Well, she’d accomplished getting into the interior offices if nothing else . . . “How bad?” she whispered.
“It sliced through his biceps,” Joe said. “Not too bad. He tried to tell the paramedics he only needed a Band-Aid but they insisted on stitches. He’s probably already done and in bed.”
Elle nodded as her vision cleared. “Good to know. Thank you.”
“No problem.” Joe stroked a hand down her arm, clearly trying to soothe. “But if you didn’t know about the incident, what are you doing here?”
Uh-oh. Good question. She stood up and didn’t have to one hundred percent fake the tears in her voice when she met Joe’s gaze. “I left something here.”
Joe took one look into her eyes, saw the tears, and clearly panicked. “Where is it? I’ll get it for you.”
She wrung her hands together and let a tear fall. “I wouldn’t want to bother you—”
“It’s no bother.” He whirled around the office and pounced on the box of tissues sitting on Mollie’s desk like it was a pot of gold.
He pulled out just about every tissue in the box and shoved the whole mess at her, the whites of his eyes showing. “Tell me what you need.”
She sniffed a little dramatically and made a show of dabbing her eyes. “It’s in Archer’s office.”
He blinked. “Uh—”
She started walking down the hall and got just inside Archer’s office to flip on the light when Joe caught up to her.
“It’s on his computer,” she said, opening it, willing it to boot up fast.
Joe reached around her and gently but firmly shut the laptop. “I’d do just about anything for you, you know that, but I love my job.”
She met his gaze.
His own was apologetic and regretful, but also filled with steely resolve. “I have orders.”
“Not to let me in?” she asked incredulously.
“Not to let anyone in his office.”
“But I’m already in.”
He grimaced. “I know and when he finds out, I’m going to end up right back here facing down him instead of you, and no offense cuz you’re scary as shit, but he’s scarier. If I let you on his computer, my ass is fired and like I said, I love this job. Don’t make me get tough with you, Elle.”
He was braced for her to fight him but here was the thing. He was a sweetheart and she couldn’t do it to him. “You sure Archer’s okay?”
“He’s been through way worse.”
Knowing this to be true, she sighed and strode out of the office ahead of him, cursing herself and her stupid impulses when it came to one annoying-as-shit Archer Hunt. So he would read her email, so what? She’d meant every word. Mostly.
Okay, so only parts of it.
Dammit and he’d been hurt tonight too! She got to the outer door and realized Joe wasn’t right on her heels. She could hear him coming down the hallway but she couldn’t see him yet. Thinking quickly, she opened and shut the office door, hard.
And then crouched down behind the reception couch to wait until he left. She was going to delete that damn email and then she was going to stop lusting after Archer no matter what. On her own terms. Terms that allowed her to go see for herself that he was really okay after being stabbed. Because if he was going to die, it would because she killed him, not because of some scumbag bad guy.
Archer hated hospitals. Hated the smell, hated the sound of the machines beeping and hissing, hated the pale walls that always seemed to close in on him. He hated everything about them and had ever since his mom had died after her very long, very tortured battle with cancer.
If he never stepped inside one again in his entire life he’d be perfectly happy.
A nurse popped her head in and smiled at him. “You look ready to get out of here.”
“I was ready before I arrived.”
“Good news then,” she said. “I’m just waiting for a signature from the doctor and you’re free.”
Archer ground his teeth when she vanished but resigned himself to the wait. When his phone went off, he pulled it from his pocket and stared at the notification in disbelief. Someone had just tried accessing his computer. His office computer. Someone was in his office and it wasn’t him.
This was immediately followed by a text from Joe, which explained the situation but not the reason.
Joe: Elle’s here. Wanted something off your computer. Per protocol, I escorted her from your office. She pretended to leave but she’s hiding in reception area. Please advise.
Archer: Remote lock all exits without revealing yourself.
Joe: You mean lock her in? Repeat, lock her IN???
Archer: Affirmative. My ETA’s ten minutes.
He shook his head in disbelief. Elle wanted on his computer. He had no idea what the hell she could be looking for, but she didn’t do anything without a reason. She was up to something and it couldn’t be good.
Screw the doctor’s signature. Ignoring the pain throbbing through his arm, he pulled his shirt and sweatshirt back on and strode from the ER cubicle.
He got to his offices in six minutes and came in the back entrance. Joe was standing there waiting for him, looking terrified. Earlier that night he’d faced down a crazy dude with a knife without blinking, but Elle scared him. Good to know. “I’ve got it from here,” he said.
Joe let out a huge breath of clear relief, nodded, and then ran out of there faster than Archer had ever seen him move. He didn’t blame the guy. Elle was gorgeous, wily, conniving, amazing, and truly scary as fuck.
He made his way down the hall, not bothering to hide his presence but not making a lot of noise either. His arm was aching like a son of a bitch and he was to-the-bone exhausted. He wasn’t sure what he’d find, but he knew one thing.
It wasn’t going to be easy.
It never was with Elle.
He got halfway down the hallway when he heard a noise in the storage room. Jesus, what the hell was she up to? He stepped into the doorway and flipped on the light.
There she was, looking like the hottest B&E expert he’d ever seen, all in black, half crouched beside a shelving unit, a stapler in her raised hand like she’d been about to throw it.
“What the hell, Archer?” she said, rising to her full height, lowering her weapon of mass destruction. “You scared the crap out of me.”