What I do remember is trying not to scream and failing when his mouth sucked my clit in deep. I also remember when he plunged into me, stretching me open wide and reminding me that I wasn’t just crazy about him because he took good care of Noah.

Holy shit, the man had skills.


We took a break after that first round of reunion sex, relocating into the shade behind the little shed housing the stairwell. Ruger lay back and made a little nest for me in his arm, and I snuggled in close. He’d lost his clothes along the way, and I figured if being totally naked out in the open didn’t bother him, I might as well enjoy the view.

I leaned up on one arm and started kissing his chest.

“That’s nice,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Jesus, I’ve missed touching you.”

“I’ve missed you, too,” I said. The tribal tat on his pec called to me, so I started tracing it with my tongue. I loved how he tasted, just a little salty and all male. I loved how hard his muscles were, too, and deep down inside I had to admit I loved the fact that he’d do anything for me.


I dropped lower to find the ring in his nipple, flicking it with my tongue.

“Think it’s time to talk yet?” he asked.

I let the ring go reluctantly.

“Yeah, probably,” I said, looking up at him. “We should probably get us—whatever we’re going to be—figured out.”

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“Let’s make it official,” he said. “I want you to be my old lady, pretty sure you know that. You up for that?”

“I think so,” I said slowly. “Were you serious about being faithful? I mean, after you came to get me, when Em and I were with the Devil’s Jacks? Were you serious about not sleeping around? Because that’s still a deal breaker for me.”

“Totally serious,” Ruger replied. He looked me right in the eye. “I haven’t slept with anyone else, babe. Not since I f**ked you in the shed. I’ll admit, I thought about it, but they weren’t you. Just wasn’t feelin’ it.”

I caught my breath.

“Then why did you keep telling me you couldn’t make any promises?” I asked, startled. “I thought you were screwing girls left and right the whole time.”

“Always told you I wouldn’t lie,” he said. “Didn’t want to make a promise I couldn’t keep. But shit, Soph, when I thought I might lose you? It all got real clear, real fast. I don’t give a flying f**k about anyone else, babe. I love you. Think I’ve loved you from the first, when I found you and Zach on my couch. Spent a lot of time trying to talk myself out of it, but it’s not goin’ away.”

I blinked rapidly. He loved me. Ruger loved me. I guess I’d known that for a while now—you don’t take care of someone the way he’d taken care of me and Noah if you don’t love them.

Hearing the words was still nice.

“I love you, too,” I replied, feeling suddenly shy. “I think I have for a long time. You were always there for me.”

“That’s what you do when you’re crazy about someone,” he said, giving me a little grin. “Trust me, I wasn’t helping you move, putting alarms on your windows, all that shit, outta the goodness of my heart, babe. Not running a f**kin’ charity here.”

I gave a little laugh. His gaze was so intense, I couldn’t meet it any longer. I looked at his shoulder instead, and for the first time I really studied the tattoos there. There was a series of round dots, each trailing off a bit, almost like a line of comets.

“What are those?” I asked.


“The tattoos on your shoulders. I’ve been trying to figure them out for a while now. They don’t look like anything.”

He lifted, leaning back on his elbows, and gave me a serious look.

“Sit on my hips,” he said. I raised a brow.

“You ready for seconds already?” I asked. “Or trying to dodge the question? Let me guess, you got drunk and now you can’t remember what they are?”

He shook his head slowly.

“Oh, I remember,” he said. “Go ahead, sit on me. Want to show you something.”

I looked at him suspiciously, but threw my leg over his hips. His c**k rested right against my opening and I felt a flush of desire run through me. He wasn’t the only one ready for more.

“Now put your hands on my shoulders,” he said.


“Put your hands on my shoulders.”

I did. Then it hit me.

“Holy shit, you’re such a pig!” I said, stunned. “What kind of ass**le has fingerprints on his shoulders? God, are the women you screw so stupid they need a guide so they don’t fall off?”

His eyes widened, and then he started laughing. I ripped my hands away, glaring at him. I tried to get off, but he sat up and held my waist tight. Then he stopped laughing and smiled at me.

“First, some of them probably were that stupid,” he admitted. “But those are your fingerprints, babe.”

I looked at him blankly.

“You probably wouldn’t remember, but that night you had Noah?” he said. “You hunkered down on the side of the road and held my shoulders while you pushed him out.”

I realized what Ruger was saying, and I reached up, laying my fingers on the tattoos again. They fit perfectly.

“I don’t even know how to explain that night to you,” he said. “It was so intense, Soph. I had no idea what we were doing. I’ve never watched anything like it, never felt anything even close. You worked so hard to bring him to life. All I could do was hold you, hoping I didn’t f**k something up. You squeezed my shoulders so hard they hurt for days. You dug in your nails, you left bruises, the works. Christ, you were strong.”

I thought back to that night, remembering how I’d crouched on the side of the road. The pain. The fear.

The joy of holding Noah for the first time.

“I’m sorry,” I said softly. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

He snorted at me and grinned.

“You didn’t hurt me, babe,” he said. “You marked me. Big difference. That night was the most important thing that’s ever happened in my life. Holding you, catching Noah—it changed me forever. I didn’t want to forget. So when the bruises started to fade, I went and got them inked, so I couldn’t.”

“Damn,” I said, touching the spots lightly with my fingertips. “I think that’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.”

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