Empty-Handed Heart [Suncoast Society]

By: Tymber Dalton

Suncoast Society

Empty-Handed Heart

Aden aged out of Florida’s foster care system. He built a life, bought a house…and fell in love with Niall, a blue-eyed Irish Dom who owned his heart. When Niall got a job in California, he took Aden’s heart with him.

Niall regretted his move, but thought Aden would follow. Five years later, Niall’s back and wants to reclaim what’s his—Aden. He doesn’t expect to run into Aden while teaching erotic hypnosis at a fetish convention. He wasn’t expecting Aden to have gorgeous Etsu on his arm. He damn sure wasn’t expecting to save Etsu’s life in a malfunctioning elevator.

Etsu grew up smothered by a crazy-overprotective family and her asthma. With Aden, she can finally be herself. She can’t help fantasizing about Niall and Aden together, or how sexy it’d be writhing in pleasure between them. The question is can they make this work, or will her family succeed yet again in driving away her chance at happiness?

Chapter One

“How are we doing this morning, Mrs. Garcia?” She was Aden’s first patient that Wednesday morning.

The octogenarian glared up at Aden from her wheelchair. “Fuck you.”

He didn’t let it faze him. “Still in pain, I take it?”

“Yes, I’m still in fucking pain. When is that supposed to stop?”

He realized he’d reached up and was playing with the niobium captive bead ring through the upper shell of his right ear. It was something he sometimes found himself doing without thinking. “You just had your knee replacement surgery six weeks ago. It’s normal to still have some pain at this point in the recovery process.”

“I can’t play bocce ball sittin’ on my ass! And don’t tell me yes, I can, because no, I can’t. My aim sucks sitting or using a damn walker. I already tried. Our team is supposed to go to regionals in three weeks. What can you do for me by then? I don’t want to lose to those idiots from Bradenton just because of my knee.”

Her granddaughter, who drove the active and feisty eighty-six-year-old to her appointments, silently smirked as she studied her phone. She’d learned to keep her mouth shut and her head down and let her abuela vent.

So had Aden. He didn’t take it personally. It was no coincidence that the PT in physical therapy was often referred to as physical torture.

Mrs. Garcia wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last patient to swear at him, either. Although she was certainly the oldest female patient he’d had use such salty language in clinic.

By the time he finished his session with her nearly an hour later, he sort of felt he’d like been run through a woodchipper.

If she acted like this now, he could only imagine how take-charge she’d been earlier in her life. Before her granddaughter left with her, she pulled Aden aside.

“Mom asked what kind of cookies you all like, because she said you’re going to earn alllll of them.”

He laughed. “Whatever she’d like to make would be awesome, thanks.”

He had enough time to write up his report before his next patient was due. They weren’t all as entertaining as Mrs. Garcia. Most of his patients today were mundane, ranging from surgery recovery to stroke recovery to injury recovery, with one diabetic foot amputation learning to walk on a prosthetic leg, and ranged in ages from early twenties to mid fifties. He didn’t usually do pediatrics because it wasn’t his specialty, although he’d had to fill in for one of their pediatric therapists in their practice a couple of times, and had seen some older kids.

Aden had worked for the rehab clinic for nearly eight years now. He was one of the more senior staff members, and had finally earned his doctorate last year.

PhD, not MD, and he didn’t make people call him “doctor”. Also meant he had more managerial duties. They were run by a physicians group that operated several clinics around the Suncoast region in a variety of specialties.

It was good work, and he enjoyed it. It never got boring, he helped people and improved the quality of their lives, and he made a decent living in a field that would provide him with relative job security even if he had to leave his current employer for some reason.

It’d allowed him to buy a house. He’d interned with them during college, and they’d hired him at the end of his internship when he’d first graduated. Then they’d worked with his class schedule as he’d earned his doctorate.

Thus for the first time in his life, he’d had a permanent home of his own. After a childhood spent growing up in the foster care system, and then aging out of it, he couldn’t put a price tag on what that stability meant to him.


He had a good job, he owned a home, his relationship with his girlfriend, Etsu, was going well, and in general he had few complaints.

While there remained a six-two, blue-eyed hole in his heart where his dreams had once lain, he did his best to wake up every morning, the same as he had every day for the past five years, and pointedly ignore it.

* * * *

On his way home from work, Aden stopped by Publix to pick up groceries. Etsu was coming by later for dinner and hopefully playtime. She had to stop by her parents’ house first, since she’d been putting them off and had blown off a family dinner over the weekend that had resulted in her mother guilt-tripping her.