“Can’t say as I’m unhappy to hear that.”


She rubbed her face on his pec. “You’ve pretty much ruined me for any other man.”

“How’s that?”

No response.


She’d fallen asleep.

When Ginger woke up alone, she assumed she’d dreamt of Kane cuddled up to her all night. He’d been so warm and solid. Sweet. Comforting. Saying such loving things. Showing his vulnerable side while offering reassurance he didn’t see her as weak.

Had to’ve been a dream.

She’d scooted up to rest against the headboard when Hayden tiptoed in. “Mom! I came to see if you were still sleeping.”

“I’m awake now. Has Grandpa fixed you breakfast?”

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Hayden frowned at her. “Mom. What are you talking about? Grandpa’s in Deadwood, remember?”

But…if that was the case, who’d been watching Hayden?

Kane sauntered in and set his hands on Hayden’s shoulders. “Mornin’, Red. How’re you feelin’?”

Like a total idiot. Like I lost an entire day in a fever-fueled daze. “So it wasn’t a dream,” she muttered.

Kane frowned. “Excuse me?”

“Never mind. I feel like I’ve got cement in my sinuses. My body aches. And I need a shower.”

“Anything I can do?” A tiny gleam shone in Kane’s eye. He was probably recalling how thoroughly he’d washed her back, her front and everything in between the last time he’d “helped” her shower.

“No. Thanks. I can handle it.”

“When you’re all scrubbed clean, we’ll be in the living room.”

She stayed in the shower until the water ran cold. The steam helped her sinuses. With her hair combed, her teeth brushed and a layer of her favorite scented lotion applied, Ginger almost felt human. She debated on wearing jeans, but chose comfy, fuzzy sweats instead.

Maybe she’d expected Hayden and Kane to be playing Xbox, but Kane’s dark head was bent close to Hayden’s blond head as they worked on a jigsaw puzzle spread out on the portable card table.

Kane sensed her immediately, leaving Ginger no time to dissect the warm feeling of rightness as she watched the two of them together. He smiled the charming, sexy grin that made her heart skip with joy.

“You look better.”

“Thanks.” She crossed the room to look over their shoulders. “How goes the puzzle project?”

“Slow.” Hayden sighed. “I don’t ever wanna put another one of these together.”

“Why not?”

“It’s fun for a while, but then it’s boring. I’d rather play with my Legos or do something else.”

Hayden wormed his way out of the chair. “You wanna work on it?”

She opened her mouth to decline, but Kane rather chivalrously pulled the chair back. “Have a seat.”

After she sat, she watched her son open the closet door and start dragging out his winter clothes. “You going someplace?”

“Out to shovel.”

Her mouth dropped open. “What?”

“Buck said I’m old enough to do chores because you shouldn’t have to do everything around here.”

Ginger faced Kane. “Is that so?”

He shrugged, but wariness entered his eyes. “You already do plenty. All kids need chores so they learn how to do basic stuff. Shoveling was Hayden’s idea of how to pull his weight.”

“And then I’m gonna have big muscles just like Buck.”

The door slammed behind Hayden. About three seconds later Ginger slapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. It didn’t work. She kept giggling, quietly.

Kane got the strangest look on his face.

“Sorry. It’s just…”

“I love to hear you laugh, Red.” He angled closer and smothered her next giggle with his mouth. The kiss wasn’t a tonsil scratcher, but decisive—as if Kane had made his mind up about something and this kiss sealed the deal.

Ginger smiled at him and set her hand on his cheek. “Thank you for everything.”

“Aw, shucks, ma’am, I’s just bein’ neighborly.” He turned his head until his mouth connected with the corner of her palm. “Now let’s see if we can’t make some progress on this puzzle.”

When Hayden returned inside, his cheeks red, his eyes shining, nearly busting his buttons with pride, Ginger realized Kane understood the things Hayden needed that she didn’t, not because she was a bad mother but because she was female.

How much different would her son be if Kane hadn’t come into his life via the Little Buddies program?

Maybe you should ask yourself how great it would be if Kane was a permanent part of your life as well as your son’s. Not as his Big Buddy but as his father.

“That’d be totally cool, huh Mom?”

Ginger’s focus snapped to Hayden. “Excuse me?”

“If Buck and I went out on the ATVs in the snow.”

“That would be very cool.” She didn’t add, If you wore a helmet and the proper safety gear, and carried a GPS tracker, knowing he’d accuse her of treating him like a baby, especially in front of his hero.

“You guys ready to eat?” Kane asked.

“I’m starved,” Hayden said. “Chores really make you hungry, huh?”

Kane fixed grilled soy cheese sandwiches and sliced up carrots and apples. Ginger stuck with hot tea and soda crackers. The antibiotics upset her stomach and half the time she felt like barfing—not that she’d mention that to either of them. She stayed at the table with them while they ate.

“Surprised me that Dash is off to Deadwood,” Kane said.

“The Sundance Senior Group goes twice a year. Deadwood caters to an older crowd so there are plenty of handicapped-accessible rooms. He has a blast. Plus, the coordinators look after him so I don’t worry.”

“No wonder he whupped my butt at blackjack if he’s been playin’ the tables in Deadwood,” Kane grumbled.

“Last time he was the big winner at the Silverado. He took the entire group out for steak and crab legs.”

“Grandpa says that’s why they tolerate an old wheelchair cripple like him on those trips, and at the senior center.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because he has money.”

Ginger frowned. She knew her father donated to the Sundance Senior Group and to the senior center, but surely he didn’t believe that was the only reason they kept him around?

“I think your Grandpa was pullin’ your leg, sport. I bet they’d let him go along on those trips for free.” Kane mock-whispered, “I’ve heard redheads are really wild. Ol’ Dash is probably the crazy man of the bunch and the life of the party, even when now he looks like a mild-mannered white haired old man.”

Hayden’s eyes widened. “You think so?”

“I know so, but it’s probably best if we don’t let on we know his secret,” Kane said.

Her son grinned.

After lunch, her sinus headache returned. She tried to hide it and act normal, but Kane was very attuned to any change in her.

“Ginger, you’re lookin’ a little peaked again.”

Lie and tell him you’re fine.

No. Give him a reason to stay.

“I’m back to feeling like my head wants to explode.”

Kane was by her side in an instant, his hand on her forehead. “You feel hot. You need to take some Tylenol and get back in bed right now.”

“Should I salute too, Mr. Bossy?”

His eyes narrowed. “I don’t care if you flip me off as long as you do it while you’re layin’ down.”

Once she’d taken her pills and crawled in bed, Kane checked on her. Retucking the sheet, setting a glass of water on the nightstand, restocking her Kleenex supply. Touching her. She loved the way he touched her, as if he couldn’t get enough of her.

“I’m thinkin’ I’ll need to stay another night, since you still ain’t your chipper, contrary self yet.”

“I’d like that.”

He feathered his lips across her forehead. “Good. Get some rest, counselor.”

Ginger was faking it.

Not orgasms. God knew she didn’t ever have to fake those with Kane. She was faking being sick.

Although she still didn’t feel one hundred percent, she could’ve sent Kane on his merry way.

But she didn’t want him to go. She liked having him here.

After Kane tucked Hayden in, she heard him rattling around in the kitchen. Then the house became quiet. Thirty minutes passed.

What was the man doing?

Don’t you mean: what’s he doing that’s keeping him out of your bed?

Ginger donned a robe and tracked him down. He wasn’t watching TV; he was working on the puzzle.

His forehead wrinkled in concentration, his fingers sifting through the piles of pieces.

“You determined to finish that tonight?”

Those indigo eyes locked onto hers. “No. Actually, the more I work on this the more I agree with Hayden. It is boring.”

“Then come to bed.”

He lifted an eyebrow.

“I’m not up for anything more than us just sharing sleeping space.”

Kane eased his chair back and stood. He took her hand and led the way to her bedroom. Undressed, under the covers, wrapped in each other, any tiredness vanished. They talked for a good hour about everything from Hayden to TV shows and his large family before she yawned.

The next morning, while still in the realm of sleep, Ginger felt Kane’s hands on her. Hiking up her nightgown. His lips trailed the curve of her jaw with light, yet insistent kisses. Her back arched of its own accord as his mouth hit all the good spots, spots he’d already memorized.

“Sugar, I’m wantin’ you real bad. Let me have you.”

“You’re asking me? This must be a dream.”

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