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“Not me,” he agreed.

“You just plow right through the shit, expecting miracles out of me. I annoy you that much?”

He glanced at her in surprise. “Annoyance doesn’t play into it at all.”

“Uh-huh,” she said dryly to the passenger window.

He passed an old couple doing fifty miles an hour before continuing their conversation. “I do it because I care,” he said.

She snorted.

He looked at her again, starting to get pissed off that she kept thinking the worst of him. “And also because I believe you can do anything you want to do.”

He could feel her surprise, and again he met her gaze because he wanted her to see that he wasn’t kidding. “There’s more to life than simply surviving a car wreck,” he said. “You need to live. Even if it means you’re going back to doing stuff that scares me.”

Her mouth twitched. “Nothing scares you.”

“Wrong,” he said. “You scare me.”

She looked at him again. He could feel the weight of her stare as she studied him.

“I’m not going to ever baby you,” he told her. “I realize you’ve got your brother and sister and friends all wrapped around your pinkie, but that’s not my style.”

She stared at him some more. Then she changed the station again and cranked it up.

Country this time.

As someone sang about his tractor and his dead dog and his wife sleeping with Santa Claus, AJ considered offing himself. It would be less painful. He looked at the time.

Only five and a half hours to go.


Twenty minutes later he glanced over at the sound of Darcy’s low laugh. She was texting, her thumbs flying, a big smile on her face.

Damn, he thought, staggered. That smile was a hell of a good look on her. “Who you texting?”

“I’m not texting. I’m sexting.”

“Sexting,” he repeated.

“Yes. It’s the act of sending sexually explicit content via text.”

“I know what sexting is.” He pulled out his phone and made a show of glancing at the screen. It was dark.

“Not you,” she said.


No answer. More thumb flying, and then another laugh.

Don’t get sucked in, you don’t need to know. She’s fucking with you, just stay out of her vortex. This was what his common sense told him. But his common sense wasn’t in charge. “Who?” his dick asked.

She gave him a long look.

And … kept on sexting.

And cracking herself up. This went on for another half hour before AJ took the next exit. They were out in the middle of nowhere, but there was a gas station and a convenience store, and he needed more caffeine.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “You’ve got to go to the bathroom already? Weak bladder?”

He shoved the truck into park and slid her a look that would’ve intimidated anyone else.

Not Darcy. Of course not Darcy.

“They have meds for that, old man.”

He grated his teeth as he tossed off his seat belt. He had a good life, he told himself. Hell, he had a great life. He had a thriving business, his own home, and he did alright in the women department as well.

So why the hell he let this one get to him, he had no clue. “I don’t have to go to the damn bathroom,” he snapped. “And I sure as hell don’t have a bladder problem.”

“Hey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not like I questioned the size of your—”

He shoved out of the truck. “Wait here,” he said curtly, and started to walk off. At the last minute he went back for the keys and yanked them out of the ignition.

She laughed. “Nice show of trust.”

“There’s trust, and there’s stupidity,” he said, and strode into the convenience store. He bought a coffee, a Gatorade, and, because he knew his passenger, he also bought a bag of Gummy Bears. He’d bribe her to shut up if needed.

When he got back to the truck all he could see was an iPad in the passenger window. “What the—?” He moved closer and stared. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Darcy was using the iPad as a sign and it read:

Help, I’m being held captive by a diabolical madman with a weak bladder!


AJ confiscated the iPad, which turned out to be his. Darcy had liberated it from the backseat. “Nice job on spelling diabolical,” he said. “I used spell check.”

He slid into the truck and touched the iPad screen to activate it, looking to see what she might have messed with. He half expected to be locked out of the thing, but no. She’d been online checking her e-mail, which she’d not signed out of. He saw e-mails from both Nat Geo and the Travel Channel.

“Talking to work again?” He didn’t want to think about why that made his gut hurt. When she left Sunshine, he’d celebrate.

“Just enough to get two big ‘no thank you, we don’t want you back’s,” she said. She shrugged. “I’ve been replaced. It happens. Let’s go. Time’s a’ticking.”

He didn’t start the truck. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s not like I’m in a place to go gallivanting across the world anyway.” She gestured to his phone, which he’d left in the console. “And while we’re on the subject of you snooping, you got two text messages. First one’s from your dad.”