Abbey stripped off her clothes, folded them neatly and laid them in the corner of the bathroom on the large, black granite tiles, then she unwrapped the long, stretchy bandage from around her stomach and peeled off the wadded tissues. “Oh, no.”

The gooey paper shredded, wedging itself in the grooves of her brand. She might have a better immune system than a human, but she was pushing her luck. She was going to have to wash the wound in the shower and then find something different to cover it before replacing the bandage.

She started the water, and once it got nice and steamy, she stepped in carefully. The hot spray felt like heaven. After enduring six months with the water-conserving faucets in Kara’s guest bath, Abbey couldn’t complain about Claude’s choice of a fancy rain-style showerhead. The water didn’t feel great filtering in through the burrows in her skin, but she was used to that. At least the area was mostly numb since the suture incident.

Several of her toiletry items hadn’t made it through the crash—their little plastic containers busting and leaking all over her clothes—but she managed to wash her hair with body soap.

After she was finished, she dried off with a fluffy white towel, taking care not to touch it to her abdomen. “Jaxon?” she called.

Within moments, she heard his deep voice from the other side of the door. “Yes?”

“My gauze supply got crud on it from my bag, and I forgot to grab a replacement for after my shower. Would you mind brining me some paper towels or napkins?”

“They won’t be sterile.”

“Eh.” He missed her shrug from behind the closed door. “If I was going to get another infection, I’d have it by now. And besides, there’s not much we can do about it at this point.”

“I’ll look for a first-aid kit.”

She bent and towel-dried her tangly hair. “Paper towels are fine. I’ve used them before.”

“I’ll be right back.”

She wrapped her towel around her breasts, trying to hold the snowy terrycloth fabric away from her skin until she could cover it. A moment later, Jaxon knocked and pushed the door open. He handed her the paper towels then walked from the room, not quite shutting the bathroom door behind him.

Abbey quickly wrapped her abdomen from just below her ribs to just above her pubic bone, then she walked out of the bathroom, the towel once again wrapped around her body, and headed for the dryer to grab her pajamas. Jaxon was standing in the hallway, waiting for her. When she reached into the dryer to grab her clothes, the towel loosened and slid to her feet.

“Eeep!” she shrieked and clutched it to her front. Her breasts were bared for Jaxon to see, but at least her bandages were covered.

He shook his head and waited for her to readjust the towel. “Stop trying to hide yourself. We will find a way to heal you, but if we never did, you would be perfect the way you are. There is no symbol on this earth that could detract from your beauty.” He stepped close to her and put his hand over her heart. “It comes from here, inside you.”

She met his eyes. Every day it was getting harder to deny how much she needed him. How easy would it be to shift the towel a mere inch and slide her bare breast under his fingers? She wanted to so much it was almost a physical hunger. Instead, she squeezed his hand and backed away. “Thanks for saying that. That’s really sweet.”

The look in his eyes made her nervous. She was closer to him than anyone else on the planet besides Kara, but that didn’t mean they could overcome the obstacles in their paths. “Well, I’d better go change.”

He stood his ground in the hall. “Stop running from me.”

“Running? How am I running? We live together. We sleep together. You’re one of my closest friends.”

“What if I want to be more?”

Electric chills swept from her chest up her flushed neck. “That would be a mistake. We both know it.” She saw in his eyes that he still wasn’t getting it. “I don’t want to lose what we have.”

His strong jaw clenched. “What if it wasn’t lost but only made stronger?”

“Are we really having this discussion? This is crazy. I’m bandaged up. I’m ugly as hell. And you…you’re perfect. You always have been and you always will be. I’m not sure a witch and a silver-wing were meant to make sparks.”

His body was rigid and erect, his hands fisted at his sides. “I feel sparks when I’m near you.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m telling you that I want more than your friendship—and I’m obviously making a fool out of myself.”

“I can’t go there with you, Jaxon. Don’t you understand? You mean too much to me.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You’d rather continue your string of shallow one-night stands than try something deeper with a man who cares for you?”

Her lips pursed tight. “First of all, when was the last time I had a one-night stand? Not since I’ve known you. And you may call it ridiculous, but I call it self-preservation. See—” she held her arms out on display, “—the only wounds I have are on the outside.”

“I would never hurt you.”

“No, not on purpose maybe, but you’re not even my species. You’re going to live forever, and I have about another hundred years. Besides…let’s be honest. If something was going to happen between us, it would have. For six months we slept together like buddies, and now you’re finally horny enough to pick up on me no matter what I look like.”

His nostrils flared and the muscles in his jaw went rock hard. “I’ve never wanted to throttle you before, Abbey, but in this moment, I’m inclined to put you over my knee. Don’t you ever insult your body in my presence. And don’t you dare lie to me and tell me we don’t have a spark. It’s a fucking inferno inside me. I felt it when you kissed me, and I feel it now.”

He took her roughly by the arms and pulled her to him, grasping her by her nape and pressing his mouth firmly against hers. Her body responded in a wash of sensation, her tongue reveling in the taste of his sweet mouth, her insides turning to jelly. “Jaxon,” she panted, “we shouldn’t.”

Still holding her arms, he pressed his thigh between her legs and tipped her off balance, laying her down in the hallway where they’d stood.

“You feel this?” He sucked at her neck and nipped at the tender flesh above her breast. “This,” he growled against her skin, “is a spark.”