Page 8

With a laugh, she sat up. “I’m fine. Such a good boy, Blue.” She hugged the dog tight and rubbed her cheek to Blue’s. “What a good, pretty boy, yes you are.”

“Aw, thanks, baby.”

AJ craned his neck to take in the tall, skinny, leather-clad, tatted-up man who’d just appeared at their side.

Xander returned AJ’s cool look with one of his own. He didn’t like AJ much.

The feeling was absolutely mutual.

Blue, however, went nuts, giving a joyous bark at the sight of Xander, jumping up and down like a Mexican jumping bean.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re pretty, too,” Darcy told Xander. “But not as pretty as Blue—and you’re late.”

“Appointment went over,” he said, and kept looking at AJ.

AJ kept looking right back.

Darcy divided a glance between them. “Seriously? Still?”

When neither man moved, she sighed. “You’re both ridiculous.” She looked at AJ. “Xander’s giving Blue to his aunt as a therapy dog. She’s been wanting one forever but couldn’t afford to make it happen. We’re hoping to get one for Tyson next.”

Tyson was Xander’s brother, and also a patient of AJ’s. And AJ agreed, Tyson would probably get a lot out of a therapy dog, though AJ had his doubts that Tyson was ready for one. Tyson was barely ready for life as a paraplegic after a motorcycle racing accident had destroyed his spine a year and a half ago.

Xander took Blue’s leash from Darcy, giving her a secret smile before turning back to AJ. “Heard you took a hard hit earlier.”

“I’m fine.”

Xander looked a little disappointed at that. Word around town was that he and Darcy were just friends, but there was nothing that said “just friends” in Xander’s gaze whenever he looked at Darcy. Nope, he looked at her like she was lunch.

Not that it mattered to AJ.

Except it did.

The truth was that even though he had absolutely no intention of making a move on Darcy, he didn’t want Xander to, either. He realized this made him a complete and total dick, but he could live with that.

“Thanks for watching him for me, babe,” Xander said.

“No problem,” Darcy said. “I—” She broke off to send AJ a startled look. “Did you just … growl?”

“No.” Shit, he totally had.

Above her head Xander smirked at him. Asshole.

Darcy bent low and hugged Blue good-bye one last time. When she stood, she steadied herself equally on both legs the way AJ had taught her so that she didn’t continue to baby her bad leg and keep it weak. “I’ll see you later,” she said to Xander.

“Yeah, you will,” he said, and didn’t go away.

AJ didn’t, either. He wasn’t leaving first. Hell no. And he could stand here all night, too. Even if he wanted to curl into the fetal position and whimper over his aching ribs.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” Darcy said in exasperation. “I’m sure both of your penises are the exact same size.”

Xander grinned.

“Go home,” she snapped at him.

“As you wish.” Xander brushed a kiss right across her mouth and then he and Blue sauntered off.

Darcy turned to AJ and something flashed between them, something that most definitely hadn’t flashed between her and Xander, though he was at a pretty big loss to say what it was.

Darcy sucked her lower lip between her teeth and suddenly he knew exactly what it was.


Which was going to be a problem, a big one. “You going to order me home, too?” he asked, daring her.

She laughed. “Like you’d do anything I ordered of you.”

“Try me.”


Try him? Try him? Darcy thought about reminding him that she’d once done exactly that and he’d flat-out rejected her—a feeling she’d learned to be so at one with that it hardly fazed her anymore.


But her tummy quivered at the look in his eyes, even though she had no idea what it meant. Didn’t dare give it much thought either because she’d long ago trained herself to stop wanting him.

Especially since sometimes, like right now, she was vividly reminded of her most embarrassing moment. It had been three months after her accident. She’d still been in a wheelchair and homebound—and going stir-crazy. It had been late, really late, and she’d been alone, selfishly needing someone.


She hadn’t wanted to disturb her brother or sister, not when they’d finally gone back to having their own lives after being with her nearly twenty-four/seven for so long.

So she’d called AJ.

He’d shown up ten minutes later looking sleepy and disheveled, like he’d literally rolled out of bed and rushed to her side. He’d forever earned a spot in her heart that night by not questioning her when she asked him to drive her to the bar for a drink.

Still in casts and various bandages, it had taken her a half hour to wrestle into real clothes. Real clothes being yoga pants that stretched over her leg cast, and her fave KISS tank top. After weeks and weeks of pj’s, she’d felt infinitely more human and herself, especially after she’d added mascara and lip gloss.

AJ had rolled her from his truck to the bar, where she’d had two shots and absorbed the loud music and laughter like she’d been in prison. Afterward, they’d gone back out into the night.

It had been a clear, gorgeous one with a full moon and a million stars littered across the black velvet sky. She’d never forget staring up and inhaling deep the chilly air, and for the first time since the accident she’d felt … grateful.