“Me too.” She slid her hands down from around his neck and framed his handsome face. “Come over tomorrow. Eat with us. Hang out with us.”

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“You’re sure?”

“Yes. I know Hayden would love to see you.”

“Just Hayden?”

“No.” Ginger pecked his frowning mouth. “I’d love to see you too.”

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“Good to know.”

After they helped each other dress, Kane insisted on walking her out to her car. Just before she pulled away, he knocked on her window.

“Thanks for showin’ me your snow boots.”

She smiled all the way home.

Chapter Twelve

How many times had Kane knocked on Ginger’s front door in the last two years? If he averaged once a week, the number would be over a hundred.

Why was he nervous now?

Because everything had changed last night when Ginger had come to him. Her invitation to spend the day with them hadn’t been issued lightly. Neither had her apology.

And what an apology it’d been. The sounds she’d made. Her utter lack of inhibition. The wet clasp of her pussy around his cock and the greediness of her kisses.

Jesus, McKay, that’s just what you don’t need—to sport a goddamn erection when Ginger opens the door. She already believes you’re some sex-starved beast who ruts on her the instant she’s within grabbing distance.

While Kane wrestled with getting his libido under control, Hayden answered the door with a huge grin. “Buck! What’re you doing here?”

“Thought I’d swing by, see what’s up since you left early yesterday. You busy?”

“Nope.” Hayden grabbed his coat sleeve and dragged him inside. “I’ve got something for ya. It’s in my room.”

“Hang on. Lemme get my boots off so I don’t track snow all over your mama’s floor.”

“I’ll go get it. You stay right here. Don’t move,” he warned and disappeared around the corner.

Kane ditched his gloves, coat and boots. When he glanced up, Ginger was inclined against the wall, smiling at him. Damn if he didn’t grin back at her like a lovesick fool. “Hey.”

“Hey, yourself.” Her gaze encompassed his body with blatant appreciation, ending at his black cowboy hat. “So the boots come off but the hat stays on?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You might want to rethink that.”

Hayden raced back into the foyer, skidding to a stop in his sock-clad feet. He held something behind his back, and wore an enormous grin. “Ready?”

“Yep.”

He whipped out a ball cap. Navy blue with Superstar! emblazoned on it. “I got you a new cap since you said your other one was unlucky. This one looked lucky.”

That little shit. That little, sweet shit. Kane took the ball cap, keeping his face shadowed beneath the brim of his cowboy hat. Not only was it a thoughtful gift, it proved Hayden listened to him. Sometimes with kids, he wasn’t sure how much they tuned out.

“Do you like it?”

“It’s perfect.” He removed his cowboy hat and handed it to Ginger. He adjusted the cap and smiled again. “Fits great. Thanks, Hayden. My cousins better look out. I’ll be winnin’ piles of money from them the next poker night.”

The boy still grinned. “Cool. So you wanna play my new Xbox game?”

He looked at Ginger. “Is it okay if I hang out for a while?”

“Sure. Would you like to stay for supper?”

“It depends.”

“On?”

“On whether you’re makin’ liver and onions.” He winked at Hayden. “If that’s the case, I’ll pass.”

“I’m making beef and noodles.”

“It’s my favorite,” Hayden inserted. “It’s really good.”

“Then I’d be happy to stay.” His gaze strayed to the living room. “Where’s Dash?”

“Taking a nap. Why?” Ginger asked.

“I’m thinkin’ I’ll challenge him to a game of poker later. See if my new lucky hat can break my losin’

streak with him.”

Any awkwardness vanished as the afternoon flew by. Hayden beat him three games out of four on the Xbox. He won seven out of ten hands of poker with Dash, but Kane suspected Dash let him win, so Hayden could see the ball cap was indeed lucky.

The beef and noodles were delicious. It surprised him that Ginger was such a great cook. The few professional women he’d dated couldn’t cook worth shit. Then again, having a child with food allergies changed everything.

Dash seemed strangely subdued and retired to his room shortly after they’d eaten. Ginger disappeared for a few minutes as she helped Dash settle in. Kane remembered Dash’s embarrassment the nights he’d stayed here and helped Dash into bed. It’d been no big deal for Kane, holding the wheelchair steady as Dash pulled himself onto his mattress.

It’d taken a lot out of Dash, so the next night, Kane had just picked the man up without asking.

Luckily Dash hadn’t rolled out of bed on his watch, but Kane suspected if they installed folding hospital rails, Dash wouldn’t fall out of bed at all. Since Kane wasn’t family, he didn’t feel comfortable bringing it up with either Ginger or her father.

Hayden yawned and asked his mother if Kane could tuck him in. Kane sat on the edge of the bottom bunk. “So your mama don’t read you stories before she tucks you in?”

“Not anymore. Sometimes I let still let her.” His eyes looked so much bigger without his eyeglasses.

“Did your mom read to you?”

“If she had time or if me’n Kade weren’t in trouble. Truth is, my dad liked to read us.”

“He did? What did he read?”

“Adventure stories he’d saved from the magazines he’d had growing up.”

A somber expression settled on Hayden’s face.

In that instant he looked exactly like Ginger. “Something wrong?”

“What’s it like to have a dad?”

He’d taken classes through the Big Buddies program on how to address this question, but faced with it now, he couldn’t remember a damn thing on how he was supposed to answer. “Well, since I’ve always had one, I guess I’ve never really thought about it.”

Hayden’s small fingers pleated the dark green comforter. “You look like your dad.”

Jesus. Kane knew what was coming before Hayden opened his mouth.

“Do you think I look like my dad? Because I don’t look like my mom.”

“Says who? I was just thinkin’ that you look exactly like her. Especially when you’re thinkin’ hard.

You both get this little crease between your eyebrows. And you definitely have your mama’s eyes.”

Nervous, Kane tugged the sheet into a straight line. “Lookin’ like someone else…well, that ain’t really a picnic, to be honest. I look exactly like my brother. But neither of us looks anything like our mama.”

“She is kind of…little.”

“That’s one thing me’n Kade aren’t, is little. Genetics are a weird thing. If I mate a Hereford cow, the ones with the reddish-orange bodies and the white faces? With a Black Angus bull, the calf will have a white face and a black body. It don’t look nothin’ like its mama or its daddy. But it don’t matter none to the mama cows because it’s their job to protect and care for their babies, no matter if they look like them or not. Kinda reminds me of your mom.”

Relief replaced Hayden’s somberness. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Kane brushed the hair out of Hayden’s eyes. “Now, get to sleep. If you ever need to talk about anything, you can call me. You know that, right?”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. I’ll see you sometime this week, okay?”

“You won’t be here in the morning?”

I wish. “Nope. I’m headed home shortly.”

“Night, Buck.”

“Night, sport.”

After Kane left Hayden’s room, he slumped against the wall in the hallway. Had what he’d said made a lick of sense to the boy? Should he tell Ginger her son had asked about his father? Or would mentioning it violate Hayden’s trust? As he listened to Ginger doing dishes in the kitchen, he wondered why Hayden had brought it up tonight.

Maybe it came about because you’re in his house, hanging out with him, his mother and his grandfather. Wouldn’t that make him wonder what it’d be like to have that life all the time?

Probably. Because as Kane sat at the dining room table tonight, he let himself imagine, just for few minutes, this was his life. A beautiful, smart, sensual wife. A great kid. An old timer to keep things in perspective. The only thing missing in the picket-fence scene was a dog.

Was it ironic the dog was the only thing Kane had in his life right now?

“Kane? Is everything all right?”

Ginger had poked her head around the corner.

“Yeah. Great. I should probably be goin’.”

“Now that we’re finally alone…you’re bailing on me? I thought we could make out on the couch for a little bit.”

“Good plan.” He towed her into the living room, tugged her onto his lap and smothered her squeak of protest with a kiss.

She melted into him, running her hands up and down his arms. “God. I want to touch you everywhere.”

He dragged his wet lips across the smooth expanse of her throat. “I want that too, Red, but I think we oughta talk.”

Ginger lowered her head, her eyes connecting with his. “You’re serious.”

“Yeah.” Kane threaded their fingers together and kissed her knuckles. “I want to keep seein’ you. I realize you’re in a tricky situation with Hayden and your dad.”

Those expressive hazel eyes tapered to fine points. “Are you suggesting we sneak around?”

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