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AJ slid down into the bed to lie with her and carefully turned her to face him. “You got on the highway.”

“Didn’t I just say so?” she asked, hands on his chest to hold him back. “I think I’ve got blood matted in my hair.”

“You did it,” he said, his arms inexorable steel. “You overcame.”

“Yeah. For Chance.”

Hearing his name, the dog popped back up and jumped on the bed. He turned in a circle—three times—and very carefully plopped himself down by Darcy, setting his big head on her legs.

Her heart melted. “You’re a good boy,” she said softly.

AJ stroked the dog, his eyes still on Darcy. “You took a step past just surviving life; you took your first step toward living it.”

His eyes revealed so much. Pride in her, for one. And affection. And that light she’d seen a few times before, the one that had made her fall for him. “Well, not my first step,” she said, wondering if he’d know what she meant.

His eyes warmed. He knew.

“But an important one,” he said. “Do you need aspirin or anything for the pain?”

Confused at the subject change, she said, “No.”



“Good. Talk time.”

Her stomach was suddenly filled with butterflies. “Wait. I might need something, after all.”

“Too late,” he said. “Now I want to know why I’m dumped.”

She opened her mouth and then closed it.

“Oh, come on,” he said. “You love to fight. Let’s have it.”

Admit that she’d fallen for him and had gotten upset and mad and hurt because she was alone in it? That made her no better than Xander. “I was having a bad day.”

“A bad day made you tear out of work like the hounds of hell were on your heels?” he asked.

“I told Ariana I was sick.”

He stared at her for a long beat. “You’re holding back.”

And he wasn’t, which just about killed her. She gave him a smile and gave a very small—and careful—head shake, like Who me? I’m not holding back anything, and especially not the fact that I’ve fallen in love with you … “Listen,” she said. “I’m pretty tired so …”

He shook his head. “Lame,” he said. “I’ve seen you lie much better than that. Try again.”

“Let’s try you leaving.”

“Sure,” he said and leaned over her, caging her in with a hand on either side of her hips.

“What are you—”

“It’s called a good-bye kiss,” he said, and covered her mouth with his.

The kiss fried her brain cells—the ones she had left, anyway. There was nothing gentle or soft or careful about it, either. No, he was fierce and determined and definitely making a statement.

She stared at him when he pulled back, completely thrown off her game—which had become the new norm around him. “Since when do we kiss good-bye?”

“Since you decreed we were a couple.”

“That was pretend,” she managed to say. “And we’ve never kissed good-bye.”

“We do now,” he said, and leaned in and kissed her again, slower this time, sweeter, a kiss so achingly tender that she actually forgot her hurt and anger entirely. Hell, she forgot everything and let out a low moan while simultaneously trying to get closer. Finally, when she was a puddle of need and desire, he lifted his head and stared at her.

“Yeah,” he murmured, rasping his thumb over her wet lower lip. “Much better. Now talk to me.”

That was the last thing she wanted to do. Willing to set everything aside for a good-bye orgasm, she rocked the neediest part of her to the neediest—and, well, look at that—also the hardest part of him. “I’ve got a better idea.”

AJ cupped her face and stroked her hair back to smile into her eyes. It was his sexy smile, his wanna-get-seriously-dirty smile, but he held her off. “You’re hurt. I’m not taking advantage of that.”

“No problem,” she said. “I’ll take advantage of you.”

“Talk first,” AJ said with great difficulty.

“Are you kidding me?” Darcy asked. “You’re a guy, you’re not supposed to turn down sex. It’s not programmed into your genetic code.”

“I know but—” He hissed in a breath when she leaned forward and licked his Adam’s apple. “Something’s wrong,” he managed. “And that’s what couples do to figure their shit out, they talk.”

She jerked back. “But we’re not a couple.”

“Because you dumped me.”

“Because I heard you,” she said.

“Heard me what?”

“You telling Trent and Summer that we weren’t together, that it wasn’t like that between us. That I wasn’t even the patient you wanted them to meet.”

Her voice was light, casual even, but AJ heard the hurt behind the words as it finally sank into his thick skull what the problem was. “This morning,” he said slowly. “That’s what sent you running.”

She looked away.

Shit. He really was an idiot. “Okay, first of all,” he said, “when you told Trent we were together, you were just messing with me, remember?”

“Oh, I remember.”