Dare Me

Dare, Book 2

Lexxie Couper

Chapter 1

Rob Thorton took one look at his best mate and burst out laughing. The powder-blue tuxedo, complete with royal-blue velvet trimmed ruffling was, if nothing else, a conversation stopper, and when all was said and done, when the groom entered the church for the first time on his wedding day, the conversation was pretty much meant to come to a halt.

“I’m going to kill you, Thorton,” Joseph Hudson muttered, adjusting his sapphire-studded cufflinks as he bestowed the hovering priest with a wide smile.

Rob laughed again, shaking his head at the tall man beside him who had been his best friend since they were five. “No you’re not.” He adjusted his own cufflinks, a matching set to Joseph’s pair and dropped a wink at the vivacious blonde in the body-hugging red dress perched on the second pew back from the alter. “You’re going to get married. Besides, you almost look as good as I do. What are you complaining about?”

Joseph tugged at the collar of his shirt, a silk number a shade lighter than his tux before turning his fingers to his bow tie. “I’m complaining because I’m marrying the love of my life dressed like I’ve just stepped out of a really bad porn film from the seventies. How the hell did I let you talk me into this?”

The soft sound of the priest clearing his throat made Joseph wince and he shot the man a quick look. “Sorry, Reverend.”

Rob laughed once more. “I didn’t talk you into it, Hudo. I dared you. Big difference. And you accepted that dare. Anyway, Anna’s not going to give a flying—” He caught the word fuck just as it was forming on his lips. “Anna’s not going to give a rat’s bum what you’re wearing. You could be standing here in a fluro-green kilt and Captain Kirk T-shirt and she’d want to hump your brains out.”

The priest cleared his throat again, louder this time.

Joseph shook his head, and for the first time since returning to Australia—all of fifteen days ago—Rob detected a faint hint of nerves in his best friend’s normally collected composure.

With a grin, he slapped Joseph on the shoulder. “Think of it this way, Joe. She’s never going to forget this day.”

Joseph tugged at his collar again. “Or forgive you.” He gave Rob a sideward glance, his brown eyes more than a little concerned. What he was concerned about, Rob wasn’t sure. At this point, it could be any number of things: what Anna was going to make of his rather unorthodox attire, whether the bar had stocked enough beer, whether he was going to remember his vows, or whether his best man was going to collapse in heap on the floor.

Rob grinned. “She’ll forgive me. I broke out of the hospital to be here. She’s obliged to forgive me.”

“You didn’t break out of the hospital to be here.” Joseph pointed out. “You were released, on condition of seeing your old specialist. Something I might add, you haven’t done yet. And as for Anna feeling obliged to forgive you, well, consider yourself lucky you’ve just survived brain cancer, otherwise I think you’d be getting a serious kick up the arse.” The corner of Joseph’s mouth curled in a lop-sided grin and he turned back to the alter. “Or a serious nipple-cripple.”

Rob couldn’t help himself. For the fourth time since entering St. Andrew’s Cathedral a little over thirty minutes ago, he laughed.

Joseph was right of course; he had been released from the Centro de Medicinas Alternativas, but only on paper. The doctor who’d treated him had been quite adamant he not risk the twenty-seven hour flight back to Australia in his less-than-perfect physical state. There wasn’t a doctor on this planet, however, who could keep him from his best friend’s wedding, no matter how dogged and stubborn and sexy.

Rob’s belly knotted. Sexy was an understatement for Doctor Emily Knox. The English oncologist with a predilection for completely experimental methods was sexier than sin. And absolutely one hundred percent against him leaving Barcelona.

But here he was, on the other side of the world, fighting fit (again), high on life (even more so), with the wedding rings tucked safely in his inside pocket (thank freaking God), ready to watch his best friend get married before partying the night away.

Wonder if she’s missing you?

With a snort and a shake of his head, Rob shut the thought down. Dr. Knox was thinking of him, he didn’t doubt that—but it had nothing to do with the reasons she kept creeping back into his mind. Those direct grey eyes of hers, her creamy pale skin, her straighter-than-straight red hair wouldn’t leave him, no matter how hard he tried—nor would the body more likely seen on a swimsuit model than a cancer doctor and a bed-side manner part caring, part tenacious thorn.

Thoughts of the good doctor had him “up” all night back when he wasn’t well enough to stand on his feet, lying stretched out on his hospital bed in the alternative cancer treatment centre and in serious pain from everything she’d been subjecting him to. As for his lasting impression on Dr. Knox? He didn’t want to think what it was. Bloody hell, among other things, she’d spent day after day after day rubbing his back as he puked his guts up in his room’s toilet after the medications she’d placed him on. She’d pretty much single-handedly saved his life. Sure, he still had headaches from time to time, and was a bit weak if he overdid things, and partying hard at Joseph’s bachelor party the night before last probably wasn’t a good idea, but who was here to stop him? Definitely not Emily Knox.

“I still can’t believe I’m wearing this tux,” Joseph abruptly muttered, jerking Rob’s attention from the doctor on the other side of the world.

He grinned at his best friend. “Stop your belly-aching, Hudo. Just think, in about—” he pushed his own powder-blue sleeve a little up his arm and flicked a glance at his watch, “—forty minutes or so Anna will be stripping it off you.”

Joseph arched an eyebrow at him. “Forty minutes?”

“The reception centre’s on the other side of Sydney Harbour, right? That gives you about an hour of travelling in the back of a stretched limo with your new wife.”

The reverend cleared his throat for the third time.

Rob gave Joseph a pointed look. “What better way to fill the travelling time, mate,” he said, leaning a little closer. “Go on. I dare you.”

The sound of close to a hundred pairs of feet moving on the cathedral’s polished wooden floor stopped Joseph responding. Rob watched as his friend pulled in a deep breath before the majestic pipe organ began playing the piece of music Anna had selected for her walk down the aisle.

The first five notes rung out of the heritage-listed brass pipes, unmistakable and unexpected, and unable to help himself Rob started laughing once more. “That’s some woman you’re marrying, Hudo,” he chuckled, the sound of AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top” reverberating through the historic church.

Joseph straightened his spine, closed his eyes for a brief moment and took another steadying breath.

“Fuck a duck, Hudo,” Rob murmured, turning to look at Anna McCarthy, the American park ranger who’d “rescued” them from a frozen night on the Colorado Rockies ten months ago. “She looks gorgeous.”

She stood at the end of the aisle, wearing a simple white shift that hugged her slim body to perfection and a wide smile that mirrored Joe’s perfectly.

Joseph turned, and Rob couldn’t miss the utter adoration in his best mate’s expression. “Bloody gorgeous,” Joseph breathed, “And mine.”

AC/DC continued to bellow via the church organ’s pipes, the one hundred and forty-three-year-old cathedral’s walls bouncing back the classic rock beat with gusto. Anna walked toward them both, her gaze holding Joseph’s, before, with one final step—and a mischievous lift of her eyebrow—she stood beside him.

Rob saw Joseph’s Adam’s apple jerk up and down in his throat, and he grinned. Joe’s American ranger. The woman who saved him from the mountain and stole his heart. Who had shared something so profound with both he and Rob and yet who knew exactly what Joseph wanted, needed. Joe’s kick-up-the-arse, as Rob called her. His partner.

“Hello, lover.” Her clear voice reverberated through the cathedral, the building’s acoustics amplifying her words. Her American accent had not lessened one bit in the ten months since she’d moved to Australia. Each vowel and consonant rang rich with a subtle growl that still made Rob’s belly tighten in appreciation.

“Hello, lover,” Joseph answered with a grin.

The priest cleared his throat, and Rob burst out laughing. “I think you’re on the verge of burning in hell, Hudo,” he muttered, leaning toward Joseph.

“Too bad,” Joseph answered, gazing at Anna.

She smiled at him, touching the tip of her tongue to the subtle pink gloss on her bottom lip. “I'm prepared to risk it, Mr. Hudson. How ’bout you?”

The reverend cleared his throat—for the last time, Rob suspected by his tone—and gave them all a stern look. “May we begin now, Joseph?”

Rob chuckled.

Joseph nodded, taking Anna’s free hand and lacing his fingers through hers. “You better bloody believe we can begin.”

The reverend’s eyebrows rose, most likely at Joseph’s rather inappropriate language considering the location, but possibly at the undeniable impatience in Joseph’s voice. With one last level stare at the groom, he turned his attention to the congregation. “So,” he said, his voice rolling through the cavernous building, “let’s get this party started, shall we?”

Rob burst out laughing. Again. “Hell yeah!”

Chapter 2

Doctor Emily Knox, MBBS, PhD and MSc in medical oncology, Harvard and Oxford graduate at the young age of twenty-six leant forward in her seat and passed the taxi driver two brightly coloured fifty-dollar notes. She would never get used to Australian money. There was something inherently wrong with a currency that looked like it belonged in a board game box.

The taxi driver took the fifties—two golden-green notes with an image of what looked like Mrs. Doubtfire on one side—and tucked them in his pocket. He nodded at her. “Thanks, miss.”

She sat in the taxi for a second before she realised he wasn’t coming around to open her door. She let out an embarrassed grunt. She hated men opening doors for her. She could open her own doors, thank you very much, but after five years at Barcelona where every man rushed to open a lady’s door or car door, she’d become accustomed to it. This particular taxi driver, however, didn’t budge from behind the wheel, grumbling loudly under his breath instead about the “bloody pommy bastards” cheating in the Ashes.

Emily tried not to laugh. It’d been a while since she’d paid attention to the rest of the world, but she knew very well the Australians detested losing a cricket game to her home country, especially a game as important as those played in the Ashes series. By the decidedly disgruntled demeanour of her driver, it would seem such a thing had occurred.

With a chuckled thank you, she shuffled over on the seat and opened her door. Climbing from the taxi’s rather musky interior, she gazed at Dunbar House, a building perched on the bluff of a cliff overlooking Sydney Harbour that could have been ripped from the pages of a travel brochure.

She let out a slow breath. She should be used to glorious vistas by now. Barcelona was absolutely breathtaking in its exotic beauty, but there was something about Sydney…something she just couldn’t put her finger on.

You’ve only been in the country for two hours, Emily. And the last sixty minutes of that was spent with your less-than-jovial taxi driver.

That was true, but ignoring that—it was cricket after all—the very moment she’d exited Sydney International Airport, a lot of her fury at her reason for being here seemed to dissipate. The air was cleaner, for one thing. Each breath she took was like taking the surf and the sun and the trees into her body. There was a sweetness to it her inner-London nose was not used to, a relaxed peace to it despite the hustle and bustle. Five years in Barcelona, with its overly attentive, somewhat chauvinistic men, raucous city sidewalks and crowded streets had ill prepared her for such a sudden change, and if she wasn’t so determined to get her hands on Robert Thorton and drag his disobedient, defiant and foolish arse back to the Centro de Medicinas Alternativas, she’d either hail another taxi and get back on a plane as soon as possible, or go buy a bike and see where her new two wheels led her.

But she wasn’t here for sightseeing and she sure as hell wasn’t leaving without the irritating Australian.

How dare he take off without her permission? How dare he leave without her say-so? She’d saved his life. She said when he was well enough to fly and under no circumstances should Robert Thorton have been flying anywhere, let alone eleven thousand miles away from her. She was his doctor.

No, damn it. Emily, you’re not his doctor. Not anymore.

Not since she’d signed off his case. Not since she’d realized the feelings she’d developed for him went against every professional and ethical obligation she’d sworn to uphold.

Which means you had no authority to tell him anything.

But after eight months of treatment it was hard to step away. Difficult to remember she was no longer his official caregiver. It was almost impossible to separate her professional self from her emotional one. But if she had any hope of both remaining a doctor and keeping her ex-patient in her life, she had no choice but to make that distinction. That still didn’t mean she had to like it. Or the fact that he’d left.

Not after the way he kissed you the night before he did so.

Without the decency of saying goodbye, no less.

If he’d said goodbye, you would have strapped him to his bed. He knew that.

Emily let out a frustrated sigh. Why was she here? Really? Was it just to give Robert Thorton a piece of her mind as his once doctor?

No. It’s not. And you know that, don’t you?

A rabble of butterflies filled her stomach, their wings beating a nervous tattoo. She ran her hands over her hair, wishing she’d had time for a shower before leaving the airport. Even a quick inspection in a restroom mirror would have been nice. She had no idea how she looked, but after a twenty-seven-hour flight, she suspected not her best.

The butterflies in her belly fluttered again. Joseph Hudson had been vague during their last telephone conversation about where she would find Rob on touching down in Sydney. When she’d told him her flight details two days ago, he’d laughed, the carefree sound a lot like Robert’s through the connection. She’d fidgeted on her stool in her office, the soft throb between her thighs at the mere thought of the exasperating Australian unsettling her. Clearing her throat, she’d asked Joseph what was so funny, but all he’d done was laugh again before giving her an address and the very cryptic suggestion she wear “something a little dressy”.

It had made no sense then, but now, standing on the sidewalk looking at the majestic building before her, with its warm glowing lights and muted music wafting from within, she understood completely.

Robert Thorton’s best friend had directed her to his wedding. His wedding. The very event Rob had risked his health to attend.

“Well,” she muttered, raking her fingers through the thick curtain of her hair in an attempt to make it look less like she’d just stepped from a plane and more like she’d just stepped from a designer salon, “it’s a good thing I’m wearing a dress.”

She looked down at the simple green dress she wore. Sleeveless, short and flowing, it was perfect for a long-haul flight. Now, if only she’d had the sense to pack a pair of heels in her satchel.

Why? You’re almost the same height as Robert anyway.

Yes, but the Australian had a way of…throwing her off kilter. Especially when he grinned at her, his blue eyes glinting with a devilish mischief, his lips curling up at the edges, the dimple in his right cheek flashing…

The junction between her thighs throbbed and she let out a frustrated groan.

You must be out of your mind. Coming all this way to try and convince a man you’ve already signed off as your patient he needs to come back to the centre.

Is that what she was doing here? Was she still worried about his treatment? Did she really believe he should be back at the centre, under someone else’s care? Or was her real reason for being here a far more personal one? One that had nothing to do with the patient Rob, and everything to do with the man Rob?

What would he say to her? What was she going to say to him? She could try and convince him she was here in her capacity as his ex-doctor, his treating specialist who had—through a combination of traditional and radically alternative medicine—cured the inoperable brain cancer the doctors here in Sydney had declared would kill him within six months. She could try.

Emily let out a huff. No, she couldn’t. She no longer had a professional involvement in his case. If she did try to convince him, it would have to be as an impartial bystander, not a doctor. But how on earth could she be impartial about Rob? There was not one single bone in her body that felt any sort of impartiality toward him.

She was here to slip her arms around his lean waist, place her cheek on his shoulder and feel his warmth seep into her own, no matter how much she wished otherwise.

The way she had the night before he left.

Her sex throbbed again, with more urgency this time, the memory of Robert’s body pressed to hers too evocative. Too potent.

Oh, Emily Julie Knox, you really are out of your flipping mind, aren’t you?

She gazed up at the building before her, her heart hammering. “It would seem so.”

Hitching her satchel higher up her shoulder, she fixed her stare on the beautifully carved double entry door and began walking.

She had a wedding reception to attend and a stubborn man to seduce.

She couldn’t waste time standing on the sidewalk.

* * * *

Rob wriggled his eyebrows at Penny Johnston, stowing her with a wide smile as he swung her in his arms. She giggled, her arms slinking around his shoulders, her body pressing to his with excited joy. Around them on the dance floor, other guests shuffled aside, giving them the room to really move their stuff.

Rob rubbed his forehead against hers, the sound of her laughter bubbling his own up through his chest. “I think you’ve stolen my heart, Miss Johnston.”

She clung to him with fierce pressure, her blue eyes twinkling—yes, twinkling—behind eyelashes longer and blacker than eyelashes had a right to be. “You’re silly, Uncle Rob.”

Rob affected a wounded expression, twirling Joseph’s youngest cousin across the dance floor to the live band’s frenetic rendition of something sounding a lot like Lady Gaga on speed. His head ached a little, but not enough to bloody well stop him dancing with Penny. “Silly?” He spun her once more, barely able to control his grin when she squealed with delight and clung to him tighter. He grinned. Headaches and pain and giddiness could all go jump if it meant he was responsible for such innocent joy. “Silly? Right, that’s it. I’m afraid I can’t ask you to marry me now.”

Penny, all of about eight if he remembered rightly, giggled again. “Marry you? Eew. Then I’d get boy germs.”

He cocked an eyebrow, rubbing his forehead on hers again. “You’ve been dancing with me all night, Penny Johnston,” he intoned with mock severity, “you’ve already got boy germs.”

“Eew!” Penny pulled a face, wriggling in his arms as she laughed. “Gross.”

He spun her one last time, an elaborate turn that made the girl squeal so loudly with joy a lull fell over Joe and Anna’s guests for a moment before more than one person chuckled.

Rob lowered Penny to the floor, a warm ache filling his cheeks. This was what it was about. Smiling, laughing until it hurt. Loving every moment lived. Living every moment to its fullest.

Spying the sight of Anna approaching from his right, he bent at the waist and bestowed Penny a quick kiss on her forehead. “If I dance with the bride for a bit, promise not to get too jealous?”

Penny giggled, swiping at her forehead with the back of her hand. “Only if you promise to spin her like you did me.”

He grinned. “Is that a dare?”

Blue eyes twinkled again. “Yes.”


With a wink, Rob swooped around and snared Anna around the waist, catching her completely unaware. Another wave of lightheadedness washed over him, but he ignored it. He twirled her upward, lifting her feet off the floor in a graceful arc, the sound of her laughter as wonderful as Penny’s. “Awesome, Uncle Rob,” he heard Penny cry.

“Awesome, Mr. Thorton,” Anna laughed, sliding her arms around Rob’s neck as her feet returned to the floor. She smiled up at him, cheeks flushed, lips parted. “And yet, why do I feel like I should be giving you a lecture?”

He grinned again. “Because I’ve just stared death in the face and you’re worried about me?”

Anna rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I forgot about your ego.”

Rob laughed, capturing her hands as she gave his chest a slight shove. He tugged her against his body. “No you didn’t,” he said, moving them both in time to the music—now a somewhat subdued rendition of U2’s “Desire”. “Nice band, by the way.”

Anna raised an eyebrow. “Don’t change the subject. I know you’re high on life at the moment, but I don’t want to be rushing back from my honeymoon because you’ve decided to ignore doctor’s orders.” She pulled away a little and gave him a stern frown. “I’m sure she’d be less than impressed if she knew you were flinging females around a dance floor.”

The pit of Rob’s stomach tightened at Anna’s offhanded mention of his ex-doctor. That he was still a tad weak, and more than a tad inclined to suffer headaches was something he wasn’t sharing with anyone, let alone Anna. It was a good bloody thing the only person he would consider telling was on the other side of the world. Actually, he wouldn’t tell her either. She’d just try and take his blood pressure and order him to bed, the last place he wanted to be. Unless it was with—

He killed the thought. But not before an image of Emily filled his head—tall, slim and gorgeous, her eyes studying him with a guarded compassion he’d grown to both ache for and despise, her rosebud lips curled in a small smile equally as unreadable.

More than once in the eight months he’d spent in her care he’d wanted to kiss those lips. Feel them against his own to see if they really did taste as sweet as he suspected they would. But he was the patient and she was his doctor. She’d taken the Hippocratic oath. What she felt for him had nothing to do with her heart and everything to do with the chart that hung at the end of his bed.

Nothing had ever happened to make him believe otherwise. Until the night before he signed himself out, that was.

His lips tingled with the sudden memory of their kiss as they lay on his narrow hospital cot together, their hearts beating in rapid harmony, the soft glow from his side lamp throwing their bodies in muted shadows. His cock twitched with the memory of her fingers wrapped around its rigid length, exploring it with feverish heat as her thigh slid over his leg and her tongue—

He spun Anna away in a flamboyant twirl, not wanting her to feel his rather inappropriately timed semi.

Damn it, why couldn’t he get the bloody doctor out of his head?

“Mind if I cut in?” Joseph’s deep voice sounded behind him and Rob started, watching his best mate step around him. “Or do you plan to hog all the beautiful women this evening, Thorton?”

Rob took a step backward, holding out his hand with a grin on his face, watching Joseph snare Anna in rough embrace and jerk her to his body. “Hello, Mrs. Hudson,” he murmured.

“Hello, Mr. Hudson,” she murmured back, snaking her arms around Joseph’s shoulders before rising up on tiptoe and brushing her lips over his.

Rob took another step away from the couple. “Think that’s my cue to go find the bridesmaid.”

With one last smile at the two most important people in his life, Rob turned away from them, ready to seek out Anna’s stunning redheaded friend from the U.S.

And found himself staring straight into the smoke-grey eyes of Dr. Emily Knox, PhD, MBBS, MSc and about a billion other medical initials.

“What the—?”

The question died on his lips. Or rather, it was replaced by a drawn-out breath as he stared at the woman who had cured him. A woman he’d thought over eighteen thousand kilometers away. The ache in his head gave a little throb. His heart jumped in his chest.

She’s here.

Catching himself staring, he gave her a lopsided grin—the sardonic kind he knew exasperated her. “Care to dance?”

He saw the edges of her eyes tighten, a sure sign she wanted to say something sharp and altogether clipped. He knew this woman well. Better than he’d known any woman before. Hell, he should. He’d spent every day of the last eight months with her. He braced himself for what was to come—a distant part of his mind making a note to give Joseph a bloody smack in the jaw (who else would have invited Emily to the wedding than his best mate?)—another part wondering what she would do if he told her about his headache, and almost fell over with shock when she stepped toward him, pressed her tall, slim body to his and slid her left hand up his arm to rest it on his right shoulder. “Yes,” she said, closing the fingers of her right hand around his left. “I would.”

Her soft voice played over his senses like it always had, her English accent more pronounced than ever. Or was that because his ears had become acclimatized to the Australian accents around him again?

He didn’t know.

He pulled in a slow breath, headache forgotten, the subtle scent of Emily’s perfume filtering into his body. His stomach knotted, his balls grew harder, that delicate fragrance flooding him with memories too haunting to bear. She’d cured him of anaplastic astrocytoma, and in the process inflicted him with something else. Something powerful and—he was discovering all too quickly—inescapable.


You desired her from day one, Thorton. When she walked up to you in the Centro de Medicinas Alternativas foyer wearing snug denim jeans, a Yoda T-shirt and a white coat so pristine it almost blinded you.

With an ambiguous smile he’d never seen before, she began to move to the music, her thighs brushing his, her hips and belly rubbing against his in little side-to-side strokes that made his cock jerk.

Jesus Christ, Rob. You thought you had a semi before?

He looked into her upturned face, knowing there wasn’t a hope in hell she wouldn’t feel his now-more-than-semi-hard hard-on. “So, is this some extreme version of a house call?” he asked, the ruffles of his shirt doing nothing to stop him feeling the tips of her breasts skim against his chest as they danced. “Or did I forget to pay the bill?”

“Let’s call this an extension of my bedside manner, shall we?”

He cocked an eyebrow, trying to ignore the way her body melded to his so perfectly. And the way his already rigid cock twitched at the word bed. Damn it, was he a juvenile? “I remember your bedside manner, Dr. Knox. Unless I did exactly what you said, you were prickly.”

“And I remember you rarely doing what I told you to do. Case in point, you being here now.”

Emily tilted her head to the side, her thick curtain of hair tumbling over her shoulder as she did so. Rob swallowed, his fingers itching to thread through those silken strands. He’d never seen it worn any other way but in a ponytail. It was gorgeous. He wanted to snare a fistful, bury his nose in its glossy weight and take a deep breath. Instead, he fixed her with a level gaze. “And that’s why you’re here now? To lecture me? You didn’t just come all this way for cake?”

Emily’s jaw tightened at his sarcasm. She stopped dancing, her grey eyes angry. “No it isn’t, Robert. You need to come back. We need to—”

Rob frowned at her, his chest tightening. “Come back? Why? I’m cured, remember? You cured me. You signed off as my doctor over fifteen days ago and told me I was cancer-free. I’m not going back.” He released her hand and took a step back. He sure as hell wasn’t going to tell her about his headache now. Or even let on he felt weak and giddy at times. “I’m going to dance the night away, see my best friend off on his honeymoon and then collapse in bed somewhere around four a.m.”


“Then tomorrow morning,” he continued, an anger he couldn’t understand rising in his gut, “I’m going to climb the Harbour Bridge and watch the sun come up before jumping on my bike and heading up north to go scuba diving on the reef. Then after I’ve done that for a few days I’m going to jump a charter flight and spend a week in Bali, maybe hire a tuk-tuk. After that, I’m going to backpack around Vietnam, then I’m flying back home and going bush.”

“Going bush?”

Emily’s calm voice grated on his nerves. Always in control, was the good doctor. “Going bush. Walking out the front door, heading to the Outback and seeing where my feet—and life—take me. I can do that now, Doc. Death can’t stop me. I’ve got all the time in the world.”

She studied him, her face set in that unreadable expression he despised so much, the one that haunted his dreams every night since she walked into his bloody hospital room and declared she would cure him of brain cancer. “And you’re going to do this a whole fifteen days after I tell you you’re completely cancer-free?”

“I’m cured,” he ground out, the knot of anger in his gut growing hot. “I have the scars to prove it.”

Emily’s gaze flicked to the side of his head. He knew what she was thinking about. The scar running the vertical length of his scalp behind his right ear, a reminder of the first time she’d cut open his skull and went digging for gold.

But is that the scar you were referring to, Rob? Or were you referring to the scar the annoying bloody woman left on your heart?

He bit back a muttered curse. Damn it, why was she here?

“So, let me get this straight,” Emily said, each word clipped by her accent, “you’re going climbing, riding, swimming, flying and walking all within a week and a half of being declared cancer-free to prove death doesn’t hold sway over you anymore, correct?”

Rob narrowed his eyes, a lump forming in his throat. “That’s right.”

“And you’re doing this alone?”

He let out a sharp breath, dragging his hands through his cropped hair. “Of course I’m doing it alone. Who else would I be doing it with?”

Emily didn’t answer for a moment and for some reason Rob realized he was holding his breath. “Well?” he snapped, uncaring of the guests around him. Fuck it, he needed to know the answer. He needed to know what Emily no-we-can’t-I’m-your-doctor Knox thought about it. He needed to know badly.

She lifted her chin, her gaze holding his. “Me.”


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