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Archer swore beneath his breath. “Lucas would be better. His hands are steadier.”

“Or Reyes,” Lucas said from his perch on the couch. He had a few scrapes and bruises, but nothing major because he was indestructible and maybe also a superhero. “Reyes has smaller hands.”

Reyes was standing at the window playing a game on his phone, his thumbs racing at the speed of light, though he slowed down enough to show Lucas his “smaller” middle finger. Reyes was also covered in blood. Not his—their bad guy’s. Setting the game aside, he came to Joe and looked him over. “I could do it. I’d give you a badass scar too.”

“No,” Joe said to Archer. “He’ll do something stupid like make the stitches in the shape of a heart just to fuck with me.”

Lucas just grinned but got up when Archer gestured for him. He too bent over Joe critically, making him feel like a bug on a slide. “Yeah,” Lucas said. “You definitely need stitches.”

“No shit,” Joe said and sighed with acceptance. “Just do it already.”

Lucas exhaled a short breath, which for him was the equivalent of an exasperated sigh. He retrieved the necessary items from Hunt’s medical kit—more extensive than most urgent care’s medical kits—and set about closing the gash in Joe’s side.

Molly walked in during this and stilled. “What happened?”

“I’m fine,” Joe said though he was sweating bullets because goddamn, getting stitched hurt like a son of a bitch.

“You’re not fine!” Molly said and glared at Lucas. “What are you doing to my brother?”

“Archer,” Lucas said. “Get her out of here.”

“Don’t you dare,” Molly said.

But Archer stepped in front of her.

She dodged him and came up next to Lucas to look Joe over. “Oh my God.” She gripped Lucas by the front of the guy’s shirt. She was five-foot-two. If you asked her, she’d tell you she was five-foot-four, but she was full of shit. Lucas was over six feet and yet he let her yank him down so that they were nose-to-nose.

“Be careful with him,” she said.

Jesus. “I’m fine!” Joe said.

Neither Lucas nor Molly looked at him, still nose-to-nose, they just stared at each other, some sort of weird, angsty chemistry going on that Joe couldn’t read.

“Did you hear me?” Molly asked Lucas.

“Woman, the people in China heard you.”

“Does he need a hospital?” she asked.

“No,” Joe said.

Archer slid an arm around her. “He’s going to be fine, I promise. Just a little scratch. I want you to wait outside—”

“I need to stay here.”

“Archer,” Lucas said again.

Archer nodded and spoke directly to Molly. “What you need, what we all need, is that bottle of Scotch you keep in your bottom drawer. Can you get that for me?”

Molly looked at Joe and he managed to give her a smile and a nod. She then looked at Lucas.

No words were exchanged, just another odd, inexplicable beat. Finally, Molly let out a breath and vanished.

Lucas stopped stitching to watch her go.

“Hey,” Joe said. “Are you staring at my sister’s ass?”

Lucas blinked. “What? No.”

“Yes, you were.”

“Then why did you ask?”

“There’s no way in hell that Lucas is dumb enough to stare at my office manager and your sister’s ass,” Archer said. “Right, Lucas?”

Since this wasn’t really a question and Lucas clearly knew it, he nodded and got back to stitching.

It took twelve stitches, and when Lucas was done he cracked the cold pack from the box and handed it over. Joe held it to his throbbing side and hoped it would keep the swelling down. He had plans for the night.

“You want to tell me what the fuck happened back there?” Archer asked.

Joe shrugged. Or started to but then stilled because shrugging hurt like a son of a bitch. “What happened was that we got the job done.”

Archer shook his head. “I haven’t seen anyone get the drop on you like that in years.”

Joe could deny it, but Archer was right. He’d been distracted and had lost his focus long enough that the guy was not only able to pull a weapon on him but actually do some damage with it. He couldn’t even remember the last time that had gone down.

Archer just looked at him for a long moment. “Remember when someone got the drop on me and I was shot?”

“Last year, yeah,” Joe said. “I remember distinctly because Elle nearly killed us all for letting you get hurt.”

“My mind wasn’t on the job. How many times has that happened?”

“Never,” Joe said.

Archer nodded and waited for Joe to catch up.

“Shit,” Joe said. “You think I screwed up because my mind was on Kylie?”

“There he is,” Lucas said. “I was starting to worry he had a concussion.”

Joe blew out a breath. “Shit,” he said again.

Archer snorted. “Man, Elle so called this. I should never have bet her. You just cost me a hundred bucks.”

Reyes started sing “Another One Bites the Dust” beneath his breath.

Lucas was looking horrified at the thought of Joe letting his concentration down over a woman. “Aw, man. You should’ve just let the guy stab you in the gut. It would’ve been less painful.”

Joe ignored this and looked at Archer. “It won’t happen again.”

“I’m counting on that being true,” Archer said. “I assume you’re aware that you broke at least two of his ribs after he got his knife in you.”

And Joe would’ve broken the rest if Lucas hadn’t pulled him away from the guy. “He pissed me off.”

Archer gave a rare full smile. “Go to bed, Lover Boy. To sleep.”

Smart idea. But as already proven when it came to Kylie, Joe wasn’t all that smart. Which is why he slid into his truck and didn’t drive home.

He drove to Kylie’s.

He parked and lifted his shirt to get a look at his side. The swelling was actually minimal and Lucas’s small, neat row of stitches wasn’t readily visible—if he kept his shirt on, that is. He leaned his head back and drew in a long breath, then slowly, purposely let it out again.

It was one in the morning and he was exhausted. And for once, he didn’t have a plan A. Or B. Or any plan at all. Maybe he’d just stay right here and stare at her place like a lovelorn teenager for the rest of the night.

But passive wasn’t on his list of character traits so he got out of his truck and told himself it was okay to show up this late because her lights were on.

Kylie opened the front door to his knock. She was a little sweaty and breathless, wearing a sports bra and capri leggings, one in Day-Glo yellow, the other in Day-Glo pink, blinding him. “Hey. Whatcha doing?”

“That’s my question to you,” he said.

“Couldn’t sleep.” She leaned on the door, clearly out of breath.

“So you were . . . handling your own business?” he asked hopefully. “Maybe with your light saber?”

She rolled her eyes. “Why do guys always immediately go there?”

“Because we’re all just hopeful sex addicts looking for our next fix.” He nudged her aside and let himself in. That was when he saw the yoga mat on the floor in front of the TV, which was paused midshow, giving him his first laugh all day. “Golden Girls?”

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