The zealous need to heal, the driving desire to bring men and women back to their former glory came from not being able to save the one broken body I wanted to the most in the world. My therapist had had a field day with me after I came clean about the ugly fight and ultimatum I laid at the feet of my first and only serious boyfriend the night he died. She called it projection. She told me I was blaming myself for the accident even though Remy had been driving too fast for the rainy conditions that night, and as a result I was trying to save everyone.
Of course, I blamed myself. If we hadn’t been arguing, if I hadn’t told that stubborn and beautiful boy that enough was enough, that he needed to love me enough, love himself enough, to be honest about who he was and what we were, he would never have left that night wrapped in good-bye and silent acceptance that our relationship had run its course. I mean, I logically knew he would have left regardless of the fight or not. His twin brother called needing a ride home and whenever one Archer brother needed something, the others were right there to offer it up. Especially the twins. Rule and Remy were two sides of the same tarnished coin and there would have been no stopping him, if Rule said he needed him. But … the giant ‘but’ and uncertainty that haunted me to this day: if I hadn’t said I’d had enough, if I hadn’t told him I deserved someone that loved me fully and completely and openly the way I loved him, then maybe, just maybe he would have been paying closer attention to the road. Maybe he would have seen the semi that lost control and could have avoided the collision. And, of course, the biggest maybe of all, maybe he would still be here with me.
I had begged him to stay, to tell me that our love was enough to finally get him to come clean to his brothers, and asked him to set his best friend free from the shadows of half-truths and deception he had her trapped in, but all he could do was shake his head at me and look at me out of eyes the color of winter while he told me he couldn’t do any of it. He wasn’t ready, and he understood if that meant I had to move on to someone who was.
I wanted to hate him. To this day, all these years since the accident, I wanted to hate him, but I never could. My love for him was too big, too strong to leave room for any kind of hate, so instead I worked my ass off to heal people that were broken. Remy’s body had broken the night of the crash, but there were things inside of him, fundamental issues that he should have addressed not only with himself but also with his family well before we got to the serious stage of our relationship and definitely before we moved in together. Remy was broken on the inside and someone, namely me, should have tried to fix him before he was lost to me for good.
Thinking about broken men, I forced my attention back to the one in front of me as my assistant nudged up the speed on the treadmill Dominic was running on. We were going to see if he could last a full hour with the speed and incline increased every ten minutes. He had a mask on his face to measure his breathing, electrodes taped to his bare chest to monitor his heart rate and various other contraptions clipped to him, so I would have all the data I needed to see what kind of shape his body was in after the fall and all the surgeries to piece him back together.
We were at the halfway point and he was still keeping a pretty steady pace which I had to admit impressed the hell out of me. That shattered femur was no joke when it came to having a serious leg injury, but aside from a slight imbalance in his stride, he was weathering this first test well. He was sweaty, but his breathing seemed steady and his heart rate was better than some of the professional athletes I put through the same test.
Dominic Voss was built like an ancient Spartan. He looked like he had been crafted to be a warrior and protector since birth. Even with being laid up in the hospital while he healed, he was still impossibly broad and toned. His shoulders looked like they could hold up the weight of the world and then some and I couldn’t remember ever seeing an ass look that tight and perfect in a pair of track pants, which was saying a lot considering the bulk of my clientele got paid exorbitant amounts of money to look good in athletic gear.
I was taller than him by a few inches, but he was cut and hard in all the right places and that superb body and the intensity on the roughly hewn face attached to it were wreaking havoc on my concentration. I was supposed to be paying attention to how he responded to the tests, not to the way drops of sweat were running down the sides of his neck and across the impressive bulge of his pecs. And I really, really shouldn’t be wondering what he would do if I leaned over the edge of the treadmill and licked the salty moisture away with my tongue.
I shifted my gaze away when my assistant caught me staring and nodded when he asked if he should kick up the speed some more. I nodded but watched Dom flinch a little as he had to adjust his gait to keep up with the machine. His dark eyebrows were furrowed. His already bronze complexion looked even darker and I could hear him breathing audibly behind the mask strapped to his face. I watched as his arms pumped hard at his sides, the left one flowing free and easily like it was supposed to while the right one moved stiffly and awkwardly. I didn’t have any doubt that he could chase a bad guy down in a footrace, but I was starting to wonder if he could hold on to them when he caught up. His mobility on the left side was fluid and sure; the right side of his body looked like it should be attached to a much older man with arthritis.
He was struggling. But he wouldn’t say anything. In fact, when the treadmill went up to the highest setting, which was the last ten minutes, he would run through and not offer a single complaint. I frowned at him because I knew that that kind of exertion wasn’t good for his leg. The body had its own language and if you refused to listen to what it was telling you, then chances were you were doing more harm than good. When my assistant asked to kick it up the last time, I shook my head in the negative and saw Dom’s very dark green eyes narrow at me. I knew that if he didn’t have the plastic ventilator covering the entire lower part of his face I would be getting an earful.