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He went still briefly at the odd tone to her voice. “You told him that only because you were mad at me.”

“Annoyed,” she corrected.

“Whatever the reason,” he said, “you let him think we were in love. It wasn’t true then, not even close, and I couldn’t let them continue to think otherwise, not after I realized their decision to fund my grant had been based on the lie.”

“No, you’re right,” she said with a calm voice that he didn’t think boded well for him. “You’re absolutely right. We weren’t a couple, not by any stretch of the imagination. We were just two people who had sex during a storm in a hotel room. It happens.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Not to me.”

She shrugged. “The point is, we aren’t a couple.”

“Weren’t,” he corrected. “But that changed.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Really?” he asked. “Then what do you call the rest of that weekend? Or the nights since?”

“Animal magnetism,” she said. “But don’t worry, it’ll pass. In fact, I think it’s already passing.”

“If that’s true, then what is this conversation about? If you’re over me, what does it matter what I told Trent?”

“I have no idea,” she said coolly. “You were the one who wanted to talk, not me.” She turned away, lying facing the wall, her hands tucked beneath her cheek. “I’m going back to sleep now. Let yourself out.”

“Not yet.” He rolled her back to face him, and what he saw in her gaze made his heart plummet into the pit of his stomach.

Her eyes were hollow, devastated. And it hit him with a punch a thousand times more solid than Xander’s. “You thought I was throwing you away,” he said.

Darcy felt the humiliation burn her cheeks and she closed her eyes. “Never mind, okay? Forget it, forget all of it. We’re good.”

He narrowed his eyes. “That’s exactly what you told Xander.”

“So what?” she asked. “Xander and I are just friends, too.”

“We’re not just friends,” he said, something dark and dangerous in his voice, something that tightened her chest and made her head ache. “Darcy, look at me.”

She rolled to her back and stared up at him.

“We’ve never been just friends,” he said, his voice low and burning with intensity. “I love you, Darcy.”

“And yet you told Trent we weren’t together.”

“Because you didn’t love me. I’d never rush you, not with this.”

She stared at him. “You really have no idea how I feel?”

“I’ve hoped,” he said. “But you’ve never told me, and you’ve been really good at keeping your feelings to yourself.”

“I slept with you,” she whispered.

“I have no illusions about that equaling love. But in case I’ve never been clear, let me be crystal on this one thing. I love you, unconditionally. I want you in my life, but this is your choice, Darcy. It always was. And when you make that choice, I hope you’ll let me know which way the cards fell.”

She nearly choked on all the emotion clogging her throat. Oh, how she wanted to believe it, all of it. But her head hurt and she couldn’t think. She closed her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m really tired now.”

“I know,” he said. “Rest.”

She nodded and forced her breathing to even out. Not easy when her chest felt like it might be caving in.

But somewhere between pretending to sleep and waiting for him to leave, she really did get sucked into dreamland.


A week later AJ was at the wellness center working with Tyson.

Tyson lay flat on his back with his legs bent, a yoga ball beneath his knees, which he slowly and painfully worked side to side, sweating like crazy.

Raisin sat at his hip, watching with infinite patience.

AJ himself had no patience. Zero. He’d been in a viciously bad mood all week and everyone in his life was over him.

Especially the one person who mattered the most.

He hadn’t heard from her, not a single word. He was starting to believe that it was truly over.

Tyson swiped sweat from his eyes.

“Need a break?” AJ asked.


AJ appreciated the sentiment, since some might say he needed a break. In fact, Ariana had told him so just this morning—while sporting a new tattoo, a small phoenix rising from the back of her shoulder.

Xander’s work.

Rumor had it they’d been out twice. AJ didn’t care. Didn’t care about shit.

Wyatt and Zoe had kept him up-to-date on Darcy, which was a doubled-edged sword for him. He knew that she was fine, recovering, almost back to her usual self.

The self that didn’t need anyone or anybody, him obviously included.

She was writing again. She’d been on the town’s website that morning with a new gig reporting in on adventures within the state of Idaho. Her first article had been “How to Road Trip the Back Roads to Boise,” although he couldn’t help but notice she’d left out the creative use of a mini iPad to punk your travel mate.

He’d also heard she’d been to work at Belle Haven in her new office.

What he didn’t know was if she missed him. He figured the answer to that was a big fat no or she’d have shown her face.

The front door opened. Trent held it wide for Summer, who walked in ahead of …