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“Rosa Martinez,” Jade said, patting the casserole. “Homemade enchiladas. She left a note that I accidentally on purpose read. She wants to jump your bones.”

“Jump your bones,” Peanut said.

Wyatt pointed at the parrot, and the bird flopped dramatically to Jade’s desk like he’d been shot.

Wyatt turned to Jade. “The note does not say that.”

“It says, and I quote, ‘call me, Dr. Stone, anytime.’” Jade waved it. “In women-speak that means she wants to jump your bones.”

“Women are crazy.”

“True,” she said, not insulted in the least.

Emily came up to the counter holding a file. Wyatt gave her credit, she met his gaze smoothly, as she had all morning. He wasn’t sure if she blushed slightly, or if that was his imagination. One thing she hadn’t done was speak directly to him.

Apparently, they weren’t going to discuss Friday night. Fine by him, as every time he so much as thought about it, how she’d climbed into his lap and rode him like he was a bronco, he got hard.

“I need some copies made,” she said to Jade, and then stopped to eye the casserole. “Another delivery from the Casserole Brigade?” she asked.

“Yep,” Jade said.

“What’s going on?” she asked Wyatt. “Are they auditioning for the role of your next girlfriend?”

Jade cackled.

Peanut cackled.

Wyatt slid both Jade and the parrot a look, but neither appeared at all repentant. “What?” Jade said. “It’s not a bad idea. You deserve a new girlfriend since—”


“And speaking of girlfriends . . .” She handed him a stack of phone messages. “I almost didn’t give you the first one, but last time I interfered, Dell told me to butt out of your business. So this is me, butting out.”

He looked down at the first message and felt tension grip him. “Caitlin called?”

“Yeah,” Jade said softly, no longer sounding amused. “From Haiti. I told her you were too busy screwing blond triplets in the back, that you’d call when you were done, but it might be awhile seeing as you were a God among men.”

At his side, Emily sucked in a breath.

Wyatt shook his head. “Nice going on staying out of it, Jade.”

She winced with guilt but kept her head high. “She deserved it. And since I’ve already stuck my nose in, let me finish off by saying if you call her back, I’ll . . .” She paused. “I’ll call all the cougars in town and tell them your favorite foods, and that you need some lovin’.”

“Do it,” Wyatt said. “And I’ll teach Parrot how to fake an orgasm, loud and proud, Meg Ryan style.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Jade said, eyes narrowed.

“Try me,” he said.

She tried to stare him down, but he’d learned how to handle strong women from the masters: Zoe and Darcy.

Jade backed down.

“Caitlin’s the ex-girlfriend,” Emily said into the silence, clearly asking for confirmation.

“Ex-fiancée, who screwed him over,” Jade corrected, then she caught Wyatt’s gaze as she grimaced. “Sorry,” she said. “That one slipped out. I’m going to control myself now.”

Yeah, right. He felt the weight of Emily’s surprise, but ignored it and Jade. Fucking Mondays. He headed back to his office with the messages. He dumped Caitlin’s into the trash and then stared down at it. “Shit,” he said, and pulled it back out.

“You gonna call her?” This from Dell in the doorway. “Don’t tell Jade.”

“Speaking of Jade, you need to control your woman.”

Dell laughed. “I’m going to do you a favor and not tell her you said that.”

Wyatt crumpled the message and tossed it back into the trash.

“Wise decision,” Dell said.

Wyatt nodded.

Dell didn’t leave.

Wyatt looked at him.

“Want me to take the trash out for you?” he asked, no smile, utterly serious.

“Christ.” Wyatt scrubbed his hands over his face. “Yeah.”

Dell grabbed the entire trash can and left.

Wyatt nodded to himself. That part of his life—while one of the best parts—was over. There would be no going back. He didn’t need to hear whatever it was Caitlin could possibly have to say. He walked down the hallway and stopped in front of exam room one to take the file from Mike. “What do we got?”

Mike was unusually solemn. “Not good, man. It’s Rebel, with Lizzy.”

Rebel was a big biker dude who had a pet iguana. He and Lizzy had been together for fifteen years. Lizzy rode on Rebel’s bike. They were a team, and Lizzy was the love of Rebel’s life. Problem was, Lizzy was old for an iguana, and there was nothing any of them could do to stop time for Rebel.

Wyatt entered the room to find the biker sitting on the floor in all his leather and studs, knees up, Lizzy cradled to his chest. Wyatt set the file on the exam table, and crouched low next to the biker and iguana. “Hey.”

Rebel nodded a greeting but didn’t take his eyes off Lizzy. “She’s sleeping.”

Wyatt nodded.

Lizzy wasn’t sleeping.

Wyatt slid his back down the wall to sit at Rebel’s side.

“You gotta do something,” the biker said, voice gruff. Dangerous.

Wyatt met his gaze. “You know I’d do whatever it took, man. But—”

“Fuck,” Rebel said. And burst into big, noisy, gulping sobs, dropping his head to Wyatt’s shoulder. “I know people don’t understand,” he gasped, “but Lizzy and I’ve been together for a long time.”

“I know.”

“I don’t wanna go back to an empty house without her . . .”

Wyatt thought about all the lines he could utter. Time will heal all wounds. You’ll get another iguana. Don’t try to stifle the grief, let it come.

But it was all bullshit. “It sucks,” he said.

Rebel went still and then choked out a half laugh, half sob. “Yeah,” he said, and head still down, held out his fist.

Wyatt bumped it with his own.

Rebel sniffed noisily, very carefully transferred Lizzy over to Wyatt, and rose to his full six feet six inches. “Take care of her,” he said, and walked out of the room.

Emily looked at Wyatt still sitting on the floor of the exam room. She’d been caught up with Mike and another patient, but had come quickly when she’d heard the crying.

Her heart had broken at the sight of the big biker, still cradling his beloved iguana, and Wyatt comforting him.

Wyatt rose to his feet, pushed up his glasses, and very gently carried Lizzy’s body to the back room, and the special cooler there that held the deceased. Lizzy would stay there until Wyatt determined what Rebel wanted done, and then they’d follow out his wishes.

One thing few people realized about being a vet was how much death they saw. It was a big part of their job and heart wrenching, and Emily’s eyes stung thinking about Rebel’s loss. “Does it ever get easier?” she asked softly.

Wyatt studied her for a moment. “No,” he said quietly, voice gruff with his own emotion. “It doesn’t.”


A few days later, Emily washed up for their first patient, then moved over and watched Wyatt do the same. The way he moved mesmerized her, all easy-paced economical grace, so innately male she could feel her pulse speed up just watching him.

So she tried not to watch.

Instead, she concentrated on the job. Their next patient made that easy. Monster was a Great Dane who’d been disturbing his people the night before with a new habit— dragging his butt on the carpet during a cocktail party the mayor had attended.

“Apparently it’s only okay for pizza night,” Wyatt said, making Emily laugh. She had to hand it to him, he could do that, make her laugh, even when she didn’t want to.

Monster’s owners had dropped him off so Emily and Wyatt were alone in the exam room. She’d managed to avoid this until now, which meant she had questions saved up.

He’d been engaged? To a woman named Caitlin who still called him? Emily had tried to ask both Lilah and Jade about it, but they’d clammed up. Oddly enough, it had been Mike who gave her a glimmer of what had happened, because, as it turned out, there were no sacred secrets at Belle Haven.

“Caitlin dumped him and he’s still working through that,” Mike had said. “Dude’s not ready.”

Ready for what? To share his heart?

And why did it matter to her so much?

She watched as Wyatt tugged on the exam gloves and hoisted the huge Great Dane onto the table with ease, the movement stretching his lab coat taut over his broad shoulders.

She felt herself shiver.

What the hell was that? And why was everything he did so laden with sexuality? At least he wasn’t wearing a tie today. Although his T-shirt said: 50% Vet, 50% Superhero. “This has to stop,” she said, helping to hold Monster from the front while Wyatt stepped to the dog’s hind end.

“What has to stop?”

She hadn’t meant to speak out loud, but what the hell. “You being sexy.”

He lifted his head and stared at her in genuine surprise. “I’m about to express this dog’s anal glands. How in the world is that sexy?”

“I . . .” She blew out a breath and hung her head. “I can’t explain.”

He shook his head, a smile playing at his lips as he went back to Monster. “You’ve got a problem.”

“I know!”

Dell popped his head in, brows raised quizzically. “Issues?”

“No!” they both said in unison over poor Monster.

Dell eyed them each and then vanished.

Emily watched Wyatt work, his big, tough hands gentle and yet firm and sure on the dog. His hands had been like that on her, too . . . “Gah,” she said, dropping her forehead to Monster’s. “Maybe there’s a pill for this.”

Wyatt laughed.

Monster licked her chin.

When Wyatt finished violating poor Monster, he tossed his gloves into the trash and grinned at Emily.


“You want me again.”

Again. Still . . .

“Should I put on a tie?”

She opened her mouth to respond but a question came out of her instead. “You’ve been engaged?”

He ignored this, and lifted Monster off the table, leading him back to his kennel. Then he moved to the sink and washed his hands.

“How come you never answer the good questions?” she asked.

“You didn’t respond to mine, either.”

She sighed and met his gaze, but he was the master at holding his silence when he wanted to.

“We’re not discussing what happened last weekend,” she finally said.

“You mean when you had your wild way with me in my truck?”

“I didn’t—” But they both knew she totally had.

He grinned at the look on her face. “You know, maybe you should be thanking me instead of yelling at me.”

“Thank you! For what?”

He arched a brow.

Okay, so she knew for what. She’d slept great that night. “Look,” she said, “apparently you bring out my inner slut. I’m not going to thank you for that.”

Wyatt smiled that sexy smile of his. “I could make you.”

Her ni**les went hard. Dammit. She pointed a finger at his nose. And then lowered it so it was pointed at another part of his anatomy entirely. “Don’t even think about it.”

“Oh, I won’t,” he said silkily. “But you will.”

And she knew he was right.

Two hours later, Emily followed Wyatt into the staff room after a difficult case. He was quiet as he scrubbed his hands.

Emily met his gaze in the mirror over the sink. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Because that had to be hard, waiting for the owner to make the difficult decision.”

Wyatt didn’t say anything. He just turned off the water and reached for paper towels to dry off with.

“You were really great with him,” she said to his back. “You let him make the decision without influence.”

“It wasn’t my decision to make,” he said simply.

“But he could have easily made the wrong decision, and elected to keep the dog alive, letting it suffer through to the inevitable end.”

He tossed the paper towels into the trash and turned to face her. She saw that he wasn’t blowing off the conversation as one he didn’t want to have, that he was indeed very seriously listening to her. In fact, she wasn’t sure she’d ever seen him so serious—with the exception of the times he’d been buried deep inside her body.

This brought an odd little quiver to her belly that she did her best to ignore, fascinated as she was by his expression.

“I don’t ever tell an owner what to do,” he said.

“Not even when they’re making the wrong decision?”

“I’ll give my opinion when asked,” he said. “Strongly, if it’s needed, but I won’t give an ultimatum. It’s not for me to do.”

“But . . .” This did not compute to a woman who’d spent her entire life making the hard decisions for everyone she loved, always. Her dad, her mom, her sister . . . “You’re the one who’s in a position to do the right thing for the animal,” she said.

He looked beyond her for a moment, as if he was thinking about something extremely unhappy, then he brought his gaze back to hers. “I believe in giving a person all the information they need in order to make an informed decision, and then trusting them to make the right decision.”