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“Nice,” Xander said, slowly rising to his feet, hunching over, hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. “Real gracious winner, asshole. The game’s supposed to be about fun, not who wins.”

Tyson flipped him off.

“And that,” Xander said, straightening to jab a finger in his direction. “That right there. Why are you set at pissed off all the time? What did your therapist tell you about that?”

“That you’re supposed to hug me.” Tyson lifted his arms in a mock request for a hug.

Now Xander flipped his brother off.

“I’m going to tell her you said that,” Tyson said.

Darcy stepped onto the court. Raisin hopped alongside her, sitting when Darcy stopped.

The brothers turned to her in unison with varying expressions. Xander’s went warm with greeting. Tyson’s went cold.

It always did. He hated her, possibly for not being with Xander, possibly just because she was breathing. Granted, ever since he’d gotten home from his third tour of duty he’d hated just about everything, and on lots of days that included the only person he had in life—Xander. So Darcy tried not to take it personally.

But she did. Yet that wasn’t why she’d brought him a therapy dog. She knew his therapist had suggested one to help him through his PTSD and his reactions to people in general, along with assisting in the acclimation back to civilian life.

Xander came close, smiled at her and squatted in front of Raisin. “Hey there,” he said. “Who are you?”

“Raisin,” Darcy told him. “She’s a therapy dog.”

Xander looked up at her. “Yeah? For … ?”

Darcy looked at Tyson.

Tyson rolled closer and eyed Raisin’s three legs. “What happened to her?”

“Birth defect,” Darcy said. “Her owner trained her entire litter as service dogs but he can’t sell her.”

Tyson stared at Raisin.

Raisin stared back.

“You got any tricks?” Tyson asked the dog.

Raisin sneezed.

In Xander’s face.

“Ugh,” Xander said, and stood up, swiping at his face like he’d been exposed to the plague. “Seriously? Gross.”

Tyson nodded in approval at the dog. “Nice,” he said. “What else you got?”

Raisin lay down, rolled over, and closed her eyes, playing dead.

“Huh. Not bad,” Tyson said. “But can you bring in the chicks?”

Raisin got back to her feet and leaned against Darcy.

Tyson smiled, actually smiled, and Darcy was pretty sure it was the first smile she’d ever seen out of him. “Wow,” she said. “Your mouth does curve up at the ends.”

“Jesus,” Xander said. “Why do you always have to poke at the bear?”

Tyson met Darcy’s gaze, his eyes not quite as cold as they’d been. “And look at that, you’re not always a bitch.”

“Tyson,” Xander said in a low warning voice.

“It’s okay,” Darcy said to Xander, eyes still on Tyson. “He’s right. I’m not always a bitch.” She dropped Raisin’s leash in Tyson’s lap. “And you’re not always a bitter, angry asshole.”

“Fuck,” Xander muttered. “The two of you give me heartburn, you know that?”

“He always was a drama queen,” Tyson said to Raisin.

“It’s because he loves you,” Darcy told him.

“And you,” Tyson reminded her. “He loves you, too.”

“Seriously,” Xander said. “Shut the fuck up.”

“I know he does,” Darcy told Tyson. “And I love him, too. And because I do, I also love you.”

Tyson narrowed his eyes. “You love me,” he repeated, heavy on the disbelief.

“Yes. Because he loves you—even when you’re being an insufferable prick.”

Tyson choked out a laugh. “Well, why don’t you just tell us how you really feel?”

“I’m about to,” Darcy said.

“Okay,” Xander said, shifting on his feet. “I think we’re done here.”

Without taking her eyes off Tyson, Darcy pointed at him to zip it. “You’re hurting,” she said. “I get that. God, how I get that, Tyson. But by refusing to try to get back to the land of the living, by closing yourself off and depending on Xander for every damn thing every minute of the day, you’re making him hurt, too. Do you get that?”

Tyson’s smile was gone. His jaw was tight, his eyes shuttered. “What, you think I’m a reliant dick for shits and giggles? I can’t get around, and I can’t handle anyone else near me.”

Darcy looked at the hand he’d set on Raisin’s back. “Looks like you’re handling Raisin just fine.”

Raisin lifted her head from where she’d set it on Tyson’s leg and licked his hand.

Tyson made a rough noise and lowered his face to look into the dog’s eyes. Raisin very sweetly and very politely—and most touching of all, very slowly—leaned in and licked his chin.

Just once.

Then she sat back and seemed to smile.

Tyson stared at her. “She’s not afraid of me.”

“Well, why should she be?” Darcy asked. “You’re injured, not an ogre—at least not in appearance.”

Tyson never took his eyes off Raisin. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll be an asshole to her?”