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I anxiously rubbed at my chin, feeling too much and having nowhere to put it.

“What happened?”

She explained. It didn’t help. First there was going off and walking by herself when I told her to stay put. I wasn’t saying those things to be a dick, I said it because I knew she attracted danger and god damn it I cared about her. Then she had to literally fall off a cliff, get attacked by a crow and almost get bitten by a snake before Bird annihilated it with a gun. The results of that were all over her shirt in sticky patches.

“Well I hate to say I told you so, but, I so fucking told you so,” I said. “You want to listen to me next time?”

She didn’t look ashamed in the slightest. I guess I was putting her on the defensive, as usual.

“It depends, Dex,” she said with a glare, giving my name special hated emphasis. “You’re not normally the voice of reason here.”

True.

“Neither of us is. You better wash up.”

We went back into the house. I watched Maximus’s eyes seeing if he was dumb enough to lay the Southern charm on but he looked mildly horrified and only offered up “My Lord” as we passed by.

Perry went up the stairs to the room and the minute she shut the door behind her, I turned to her Bird who was coming out of the kitchen with a first aid kit in his hands.

“What the hell, Bird?” I yelled.

“Easy, Dex,” Max said.

“Oh shut the fuck up,” I told him without a glance. I snatched the kit out of Bird’s worn hands. “Why did you let her go off like that?”

Bird put that oh-so-wise and patient look on his face, his lines growing deeper. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds and calmly folded his arms. Those eyes of his had a very calming effect on me.

Finally he said, “I did not know she had left. As soon as I found out she had, I followed her tracks into the mountain. I arrived…just in time.”

He let those last words sink in a little. AKA you should thank me you white asshole.

I shot him a weak but appreciative smile. “Well, thanks then. I just…”

Bird nudged me and gestured to the ceiling. “Go tend to your wife. She needs you.”

I nodded, hoping my face wasn’t portraying the sudden heat I felt at the mention of “wife” and went up the stairs.

She was in the bathroom but I didn’t hear the shower running.

I gave a quick rap on the door.

“It’s Dex,” I said giving her enough time to cover herself. I tried the handle. Locked. Guess she thought I was the type of guy who would ambush her in the shower.

Guess she was kind of right about that.

The door eventually opened a crack and Perry gave me a suspicious look. That’s all I noticed before I spied her breasts which were spilling over the top of her towel. And by towel, I mean dishcloth. The girl was dangerously close to having a nipple slip.

“Hello there,” I said in an extremely sleazy voice. Didn’t mean to, just slipped out. I hoped her breast might follow suit.

“How long have you been standing there?” I heard her ask. She sounded far away. All I could see was skin and cleavage and beads of water rolling down full mounds and…

She reached over and pushed at my forehead until my eyes were forced to meet hers. That was OK. I liked staring into her eyes as much as I liked staring at her boobs.

“Did you just see Sarah leave?” she asked, tension in her voice.

“Why?” I looked at her closely. She looked more scared than annoyed at my leering and when my head cleared of the blatant sexuality on display, I remembered why I had come up there. Her pale skin was marred with rough, red scratches up and down her arms, on her hands, her face.

She closed her eyes and sighed, getting ready to close the door. “Nevermind.”

I quickly put my arm up to stop it. “Nuh uh.” I pushed my way into the bathroom and shut the door behind me. “You need some attending.”

“Oh yeah, you’d like that wouldn’t you?” she sniped and took a step back from me.

Sheesh. What the hell was her problem? I wasn’t the one who told her to go off into the desert with her arms wide open yelling “Come to me my animal friends!” I told her to do the opposite.

I raised my brow at her in warning. Then I sighed, opened the kit up in the sink and said, “Actually I’d like it if you were being the sexy nurse, not me.”

I tried not to imagine that hot little fantasy of mine and concentrated on the task at hand; pouring alcohol on gauze and cleaning up her wounds. Time to man up and quit thinking with my dick.

She flinched as I pressed the solution into her arm but she held it together for the most part. I have to admit, it was a bit unnerving being so close to her when she had on just a towel. Hell, if I was being honest here, it’s unnerving being close to her in general. The way she smelled, the feel of her skin beneath my hands, it was intoxicating. And confusing.

And there I was with my dick thinking again. Although…it wasn’t just that. And that was the confusing part, wasn’t it?

Fuck, forgetting my pills was a bad, bad choice.

I rerouted my brain and concentrated on getting her better. When I was done wrapping her hands with a shitload of gauze, I met her eyes. We had a moment. I tried to read her. There was too much going on inside both of us for me to get a clear picture.

“I’m sort of waiting for you to tell me how this happened,” I said softly. I mean, not the Cliff Notes version of things.

Now she looked embarrassed. She took in a deep breath and explained everything down to the dream she had before she even came to Red Fox. Now that pissed me off. I know that we barely knew each other and we were just partners when it came down to things but, I don’t know, I felt strangely betrayed that she hadn’t confided in me about it. It was like she didn’t trust me with things for fear of what I would think. That would have been flattering if it wasn’t a little off-putting. I wanted her to trust me but it was apparent it would be slow going.

When she finished telling me how the crow attacked her and how lucky she was for Bird to have showed up (luck didn’t even begin to cover it), I was pretty much done. All I had to do was clean the cut on her cheek.

“You know the drill,” I told her. I touched her face with my hands and leaned in closer. My eyes tried to stay focused on the wound but it was hard. I wanted to look into her eyes at this close of a distance. I wanted to let her know she was going to be OK. There was something so vulnerable and restrained about Perry, something that made me want to do stupid, ridiculous things to keep her safe. At the same time, I wanted to draw her out and make her strong, like a diamond from coal.

Without even realizing it, I found myself gazing deep into those blue eyes, totally fucking lost in them. My heart did a little flip. Christ, this was not a good idea. My heart of all hearts did not need to be flipping.

I broke away, broke the tension, broke the connection, and gave her one final dab of iodine on her cheek. I gave her a forced smile, already feeling distant. Distance was good.

“You’re going to have a rusty blotch on your face from the iodine, but I think if you wash it in an hour you should be good to go.”

“Thanks Dex,”she said, her voice barely above a whisper. She looked away, staring absently at the sink. She felt the distance too. This was for the best.

For now.

SHE’S GOT A WAY

“Sexually frustrated?” Perry asked, her voice struggling to be heard in the noisy bar.

I turned my head away from my beer bottle and looked at her in surprise. The girl must have been psychic, though I could see from the way her round eyes were slanting at the corners that she might just be drunk.

I had to smile. “Yes.”

There was really no use in denying it. Even with all the bullshit going around and the feeling that my brain was splitting in two, it was having to sleep next to her every night – and just sleep – that was fucking me up the most. I looked down at the beer bottle label that was sticking to my fingers in moist chunks. Christ, I couldn’t be more obvious.

She didn’t appear put-off. She rarely did. It was one of her annoying super powers.

“Because your girlfriend isn’t here?”

“Sure.” That was part of it. But even if Jenn were here, God help us all, it still wouldn’t have gotten rid of the constant boner adjustments.

I took a long gulp of my beer, hoping that she would get the hint and not pry any further. Perry didn’t seem to have control over her lips half the time and not in a good way and it was only a matter of time before I said something really stupid. I didn’t trust myself without the meds.

I glanced up at Maximus and Bird talking across the table from us. I hated Max again. I didn’t know if it was being off the meds or whatthefuckever but his rockabilly bullshit act was wearing thin. I didn’t like how he acted like he knew everything and I didn’t like the way he was trying to win Perry over. He would deny it, but I knew exactly what the fucker was trying to do to me. And Perry was too innocent, her self-esteem too ravaged to pick up on it.

To cement my point, Dire Straits came on and after Perry proclaimed her sudden (and surprising) love for the band, the douchefucker stood up and asked her to dance like he was a Cajun Rhett Butler.

She agreed, taking his hand with a look that was pretty close to glee, and he led her to the packed dance floor. I looked back at the beer just in case she wanted me to notice what was going on, notice them together. My fingers started picking at the label again. I wouldn’t give them that satisfaction.

“You care about her a great deal,” Bird said in his ‘I’m an old man’ voice.

I shot him a look and resumed concentration on the beer, taking respite in the monotonous movements. I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say. It was the truth, that’s all it was.

“It’s OK, Dex,” he continued. “I would too. But you have to respect each other. You have to move slowly. You are both too much the same.”

“What does that mean?” I snapped at him. I felt bad, once again I wasn’t in control of my emotions, but Bird’s face was impassive and gave nothing away.

“You know what it means,” he said and he left it at that. I did know what he meant. That’s what made the whole situation harder.

We sat in silence for a bit, then he excused himself to go to the bar, promising to bring me a beer. I wanted to stick my fucking head in a pitcher but I needed to take it easy. Drinking never really helped me in the way I thought it did. And those thoughts always came when I was three sheets to the wind.

I managed to avoid looking in Max and Perry’s direction but that all went fuckaloo whenU2 came on and Perry wasn’t back at her seat with fingers in her ears.

Instead she was still on the dance floor. Slow dancing. With ginger fucking Elvis. They were dancing close, way too close. Her breasts were crammed up into his chest, he was holding her like he was about to turn her over his knee and spank her six ways from Sunday.

And she was letting him. She looked like she was enjoying the body pressure as much as he was. I could only imagine the way his chubby must have been grinding against her. Not that I wanted to imagine that. I shuddered, feeling the curious mix of disgust and envy carry through me. Feelings, fuck, I wasn’t used to this.

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