He grunted, not bothering to look at me. Okay, guess we were back to him treating me like furniture.

Because I’m a perverse bitch, I didn’t like it. Stupid, right?


“You want to bring your food upstairs?” he asked us. “I’ve got a table on the deck. Hell of a view, and we’ll be able to watch the sunset.”

“Thanks,” I said, surprised. Guess he wanted to make peace, too. Thank God for that—neither of us had anything to gain from a cold war. And this really was nicer than any place Noah and I had ever lived. I liked the idea of having access to the deck … so long as Ruger didn’t turn on me again. Would I ever get to the point where being around him wasn’t hard to handle?

Yes, I told myself. I’d force myself to do it. For Noah’s sake.

Dinner went better than expected. Noah talked the whole time, which smoothed the way for me and Ruger. I finished my food and then went and grabbed us some more beer, refilling Noah’s glass of milk while I was at it. Eventually Noah got bored and headed down the stairs on the side of the deck to run around. By then I’d had enough alcohol to feel slightly less awkward, and Ruger seemed to be in a good place, too. I dragged my chair away from the table to the deck rail, propping my feet up against the railing. He went back into the house and started some music, a mix of old and new stuff.

We each drank another beer as the sun grew low in the sky. I went from feeling good to feeling f**king fantastic all around.

Noah needed bed, so I took him down and gave him a quick shower. Poor kid was dead on his feet, falling asleep before I finished his story. I decided to go back upstairs and sit on the deck awhile longer. I liked a little time away from Noah every day, which had been hard to get in our last couple of apartments. This was different, though. Noah could be safe while I had space.

“Hey,” I called as I climbed back up to the deck. “You mind if I sit up here for a while longer?”

“What it’s for,” Ruger said. He stood at the railing, leaning forward on his elbows and looking out across his kingdom. He must’ve gone in and taken a shower while I was putting Noah to bed, because his hair was damp. He’d changed into a pair of worn flannel lounge pants that hung low enough to expose his hipbones.

Maybe I was projecting one of my dirtier fantasies, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t wearing anything under those pants, either.

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They certainly gave me a nice, defined view of his ass.

The look worked for him in a big way. Ruger was all lean and muscular, with a six-pack that tapered down nicely and biceps that were a work of art. Oh, wow. One of his ni**les was pierced, too. I’d never seen that before. His pecs were broad and hard, large enough to be hot without venturing into man-boob territory. And his tattoos …

I’d always wondered about his tattoos.

His back was all Reapers MC, but his arms and shoulders had ink, too. I wanted to study them up close, but that seemed sort of rude. Also, I couldn’t quite get my eyes to focus.

I settled for standing next to him, leaning forward against the rail.

“Want another beer?” he asked. I shook my head.

“I’ve had enough,” I replied. I’d had slightly more than enough, actually. I’d swayed climbing the stairs, and to be honest, I needed to either lean on the rail or sit. I felt my cheeks warm, and then I giggled.

Ruger glanced at me, raising his brows in silent question.

I giggled again.


“Pretty buzzed,” I admitted, smiling at him. “Guess the beer hit me a little harder than I thought. Been that kind of day. Not enough food, not enough sleep. You know how it goes.”

He smiled back at me, and damn, he was beautiful. He’d definitely taken out some of his piercings, though.

“Why do you have less metal in your face now?” I asked, my sense of tact lost along with my sobriety. “It makes you look less scary and more human.”

He glanced at me, raising his brows.

“I pulled most of ’em out last winter,” he said. “Started boxing, and they aren’t so good for that.”

Huh. I didn’t know what to say about that. My eyes caught on the ring he’d left on the lower left side of his lip. I wondered how it would feel if I kissed him there, maybe sucked it into my mouth. I’d tug on it with my teeth and then attack the rest of his—

“You’re cute when you’re drunk,” he said, startling me.

“I’m not drunk,” I told him, indignant. “I’m buzzed. Perfectly okay … just … happy.”

He laughed, then leaned over to whisper in my ear.

“Get much happier, you’re gonna pass out. Then imagine what I could do to you.”

That was pretty funny, and I found myself giggling harder.

“Are you flirting with me?” I asked, feeling daring. I’d been trying to figure him out all day. Why hadn’t I just asked? I’d been afraid to talk about our relationship before now, but I couldn’t remember why. “Because I don’t understand you, Ruger. Half the time you seem to hate me and then it all changes. Keeps flipping back and forth. It’s weird.”

He raised his brows. My eye caught on the piercing there, too. I wondered how much that hurt. Of course, it was nothing compared to his tattoos. My eyes dropped back down to his lips. They were full and way too soft for a guy, which I knew for a fact because they’d been all over my neck earlier.

Yup, I’d definitely suck on those, given the chance. I’d suck on them for a good long time.

Then I’d start moving down, trying out that pierced nipple on the way down to his cock. Was it as big and built as the rest of him? I wanted to know, desperately. I swayed again, feeling heat rise up through me, ni**les hardening.

“I’m not trying to flirt with you,” he said.

Oh. Now that was a buzzkill.

“That’s too bad,” I said, sighing. What a shame. I wanted to sleep with Ruger. I really did. Or hell, anyone, for that matter. My rule about only dating safe guys I could control didn’t lead to much in the way of action. Maybe I should revisit those guidelines … “I don’t get to flirt enough. I spend all my time working and taking care of Noah. It’s kind of tiring, Ruger. I’d like to meet someone, you know?”

He didn’t respond, looking straight ahead. A little muscle in his jaw clenched. If I’d been just a little braver, I’d have leaned over and licked his jawline. He had just enough of a five o’clock shadow that it’d be nice and rough under my tongue.

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