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“Further?” Wyatt asked.

“Oh my God,” Emily said. “Sara, go home.”

“She’s a giver,” Sara said, ignoring Emily, speaking directly to Wyatt. “You know that by now. She’ll do anything for anybody, and that includes animals, too.”

“Out,” Emily said to Sara, pointing to the door.

“My point,” Sara said quickly to Wyatt, clearly knowing her time was limited. “Is that she’s a giver, and sooner or later everyone takes advantage of her good nature.”

“I’m right here!” Emily said.

“We’ve all taken a piece of her,” Sara went on as if she hadn’t spoken. “And that’s on us. Me, my dad, even Mom, rest her soul. And her friends, too. Although she doesn’t have many right now because she was in school so long and worked a bunch of hours, but mostly it’s because she got hurt there, too. Her first boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend. Knocked out her entire posse in one, right there.”

Emily reached for Sara and began to push her to the door.

Sara dug her heels in. “And then there was John Number Two,” she told Wyatt over Emily’s shoulder. “He took a piece from her without even knowing it. So you can’t take your piece. You can’t,” she said, struggling with Emily, “because I don’t know how many pieces she has left to give, and she’s everything to me.” Her voice cracked, her eyes shimmered. “So you need to stop playing with her, or you’ll answer to me. You hear me?”

Emily had her halfway to the door by now, but Sara still hadn’t taken her eyes off Wyatt. She was dead serious, and maybe not crazy, after all. At least not one hundred percent.

“I hear you,” Wyatt said to her over Emily’s head.

Relief burned fierce and bright in Sara’s gaze, and she finally allowed Emily to boot her out the door.

“I’ll deal with you later,” Emily said, and shut the door on her sister’s nose. She turned back to the room, which had gone silent.

“Holy cow,” Darcy said. “That was better than The Real Housewives of any city.”

“Sorry about that,” Emily said. “She escaped the mental institution just this morning. She’s got Tourette’s and—”

“Why are you sorry?” Colonel asked. “My brother would’ve come in with his shotgun to make his point. You got a brother, Dr. Stevens?”

“No,” Emily said.

“Want me to act as your brother?”

“No!” Emily said.

Darcy laughed and pointed at Colonel. “You know what? You’re okay.”

“I know,” Colonel said.

“Work,” Emily said, voice high, eyes a little wild, looking desperate to move on from this. “We must get to work!” And with that, she moved past them all, heading toward the back area of the center.

Darcy took one look at Emily’s butt and choked out a laugh.

“What?” Emily demanded, whirling back.

“Nothing,” Wyatt said, slicing a look at his sister that had her zipping her lip. “You just have some mud—”

“Oh my God.” Emily craned her neck to look at herself and groaned. “I forgot about how you pushed me down.”

Colonel stood up. “He pushed you? Hang on, I’ve got my gun in my truck.”

“No!” Emily said. “It was my own fault, he was protecting me.”

“You sure?” the man asked.


“All right, then.”

“My God,” Emily said, putting a hand to her chest, looking at the lot of them like she’d found herself in the middle of a reality show. “We’re still in the U.S., right?”

“Yep,” Darcy said, popping her gum, looking like a kid on Christmas morning. “I know, it seems like maybe Mars or something, right?”

“Or something,” Emily said, and with one last unreadable look in Wyatt’s direction, she vanished into the back.


Emily managed to avoid getting stuck alone with Wyatt for their last hour of the day.

But Darcy was a whole different matter. She caught Emily in the bathroom and stood right outside Emily’s stall. “That’s messed up, what your best friend did to you,” she said through the stall door.

Emily closed her eyes and resisted banging her head on the wall. “It was a long time ago.” First year of undergrad. Old news.

Okay, so she still had a few trust issues, whatever. She was working on that. Sort of. “And I’m a little busy right now . . .”

“I mean, it’s messed up what your boyfriend did, too, but guys are dicks. Your girlfriend, I hope she got vag-warts or something.”

Emily stared at the closed door and felt her throat tighten with both the need to laugh and cry at the same time. “That’s . . . gross. And sweet.” She drew a deep breath. “About your brother, Darcy. I don’t want you to think we’re just . . .” She paused. Because she and Wyatt were just. She tried again. “We’re not going to hurt each other. We’ve discussed it. We’re on the same page. And I’m not a permanent fixture here, anyway. I’m eventually going back to L.A.” She realized that Darcy hadn’t answered, and as she exited the stall she nearly had heart failure.

Darcy was gone.

Wyatt stood there in her place, leaning against the sink, ankles crossed, hands in his pockets. Casual. At ease.

She bit back a sigh. “How much did you hear?”

“Enough,” he said, his voice at odds with his laid-back posture, “and we’re not on the same page. Not even close.” He stepped toward her. “And you didn’t tell Dell you wanted to trade places with the L.A. intern. If you’d wanted to go, you could have.”

Was that true? That couldn’t be true.

“And about Sara’s little visit,” he said, and her heart seized.

Oh, God. She wasn’t ready to talk about that. She was never going to be ready to talk about that. “Wyatt—”

“You’re not going to brush this off,” he said right over her, expression firm. “We’ve done too much of that. What your sister said struck a chord with you, Emily, I could see it.” He stared into her eyes. “The very last thing I want to do is hurt you.”

“You can’t,” she said. “Because we’re not a real thing.”

“You sure about that?” he asked. “Because it feels pretty f**king real when I’m buried inside you.” He took the last step between them, and his cell went off. He looked at the screen and swore.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You have to go.”

His glittery gaze said he knew she wasn’t being polite here, that he got she was as relieved as hell, and it pissed him off. “We’re not done,” he said. “We have to talk.”

“Oh goodie,” she said. She could hardly wait. But then again, as she was going home to kill Sara, maybe she’d land in jail, and with any luck, no visitation rights, and she’d never have to talk again.

It turned out a little better than that. Wyatt ended up having to leave with Brady on another emergency ranch call.

Dell and Emily took care of the last of their patients at Belle Haven, and finally, at the end of what had been a very long day, she grabbed her purse and sweater to leave.

And whirled right into Dell. His hands went to her arms to steady her. “You okay?”

Somehow she had the feeling he wasn’t asking because she’d just plowed into him. “I’m great,” she said. “Never better. I—” She broke off, deflating when he arched a brow. “You heard.”

“That your sister jumped all over Wyatt’s shit? Yeah. I just wish I’d seen it.” His smile faded. “Emily—”

“He didn’t act inappropriately,” she rushed to say. “It happened months ago, before we even knew we’d be working together.”

“Just the once then?” he asked.

She grimaced. “He didn’t take advantage of me, Dell,” she said quietly. “If anything, I’ve taken advantage of him.” Multiple times. “So you’re not going to sue me or anything, right?” she asked, trying to tease.

The ghost of a smile returned to Dell’s gaze. “I think I can let it slide.”

She patted his arm, pulled free and headed to the door.


When she turned back, the smile had made its way to his mouth. “He’s one of the good ones,” Dell said. “You know that, right?”

Her heart squeezed, and she nodded.

When Emily finally pulled up to her house, she was still spoiling for a fight with Sara. But she paused in the driveway, hearing a not so distant howl. And then another.

Dog or coyote?

Coyote, she decided, and hurried to the front door.

Sammy was there on the walk, and Emily saw that he had fresh strawberries in his tin. It was going to be hard to kill Sara knowing she’d fed the little guy, but she’d power through it. It would be a loss because Emily really enjoyed Sara’s cooking, but there was always takeout.

Even if there were only two take-out places in all of Sunshine.

Unfortunately, her plan was derailed by the sight of her sister sitting in the middle of the living room in a ball gown of all things, sobbing her heart out.

Q-Tip was sitting a few feet away, watching the human with detached interest.

“I found this,” Sara said to Emily, gesturing to the dress, the four-inch heels, the tiara on top of her spiked head. Miss Butch America.

“I had it all in a bag with my stuff,” Sara said soggily, and sniffed. “It’s one of the outfits Rayna wore down the runway last year.” The tears began again. “It smells like her.”

Emily sighed as her anger drained away. She sat on the floor with Sara and pulled her in for a hug. “You could call her,” she said quietly.

“Tell her what?”

“That you miss her.”

“No. I don’t want to interfere with her life.”

“Right. You’d rather just interfere with mine.”

Their gazes locked. Sara managed a short laugh. “Yeah. Lucky you.” She stopped sniffling and blew her nose.

“Hungry?” Emily asked.

“Not if you’re cooking,” Sara said.

“We could go out. We should go out. I’ve never seen you in a dress before.”

Sara choked out a laugh. “I thought you were mad at me.”

Emily sighed and set her head on Sara’s shoulder. “I was.”

“But not anymore?”


“Why’s that?” Emily asked.

“Cuz you’re buying dinner.”

Sara let out a low laugh. “Fair enough.” She paused. “Can I borrow twenty?”

Emily sighed. “You know the two of us are really all sorts of screwed up, right?”

“In a very large way.”

When Wyatt got back to Sunshine that night, he headed straight to Emily’s.

You can’t take your piece, Sara had said. I don’t know how many pieces she has left to give.

His chest felt tight just remembering the look of misery on Emily’s face. Take a piece of her? Hell, he wanted to do the opposite. He wanted to reclaim all the pieces she’d lost and give them back to her, kicking some serious ass while he was at it.

Her place was dark. He reached for his cell and called her, but she didn’t answer, so he texted.

You can run but you can’t hide.

No response to that, either.

Frustrated, he drove home. Zoe was waiting, needing his help with the leaking kitchen sink. He lay under the sink, staring up at the plumbing.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Shit. He swiped at the water hitting him in the nose and scooted his head over an inch. Where was Emily tonight? “Wrench,” he said.


He craned his neck and caught sight of Darcy’s legs, hanging from the counter, where she sat to keep him company. “You fall asleep sitting?” he asked. “Wrench.”

Still nothing. He pulled himself from beneath the sink.

His sister was staring out the window, her eyes glossy, her mouth open. He stood up to see what she was looking at.

AJ was in the yard with Zoe, who’d managed to finagle him into helping her plant some shrubs along the front of the property. She’d done this by promising him all he could eat pizza, and that Darcy wouldn’t be here.

But Darcy had decided not to go out for once, so Zoe had made her swear to stay out of sight.

“What are you doing?” Wyatt asked Darcy suspiciously.


“Liar.” She was always doing something, even when she wasn’t moving. In fact, he’d learned that’s when she was the most dangerous. “You’re staring at AJ like he’s dinner.”

She slid him a look, and he grimaced. “Oh Christ.” He scrubbed a hand over his eyes. “No, it’s no good, I can’t unsee that image.”

“Oh shut up,” she said. “You’re getting lucky, as it turns out, so you don’t get to judge.”

“But it’s AJ.” Wyatt loved the guy, but AJ had made a career out of women. He loved women, all of them. The thought made Wyatt grimace again. “We’re not going to talk about this.”

“Do you know how many months it’s been since I had a social orgasm?” Darcy asked.

“Shit, Darcy.”

“You know what? Forget it.” She kicked the wrench his way and snatched her walker.