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Darcy felt overwhelmed and confused. Part of that was her concussion but it was also because it just didn’t compute. AJ had walked away from the deal with Trent and Summer?

For her?

Why? Why would he do such a thing when the deal had been what he’d wanted, needed, so badly? Slowly and carefully, she turned her head to look at him, but he was giving nothing away. “Tell me you didn’t lose the deal with Trent because of me,” she said.

AJ shook his head. “I didn’t lose the deal because of you.”

She let out a breath of relief. “Okay, good, because—”

“I lost the deal because of me. Trent thought his time was more valuable than your safety. He was dead wrong.”

“I’ll call them,” she said, patting around for her phone. Unable to find it, she started patting down AJ for his. Never mind that she’d thought she wasn’t speaking to him and now she wasn’t so sure—she had to fix this. She wouldn’t ruin this deal for him, couldn’t take it if she did. “I’ll call them right now. Maybe they’re still in the area—”

“Darcy,” he said gently, catching her hands. “It’s been eight hours. They’re gone.”

“Are you sure?”

He looked at her for a long beat, as if assessing her ability to handle the truth. “I got an unhappy text, let’s put it that way,” he said. “It’s over. But it’s okay.”

“How?” she demanded. “How is it okay?”

“There are other people out there willing to get involved. I’ll find them.”

She dropped her head to his chest. “Dammit, AJ. Why did you do it? You didn’t have to come for me. And you didn’t have to stay. I kicked you out.”

“It didn’t take.” He slid his fingers into her hair, carefully avoiding her stitches, and tilted her head up so that she stared into his eyes. “And yeah, I did have to stay with you. And you already know why, but I’ll keep telling you until it sinks in.”

She felt Xander start to get up from the bed and caught his hand. “You’re leaving?”

He glanced at AJ and nodded. “But I’ll come back later if you want.”

“I want,” she said. “You do know that you’re one of the most important people in my life, right? I need you to know that, Xander.”

He slid a quick look at AJ and then came back to Darcy. “I do know it. And ditto, babe.”

“So … we’re going to be okay?” she asked, her heart hitching. She wasn’t good at this, at asking for what she wanted. But she wanted him in her life.

“We already are,” he said, his eyes still very serious, his mouth slightly curved. He leaned in and touched his lips to hers softly, giving a small smirk at the low growl that came from the other side of the bed. “I’ve got a client waiting,” he told her and stood. “But I could bring dinner.”



Darcy felt more than saw AJ’s grimace, but her stomach growled with excitement. “Pepperoni,” she said. “Extra cheese.”

Xander nodded and headed to the door.

“And soda,” she called after him before she lay back and closed her eyes. “Not going to comment on my menu choices?” she asked AJ.


“Are you being gentle for the crazy lady?”

He slid her a look. “Have I ever gotten mad at you for your menu choices? Have I ever given you any impression I want you to be anything other than what you are?”

“And what am I?” she asked softly.


She snorted and he smiled. “Okay,” he said, “perfect to me.”

Her heart stopped just as it had when he’d said “I love you” with such ease—but there was something far more important than her own feelings right now. “AJ, the grant money—” She didn’t know if she could live with that, with what he’d done for her.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “None of that matters.”

She met his gaze. “What does matter?”

“I’ll give you one guess.”


Darcy hated that she felt so weak and pathetic that tears threatened at AJ’s words. Again.

“Do you need a hint?” he asked. “Or my shirt to wipe your nose on again?”

Words failed her so she went with her usual fallback. She flipped him off.

He smiled. “Aw,” he said, and grabbed her hand. “You’re number one in my book, too.”

She choked out a laugh. How the hell could he do that, make her laugh when she wanted to strangle him? She had no idea. And how could he make her laugh at all? But he always could, no matter what was happening. “I distinctly remember dumping you in the hospital,” she said. “Why won’t you stay dumped?”

“Stubbornness. According to the captain, I was born with more than my fair share. Tell me what happened today,” he said softly.

“You saw what happened.”

“You got on the highway.”

She let all her air out with a single whoosh. “Yeah. And then a big, stupid truck carrying live turkeys passed me and I panicked and swerved. It was all me. Again.” She rolled over and buried her face in the pillow. Which, by the way, hurt her head. It was really hard to be a proper drama queen with a concussion.