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Authors: Jill Shalvis

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BOOK: Then Came You
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“If you were mine,” he said. “I'd want to do those things for you. Just for future reference.”

“Well . . .” Gulp. “Good to know.” Something in the way he'd said
mine
had her taking a second look at him. He had that whole laid-back look going, but he had a good amount of protective alpha in him. “Are you with someone?” Oh, please don't let her have slept with someone else's man.

A small smile twitched at the corners of his mouth as he read her expression through those hot smart-guy glasses. “Worried?” he asked, stroking Sweetie into a puddle of goo in his lap.

“It's a legitimate question,” she said.

His smile faded. “I wouldn't sleep around if I was with someone.”

She nodded and then squirmed a little at the implication. “Listen, regarding my . . . boyfriend.” Oh boy. She squirmed some more. “The truth is, the relationship is sort of . . .” Nonexistent. “Silent.”

“Silent.”

“Yeah. Like the
K
on knight. Actually, to be honest, it's more of an implied thing.”

Wyatt was looking amused again. “As in made-up?”

She sighed.

And he laughed. “You're a nut.”

Yes. Yes, she was. A complete nut. “Let's go back to ignoring each other,” she said a little desperately. “Can we?”

“Absolutely,” he said. “I'm good at ignoring nuts.”

She sighed again.

Six

E
mily worked hard over the next few days to maintain some sort of professional distance with Wyatt, to varying degrees of success.

Or failure, depending on how she looked at it.

On Monday of week two—three hundred and fifty-eight days left—Emily and Wyatt went over their schedule and got right into it. Their first patient was a female boxer, approximately one-year-old, with a runny nose.

“'Morning, Martha,” Wyatt said to the dog's owner. “This is Dr. Stevens, our new intern. What's up with Gracie today?”

“She's sick,” Martha said, wringing her hands. “So sick. She whistles when she breathes.”

Emily took a look at Gracie, who weighed around fifty pounds. Solid girl. Currently she was rolling in ecstasy in Wyatt's lap, loving up all over him.

And she did indeed whistle when she breathed.

“Gracie's new to Martha's family,” Wyatt told Emily. “Which includes four kids and two other dogs. She's very playful and obsessed with all the toys she can get her mouth around, as we learned last month when she swallowed Martha's son's coin collection,” he said, stroking Gracie. “She came from a shelter, so I think she's just trying to make up for lost time, aren't you, girl?”

Gracie licked his jaw, whistling with each inhale.

“Why don't you do the assessment for us, Dr. Stevens,” Wyatt said, voice calm. She knew that was to keep both patient and owner calm. He always spoke calmly, even through the tough ones, like Friday's tricky feline birth, or the extremely pissed-off pit bull who hadn't wanted his shots, or extracting a nickel from the back of a yellow Lab's throat.

But Emily knew that his casual 'tude had nothing on his sharp intelligence. No doubt he already knew exactly what was wrong with Gracie. But happy to learn and gain new experiences, she moved closer. Gracie sniffed her hand before turning back to Wyatt.

Wyatt smiled and held Gracie for her, taking on the role that she'd taken for him her first week. First thing she did was look at the dog's extreme runny nose. Interestingly enough, it was only dripping down one side. This was a blatant clue that either something was anatomically incorrect, or there was a physical blockage. She turned to Wyatt and found him watching her.

Yeah. He was way ahead of her.

Her first thought was maybe the dog had broken a tooth, and she looked into Gracie's mouth. Nope, not a broken tooth. But it was something she'd never seen before and again met Wyatt's gaze.

“Yeah,” he said. “It's a new one for me, too.”

“What? What is it?” Martha asked, crowding in.

“Well,” Emily said after Wyatt nodded at her. “It appears Gracie swallowed a Kong toy whole.” She turned Gracie's head to face her worried human mama so that she could see down the dog's throat. The length of the Kong lined up along Gracie's throat, the larger end nearest her nose.

“Oh my goodness,” Mrs. Coleburn said. “I suppose that's why she whistles.”

Emily slid a look at Wyatt.

His eyes were flashing good humor. “Yep, that's why she whistles.”

“But why the runny nose?”

“Because she can't swallow,” he said.

“Oh my— Is she going to die?”

Had the Kong gone down sideways, Gracie most certainly could have, but Wyatt gently patted Martha's hand. “No, we can get the Kong out. Emily here will take real good care of her, I promise.”

“But . . .” Martha glanced at Emily, gave her a nervous smile, then turned back to Wyatt. “She's new,” she whispered, like Emily didn't have ears.

“She's also good,” Wyatt whispered back, and patted her again.

Martha melted for him the way Gracie had.

Dr. Wyatt Stone, animal whisperer, woman whisperer.

An hour later, Gracie had been sedated and the toy removed from her throat. Emily was washing up when both Dell and Wyatt walked into the staff room.

“Nice job,” Wyatt told her. “Really nice job.” He turned to Dell. “She's got a good touch.”

“Glad to hear it,” Dell said.

“Because it means your money was well spent?” Emily asked.

Dell laughed. “Well, that, too. But it's nice to have you on board. I'm hearing great things from the staff.”

Emily slid a look at Wyatt, who was watching her with that easy, calm confidence he exuded in spades.

“She handled herself with Blackie earlier,” he said. “Without getting nipped.”

Dell laughed, and at Emily's confusion, he said, “
Everyone
gets nipped by Blackie the first time.”

“And some of us, the second time as well,” Wyatt said wryly, rubbing his thigh as if in memory.

Dell just grinned. “Man, that last time she just about ate your pants right off of you.”

“Which was the last time I kept a carrot in my front pocket, I can tell you that,” Wyatt said. “But Emily had her eating out of the palm of her hand in five seconds.”

Emily felt her face heat with embarrassment as she soaked up the praise she hadn't realized she'd been desperate to hear.

Dell reached up into a cabinet and pulled out a box of cookies. Jade walked into the room and without missing a beat, took the cookies from his hand and replaced them with an apple.

“How the hell do you know?” Dell asked, baffled.

Jade smiled, kissed his jaw, and left.

Dell sighed and bit into the apple.

That must be love, Emily thought.

“We need a welcome to Belle Haven dinner,” Dell said to Emily. “How about tomorrow after work, Wyatt?”

“No go,” Wyatt said. “Adam's running an S&R class, and we're both working with him. You promised.”

“Yeah. And then Jade's got me signed up for a couple's cooking class for the next three nights after that.” His face was carefully neutral as he said this, and Emily loved that, though he was clearly not thrilled about this, he kept it to himself, not discrediting his wife in any way.

“Friday then,” he said.

“Sounds good to me,” Wyatt said, and both men looked at Emily.

No socializing, she'd told herself. Just ignoring. Wyatt, his back to Dell, smirked at her clear internal battle. It was the smirk, she decided, that disconnected her mouth from her brain. “Dinner would be great.”

Dell left and she stared at Wyatt. “Does he know about us?”

“Know what?”

She felt herself flush again. “You know.”

He laughed, low in his throat.

“You think this is funny?” she asked in shock.

“What's funny is that you can't say ‘sex' but you could put your mouth on my—”

“We can't have dinner!”

“Hey,” he said, lifting his hands. “Not my idea.”

“No, but you could've told him you were busy.”

“I wasn't.”

“And you never lie?” she asked in disbelief.

“Only when it suits me.”

She absorbed that for a moment, thought about their night together, specifically their good-bye, and then sucked in a breath. “Did you—”

“Like when I told you as you left my hotel room that it'd been the best night I'd had in a long time?” he asked.

Actually, he'd pressed her against the hotel room door, cupped her face, given her a
wow
good-bye kiss, and then whispered in her ear.
You're going to be hard to get over, sweetness. That was a night I won't forget.
She cleared her throat. “Yeah,” she said. “That.”

He was still smiling, but there was more to his gaze, a sudden intensity. “No,” he said. “That was one hundred percent honesty.” He met her gaze. “You're not the only one thrown off their axis here, Emily. We never intended to see each other again. Hell we didn't even know each other's last names. And that worked for me.”

She absorbed the unexpected jab, and then shook it off. If she was being honest it worked for her, too. After her internship, she was going to leave Sunshine and go back to her real life. She had a whole lot of plans, none of which included a sexy but laid-back vet who apparently had his own secrets. “Which is why we need to really work at ignoring our sordid past.”

His lips quirked. “Especially since you have an almost sort of boyfriend. The . . . silent kind.”

She refused to let him bait her. “And how about
your
reason for not wanting to be with someone. Let's hear about that.”

He didn't answer. Just flat out said nothing.

If she hadn't been so flipping curious about him in spite of herself, she'd have taken the time to admire his ability to do that so effectively. Only a man, she thought. “I suppose this is your charming way of saying none of my business?”

He shrugged.

“Got to tell you,” she finally said. “It's a little annoying, not being able to read you, and you not speaking in full sentences. Or in
any
sentences.”

He smiled at that. “When you first started here. I wondered how a cute little thing like yourself had ever been pushy enough to make it through the world of animal medicine, but you've got grit, sweetness. You were born for this job.”

“And you should've become a politician for your ability to dodge a question.”

He tipped back his head and laughed. It was a good laugh, and did something to her belly. Not good.

“I'm not opposed to being with a woman,” he said. “As you very well know.” He met her gaze, and she felt yet another blush rise up her cheeks.

“As for settling down with
one
woman,” he went on. “I work morning to night, I live the job, and on top of that, I've got two bossy, nosy sisters, and we share a large ancestral home that's falling apart. It all requires a lot of my time and attention. A woman would be crazy to want me right now.”

Emily thought maybe that was unfair to the woman who fell for him—which absolutely would not be her. But surely, whoever
did
could see through his schedule to the man beneath, and just as surely get that he was worth working around his busy life.

“Now you,” he said.

“Me what?” she asked warily.

“When I complimented you in front of Dell, you just about fell over in shock and embarrassment. Why?”

“I didn't.” But she had, and they both knew it.

Wyatt waited her out with the same calm patience he'd shown every animal they'd seen together.

“I guess I didn't expect you to notice how hard I was working, because you were working just as hard,” she finally said.

He looked at her for an eternal beat, during which time it felt like he was seeing all her inner thoughts. And as some of these inner thoughts involved him naked on a platter, this wasn't a comfortable feeling. But she also had a lot of insecurities and self-doubts, and wasn't used to the kudos.

“Why did you become a vet?” he finally asked, voice quiet.

And just like his patients, she fell right into his eyes and tried to please him. “I'm a third generation,” she said. “My grandpa was an army sergeant turned vet.” She smiled at the memories of him. “There wasn't an ounce of gentleness to him for people, but he had endless vats of it for an injured or sick animal. He inspired me.”

Wyatt smiled. “Was it your mom or dad to follow the tradition?”

“My dad. He's not army,” she said. “But he's just as pragmatic and stoic as my grandpa was. He's a rescuer, always was. He spent most of his career working for the local shelters, doing whatever needed to be done without much thought or care to anything else.” Like his personal life.

Including his family.

“Makes sense,” Wyatt said. “He was raised by a military man.” He paused. “It's not easy to make a living working just the shelters.”

“No.” Though they'd always had the bare necessities, there'd definitely been a lack of comfort. “He doesn't practice much anymore,” she said. “Hasn't since my mom died.”

Wyatt was quiet a moment, and she was extremely aware of his gaze on her face, and the fact that she'd given him a lot more than he'd given her.

“Broken heart?” he asked.

“More like a lack of interest,” she said. “She was his drive. He still rescues animals though.”

“I meant what I told Dell, you know,” Wyatt said. “You're good. And it's nice that you're following your father's footsteps. Nicer still that you're taking the less obvious route by coming to Idaho instead of the Beverly Hills gig.”

She could have just not said anything, but unlike him, she didn't have a tier for acceptable lies. “I wanted the Beverly Hills gig.”

Something changed in his eyes, but he didn't say a word about her choices or the reasons for them. He merely gave her another smile. “Maybe things work out for a reason. Maybe you'll like it out here.”

“Maybe,” she said.

And look at that. Apparently she had a tier for lies, after all.

BOOK: Then Came You
4.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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