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She laughed in a burst. “No, not at all. It’s just, in case you haven’t noticed, you’re half dead.”

Axe started to smile, and it was a beautiful thing to see. “Not even close, female. Not even close.”

It was amazing how a change in scenery could perk a male up.

When Elise came back downstairs and knelt by him with the requested minty-fresh delivery system and a glass of rinse-out, you want to talk about a morphine drip? Only without the opiate and no tubing? He felt absolutely no pain whatsoever.

“Why don’t I get this set for you?” she said, holding up the brush and the tube.

When he nodded, she got to work, her head angling down, her hair, which had been pulled back in a ponytail, slipping off her shoulder and hanging forward as she concentrated on getting a line of Crest on his bristles.

Okay, that sounded dirty.

Then again, in his current mood, he could take anything as innocent as popping the top on the tube or rolling from the bottom or even her taking his brush firmly in hand, and turn it into full-tilt XXX—

“How are we going to do this?” she asked.

Axe looked down his body, and answered in his head, Lift up my gown and straddle me after you get naked. Then ride me like the bull I am.

Wow. The romance.

“I’ll hold my head up. And—”

He hissed and let the deadweight at the top of his spine fall back to the ground. “Damn it—”

Elise’s smile appeared right over him. “Open wide.”

As he complied, the cool, refreshing flavor was completely overshadowed by her scent, her beauty, his need. She ended up rinsing the toothbrush out in the water over and over, getting the paste from his mouth that way—and if the end result was a little gritty, at least he didn’t taste old blood.

And neither would she.

Elise moved the glass and the brush to the side and pulled the sleeve of her simple fleece down over the heel of her palm so she could wipe his mouth.

“How’s that?”

“Am I too banged up to kiss?”

“No,” she breathed.

She leaned back over him, but he stopped her. “Will you free your hair?”

Something about that memory of it whipping around the human male outside the steakhouse was still with him, and he wanted to own that stretch of wonder and magic that some other chump had had with her, take it away from the human, stamp it as his.

Plus he loved the smell of her shampoo.

As she pulled the band free and returned to him, soft waves framed his face … and then her lips were brushing his and he was using all his strength to rest his hands on her upper arms.

“You can lay on me,” he said into her mouth.

“Where are you hurt?”

“Just stabbed in the side, no big deal—”

She jerked up. “What—”

Axe waved his hand back and forth. “It’s not a problem.”

“Let me see.”

Hmmmmmm. If she stripped him, she’d get a really good picture of how bad it had been. On the other hand, hello. Nakey.

His conscience spoke up. “Ah, I’m not wearing anything under this. I mean, like … nothing.”

Her eyes grew hooded. “That’s all right with me.”

Axe’s hips rolled at that sexy tone of hers. “Then cut the damn thing off me. There are scissors in the kitchen. By the stove.”

The sound of her walking through the little house, just as when she’d gone upstairs, made him realize how empty it usually was—and also how quiet everything was here in the sticks: Out in this rural part of Caldwell, there was no ambient noise from late-night city traffic, no extra light from buildings or streetlights, no neighbors too close.

Funny, he had never had much of an opinion about the property before … but he liked the solitude.

Especially with her around.

“I’ll be careful,” she said as she came back in and got down on her knees next to him. “I think I’m going to have to start at the bottom.”

His breath caught and then started to pump. “Elise?”

“What?” she asked as she moved down to the hem with the blades.

“You realize I’m …”

It was funny that a male like him, who’d done just about every sexual thing that was physically possible, often in front of crowds of people, was suddenly pulling the shy-guy routine. But the difference was, he wanted Elise to like the way he looked. In the other situations, he hadn’t given a shit.

“You’re what,” she whispered. “I want to hear you say it.”

“I’m hard,” he moaned. “For you.”

Yes, it was the least sexy thing in the world to have a hospital patient say that to a female … to have some battered, bunged-up, stitched-together Frankenstein of a guy tell you that the one part of him that wasn’t bruised was ready and rearing to go.

But for whatever reason, she didn’t care about all the oh-so-uglies.

Her smile was one for the ages.

“Well, then I’m going to have to do something about that, aren’t I,” she murmured.

His cock twitched like it was doing sit-ups as she went to work, the silver scissors shiny and reflecting the firelight, the blades flashing as she started to cut. Right at the center of the gown.

The slicing sound of those two sharp halves coming together over and over again so close to his erection made him nearly orgasm. And then she was right where the action was.

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