“I’m sorry, Nicko,” Kelly set the package aside and took Nick’s face in both hands again, leaning closer.
Nick frowned. “For what?”
“I didn’t realize it, but the past couple weeks, I haven’t been treating you as . . .”
Nick licked his lips, unable to fight the nervous gesture and unable to avert his eyes since Kelly had his face trapped.
“As my boyfriend,” Kelly finished with a wince. He sat back, slumping in Nick’s lap and moving his hands down Nick’s chest and under his shirt. His fingers grazed though the fine hair on Nick’s chest. Nick shivered—from the touch and the sentiment.
He forced himself to ask the question he already knew the answer to. “What have you been seeing if not that?”
“My teammate. My friend.” Kelly winced. “My patient.”
Nick gave a curt nod and lowered his head, the wound in his side throbbing for some reason. He couldn’t help the blush that he felt creeping across his face, either. It burned hot as he thought of the past month of his recovery and how damn weak and helpless he’d been. Of course Kelly was seeing him as a patient and not his boyfriend; it wasn’t exactly easy to woo someone when they had to help you up and down the stairs to go to bed or take a shower or any number of other things that had just been too hard for Nick to accomplish on his own.
It was especially hard to woo someone when you hadn’t been capable of having sex in weeks. If it wasn’t Nick’s physical condition getting in the way, it was his mental condition, and if it wasn’t one or both of those, it was all the medication flowing through him that made him so fucking tired. Nick closed his eyes, fighting the embarrassment and pain when he thought of how Kelly must see him now.
Kelly placed the tip of his finger under Nick’s chin and forced Nick to look up again. “Don’t be ashamed, babe,” he said, his words just as warm as his touch. “Most men would have died after what happened to you. Wouldn’t have even held out long enough to get in an ambulance. But you didn’t give up. You kept fighting even when your body had nothing left to fight with. Don’t you ever be ashamed of still being alive. Or for needing help while you get better.”
Nick found it difficult to swallow past the lump forming in his throat. He managed it as Kelly held his gaze, smiling softly. Kelly took his face in both hands again, then curled to press his lips to Nick’s.
“This is the last time I’ll check your pulse without a compelling reason,” Kelly murmured against Nick’s lips. “Starting today, you’re not my patient anymore. No more doctor’s orders, I promise.”
He leaned back, resting more of his weight on Nick’s thighs. He licked his lips slowly, and a familiar light entered his eyes, as if he was plotting. Nick knew that look. He both loved and dreaded that look.
“What?” Nick asked.
“Nicholas,” Kelly said with a sigh. “Will you go to dinner with me?”
“A date. We’ve never actually been on a real date. Will you go on a date with me?”
Nick blinked rapidly, his mouth falling open.
“We’ll get dressed up, go to a fancy restaurant. Your favorite restaurant. I’ll wine and dine you. And you can turn on that famous O’Flaherty charm to try to get me in bed.”
Nick’s fingers tightened on Kelly’s waist. “Try?”
Kelly shrugged, quirking an eyebrow in silent challenge.
“We could just . . . go to bed now.”
Kelly shook his head, pursing his lips disapprovingly. “Huh uh. I need some romance. You’re good at romance, and I want some.”
He trailed his fingers down Nick’s neck, tracing out along his collarbones. Kelly followed the progress of his fingers with his eyes, biting his lip when he got out to Nick’s shoulder and slid his hand over Nick’s biceps. He shook his head slightly, as if he might not be aware he was doing it, as he dug his fingers into Nick’s muscle. Nick may have been recovering, and he may have been miserable and weak and in pain, but his upper arms had been taking the brunt of the duty and they were in impressive shape.
“Kels?” Nick didn’t dare speak above a whisper and break whatever spell had been cast.
Kelly tore his attention away from where he was tracing Nick’s arm, and met Nick’s eyes. “I’d like to see you as my boyfriend again,” Kelly admitted, a rare hint of color rising to his cheeks. “Instead of a teammate or a patient.”
Nick fought for a shaky breath, only letting it out when Kelly leaned closer. He straightened and caught Kelly’s lips with his own, managing the briefest tease of a kiss before Kelly pulled away.
He put a finger on Nick’s lips and dismounted, looming over Nick with a smirk. “I never put out before the first date. Now, go get pretty for our dinner,” he said as he walked away. “And pack a bag!”
Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott had their happy ending in sight when a friend’s call for help almost ended with them losing it to the blade of a knife. Now, in the aftermath of near-disaster, both men are trying to heal and move on.
Moving on together, though, is harder than either of them realized it would be. Kelly struggles with simply being a lover instead of the Doc, while Nick is mired in his recovery. The distance between them inches along in stilted silence.
Desperately seeking solace, Nick finally gathers the courage to sort through the possessions his dear friend and fellow Sidewinder teammate Elias Sanchez left him when he died. Instead of comforting memories, Nick and Kelly find a stack of letters and strict instructions from Eli that prompt them to send out a call for assistance. With Eli’s letters in hand, Sidewinder sets out on one last mission together, seeking peace and absolution from beyond the grave—and from each other.
Reading Order & Buy Links
To celebrate the release of Part & Parcel, we are selecting TWO giveaway winners! One will receive the last four Cut & Run books in audio, and the other will receive the full Sidewinder series in audio. Your first comment at each stop on this tour enters you in the drawing. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 26, 2015. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. Entries. Follow the tour for more opportunities to enter the giveaway, and don’t forget to leave your email or method of contact so Riptide can reach you if you win!