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But Mike was gone.

Instead, Emily was moving back toward him. Someone, probably Jade, ruler of their universe here at Belle Haven, had given her a lab coat to put on over her suit. He wasn’t sure why she’d been in a suit in the first place when her job was wading knee deep in questionable shit all day, but hell, he had sisters, two of them, both bat-shit crazy, so he knew better than to question a woman’s clothing choice.

Besides, she’d looked sexy as hell in her fancy suit, with her pretty blazer offering peek-a-boo hints of some lace thing beneath, as she helped Lulu give birth.

In general, Wyatt didn’t have a “type” of woman. For him it was about a certain gleam in her eye, a spark that said she knew life was hard as hell but that it could also be fun as hell, and she could make it work in either scenario.

Right now the look in Emily’s eyes was bring it on, and damn if he didn’t like that, too. He tore his eyes off her and opened the patient file in his hands. He read Mike’s prereport and smiled.

“What is it?” she asked as he came to a stop before her.

“Gonna be fun.” He handed her the file and walked into the exam room, hearing Emily’s sharp intake of air behind him.

She was a fast reader.

Lady was a year-old Tibetan mastiff. She was sitting next to her owner, Sally Feinstein, humping Sally’s leg.

Sally was calmly ignoring this behavior, thumbing through Facebook on her phone. At the sight of Wyatt and Emily, Sally put her phone aside and gestured to her hundred-pound dog—who looked twice that at least, thanks to her crazy, thick fur. “I’m on a road trip to my parents’ house down south. I’ve only had Lady about two weeks. They’ve never met her before, and I can’t take her there while she’s doing this to . . . everything.”

Lady had switched from Sally’s leg to the table leg.

Wyatt crouched low and introduced himself to Lady by offering his fist for her to sniff.

Lady took a polite sniff, licked his knuckles, and went back to her humping.

“I try to ignore her,” Sally said. “I didn’t want to reward this embarrassing behavior by bringing attention to it.”

Jade must have briefed Emily on protocol because she pulled a pen from her coat pocket and began to ask Sally the usual questions about their patient. What did Lady eat, had Lady been exhibiting any odd behavior lately, etc.

“I call trying to screw my mailbox odd behavior,” Sally said. “You’ve got to fix this.”

Emily made a note.

“She even humped my pastor,” Sally said, distressed. “She humped the little old lady who lives next door. She humped my other neighbor’s prized gardenias, and her husband nearly shot Lady.”

Emily made some more notes.

Wyatt listened to the ongoing conversation with one ear while he sat next to Lady and began to examine her. He found the problem in about ten seconds.

“Could it be some sort of odd vitamin deficiency?” Sally asked hopefully.

“That seems unlikely,” Emily said, and put down the file. She crouched at Wyatt’s side, meeting his gaze.

He gestured for her to go ahead and make her own assessment. She looked at him for a long beat, and he knew he hadn’t completely hidden his good humor from her because her eyes narrowed.

Smart girl.

He waited as she turned her attention to Lady, examining her in the same manner he had—thoroughly. So he saw the exact second she realized what he’d already discovered. Her mouth curved, then her teeth chewed into that bottom lip to try to hold it back, but her hazel eyes were laughing when they met his across the length of Lady’s body.

The moment was brief but oddly electrifying, broken when Sally dropped to her knees beside them. “What is it?” she asked, sounding deeply concerned.

“Mrs. Feinstein,” Emily said. “You said you adopted Lady two weeks ago?”

“Yes, I’ve got a friend who’s got a cousin whose sister-in-law’s brother breeds Tibetan mastiffs. Lady was the last in a long line of winning show dogs. I don’t have her paperwork yet. It’s been delayed for some reason. It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to show her, no matter how expensive she was. I just love the breed because they look like teddy bears. No ugly reproductive parts showing all the time.” She shuddered distastefully.

Emily bit her lip harder.

Wyatt rubbed Lady’s tummy, and the dog went boneless on its back, spread eagle. Lady did indeed resemble a teddy bear. In fact there was so much hair everywhere the dog might have been a stuffed animal from a child’s room.

Except for the huge erection between its hind legs, sticking straight up in the air.

Sally stared at it. “What in the Sam Hill is that?”

“A penis,” Wyatt said.

“I was really hoping you were going to say tumor,” Sally said. She paused. “Why does my girl dog have a penis?”

“Lady isn’t a female. And there doesn’t appear to be a thing wrong with him—other than he hasn’t been neutered.”

Sally shifted her shocked gaze from dog to vet. “Lady’s not a she.”

“Not in the slightest.”

Tired of being flat on his back, Lady leapt to his feet and panted happily at them. Then he tried to hump Emily.

Wyatt rose, pulled Emily up with him, and then Sally.

Lady wasn’t bothered by being disrupted in mid-hump. He went back to dating the chair.

“We could take care of this for you,” Wyatt told Sally. “Dr. Connelly is doing the surgeries today, I could check and see if there’s an opening for Lady.”

“Good gracious,” she said faintly, a hand to her heart, still staring down at Lady like she’d just discovered she was the owner of a green-striped pig. “Yes, please. I’d like to get this . . . taken care of.”

Wyatt took Emily through two straight hours of patients before giving them a moment to breathe in the staff room, where they inhaled the plate of sandwiches Jade had put out for them. They stood at the counter, and though Wyatt didn’t know about Emily, he was giving the whole ignoring her thing a good ol’ college try.

Mike broke their uneasy silence when he poked his head in and held out their next file. Wyatt gestured for Emily to take it. She reached out for it and a birthing glove fell from beneath her white lab coat.

Mike grinned. “You don’t have to hoard those, Doc, we keep ’em in every exam room.”

When he was gone, Emily looked at Wyatt. “You could have told me I had another stuck to my butt.”

“That would’ve suggested that I’d looked at your butt.”

She pulled off her coat and one last glove fell from her. She made a noise from deep in her throat that suggested she blamed him.

This wasn’t a surprise. Something else having sisters had taught him—blame was easily assigned to the nearest male in the room.

They went back to work and saw twenty-seven more patients before the end of the day. He sent an exhausted Emily home with the rest of the support staff, and then went to Dell’s office, where Dell and Adam were waiting on him.

Adam was Dell’s brother, and while not a vet, he helped run Belle Haven. He was a search and rescue expert, an S&R instructor, and taught all the local dog obedience classes.

“How did the new girl do today?” Dell asked.

“She’s smart,” Wyatt said.

Dell nodded. “And?”

Sweet. Cute. Hot . . . “Good with people and animals,” he added.

Dell smiled. “We already know all that, it’s why we took her. Tell me something I don’t know.”

“She’s a quick thinker, and knows her stuff when it came to the domestic animals.”

Dell nodded.

Adam hadn’t moved. He remained sprawled back in his chair, as still as a cat, just as intelligent as his brother. “But?” he said.

“I already know,” Dell said. “We all know. She’s not used to this kind of work, she’s a city vet. She startled when you treated Sergeant and he nearly took off her hand.”

Sergeant was a bad-tempered sheep who’d come in today with a stomachache. “Sergeant has nearly taken off all our hands at one point or another,” Wyatt said.

“How about Crazy Charlie?” Dell asked. “He throw her off her game?”

Crazy Charlie had come in with his even crazier parrot who tended to shout all sorts of racial obscenities.

Like owner, like parrot.

Turned out, Emily wasn’t all that good at corralling her emotions. Annoyance, embarrassment, fear. Wyatt had seen each and every one of them as she felt them. So had everyone else.

She was going to have to do better there. “She’s finding her footing,” he said.

Adam arched a brow, but didn’t say a word.

Dell smiled. “You’re defending her.”

Wyatt shrugged. “You like her, too, or she wouldn’t be here. You already know she was worth it.”

Dell nodded. “But it’s good to know you feel the same.”

“Yeah,” Wyatt said. “I feel the same.” Aware of Adam’s quiet, knowing gaze, he left and went to his office to handle the mountain of paperwork waiting for him.

He was still at work at seven o’clock, stomach growling, hunched over his computer when his cell phone buzzed an incoming text from Zoe, his older sister.

So as it turns out, the gas stove isn’t working. No worries, the fire department said all is well now.

Jesus. He grabbed his keys and headed out. Someday in the near future, home would be the house he built on the land he’d purchased earlier in the year—ten acres out near the lake on the outskirts of town. For now, home was the place he and his two sisters Darcy and Zoe shared, the house that the three of them had inherited from their grandparents.

And home might actually be the wrong word. Money pit. Yeah, money pit was definitely right. The huge, rambling old Victorian was falling off its axis, but it was the only home the three of them had ever known. The plan was to fix it up just enough to get out from beneath it. They’d divide the profits, and each would go on their merry way with their lives. But it had been a year and they were still stuck with each other.

Zoe was the oldest at thirty-two. The classic oldest, she was driven, bossy, and a perfectionist. Wyatt, the middle child, was only eleven months behind her, and the baby, Darcy, had just turned twenty-six and . . . well, she was as crazy as they came. Not three-day-emergency-hold crazy so much as . . . uncontrolled, uninhibited, and scary as hell.

The three of them had grown up quickly, and at the mercy of their foreign diplomat parents, whose jobs had taken them all over the world. Liberia for two years. Bolivia for three. Jordan. Hungary. Indonesia . . . It was mostly a blur now, but the lifestyle of being ripped away from everything you knew every few years, or even every few months, had left its toll in varying ways on each of them.

In Wyatt’s case, all he’d ever dreamed about was putting down roots and staying somewhere long enough to be on a sports team, and maybe get a pet while he was at it.

The bright side to his early years had been his grandparents. Born and raised in Sunshine, they’d never left. He and his sisters had often been sent here for summers. Though both grandparents were gone now, they’d left their legacy—the deed to the money pit.

The deed was worth squat.

The house was worth squat.

But the memories of the time spent here was deeply rooted, and as the commercial went—priceless. After all the years of forced upheaval, Wyatt was here in Sunshine to stay.

He pulled into the driveway just as the sun was setting behind the Bitterroot mountains. There was nothing like fall in the mountains. A brilliant cornucopia of colors in every hue flashed beneath the last of the sun’s rays. He parked his truck and noted that there were no fire trucks. A bonus—the house was still standing—Well, somewhat. All good signs, he figured.

Zoe opened the door as he hit the top step. “’Bout time,” she said.

“Fire?” he asked.

“There was no fire. I just was getting tired of waiting on you.”

He glared at her, but she was unaffected. It was hard to intimidate someone who’d seen him wear a Superman cape to bed until he was eight.

“Dammit,” she said. “You look exhausted.”

“I’m fine.” If fine was half a minute from falling asleep on his feet.

She narrowed her eyes and studied him, her fingers clutching a pad of paper that he knew held the dreaded “to-do” list.

The list had to be tackled, was being tackled, one item at a time. Nightly. By the person least done in by their life that day. He and Zoe had a little who-was-busier competition going. She was a pilot at the small, local airport, and worked long hours. Wyatt worked long hours. So usually, it was a toss-up.

“How was your day?” she asked casually. Too casually.

But this wasn’t his first rodeo. He knew how to stay on the bull. “Delivered two baby sheep, expressed anal glands, cast a leg, cut the nuts off a sheperd,” he said. “You?”

“Crop dusted, and dropped the mayor at Yellowstone for an interview.”

They stared at each other, waiting to see who would crack first.

“Jesus,” came a disgusted voice from the couch. “Whose penis is bigger?”

Zoe hugged the list to her chest. “Mine is.”

Wyatt snatched the list from her for pride’s sake, for his entire male race.

Darcy, prone on the couch, cackled.

Wyatt pushed his way in and stood in the center of the living room, hands on h*ps as he studied his baby sister, still recovering from her accident nine months earlier, and the five surgeries she’d required in the time since. “Thought we agreed, you’re using your powers for good these days,” he said.