He gave Hayden a conspiratorial wink. “See? My mama still makes me apologize too.”


“Wow. What did you do?”

“Forgot to tell her I’m helpin’ out over here.”

“Oh.” Hayden tucked into his cereal, hiding behind the box.

“What time do we have to leave for the basketball game?” Dash asked Kane.

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“’Bout two hours.”

“I’ll be ready. I have a few things to finish up in my room.” Dash left the table and his door closed behind him.

“As soon as you’re done with breakfast, you need to hop in the shower, Hayden.”

“Aw, Mom. I’m probably just gonna get sweaty at the game. I’ll shower when I get home.”

“No dice.”

“Why do you make me shower every day? It’s a waste of water,” Hayden grumbled. He shoved the cereal box aside and challenged Kane. “Do you shower once a day?”


A triumphant expression crossed Hayden’s face. “See?”

Kane mock-whispered, “Sometimes I shower twice a day.”

“No fair.” Hayden picked up his bowl and drank the last of the soymilk as he walked to the sink.

Before he made it to his room, Ginger yelled, “A shower means getting your hair wet and scrubbing it with shampoo.”

“Aw man” echoed back to her and she and Kane smiled at each other.

“You busted him on a technicality, Mom, nice goin’.”

“Were you determined to do your part to save the environment when you were a boy by not showering? Because this is a foreign concept to me.”

“Once Kade and I had a contest to see who could go the longest.” He grinned. “We tied at three weeks until Ma couldn’t stand the smell of us and hosed us both down in the front yard.”

“I knew an iron-fisted disciplinarian lurked beneath Kimi’s sweeter-than-honey demeanor.”

“She puts the ‘mean’ in demeanor. She’s small, but she’s mighty.”

Then playful Kane vanished and he stared at her with the inscrutable gaze that caused her nerve endings to twitch.

“What are you thinking about?”

He practically growled, “How badly I want to throw you over my shoulder and drag you to bed.”

The rush of lust unfurled her flirty side. “What would you do with me, once you had me where you wanted me?”

“Fuck you. After I fucked you on the bed, I’d fuck you against the wall. Then I’d bend you over the chair and fuck you from behind as we’re watching ourselves in your mirror. Then I’d fuck you in the shower.”

Ginger’s heart galloped. For a man of few words, he used them well. She could almost feel the soft mattress against her spine and his muscular body covering hers from chest to feet. She could almost feel the hot, hard thickness of his cock filling her as he braced his hands by her head. He’d look into her eyes, alternating his sexy penetrating stare with bone-melting kisses. Wordlessly urging her to new sexual heights as he rammed his flesh into hers, until they both exploded with satisfaction.

“Ah sugar, you’re playin’ with fire, eyeballin’ me like that.”

“Same goes,” she shot back.

“It’s gonna be a long goddamn day,” he muttered and exited the kitchen.

Kane’s mother, being the snoopy sort, showed up just as they were getting ready to leave. “Ma.

What’re you doin’ here?”

Kimi McKay had to stand on tiptoe to kiss her son’s cheek. “Just being neighborly. I brought over a casserole and a few of the cookies Eliza and I made.”

Hayden peeked in the bag. “Cool. Sprinkles.”

“You like sprinkles?” Kimi asked.

He nodded.

“Maybe sometime your mama will let you come over and bake cookies with me. Been years since I had a little boy in my kitchen helpin’ me out.”

“That’d be fun. Me’n Buck had a cooking class with Domini.”

“I heard. What did you learn?”

Hayden scowled. “That I can still taste broccoli even if it’s hidden in food.”

Kimi laughed. “No broccoli in the casserole, I promise. Now you guys better get goin’. I’ll stick around. Keep Ginger company. You know, in case she needs something.”

Kane froze. Dammit. How could he force his mother to leave without it seeming like he was trying to get rid of her?

He couldn’t. Kimi West McKay knew that. She’d counted on Kane being polite in mixed company because that’s how she’d raised him.

A well-played move by the blonde tornado.

His mother lovingly patted his arm—and then heaved him out the door. “Have fun, boys!”

Dash wore a funny smirk as he rolled down the wheelchair ramp. “I see Kimi still rules the roost.”

“Yep. Always has. I suspect she always will.”

“Makes sense.”

He bristled. “What makes sense?”

“Why you aren’t put off by strong women.”

That comment came completely out of left field. And it made him bristle even more. Like Dash thought that he didn’t have the smarts to know when to stand up for himself?

Hayden said, “I know what we need to do first.”

Kane was grateful for a chance to focus on something besides what Ginger’s dad thought of him—which apparently wasn’t much.

After the van door opened and the mechanical platform was on the ground, Dash could roll himself onto it. Then Kane just hit a switch to load man and chair inside the van. Impressive, how slick the whole set up worked. Must’ve cost a pretty penny, but it was worth it since it kept Dash from being totally housebound.

At the community center, they unloaded in the handicapped zone. Kane hadn’t realized how tight the fit was between parking places for a mechanized wheelchair platform. Despite Dash’s insistence he could maneuver himself into the gymnasium, Kane wheeled Dash inside, Hayden loping alongside them. When people called out to Dash, Kane wondered if Dash’s insistence about handling himself was a smokescreen: maybe Dash was embarrassed to be seen with him.

“Hey, look! There’s the signup sheet for the halftime race,” Hayden said.

“Let’s get you on the list.” Kane spoke to Dash. “You wanna wait here until we’re done so we can find seats?”

“I have to stay in the handicapped section on the main floor. You two go on, I’ll be fine on my own.”

“But Grandpa, I wanna sit with you.”

Dash looked at Kane briefly, then back at his grandson. “We can sit in the same vicinity, but the handicapped section is small. If you sit by me, that means someone in a wheelchair won’t have a seat.”

Dash set his twisted hand on Hayden’s shoulder. “Go sign up. Hayden raced to the table. Dash glanced at someone behind Kane and muttered, “Crap.”

“Why, Dash Paulson. Long time no see.”

Kane recognized his cousin Keely’s voice and turned around.

She squealed, “Kane! I hoped you’d be here.” She hugged him effusively and punched him in the stomach.

“Hey, what was that for?”

“For not inviting me to the last McKay poker game. You macho guys were just pissed because I handed you your collective asses last time.”

“I seem to recall you bein’ out of town.” His eyes narrowed on his only female McKay cousin. Circles darkened the pale skin beneath her tired eyes. Her sunny smile seemed a tad forced. “Whatcha been doin’?”

“Workin’, workin’, and more workin’.” She sighed. “I was coming to this basketball game to support my lamebrain brother Colt, but he backed out at the last minute.”

Kane said, “That’s too bad,” without any disappointment.

Keely ignored his sarcastic reply and invaded Dash’s personal space. “So Mr. Paulson…happy as I am to see you out and about, you wanna tell me why you’ve been ditching our physical therapy sessions?”

Dash scowled at Keely. “They’re pointless. I’m never getting out of this chair.”

“Probably not. But you don’t want to lose what strength and agility you have now, do you?”


“Does Ginger know you’re skipping class?”

Another grimace. “No. I also know you can’t tell her because of patient confidentiality, so you’d best be keeping this to yourself, missy.”

“Mr. Paulson, we both know there are ways around those pesky rules. So if you don’t show…”

“I’ll show,” he grumbled.

“Excellent.” Keely rubbed her hands together with utter glee. “Fair warning. Wednesday is gonna suck. I’m putting you through the wringer. See you then.” She gave him a finger wave and a haughty grin before she whirled on her boot heel and vanished into the crowd.

Dash pointed at Kane. “Not a word to my daughter about this business.”

“You have my word. But I agree with Keely. And I’ve seen firsthand how much her therapy has benefited my cousin Cam. Think about that.”

Kane wandered off in search of Hayden. They found two seats in the lower bleacher section. Kane kept Hayden’s junk food intake to a grape snow cone and a box of red licorice. With the kid’s food allergies, he was careful to stick to the tried and true. The guilt would eat him alive if Hayden got sick on his watch.

At halftime, Kane headed down to the main floor and crouched beside Dash as Hayden participated in the footrace.

Hayden finished third. Kane snapped a couple of pictures of the ceremony and the green ribbon with his cell phone and sent it to Ginger.

Near the end of the third quarter, he saw the back of Dash’s wheelchair as he exited the gym. He and Hayden followed.

Dash was parked outside the restroom, wearing a scowl.

“Is everything all right?”

Two spots of color dotted the man’s sallow cheeks. “I need to use the facilities but this handicapped bathroom isn’t conducive to my needs.”

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