Author: Jill Shalvis


“You sound surprised. Dr. McGinley not doing a good job?”


“She’s doing a great job.” So great that Josh still felt discombobulated at how easily his world had gone on without him. He looked at the box of mac and cheese and decided he just couldn’t do it. He went to the freezer and pulled out a couple of steaks. While he defrosted them in the microwave, he headed out the back door and started the barbeque. The thing was brand spanking new and huge. He’d bought it two years ago and had never used it, not once, but it started right up with a big, satisfactory whoomph, not so unlike Toby’s lightsaber.


Grace was standing in the open door watching him. “Feeling manly?”


He took in her pretty little sundress as she stepped outside. It had spaghetti straps and tiny buttons down the front and came to midthigh. “I’m feeling something.”


She smiled. “What is it with men and big toys that turns them into Neanderthals?”


“It’s not the toys. It’s the ‘big.’ We like everything big.”


“Well you have no worries there.”


He wasn’t touching that one with a ten-foot pole. Or a nine-inch one… “Are we playing?”


She looked him over from head to toe and back again. It wasn’t the first time Josh had been undressed by a woman’s eyes, but it was the first time it’d given him a hard-on. And he knew she liked what she saw because the pulse at the base of her throat kicked into gear.


Liking that, he took a step toward her, planning on showing her more of his “Neanderthal” side.


“Arf, arf!” Tank came barreling out the back door, chased by Toby with his lightsaber, both heading right for Grace full speed ahead.


Josh stepped in front of her to bear the brunt of the inevitable impact, bending low to grab for Tank just as Toby swung the lightsaber—


And accidentally collided with Josh’s head. Josh staggered back and tripped over Tank. The puppy yelped, and Josh shifted his weight, but the damn dog wound his way between Josh’s legs. To avoid killing him, Josh shifted again, and this time lost his balance. He fell, hitting with teeth-jarring impact, smacking his head on the concrete. Stars burst behind his eyeballs, and then…


Nothing.


Chapter 21


Always have chocolate on the To Do list to make sure you get at least one thing done.


Josh?”


He heard the voice coming at him from far away. It sounded urgent, and old habit had him responding to that urgency. He blinked his eyes open, then immediately wished he hadn’t as pain sliced through his head, making him want to toss his cookies.


Or in this case, cupcakes.


“Josh, oh my God. Can you hear me?”


“Shhh.” He closed his eyes again. Shit, that chocolate had been a very bad idea. “Toby—”


Grace was on her knees at his side. “He’s fine. The dog’s fine. I’m fine, thanks to you. We’re all fine. Now please open your eyes again and talk to me.”


Hell, no. If he did that, he’d definitely toss his cupcakes.


“Arf! Arf, arf, arf!”


Oh, Jesus, the Antichrist’s barking was going to split open his head.


“Quiet, Tank,” Grace said. “Toby, baby, grab him and put him in the laundry room, please. Anna, good, you’re back. Get a phone in case we need to call nine-one-one.”


“Got it,” Anna said, sounding so unusually shaken that Josh did open his eyes. Look at that, Antichrist number two was worried about him. Nice change. “No nine-one-one.”


“You need a doctor,” Grace told him.


“I am a doctor. What the hell did I hit, a Mack truck?”


She held him down when he tried to sit up, and did so with surprising strength. “Stay,” she said, like he was Tank.


“I’m fine.” Except her fingers looked like…long French fries.


And she had two heads. And as strong and sure of herself as she sounded, all four of her eyes were filled with concern.


So sweet. He was used to doing the worrying. Hell, he was good at it. The best…


But it was nice to have someone else doing it for a change. He concentrated on that for a moment, then let his gaze wander. Four breasts too. Mmm. That was even nicer than having her worry about him. Four perfect handfuls— Wait. He’d need four hands for this. He lifted his hands to his face. One, two, three, four…ah, perfect. “It’d work,” he said, and closed his eyes again.


Grace’s heart was in her throat as she ran her fingers through Josh’s hair, looking for the bump. She found it at the back of his head, a nice goose egg that had panic sliding down her spine. “Time to call nine-one-one,” she said to Anna.


“On it,” Anna said.


“No.” Again Josh stirred, and it was like trying to hold back a stubborn mule. A two-hundred-pound, six-foot-plus stubborn ass, she thought grimly, sitting back on her heels. “Josh—”


“Ice,” he said, snatching the phone from Anna’s hand with surprising reflexes, especially given that a second before he’d been out cold. “I just need a bag of ice.”


Anna rolled her eyes at the command but went wheels up to the kitchen.


Josh managed to get to his feet, looking like he felt the world spin on its axis before staggering two steps to sink rather heavily to the porch swing.


“Josh, you need to take it easy for a change.”


He was green and getting greener and was covered in a fine sheen of sweat. He looked over at Toby standing there silent, somber, clutching his lightsaber in two little fists. “I’m fine, Squirt, no worries.”


“Do you have blood?” Toby asked in a small, wavering voice. “Because when a Jedi warrior bleeds, he dies.”


Josh ran his fingers through his hair, then showed his blood-free fingers to Toby, who didn’t look convinced.


“I’m okay,” Josh promised. “I’m going to live to fight another battle.”


At that, Toby smiled a little, revealing the gap in the front where he’d lost his tooth. Adorable, but Grace was over the macho bullshit. “You need to go be checked out, Josh.”


“I’m fine.”


Did he really think he could fool her the way he fooled Toby? “If you’re fine, how many fingers am I holding up?”


He focused in on her with what appeared to be great effort. “Two.”


Lucky guess and they both knew it. Unfortunately, he was a man through and through, and therefore had a penis, which meant that there’d be no reasoning with him.


Anna came back with a bag of ice.


Josh placed it on the back of his thick noggin and settled more carefully on the swing, leaning his head against the wall behind him. Eyes closed. “Hey, Little Man,” he said to Toby, “didn’t you want to watch Transformers?”


“You said no ’cause I already watched too much TV this week.”


“I counted wrong,” Josh said. “Go ahead. Have Anna put it on for you.”


Toby swung his lightsaber, whoosh, vrrmm-whoosh and ran back into the house, followed by a much slower moving, more reluctant Anna. “If you die,” she said, pointing at Josh, “I’ll kill you.”


When she was gone, Grace moved in. “Nicely done. Now tell me what to do for you.”


“How long was I out?”


“A minute.”


“A minute, or a few seconds?”


“Seconds,” she admitted. “But—”


“I’m good, Grace. I just need to sit here for a bit.”


“Josh—”


“Tea,” he said. “Can you make tea?”


“Sure.” She jumped up and went in the kitchen. There she found Anna, with Devon.


“What are you doing here?” Grace asked him.


“Visiting.” He hooked an arm around Anna’s neck and pulled her in, making her chair squeak as it slid sideways. He gave her a kiss on the temple.


Tender. Sweet. And full of shit. Grace tried to wordlessly convey to Anna that she was better than this. That she deserved more.


But Anna wasn’t having the silent conversation. Or any conversation. “I came home to get a sweatshirt. We’re heading back out,” she said, only her eyes revealing the concern at leaving Josh right now—which of course she was far too stubborn to actually voice out loud.


Devon took the handles of her chair and turned her, wheeling her out of the kitchen. Just before they got to the door, he looked back over his shoulder at Grace and sent her a fuck-you smile.


Dammit!


Okay, one problem at a time, she thought. Josh first. She made the tea as quickly as she could, checked on Toby—blissfully watching Transformers with Tank on the couch—and rushed back out to Josh.


Who hadn’t moved, not a single inch as far as she could tell. His big, long body was stretched out in the chair, his head back, cushioned on the ice against the wall.


Far too still.


Heart in her throat, she set the tea down and crouched at his side, laying a hand on his thigh.


He jerked, swore beneath his breath, then sent her a dark look.


“Sorry,” she said on a relieved breath. “You were just so still. I thought…” She shook her head. “I brought your tea.”


“I don’t drink tea.”


“Then why did you have me make it?”


“So you’d stop hovering.”


She grated her teeth, then sat beside him and—what the hell—drank the tea. “Luckily for you,” she said, “I can’t hurt someone who’s already hurt. Now tell me how you really feel.”


“Could use a few aspirin. Or ten.”


“Is aspirin okay with a head injury?”


“Grace.”


Right. He was a doctor. He knew such things. She stood up, then narrowed her eyes. “Wait a minute. Is this another one of those things where I go running to get you the aspirin and then you don’t want it?”


“Actually, it’s one of those I’m-going-to-throw-up things, and I want you to be far, far away.”

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