Damon has a secret…
Every Friday night, the F5F partner who is the quiet powerhouse leaves on the dot of five without explanation. Where does Damon go? What does he do? His partners want to know, but Damon can’t bring himself to share the truth about his mom’s battle with cancer. She’s the anchor in his life and he doesn’t know how he’ll go on without her. In the middle of the night, when he’s most alone, he wants to control all the variables for someone, to prove he’s not completely powerless. He doesn’t expect to find such a willing, or seductive, volunteer.
Haley loves solving mysteries…
Especially ones like the gorgeous guy who visits her favorite patient every Friday night. He must be Natasha’s son, but is he also the model on the billboard for that fitness club downtown? Where did he learn therapeutic massage? Even though she’s a nurse, Haley’s interest in him and his skill isn’t just professional. She wants to feel those hands on her own skin, for as long as possible. One night, she takes a chance and asks for a lesson from him, only to discover that she has a hunger for the sensation only Damon can satisfy.
“Book three in the Flatiron Five series was passionate, with a well developed plot and great characters. Book 2 is definitely still my favorite in the series, but this one is a close second….I really like how the characters in this book, and in book 2, were honest and straightforward. They didn’t play games. They didn’t say one thing but mean another. Haley was straight up honest with Damon and it was that which pulled him in, just like Lauren and Kyle. Loved it and am definitely now looking forward to more in this series. So good.”—Rendezvous with a Romance
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An earlier version of Damon and Haley’s story was published under the title In the Midnight Hour. This version includes changes made for consistency with the new series starter, Just One Fake Date. It also has a slightly different ending and new epilogue. If you bought In the Midnight Hour in ebook, you should be able to download Just One Night Together as an update from the portal where you made your purchase. The update will replace the old book on your reading device.
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An excerpt from Just One Night Together:
Haley had heard about him, of course. The mysterious man who showed up every Friday night to give Mrs. Natasha Perez a massage. The hunky and mysterious son, if she listened to the other nurses. There was a lot of speculation about him and whatever he did—and what kind of relationships he had.
Haley didn’t care much about his social life. What intrigued her was the difference in his mother’s charts. As a nurse interested in alternative therapies, Haley always wanted to know more about easing discomfort, no matter how it was done.
There was no denying that Natasha slept better and more deeply every Friday night.
He came on other days and times, too, and the story was that he phoned her daily, but Friday night, after the wards quieted down, he showed up like clockwork.
Was it his presence, as Mrs. Perez’s only son, or his massages that made the difference? Haley had swapped shifts, just to see for herself.
On this Friday night, just past midnight, she stood in the doorway of his mother’s room and watched. She was on her break from the cardiac ward and had twenty minutes. The door was partly closed, which both kept Haley out of view and limited what she could see. From this vantage point, she could see only the edge of the heart monitor but could hear its output. Even without reading the display, she heard Mrs. Perez’s pulse slow to a nice steady resting rate.
She couldn’t see the son well from this angle, plus he had his back to the door. He was bigger than Haley had expected, buff like someone who worked out a lot. His hair was dark, almost black, and he looked tanned. His jacket was flung over a chair and he was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. She could see the muscles in his back and arms flexing as he gave his mom a massage. His broad shoulders strained the T-shirt and she could see the end of a tattoo on his upper arm, below the hem of the sleeve. His hands moved rhythmically over his mom’s limbs as he talked softly to her.
Haley wasn’t sure whether it was a worse choice to stand in the doorway and eavesdrop, or to declare herself and ruin the mood he’d created. She listened to the heart monitor and stayed put.
Just watching his hands was mesmerizing.
His jeans fit just a little too well for her own heart rate to be dropping, though.
How long had it been since she’d wrapped her legs around a man? Too long, judging by her body’s response to the sight of one deliciously fit male. She always bailed quickly on relationships, not wanting to get in too deep, not wanting to be tied down, not wanting to sacrifice her ambitions. For the past year or so, it had seemed like too much trouble to bother with men.
She watched Mrs. Perez’s son, though, and realized she’d been ignoring her basic needs.
She swallowed, stared, and considered fixing that.
“There’s something I should tell you, Mom,” he said. He had a nice deep voice, both soothing and sexy. “Something I told you a long time ago that just isn’t true.”
“You never lied to me.”
“Well, I did once. I’ve been feeling guilty about it ever since.”
His mom sighed. “You could always have told me.”
“I know. But there never seemed to be time. These nights when I’m here with you, it feels as if we have nothing but time.”
That wasn’t strictly true. Haley bit her lip. She’d read Natasha’s charts. Time was not on the older woman’s side. She hoped the son knew the reality ahead of them.
Maybe that was why he was confessing.
“You’re still not telling me,” Mrs. Perez said, humor in her tone. Haley smiled at the sound. Too often, she heard the pain in the voices of patients like this one.
The son didn’t respond for a moment. He lifted the sheet and began to work on his mother’s legs. He caressed from the ankle upward, his hands in a V, circling slowly across the flesh. His mom sighed.
Haley bit her lip. The sight of those large tanned hands on the older woman’s slender and pale leg, the tenderness in his touch, the comfort he was giving, was enough to make her tears rise. Kindness was a little too rare in the world, in Haley’s view.
“It’s hard to know where to start,” he murmured finally.
“At the beginning,” his mother suggested, and he chuckled.
“You wanted grandchildren,” he said. “I think that was the beginning.”
“A child is the beginning,” she whispered. “We think it’s the culmination of love, the result, but the conception is really the beginning.”
The son didn’t answer. That his ring finger was bare told Haley that he might be single. Or divorced and single again. Either way, the direction of the conversation and his silence suggested that he was alone and that he didn’t have kids.
She knew she should leave.
She knew she had no right to listen.
But she told herself that she was observing his technique and learning.
He was good. The monitors showed the therapeutic effect of his touch. Mrs. Perez was almost asleep and at ease. Her pulse had slowed even more, and her charts showed that she asked for fewer painkillers on Saturdays. It was amazing.
“You kept asking me about women, about marriage, about babies,” the son continued, a tinge of exasperation in his tone. He eased the sheet aside and worked on her thighs, his movements slow and reverent. “And then one day, you asked if I was gay.” He leaned a little more into the massage as he worked higher. “And I said yes.”
“I remember,” his mom said mildly.
“But I was lying,” he admitted, bending to drop a kiss on her shoulder. It was a tender gesture, one that made Haley’s tear threaten to break free. The love between mother and son was almost palpable. The heart monitor beeped steadily as his hands bracketed the back of his mother’s waist. “Breathe now, Mom. Breathe in when my hands are here, then out when I move them. In and out. In and out. Slowly. Push out the pain with each breath.”
Mrs. Perez did as she was told, and Haley found herself breathing the same rhythm. It would have been meditative, if she hadn’t been so fascinated by the patient’s son.
“I was lying because I didn’t want you to be disappointed anymore,” he continued in that velvety voice. “I didn’t want you to be waiting for something I wasn’t sure was ever going to happen.” He was silent for a long moment. “I wasn’t sure the right woman really was out there, and so I lied.”
“I know,” his mother said softly.
“You knew?” His hands froze for a moment, then he resumed his massage.
His mother laughed softly. “I knew, Damon. I always knew.”
Damon. His name was Damon.
His mom’s voice turned sleepy. “You always make it feel better,” she murmured as he worked down her arms to her fingertips. “What would I do without you?”
“You don’t have to do without me, Mom.”
“But you’ll have to do without me.”
He was startled, Haley saw. Not surprised, so he knew the truth, but he thought his mom didn’t. Haley could have told him that patients always understand their situation more clearly than their doctors and family realized. “Don’t think about it, Mom. Just relax.”
“But I do think about it. I think about you.”
“Mom!” Damon shoved a hand through his hair, and Haley caught a glimpse of his profile as he glanced at the monitors.
Natasha’s pulse was increasing again, her agitation undoing all that he’d accomplished.
“I don’t want you to be alone.”
“So, stay,” he said, his tone reasonable.
“It’s not a joke, Damon.” She grasped his fingers with urgency and he paused to look up. “You’ll find her,” his mom said with quiet conviction. “You’ll find her, Damon, if you let yourself look for her, and then you won’t be alone after I’m gone.”
“You’re not going anywhere anytime soon, Mom,” Damon began, and Haley knew he was wrong. She didn’t want him to be misled. In her experience, people did better if they had time to prepare themselves for the truth. She’d checked his mom’s charts. Her leukemia wasn’t responding to treatment. If anything, it was getting worse and spreading faster.
Haley must have made some slight sound, the merest protest, but Damon heard her. He spun and his gaze locked with hers.
He was even better looking than she’d expected, and he was annoyed. She saw anger flash in his dark eyes and his unblinking stare made her fully aware of her transgression without him saying a word.
She flushed, hating that she’d been caught, but not regretting what she’d learned. She took a step back when he frowned, then pivoted in the hall and leaned back against the wall of the corridor, her heart leaping. She closed her eyes and saw him again, and her heart raced.
What would he look like when he smiled?
She’d guess that he’d be transformed, from a dark angel into an irresistible hunk. She closed her eyes, trying to catch her breath before she went back to her shift.
And those hands. What would it be like to feel them on her own skin? She’d be like butter in no time at all, warm and soft, and then…
No. She would not fantasize about Mrs. Perez’s son.
At least not when he was only fifteen feet away.
Haley had to pull herself together and get back to the cardiac ward.
She stood with her eyes closed for just a moment longer. The corridor was quiet, just the low murmur of voices carrying from the nurses’ station at the far end of the hall. She could hear patients snoring and sleeping, more than one murmuring, the heating pipes creaking and the sound of traffic far below. An ambulance rolled into the ER and Haley heard the familiar sounds of activity but at a distance. There had been a siren, so the patient was alive. They’d stopped the siren once the ambulance was on hospital grounds so he or she was stable. As ever, she said a little prayer for that stranger’s well-being.
It was an old habit, one her mom had taught her, and Haley didn’t even think about it anymore. She just did it. Her mom always said there couldn’t be too many prayers for anybody. Haley imagined them like little pairs of gold wings, flying from her lips to the ears of the divine.
She heard Damon murmuring to his mom and assumed the massage had been resumed. The beeping of the monitor slowed again and Haley smiled.
He really had a gift.
Was there any way she could learn to do the same? She’d studied and taken courses but it seemed to Haley that there was an emotional component to the success of Damon’s massage, or even a mystical one. It was more than just technique. What had he meant when he told her to push it out? Had he taken on his mom’s pain to give her relief? It was an intriguing idea, but she didn’t imagine he’d be in a hurry to share more of his secrets with her.
There was something familiar about him, something Haley hadn’t noticed until he looked directly at her. Did she know him?
She was pretty sure she didn’t, but the sense was hard to shake. She couldn’t put her finger on the reason and stood thinking about it, listening to the heart monitor. Conversation in the room stopped. She guessed that Mrs. Perez had fallen asleep.
Where could she have seen Damon before?
How could she have seen him and not remembered?
Haley didn’t even hear his footsteps. She wasn’t aware that he’d left his mother’s side, until his fingertip landed on her shoulder. The unexpected touch made her jump and her heart skipped again when she found Damon right beside her, that dark gaze locked upon her. She shivered right down to her toes.
Then she simmered, just a little.
“Do you always listen to other people’s conversations?” he asked, his voice low so that he wouldn’t disturb his mom’s sleep.
Haley was sure she flushed from head to toe. “I was watching, actually.”
He lifted a brow and she knew that didn’t sound much better. At close proximity, Haley felt the full weight of his attention. He was taller than her and broader than her, seemingly all muscle…
And that was when she knew where she’d seen him before. He was the guy in the billboard for that downtown fitness club, Flatiron Five Fitness.
Get hard at F5F.
So, she knew what he looked like almost naked.
Haley’s mouth went dry. Of course, all of greater New York area knew what he looked like almost naked, because those ads were everywhere, but still, she felt like she was talking to a superstar.
A very hot superstar, whose attention was completely fixed upon her.
An excerpt from Just One Night Together
Copyright ©2018, 2020 Deborah A. Cooke
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