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“I think you missed your shot.”

He looked startled, like that had been the last thing he’d expected her to say, which somehow made her feel even stronger about her decision. “We aren’t each other’s the One, Gib.”

His eyes held sincere affection and equally sincere regret. And also carefully banked lust. All this time she’d yearned to see just that and here it was, and the only thing she felt was . . . unmoved.

“If I could change things,” he said, “If I could go back and kick my younger self in the ass and tell him not to save the best for last, I would.” And then he was gone.

And she was digging into her freezer, soothing her what-ifs and uncertain heart with cookie dough ice cream.

The next afternoon, Joe sat at work, distracted as hell as the team meeting went on without him. He tried to mentally check in before Archer kicked his ass. But it’d already been a rough day. They’d gone after a high bond that had been about to be forfeited if the bondee, Milo Santini, didn’t show up for his court date. Milo had a record, was known to be armed at all times, and wasn’t a nice guy. So it was no surprise when his takedown had gone bad.

He’d been holed up in a basement of a building in the financial district when they caught up with him, and an innocent cleaning crew had nearly burned to death when Milo, cornered and spitting mad, had set fire to a huge laundry bin for a diversion.

As a result of the ensuing takedown, Milo had gotten a little roughed up, which had led to a police inquiry. Everyone at Hunt Investigations had been cleared of misconduct, but Archer was pissed off and had spent the past hour chewing them out and going over protocol.

Thing was, protocol had been followed.

Well, mostly.

Sometimes in the heat of the moment—such as when an asswipe perp had made a break for it, starting a dangerous fire that threatened innocent bystanders—things happened.

Things like the bad guys getting punched in the face.

It hadn’t been Joe. It’d actually been Lucas, who’d lost a brother to an arson fire. Not that any of the guys would spill on Lucas. They’d each take a bullet first. This job wasn’t easy, and they were a team by both necessity and choice, even if they each did it for their own personal reasons. In Joe’s case, he liked that they were fighting the fight for good, and in doing so, maybe he was also cleaning up his karma, even a little bit.

He thought maybe that was Lucas’s reason too, though Lucas carried around a lot more anger than he did. Anger he channeled into doing the job really, really well.

“Let’s review,” Archer said with a deceptively mild tone, taking a hard look around the table at his guys, Joe, Lucas, Trev, Reyes, and Max—along with Max’s Doberman, Carl—all carefully trained by Archer himself. “What steps would you take in the event of a fire?” His gaze landed on Lucas.

Shit, Joe thought. He knew. Not that he was surprised. Archer knew everything.

Lucas shrugged at the question. “Fucking big ones?”

Wrong answer. Archer was still going on and on when Molly came in and dumped a couple of big brown bags on the conference table.

Carl sat straight up and licked his big chops.

So did the guys.

“Grub,” Molly said, shooting Joe a careful once-over.

She was making sure he hadn’t gotten hurt in any way. She was still freaked out about the bat he’d taken to the back of his head a few months back. But hey, he’d recovered. And it irritated him that she tried to be the protector when that was his role. He’d taken care of her his whole life—well, except for that one time he’d failed so spectacularly. His gaze traveled to her right leg as she limped her way around the table.

Her leg and back were bothering her today, and that just about killed him because if it hadn’t been for him, she’d never have gotten hurt.

No one dared touch the bags of food while Archer was still going off, but he’d wound down at the sight of Molly, softening enough to smile and thank her for the food. “Okay,” he said, pushing the bags down the table so everyone could reach. “I promised the cop shop I’d say all that. Now let’s move on.”

Fucking finally. Joe listened with only half an ear as, while they all inhaled the food, Archer went over their upcoming caseload.

When Carl whined in protest, Max tossed him a dog bone. With a longing look at Max’s food, Carl sighed but took the bone.

Joe ate everything he could reach. In his opinion, the best thing for adrenaline letdown was sex. In lieu of that, food would do. It was quiet in the conference room now except for the chowing down and the occasional grunt, and Joe let his mind drift to a woman. Not Ciera, the pub’s newest and sexiest server who’d slipped him her number not too long ago. Nor Danielle, who he’d met a few months back at the gym and had rocked his world three nights running before he’d had to leave town for a job and then hadn’t called again.

Nope. He was thinking about the one woman who could drive him crazy without trying.


He hated the way he’d left things the night before with her.

And Gib.

Kylie and Gib . . .

Shit. Logically, he knew she and Gib weren’t a thing because one, she’d told him so and two, he knew Kylie. For a year now he’d watched her. She hadn’t gone out much. She needed to really feel something for a guy.

And yet she’d kissed Joe with her entire heart and soul.

So why had he lost it? Because you’re an asshole. Because you know you’re taking something from her you can’t return.

He knew she still hadn’t told him the entire story about why that carving meant so much to her. He was missing more than a few pieces of that puzzle. It was frustrating that she didn’t trust him, but on the other hand, just as well. He didn’t do trust either and he was real good at keeping people at arm’s length.

But even as he thought it, he knew he was full of shit when it came to her, proven by the fact that she wouldn’t get out of his head. Her and those big see-all eyes. The way she’d looked when she’d told him about her grandpa still haunted him because though she hadn’t said it, she felt alone now that he was gone.

And then there was how she felt in his arms.

Like she belonged there.

He’d tried kissing her again to get him out of his system but that had been an epic mission-fail. Every time he laid eyes on her, she was the most desirable woman in the room. Any room. It was those jeans and boots and tough ‘tude, softened by her smile and the way she looked at the world. And when she worked those big power tools . . . holy shit. Huge turn-on.

Maybe one last time would be the winner. Yeah. Warming up to the idea, he closed his eyes and pictured it, how he’d back her to a wall and—

“He’s completely gone,” Lucas said, sounding amused. “I think he’s dreaming. Probably about that hot chick at O’Riley’s who slipped her number in his pocket last week.”

Joe’s eyes flew open to see Lucas waving a hand in front of his face. He shoved it away. “I’m not dreaming.”

Lucas gave him a rare smile. “I don’t know, man. You were smiling and everything.”

Joe rolled his eyes so hard they nearly came out of his head.

Archer raised a brow. “Something you want to share with the class?”

Most definitely not. But the vultures had the scent of roadkill and were circling now.

“Maybe it’s that new hottie at the coffee shop,” Reyes said. “She always times her morning coffee run with his.”

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