She blushed and looked away.

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Interesting.

“I’ll cook something when I get there. No pizza. ’Cause I know you’ve got a milk allergy, that’s why.

See you soon.” Kane snapped the phone shut and wandered to Ginger’s bedside.

“Thank you. I’m sorry if I seemed ungrateful, I’m very grateful, it’s just…I’m not used to needing help, let alone asking anyone for it.”

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“I know.”

“And you’re being so sweet and thoughtful, volunteering to take care of my son, my dad and me.”

Really interesting that she put herself last.

“I can’t help but worry that you’re getting roped into something you didn’t want and you’re too much of a gentleman to say no.” Tears seeped from the corners of her eyes.

Dammit. What was he supposed to do when she cried? Kane had little experience with women’s tears, except the manipulative variety. And these were borne of pain and frustration.

He grabbed a Kleenex. “Come on, sugar, you’re breakin’ my heart here.” He gently blotted her tear-dampened face. “You in a lot of pain?”

“Yes. It’s like my whole body is throbbing. Not a good kind of throbbing.”

He laughed softly. “I do believe the drugs are finally kickin’ in.”

“Maybe.” Ginger blinked at him. It didn’t help; her eyes had taken on a dreamy, unfocused look. “Can I ask you something?”

“I suspect you will ask me regardless if I say no.”

“Why did you kiss me that night?”

Kane’s heart skipped a beat. His gaze dropped to her lips. God, he still fantasized about that lush mouth. How aggressive he’d been with the kiss, how eagerly she’d welcomed it. How his wanting of her overrode his common sense, but he had zero regrets. Even now. Months later.

“Kane?”

He met her eyes again. “Why you askin’ me this now?”

“Because we’ve never talked about it. We both pretended it never happened. Or was that kiss so easy for you to forget, McKay?”

He angled close enough that her breath teased his lips. “Not. Even. Fucking. Close. You have no idea how much I still…” Crave you. Fantasize about you. Wish I would’ve taken what we both wanted.

However, Kane said none of that. He backed off just like he had that night. “Never mind. This definitely ain’t the time or the place to talk about this.”

“No. Tell me. Please.”

“I kissed you because you needed to be kissed.”

Her lips formed a half pout. “That’s all?”

Goddammit she was beautiful, even in pain, and Kane couldn’t resist touching her. “No, that ain’t all.

But that’s all I’m gonna admit to when you’re drugged up and hurtin’.”

Her lashes fluttered coquettishly. “See? Just like I thought.”

“What did you think?” Did you imagine I came this close to fucking you up against that wall until you screamed loud enough to wake your kid and your dad?

Unlikely.

Ginger gifted him with a dreamy smile. “I think that you are a gentleman.”

“You have no idea how badly I want to challenge that statement,” he murmured, moving his thumb up to caress the arch of her cheekbone and the dark circle beneath her closed eye.

“Bring it, cowboy. Maybe I’m not as much the prim and proper mother that you see me as.”

Right. Kane doubted she’d be on board with some of the kinkier things that did it for him. “Sugar, you’re babbling.”

“No. I’ll remember every word of this conversation. I have perfect recall.”

“I don’t doubt that a bit, counselor.”

She shivered.

He grabbed a spare blanket from the dresser and covered her completely. “Better?”

“Uh-huh. Thank you.”

“Good. Get some rest. I’ll be back to get you tomorrow.” Kane made it to the door when her raspy voice stopped him.

“You’re wrong.”

“About what?”

“About the sleeping arrangements.”

Had to be the drugs talking.

He didn’t even turn around. He just kept walking.

Chapter Three

“Mom!”

Ginger smiled at Hayden when he skidded to a stop in front of her. “It’s okay. You can hug me. Just don’t squeeze too hard.”

He buried his face in her neck and heaved a deep sigh.

She placed her forehead on the top of his damp head, breathing him in. The scent of her little boy, baby shampoo beneath the hint of sweat and the cold tang of the outdoors. “I missed you, baby.”

“I’m not a baby.”

“My mistake.” She smooched his crown before he squirmed back. He never used to try and escape her hugs, but from the day he’d turned eight, he’d gotten stingy with maternal affection. She looked over at Kane, lounging in the doorway.

Good thing she wasn’t hooked up to a heart rate monitor.

Holy buckets the man looked commanding, even leaning nonchalantly against the doorjamb.

Commanding and an utterly striking example of masculine perfection. Scuffed black boots crossed at the ankle anchored the long line of his denim-clad legs. He wore a shaggy sheepskin coat and folded his arms over his broad chest. His ever-present black cowboy hat shadowed his face—a shame really, because Kane McKay had a beautiful face. Sharp angles defined his strong jawline. The neatly trimmed dark mustache and goatee framed those perfectly kissable lips. And his eyes. Lord have mercy on her soul. She could lose her train of thought in a heartbeat, gazing into those dark blue depths.

Don’t you mean you could lose your panties in a heartbeat?

The man epitomized rugged cowboy, down to the inscrutable way he looked at her, so she wasn’t quite sure what he was thinking.

Which was probably why she’d never made a move on him.

Well, that and it was against the rules of the Big Buddies/Little Buddies program for them to fraternize.

And man, she’d thought about fraternizing with him naked a whole lot. Ever since the night last year that she’d gone out and found trouble with his assorted McKay cousins’ wives at the Twin Pines. Not only had she ended up drinking too much, she’d found herself in the middle of a bar fight, and coming home in the backseat of a cop car, courtesy of Deputy Cam McKay. She’d panicked to see Kane’s truck parked in Lorelei James

her driveway, fearing something had happened to Hayden, but Kane had calmed her down immediately…

And then he revved her back up, with his sexy whispered, “How about if you let me take you to bed?”

“Mom?”

Feeling guilty about her impure thoughts, she said, “Aren’t you supposed to be in school?” to Hayden and then shot a questioning glance at Kane.

Kane shrugged. “I wanted to swing by and tell Libby you were goin’ home, so I just picked him up early.” His gaze moved over her at a snail’s pace and she shivered. “You ready?”

“I signed myself out. Got my cache of drugs. Just waiting on the wheelchair.” She scowled. Seemed an unnecessary rule in her opinion.

Hayden’s eyes grew big. “You have to be in a wheelchair?”

“No, sweetie. They’ll wheel me out in one, that’s all.”

“Too bad. I thought maybe you and Gramps could have wheelchair races.”

“He’d beat me for sure. He’s pretty speedy.”

Hayden crouched over the pink plaster. “Buck said you had a cast. Can I sign it?”

“First thing when we get home.”

The nurse wheeled in the chair and Kane left to pull his pickup around. Hayden didn’t say a word as the nurse helped Ginger into the chair. At least they’d removed the full bandage on her left hand so she wasn’t a total invalid.

Face it. You are completely helpless for the next few days.

Once they reached the patient pickup area, Ginger debated on how she’d climb into Kane’s monster truck. Hayden had no such qualms; he clambered into the back seat like a monkey. Good idea. Maybe she should just go for it. She attempted to stand and Kane was right there, gently shouldering aside the nurse.

“Thanks.” He smiled at the nurse. “I got it from here.” He put his mouth on Ginger’s ear. Tingles ran from neck to her midsection, tightening everything in its wake. “Trust me?”

“I guess.”

“On three I’m gonna lift you.”

“Kane—”

His arm slipped behind the bend of her knee. He gently cradled the right side of her body to the hard strength of his. “One. Two. Three.”

Then she was airborne, efficiently being stuffed in the front seat of Kane’s truck. “You’re lucky you didn’t wind up in the hospital yourself, McKay, with my weight straining your back.”

“Nah. I’m used to movin’ around heifers.”

She would’ve snapped at him if not for the twinkle in his eye and the smirk curling his lips. “You are a regular riot.”

“So you can take a joke,” he murmured. “I’d wondered. Besides, you smell way better than heifers and you didn’t try to knock me on my ass. That’s always a plus.”

“There’s always next time,” she said sweetly.

“Lookin’ forward to it.” He fiddled with the seatbelt. “I’m thinkin’ we’d better put this strap behind your head so it don’t strain your shoulder and only use the lap belt.” The intimate way Kane’s fingers straightened the belt across her abdomen sent her heart galloping and a small gasp escaped.

Mr. Twinkling Blue Eyes was right in her face. “Shit, sorry, I thought I was bein’ careful. Did I hurt you?”

“Umm. No.”

He squinted at her. “Then what’s wrong?”

I just discovered my whole body goes haywire from your slightest touch. “Ah. Nothing. I’m just anxious to get home.”

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