“I couldn’t even get him to pay what he owed already,” I said. “Health and Welfare won’t do shit, either. I don’t think upward adjustments were on the table.”

“Sort of what I figured,” he replied. “So I’m real glad you got a job, but you won’t be living paycheck to paycheck anymore.”


“That’s amazing,” I whispered, looking back down at the envelope. “I have to ask … Is it going to come back on me and Noah? Am I going to get arrested?”

“You’re good,” he said. “That’s not enough cash to catch any IRS attention, and Horse is working on getting the rest of it to you all safe and legal. He’s a damned good accountant, and he’ll work with our lawyer. Fuckin’ shark. If Zach ever tries to cause trouble about it, you call me and I’ll make him go away.”

His arms tightened around me, hinting at his strength, and I shivered.

“This is another case of you doing my dirty work for me, isn’t it?” I asked softly.

“It’s Noah’s money,” Ruger said, his face serious. “This isn’t about you, Sophie. It’s about Zach taking care of his son—and it’s not like it even came out of his pocket. That insurance settlement came out of nowhere. Noah has a right to this money, and my mom would shit if she knew Zach was starving you guys out. I fixed the problem. Don’t think about it anymore, just use the money to take care of our boy, okay?”

I nodded my head, leaning my head against his chest. He kissed the top of my head and rubbed up and down my back.

“So Horse is an accountant?” I asked after a minute. “I find that hard to picture.”

“I’d just as soon you not picture Horse at all,” he muttered, and I smiled.

“Thank you,” I whispered. I’d never seen that much money in my life. Hell, at this rate we’d have the fancy macaroni and cheese all the time! And the rest? If I saved it, I’d be able to pay for Noah’s college.

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My kid would go to college. I felt tears well up in my eyes, which bugged me because I hated crying.

“If you really want to thank me, give me a blow job,” Ruger said, his voice light. I straightened up and smacked his shoulder, and he burst out laughing.

“Why do you have to say things like that?”

“You were getting all soft and sweet,” he said. “And when you get like that I really want to f**k you. But Noah’s right outside and this is shit timing. Riling you up takes care of that soft and sweet crap.”

“You’re impossible,” I told him, trying to get up. He held me down, though, and riling me up clearly wasn’t making him less interested in sex. The evidence under my ass was getting harder by the second.

“How about this,” he said. “One kiss. Give me one kiss and we’ll call it even.”

“No,” I told him. “You’re up to something. You can’t let me win, can you?”

Ruger grinned at me.

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “I’m up to something. And I’m never going to let you win, so you might as well give up now.”

With that his lips came down over mine in another of those kisses that destroyed my ability to think. He explored my mouth softly and I explored right back, wishing like hell that Noah was with a babysitter. Heroin. The man was pure heroin. Heroin kills people, my brain screamed. My body flipped off my brain and kept kissing Ruger. Finally he let my lips go and pulled back, smiling and looking smug as hell.

“Like I said, might as well give up, Soph,” he said. “Sooner or later I’m gonna win this little game of ours.”

I sat up slowly, shaking my head. How did he do that to me? I wanted him so bad I couldn’t see straight, and he turned it off, just like that. Noah ran up across the deck and looked at us through the window, pressing his mouth wide open against it and making a blowfish face. Then he started laughing wildly and ran off again.

Okay. That turned it off.

“You want to keep your own place for a while,” Ruger said, touching my cheek softly. “I’ll try to understand that. It’s all happening fast and that’s scary. But you’re still mine, Soph. Don’t think for one minute I’ve forgotten that or changed my mind.”

“You planning to keep your dick in your pants at the club?” I asked bluntly.

“I’m not planning not to keep it in my pants,” he said slowly. “But I’ve told you—I’m not a one-woman man. I won’t lie to you or make promises I’m not sure I can keep.”

“And there we have it,” I replied, shaking my head. “Fuck off, Ruger. I’m going home.”

RUGER: What time do you get off work?

ME: 5. Why

RUGER: Want to come over and check your place out for security

ME: No

RUGER: You haven’t figured this out yet? I’m going to do it. Rather do it when it’s convenient for you but happens either way. What time? I’ll bring pizza

ME: We get home around 6. Noah likes his pizza plain

RUGER: Plain? Like nothing?????

ME: Plain. Be happy. Used to be he wouldnt let them put sauce on it

RUGER: Plain it is. See you at 6

ME: He’s invading my space


ME: Ruger. He’s invadng my space. Coming over tonight to check out security on new place. Bribing us with pizza

KIMBER: Control freak much? What’s security

ME: He likes my apartments to have alarms. Checks for bad windows and locks. Deadbolts.That kind of thing

KIMBER: thats sweet tho! He wants u safe

ME: He’s the biggest danger

KIMBER: Be happy. U have a hot guy coming over and he’s bringing dinner. Women have killed for less

ME: Whose side you on?

KIMBER: Mine. Haven’t u figured this out yet?

ME: Bitch


ME: At least I don’t drive a minivan

KIMBER: See if I make YOU margaritas again! LOW BLOW!!!!!!

ME: <3

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to keep a place safe,” Ruger told Noah, his voice serious. They crouched together as Ruger installed a new deadbolt on our exterior door. We had two—one leading outside and the other leading into the rest of the barn, which was pretty cool in its own right. Among other things, it had a loft complete with mounds of old hay for Noah to jump in. Even better, there were stairs leading up to it and a railing, safety features I assumed they put in for Elle’s cousin.

“If you have empty pop cans, you can make an alarm by stacking them in front of your door,” Ruger said. “The goal is to make noise, so that you know if someone tries to come in. Most bad guys will run away if there’s noise. That’s why I put those little alarms on the windows. If you ever see a bad guy, don’t be quiet. Start screaming. And don’t yell help—yell ‘Call the cops!’ as loud as you can, okay?”

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