“You’re a cocksucking bastard,” Ruger said, advancing on him. Horse laughed.
“You’re a cocksucking bastard,” Noah repeated like a damned parrot. Ruger turned to find the kid standing in the open patio door, looking proud as hell.
“Oh my god,” he heard Sophie gasp. He spun around to find her bracing a hand against the wall at the entrance of the hallway. Fuckin’ perfect, because they really needed more to fight about, right? “Ruger, you can’t say things like that around Noah.”
“Gonna have to work on that mouth of yours, brother,” Horse told him. “Don’t wanna make Sophie mad. Like I said earlier, pretty sure she could take you in a fair fight. I’d pay to see it, too.”
“Get out,” Ruger said to him, jerking his head toward the stairs. “Just get the f**k out. Go home before I shoot you.”
Sophie opened her mouth. Ruger turned and stopped her with one look. Enough.
“This is my house,” he said. “I’ll talk however the f**k I want, and you’ll keep your goddamned mouth shut. Got me?”
She gaped as he turned and stomped back up the stairs. Behind him, he heard Noah chanting, “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
He needed a beer.
Make that a shot.
Noah glared at me like an angry leprechaun. He sat in time out on our couch, thanks to repeated use of his new favorite word.
I popped a beer and raised it in a silent toast to the women who’d come to clean, decorate, and fix us food. I’d been serious when I told Ruger I didn’t want to spend time with the club, but what they’d done for me was enough to make me reconsider.
At the very least, I’d need to make an appearance to say thanks. They even left me a card and a long welcome letter full of important information, everything from their cell-phone numbers to the address of Noah’s new school.
This was particularly important, because school would be starting on Monday, a full week earlier than back in Seattle. In addition to stocking the basics, they’d left me a pan of taco meat and all the fixings, ready to heat and serve. Thank God for that, because there was no way in hell I was going upstairs in search of food.
In fact, I had no intention of going upstairs at all, not without an invitation. I’d use the patio door. Safer that way. Not that I was still mad at Ruger—this was so much better than our old place that not even I could hold a grudge at this point. Nope, by then I was more scared of him, because the rules kept changing and I wasn’t sure where we stood.
Drinking one of the beers helpfully stocked in my fridge helped me relax a little.
Most of our stuff was still out in the car. Ruger and Horse had done the heavy lifting at my old place, but I could handle unloading by myself. Not like we owned much anyway. I figured I could start hauling things down tomorrow, feeling pleased that I’d had Noah pack jammies for the road. No pressure to find his clothes tonight.
The one thing I would not be doing was asking Ruger for help.
Things were weird enough already.
I heated the tacos and grabbed a couple of plates (the kitchen was fully stocked—just Corelle, nothing fancy, but it looked new to me).
“You ready to make good choices?” I asked Noah.
He glowered at me and crossed his arms.
“Okay, I’m going to eat,” I told him. I filled my plate, grabbed a second beer, and walked over to the doors, opening them wide and stepping out to one of the loungers. I sat down with crossed legs, setting my plate on the pillow in front of me. Then I took a bite.
Holy shit, that tasted good after a long day.
“This is really yummy!” I called to Noah. “It’s your favorite. Lots of cheese and no tomatoes. Too bad you aren’t hungry.”
Noah didn’t respond, but I heard the scrape of a chair on the deck overhead. I looked up to see the shadow of someone above, through the cracks in the decking. I waited for Ruger to say something. He didn’t.
I finished one taco and considered the second. Noah would be impossible if he didn’t eat, but I couldn’t let him get away with defying me like that, either. Time for the big guns.
“Noah, you sure you don’t want a taco?” I called. “I’m halfway done, and when I finish I’m putting the food away. Nothing but plain bread after that if you get hungry. Not only that, they left pie and ice cream.”
Then the chair above scraped again, and I heard footsteps as Ruger walked across the deck. Great. I hoped my yelling wasn’t pissing him off even more. I couldn’t get that garbage comment out of my head. I polished off my beer, bracing myself for battle on two fronts.
“What kind of pie?” Noah asked.
“Looked like berries to me,” I replied. “I’m going to warm mine up before I put the ice cream on.”
“I’m ready to say I’m sorry,” he replied. I allowed myself just a few seconds to gloat before I walked back inside, face stern.
“So?” I asked him.
“I’m sorry,” Noah said. “I’ll make better choices next time. Can I make my own taco?”
“You can’t use bad words like that,” I told him seriously. “You say that at school, you’ll get in really big trouble.”
“Why can Uncle Ruger say them?”
“Because he’s not in school.”
“That’s not fair.”
Kid had a point.
“Life isn’t fair. Make your taco.”
I was digging through the fridge for the milk when I heard a light knock on the outside door.
“Uncle Ruger!” Noah called. “We’re eating tacos. Do you want some?”
“Sure,” he replied. I straightened and turned toward him, wondering if he was still upset with me. I couldn’t quite figure out how he’d been the one to teach Noah to say “fuck,” yet I’d gotten in trouble.
Of course, there were all sorts of things I’d never figured out about Ruger.
He came in and I handed him a plate warily, waving toward the food. He didn’t smile at me, but he didn’t scowl, either. I decided to take it as a positive sign.
“You made all this?” he asked.
“Nope, the girls from your club did,” I told him, figuring it was always good to make peace over food. And I definitely wanted peace with him, for both Noah’s sake and my own.
Maybe we could just forget today and start over tomorrow?
I decided I liked that idea a lot. I grabbed two more beers and handed him one, smiling hesitantly. “I found it all in the fridge. I still can’t believe they pulled everything together in one day. Thank you so much—I had no idea you were planning something like this. I’m blown away.”