Ivy folded her arms over her chest. You couldn’t find a male medic?

Vasic’s eyes warmed, and it was a punch to the solar plexus, that hint of a smile. Is she female? I didn’t notice.

Good, she said, utterly undone by him. Continue not to notice.

As it was, Rabbit was out of surgery first.

“He’s going to be a little slow for a few days.” The vet gave her a disposable datapad with instructions on how often Rabbit should be given pain medication as well as the food he should eat. “However, I’ve made sure there’ll be no long-term repercussions.”

“Thank you,” Ivy said, her hand on Rabbit’s warm body as her and Vasic’s pet rested in a drug-induced sleep.

Acknowledging her thanks with a nod, the vet looked over at where Vasic was being treated. “I did owe him a favor, but I never expected him to redeem it to save the life of a dog.”

Ivy smiled at Vasic from across the room but kept her silence. In fact, they didn’t speak again until the medic working on him pronounced him fit for duty, and they returned to the apartment with Rabbit. An apartment that was smashed up and bloody in the living area. Ignoring that, Vasic carried Rabbit to his sleeping basket and placed him on the pillow shaped to their pet’s body.

“He’ll be all right?” Vasic asked when she hunkered down beside him to stroke Rabbit.

Ivy spun into his arms in response.

Almost unbalancing in his crouched position, Vasic locked his arms around her. “Ivy?”

“You were so hurt,” she whispered.

Vasic nuzzled her temple. “I wasn’t critically injured.” He’d survived far worse.

Pushing back as suddenly as she’d come into his arms, Ivy said, “I need to see you’re okay. Take off your clothes.” She pushed at the sides of his jacket. “Off.”

Not arguing, he got to his feet with her and shrugged off the jacket, then peeled off his T-shirt while kicking off the boots he’d slammed his feet into at the first sign of intruders. A bare chest was one thing—bare feet could be a serious liability against booted opponents.

Ivy dragged him in front of the blinds. Cracking the slats enough to let in a little more sunlight without exposing the two of them, she ran her hands over every inch of his chest with careful delicacy. To his body, each touch was a petting caress—but he could tell from her expression that she was only concerned about lingering injuries.

When she went around to check his back, he stayed in place.

“Were your legs hurt?”

“A few bruises from kicks, nothing more.” He hadn’t bothered to have the M-Psy treat those, since they weren’t disabling and would disappear on their own soon enough.

“I need to see.” Ivy dropped her hand to the top button of his jeans.

Closing his fingers over her own, he shook his head. “They’re only bruises.” He had endless self-control . . . except when it came to Ivy. Already, his body was reacting, his penis erect despite the fact he knew she hadn’t meant her touch to be arousing.

Ivy’s lashes lowered to throw soft shadows against her skin, a blush heating her cheeks . . . before she shook off his hands. “I need to see,” she whispered again, and this time, her tone was husky.

He held as still as he could as she undid the button, but his stomach flexed at the featherlight brush of her knuckles, over two decades of training alone allowing him to stand there without taking her to the carpet. What he couldn’t do, however, was keep from touching her. Raising one hand, he threaded his fingers through the soft black of her curls, took hold.

Her breath caught, her lips parting.

And Vasic suddenly understood why he so often saw changelings nipping at the lips of their mates when they kissed, playful smiles on their mouths. Leaning forward, he did the same. Ivy’s gasp was quiet, her fingers tucked into his waistband . . . and her body straining up toward him when he began to move away.

Vasic had woken three hours before the attack this morning, but rather than leave Ivy, he’d stayed in bed and spent the time reviewing the material Judd had sent him. Now he realized the other man had been right; he didn’t really need it. All he had to do was listen—to what Ivy said and, especially, to what she didn’t.

Closing the small distance between them, he bit down on her plump lower lip again, the pressure gentle but firm. Then he tugged at her flesh to test if she enjoyed the sensation, because he did. He particularly enjoyed it when she rolled up on her toes, her knuckles pressing into his abdomen.

Releasing her lip with slow deliberation, he found his other hand had ended up at her hip, atop her sweater. She’d discarded her coat as soon as they’d entered the apartment, and so there was no impediment to his exploration. Holding the clear copper of her eyes, he slid his hand below the fine weave of the sweater to touch warm, supple skin.

Ivy inhaled sharply, her pulse a drumbeat against the curve of her neck. Fascinated once again by the small movement that told him so much and made his own pulse race to match, he bent his head to press his mouth to it. He sucked, even grazed with his teeth. One of Ivy’s hands rose from his waistband to curve over his nape, holding him to her throat as she made a small, incoherent sound.

Her response ignited unadulterated possessiveness in him, making him want to devour and to cherish in equal measures. He hadn’t understood what it meant to cherish before Ivy. Now he knew it was about giving her what she needed, showing her what she was to him: Everything.

“Vasic.” Her short nails dug a little into his neck, the sensation adding to the others to go straight to his groin.

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