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They’d all had a drink and hors d’oeuvres in the bar and then Summer had claimed exhaustion. Trent had taken her upstairs, leaving AJ and Darcy free to hit their own rooms.


Which was fine. Great. Darcy blew out a sigh and looked out her window.


As in a complete whiteout.

Which meant another night here …

She pulled out her phone and texted Xander: Not going to make it back for tonight’s poker game.

His reply was immediate: WTF?

Look out the window, she texted back. Mother Nature’s on a rampage.

Not here, he responded.

Perfect, she thought. The storm was only exactly right over her head. There had to be an analogy in there somewhere …

And then another text came in from Xander: So you’re sleeping with him.

She nearly choked on her gum. After staring at the words for a moment, she thumbed: Wow. Really?

He was quick to reply: Hey, if I’d taken you off to some “conference” I’d be making up lines about being snowed in, too. And I’d make sure we had only one room. And you’d be in my bed, sleeping with me.

She stared at her phone. He’d had plenty of chances to try and sleep with her this past year. He’d never made his desire for her a secret but nor had he pushed. Not once.

It was because of her. She knew this. She’d held back. She loved him, she really did. But she also knew that while he loved her back, he happened to love a lot of women. They flocked to him and he enjoyed it. Thrived on it. She’d never be his one and only.

Not that she wanted to be someone’s one and only. Because she didn’t.

But it was more than that. She’d watched Xander work his way through women like some men worked their way through new tires, and she realized that he had the same problem she did.

He didn’t love himself enough to really love anyone else. That, and then there was the biggie—she knew in her heart of hearts that she wasn’t going to ever be in love with him.

She debated on what to say and finally settled for: Cocky much?

Nice evasion of the question.

She blew out a breath. She owed him answers. She texted: There’s nothing to say. Nothing’s going on between AJ and me.

That she wanted there to be was none of his business.

Xander didn’t respond.

She was still staring at her phone when the wind kicked up, battering at her windows.

Raising the hair on her arms.

The night of her accident the weather had been like this. Just like this.

The wind hit again and her room creaked, and this time she shivered and wrapped her arms around herself on the bed, staring out the windows into the dark, black night.

When the lamp at her bedside flickered and nearly went out, she jumped up and strode straight to the minibar. She could almost hear AJ’s horror, but she’d just have to owe him for it.

The lights flickered again and she gasped out loud. Maybe she’d just pay AJ back right now, she thought, and, grabbing her wallet and the bottle, she headed out the door.

The elevator was empty, for which she was grateful. So was the hallway on his floor. At his door, she knocked once and stared down at her feet.


What the hell was wrong with her?

The door opened and she lifted her head and sucked in a breath. AJ wore a pair of black sweatpants and nothing else except a whole lot of testosterone. She tried to swallow but her mouth was too dry.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yes.” No. “Maybe.”

He leaned on the doorjamb, arms crossed over his broad chest, feet casually crossed, watching her. “Miss me?”

“In your dreams.”

A slight smile appeared at the corners of his mouth. “Yeah. You missed me.”

“You fit you and that big head of yours in that room okay?”

His smile spread. “Come in and see for yourself.”

She contemplated her options. If she left now, she’d look like an idiot. If she stayed, she’d have to admit that she’d manufactured a reason for being here.

She felt his fingertips under her chin as he pulled her gaze up to his. She knew he was waiting on her to speak, but something was wrong with her and she’d lost her words. Scratch that. She knew exactly what was wrong with her.

It was called lust.

And she had it bad, too, possibly even a terminal case. Forget it, she decided. Forget this, and she whirled away to go.


“Turning tail?” AJ asked Darcy. “That’s unlike you.”

“Not turning tail,” she answered. “A tactical retreat.”

“Also unlike you.”

Yeah, but she definitely needed a retreat here. With a sigh, she turned back to him. “I came because …” Crap. Why had she come? What had been her excuse again? “I owe you money,” she remembered.


She waved the bottle of scotch. “They restocked my room.”

“So you’re here to … pay me,” he said, his voice carrying more than a whisper of disbelief.

“Yep.” She was sounding more and more lame but her ego wasn’t ready to give up the façade. “And also I thought you might be thirsty after all that exercising we got in today.”

His mouth twitched. “Did you just refer to the trust workshop as exercise?”

“Yes,” she said. “It hurt my brain the way real exercise hurts my body, so it makes sense in my head.”

Just as she said this, a heavy wind battered the hotel, making it creak and—she would swear to this—sway. Going still as stone, she stared over AJ’s shoulder at the window in his room and the black night beyond.