Page 33

It was two long hours later before the questioning and sorting of the law was handled, and Emily was free to go. Five men had been arrested, fifteen dogs had been rescued, and Lilah and her team were handling the dog removal and treatment.

The adrenaline had let down and Emily was still shaking.

Wyatt was waiting for her, silent, tense. He drove her home without a word, and when they walked into the living room, they came to a shocked halt.

Sara sat on the couch, staring in stunned disbelief at Rayna, the gorgeous blonde kneeling at her feet holding out a ring.

A diamond ring.

“Oh my God,” Emily whispered.

“I know,” Sara said huskily, her eyes shimmering with tears and never leaving Rayna’s face. “She just showed up,” she said to Emily. “She’s asked me to forgive her, to marry her.”

“Neither of which you’ve answered,” Rayna said softly.

Sara finally looked up at Emily, hope and love and joy all over her face. “I— You found Woodrow!”

Emily choked out a laugh. “Yes. Long story. Let’s concentrate on you for a moment.”

Sara sucked in a breath. “What do I do?” she whispered, as if Wyatt and Rayna weren’t right there.

“A ten belongs with a ten,” Emily told her. “And you’re a ten.”

Sara’s eyes filled. “You sure?”

“Very. Follow your heart, Sara. Like Mom always said, a heart’s never wrong.”

Sara took the ring from Rayna and slipped it on her finger. “Yes,” she said. “I’ll marry you.”

Rayna stood up, hauled Sara off the couch and spun them both in a circle.

“We need to celebrate,” Sara said. “At the lake.”

They were gone almost without a backward glance.

Emily closed her eyes. She needed Wyatt’s arms around her, needed him to hold her tight. Needed him to love her. Eyes still closed, she gave him the answer she should have given him the night before. “We’ve never had sex in this house because we’ve only made love here.”

Before the words were out of her mouth, she was hauled in and crushed against his chest. His mouth took hers, hard. Hot. Deep.

“Wyatt—” she gasped.

“Not a good time to talk,” he said, his hands all over her.


He wrestled her down the hall and to her room, where he tore the sweats off her body. He took a nipple in his mouth, and the sudden, moist heat make her jerk. She arched up against him, seeking more.

“It’s important,” she said. A lie. She couldn’t remember what she’d wanted to say at all. “I—”

“Should have mentioned it before you got na**d.”

“You got me na**d—” She broke off with a moan when he took her down to her bed and his mouth latched on to her other breast, sucking hard before nipping it gently with his teeth and then soothing it with a kiss.

Her eyes rolled back in her head. “Wyatt.”

He flashed her a tight but wicked smile, and then his mouth traveled southbound. With no clothing to slow him down, all she could do was writhe against him as heat seared through her body.

He wrapped her inner thighs around his ears and sent her skittering with his tongue.

As she came back to awareness, he was kissing his way back up her body. She needed him with a shocking desperation that scared her. She was beginning to think that no matter how much he gave her, it wasn’t going to be enough. It wouldn’t be enough until she was his, body, heart, and soul.


He put on a condom and pushed into her with one hard thrust that almost sent her over yet again. So did the slow, purposeful, knowing thrusts designed to take her to the very edge. She already knew he could hold her off for as long as suited him, drawing out her pleasure until she was mindless for release. “Don’t stop,” she begged. “Please, Wyatt, don’t stop.”


Thank God, because this, with him. It was her air. It was her everything . . .

He broke from her lips, fisted his hands in her hair and locked his eyes on hers. She nearly came from the intensity of his expression, she was that close. He was, too, she realized, feeling him quiver against her with the effort it was taking to hold them both off. “Emily,” he said, that was it, just her name, and she clenched hard around him, going off like a bottle rocket. She took him right along with her, the sound of his release refueling hers.

When she opened her eyes, he hadn’t budged, his weight still holding her pinned to the bed, his heart thundering against hers. She loved that, feeling him breathing hard, knowing he was completely wrecked and that she’d done it. One of her legs was bent, her foot on the mattress, the inside of her thigh still tight to his hip. Her other leg was still wrapped around him, as were her arms, her hands gliding along his sleek, sweat-dampened skin. As the rest of her senses slowly returned, she wished for him to lift his head, meet her gaze, and say one word.


His face was buried in her neck, his mouth brushing her skin softly. It felt sweet, and yet sexy. An affectionate just-had-an-earth-shattering-orgasm nuzzle.

“Was that good-bye?” she asked.

“I was thinking it was more of a ‘damn I’m glad you’re not full of bullet holes,’ ” he said.

Or that . . .

His arms tightened on her, and she felt a surge of hope, but before that emotion could settle, he looked at the three boxes along the wall, boxes she’d packed with her stuff. “I guess it is a good-bye of sorts,” he said, and she stopped breathing.

Just stopped.

“You’ll come visit,” he said. “Your sister’s here.”

So are you, she thought.

“And I get to L.A. occasionally,” he said. “And there’s always vet conferences.”

Ouch. Yeah, this was good-bye.

His back to her now, he pulled on his clothes. “I need to get to Lilah’s and see if she needs help treating the dogs.”

She let out the breath she’d been holding and sat up, pulling the sheet to her chin. Stupid to feel modest now, but she’d never felt more na**d in her life.

Don’t look back, she told herself. She wouldn’t begrudge falling for him, or this place, any of it because she’d found herself here—not the person she’d thought she was supposed to be, but the woman she really was. And as it turned out, she was a lot more like her dad than she could have imagined.

And that was okay, too, because maybe, just maybe, she’d also learned to do what he’d always wanted for her— how to love without question, how to give her whole heart, no regrets.

But damn. Damn, it sucked.

Wyatt walked to her bedroom door, put his hand on the handle, and let out a long breath before facing her. “I really am happy for you,” he said with his usual blunt honesty. “Everyone should get what they want out of life, but especially you, Emily. You deserve that.”

He was gone before she found her voice. “You, too,” she whispered.


Wyatt strode into Sunshine Wellness Center from the back. AJ’s office was empty so he moved past the physical therapy rooms to the gym.

AJ was flat on his back on a bench, pressing weights. When Wyatt kicked his foot, he jerked. The weights clunked when he racked them, and there was lots of swearing as he sat up and eyed Wyatt. “Men have died for less,” he said, and then frowned. “Damn, a dog die on you or something?”


“A horse?” AJ asked.

“No. Jesus,” Wyatt said, and took the weight bench next to AJ.

“Something or someone died. It’s all over your face.”

“Nothing died. No one died.” Wyatt shook his head and reached for the bar. “It’s nothing.”

“Bullshit.” AJ stood and held Wyatt’s bar down so that he couldn’t lift. “You’re not bench-pressing when you look like shit.” He paused. “This about your sister?”

Wyatt’s eyes narrowed up at his oldest friend. “What about her?”

AJ chewed on the inside of his cheek for a moment, as if carefully considering his next words. “I’m thirsty. You thirsty?”


“Good. Me too. Let’s go.” He hauled Wyatt up and shoved him out the door ahead of him. They walked down the street to the only bar in town.

“Two shots,” AJ said to the bartender. “Whiskey.” He slid onto a stool and glanced at Wyatt’s face. “Actually, make that four shots. And keep ’em coming.” He waited until the drinks arrived, lifted his, and knocked it against Wyatt’s.

They tossed their drinks back.

“So,” AJ said. “You didn’t kill any puppies today.”


“And it’s not about your sister.”

Wyatt gave him a long look. “Why do you keep asking about my sister?”

“No reason.” AJ reached for his second shot and waited until Wyatt did the same.

The shot went down a little smoother than the first, and Wyatt gestured for another.

The bartender brought four more shots.

“She’s leaving,” Wyatt said, grabbing one.


“No.” Wyatt clicked his glass to AJ’s and drank. “Emily,” he said, letting out a long breath. Finally. Finally he was feeling comfortably numb.

AJ blinked. “The pretty intern?”

Wyatt blew out a breath and picked up his fourth shot, gesturing to the bartender for still more. He wasn’t sure how many it was going to take, but he figured he’d know when he got there.

“Man, I didn’t realize,” AJ said, matching him shot for shot. “Just ask her to stay, why don’t you? Chicks dig that.”

“No,” Wyatt said, and shook his head. His befuddled head. “It’s her life, and this is what she wants. I’m happy for her.”

“Fuck that. Tell her to stay.”

Wyatt laughed mirthlessly. “Is that what you do, you tell your women what to do?”


Wyatt pointed at him. “That’s why you have no woman.”

AJ frowned. “Hey. Well, okay . . .” He was speaking a little slowly, like his tongue wasn’t working. “Maybe that’s true right now,” AJ said, “but this isn’t about me. This is about you and your whole fucked-up family.”

“We’re not f**ked up.”

“So f**ked up,” AJ said, weaving.

Or maybe that was Wyatt.

“Growing up,” AJ said, “you never had a choice or a say, like . . . ever, and now you won’t tell a woman you love her and want her to stay because of it.”


AJ raised a brow. “Which part?”

Wyatt wasn’t exactly sure. He was fuzzy. Very fuzzy. “I won’t take away her choices. She’s gotta want to stay on her own. And she doesn’t.”

“Cuz you didn’t give her any choices,” AJ said. “That’s as stupid as giving her too many.”

Somehow, in some way, that actually made some sort of twisted sense. Wyatt stared at the empty shot glasses lined up in front of him. “I should fix that.”

“Yeah.” AJ pulled a pen from behind the bar and shoved it and a napkin at Wyatt. “Write it down. In a letter. It’ll sound less bossy.”

Way in the back of Wyatt’s pickled brain he was well aware that he should actually speak to Emily and not write her a silly note, but he had to admit, it held some appeal. For one thing, it was hard to f**k up a note. He took the pen. Stared at the napkin. “Dear Emily,” he wrote.

“Good start,” AJ said, reading over his shoulder. “Keep going.”

Wyatt bent to the task. It took about ten napkins, and some unsolicited help from AJ, and the guy on the other side of AJ, and the bartender. And then suddenly Wyatt found himself staring at Darcy. “Hey,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

“Got a call that my shit-faced brother might need a ride home,” she said.

The bartender shrugged unapologetically.

Darcy glared at AJ. “I blame you.”

AJ, who’d been smiling and jovial all night, a happy drunk, was suddenly as somber as Wyatt had ever seen him as he stared at Darcy.

“This isn’t my fault,” he said.

“It’s always your fault.” Darcy slipped her arm in Wyatt’s. “He’s never like this.”

“Maybe it’s you,” AJ said.

Darcy’s mouth went grim. “No one can disappoint quite like you, AJ.”

“It’s a talent,” he agreed.

Darcy turned to drag Wyatt out, and then paused. She met AJ’s caustic gaze. “Come on, then. I’ll drive your sorry ass home, too.”

“Gee, as appealing as that offer is, I think I’ll pass.” Darcy looked at the bartender, who nodded. He’d make sure AJ got a cab.

“Turn left here,” Wyatt said halfway home.


“Just do it.”

Darcy turned left. Wyatt gave her a few more directions to the route he had memorized. In three more minutes they were outside of Emily’s place.

“Thought you’d already said good-bye,” Darcy said, engine still running as they both looked out the windshield at Emily’s car, clearly loaded and ready to go first thing in the morning.

Wyatt didn’t answer. He got out of the car and went to the driver’s side of Emily’s car. Not locked.

She’d become used to Sunshine, he thought with a smile. Whether she knew it or not . . . He set his note against the gearshift.