Most important, she wouldn’t f**king talk back to him. Sophie had a hell of a mouth.

“Wow, it’s beautiful,” Sophie said, stopping him dead at the bottom of the stairs. He looked at her to find all traces of wistful sorrow gone. Instead she smiled big at him, clearly thrilled with something or other. Damn, woman’s moods changed so f**king fast, a man couldn’t even begin to keep up. “I can’t believe this. How did you get everything ready so quickly?”


He blinked, then looked around, shocked.

What the f**k?

When he’d left that morning, the place had been clean-ish. Not because he’d cleaned it, of course, but because one of the girls from the clubhouse had a few weeks ago for some reason. Trying to hook him for her old man, probably. He’d f**ked her and kicked her out, because he’d be damned if he’d let one of those bitches get their claws into him.

It wasn’t sort of clean now, though. It f**king sparkled.

This was supposed to be a family room, with a small kitchen built into the back for reasons he’d never bothered to consider. There was a short hallway to the side, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a utility room. He used one of the bedrooms for storage, the other as a place for his friends to crash. Never once had it looked or felt like a home.

Someone had come in and fixed all that.

Softy, fuzzy-looking blankets were draped across the couches, and a spiral rag rug full of bright colors covered the center of the beige carpet. There were fresh flowers on the coffee table, right in front of the wall of glass looking out over the valley. French doors opened onto the little patio under the ground-floor deck. Two loungers covered in big, soft pillows sat ready and waiting for use outside, framed on either side by cascading hanging baskets.

They hadn’t been there that morning.

There were even more fresh flowers on the pretty blue-checked cloth covering the round table near the kitchen. A goddamn mystery table, because he had no f**king clue where it came from. Even the windows looked different. He studied them, then realized they had new blinds and long, gauzy curtains.

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Then he saw the TV. A flat-screen sat on what looked like an old-fashioned wooden radio, which he had to admit was kind of cool and different. Not a huge TV, but plenty big for the space. Sophie darted down the hallway, sadness forgotten. He understood her sudden happiness, because right now the basement looked a lot more comfortable and welcoming than his space upstairs.

“Ruger, I can’t believe this!” she said called from one of the rooms. He walked in to find a child’s bed, dresser, and bookshelf set up and ready to go, complete with a motorcycle-covered blanket and pillowcase. The walls had been painted light blue and little pictures that matched the blanket edged the ceiling. One wall had a big, black square painted on it, with the words “Noah’s Room” written on it in chalk. “Noah is going to love this. Thank you so much!”

Sophie launched herself at him. Ruger wrapped his arms around her automatically, confused as hell. Shit, she felt good. His dick jumped to full-on attention and he sniffed her hair, wondering what it’d feel like wrapped around his fingers while she sucked him off.

Sophie stiffened, obviously feeling his hard cock, and tried to pull away. He slid his hands down to her ass, holding her tight as he studied her face. Her tits pressed tight against his chest and he felt her ni**les harden. She wanted this as bad as he did. Fuck, her lips were big and soft and pink.

He wanted to bite them.

“Mom!” Noah called. “Mom, where are you? I can’t believe this, there’s a stream and a little pool to play in. Ruger’s got four-wheelers, too. Horse says they’ll take us on a ride sometime!”

Ruger jerked away from Sophie.

“We can’t do this,” she whispered, eyes wide. “This is breaking the rules.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said, which was a goddamn shame. For four years they’d played this game, pretending the other didn’t exist. It’d been the right thing to do. Sometimes they’d played it so well he almost believed it. That’s what his nephew needed from them, not some sort of bullshit one-night stand ruining things.

Ruger could get laid anytime—Noah only had one mom.

The kid ran in and stopped, eyes wide as he took everything in.

“Is this my room?” he asked.

“Um, yeah,” Ruger said. “Looks like it. What do you think?”

“Cool!” Noah said. “I’ve never had a room like this. Mom, you gotta see the yard!”

He tore off again. Then Horse stuck his head in, offering Ruger a shit-eating grin.

“Nice, ain’t it?”

“We should talk,” Ruger said to him, jerking his chin toward the living room. Sophie took the opportunity to dart through the door and investigate the second bedroom.

Horse nodded, and Ruger followed him out.

“What the f**k happened here?” Ruger asked, keeping his voice low.

“What do you think?” Horse said. “Marie. She and the girls came over to fix the place up. All of ’em. I asked her to.”

“Why the hell did you do that?”

“You want your baby mama and kid to feel good about stayin’ here, right?” he asked. “Maybe feel safe and welcome? Chicks need that. Figured it would make life easier. Not only that—made the girls happy to do it.”

“A heads-up would’ve been appreciated.”

“You were too busy pretending you don’t wanna f**k Sophie,” he replied, shrugging. “Someone needed to step in. Marie charged everything, by the way. I told her to leave the receipts for you upstairs, on the counter. You can give me a check now or I’ll catch you later.”

Ruger froze.

“Fuck, didn’t think of that,” he said, looking around again, appraising things with new eyes. How much did TVs cost, anyway? He glanced back at Horse, whose shit-eating grin had grown to full-on mockery.

Oh, crap …

“You did this on purpose,” he said. “You did it just to f**k with me, didn’t you? Like you give a flyin’ fuck about welcoming Sophie. You know I can’t take it back now. How much did Marie spend, ass**le?”

“I told her to keep it under three grand,” Horse replied innocently. “And I think she got most of the furniture used. You know Marie, never spends money unless she has to. Hell, you don’t even have to pay her back, it’s not like you told her to do it. I’ll cover the bill if you won’t. Not every man provides for his family—takes all kinds. I get that …”

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