Page 27


When they finally arrived at the hotel that afternoon, Darcy slid out of the truck before AJ even shut off the engine.

“Wait,” he called out to her. “It’s raining again—”

Darcy couldn’t wait. Nope, she needed to escape the tight confines of the truck where she’d been hyperalert to his every movement for the past six hours. Actually, seven, because they’d been blocked by a five-car pileup and had sat on the highway for an hour.

A very long, silent hour.

She’d spent the time soaking up the way AJ’s hands took the wheel, how his broad shoulders remained relaxed under any circumstances, even when he’d been cut off by some lady who was older than dirt. Twice.

And then there was his scent. Logically she knew it was his soap or deodorant or whatever and not really his skin, but damn.

It should be effing illegal for a guy to smell that delicious. It was distracting, for one thing. And for another, it just wasn’t fair. A woman was programmed to go all soft and melty when a guy smelled that good. And this was the last guy on the planet that she’d ever want to be soft and melty for.

He thought she was a pain in his ass. And a possible druggie. Both were insulting, but only one actually hurt. She’d worked so hard, done everything he’d asked of her, followed his exercise regime, his eating plan, everything. Okay, maybe not the eating plan, not entirely. But he’d been a big part of helping her wean herself off the pain meds in the first place. In fact, he hadn’t wanted her to do it as soon as she had.

His way had been smarter, of course, and more logical. But she’d needed a clear head. And that he could actually think she’d gotten hooked and was hiding it …

Yeah, he’d opened a big can of ’tude with that one. Mostly because she was still in pain and not sleeping at all, and she’d give her good leg to take some Oxycontin,.

So yeah. Her feelings were completely hurt, which surprised the hell out of her since she’d long ago realized she felt things at a different level than other people.

Which was to say less. She felt less than most.

She didn’t know why or how, it just was.

So the fact that he’d managed to get in past her walls and cause pain? That sucked.

She was thinking all this and not paying a whole lot of attention to her body. All she wanted was to get away from AJ, who clearly wasn’t feeling any of the things she was feeling.

And didn’t she hate that, too.

But unfortunately, her right leg had other ideas.

From the long hours in the truck it had tightened up, and as she put her weight on it a sharp, air-stealing, vicious cramp gripped her and her knees gave way.

And she hit the wet pavement hard.

She heard AJ swear. Then his truck door slammed and he was there in the pouring rain, his hands on her, holding her still.

“I’m fine— Ah, shit.” She gasped at the fire racing up and down her leg while his fingers dug into the twitching, cramping muscles.

Crouched at her side on the balls of his feet, in an easy grace that she couldn’t have managed on her best day, AJ’s skilled hands worked their magic as the agony washed through her.

“Breathe, Darcy,” he instructed, his voice a quiet command that she automatically obeyed. “Deeper.”

She’d long ago learned to ride the wave and let it take her, but it was still a very long two minutes before she could relax even marginally and nod her head. “I’m okay. I can get up.”

Ignoring the rain, their wet clothing, and the valet guy hovering and shifting uncomfortably on his feet because he probably hadn’t been trained on what to do about a woman lying on the concrete, writhing in agony from cramps, AJ kept his hands on Darcy. As he rose to his feet, he pulled her up with him, holding her still a moment, his gaze locked on hers. Probably taking her temperature and pulse by osmosis.

She looked down at herself. Since she hadn’t put her sweater back on, her tank was wet, drenched through, giving everyone a show.

AJ’s gaze dropped, took that in for himself before he shrugged out of his lightweight jacket and wrapped it around her.


“Yeah.” He cleared his throat and paused, like he’d lost his thoughts. “No problem.”

Yeah, definitely. Mr. Calm, Stoic, Always in Charge’s cool façade had definitely just slipped a little. This fascinated her and gave her more than a little grim satisfaction.

Maybe she wasn’t in this crazy state of stupid lust by herself.

“You okay now?” he asked.

“Yes.” Because between discombobulating him and being cocooned in his deliciously warm jacket, it was practically Christmas morning for her.

To his credit, AJ recovered quickly, and with a gentle squeeze of his hands, stepped free of her.

Back to normal. She bit down on the disappointment and had started to walk by him when he spoke.

“Proud of you,” he said.

Her feet faltered, and this time it had nothing at all to do with her faulty legs.

Darcy took in the sight of the hotel in front of them. It was a huge, overstated affair with a big circular drive that was meant to simulate entering the wilds of the Bitterroot Mountains. There were hundred-gallon planters with trees lining the entrance and huge pens exhibiting disturbingly lifelike wildlife in their habitats.

“Jesus,” AJ muttered as they passed a mountain lion frozen in the act of taking down Bambi, huge teeth and all.

“Welcome to Idaho,” Darcy muttered back and made him laugh. She stared at him, realizing that he didn’t do that nearly enough. Don’t get sucked in, she reminded herself. You’re mad at him. Stick with that.