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She looked forward again and when she didn’t immediately answer he figured she wasn’t going to answer at all, but then she spoke.

“Just before the accident, I’d … lost myself a little bit,” she said softly. “And then … after I plowed my car into a tree, I had a big wake-up call. I guess I just don’t feel the need to hide that, or the scars.”

He stared at her proud, squared shoulders and realized what she was braced for—his judgment. Which was never going to happen, especially since both her words and her inner strength completely undid him. “You’re shaking.”

“You know that happens when I’m tired,” she said.

He squeezed some of the ointment onto a finger and carefully stroked it over the tattoo.

She shivered and goose bumps rose on her gorgeous skin.

He had to clear his throat twice to speak. “Cold?”


He went still for a beat and then capped the ointment, tossing it aside. “It’s beautiful,” he said. You’re beautiful …

How many times had he said that to Kayla? It wasn’t the package that made a woman beautiful, not even close, and yet she had been.

So was Darcy.

And now he was the one braced for Darcy to break down over his words. But she didn’t.

In fact, she laughed.

And like everything else Darcy did, she went big and uninhibited. She tossed back her head and gave that throaty laugh that always went straight through him, lighting him up, warming him from the inside out even though he hadn’t been aware of feeling cold.

“You’re just saying that because you feel bad you saw me naked,” she finally said.

“Actually, bad is just about the last thing I’m feeling.” He could close his eyes and still see her walking out of that bathroom in nothing but steam.

She craned her neck to look at him. “What do you feel?”

“More than you want to know,” he said, and because being on the bed with her was a temptation he didn’t need, he rose and went straight to the minibar to grab a scotch for himself. And then on second thought he took a second so that he had one for each fist.

“What happened to that stuff being too expensive?” Darcy asked.

He snorted. “Like everything when it comes to you—out the window.” He opened both bottles and, with a sigh, handed her one.

“So,” she said, clinking hers to his in a toast. “Here’s to what happens in Boise stays in Boise?”

“Works for me.”


Darcy hadn’t meant to lighten the mood or make things easy between them. She was already in way over her head and she certainly didn’t want to make matters worse by letting AJ think she was enjoying anything about this.

And plus the relaxed air gave far too much importance to the night. She didn’t want to give importance to anything involving tonight. Tonight should’ve been just about doing AJ a favor.

But then there’d been that kiss.

AJ took life pretty damn seriously, and whatever he did he tended to excel at. He most definitely excelled at kissing.

God only knew what he could do between the sheets. But that’s not what she kept thinking about. Nope, she was thinking about when they’d gone to dinner and she’d watched him talk passionately to Trent about his work, about the people who needed him …

It had been humbling, and she’d realized exactly how much he had on the line tonight, and how much he deserved the opportunity, how many others could benefit. “AJ?”


“Why do you do it?”

“Put up with you?” He shook his head. “No idea.”

She rolled her eyes. “No, why are you a PT? What made you start Sunshine Wellness Center?”

He met her gaze. “Pretty deep question.”

“I figure there’s a deep answer. You don’t do anything lightly, or just for the hell of it.”

He looked at her for a long minute. “It’s for my mom.”

Darcy didn’t know much about his mom other than she’d passed away a lot of years ago. “She had rheumatoid arthritis, right?”

“She had a bunch of health problems but the RA is what she suffered from the most. She did a lot of PT, especially in the end. I was just a little kid,” he said quietly. “But I hated that I couldn’t save her.”

She let out a long breath and softened to him when she hadn’t intended to. “So you save others. You help others.”

He shrugged those broad shoulders, and at his modesty she softened even more.

He finished his drink, set the bottles down, and stood. Without his jacket and tie, he looked a little disheveled and a lot badass.

He kicked off his shoes and her heart rate. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m exhausted. I’m getting ready for bed.”

Some of her happy scotch buzz drained. “Here?”

“Yep, and you can thank your little stunt for that.” They both eyed the bed.

The sole bed.

“Well,” she managed. “I hope you like to sleep in bathtubs.”

“I’m not sleeping in the bathtub, Darcy.”

Damn. Why did the way he said her name always give her happy nipples? “Well, you’re not sleeping with me.”

“It’s a big bed,” he pointed out.

She crossed her arms over her chest, confused by how she could feel both pissy and aroused at the same time. “It’s not that big.”