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Authors: Joanna Wylde

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BOOK: Reaper's Legacy
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“You’re a very nice person,” I whispered.

“So are you,” she replied quietly. “I have no idea whether things will work out between you and Ruger, but this way Noah can stay in the same school and still be within walking distance.”

“You think it’s a good idea for me to be this close to him?” I asked bluntly.

“Good luck finding somewhere he can’t follow you,” she replied wryly. “It hardly matters how far you go. Like I said—I have a shotgun. The barn has a good lock. Between the two I think you’ll do all right. Would you like to go and take a look?”

“I’d love that.”


Thanks again for watching Noah this weeknd. All moved in now, still cant believe Elle had this place just sitting here. Good luck for me!!!!

No prob. So … have u seen HIM yet?

Who? :->

Don’t be a dumbass. Thats Rugerss job. Did he freak?

Thats the creepy part. He didn’t


No. He texted and asked me if I was ok. I said yes. He asked where I was

U tell him?

Yes. He’d figure it out anyway

Huh … thats weird. After what happeed Sat night,
that’s a total turn around. I expected him to come chase u down and drag you back—you know, like a cavman or something

I know. I was expectign more too. Makes me nervous

Ha! U WANTED him to be pissed!

No … maybe? Its stupid. I have a job interview tomorrow afternoon. Recpetionist at a dental clinic. Right near the school

Woooot wooot!!!!! Dont change the subject

Hey! I need a job more than I need to talk about Ruger

This is about ME, babe. I need gossip. U owe me. Iwatched ur kid AND I got you drunk. Entertain me


“Sophie, I’m so sorry, but Dr. Blake is still running late. Can you stick around a little longer, or should I see if he can reschedule? I hate to pressure you, but he’s really hoping to make a decision tonight, and you’re the last interview … We’re pretty desperate.”

“No problem,” I said, smiling brightly at the flustered hygienist behind the counter. It was a big fucking problem. Noah would be out of school in an hour and I needed to be there to pick him up. But I also needed to be able to buy food to feed him, too, and after the first three months this job came with health care and sick leave … not to mention dental. I hadn’t had my teeth checked in four years.

“Are you sure?” asked the hygienist. Her name was Katy Jordan, and for the past hour I’d been sitting in the waiting room, watching her juggle patients and the phone. Apparently their old receptionist left without giving notice because of a family emergency, the temp was a no-show, and the doctor’s assistant had gone
home at ten that morning throwing up. A mother with two kids sat next to me, obviously impatient. She’d been waiting nearly forty minutes for her appointment to start and things were getting tense.

“I’ll make a quick phone call,” I told her.

“Sounds great,” she said. “Mrs. Summers? Are you ready?”

The woman beside me stood and coralled her children, herding them into the back. I stepped outside the office, which was in a low-lying, mixed-medical building. Kind of like a mini-mall for doctors, although classier, with fancy landscaping, cedar siding, and covered walkways.

I tried Elle first. No answer. I tried Kimber, too. Nothing. I called the school to see if he could go to the after-school program for a day, only to learn he needed to be formally enrolled to participate, something I’d have to do in person, at the district office.

That left me with the girls from the club or Ruger … and the girls from the club weren’t authorized to pick him up at the school. I could change that, of course. All I had to do was fill out some paperwork at the school office.

In person.

That left Ruger.

I hadn’t had any communication with him since Sunday morning, aside from that one text asking if I was okay. I punched his number and waited. The phone rang long enough, I thought I’d get voice mail. Shit … Then he answered.


He didn’t sound particularly friendly or welcoming. More like the old Ruger, the one who looked through me like I was furniture. I suppose that’s what I wanted. It didn’t feel good.

“Um, hey,” I said. “I’m really sorry to do this, but I have a favor to ask. For Noah.”

“Yeah, you always have favors to ask,” he said, his voice almost a growl. “Yet I still answer the damned phone when you call. Tryin’ to figure out why.”

“Are you working this afternoon?”


“Any chance you could duck out long enough to pick up Noah at school? They keep moving back my job interview. If I have to leave, I’m probably going to lose my shot here.”

He sighed.

“Yeah, I can move things around here,” he said. “How late do you think you’ll be?”

I paused, hating every second of this.

“I don’t know,” I finally said. “At this rate, it might be toward the end of the day. I need to meet with the doctor. He had some sort of emergency earlier and now they’re running behind. He’s just trying to fit me in between patients at this point.”

“Okay, I’ll take the rest of the day off, bring him back to my place.”

“Thanks, Ruger.”

“It’s what I do,” he said, hanging up. I looked down at the phone, wondering how such a great guy could be such an asshole slut at the same time.

Then I pasted my “Hire me, I’m friendly and competent!” smile back on and returned to the waiting room.

By four thirty I still hadn’t done my interview. I’d pretty much given up on it, because there’d been a second emergency. A high school girl knocked out half her front teeth during soccer practice. She’d been hysterical when her coach rushed her in, bloody towels pressed to her face. The other patients watched in fascinated horror as Dr. Blake himself came out to fetch her, bustling her back into the treatment room.

Forty-five minutes later he reappeared.

“We’re going to have to reschedule everyone,” he announced to the room, looking exhausted. “I’m so sorry. I don’t have anyone here to help you right now. We’ll need to call you tomorrow.”

There were several frustrated sighs, but it wasn’t like people could complain, given the circumstances. Dr. Blake’s eyes caught on me. He was a handsome man, although older than me. Probably in his late thirties or early forties?

“Are you one of my patients?” he asked. “I don’t recognize you.”

“I’m Sophie Williams,” I answered, straightening the scarf I’d tied around my neck. “I’m applying for the job as your receptionist. I’m guessing that interview isn’t going to happen today?”

The phone started ringing. Again. Then the door opened and a UPS deliveryman came in, followed by a woman with three children.

“Hey, Dr. Blake!” she said. “We’re all ready for our checkups. How are you doing?”

“Great,” the doctor replied, offering her a pained look. “But we’ve had a little complication in the scheduling today. This is our new receptionist, Sophie. She’ll take care of you.”

Just like that, I had a job.

I felt proud of myself when I turned the car down Ruger’s drive that night. I’d jumped right in at work, and while I didn’t know how to use the scheduling program, I still managed to look up the last two patients for the afternoon and call them to cancel. I’d also handled the phone and even talked to a potential new patient. I still needed to fill out paperwork, but Dr. Blake had been thrilled.

Just having an income source changed everything … The fact that it came with benefits, sick leave, and vacation? Amazing.

I’d never had a job with paid vacation before.

Of course, that good feeling ebbed as I pulled up to the house. I hadn’t seen Ruger since I’d snuck out of his room three days ago. I wasn’t sure what I’d expected from him. But I’d expected
. This silent acceptance of what I’d done, after what a huge deal he’d made about “owning” me? That made me very nervous.

Making matters worse, he’d saved my ass this afternoon. Again. That meant I owed him even more than before—just one more complication to our already twisted relationship.

I knocked on the door but nobody answered. I’d texted him around four thirty to give him an update and he’d replied that they’d gone fishing, so I walked around the side of the house to his deck and made myself comfortable at the table to wait. Well, as comfortable as I could, given our recent interactions. I still had my key, but using it felt wrong under the circumstances. It was a little after six already. I hoped he’d be back soon. Noah needed dinner and a bath before bed.

Ten minutes later I saw them walking up toward the house across the meadow from the pond, the big man and little boy looking like something out of a country-living postcard. Ruger carried the fishing gear and Noah bobbed along next to him like a puppy, holding a string of three tiny little fish.

“Mom!” he yelled, spotting me. He took off running toward the house and I met him at the bottom of the steps. He jumped at me and then I was holding him as the fish slapped against my side in all their slimy glory.

Ewww …

“Mom, I got
three fish
,” he told me, eyes wide with excitement. “Unce Ruger and I went to the pond and we even got to dig up some worms and they were really, really squirmy!”

“Wow, that sounds like fun,” I told him, wondering if I’d be able to get the fish smell out of my interview outfit. I couldn’t get upset about it, though—not with him so happy. Sometimes I forgot just how much I loved my little boy, because seeing him again after a long day apart nearly made my heart explode.

“I have good news, too,” I told him, smiling big.


“Mama got a job!” I said. “I’m going to be working at a
dentist’s office right by your school. I’ll be able to drop you off every day, and then I’ll pick you up from the after-school program. No more working at night! What do you think of that?”

“That’s fuckin’ great, Mom!” he said, eyes bright.

“Noah! Do we use that word?”

His face fell and he shook his head.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Uncle Ruger told me not to say it in front of you.”

Ruger set the fishing gear down under the deck and I turned to him.

“Noah says you told him not to curse in front of me?” I asked, raising a brow.

“Long story,” he replied. “And I’m not gonna get into it with you, so you can either let it go and enjoy some grilled fish with us for dinner or get all worked up. Result will be the same.”

I glared at him as Noah started wiggling to get down. I let him go and he held the string of fish up, so proud he practically glowed.

“Uncle Ruger and I are going to cook dinner,” he declared. “We’re eating my fish. You can share!”

I glanced down at the three tiny little rainbow trout, smaller than could possibly be legal. Then I looked up at Ruger, questioning.

He shrugged.

“I’ve got some salmon marinating in the fridge,” he said. “I’ll grill it with corn.”

“I brought Noah his favorite macaroni and cheese,” I replied. “Want me to cook that up while you get the grill going?”

“Sounds great.”

Dinner was a little awkward, but not as bad as you’d think, under the circumstances. I’d busied myself doing the macaroni and prepping the veggies while Ruger and Noah cleaned the fish. I wouldn’t have trusted Noah with a knife, but Ruger guided him carefully,
explaining each step as he slit the fish open, gutted them, and then rinsed them out. We wrapped everything in foil and threw it on the grill while Noah ran off to play and I set the table.

“So, you got the job today?” he asked, leaning back against the railing, a casual eye on the food. It was almost like things hadn’t blown up between us over the weekend. Okay. I could work with that. Denial had always been an excellent strategy for me.

“Yup,” I said. “It’s a good one. They do full benefits after three months and I’ll have a week of vacation starting next year. Thanks again for grabbing Noah.”

“No problem,” he said, shrugging. “It’s not like he’s hard to be around, if you can get him off the whole Skylanders thing. He ever get tired of that?”

“No,” I said. I saw a spark of humor in his eyes and I smiled back. At least we had Noah between us, I realized, no matter how fucked up everything else was.

“You’ve done a hell of a good job with him,” Ruger said. “I want you to know that.”

“Thanks,” I said, startled. “What brought that on? I thought you were pissed at me?”

Shit, did I just say that out loud? Why did I have to go and stir things up, right when we were starting to get along? He didn’t jump all over me, though. Instead he just gave me a slow smile, which was strangely worse.

“You’ll figure it out,” he said.


He stepped over and rotated the corn while I studied him, suspicious. He stayed quiet, pulling out his phone and checking his messages. Yup, definitely worse. At least when we fought I knew where we stood.

On the bright side, Noah’s little trout were pretty tasty—all three bites. He turned down salmon to eat SpongeBob-shaped macaroni and cheese, no huge surprise there. Ruger startled me by
bringing out a bottle of sparkling cider to celebrate my new job. Noah was ecstatic, drinking half the juice by himself out of a real wine glass. I have to admit, I was touched. After dinner we cleared the dishes while Noah took off again, with a stern warning that we’d be heading home in ten minutes.

“You start work tomorrow?” Ruger asked as I loaded the dishwasher.

“Nine on the dot,” I replied, feeling a little rush of excitement. “It’s perfect. I can’t believe how things worked out. Thanks again for helping today—you have no idea how much it meant to me.”

“I note you didn’t follow up on the job at The Line,” he said, cocking a brow. I frowned and looked away.

“Um, I wasn’t really serious about that anyway,” I said. “I don’t want to work for the club.”

“Yeah, you made your feelings about the club clear,” he said. My mood deflated a little. “I’ve got something for you.”

“That’s a loaded statement,” I replied, my voice flat. He smirked, and I felt better. It wasn’t an angry smirk.

“Dirty mind, Soph?” he asked. “Seriously, this is important. Come on into the living room.”

I followed him, then sat in a chair. He sat on the couch, then patted the seat next to him. I shook my head. He held up a thick, business-sized envelope.

“You don’t get your surprise if you don’t come over here.”

“What makes you think I’ll want it?”

“Oh, you’ll want it,” he said, clearly pleased with himself. I got up and walked over to him slowly. He grabbed my hand, pulling me down and across his lap. I gave a token struggle, but he handed me the envelope and curiosity took over, so I let him win.

Also, it felt kind of nice to sit on his lap. Yeah, I know. Stupid. But I’m only human.

I opened the envelope and saw cash. A very large wad of cash.
My eyes opened wide and I pulled it out, shocked. I didn’t count it, but it seemed to be all hundred-dollar bills … there had to be three or four thousand dollars in here.

“What the hell is this?” I asked, looking at him. He gave me a grim smile.

“Child support.”

“Holy shit!” I gasped. “How did you get this out of Zach?”

“It’s from Mom’s estate,” Ruger said. “I paid him out and then he paid you out. In exchange, he gets to keep living. Everybody wins.”

I turned to look at him, shocked.

“Are you serious?” I asked. Our faces were about two inches apart, and his eyes flicked to my lips. I licked them nervously and felt something stir under my butt. His arms came around my waist, holding me loosely, and my nipples hardened.

Damn it.

“Pretty hard to get more serious,” he told me. “Old friend tracked down Zach for me in North Dakota and I rode over there Sunday afternoon, got back early this morning. We had words. Then we went to the bank. I didn’t give him the promise to let him live in writing—that’s just a little side incentive. I’ll revoke it if he ever gets within ten miles of you or Noah again. Mom would’ve wanted this anyway. She never stopped loving him, but she sure as shit stopped trusting him.”

BOOK: Reaper's Legacy
7.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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