“I’m here because I got evicted for not paying my rent.”
His jaw tightened convulsively. His expression darkened, something impossible to read filling his eyes.
“You wanna tell me why—exactly—I’m just hearin’ about this situation?”
“No,” I replied honestly. “I don’t want to tell you anything. It’s none of your business.”
He stilled, taking a series of deep breaths. Long seconds passed, and I realized he was consciously forcing himself to calm down. I thought he’d been angry before, but the cold fury that came off of him now was a whole new level … I shivered. That was one of the many problems with Ruger. Sometimes he scared me. And the guys in his club?
Ruger was poison to a woman in my situation, no matter how sweet he was to Noah or how badly my body craved his touch.
“Noah is my business,” he finally said, each word slow and deliberate. “Everything that touches him is my business. You don’t get it, that’s your problem, but it ends tonight. I’m taking him home where it’s safe so I won’t ever get another f**king phone call like that one again. Jesus, you haven’t even done the basics to secure this place. Don’t you ever listen to me? I told you to get some of those little alarms for the windows until I could come over and wire the place up right.”
I steeled my spine and held fast.
“One, you don’t get to take him anywhere,” I said, trying very hard not to flinch or let my voice tremble. I couldn’t afford to show any weakness, despite the fact that I was perilously close to peeing myself. “And two, your ass**le brother hasn’t paid me any child support for nearly a year now. Health and Welfare can’t find a trace of him, either. I did my best, but I couldn’t keep up the rent on the other place. I can afford the rent here, so we moved. You have no right to judge me—I’d like to see you raise a child on what I earn. They don’t just give out those window alarms for free, Ruger.”
His jaw twitched.
“Zach’s working the oil fields in North Dakota,” he said slowly. “Makin’ damned good money. I talked to him two months ago, about Mom’s estate. He said everything was okay between you two.”
“He lied,” I said forcefully. “That’s what he does, Ruger. This isn’t news. Are you really surprised?”
I felt suddenly tired—thinking about Zach always made me tired, but sleep wasn’t the answer. He waited for me in my dreams, too. I always woke up screaming.
Ruger turned and walked over to the window, leaning on the sill and looking outside thoughtfully. Thank God, he seemed to be calming down. If he didn’t look so deceptively attractive silhouetted in my window, my world would make sense again.
“I guess I shouldn’t be,” he said after a long pause. “We both know he’s a f**kin’ loser. But you should’ve told me. I wouldn’t have let this happen.”
“It wasn’t your problem,” I replied softly. “We were doing fine, at least until tonight. My regular sitters all have that flu that’s going around. I made a mistake. I won’t make it again.”
“No, you won’t,” Ruger said, turning to face me. He tilted his head to the side, eyes boring through me. He looked a little different, I realized. He’d lost a bunch of his piercings. Too bad it hadn’t softened him up even a little bit, because his expression was pure steel. “I won’t let you. It’s time to admit you can’t do it all on your own. Club’s full of women who love kids. They’ll help out. We’re a family, and family doesn’t stand by when someone’s in trouble.”
I’d opened my mouth to argue when I heard a light knock on the door. Ruger pushed off the window and strode over to open it.
A giant of a man walked in, taller even than Ruger, which was saying something. He wore faded jeans, a dark shirt, and a black leather vest covered with patches, just like Ruger’s, including his name and a little red diamond with a 1% symbol on it.
All the Reapers had them, and my old friend Kimber had told me it meant they were outlaws—that I had no trouble believing.
This new guy had shoulder-length, darkish hair and a face so perfectly handsome he could’ve been a movie star. Under one arm he held a stack of broken-down cardboard boxes, tied together with what looked like baling wire.
In the other he held an aluminum baseball bat and a roll of duct tape.
I swallowed and nearly fainted. My hands actually started sweating, because I’m cliché like that. My nemesis hadn’t just come to rescue us, he’d brought along one of his accomplices. That was the biggest problem with Ruger—he was a package deal. You bought one Reaper, you bought them all.
Well, all of them who weren’t currently serving time.
“This is one of my brothers, Horse,” Ruger said, closing the door behind him. “He’s gonna help us move your shit. Stay quiet, but start packing whatever you want to bring. You’ll be staying in the basement at my place. Don’t think you’ve seen my new property,” he added pointedly, which I knew was a dig at me for refusing his offer of a room at the beginning of the summer when we visited Coeur d’Alene. “But it’s got a daylight basement with a kitchen and everything, and you’ll have your own little patio. There’s tons of space for Noah to run around, too. It’s furnished, so only bring what you really care about. The rest of this shit can stay.”
He glanced around the room, judging my furniture. I saw his point. Most of it had been scrounged off curbs next to Dumpsters. The finer pieces came from thrift stores.
“How’s the kid?” Horse asked softly, setting the boxes down and leaning them against the wall. Then he hefted the bat, giving it a little toss and catching it with his other hand. I couldn’t help but notice how thick his arms were. Apparently club life wasn’t all drinking and whoring, because Ruger and his friend obviously did some serious weight lifting. “Did the bastard touch him? What’re we dealing with?”
“Noah’s fine,” I said quickly. I eyed the tape, which Horse had failed to deposit next to the folded boxes. “He was scared, but it’s over now. And we really don’t need your help, because we aren’t going back to Coeur d’Alene.”
Horse ignored me, glancing toward Ruger.
“The guy still here?”
“Dunno yet,” Ruger replied. He looked to me. “Sophie, show us which apartment they’re in.”