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She rolled her eyes but laid her head on his shoulder. The move seemed unconscious and natural, as though she hadn’t thought it through or spent time analyzing her moves. Knowing her as he did by now, if she’d been in tip-top shape, she’d have put her mask on and shut him out. But she was sore and shaken from what happened at Lock’s. As much as he hated that for her, he loved having her react to him without dissecting every word, thought, and action as she often did.

“The paramedic checked me out after you threw that epic tantrum.” She did a horrible job of concealing her smirk behind the mug.

He scoffed, giving her thigh a playful squeeze.

Tantrum, my ass.

“Seriously, I have a lump on my head and some bruises on my back. That’s it. Nothing to be concerned about. The paramedic didn’t even blink when I said I didn’t want to go to the hospital.”

So, they were going there, huh? “First off, the only reason that shitty-ass EMT didn’t push it is because he was hoping giving you what you wanted would get him your damn number.”

“What?” The complete shock in her voice made him snort. “You can’t be serious?” She lifted off his shoulder to gape at him.

He grabbed the side of her neck and drew her head—the goose-egg-free side—down to his shoulder.

“He was just doing his job, and he was totally professional the entire time.”

“Please. That dickweed was just disappointed the bruises were on your back and not your tits so he could cop a good fucking feel during his ‘examination.’ ” He crooked his fingers in a quote motion.

Harper was full-on laughing now. “You’re insane.”

“Separate issue.” Damn, he loved making her laugh. Whether it was a small snicker or a full-body roar, the sound was music to his ears. But her flirty giggles were his favorite. They were the hardest to pull from her and the most rewarding. He planned to keep her laughing long enough to make up for the last seven somber years. “Which brings me to my next point. I do not throw fucking tantrums.”

“Ha. Are you trying to tell me you reacted well when I told you the robber, or thief, or whatever you want to call him, slammed me into the bookshelf?”

He grunted. “Fuck no, I didn’t react well. I was pissed as hell, but it wasn’t a damn tantrum. I dare you to find any man who’d react well when his most favorite woman in the world is hurt.”

She stiffened.

Too much?

If only he could see her eyes. Then he’d know if his Prickles’ shields were back in place.

She lifted off his shoulder again, and even though his heart sank, he allowed her to retreat.

But then she questioned, “I’m your favorite woman?”

He met her serious gaze. “Fuck yes. Hell, I think you’re my favorite person. I think I even said most favorite. That’s an important distinction.”

She didn’t take the bait and banter back. Her long swallow and the way she clenched her hands in her lap revealed her nerves. Lately, he got more from her without having to chip through the tough outer shell. Whether she let him in consciously or plain forgot to shield herself didn’t matter. It was the end result, the slow building of trust and connection he cared about.

She gave him a shaky smile and whispered, “I think you’re my favorite person as well.”

Goddamn, did those words twist him up inside. If it wouldn’t have scared her away, he’d have ripped off his shirt, pounded his chest, and wailed like Tarzan. Instead, he leaned in until he was close enough to kiss her, sliding his hand along her cheek. “You have no idea how fucking happy that makes me. Same with you calling me today when you needed help. Damn, Harper.” He patted his hand over his heart twice. “I was so fucking glad to be the one you reached for.”

She nuzzled into his palm. “I didn’t consider anyone else. I just wanted you there. I knew you would come, no questions.”

An eyebrow arched. “Maybe you trusted me a little?”

“I think I do,” she whispered with a single nod. Her eyes shone with vulnerability matching her words.

He’d never take this moment for granted. It was, hands down, the most precious gift he’d ever received. Winning the Super Bowl couldn’t have felt better. He kissed her. What other choice was there? It was meant to be a gentle, comforting kiss to soothe her frazzled nerves, but his woman was hungry. She let out a little frustrated growl and scrambled into his lap without breaking their connection.

He managed to retain enough brain power to shove his chair away from the table so she wouldn’t smack her injured back.

Then it was game on.

Harper devoured him, flinging her arms around his neck and pouring everything she had into the kiss. His dick hardened instantly, and when she rolled her hips into him, he grabbed her ass and ground up into her.