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“And if they don’t?” she pressed.

“They usually do.” He looked at her for a beat. “You don’t agree.”

“I don’t.”

“Why?” he asked.

Since he wasn’t being a smartass or making a joke, she decided to answer honestly and hope it didn’t come to bite her on the ass. “All my life, I’ve had to make damn hard choices,” she said. “And I’ve learned from each of them. If I can pass on some of that hard-earned knowledge and save someone the agony of a tough decision by making it for them, why not do it?”

“What hard choices?” he asked.

The question took her back. “They’re . . . personal.”

“More personal than you climbing me like a tree?”

She opened her mouth, saw the flash of good humor in his gaze, and sighed. “My dad was pretty occupied with his rescues most of my childhood,” she said. “And my mom was often sick. My sister . . . she had her own problems. She coped the same way my dad did, by being busy, too busy. So any decisions, all decisions, from what was for dinner to how to handle my mom’s medical care, were on me.”

He was quiet a moment, soaking that in. “You know that our life experiences couldn’t be more different.”

“I’m getting that,” she said.

“I never had a say in my own life. And now I don’t believe in taking away someone’s choices.”

It was a stark reminder of why they’d made a great one-night stand—okay, a two-night stand—and yet it couldn’t be more than that. At heart, they were two very different people. “I told you about me,” she said softly. “Now maybe you can tell me about Caitlin?”

He looked at her.

She met his gaze, trying to look like the question was as simple as something like, So, what did you have for lunch?

He didn’t buy it. Nor did he speak.

She let out a breath. “I’m just surprised,” she said. “Seeing as we’ve discussed my love life.”

“The almost, maybe, sort of boyfriend,” he said, a ghost of a smile on his face.

Feeling defensive, she crossed her arms. “I’m just saying, you might’ve mentioned that you had a fiancée.”

“Did you miss the ex part? Ex-fiancée,” he said.

“You two still talk.”


“She called you,” she reminded him.


Like pulling teeth. “She called you from Haiti,” she said. “What does she do?”

“Caitlin’s a doctor. Works for Doctors Without Borders.”

Pulling teeth without Novocain . . . Emily couldn’t have said why the idea of him having been engaged was so fascinating.

And compelling.

And . . . making her a little jealous. “Did she . . . break your heart?”

“We have patients,” he said, and walked out of the room.


Bout time.”

Wyatt ignored Darcy’s snark and looked at AJ, who was standing in the doorway to his office, big arms crossed over his chest.

Clearly Wyatt had interrupted a standoff, a tense one.

“How is she?” Wyatt asked him.

“Crazy,” AJ said, smiling grimly when Darcy sputtered, and then flipped him off.

“Right back atcha, sweetheart,” AJ said. He looked at Wyatt. “She needs ibuprofen, a long, hot bath, and rest. I kicked her ass.”

“And I’m going to kick yours,” Darcy told him. “Just as soon as I can move. You should sleep with one eye open.”

“Already do.” And then he vanished into his office.

“Bastard,” Darcy muttered. “Sadistic bastard.”

Wyatt ignored this, as there was no real heat behind the words. He scooped her out of the waiting room chair.

“Seriously,” Darcy said, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “You’re late. Again.”

“Had an emergency.” Nodding to Brittney, the receptionist, he shouldered Darcy out of the office. He knew better than to make her walk after an hour with AJ. In fact, she was still trembling from the work out. “What was going on with you and AJ?” he asked.

“Absolutely nothing.”

She was pale, eyes shut, unusually subdued, so he let it go as he set her on the passenger’s side of his truck and buckled her into her seat belt.

“You’re driving like Grandpa,” she said a few minutes later.

Wyatt turned off the highway with more force than strictly necessary, and she banged her head into the side window.

“Hey,” she complained, putting her hand to her head.

“Careful. You don’t have the brain cells to spare.”

“What the hell crawled up your ass today?”


“Something’s got you all pissy,” she said.

He might have asked her the same question. Except Darcy, for all the things that drove him crazy; her wildness, her need to prove said wildness, her absolute drive to make sure no one ever loved her . . . could still do the one thing that few others could.

Read him.

And yeah, fine, she was right. He was pissy. That the reason for it lay at his own feet didn’t help.

He was doing exactly what he said he wouldn’t—he was falling for a woman who was just putting in her time. And he’d been there. Hell, he’d bought the f**king T-shirt. He had to be seriously messed up in the head to be even thinking of seconds—and thirds, and fourths, and whatever he could get—of Emily. He’d grown up with parents who’d chosen their careers over him. He’d then fallen for Caitlin, who done the exact same thing.

And now Emily was giving him that same vibe, and he was trying to play it cool, but inside he was wondering if maybe he was just the type of guy who women left.

“Earth to Wyatt,” Darcy said. “Where did you go, Disneyland?”

“Maybe I was just tuning you out,” he said.

She laughed. “You’re incapable of tuning a woman out. It’s why they all love you.”


“It’s true. You’re just too chickenshit to pick the right one.”

He glanced over at her. “You are not giving me love advice.”

“Well someone should. I know you let everyone think Caitlin dumped you, but I’ve figured out the truth.”

He said nothing.

“You let her go, without a word.”

“Shut up, Darce.”

“Not because you didn’t love her,” Darcy went on. “But because you wanted her to pick you and Sunshine. You wanted her to stay without asking her. Because you’d never ask her to stay with you instead of taking that job she wanted.”

He must have made some sort of “tell,” given himself away, because she pounced. “You miss her,” she said. “But she didn’t deserve you.”

“No. No,” he said firmly when she just looked at him. “I don’t.” But he missed having someone.

“You need to stop dating the fancy girls,” she said. “Date a homebody.”

“Fancy girls?” he repeated with a laugh.

“Annie, Stace, Kennedy, and Christie,” she said, ticking them off on her fingers. “A dentist, an attorney, a financial analyst, and some sort of executive.”

And Emily, the vet, he silently added.

“Nothing wrong with any of them,” Darcy said. “Well, except they all had sticks up their asses. But you need someone more . . . quiet. Someone happy here in Sunshine, like you are. Someone who won’t bring more crazy into your world,” she said.

“Because I have you for that?” he asked dryly.

“Exactly,” she said. “I have gossip.”

“I’m afraid to ask.”

“Zoe heard from Kate, who heard from Holly, who heard from Jade that you like the new vet.”

Kate was Griffin’s girlfriend, Griffin was Adam’s best friend, and Adam was married to Holly. “Jesus,” he said, dizzy.

“She’s the wrong one for you, Wyatt.”

He sighed. “You don’t even know her.”

“I know she’s exactly the wrong type.”

“Yeah?” he asked, and reached over to tug her hair. “And why’s that?”

“Because she’s only here for a year. What’s wrong with Brittney?”

“AJ’s receptionist?”

“Do you know another Brittney?” Darcy asked.

“No, but—”

“She’s quiet, sweet, smart, funny. She loves Sunshine, and—”

“You are not setting me up,” Wyatt said on a rough laugh.

“Just for dinner.”

“We’ve had dinner,” Wyatt said. Several times, in fact. And Darcy was right. Brittney was quiet, sweet, smart, funny. She was also warm and caring, and, after ten years of travel, here in Sunshine for good. She’d sowed her wild oats and was ready to settle down.

And the two of them had zero chemistry. “Drop it.”

“Fine. What was your emergency?”

“A patient came in just at closing,” he said. “A dog got hit by a car.”

She let out a soft gasp. “Did it—”

“Lived,” he said. “Gonna be fine.”

Eyes closed, she smiled. “You’re a good boy, Wy-Ty.”

The words made him smile. Their grandma used to say that to him. You’re a good boy, Wy-Ty. You’re the man of the house.

He’d been five years old the first time he’d spent a summer here in Sunshine with his sisters. Even back then the funky old Victorian house had been falling apart.

He’d loved it, every nook and cranny.

He’d been commissioned by his grandma to be in charge of the menagerie of animals she collected; a llama with three legs, a blind cow, a deaf Australian shepherd, an albino cat. The list went on and on. It didn’t matter what type of living creature, if it needed saving, his grandma had taken it in—including her three wayward, emotionally neglected grandkids.

“Hey,” Darcy said. “The gas is the long, skinny pedal on the right. Step on it, would you? I’ve got a nap scheduled.”

“It’s seven o’clock. Why don’t you just wait an hour and then go to bed for the night? You can take a hot bath and relax a little bit.”

She laughed. “No one goes to bed at eight.”

“People who’ve survived an unsurvivable accident, gone through five surgeries and grueling physical therapy to learn to walk again do.”

She turned away and looked out the window.

“Stay home tonight,” he said. “Instead of napping until midnight and then going out.”

“Nothing good happens before midnight.”


“Mom,” she intoned, and then laughed.


The sound was music to his ears because for that one brief moment she almost sounded like her old self again.

When he pulled into their driveway and came around for her, she crossed her arms over her chest.

“I want my chair back,” she said.

“AJ says you don’t need it.”

“AJ doesn’t know shit. I want my chair.”

AJ knew a hell of a lot, and he’d learned it the hard way and they both knew it. AJ had fought his own battles, and he’d come out on the other side.

Just as Wyatt hoped like hell that Darcy would.

Wyatt and Darcy’s battle of wills was silent but short. Wyatt stared her down, but she’d never been afraid of him. Of being real, yeah. Of taking even a single care with her life, yeah.

But of him? No.

In the end, Wyatt once again hoisted her into his arms and carried her toward the house. Someone had weeded. The chore had been on his endless list of things to do. Zoe had texted him about it numerous times this week and he’d hit delete.

Clearly she’d gotten tired of the waist-high weeds lining the walk to the front door. Not that the grass—really more wild weeds at this point—seemed to notice. They’d had rains almost every night, and the entire yard looked more than a little neglected.

He needed more hours in his day.

“She’s going to plant roses next, you watch,” Darcy murmured with a tired sigh. “She thinks she can domesticate us.”

“We could use a little domestication,” he said.


It was a noncommittal sound, and Wyatt knew that of all of them, Darcy had no desire to settle down. She’d never admit it, but she was the most like their parents.


Bitten by wanderlust.

Happy to call the world home.

And in a single blink, it had almost all been taken away from her. But at least she was still breathing, and by the looks of things, finally on the mend.

With a sigh, Darcy set her head against his collarbone. It was more a testament to her hour of brutal therapy than any affection for Wyatt.

But he’d take what he could get.

“You’re thinking so hard you’re making me tired,” she mumbled against him. “What are you obsessing about now?”

“I’m concentrating on not dropping you on your ass,” he said.

A lie, and she knew it, but she laughed softly.

Zoe opened the door for them. “You’d all best be hungry,” she said. “I brought home Thai— Criminy, Wyatt, kick off those filthy boots before you walk across my floor. And that had best not be my favorite tank top, Darcy.”

Wyatt bent to dump Darcy onto the couch, and their gazes met. She rolled her eyes, and Wyatt felt himself grinning again.