every night with images of his baby features so like his father’s firmly fixed in her mind’s eye. Theo share Aristide’s dark curly hair and olive complexion, but he had her gray eyes. She missed him like crazy, but she had intended this trip to New York to be an opportunity to cement her relationship with Aristide.
She had thought that by coming back to where they had met and been lovers, she could recapture the way things had been between them. However, the trip had been a dismal failure. She’d ended up playing second fiddle to Kassandra…again and getting so mad about it, she’d asked Aristide for a divorce.
She could barely believe she’d done it. She’d been crazy in love with him from practically the moment they met. She’d thought he felt the same way. He’d certainly acted like it.
They’d bumped into each other in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It had been a muggy day in summer and Eden was visiting her dad in the city. He was busy in a last minute business meeting and had cancelled their plans for lunch. There was nothing new in that and she’d taken herself off to the museum as she’d done on so many occasions in the past.
Only this time, she’d never made it inside.
Busy thinking, Eden let her instincts guide her toward her destination. Now that Dad had cancelled lunch, she’d have time to meet with that new glass artist she’d heard about. Would he be open to showing his work in the upcoming “History of Glass in Art” exhibit at the small museum she worked for in Upstate New York? Not all artists were open to museum exhibition.
There was little to no money in it for them, but the exposure was good.
She was composing her approach to the artist in her mind when she hit what felt like a brick wall and bounced backward. Her gaze flew up as two strong, masculine hands grasped her shoulders and prevented her from falling.
Not a brick wall. A man. The most stunningly gorgeous male specimen she had ever seen. Easily six-foot-four, the dark haired Adonis had eyes the color of blue lapis and a finely sculpted body encased in an Armani suit of perfect fit. He even smelled gorgeous. Wow. She thought maybe she mouthed the word, but wasn’t sure.
He smiled down at her and she felt all the air go whooshing from her lungs while the blood rushed from her head. Lightheaded, she could only be grateful he had kept his hold on her shoulders.
Those incredible blue eyes skated over her features with tactile intensity. “Excuse me, I did not intend to nearly knock you over.”
But she knew, just knew, it had been the other way around.
“I wasn’t watching where I was walking,” she admitted with a grimace while she fought a totally inappropriate urge to reach out and touch the hard body so close to her own.
“And I was too busy watching you to notice the direction my steps took me.” He spoke with a slight accent she could not place, his words infinitely more formal than the average American businessman.
She stared. “Did you really say that?”
His smile grew to such sexy proportions, she was in danger of melting in a puddle at his feet. “You are unused to the men around you being honest in their attraction to you?”
“I’m not used to men like you being attracted to me at all.” As soon as she blurted the words, she blushed so hotly she felt like her cheeks were on fire. She couldn’t have been more gauche if she’d tried.
He didn’t seem to notice. In fact, he was shaking his head, his eyes speaking messages she had to be misinterpreting. “You are teasing me, no?”
“No. I’m not very good at that sort of thing.”
This made him laugh. “You are charmingly honest.”
“Whereas you are embarrassingly so,” she muttered, not at all sure how to take this man’s attitude.
He opened his mouth to speak, but his cell phone rang. He frowned. “Excuse me for a moment.”
She went to move away, but he kept one hand firmly on her shoulder while flipping his phone open with the other. She had no trouble reading his expression then. He was silently telling her to stay right where she was and arrogantly assumed she’d do it as he turned his attention to his phone call.
Her heartbeat tripled at his continued nearness and the knowledge she didn’t want to go anywhere.
He started speaking in another language, one she could not place any more successfully than she had placed the accent.
He didn’t talk very long before hanging up the phone and then smiling at her once again. “I must apologize. It was my assistant.”
“If you need to go…”
He shook his head. “No. I find my afternoon free. My hope is to spend it with you.”
Totally unprepared for that claim, she shook her head, trying to clear it.
“You have another engagement?”
“No. I…” She swallowed. “A guy like you…you don’t have free afternoons.”
“I guy like me, pethi mou?”
“What does that mean?” she asked, diverted.
“Pethi mou? Loosely translated, it means my little one.”
“In what language?”
“I am Greek.”
“Oh,” she sighed out. She should have realized. He was every bit as yummy as any statuary she’d ever seen of the Greek gods. More so, if she was honest with herself.
“Now, answer me…what do you mean by a guy like me?”
“A businessman…a corporate shark.”
“You think I am a shark?”
She looked at his clothes, took in the familiar aura surrounding him, and then remembered the way he’d wielded his cell phone and how effectively he’d controlled her with a mere look. “Yeah.”
“And do you have a lot of experience with guys like me?” Incredibly, he sounded jealous.
She almost laughed, but didn’t think he’d appreciate the humor of the situation. “Not a lot, no. But my dad is one and I used to work for him.”
“No. I work for a museum in Upstate New York now.”
“So, you are not from the city?”
She shook her head. “I’m supposed to be visiting my dad, but something came up.” And then, incredibly, she found herself telling him her other errand and he offered to go with her to see the artist.
It was mad, but she wanted desperately to say yes, to prolong this meeting between total strangers.
He read her hesitation and asked, “Your father is into big business?”
The gorgeous Greek handed her his phone. “Call him. Tell him that Aristide Kouros wants you to spend the afternoon with him.”
His absolute assurance her father would know who he was and vouch for him surprised her, but maybe it shouldn’t have. This guy was not lacking in confidence in any way.
“That’s your name? Aristide?” she asked to put off making the call, trying to decide if she wanted to.
This man was dangerous, but so delectable she wasn’t sure that was going to matter to her.
“My name is Eden.”
Aristide’s hand moved to cup her nape and his thumb brushed along her jaw. “That is a lovely name.”
Her breathing fractured and she stuttered out, “Th-thank y-you.”
He pressed the phone into her hand. “Call.”
She did. Her father did indeed know who Aristide was and asked to speak to him. She couldn’t tell much from Aristide’s side of the conversation, but when she got the phone back, her father told her the other man was trustworthy.
“But he’s out of your league, honey. Be careful.”
“It’s not safe to go with him?” she asked.
Aristide frowned, his body stiffening with offense and she could just tell he wanted to grab the phone back from her and tell her dad a thing or two.
“I didn’t say that,” her dad was saying. “He’s safe to your person, but your heart is another matter. He makes me seem like a tame pussycat.”
That did give her pause. Her dad hadn’t gotten serious with anyone since her mom, though he’d had numerous affairs and the truth was, he hadn’t been faithful to her mom either. Was Aristide the philandering type?
One look into his burning blue gaze and she had to doubt that assessment.
Nevertheless, she was biting her lip when Aristide took the phone from her and flipped it shut.
She sighed. “He says I’m not in your league.”
“You are in your own league, Eden. You are special.”
“You don’t know me, how can you say that?”
“Are you saying your reaction to me is like any you have had to another man?”
“Do you think I make a routine practice of clearing my heavy schedule to spend time getting to know a woman I bump into on the street?”
Put like that… It should be impossible for something like this to happen so fast, but it was happening. “I guess I can accept that this is unique for you.”
“You are unique for me.”
And she had believed him, Eden thought as she lay in her hospital bed, memories washing over her. From that point on, he’d certainly treated her like she was special. They spent the day together and he didn’t press to take her to bed that night. Honesty made her admit to herself that if he had, she would have been a total pushover.
But he hadn’t and she had stayed over in New York City for the weekend, which they spent together.
Then she had to go home.
She didn’t know if she would see him again, but she had. He’d called several times that week and then surprised her by coming to see her in Upstate New York. He’d wined and dined her, his every casual touch sending her libido to places it had never been. They talked for hours, discovering they liked the same foods, enjoyed the same movies and he was fascinated by her knowledge and interest in antiques.
When he took her home that night, he’d started making love to her and she’d gone under with all the buoyancy of a rock tossed into a stormy sea.
Remembering that first time, made her heart palpitate even now.
Eden waited in silence while Aristide unlocked the door to her apartment. The sexual tension in the air was so thick, it pressed against her like a physical force. He wanted her, but she wanted him too. More than she’d ever wanted another man…enough even to silence her clamoring nerves and internal worries that all of this was moving way too fast.
The look of dark promise in his deep blue eyes said he didn’t think it was moving fast enough. “I like your place.”
She looked around. Her home was the middle floor of a tri-story Victorian era house that had been converted into three separate apartments. Carved wooden trim painted white and walls painted in deep rich tones gave her home an elegance that she had fallen in love with on first viewing the property.
She’d broken up the high gloss of the hardwood floors she with antique oriental throw rugs in tones complimentary to the walls. All of her furniture had an oriental motif, but it didn’t feel modern. She’d scoured flea markets and antique stores all over the state to decorate with inlaid lacquer pieces and furnishings that gave the impression of the ancient culture of the Far East.
“I’m glad you like it. I do too.”
He’d shut the door and locked it and now turned to face her, his hands divesting her of her jacket while his eyes devoured her. “I like you even more.”
She licked her suddenly dry lips. “I like you too.”
“I’m going to kiss you, pethi mou.”
But when his lips touched hers, it was unlike anything she’d ever known. Even with him. This kiss was claim-staking at its most basic. His hands curled around her waist and pulled her body into his while his tongue demanded entry into her mouth. She gave it to him.
From the first slide of his tongue against hers the passion he sparked in her burned through her body to singe every single, solitary nerve ending into sizzling life and she went up in flames. It was too much, but not enough and she whimpered as she undulated against him in wanton abandon.
He groaned and one hand moved down to cup her bottom, massaging her and causing a burst of heated humidity between her legs. Their clothes fell away as if by magic and then she was standing naked in the circle of his arms.
Sudden fear had her breaking the erotic play of their lips together. “Aristide?”
“What pedhaki mou?”
“This isn’t just a one night stand, is it? You won’t disappear once we’ve made love?” She didn’t know what made her ask the question, maybe her ongoing fear that this man was so far out of her league he belonged on another planet.
He stopped moving and held her still to meet his gaze, his expression so serious that she shivered. “I am making you mine, not preparing to notch a bloody bedpost.”
She bit her lip. “Do you become mine too?”
She shuddered. “Okay.”
It wasn’t a promise of forever, but it was also not the age old “no ties” out-clause of the commitment shy male. He wanted more than a temporary slaking of physical need. She was glad because her feelings for him demanded it be more while at the same time making it nearly impossible to say no, regardless of what his intentions were.
They came together in a conflagration of need that broke through her virginal barrier with her barely even realizing it had occurred. The pain was minimal and incredible pleasure followed it almost immediately. Their lovemaking culminated in a completion so intense, she was insensate afterward.
She slowly became aware of him again as he kissed her all over her face and throat, saying over and over again that she was beautiful, passionate and his. The claiming lasted throughout the long night of her sexual awakening.
The next morning, he woke her with a kiss that was so tender it made her cry. He laughed when she explained her tears were because his lovemaking was so beautiful, his masculine arrogance basking in her overt approval.
And as promised, their time together was in no way related to a one-night stand. He’d told her she was special and proved it. He had an even more demanding schedule than her dad, but he called her at least once a day. He spent almost every weekend with her, sometimes bringing her to New York City, but usually he came to her apartment despite it being a two hour drive.
He treated her like a queen and made love to her like she was the most irresistible woman on the planet.
He willingly got to know her father. While they had actually met briefly in the business arena, they now became friends. She and Aristide were together months before she started to wonder about him introducing her to his family. The couple of times she brought it up, he put it off saying he wanted to keep her to himself and she believed him.
His life was so hectic, so high pressure that she got a charge out of being what he called “his oasis” in the desert of a life filled with the grains of sand that comprised his business and family commitments.
However, as the months grew to a year and he made trips back to Greece without ever once inviting her, she started to wonder about her role in his life. How necessary was an “oasis” and did him seeing her that way mean she was a mirage that would disappear from his life at some point in the future?
Unlike when he was living in New York, he rarely called her from Greece and never made any overt commitment to return to her when he left. But she knew if he did, she would be waiting. She loved him and her life, at least, was not complete without him. He left a huge void when he was gone and she felt like she walked around a half of a person until they were together again.
It gave her a frightening sense of vulnerability, one she was certain he did not share.
She discovered she was pregnant during one of the trips he took to Greece without her. She knew right away she was keeping the baby, but she was worried about telling Aristide. He’d been so careful about contraception and she couldn’t help wondering if he would balk at her taking a more permanent role in his life…that of his child’s mother.
She told him of the pregnancy his first day back. He’d come to see her straight from the airport and she took that as a good sign. They made love and were lying entwined in her bed when she told him about the baby.
She was curled into his side, sated and so filled with love for him, she was bursting with it. “I’ve got something I need to tell you.”
He moved so he was leaning over her and met her gaze with his own, his eyes compelling her to honesty. “This sounds serious. What is it?”
He went completely still, the vibrant blue of his irises disappearing almost completely as his pupils dilated in shock. “But…”
“Contraceptives fail,” was all she could think to say.
Then he was smiling brilliantly, the change in his demeanor happening so fast, she was stunned. “You are carrying my child? Why did you not call and tell me?”
“It’s not something you say over the phone.” Not to mention the fact she had never once felt comfortable calling him at his office in Greece or on his cell phone when he was abroad.
He nodded, his expression filled with blatant pleasure now. “I understand. This is amazing.”
“I’m glad you feel that way.”
“How else could I feel?”
“Trapped?” she suggested.
But he just laughed. “We get married as soon as possible.”
As marriage proposals went, it lacked romance, but she was so relieved he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, she didn’t quibble. She loved him so much and regardless of the doubts that had plagued her over the last few months, he had to love her too.
He’d been too instantaneous in the marriage decision and for a guy like him to stay with one girlfriend so long had to be significant.
“All right. I’ll marry you.”
The Greek’s Christmas Baby
Harlequin Presents – December 05
© 2005 Lucy Monroe