Something cold touched my cheek.

I opened my eyes to find Ruger standing over me, eyes intense. They slid slowly across my body. Impossibly, the bulge in his pants was larger. God, it’d be so easy to just reach out and take him into my hand, feel that hard length for myself. Or I could sit up and lean my head forward, letting my cheek touch him through the soft fabric. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.


I rose until my face was only a few inches away from his crotch. Then I looked up at him, wondering if I’d lost my mind.

“Here’s your beer,” he said roughly, holding it out to me. I took it and wrapped my mouth around the neck for a drink, holding his gaze.

I hated him for being sober and in control.

“Jesus, Sophie …” he groaned. “Don’t f**kin’ look at me like that.”

“Like what?” I asked him, catching a drip on the side with my tongue.

“Don’t play stupid,” he whispered. “If you don’t stop I’m gonna f**k you. We’ll both regret that tomorrow. You’re drunk.”

I tilted my head to the side, thoughtful.

“Are you?” I asked him.


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He shook his head slowly, sinking down to sit next to me. He leaned over, scenting my neck. We weren’t touching at all, but just the warmth of his breath on my skin almost killed me. I took another drink of my beer, slow and deliberate.

His eyes burned a hole right through me.

“No,” he whispered. “I’m not drunk.”

“Then what’s your excuse?” I asked softly. “Mine’s alcohol. Whatever I do tonight, I can blame the beer. What excuse should we use for you?”

Ruger reached over and took the bottle from my hand, setting it on the deck.

“No more tonight,” he said, his voice cracking. “You’re done. We’re done. We’re not doing this. Got me?”

“Yeah,” I said, forcing myself to think past the buzz. I knew he was right. Noah needed us both, and we had enough trouble getting along already. I was going to be living in his basement, for God’s sake, and it wasn’t like he hadn’t been clear—he wanted to f**k me. No heart, no flowers, no dates, and definitely no commitments. At least I wasn’t just a piece of furniture anymore.

“Can I ask you something?”

“What?” he replied. I swallowed.

“Is this a new thing for you?”

“I don’t follow,” he said, glancing at me. His eyes pierced mine, the warm night air hanging heavy between us.

“Wanting me,” I said softly. “Is it a new thing for you? I mean, aside from … back then … I always assumed that was just a moment, you know? You always looked right through me.”

“It’s not a new thing.”

We sat together, neither moving, frogs chirping all around us. After a while he reached up and rubbed the back of his neck, like he had in the car.

“You still sore?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I kinked it somehow last night while I was driving. Stupid.”

“Want me to rub it for you?” I asked him.

“No f**kin’ way you’re touching me,” he said. “We covered that already. I’m not drunk, Soph. I won’t f**k things up for Noah.”

“We’re not going to f**k up anything,” I told him. “I’m getting sober now, it’s okay. I took a massage class, though. I’m actually pretty good at it. Let me help you. You’ve done so much to help me, I feel like I owe you something.”

“Not a good idea.”

I rolled my eyes, and bumped his shoulder with mine.

“Chicken?” I asked, smiling at him.

“Jesus, you’re annoying,” he muttered, but he didn’t protest when I crawled behind him. I ignored the screaming need between my legs as I knelt up and put my fingers on his shoulders. They were hard and strong, soft skin stretched over sleek muscles more than capable of supporting him while he pounded into my body.

Unfortunately, it was too dark for me to see much of his tattoos, which was a damned shame. Ruger wasn’t shy about taking off his shirt, but I never got close enough to really scope them out.

I dug my fingers in and he groaned, head dropping forward. He wasn’t kidding about being tight, either. Big knots snarled his neck and shoulders. After a few minutes of going at them with my fingers, I started using my elbows. Slowly I got his neck to relax and started moving down his back.

“Lay down on your stomach,” I told him, sliding off the side of the lounger behind him. I flattened it. He didn’t move.

“You really are chicken,” I murmured. “I’m just going to give you a back rub, Ruger. Enjoy it for what it is, okay?”

He grunted and rolled onto his stomach. I leaned over him and went to work. Some of the knots just wouldn’t give, so I decided to climb on top of him to get good leverage.

Was this stupid?

Of course. Did I care?

Not one drunken bit.

I straddled his butt, enjoying the feel of his hard body between my legs and his skin under my fingers. He smelled fresh and clean, but still utterly male. Drove me crazy. With every stroke of my hands I rode him, not getting quite enough stimulation to satisfy me, but enough that when I felt a light beading of sweat break out, it definitely wasn’t from the effort of giving the massage.

At first he tensed, but slowly he gave in to it, each muscle group relaxing in turn. Finally my hands were tired and we were both limp. I lay down across his back, taking in his scent, the warm summer breeze just enough to keep me from overheating.

“Soph …” he said, his voice a warning.

“Don’t, Ruger,” I whispered. “It doesn’t mean anything. Just let it be, all right?”

He sighed, and silence fell between us.

I was still frustrated, no question. But it was a strange, relaxed kind of sexual desire washing through me now. Night sounds surrounded us and I let myself enjoy the feel of Ruger’s body under mine, wishing I really could have a man like this—strong, steady, and capable of protecting me from anything.

If Ruger were mine, I’d be safe. Always.

“It’ll be okay, Sophie,” he murmured softly, sounding half asleep. “I promise.”

I didn’t answer, because I didn’t believe him. Instead I dozed off. The next thing I remembered was him lifting me and carrying me down to my bed.


Ruger was wrong. It wasn’t okay.

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