Page 63

He paused, and when he spoke he sounded baffled. “What else would it be?”

“Gee, AJ, I don’t know, seeing as you’re a word miser.”

Silence, and she rolled her eyes. “You know what? Never mind.”


“No, forget it,” she said. “I won’t beg for crumbs, not even from you. So do us both a favor and don’t play Sandman tonight.” And then she punched END so hard she broke a nail.

Luckily she was scheduled for a shift at Belle Haven and not the wellness center, and as she sat at the desk manning the front reception area with Peanut the Mouthy Parrot at her elbow and Bean the Grumpy Cat asleep on her printer, she did her best not to replay that conversation over and over in her head. The one-sided conversation.

“Men suck,” she said.

Peanut bobbed her head in agreement. “Men suck.”

“Oh shit,” Darcy said and stared at the parrot. “No, Peanut, that was my bad, okay? We can’t use that word here.”

Again Peanut bobbed her head.

Whew, Darcy thought, and smiled at the woman who walked in the front door with her cat for their appointment. “Hello,” she said in greeting. “Just have a seat.”

“Shit!” Peanut screeched just as the woman sat.

She leapt up as if there’d been a cobra on her chair. “What? What’s wrong?”

Darcy realized that the woman thought she’d yelled shit. Damn Peanut for being an incredible imitation artist. “I’m sorry, our parrot is feeling naughty today.” She turned to Peanut. “Puppies, rainbows, kittens.” She waited for Peanut to repeat any of that.

Peanut said nothing.

“Cupcakes, cookies, pies,” Darcy said.

“Men suck,” Peanut said.

Darcy thunked her head on her desk.

It was going to be one of those days. And even worse, she couldn’t help but notice that love was definitely in the air here in Sunshine.

For one thing, Dell kept cornering Jade in his office every chance he got.

And Darcy’s own brother did the same to Emily. Even hard-ass Brady, ex–special ops and helicopter pilot-for-hire, softened whenever Lilah, the love of his life, came through the offices.

And then there was Gertie, the hundred-pound Saint Bernard that belonged to Dell and Jade. She was in love with Bruiser, a six-pound Chihuahua, currently recouping from having his nuts surgically removed.

Gertie didn’t care. She lay outside of Bruiser’s crate sighing forlornly, thumping her heavy tail whenever Bruiser woke up from a nap and lifted his tiny head.

True love.

“Annoying as sh—” Darcy started to say, breaking off with a guilty look at Peanut.

“Boner,” Peanut yelled cheerfully.

The woman waiting stood and walked out.

“I so did not teach you that one,” Darcy said.

Peanut whistled and made Bean jump and fall off the printer.

The cat immediately employed Kitty Logic, which was to ignore any embarrassing situation—like falling off the printer—by redirecting. She redirected by lifting a leg to groom her Lady Town.

“Nice tactic,” Darcy said. “But it totally happened.”

Bean gave her a dirty look that suggested maybe Darcy should put her shoes back on before something bad happened inside of them.

Darcy bent beneath her desk to grab the shoes she’d kicked off and went into the storage closet—soon to be her office!—for paper to refill her printer, and found Adam in there pressing Holly up against the metal shelving unit, his hands up her pretty sweater.

“Okay, really?” Darcy asked, tossing up her hands. “All the romance around here is giving me serious heartburn. I’m out.”

Adam stopped massaging Holly’s tonsils with his tongue and grinned. “Sorry. I’ll make it up to you.”

“How? By bleaching the memories from my brain?”

“Better,” he said. “I’ve got another dog for you. Raisin, a one-year-old golden retriever from a long line of therapy dogs. She passed all the classes and testing with the rest of her litter, but she can’t be sold.”


“She only has three legs. And the owner doesn’t want to ruin his rep by selling her— I know,” he said when he saw Darcy about to lose her collective shit. “I know. But his shortsightedness is your gain. He’s willing to let her go for two hundred and seventy-five bucks. I told him to consider her sold. I’ll cover you on this one.”

Her throat tightened at the generosity. “I want her, absolutely. And I have just the right someone for her, too. But I’ve got the money for this one.”

“You win the lottery?”

“Ha. And no, or I’d be on a deserted island with an endlessly charged Nook and an equally endless supply of Gummy Bears. When can I get her?”


She grinned and he returned it.

“You’re pretty damn cute when you stop snarling,” he said. “Anyone ever tell you that?”

She thought of AJ and stopped smiling. “No.” She turned to leave but stopped when Adam said her name. She glanced back.

“Whoever he is,” Adam said, eyes serious now, “I’ll be happy to kick his ass for you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, thanks.”

Two hours later she’d taken possession of one gorgeous, sweet, warm, lovable three-legged Raisin. Darcy spent some time at Belle Haven with the dog, out back in the wide open space between horse pens, walking through the wild grass together.