It took a couple tries before he could speak.  “Well?”

“Well, I was right.  You have an energy wound.”  She lowered the undershirt again and rocked back on her heels.  “I think you can rule out a hospital.  Conventional medicine won’t do shit for this kind of thing.”

Darius grimaced.  “Great.  What’s my other option?”

“Me.”  Georgia got to her feet.  “I’m familiar with esoteric healing, and I have experience using vibrational medicine.  Right now, I’m your best bet.”  Her voice dropped, softened a fraction.  “Let me fix you up, D.”

Darius started to protest, then stopped.  Under normal circumstances he would have refused, but then, these were hardly normal circumstances.  Besides, the pain was beginning to chafe at his sanity.

He clenched his teeth.  “Hurry.”

Georgia nodded, and retreated to what at first glance appeared to be a roll-top desk shoved into the corner.  She dragged the cover back.  Underneath was a small, neatly arranged altar.  She sifted through the desk’s drawers, finally turned back around with an armful of supplies.

He could only imagine the look on his face, because she rolled her eyes.  “Calm down.  I told you, I’ve done this before.  It’s not like I’m going to turn you into a newt by mistake.”

Darius snorted, winced.  Georgia’s expression grew serious.  She crossed back to the couch, knelt down again and set the supplies on the floor.  Darius peered down curiously.  Blue candle that had clearly been used before, Bic lighter, small bottle of what looked like oil, and a massive leather-bound book.  It looked well-worn, though not particularly old.

Georgia noticed him looking at it.  “My Book of Shadows.  It’s where I write down all my spells.”  She paused.  “Every witch writes their own.”

This time, Darius didn’t try to nod.  “I know what a grimoire is.”

“Of course you do,” she muttered.  She picked up the book and started flipping through the pages.  Darius waited as patiently as he could.  Finally, satisfaction filled her face.  “Here we go.”  She set the book down and placed the candle over the open page.  Then she turned back to him.  “I’ll need, ah, access to the wound.”

Darius blinked.  “Access to the…”

“Your shirt, super sleuth.”  Her tongue skimmed over her lips.  “You need to take off your shirt.”

In spite of everything, Darius’ pulse ratcheted up another notch.  He kept his face neutral.  “You’ll have to help me.”

“Yeah.”  The word sounded clipped.  Georgia clambered to her feet.  “Can you stand?  It would be easier to…”

Darius struggled to get up.  Georgia hooked one hand under his arm, set the other at his waist.  He straightened with her help, and released a painful breath.  “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet.”

He braced himself for another wave of agony, but her fingers were nimble and quick.  In short order, she had removed his jacket and cufflinks, and peeled his dress shirt the rest of the way off.  Her touch was feather-light, barely there…and he felt it in every nerve in his body.

Soon, all that remained was his undershirt.  Georgia’s eyes briefly flitted over the tattooed words that ran down both his arms, then she slipped her fingertips under the hem again, slid her hands around until her arms encircled his waist.  There, she stopped.

Darius wasn’t sure he was still breathing.  Her aura pulsed around them both, a brilliant shade of red.  He forced himself to remain still.  “What’s wrong?”

Georgia shook her head.  “This isn’t going to feel good.”

Darius locked his jaw.  “Just do it.”

Her jaw visibly tightened too, then she drew the undershirt over his head.  She had to stand on her tip-toes to lift it entirely clear.  The energy wound flared in response.  Pain shot down every sensory pathway he possessed.  Darius wheezed.  He would have screamed if could have gathered the air to do it.  The only thing keeping him grounded was the feel of Georgia’s warm, firm body pressed to his.

After what felt like a small infinity, she stepped back again.  Darius willed his legs to hold, finally managed a shaky breath.  When he opened his eyes again, Georgia wasn’t looking at him anymore.  She had retrieved the Book of Shadows from the floor.  Her full attention was focused on the open page.

She didn’t look up when she spoke again.  “Do you want to sit down, or would you rather do this standing?”

Darius swallowed, once, twice.  The thought of moving again, even if it was to sit, made the pain sensors in his side burn in anticipation.  “I’ll stand.”

Georgia nodded.  “All right, then.”  She laid the open book down on the couch.  Then she crouched over the rest of her supplies.  She opened the little bottle and dripped three fat drops of fragrant oil onto the blue candle.

Darius’ nose twitched at the familiar scent.  “Myrrh?”

“Don’t we know our holy oils.”  Georgia replaced the lid on the bottle, gathered the candle and the lighter and returned to her feet.  She made a show of looking down at the book.  “Now, hush.  Let me do this.”

Darius barely managed to swallow his snort.

Georgia drew tall, her expression intense.  She raised the candle.  “Blue candle: color of water, color of sky, color of the Holy Fire.”  She struck the lighter, and touched the resulting spark to the candle wick.  “By the divine power of the Lady, I charge and consecrate you to the task of healing.”

Darius stared at the small dancing flame.  Georgia’s words faded until only the hum of her voice remained.  It was deep, full, strangely husky.  He could feel the echoes of it deep in his gut, further down.

Something pinged in his side.  Darius sucked in a breath.  The pain seemed to be rising; closer and closer to the surface.  A burning ache blossomed over his skin.  It felt nothing like it had before.

Even so, it hurt like a bitch.

Darius focused on Georgia—or rather, on her aura.  It was incredible to behold, a kaleidoscopic rainbow of color.  Tiny currents of what looked like pure electricity arced through it.  Her magic.  The brilliant red was still there, in a thin, humming layer around her body.  Darius sucked a quiet breath through his nose.

Georgia was too deep in concentration to notice.  “Magic heal, fire burn.  Sickness flee, and strength return.”

She reached out and flattened her hand against his side, directly over the wound.  The contact was electric, a bolt of lightning that surged through his deepest layers of flesh.  Georgia kept her hand in place and continued chanting.

Her touch was warm, strong.  The initial shock faded.  Gradually, something else took its place, something he was entirely unprepared for.  A groan rose in his throat.  He caught it, but not soon enough.  The tiniest sound slipped out.

Georgia blushed.

Actually blushed.

Darius could only stare while she rushed through the rest of the spell.  He barely heard her, his full attention tuned to her face.  Her sharp, wild, adorably pink face.  Georgia Clare—biker, black witch, all-around badass—was blushing.

“Sickness flee, and strength return.  So mote it be.”  Georgia blew out the candle and abruptly set it down on the couch.  Hot blue wax spilled onto the cushion.  She seemed unusually winded as she clapped shut her grimoire.  Her fingers danced—no, trembled—over the cover.  Darius tightened his jaw.

Georgia took a deep breath and straightened.  “Okay.  How does it feel?”

“Fine.  Thanks.”  His side still tingled where she’d touched him.  Darius rubbed the spot absently.  “We need to have words, you and I.”

She didn’t meet his eyes.  “Do we?”

Frustration bubbled to the surface, mixed with something he didn’t want to examine too closely.  “Hell yes, we do.  Back there in the street.  I told you to run.  You didn’t.  What the fuck were you thinking?”

Color rose in her cheeks.  Still, she didn’t look at him.  “Gosh, I don’t know.  Maybe that it would be pretty shitty to just run off and leave you to your death.  Silly me.”

Darius’ head swam.  He leaned down before he could think better of it.  “You could have been killed.  You realize that, right?”  He could practically feel his ribs rattling, like his heart was trying to beat its way out of his chest.

Georgia squared her shoulders.  Her face was maddeningly calm.  “What’s your point?”

“What’s my…”  Darius gaped.  “Are you serious?”

She finally looked at him.  “Honestly, I don’t see what you’re so upset about.  We’re here, aren’t we?”

Darius seethed.  “That’s not the point.”

“Then what is the—”

“YOU COULD HAVE DIED.”  The words exploded out of him.  In the apartment next door, a dog started to bark.

Georgia’s mouth clapped shut.  The color drained from her face.

Darius forced his voice back down.  “You heard me.  You could have died, Georgia.”  Just saying it out loud turned his stomach sour.  “Jesus Christ, woman, did that even cross your—”

Georgia stretched up on her tip-toes, and pressed her lips to his.

It was more experiment than kiss.  She broke contact almost immediately.  Darius forgot to take his next breath.  Damn, she tasted sweet.  He took in the rapid rise-fall of her breathing, the glazed heat in her eyes.  He had the taste of her on his tongue, a flavor he didn’t quite know how to name.  He needed more.

His vision tunneled.  He leaned forward and kissed her back.

† † †

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