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“I didn’t want anyone to get hurt,” Ava whispered.

“Do you think Jayne cares if anyone gets hurt?”

Ava rubbed her nose, searching for a different answer instead of the one that was screaming in her brain. “No,” she finally admitted.

“That woman thinks only of herself. Maybe it’s the drugs, but I believe they only enhance true character.”

He’s so right.

“She’s always been like that,” Ava said. “I’m surprised she didn’t ask me where her Christmas present was.”

Mason’s eyes lit up as he smiled.

Ava’s heart lurched at the handsome sight. Mason Callahan was very special. Honorable. Reliable. Steady. Caring. Definitely old-fashioned, but she loved that about him. She even loved that damn cowboy hat that was always within reach. His offer to stay with her while she recovered had made her nearly cry. Jayne had interrupted an important moment.

“You’re very good for me,” she said.

His smile grew broader. “I feel the same way.”

“I was afraid he was going to shoot you if you came in the store yesterday. I didn’t want to let you in.”

His smile faltered. “Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to let you walk alone into that den with the lion? I wanted to throw up when the doors closed behind you. Duncan was about to handcuff me so I wouldn’t rush the store when Kent started yelling at you.”

“We have tough jobs,” Ava said slowly. “Time-consuming. Sometimes dangerous.”

Would he hear what she was asking?

Mason’s gaze flickered from one of her eyes to the other. “I’m well aware of that.”

“Can we do this?” she whispered, laying her heart open and bare for him to see. “Can we make it work?”

His hand tightened on hers. “Do you remember asking me if I’ve ever loved someone where the emotion was totally out of my control? Where someone physically feels the other person moving about in the world? That exact feeling is growing inside of me. I’ve felt precisely what you described, and I want to continue to experience it every day with you.”

My words. He was listening to me. Her throat tightened.

“I’m willing to do my damnedest to make that happen between us. There was another motive behind my offer to stay with you while you healed. I was sorta hoping you’d get addicted to having me around,” Mason continued. “You’ve dug out a whopping-sized piece of my heart, Agent McLane. I’d appreciate it if you handled it with care. And I promise to do the same.”

Love for him surged through her.

“Kiss me,” she begged. “And don’t let me go, okay? Promise?”

“That’s a deal I’ll never back out on.”

He kissed her.