“I’m so sorry,” Ruhn choked out. “Oh, dearest Virgin, I didn’t mean…”

The doctor smiled up at him. “Nah, it’s okay. Boundaries are good. Just next time, tell me to back off first before you strong-arm me, and then if I don’t listen, go MMA on my ass. So are you ready for me to listen to your heart? This is not going to hurt you.”

The human held up a little metal disk, which appeared to be attached to a cord that…went into the doctor’s ears.

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“Have you never been examined before?” Dr. Manello said softly.

Ruhn shook his head.

“Okay, this is a stethoscope. I put it here,” the male pointed to his own chest, a little off of center, “and I listen to the beat. It’s non-invasive—which means it doesn’t hurt or cut into you. I promise.”

Ruhn shuddered and then nodded—not because he wanted anything anywhere near him, but rather because he’d been unforgivably rude in hurting the man and wanted to make up for that somehow.

And it looked like submitting to whatever that was was his only chance.

“Can you sit up straighter for me?”

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As he complied, pushing his spine higher, Rhage seemed to be encouraging the others who had come in to leave—and for that, Ruhn was grateful. What he needed right now was less sensory input, not more, and as someone who suffered from shyness, all those pairs of eyes staring at him, even if it was with compassion, were too much to handle.

“See? Nothing to worry about.”

Ruhn looked down. The disk end of the instrument was on his pecs and the doctor was staring off to the side, as if he were concentrating on whatever was being transmitted to his ears.

“Does it hurt to take a breath?” the doctor asked. “Yes? Can I take off your shirt so I can see what’s going on?”

Ruhn nodded before he could think better of it, and Dr. Manello and Rhage each took the bottom of his muscle shirt and peeled it slowly upward.

Like a young, Ruhn held his arms up for them—before he remembered why his shirt had to stay on.

Both of them gasped and froze.

And immediately, Ruhn wanted to curse. He’d forgotten about the markings on his back.

Damn it.

After Novo was finished feeding and had fallen into the restless sleep of the injured and healing, Peyton stumbled back to the classroom on numb feet, shaky legs, and a vertigo-scrambled inner ear. As he closed himself in, he wondered why the tables and the chairs, the desk and the blackboard, all looked completely unfamiliar, like he’d never been in the room before.

Made no sense. He’d been gone a half an hour, tops, and his short-term memory informed him that everything was exactly as he’d left it.

Then again, he was what had changed.

Turning the lights off and rolling onto the desk, he felt like he was nothing but bones in a loose sack, everything hard-edged and not well connected. Jesus Christ, what had just happened back there? Whatever, sure, on the surface, Novo had taken his vein, and that hadn’t been the first time a female had done that to him. And hello, she was in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines.

The experience, though? The feel of her lips on the skin of his wrist, the subtle pulls, the lick of her tongue when she was finished?

Fuck his drug addiction. Give him a lifetime of that and he was never going to need another line of coke again.

Closing his eyes, he relived every part of it, from when he had scored himself to that first drop that had landed on her lip. Sensations rippled through him, heating his blood, making him even harder.

He fought the arousal.

He lost.

When he had been at her bedside, he had managed to keep things under control, rearranging his cock discreetly and staying tight. Here by himself in the dark? He felt like a fucking man-whore, but he was never going to sleep again unless he took care of things.

With a rough shove, he pushed his palm down the front of his combats and the instant contact was made, an orgasm exploded out of him, memories of Novo from class, sparring, out in the field, flashing through his mind, keeping things going. He even went back to when he’d been inside her, her bare sex accepting his penetrations like she had been made for him and him alone.

Okay, that was not such a great image, given that she’d only lain there.

Staying away from that one, he stuck to the others as he gave himself more access, ripping open his fly with two brutal hands, shoving the waistband down over his ass. With a grunt, he twisted to the side, his torso torquing as he gripped his shaft and worked himself even harder, the desk cool under his hot cheek, his free hand curling around the edge and squeezing so hard, his forearm nearly snapped in half.

And still he kept coming.

When he was finally drained, he closed his eyes and just breathed for a while—until he realized he’d made a goddamn mess all over himself and the front of his pants and the goddamn desk.

Thank God it was the middle of the day. With any luck, he could sneak down to the locker room, grab some towels and a set of scrubs, and get back here without anyone seeing him.

So yup…it was time to get up.

Uh-huh.

Right now.

Instead, he stayed where he was and wondered what would it be like to feed from her and actually remember it…her blood down the back of his throat, her body underneath his as he rolled her over and went for her throat.

He needed to go there. And not because he was shot in the head and in a medical emergency.

Yet even as the conviction went through his mind and started to rewire things with all sorts of purpose-driven, results-oriented, get-naked-soon goals, he knew none of it was ever going to happen. She had made it clear all along that he wasn’t her type—hell, even if she said she wanted to fight with him again, she didn’t even like him. More to the point, their paths were going to stop crossing when he left the program.

Their time was totally coming to an end: she was going to continue to train and do the right thing by the species, and he had his career as a professional club douche to resume.

Busy, busy, on both their parts.

As his phone went off with a call, he ignored it and tried to get motivated for his walk of shame.

It was a good half hour before he made it down the hall and back. And after he had cleaned himself and everything else up, he laid himself flat on the desk again and passed out.

In his fitful rest, he was haunted by a lover with long dark hair, eyes of fire…and a will of steel.

As night fell the following evening, Saxton rolled over and looked at the other side of his bed. There had been a male in those twisted sheets. A body that he had used and which had used his own in return.

At the other end of the penthouse, a door shut quietly.

Saxton sat up and pushed his hair out of his eyes. Recollections of how he had spent the day made him feel hollow, and wasn’t that a hangover he could have done without—and then there was the added fun of a dingy headache that came from too much champagne and not enough sleep.

When he was finally able to focus properly, he looked around at the sleek mirror-fronted bureaus and side tables, the black chairs, the soft gray rug, the pattern of evenly spaced hanging light fixtures that were like stars in the ceiling.

For no good reason, he thought of how he’d misled Blay.

He hadn’t sold his Victorian house across town. Now, did he ever go there? Absolutely not. But the fact that he couldn’t be in it anymore, yet nor could he let it go, had seemed like a weakness best kept to himself: It was a sad reality that he was paying property taxes on a shrine to a love that had gone nowhere.

Well, not exactly nowhere. He had been in pain for quite some time now, and that certainly felt like a destination.

Not a good one, granted.

With a subtle hiss, the automatic shutters on all the glass panels started to rise, revealing the twinkling lights of the city by inches, curtains pulled away by an invisible hand. And it was strange…as he considered once more how he had spent the day, he realized that for once, Blay had not been the reason for his little dalliance. Usually the male was. Yet in fact all those pneumatics had been caused by…

He frowned and rubbed his gritty eyes. But no. Surely he must have imagined that moment, when he and Ruhn had been in that truck, and Ruhn had looked over at him? It could have been anything.

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