Bent is broken in body, mind, and spirit. Complications of an injury plague Angel Fire’s legendary bassist. He’ll never play again. Never take the stage with his bandmates. Never soak in the intoxication of the crowd. Music has abandoned him.
At least that’s what he’s told his overly persistent physical therapist, Piper. The woman is petite and vivacious, a pixie with red hair and a spitfire attitude. She doesn’t know when to give up, or when to shove her perpetual positivity into the deepest, darkest hole.
He’s fired her more times than he can count. She should leave him to his misery, but the woman won’t take no for an answer. She challenges him. Pushes him. She never lets up. The fiery pixie is turning his entire world upside down, and that’s pissing him off.
Bent desperately needs Piper to leave him alone—especially since the infuriating woman is now invading his dreams and stirring up his darkest fantasies. But how does someone get rid of a perky pixie?
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Bent shuffled to the spacious bathroom. When Piper didn’t follow, he breathed a sigh of relief. The woman was insufferable on the best of days and flat out impossible the rest of the time. She would be much easier to deal with if she weren’t so damn bossy.
Maybe that’s why Forest had hired the tenacious physical therapist? Forest knew what Bent would’ve done to a man: knocked the ass out and tossed him out the door. Forest must be paying her well. That had to be why Piper kept coming back. It certainly wasn’t because Bent treated her well. Her motivation for putting up with his abuse had nothing to do with any interest in him. It had everything to do with her relationship with Forest. That and the hefty paycheck the Angel Fire band manager had to be paying her.
“Are you in the shower yet?” Her airy voice made him cringe.
Goddammit, was she planning on coming inside? It wouldn’t be the first time. Damn ADLs and her insistence she help.
“Give me one damn minute. I gotta piss.”
He didn’t need to relieve himself, but he did need more time to yank off his shirt. Yank! Now that was funny. With his crippled arm, there was no yanking; not of his shirt and not of his aching dick. There would be no relief any time soon. Not with Piper around.
Against orders, he used his good arm to pull the shirt over his head. It shouldn’t be this hard.
“Bent! That is not what we talked about.”
He had the shirt halfway over his head and lowered the fabric to peer at Piper standing in the doorway. She had one hip cocked forward and a disapproving expression filled her face.
“What part of me needing to take a leak did you not understand?”
Her eyes cut to the toilet and then back to him. “What part of use your right arm did you not understand?”
He grimaced at the arm hanging limply at his side. “Let’s not do this today, Piper.”
“We’re going to do this every day until we have your arm fully rehabilitated.”
“Like that’s ever going to happen.” He kept his words low, uttered under his breath, but she heard him.
“Your pissy attitude doesn’t faze me.”
“I don’t care what phases, or doesn’t faze you.” He let the words peal out with a low thunder, barely keeping his anger in check.
“And growly bears have no effect on me.”
She approached him and took his hand in hers; not the strong, powerful one, but the weak useless one. Straightening out his fingers, she massaged the tired muscles.
“Did you do your exercises over the weekend?”
He had a list of daily exercises to perform, before and after her therapy sessions. The weekend list had an additional session to make up for Piper’s absence. He often wondered what his little torturer did when she wasn’t making his life hell.
What did Piper Raines do on her time off?
Why the fuck did he care?
But he thought about her more than he should. Even now, he wanted to brush back her bangs. They hung low over her eyes, hiding the pristine blue orbs he could get lost in for days. The rest of her hair was cut short. Red spikes angled every direction. A perfect mess. A wonderfully sexy combination of spitfire and spunk resided in Piper Raines.
Her touch sent tingles of electricity up his arm. She held his hand with the confidence of a woman who knew her business. There was nothing sexual in her touch or in his reaction to it, because Piper had no interest in him.
But she had amazing hands. Her massage brought relief to the tired muscles of his hand. Eased the strain in his wrist and worked to loosen the scar tissue where metal pins had once held his bones in place.
He closed his eyes as her slow massage worked up his arm. Her deft fingers dug into the wasted muscles of his forearms. Her journey paused below his elbow, where she traced the scars there as well. She worked at the puckered flesh, kneading the scar tissue. And that was where her touch ended. He’d shattered the bones of his forearm. Beneath the pale skin, more metal than bone held his arm together.
“Now,” she said, dropping his arm. “Try that again. Only this time, don’t use your good arm.” She took a step back and tucked her chin. Her gaze cut up and latched on to him with a stern expression that said she expected him to comply.
He held back the laughter bubbling in his chest. At five-foot-four, she was more than a foot shorter than him. A pixie indeed, but damn was she fierce.
Without bothering to argue, he did exactly as she commanded.
Their relationship intrigued him, because she was the only woman he took orders from. Well, truthfully, Skye had kicked his ass a couple times after his operation when depression had him in the fiercest grip. A doctor herself, Skye understood enough of what was going on with his operations to explain what his Ortho docs could not, using language he understood. And of course there was Ryker’s girl, Tia. Another woman who refused to back down from his harshest stares.
Whatever happened to women who listened? Who obeyed?
Yet another reason absolutely zero energy sparked between him and Piper. He preferred submissive women. Submissive in and out of bed. Not that he’d ever dated a woman who was submissive out of bed. Hell, he hadn’t dated a woman since the band hit it big. That was well over a decade ago. Why bother with the daily drag when a smorgasbord of willing female flesh waited for him every night?
“You gonna just stand there and stare at me, big guy? Or do you think you might actually take off that shirt? I don’t have all day.”
“Good,” he snapped. “That means you’ll be leaving soon.”
“Soon is all dependent on you. I’m not going to start your therapy until you no longer reek of booze and…” She sniffed the air. “Do I even want to know what else you reek of?”
It wasn’t sex. He’d struck out last night.
“I am fully capable of taking a shower by myself.”
“Then prove it. Take off your shirt with your right hand.”
“You just want to watch me strip.”
Her arms crossed and she glared at him. “Trust me, watching you strip is the least entertaining thing.” She untucked her arms and rolled her wrist. “You know, I do have a life. The sooner you clean up, the sooner we can start and finish. You don’t want me here anymore than I want to listen to you whine.”
“I don’t whine.”
“Of course not. Big old Bent the Bassist never whines when the going gets tough. Now shut up. Strip down. And for the love of God, get in the damn shower. I’ve got something I want you to try.”
“In the shower?”
He winked, but it was wasted effort. She’d already spun around and marched back into his room. Not wanting her to chastise him again, he determined to pull off his shirt using his wasted arm. The weakness in his grip made tugging on the hem difficult, but he managed to remove the shirt by the time she returned.
“What the fuck is that?” He glanced at the long white sleeve of fabric in her hand.
“Something I think will help.” She sidestepped around him and headed to the shower. “Take off the pants. Only use your right arm.”
“I’m paid to boss you around.”
And evidently to watch him strip.
He would complain, but in the past four months, Skye, Tia, and Piper had all seen him naked.
When his arm had had pins and had been in a cast, his showers had turned from private affairs to a complicated event with the women. None of his bandmates showed any interest in helping with his ADLs, like showering. It had been Skye and Tia who’d stepped up to the plate.
He’d voiced objections, which they had both laughed off, saying they’d seen more naked male flesh than he’d seen naked women. He would’ve argued, but with Skye being an emergency room doc, and Tia’s years as an Air Force CRNA, that would’ve been an argument he would have lost. His physique didn’t impress them.
Somewhere along the way, Piper had been drawn into his bathing routine, sharing the task with Skye and Tia. It should be a badge of honor to have not one, not two, but three women helping him shower, but it only made him feel even worse.
He stripped out of his pants and glanced down at his limp cock. Even it had lost interest.
Piper returned, holding her contraption in her hands. She gave fleeting notice to his naked body and instead came to stand in front of him.
“This,” she said, demonstrating, “is how you’re going to wash yourself.”
Well, thank fuck for that.
Piper showed him the soap she’d placed inside what looked to be an elongated sock. It wasn’t, because one end of the tube had a zipper attached to it. Several loops dangled from that end.
“Now, you slip your thumb and fingers into the loops. It’ll keep it from slipping out of your grip. Hold the other end with your good hand, but I want you to pull and tug with your right arm. All you do is drag it across your body. The tube allows you to get everywhere. And it will help strengthen your grip.” For the first time, her cheeks pinked with the beginnings of a blush, but the moment was brief and Piper went back to business.
She showed him what she intended, then had him try it out of the shower. When it looked like he had a handle of it, she gave a satisfied nod.
“Okay, Growly, give it a go.”
He paused, certain she was going to stay to watch, in case he needed help, but she didn’t. Turning on her heels again, she left him to shower in peace. It should feel wonderful being able to take a shower on his own. One ADL down, but why did that fill him with disappointment?
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