Page 77

“Just put me down, I’m fine.”

“Not yet, you’re not,” he said, and set her down in the passenger seat of his truck, pulling the seat belt across her to buckle her in. “But you will be, in spite of yourself.”

Kel stopped him before he could shut the door. He leaned in and looked at Darcy. “I want to hear you say you’re good with going to the hospital with AJ.”

Darcy’s gaze slid to AJ and then back to Kel. “Feeling guilty for making me take a ride with the guy?” she asked.

“I don’t do guilt. Yes or no, Darcy?”

She closed her eyes again and turned her head away from the both of them. “Yes.”


Darcy drifted off with AJ’s I love you on repeat in her mind. She knew better than to misread the words or let herself pretend even for a moment that it was the kind of love she felt for him and wanted him to feel in return.

Not even for a second …

She knew she’d have to get to a place where it was okay, and she would. But not today with a jackhammer in her head and a pity party for one on tap.

Maybe tomorrow.

She woke when she was lifted into a pair of strong arms and hugged tightly to a muscled chest. For a moment she let herself snuggle in close because when she was in AJ’s arms like this, she felt as though nothing could touch or hurt her.

We’re not a couple …


“Put me down,” she said.

He didn’t, and with her head still on his shoulder, eyes closed—trying not to toss her cookies—she felt the vibrations rumble in sync with his voice as he spoke to the nurse at the ER station.

Then they were on the move again. When he set her down, paper crinkled beneath her and the smell of disinfectant and the faint beeping of monitors made her sigh. “I’m fine,” she said. “Why isn’t anyone listening to me?” She opened her eyes to peer directly into AJ’s concerned hazel ones.

“I always listen to you,” he said. “I just don’t always agree with you.”

Too weak to argue anymore, she closed her eyes again. She kept them closed as they stitched her up, though she let up on her AJ moratorium enough to allow him to hold her hand through the process. For his sake, of course.

When the final verdict came—mild concussion—she was discharged with a prescription of pain meds that she turned down.

AJ was watching her, and she lifted a shoulder as if it was no big deal.

“Was that hard?” he asked.

“It’s getting easier. This time I only want to cry a little.”

He gathered her things but she shook her head. “I don’t want to go with you.”

AJ made a point of looking around. He was the only one there.

She grated her teeth. “I’ll wait for Wyatt or Zoe.” To prove it, she texted them both, telling them whoever could get to her first, she’d appreciate a ride. Zoe was still on a flight and Wyatt in surgeries but one of them would be here soon, she was sure of it.

AJ had gone still, very still. When he spoke, his voice was dangerously low. “You’d rather wait in the hospital—which you hate being in—than get a ride home with me.”

“That’s right,” she said as cool as she could manage. “Thanks for the rescue. And for all the good times, too.”

“Thanks for the good times?” he repeated. “Are you kidding me? What the hell’s going on?”

“What’s going on is that I started to think maybe the whole love thing was a better deal than I’d given it credit for. But Xander walking away reminded me that I can’t count on anyone but myself.”


“It’s not,” she said. “Look at Kayla. You thought you could bet on her, but you couldn’t. I’m more like her than you think. I’m not someone you can bet on either, trust me.”

“I do trust you,” he said. “Which is why this whole thing is utter bullshit.”

“Knock knock,” Emily said at the door. Wyatt’s fiancée was wearing a white doctor’s coat and a stethoscope with a tiny stuffed kangaroo on it. “I got here as fast as I could. Wyatt sent me. He’s almost done with surgery and is meeting us at the house.” She looked back and forth between Darcy and AJ. “Did I interrupt something?”

“Yes,” AJ said.

“No,” Darcy said at the same time, and moved to leave. “Get me out of this place.”

“Darcy,” AJ said quietly behind her. “We’re not done.”

But they were.

At home, Darcy peeled out of her sweater and kicked off her shoes on the way to her bed.

Oreo was already there, the bed hog.

“Move over,” she told him.

He didn’t.

She simply crawled onto the bed next to him, set her head by his big fat one on the pillow, and accepted a face lick from chin to forehead. “Thanks,” she whispered.

Oreo sniffed at her stitches.

“You’re a good boy. You’re the best boy, the best in the whole wide world.”

She got another lick for that compliment, and then she crashed. She woke God knew how much later when Wyatt sat on the bed.

“Name and serial number,” he said.

“Go away.”

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Go Away. I’m here to make sure your brain isn’t set to shuffle. Recite the alphabet, please.”

“B-I-T-E and M-E,” she spelled out.