“You’re going to scare him,” I said from the couch, debating whether I should eat the last slice of pizza. Between Ruger and Noah, it’d disappeared pretty fast.

“You scared, Noah?” Ruger asked.


“Nope,” Noah said. “Ruger’s smart. He’s teaching me all kinds of safety stuff. He says you need to stop texting on your phone when you walk places, Mom, and pay attention to the people around you. He also says there’s this little stick you need to start carrying around. It’s called a cuburtron.”

“Kubaton,” Ruger corrected, looking over at me. “It’s a little baton for your keychain. Very effective, very safe. You should come take the self-defense class at the shop, Sophie.”

“I don’t need a self-defense class,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I have my own personal stalker to protect me already. It’s almost Noah’s bedtime—you planning to go home at some point?”

“After I finish up,” he said. “Bath time, kiddo.”

Noah did the obligatory whining and begging to stay up, but his heart wasn’t in it. Bath went fast, with Ruger finishing the lock just as Noah got out.

“Will you do my story tonight?” he asked Ruger.

“Sure thing, little man,” Ruger said. “What are we reading?”

“Magic Tree House,” Noah replied. “I can read it by myself, but I like it when you do it.”

I picked up the small living room as Ruger read to Noah. We had a futon for a couch, which was where I slept. Normally I’d start setting it up by now, but I didn’t want to give Ruger ideas. After half an hour, he came back out, closing Noah’s door behind him softly.

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“Kid’s out,” he said. “Fell asleep halfway through the chapter. I think he’s doin’ great, but he’s been through a lot lately.”

“Thanks for your help,” I said awkwardly.

“Here’re your new keys,” he said, tossing them toward me. “I replaced all the locks, so you’ll need to give a set to Elle. Her old ones won’t work.”

“Um, that’s great,” I said.

“Can I have Noah for a while on Friday afternoon?” he asked. “I’m headin’ out on a run this weekend. Might not be back for four or five days.”

“Sure,” I said. “I need him by seven, though.”

“Sounds good,” he said. He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall casually. “So how long are we gonna do this?”

“Do what?”

He raised a hand and gestured around the little apartment.

“Have you and Noah live here when you could be over at my house.”

“This is nice,” I protested. “It’s clean, it’s safe, and I don’t need to worry about the landlord attacking me in the night. It’s not happening between us, Ruger. Not. Happening.”

He didn’t respond, and I watched him warily. He was up to something … I could smell it. Suddenly he pushed off from the wall and walked over, catching me around the waist. Then he threw me over his shoulder, just like he’d done that weekend.

“No!” I yelled. “You don’t get to haul me off whenever you don’t get your way!”

He smacked my ass.

“Shut up,” he said. “You’ll wake up Noah. If he comes out here, he’ll see you like this, and then you can figure out how to explain it to him. If he asks me, I’ll tell him the truth. Mommy’s been a bad girl and she needs a spanking.”

“You ass**le,” I hissed, kicking and smacking his back as hard as I could. Maybe I should take one of those kube-thingie classes. I could’ve shoved it up his big, dumb ass as he carried me out of the apartment and into the barn.

Ruger ignored my struggles, which pissed me off even more.

He carried me through the barn and up the stairs to the hayloft. I sensed a pattern. At least there wasn’t a bathroom up here, so no cold water spray. Small comfort. He dropped me down on a pile of straw so hard I lost my breath, looming tall as he unbuckled his belt and ripped it through the loops on his jeans. Then he folded it between his hands and snapped it. I glared at him, scuttling backward across the hay like a crab.

“I need to tie you up again?” he asked.

“We aren’t doing this,” I declared, even though my brain had already started the familiar shutdown his presence seemed to cause. God, I loved how he smelled. Not to mention the feel of his c**k deep down inside … those little metal knobs made a hell of a difference. “Go to hell, Ruger.”

“Fuck no. We are definitely doing this,” he said. “Maybe I can f**k some sense into you. Words obviously don’t work.”

With that he pulled off his shirt and tossed it aside. I glared at him as he opened his fly and pulled off his jeans without another word. He knelt forward in the hay and caught my hands, pinning them on either side of my head. His head lowered as he scented me, kissing the fading bruises on my neck, nibbling and sucking like he’d done at the party.

Damned distracting. Shit, that felt good.

“They’re fading,” he said, pulling away just enough to meet my eyes. I didn’t like his expression, not at all. “Maybe I’ll give you some new ones. What do you think?”

“I think you’re a raging ass**le.”

Ruger laughed.

“Yeah, well I think you’re a bitch, but my c**k likes you, so we’ll figure something out.”

He caught my mouth again, but this time the kiss wasn’t hard and brutal. Nope, he changed tactics, because now his lips whispered over mine, nipping and sucking, drawing them apart gently as I tried to ignore him. Then he tugged my hands together over my head, freeing a hand to slide down between us. His fingers drifted across my stomach before reaching the top of the yoga pants I’d put on when I got home.

He starting pulling them down, and I realized this was it.

Ruger was about to win again, because Ruger always won, and I always let him because my body wanted him more than my brain hated him. I raised my hips, making it easier for him to take off my pants, which was just another nail in my f**king coffin. Then his fingers slid into me and I shuddered.

The damage was done already anyway, I justified. What difference would it really make? When he finally stopped kissing me, we stared at each other, panting. His fingers stroked down below, grazing my clit, and I twisted, wanting more.

“Jesus, you piss me off,” he murmured. “Good thing your cunt’s so f**king hot.”

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