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“These past eleven months have been good for her,” Wyatt said. “I mean the accident was fucked up, but having her stick around Sunshine—”

“She didn’t choose to stick,” AJ reminded him. “She hasn’t been healthy enough to chase stories around the world and write about them. If she could, she’d be gone, off traveling for work without looking back.”

“Yeah.” Wyatt scrubbed a hand over his jaw. “That was definitely true at first, but I think she’s starting to enjoy a home life now. It seems like she’s really coming around.”

“To you and Zoe maybe.”

Wyatt smiled. “She does seem to take some serious delight in screwing with you. What did you do to piss her off?”

“Breathe.” But AJ knew exactly what he’d done and he was taking it to his grave.

“There’s no reason why she wouldn’t do this for you,” Wyatt said. “Especially after all you’ve done for her.”

“Any physical therapist would’ve done what I did. And I was paid for my services. She owes me nothing.”

“You weren’t paid for all of it,” Wyatt reminded him. “You wrote off a lot of your bills after the insurance stopped paying. Given that, she’d probably jump at the chance to help you …” He trailed off at the look on AJ’s face. “You never told her?”

AJ slid his hands into his pockets.

“You never told her,” Wyatt repeated in disbelief. “Are you fucking kidding me? You insisted that Zoe and I not say anything to her because you wanted to do it.”

“Whatever,” AJ said. “You do the same thing at your work all the time. Do you tell your patients when you do pro bono work?”

“My patients are four-legged creatures who don’t speak English. Jesus, AJ, she should know what you’ve done for her.”

“She doesn’t need to know.” AJ met Wyatt’s gaze. “Ever.”

Wyatt opened his mouth but AJ pointed at him. “Ever,” he repeated. “Think about it. Like you just said, she’s settling in for the first time in her life. She seems happy, even relaxed. She’s finally on her feet again and feeling like she has some control back. I’m not taking that from her by making her feel like she owes me.”

Wyatt blew out a breath. A silent, reluctant agreement. “Okay, I get that, but you could still ask her to do this for you.”

AJ tried to imagine getting Darcy to dress up and go to a fancy dinner and play nice, helping him schmooze his potential financial backer. Unable to, he shook his head.

“Look,” Wyatt said, “if getting this guy means anything to you—”

“It does,” AJ said. “You know it does.”

“Then tell her. She’s got more heart than the rest of us put together. Appeal to that. You can convince her to do it.”

As if AJ knew the first thing about successfully appealing to a woman’s heart. “Have you ever talked your sister into doing something she didn’t want to do?”

Wyatt laughed ruefully, conceding the point as they both looked over at Darcy again. She’d shoved her sunglasses to the top of her head and had the German shepherd sitting obediently in front of her, eyes on the doggy treat in her fist.

AJ hadn’t seen the dog before but knew he must be the one Zoe had mentioned to him in passing, the “career change” dog Darcy had rescued from Asshat Johnny. AJ hadn’t imagined she’d be able to handle a dog. But she seemed to be handling the animal fine.

Without even realizing his feet were on the move, AJ walked up to her.

“Play dead and roll over,” she was saying.

“I’d need alcohol for that,” AJ said.

She looked up at him, eyes cool. “I meant Blue.”

“Blue” collapsed to the floor, ruining the “dead” image by lolling his tongue, appearing to smile up at Darcy.

She burst out laughing.

And actually so did AJ.

Darcy cocked her head up at him. “Huh,” she said. “Didn’t know you could do that.”

Ignoring this, and also the way her scent had come to him on the evening breeze, all soft, sexy woman, AJ crouched low and held out a fist for the dog to sniff. “Hey there.”

Blue licked AJ’s hand in greeting and then rolled over in silent appeal for a belly rub. AJ obliged, his mind doing the math. It was only a twenty-minute drive to Johnny’s, but the guy lived off of Highway 64, a narrow, curvy, two-lane highway.

Which was where Darcy had crashed her car eleven months ago.

As far as he knew, she hadn’t driven on a highway since, and she certainly hadn’t been on Highway 64. “How did you get him?” he asked.

“Xander drove me.”

AJ ground his back teeth together at the name but said nothing.

“I used the quarterly bonuses you gave out yesterday.” She paused. “Thank you for that.”

He nodded. No way would he admit that to help her without hurting her pride, he’d given out the bonuses for her sake.

“He failed his S&R training because swimming makes him anxious,” Darcy said, and offered a treat to Blue.

He leapt to his feet and gently took the prize.

“Good boy,” she said softly, and Blue melted into her hug, leaning into her, knocking them both to the grass.

Knowing exactly how much she still hurt, AJ reached for her. “You okay?”