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And not said one word to him.

Emily shadowed Dell for the day. He’d told her the switch had been approved and there were no hard feelings but it needed to happen ASAP for continuity sake.

He didn’t say one word about Wyatt.

And neither did she.

Halfway through the day she received an e-mail from Lilah stating that Sara had won Wyatt in the charity auction. Sara was now the proud owner of a day of shadowing one sexy Dr. Wyatt Stone.

Emily couldn’t believe her little cheat bid using someone else’s name had worked. If she was a good person, she’d gift the shadow day with Wyatt to one of the other women who’d wanted him, but she totally wasn’t that good of a person because she was keeping him.

At least on paper.

The day didn’t end at the usual six o’clock because that night was Belle Haven’s monthly immunization clinic. Emily had volunteered to work it, and then found herself surprised when the entire staff showed up to do the same, including significant others—minus Brady and Wyatt, who weren’t back yet.

The atmosphere was more like a party than a work night. Lilah brought animals who needed adopting, and held an impromptu adoption clinic. Jade was giving out free pet visit coupons, and Adam was there teaching one of his dog training courses—which Darcy took—borrowing Woodrow to do so, who learned all sorts of things, including how to sit on command.

There was food, too, everyone had brought something, and the fun and laughter was plentiful. Anyone, even a perfect stranger, could’ve felt the love the place exuded. But it wasn’t the place. It was the people. And their longtime connections to each other. Sunshine was like that, one of those places where history collided with the present, and it worked in a way Emily had never imagined it would.

Wyatt and Brady got back and when they walked through the door, Wyatt’s gaze immediately zeroed in on her. Her chest got tight, like there wasn’t enough room for her heart behind her ribcage. A montage of memories played in her head like a movie: running into Wyatt again at the hind quarters of a sheep in labor, climbing into his lap in his truck and fogging up the windows, saving that horse and getting a bruised butt in the process . . .

She would miss it here in Sunshine, she really would. She’d miss everyone so much, but Wyatt most of all, more than she’d ever missed anything or anyone.

You don’t have to go, a voice whispered in her head. Except if she stayed for a man who’d never given her a single inkling that he wanted more than to be boinked, she’d never forgive herself.

Why hadn’t he given her an inkling, dammit? It was time, past time, to ask. She actually started toward him to do just that, and a woman walked in the door.

She was a petite, auburn-haired beauty, with a sweet smile and deep green eyes that unerringly landed on Wyatt. She approached him with enough familiarity that Emily knew instantly who she was, even before she leapt into Wyatt’s arms and kissed him full on the mouth.

Everything came to a skidding halt inside Emily, including her heart. No, wait. There it was, kicking hard against her ribs as she moved.


She couldn’t say what she was feeling exactly, but when she blinked again, she was out the back door, heading toward the horse pens. Reno and Kiki nickered a welcome. Blue was quiet but she did stick her head over the fence, looking for goodies.

Emily patted her. The view was nothing but inky blackness right now, the only light coming from a blanket of an infinity of stars.

It was a gorgeous night.

She climbed up on the fence and sat, and took her first breath since she’d seen Caitlin’s mouth on Wyatt’s. “Damn,” she said, and scrubbed at her wet cheeks. Suddenly she could put a name to her emotions.

Red hot jealousy.




And perhaps the worst of all, loneliness.

Her phone buzzed an incoming text. Before she could reach for it, another text came in. And then another. And another.

First up was Lilah. Honey, come back.

Next was Jade. Girl, you left too early.

She didn’t know what that meant, but read the next text, from Holly. You okay?

Kate texted, too. Get your cute ass back in here, you missed the good stuff.

Emily stared down at her phone as one last text came in from . . . Oh, God. Wyatt.

She squinted as she accessed it, because everyone knew that squinting while reading something potentially devastating made it easier.

Where are you?

She swiped her nose on her sleeve and typed: Gone.

It was silly and childish, but she figured she was past due.

Liar, came his next text. Your car’s still here.

She hit Reply. I’m busy with a patient.

His own reply was so immediate she had no idea how he managed to thumb the words in so fast. Another lie. You’re not going to be able to walk back inside with that nose, Pinocchio.

She choked out a soggy laugh and stared at the phone, having no idea what to reply. I just need to be alone for a few.

“No, you don’t.”

She jerked around, dropping her phone, staring at the tall, dark shadow coming around the barn. “Oh my God. You scared me.”

He picked up her phone and held it out, and when she hopped down from the fence and tried to take it from him, his other hand shot out and grabbed hers, pulling her in. “Ditto,” he said.

“Give me my phone back.”

“Why did you run off?”

“I didn’t. I told you, I had a patient.”

“Yeah?” he asked, making a show of looking around. “Who?”

From behind her, Blue stuck her head over the fence and gave her a shove in the back that pushed her into Wyatt’s chest.

Wyatt held on, but she stepped back and pointed to the damn nosy horse. “Blue. She’s . . . not feeling good.”

As she said this, Blue took advantage of how accessible she was and began to search her pockets for goodies, snorting her displeasure to find her goodie-less. She couldn’t concentrate on that because there was an odd tension coming from Wyatt, which she didn’t understand.

She was the injured party here.

Wasn’t she?

He was hands on hips, staring at her. “So you expect me to believe that you came out here because Blue needed you, and not because Caitlin showed up.”

Hearing the name of the woman he’d once loved, maybe still loved, fall so easily from his lips was like a sharp knife in the gut. “Caitlin showed up?” she asked with false casualness.

He narrowed his gaze on her and didn’t answer.

Feeling defensive, and for good reason, as she was truly a crappy liar, she went hands on hips, too. “Why are you out here looking for me anyway? You were very busy a few minutes ago.”

“So you did see her.”

Fine. The jig was up. “Hard not to, since she was attached to your lips.”

“Shit.” Wyatt stared down at his boots for a long moment. Hard to tell if he was fighting the urge to strangle her or walk away. Then he met her gaze again. “I wasn’t expecting her.”

“As you don’t expect much, this doesn’t surprise me.”

Wyatt shoved a hand through his hair, a very unusual “tell” from a man who was usually so comfortable in his own skin in every single situation that came along that she’d never really seen him so much as slightly rattled before. “I’m guessing she wants to start up again,” she said.

He nodded, and it happened again, that stab right through her heart. “She missed you,” she guessed.


“Not surprising,” she managed, sounding oddly normal for a woman who could no longer feel her bones. “Seeing as when she broke up with you, it wasn’t because she didn’t love you anymore, but because she was going off to live a dream of hers and help people.”

He said nothing to this.

“Why is she here?” Emily asked. “I thought she was in Africa or somewhere.”

This got her a small lip twitch. “Haiti. And she accepted a fellowship at a hospital in Coeur d’Alene, working with a group of surgeons she admires.”

Coeur d’Alene. Less than an hour away. “So . . . I guess congratulations.”

He stalked past her to the fence. Leaning on it, he stroked Blue’s face, shoving the horse back when she tried to frisk him. “Knock it off,” he said, and she knew he was talking to her, not the horse. She stiffened and stared at his broad shoulders. “Excuse me?”

“You think she dumped me.”

“Didn’t she?”

“And in thinking that, do you really then also think I’d go back to the woman who walked away from me?”

She opened her mouth, and then shut it again as she stared at his back. She didn’t know what she thought. He was so deceptively chill most of the time that she’d forgotten one important thing. He was strong, tough, and actually, pretty damn alpha.

He turned to face her, his eyes glittering with a dark emotion that she realized was temper, however rare. “I broke things off with her, Emily. I’m the one who sent her away, the one who said we were over. I knew she wanted to take the job, and I knew I didn’t want a long distance relationship. I also knew that she wasn’t ever going to be the right woman for me, regardless of my feelings for her at the time.” A muscle jumped in his jaw as he stared at her. “And yeah, I had feelings for her. I loved her.”

“Past tense,” Emily whispered, feeling the teeniest flicker of hope deep inside.

“Past tense,” he agreed. “I’ll always care for her, about her, but she’s not the one.” He never took his eyes from hers, which made it all the harder to hear when he said, “I thought maybe I’d met the one for me, but I was wrong.”

The tentative hope shriveled, replaced by dread. “What does that mean?”

“You got something you want to tell me?” he asked, voice even, face blank, like he was asking about the weather.

“Uh . . .” Her heart started to pound. “Yeah.”

He leaned against the fence, all ears and bad ’tude.

“I won you in the auction by cheating.”

He blinked. “You . . . what? How did you—” He shook his head. “Jesus, never mind. The internship, Emily. I’m talking about the internship. You’re leaving. When the hell were you going to tell me?”

“Oh.” Dread turned to fear. “That’s not as easy to explain as the auction thing.”

“Yes, it is,” he said. “It’s a sentence. Hell, Emily, it’s two words: I’m. Leaving.”

She shouldn’t have been surprised at how angry he sounded, but she was. Still, she was more surprised at her own anger. “You know how much I wanted that internship,” she reminded him. “It’s in L.A., near home for me. It’ll lead into a job that pays a lot more money than anywhere else. I’ve planned for that job, I—”

“Christ, are we back to your plan? Seriously?”

“Yes, and dammit, you know why. You know I don’t want to be like my dad, barely getting by. Not getting by. I want money in the bank, Wyatt, a house I can pay for. I want to be okay, for once I want that. I need that. It’s not so different from your dream, you know. You gave up a relationship to stay here and build your home.”

“And us?” he asked with his characteristic bluntness. “Did we not factor at all?”

“I wasn’t sure there was an us.”

His eyes merely darkened, his mouth going more grim.

“It was a difficult decision,” she said softly.

“Doesn’t sound like it was difficult at all.”

“I told myself I couldn’t pin my future on a crush,” she said, and paused, waiting for a response. A bread crumb. Anything.

But got nothing.

“We both know this started out as just a fun thing,” she said as calmly as she could. Not easy when she was so close to tears that she didn’t dare blink. “Not a forever thing. How am I supposed to throw away everything I thought I wanted on a fun thing?”

“So you’re what, going back to a job in a fancy zip code?” he asked. “And then what, Emily? You find your John? Is that the dream? Really?”

“I have to take care of my dad,” she said. “Before he ends up in a cardboard box with eighteen dogs.”

“Your dad’s fine. Your dad’s happy. Happier than you.”

The barb hit hard. So hard she actually staggered back a step and put a hand to her chest, which didn’t assuage the ache. “Why should I stay?” she asked. “Give me one reason.”

He stared at her, a muscle ticking in his jaw as her heart shriveled a little bit inside.

“I hope this is what will make you happy, Emily,” he finally said quietly. “You deserve to be happy.”

And then he was gone, vanished into the dark night.


Emily sat straight up with a start and looked at the clock. She had no idea what had woken her. Beside her, Woodrow stirred and raised his head.

“Stay,” she said, sliding out of bed. “I’m just going for some water.”

He didn’t stay. He hopped down off the bed and sat at her feet, looking up at her.

She sighed. “Okay, you can come. But you have to be very quiet.”

She moved down the hall and peered into Sara’s room.


Figured. Even her sister, more of a city woman than Emily could ever hope to be, had found a nightlife here in Sunshine.

The night was warm, and they’d left a window open. As she pulled a glass from the cupboard, a long, thin howl of pain came through the screen, making all the hair on her body stand up.