Title: THE PAIRING
Author: KATIE ASHLEY
Published: Feb. 18, 2014
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A Companion Novel to The Proposition and The Proposal
After her former boyfriend left her pregnant and alone, Megan McKenzie swore off men. She spent the last eighteen months focused solely on her son, Mason, along with finishing nursing school at the top of her class. Although she’s not ready to complicate her life with a long-term relationship, a nice no-strings attached hook-up is just what she needs. At her godson, Noah’s, baptism, she finds the perfect candidate in the soft-spoken godfather, Pesh Nadeen. After all, the widower could use a good time too. But after drinking too much, the night doesn’t end the way she thought it would. Forced to leave Pesh’s house through a walk of shame, Megan hopes to never, ever see him again.
For Pesh Nadeen, the very sight of Megan sends him into an emotional tailspin. Since she reminds him too much of what he has lost, he wants to be out of her sight…at first. But the more he gets to know her, there's something about the diminutive blonde that causes his protective side to go into overdrive, and he finds himself wanting more. When Megan is assigned to work in his ER to complete her nursing clinicals, he sees it as fate, but she’s having no part of it. She only wants a physical relationship while he wants far more.
What happens next is a sexy game of cat and mouse to see who will break first or if both of them will eventually get more than they ever bargained for.
When Pesh pushed open the door, he couldn’t help the surprise that filled him. With her auburn hair pulled into a loose knot and her emerald eyes glittering with happiness, Emma Harrison Fitzgerald, stood before him with her six-month-old son balanced on her hip. “Hi. I hope I’m not interrupting you.”
A rush of pure love entered his chest at the sight of her. Six months ago he would have confused the feeling with amorous love, but now he knew the difference. He loved her only as a friend. “Hello to you, too. It’s so good to see you.” His brows furrowed as his mind wondered why she was here in the ER. “You’re okay, aren’t you?”
“Oh, I’m perfectly well. It’s just—”
Pesh’s gaze dropped to the strawberry-blond haired boy sucking voraciously on a pacifier. “Noah’s fine, isn’t he?”
Emma smiled. “He’s perfect.”
Pesh exhaled the anxious breath he’d been holding. “I’m glad to hear that. You both look well.”
“Thank you.” Emma surveyed him and frowned. “I wish I could say the same for you. What’s wrong?”
“Just a tough day.” Even with Emma’s expectant expression, he didn’t want to elaborate. Gazing down at his hands, he finally responded, “I held a man’s heart in my hands this afternoon.”
Emma’s eyes widened, and she sucked in a breath. “Oh my God…”
He shook his head with regret. “But no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t save him.”
She reached out to rub his arm. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“Thank you,” he murmured. Since he was ready to change the subject before his emotions overcame him again, he motioned for her to have a seat. “So, what brings you here?”
“I have a favor to ask of you.”
His brows rose in surprise. “You do? Another flight for Aidan perhaps?”
Emma laughed. “No. I think it’ll be a long, long time before he ever gets in a small plane again.” As Noah began to squirm, she shifted him from her lap to her shoulder. He spit out his pacifier and started to fuss.
“Here. Let me,” Pesh suggested, bending over to take Noah into his arms. Noah’s surprised blue eyes met his, and then he smiled at Pesh. “Hello, little one. My, how you’ve grown since I saw you last.”
Noah cooed and reached for Pesh’s stethoscope. “You were saying?” he questioned Emma.
“I know it’s a lot to ask, considering you’re not Catholic, but I was wondering if you would be Noah’s godfather?”
Pesh couldn’t hold back his surprise, and his mouth dropped open in shock. “You’re serious?”
Emma nodded. “Since I’m not Catholic, I’m basically humoring Aidan’s father by having a baptism for Noah. You remember him?”
Pesh laughed. “How could I ever forget Mr. Fitzgerald, the matchmaker?”
Emma smiled. “That’s right. Well, you can understand how persistent he is.”
“Oh yes, I do.”
“We’re allowed one Catholic and one non-Catholic godparent. We’ve chosen Aidan’s niece as godmother, and then I wanted you.”
“But what about your good friend?”
Emma waved a dismissive hand. “Besides the fact that Connor is a non-practicing Baptist, he’s refused on the grounds he doesn’t want to have any moral or religious responsibility for Noah.” She grinned and shook her head. “While he and Casey were obvious choices, let’s just say they’re looking forward to corrupting Noah, rather than guiding him on a spiritual path.”
Pesh smiled. “I see.”
Emma’s auburn brows knitted together in worry. “I hope you’re not offended that I told you that. I don’t want you to think you were a second best choice. When I thought of someone to protect and guide Noah, you were one of the first people to pop into my mind.”
Pesh worked to free his stethoscope from Noah’s mouth. “And what does Aidan say about this?” He knew that although he and Aidan had come to some sort of friendship on the night of Noah’s birth, he couldn’t imagine, as possessive as Aidan was, that he would want a potential ex-flame of Emma’s having a major part in his son’s life.
“He’s fine with it,” Emma replied, as she toyed with the strap on her purse.
“Emma,” Pesh pressed.
She threw up her hands as she met his gaze. “Okay, so he wasn’t thrilled with the idea at first. It took some convincing on my part, but he’s totally onboard now.”
“As honored as I am, I would not cause contention between you two for anything in the world.”
“And you won’t. I promise.” Emma reached out and took his hand. Months ago, that touch would have electrified him from his head to his feet. Now it was nothing more than the caring touch of a friend. “In this day and age, it is so hard to find a truly honorable man. You have such a kind heart and a caring spirit. Coupled with your integrity, I couldn’t ask for a better person in my son’s life, and Aidan agreed.” She squeezed his hand. “Please say yes.”
Pesh brought his gaze from Emma’s intense one to Noah’s inquisitive one. How could he say no? He loved children, and he wanted nothing more than to have a house full of them one day. The fact that Emma thought so highly of him truly melted his heart. As he stared into Noah’s sweet face, he wanted to be a part of his life. “Emma, it would be a privilege.”
Katie Ashley is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best-Selling author of The Proposition. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her two very spoiled dogs and one outnumbered cat. She has a slight obsession with Pinterest, The Golden Girls, Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Supernatural, Designing Women, and Scooby-Doo.
She spent 11 1/2 years educating the Youth of America aka teaching MS and HS English until she left to write full time in December 2012.
She also writes Young Adult fiction under the name Krista Ashe.