Of course, if we did this, I’d still have to look at his smug, smirking face. He wouldn’t even be embarrassed, the stupid jerk. We had to stop immediately. But he felt f**king incredible. His scent surrounded me, the hard strength of his body pinning and spreading me like a captured butterfly. His nose brushed the curve of my ear and then he dropped lower, giving my neck a slow, sucking kiss, lips dragging across my skin until I had to bite my own to stay quiet. I twisted underneath him and acknowledged the truth. I wanted him deep inside. Now.

I didn’t care that captured butterflies die when they’re pinned.




I tried to speak but nothing came out. I cleared my throat and tried again, the heat of Ruger’s breath playing across my cheek. My entire body throbbed, and he shifted, slowly dragging his hips across mine again, deliberately taunting me.


“Hey, baby,” I called to Noah, my voice unsteady. “Um, give me a sec, okay? We have company.”

“Is it Uncle Ruger?”

Ruger thrust against me one last time before jackknifing up. I sat up unsteadily, rubbing my hands up and down my arms. Noah’s voice should’ve been cold water on my libido, but no such luck. I still felt Ruger’s delicious hardness between my legs.

“I’m here, little man,” Ruger said, standing and running his hands across his head. I studied him in the dim morning light, wishing with all my heart he looked more like my former boss, Dick. No such luck. Ruger was over six feet tall, roped with muscle and annoyingly handsome in an I’m-probably-a-murderer-but-I’ve-got-dimples-and-a-tight-ass-so-you’ll-still-lust-after-me kind of way. Sometimes he wore a mohawk, but the last few months he’d taken to wearing the same buzz cut he’d had when we first met, the slightly longer hair on top dark and thick.

Combined with his size, his piercings, his black leather club vest, and the tattooed sleeves on both arms, he belonged on a “Wanted” poster. Noah should’ve been terrified of him. But he didn’t seem to notice how scary his uncle was. He never had.

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“I promised I’d come get you, didn’t I?” Ruger said softly. Noah crawled out of bed and stumbled over to Ruger, reaching his arms up for a hug. Ruger caught my boy and swung him high, meeting his gaze eye-to-eye, man-to-man. Ruger always did that—he took Noah seriously.

“You okay, bud?”

Noah nodded, wrapping his arms around his uncle’s neck and clutching him close. He worshipped Ruger, and the feeling was mutual. The sight was heartbreaking.

I always thought Zach would be Noah’s hero. Obviously, my instincts were shit.

“I’m proud of you, little man,” Ruger told him. I stood, planning to join them, but Ruger turned away. So he wanted some privacy. I wasn’t going to argue if it made Noah feel safe, but I still strained to hear the conversation as he carried my boy back to bed.

“You did good callin’ for help,” I heard him say faintly. “You ever get in a situation like that again, you call me. Call your mama. You can call the cops, too. You remember how to do that?”

“Nine one one,” Noah muttered, his voice sleepy and thick. A giant yawn caught him off guard and he slumped against Ruger’s shoulder. “But I’m only supposed to do that in an emergency and I wasn’t sure if I’d get in trouble.”

“A bad man touches you, that’s an emergency,” Ruger murmured. “But you did your best, you did what I said. You hid and that was real good, little man. I want you to lie down and go back to sleep, okay? In the morning I’m taking you to my house and you’ll never have to see those people or this place again. But you can’t come with me if you’re too tired.”

I caught my breath. What the hell?

I watched as he tucked Noah in, my mood far from mellow. Seconds later my kiddo was out again, clearly still exhausted. I pulled on a robe and waited for Ruger to come back, crossing my arms and bracing for battle.

He cocked a brow at me, deliberately checking me out. Was he trying to use sex to bully me? That might explain his little seduction-on-the-couch game …

“You forget the part about not pissin’ me off?”

“Why did you tell Noah he’s going to your house? You can’t make promises like that.”

“I’m taking him home to Coeur d’Alene with me,” Ruger replied, his voice matter-of-fact. He tilted his head to the side, waiting for the fight he had to know was coming. His neck was thick with muscles and his biceps flexed as he crossed his arms, matching my stance. It really wasn’t fair. A man this frustrating should be short and fat, with hairy ears or something. But it didn’t matter how sexy he was this time, I wouldn’t cave—he wasn’t Noah’s dad and he could step the f**k off. “I’m betting you’ll want to come with us, and that’s great. But he’s not stayin’ in this shithole another night.”

I shook my head slowly and deliberately. I felt the same way about our apartment—it didn’t feel safe anymore—but I wasn’t going to let him just swoop in and take over. I’d find us a new place. I wasn’t quite sure how, but I’d do it.

I’d spent the last seven years honing my survival skills.

“You don’t get to make that decision. He’s not your son, Ruger.”

“Decision’s made,” Ruger replied. “And he may not be my son, but he’s definitely my kid. I claimed him the minute he was born, and you damned well know it’s true. I didn’t like how you took him so far from me, but I respect why you did it. Things have changed now. Mom’s dead, Zach’s gone, and this”—he gestured around the ratty little studio—“this isn’t good enough. What the f**k do you need in your life that’s more important than giving Noah a safe place to live?”

I glared at him.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Keep it down,” Ruger told me, stepping forward into my space, pushing me back. It was a power play, pure physical intimidation. I’ll bet it usually worked for him, too, because when he loomed over me like that, every survival instinct I had told me to roll over and follow his orders. Something quivered down below … Stupid body.

“It means exactly what it sounds like,” he continued. “What the f**k are you spending your child support on? Because it sure as shit isn’t this hellhole. And why the f**k did you move out of your other place? It wasn’t great, but it was okay, and it had that little park and playground. When you told me you were moving, I thought that meant you found something nicer.”

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