In His Keeping (Slow Burn #2)

By: Maya Banks


GAVIN Rochester stood in the doorway of his enormous living room watching as his wife carefully examined a Christmas ornament before quietly replacing it in the box and tucking it back into the plastic basin they used to store Christmas decorations.

Her sadness instilled an ache inside his heart that made him physically rub his chest in an effort to alleviate the pain. But some wounds were simply too deep. Permanent and unable to heal. And her pain was unbearable to him because he couldn’t fix this for her. His connections, money, power. None of it meant anything if he couldn’t give his beloved wife what she wanted most. He felt her pain as keenly as if it were his own—and it was. Because he couldn’t stand for her to be unhappy. He’d move mountains just to make her smile.

She’d changed him. Made him a better man. A man he never thought he could be—never wanted to be. But she changed everything—his world—his place in his world. Suddenly he’d wanted to be a better man. For her. Because it was what she deserved. And he would never place her in harm’s way with his business practices. It was a new experience for him. Living clean. In the light. Having someone who made him want to feel . . . worthy.

Then she turned from her sad perusal of the lone ornament, and when she saw him, her face lit up, rosy from the shining Christmas lights strung around the tree. He marveled at how, whenever she smiled at him, it took his breath away. It was something that would never go away. His love for his wife was like nothing he’d ever experienced in his life. Staggering. Yet warm, like the flames in the fireplace. Unwavering. Without reservations, strings or conditions.

She loved him, and that knowledge still had the power to bring him to his knees.

“That’s the last one,” she said, her gaze drifting one last time to the sole ornament that hadn’t been hung on the tree. Sorrow briefly chased the warmth from her eyes before she appeared to make a concerted effort to collect herself, and the grief filling her features slipped away, but he’d seen it. Knew it to be there no matter the effort she made not to let it show.

He crossed the room, no longer able to bear the distance between them. He pulled her into his arms and thrust his fingers into her long hair and then nuzzled the top of her head, inhaling her scent as his lips pressed to her glossy brunette strands.

“We’ll try again,” he murmured, trying to inject confidence and reassurance in his tone. And yet he knew he’d failed miserably. He sounded as dejected as he knew her to be. Not because she’d failed him. He could live his life with only her and never suffer a single regret. But he’d failed her. He was unable to give her a child he knew she wanted with every breath.

She wanted them to have a family. Love, laughter, to fill their house with warmth he’d never experienced before her. She knew all of that, knew what his life had been like and she was determined to change it. To give him a home. Not just a house. A home with a family and her unconditional love. He had no defense against her. His love defied boundaries or parameters. He knew he would never love another living soul the way he loved this woman.

She shook her head against his chest, and he carefully pulled her away, gutted by the sheen of tears in her brilliant brown eyes. Even in sorrow she was the most beautiful woman in the world to him. He couldn’t remember his life before she entered it.

He held the single most precious thing to him in the world in his arms, and he was powerless to give her what she wanted most. A child.

“No more, Gavin,” she said, her throat working up and down as if the words were painful to speak. “I can’t take another loss. I can’t do it anymore.”

The utter despair in his beloved wife’s voice was more than he could bear. He was precariously close to losing control over his own emotions. Only his vow to be an unyielding rock for his wife kept him in check.

She needed his strength. Not his weakness. And the hell of it was, he only had one weakness in his life.

Ginger. His wife, lover and absolute soul mate.

He would have laughed at the idea of fate and soul mates. The professor of his Human Resources and Development class had once said that the concept of there only being one person out there for you was utterly false. That you could fall in love—and love—many different people in your life.