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“I don’t take them, AJ.”

God, the concern in his gaze just about did her in. Which was the only reason she spoke the hard-to-admit truth. “I don’t take them,” she repeated. “I keep them, yes. It’s a comfort. Like mac and cheese. Because at one time they were as important to me as that. And sometimes, I still want them and I pull them out and look at them and remember. I remember how shitty I feel when I take them, and how little they help. I keep them around because looking at them makes me feel sick, and I …” Dammit. She cleared her throat. “And sometimes I just need to look at them, that’s all.”

He didn’t express disbelief. Or pat her on the head and tell her that her craving for them would pass. He didn’t blow off her feelings. And she was grateful because it meant she didn’t have to kill him.

“What do you take to sleep then?” he asked.

“Benadryl or melatonin. Something non-addictive.”

“Every night?”

“A lot of them.”

He scrubbed a hand down his face, and the sound of his palm brushing over the stubble on his jaw made her remember that he was maybe, quite probably naked.

He twirled his finger in her direction. “Lie down. On your front.”


He went brows up at her suspicion. “Didn’t we already play this game? I’ll work on your tight muscles.”

“Oh,” she said. And what was that flowing through her? Disappointment? No, that couldn’t be.

He was looking amused again. “What did you think I was going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Uh-huh. Keep that up and you’ll be a boy made of wood answering to the name Pinocchio.” He tossed aside the covers and she didn’t even pretend to look away.

He wasn’t naked but nearly. His black boxer briefs covered his goodies in a disturbingly impressive way. She swallowed hard. “How are you going to give me a massage without crossing the great barrier reef?” she asked, pointing to the rolled-up towel between them.

He tossed the rolled-up towel to the floor.


“Facedown,” he said.

To her dying day she would totally deny the fact that his authoritative voice turned her on. Some things needed to be taken to the grave. Still, she followed his directive and rolled over, pressing her face into the crook of her arm. “It’s mostly in my—”

“I know where you hurt,” he said, and proving it, put his big, warm hands right on the spot at her lower back that always caused the most pain.

She shouldn’t be surprised. He’d been taking care of her body for eleven months now. He probably knew her every single inch better than she did, especially since she still hadn’t gotten the hang of using her legs again and they often felt like appendages that didn’t quite belong to her in the first place.

His hands stilled. “Is this my shirt?” he asked, a tone of disbelief in his voice.

Face still buried, she grimaced. “No.”

“Seriously,” he warned, “your nose is going to start growing.”

She opened her mouth to retort to that but then he straddled her thighs, carefully keeping his weight off of her and on his knees.

He shoved the beefy tee up as high as it would go, baring her back to his gaze.

She sucked in a breath and was thankful she’d put on panties, though she was seriously wishing they didn’t say CHEEKY across the ass.

Not that it mattered after her earlier inadvertent show …

There was a beat of utter silence and then a male snort. “True story,” he said.

She opened her mouth to say something … well, cheeky, but then his hands began to move.

And good Lord, the man had a set of hands.

She couldn’t hold back her low moans of relief as he rubbed and pressed and stroked at every single spot that hurt.

Leaving her a puddle of quivering goo.

“Relax,” he murmured.

Yeah, right. He had two powerful thighs straddling hers, surrounding her by testosterone and pheromones, and he wanted her to relax. “I am,” she said.

Another snort. “Close your eyes, Darcy.”

“No, I’m—”

“Jesus, woman. For once just do something you’re asked without argument.”

“Fine.” She closed her eyes. “And thank you. I mean that. It feels amazing and it’s helping the cramping, but I still won’t be able to sleep—”


She blew out a sigh and shut up.

And then, remarkably, fell asleep.

AJ worked Darcy over until she was limp as a noodle and so dead asleep to the world that she didn’t so much as twitch when he finally slid off the bed.

Her skin was reddened from his hands but he knew she’d gotten relief from his effort. His gaze locked on her tattoo and his chest tightened.

She’d left the scar. Kind of like a huge, big fuck-you to the world, and it amazed him.

And made him proud as hell of her.

She was one of the most confounding, frustrating women he’d ever met. And the absolute bravest.

He carefully pulled the shirt down over her back and ass.


He shook his head as he tugged the covers up to her shoulders, tucking her in.

She’d sleep now.

Not him though. His hands had been one hundred percent professional while he’d worked over her but his brain not so much.