I met his look with a bland one of my own. I was in charge here and the sooner he learned that, the better this partnership would be. I kept my eyes locked on his and treated him to the same slow and thorough appraisal he had given me yesterday, only I got the added benefit of getting to check him out while he was sweaty and shirtless.
After Remy died, I went a little crazy. I figured if he couldn’t love me enough to save us, to save himself, then I was obviously the problem. I figured I was nothing special, undeserving of someone as fantastic and charismatic as Remy Archer, so I went off the deep end. I slept around like it was a sport. I tried on boy after boy searching for one that would fit. I burned through men like a wild fire, endlessly searching for that special something that I’d had so briefly. I was trying to fuck away grief and guilt and there had been plenty of willing partners to help me do it.
Then one day I got a phone call out of the blue that changed everything. Remy’s best friend, a sweet little thing named Shaw Landon, now Shaw Archer, wanted me to come and meet the other Archer boys. Remy’s twin, Rule, and his older brother, Rome, were moving on in life, finding loves and lives of their own, but the way Remy went out … we all deserved more than secrets and speculation. She convinced me to come meet the entire family and like an insane person I agreed.
I had no clue how I could look Remy’s twin in the eye and not fall to pieces. How could I look at the face of the only man I ever loved on another man and not fall apart? It turned out to be pretty easy.
As much as Rule and Remy looked alike, they were worlds and worlds apart. Where Remy had been polished and shined to perfection, Rule Archer was pierced and inked up in a beautiful riot of chaos. Remy’s hair had been short and styled, Rule’s was hot pink and spiked up like a weapon. They had the same face and the same eyes, but that was where all similarity stopped. Remy had been kind, loving, almost a pushover, Rule Archer was as in your face as any man I had ever met and he obviously didn’t care if he impressed or offended.
Watching the family that loved the same man I did struggling to heal and doing it together through love and patience made me pull my head out of my ass. I stopped sleeping around, buckled down at school so I could get out and go to work, and put all my energy into helping others. I still dated here and there, but no one had that same effect on me that Remy Archer did. No one immediately touched my heart, and I was too busy and too focused on my career and making a difference in my clients’ lives to notice the loss.
That’s why my reaction to Dom was equally shocking and thrilling. When I first saw Remy and started to fall in love, it was like being surrounded by a fluffy blanket of good feelings and endless comfort. It was something I sunk into and never wanted to be without. It felt easy and as natural as breathing. The instant I laid eyes on the big, brooding cop it was like a full body assault. There was nothing easy or comfortable about it. My ears started ringing like I had been knocked upside the head. My vision narrowed so that all I could see was him, and what I saw made my blood heat up and my heart thump loudly. My chest hurt and it was hard to breathe because all I could smell was the earthy, musky scent that was far too alluring and oh so masculine, that emanated from him. My knees went slightly weak, which made me glad I was standing behind my desk, and it took me a solid three minutes before I could get my voice to work.
He was rougher-looking, more aggressive and assertive than the men I typically found attractive. He looked like he could easily take care of himself out on the streets and like he would have no trouble taking care of whoever he was with in the bedroom. Everything about him was dark and serious, from his short black hair to his intent olive-colored gaze that clearly showed his frustration and fear. His voice was deep and gravelly and the way it made my skin ripple in response had me needing to sit down and take a minute to pull myself together. I wasn’t prepared for him. My reactions were completely visceral and primitive. All the responses Dominic Voss drew from me felt like they came from someplace elemental and animalistic. It was my reaction to him that scared the holy hell out of me.
As he pushed himself to complete the test, his muscles bulged and flexed. His broad chest expanded and contracted rapidly, making the white scars that crisscrossed his shoulder and side stand out in stark relief against the rest of his tawny skin. There was more evidence of his obviously risky line of work in the jagged scar that shot over his ear and along the side of his skull and contrasted with his short, dark hair. Everything about the man seemed dangerous and brutal, which wasn’t something I should find appealing.
But I so did.
When the hour ended and the treadmill cranked down to a barely moving pace so he could cool down, he pulled the respiratory mask off and huffed out, “Not bad, right?”
He was still breathing heavily, but there was obvious pride hidden beneath his exertion.
I frowned a little bit and marked some things off on the chart I was using to track his vitals.
“How does your leg feel?”
He lifted a dark eyebrow at me and I watched as his hand went to his thigh. The corners of his mouth turned down in a scowl. “It’s fine.”
I made a noise in my throat and met his dark look with one of my own. I was stupidly attracted to the man, fascinated that after so long I had a genuine response to someone, but I had a job to do and his long term recovery was my priority, not getting him into bed.
“I think ‘fine’ is an exaggeration. I think you are pushing yourself too hard and your body is fighting back.”
He continued to rub his thigh while lines of discomfort furrowed across his forehead. I took the opportunity to watch the enticing flex of muscle and sinew that was everywhere as he moved.