He smiled. His damn smile was as sexy as his teasing eyes. “Once we get there, don’t bail outta the truck on your own. I’m here to help you, and that includes carryin’ you into the house if I have to, understand?”


“And if I don’t?”

“Red, you might learn firsthand exactly how good I am with ropes.”


Kane grinned and spoke to Hayden. “All buckled in?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. Let’s get your mama on home, hmm?”

Hayden filled the air with chatter, which Ginger mostly tuned out due to the reappearance of a vicious headache.

Once they’d reached her house, she couldn’t wait to crash in her own bed and sleep. She depressed the seatbelt locking mechanism and turned toward the door.

“Ah ah ah. My threats ain’t idle, sugar, so stay put.”

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The man lifted her out and wrapped his arm around her waist, holding her tightly to his side.

“I can manage.”

“No, you can’t,” he argued with entirely too much cheer.

Glaring at him didn’t cause his sexy smile to slip.

“You’re gonna have to learn to lean on me.” They took three steps. “There you go. See? That ain’t so hard.”

“Yes, it is.” But Ginger wouldn’t admit the hardest part was being pressed against Kane’s muscular body and feeling the need to surrender to his raw magnetism.

Definitely loopy from the drugs.

Kane stopped on the top step. “You okay?”

“Sleepy. Sore. Starving. And crabby about being all three to be real honest.”

“That’s totally understandable. Let’s get you inside.”

In the kitchen, she sagged into a kitchen chair. “Give me a minute.”

“No rush.”

Ginger heard the soft squeak of her dad’s wheels on the wood floor and looked up.

This aged version of her father caught her by surprise. During her childhood, this soft-spoken man had loomed larger than life. Tall, slender, with a shock of red hair. Now that red hair had turned white. His frame had shrunk, leaving his shoulders hunched, his arms and legs slightly shriveled. The arthritis confined him to a wheelchair, destroyed his body, but not his will, and his mind was as sharp as ever.

Ginger had always adored him. Even when her mother used lies and manipulation to keep them apart.

He’d given up his position as a federal prosecutor in California and retreated to Wyoming after the demise of his marriage to Ginger’s mother. Although they both regretted the years they’d lost, she was grateful they’d worked to build a new relationship.

She attempted a smile. “Hey, Dad.”

“Dearest daughter.” His shrewd eyes took in every injury and assessed it before moving on to the next. “You all right?”

“I’ve been better.”

“We’ll talk about what happened after you’ve rested.” He tapped his fingers on the arms of his chair.

“Maybe it’s none of my business, but who’s going to help you get undressed?”

Ginger hadn’t thought about that. She’d left the hospital wearing the camisole top she’d worn under her suit jacket and a borrowed pair of baggy scrubs-type pants. She’d only needed one shoe, so the nurse outfitted her with a pair of shower shoes, covering both her feet with socks and surgical booties to protect her from the cold.

“That young McKay has been quite a help, but I’m not comfortable with him…helping you get your clothes off, even though rumor around town is he’s helped plenty of women out of their clothes. Plenty of women,” he reiterated.

“Dad. That’s not fair.”

“I suppose you’re right. But I’d feel better if you had a female around to help you do those types of things.” He pinned her with a paternal look. “It’s what you insisted on for me, remember? The male nurse who comes every other day to help me?”

“Fine. I’ll call Libby. Or maybe Joely can swing by.”

“Good.” He rolled toward the living room.

“Your dad have that opinion of all McKays? Or just me?” Kane asked tersely from the hallway.

Ginger glanced up and saw a hard glint in Kane’s eyes. “Since your family has been my dad’s clients for thirty years, I’m betting it’s just you.”

“At least you didn’t sugarcoat it,” he drawled. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

“Careful, a man could take that the wrong way.”

She stood too quickly and swayed, but Kane was right there to catch her. He snarled and practically carried her to her bedroom, leaving her no time to protest.

You don’t want to protest. You like his take-charge nature and all that big, strong, blustering manly goodness.

Ginger didn’t dissect her reaction. She sighed when her back hit the mattress. How sweet was it that Kane set an extra folded fleece blanket next to her? Knowing she was always cold?

Hayden ducked around Kane and curled up beside her. “I could stay and keep you company.”

Her heart swelled with love at her son’s sweetness and concern.

But Kane shook his head. “Sorry. Maybe later. Your mama needs to rest.” When Hayden’s face fell, Kane amended, “Tell you what. I am gonna force her to eat so she can take her pain pills. You wanna make her a couple of slices of toast?”

“Sure.” He raced off.

She sank into her pillows, too tired to argue with Kane about his use of the word force, too tired to keep her eyes open. “I don’t need the pain meds right now.”

“You will in about an hour. I’d hate for the pain to wake you up.”

“True.” The bed shifted as Kane sat next to her. Ginger didn’t open her eyes.

“Look, I understand your dad’s concerns about me, but if you need help changin’ outta these clothes, I could probably keep it…umm, clinical.”

“Probably?” she asked lightly.

Pause. Then soft laughter. “Ah, hell, who am I kiddin’? If I get even the barest glimpse of your nekkidness, my thoughts would be impure enough to warrant your daddy getting out the shotgun. So scratch that goddamn temptation.”

Ginger’s eyes flew open.

Kane stroked his closely trimmed mustache and stared at her breasts, spilling out the sides of the lace camisole. His avid gaze didn’t return to her face for several long moments.

When Kane did look at her, the lust raging in his blue eyes caught her completely off guard. She blurted, “You’ve never—”

“Acted as if I’ve thought about takin’ you to my bed and keepin’ you there for a solid month?”

“Oh. Umm. No.”

“I have, sugar. Have I ever. It’s an impulse I’ve ignored because I’m supposed to provide ‘moral character’ for your son. So I feel guilty as hell when I see you and imagine all the immoral things I’d like to do to you.”

“What types of things?” she breathed.

Kane traced the length of her bare arm with the tip of his index finger. “Things that’ll make you stammer and blush.” He smiled when goose flesh broke out across her skin from his touch. “And shiver like this.”

“Why are you telling me this now?”

“Because we’ll be in close quarters the next few days.”

She blinked at him.

“So if you catch me starin’ at you, understand you can trust me. I’d never act without an invitation from you.”

Ginger stayed mum for a moment. “Is that why you kissed me and ran last year?”

“I already told you. I kissed you because you needed to be kissed. Besides, you were babbling and I wanted to shut you up.”

“Maybe I’ll have to babble more often,” she murmured.

Hayden burst into the room and passed her a plate with two slices of peanut butter toast. “Here’s your favorite,” he said proudly.

“Thanks. Wow. Look at me, a lady of leisure, with two handsome men waiting on me.”

A frown creased Hayden’s brow behind the bridge of his glasses.

She chewed the toast, although it was hard to swallow. She choked out, “Could I get a glass of water, please?”

“Sure, Mom.”

Ginger jammed another chunk of toast in her mouth to prevent asking Kane what was going on between them.

Kane leaned closer. “Using food to sidestep talkin’ about the issue? Really, Red? Is that a legal tactic?”

She kept chewing, feigning total cluelessness.

“We will finish this discussion when you ain’t stuffing your face. I’m damn tired of livin’ in avoidance.”

Hayden skipped back in, but he was strangely subdued as he doodled on her cast.

She rooted in the plastic hospital bag for the pain meds. Kane handed her the glass of water and kept staring at her mouth after she popped the pills. “What?”

“You’ve got toast in your teeth.”

Great. She swished water in her mouth and curled on her side before shooing them out of her room.

The drugs didn’t immediately kick in, which allowed her thoughts to spin back to the night Kane had kissed her a few short months ago.

Ginger rarely went out, so it was ironic that the two times she’d let loose in the last year, Mr.

Responsible, aka Kane McKay, had been a witness to it. She’d been at the Rusty Spur with Joely Monroe, celebrating their single sisterhood by knocking back a round or five of a delicious little drink called a screaming orgasm. Ginger wasn’t much of a drinker, but the running joke about them having to buy their orgasms made them order a whole bunch. Usually at top volume and then they dissolved into hysterical laughter. Her pleasant buzz dimmed after their designated drivers, brothers Chet and Remy West, drove her home first and she saw Kane’s pickup parked in her driveway. Again. Which just served as a reminder that she couldn’t forget her responsibilities, even for one night. She always had to be available.

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