“Holy shit, did he really buy her?” I asked, eyes widening. “Ruger, that’s—I don’t even have words for that!”

“Good, maybe you’ll shut up,” he said. “If you’re interested, I have an update on Em for you. You know, your friend you’re so worried about? Maybe a little more important than lecturing me about women’s rights, ya think?”


I froze, shamed. Ruger was right. I’d been more focused on fighting with him than on Em. How shitty was that?

“Yeah, I’d like to hear how she’s doing,” I said. I tossed Puff to the side and rose to my feet. He stepped forward into my space, doing that intimidation thing he was so good at. “So how is she?”

“She’s fine,” he said after a long pause. “It wasn’t much of a cut. About three inches long and not deep at all. We got a friend of the club who came by, gave her some stitches to make sure she stays all pretty when it heals. Antibiotics, just to be careful. Last I saw her, she was high as a kite on oxy and singing some kid song about kittens and mittens. Picnic’s not feelin’ quite so festive, gotta admit.”

“That’s good news,” I replied, staring at his chest blankly. He really was way too close. “I got a text from Maggs an hour ago, but I wasn’t sure if she was downplaying things or not. I don’t like your parties, Ruger.”

“First part wasn’t half bad,” he said slowly, a knowing smile stealing across his face. “You know, in the shed?”

He reached out and touched my neck lightly, then wrapped his fingers around it.

“My marks look good,” he continued. “Might keep ’em on you long term, haven’t decided yet. But you need to learn not to flirt with other guys, babe. You’re claimed now.”

“One, take your damned hand off me, because I am not claimed,” I said. He ignored me. “And two, I didn’t flirt with anyone!”

“You flashed your tits at the whole damned club,” he said. His hand tightened ever so slightly on my neck. Not hard enough to hurt—just enough to show he could.

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Oh, I didn’t like that at all …

“Take. Your. Fucking. Hand. Off. Me,” I growled. This time he did, but at the same time he pushed me forward with his body, unbalancing me. I fell back on Noah’s bed, almost hitting my head against the wall. Before I could roll away, Ruger dropped down over me, trapping me just as surely as he had back in my Seattle apartment.

“I was wearing a bra and Maggs told me to do it,” I hissed, not bothering to fight him. That’d probably just turn him on. Perv. “She said he needed to check me out if I wanted to waitress at The Line. I need a damned job, Ruger. Didn’t seem like a big deal. Half the women there weren’t even wearing shirts. It’s not like I took off my bra.”

“You’re a f**kin’ idiot,” he snapped. “Of course Buck checks out potential waitresses … at the club. During business hours. He did that to piss me off and get me out of the ring. He played you to win a bet, Soph—he’d never hire you without my permission, anyway.”

“Why did Maggs say it was okay, then?” I demanded. Damn, he was heavy. He smelled good, too, which I hated. Predictably, my body wasn’t listening to my brain again, because I had the urge to spread my legs and wrap them around his waist.

“Fuck if I know, but she did it on purpose,” he growled. “Might want to ask her about that. She set you up, and that means she set me up. I’ll have words with her later.”

I narrowed my eyes.

“You leave Maggs alone,” I said, glaring. “If someone needs to ‘have words’ with her, it’ll be me. If you and Horse had a problem, would you want me involved?”

“Jesus, you’re a pain in the ass,” he said.

“And you’re a disgusting pig man. No respect for me at all—”

“I respect you,” he said, frowning. I snorted.

“Yeah, I’ll bet you f**k all the women you respect in public? And what the hell was that shit about coming on my stomach? I’m not a damned  p**n  star, Ruger—I’m still all sticky and disgusting. Kinda hard to clean up in a Porta-John.”

“This house has three showers, babe. Not my fault you haven’t taken one yet. I like the idea of me all over you, so no rush on that.”

“I was busy packing! I wanted to get out of here before you got home, ass**le!”

“Yeah, I see that,” he muttered. He leaned down, his face so close our lips almost brushed. “You’re not moving out, babe. You’re mine. We covered this. Done deal.”

“Oh, I’m definitely moving out,” I told him. “Not even you can think this is healthy, Ruger.”

He smiled at me with the eyes of a predator.

“I don’t care if it’s healthy,” he whispered. “Whole damned world’s unhealthy. You think all those people living in giant houses on the lake have happy, pretty, perfect lives? You think those bitches aren’t backstabbing each other while their husbands f**k interns on their lunch breaks?”

I shook my head.

“My friend Kimber’s not like that. Her life’s nice and normal and not crazy at all.”

“Then she’s one in a thousand,” he replied. “Because I swear to you, sometimes the nastiest shit happens behind the prettiest doors, while everyone laughs and smiles and pretends everything’s okay. Here’s the thing about my world. We’re f**ked up. We own it. We take care of business and move on. In twenty years those ‘healthy’ people you’re so jealous of will still be backstabbing each other, and their kids will, too.”

“I’ll take my chances,” I said.

Ruger scowled and pushed himself up abruptly. Then he grabbed me and threw me over his shoulder like a sack of wheat. I squawked as he carried me out of the room and up the stairs to his loft, kicking and punching him the entire time. Didn’t do a bit of good. I don’t know what I expected—maybe that he’d throw me down on the bed and ravish me, like a movie or something. He didn’t. Instead he carried me into his big bathroom, dumped me in the shower and turned on the faucet.

“What the hell are you doing!” I shrieked as cold water hit me, still fully clothed. Ruger grabbed the shower hose and started spraying me down with it.

“I’m showin’ you respect,” he yelled back at me. “So sorry I got you all messy earlier. Just doing my best to make this relationship healthy and clean, because that’s so f**kin’ important to you. Aren’t I a f**kin’ prince?”

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