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Authors: Joanna Wylde

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BOOK: Reaper's Legacy
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Ruger snorted, dropping the tape as he finished wrapping Miranda’s legs. Why had he brought Horse? Anyone would’ve been less annoying … even Painter, despite the fact the kid probably couldn’t find his own dick in the shower, let alone pin down a woman.

Unfortunately, only Horse had been both sober and stupid enough to answer his phone in the middle of the night.

“This’ll be hard for your tiny little brain to process, so listen carefully,” Ruger said, rising to his feet and tossing the tape onto the couch. “One, she’s not my baby mama, so stop calling her that. Only funny the first fifty times. Two, I’m not plannin’ to make her my property. I’m helpin’ out because she’s Noah’s mom and for all practical purposes he’s my son. I’ll keep an eye on her for his sake,
but she’s a free agent. I doubt she’ll ever set foot in the Armory, no matter what I tell her.”


“Not bullshit,” Ruger snapped. “She doesn’t want me, asshole. Trust me, I have reason to know this. Our history is fuckin’ complicated—way too complicated for a dumbass cocksucker like you to understand.”

“You struck out,” Horse declared, a slow grin stealing across his face. “And you’re still drivin’ across the state in the middle of the night so you can set her up in your house? You are well and truly screwed, brother.”

“I didn’t strike out,” Ruger replied, eyes narrow. “It wasn’t like that. And I don’t think of her that way.”

“Here’s a suggestion for future reference, then,” Horse said. “Try jerking off before answering the door if you want me to believe you don’t think of her
that way
. Wood like you were sportin’ usually implies the opposite. Unless it was for me? If that’s the case, I’m genuinely flattered. No judgments.”

“Why hasn’t Marie shot you yet?”

“Because I’m not in denial about what my cock wants,” Horse replied. “I piss her off, I get no pussy. Watch and learn. Now let’s get them locked down and start hauling your girl’s shit out to the truck. Jacks’ll be here in a couple more hours, and I don’t particularly care to stay and discuss techniques for removing dumbasses’ ink with them. What kind of suicidal idiot doesn’t black out his tats when his club cuts him loose?”

“Well, he joined the Devil’s Jacks in the first place,” Ruger replied, shrugging. “That doesn’t say much for his intelligence. Hope he has health insurance. Probably gonna need it.”

“Only if he’s lucky. So tell me, brother. How many times you seen
The Notebook
? ’Cause that’s information the boys back home are gonna need to know.”



Noah slurped down his cereal, hopping in his chair like a bouncy ball.

“We’re going to Uncle Ruger’s today, right? Do you think he has Skylanders?”

“Yup, we’re going to Uncle Ruger’s. No idea about the Skylanders, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up,” I replied. My rush of adrenaline had died down, making it harder to sustain any real anger. Instead I surveyed my studio and finally admitted the truth.

The place was a total shithole. Not only that, I had no excuse for not putting on the window alarms. They sold them at the Dollar Store, for God’s sake.

I didn’t like letting Ruger win, but reality was on his side. I was broke, I’d lost my job, and I couldn’t protect my own child. Waiting tables hadn’t paid enough to support us anyway, and I wouldn’t have been working there in the first place if I’d had better offers. My folks certainly wouldn’t help. I’d been dead to them ever since I refused to “terminate” Noah.

Turning down a safe, free apartment would be insane.

I still wasn’t quite ready to forgive Ruger, though. Intellectually that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Sure, he’d been a dick to me. He’d also dropped everything to drive hundreds of miles and save Noah when he’d needed help. The two should probably balance each other out, if I wanted to be fair. Not only that, Ruger had made a point I couldn’t shake.

I really
want to do my own dirty work.

Ruger and Horse had assessed the situation, made a tough call, and fixed things. And that was a huge relief. Ultimately, I’d gotten mad at Ruger for scaring
, not for scaring Miranda. Well, that and his bullying.

He could’ve just talked to me about moving to Coeur d’Alene instead of playing creeper man in the night.

“We have to pack before we leave,” I said as Noah finished up his cereal. He carried his bowl carefully to the sink, spoon teetering. “We aren’t just going for a visit, we’ll be living there for a while. I’m going to get most of your stuff, but I want you to pick out some jammies and clothes to wear tomorrow. Tuck them in your backpack. You should also grab some books to read in the car, okay?”

“Okay,” Noah replied, dragging his bag out from under his bed. He didn’t seem bothered at the thought, which said a lot about our existence. He’d moved at least once a year his entire life. I shook my head, feeling the familiar weight of guilt settle over me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get it right.

I rinsed out his bowl and put on some coffee. Then I grabbed a box to start packing.

“Want some music?” I asked Noah.

“My pick?”

“Sure,” I said, handing him my phone. He plugged it into our little speaker set like an expert.
Here Comes Science
started playing, and after a few minutes we were both singing along about the elements and the elephants. As kid stuff went, it wasn’t too bad. Beat the hell out of Disney crap.

We didn’t actually own much, so packing wasn’t hard. Coffee helped. Three boxes of stuff for Noah. Two boxes for me, plus a suitcase. I had to stand on a chair to take down our big tie-dyed wall hanging. We’d made it together last summer, on one of those glorious days where the sun is so bright and beautiful you don’t even consider making your kid go in at bedtime. I used it to wrap the framed family portrait I’d splurged on when Noah was three.

Then I looked around the room—not much left. Just the kitchen and bathroom stuff … Packing up two lives should take more than an hour, I thought wistfully. I decided to take a quick shower before clearing out the bathroom.

“Don’t open the door unless it’s Uncle Ruger or his friend,” I
told Noah, emptying the coffeepot into my mug. “You cool with that?”

“I’m not a
,” he replied, offering me a look of genuine disgust. “I’ll be in second grade soon.”

“Okay, seeing as you’re an adult, you go ahead and finish up out here. Make sure I haven’t missed something,” I replied. “I’ll wash up fast.”

I shut the door and pulled off my clothes. The room was small, but at least we had a tub. Unfortunately, the hot-water situation wasn’t too great—one of the joys of living on the top floor of a building with shared boilers. I showered quickly, grabbing a towel as I stepped out, dripping all over my dirty laundry. I dried off and wrapped the towel around my head before reaching for my clean clothes. They weren’t there. I’d already packed them all up without giving it a second thought.

Well, crap.

I heard Ruger’s voice in the apartment. Wasn’t that just perfect? I grabbed a second towel and wrapped it around my body, opening the door a crack.

“Noah, can you come here?” I called.

“He’s downstairs with Horse. Wanted to help load the truck,” Ruger answered. He strolled toward the bathroom, all lean and tall and full of controlled strength. A great big killer cat. He stopped outside the door and crossed his muscular arms, eyes dark with something I couldn’t interpret. Memories of those arms around me earlier flashed through my head and I flushed … 
Ruger was a dead end, at least in terms of a relationship, and I sure as hell didn’t want a booty call. Okay, that was a lie. I’d love a good booty call. Just not with a guy I’d still have to deal with ten years from now. My hormones needed to find something else to obsess about.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“I forgot clean clothes,” I told him, considering my strategy. “You mind stepping outside for a sec? I’ll get dressed fast.”

“You gonna give me crap about coming to Coeur d’Alene?” he asked, raising a brow in challenge. Great. I’d gotten over my snit, but clearly he hadn’t.


“You wanna bitch me out for what happened next door?”


“That’s a fast turnaround.”

“I don’t have a lot of choice,” I admitted, forcing myself not to grit my teeth. “It’s not what I’d pick, but it’s better than staying here. And you win—I didn’t want to do my own dirty work. I’m glad you did it for me. Happy?”

“You say that like it hurts.”

It did hurt. The man was like a cheese grater on my skin.

“Just let me grab something to wear, Ruger. You won. Don’t rub it in.”

He laughed, the sound harsh.

“Glad you figured that out,” he said. “Life’s easier when you have help, like it or not. I’ll dig something out for you. Suitcase?”

“That’s okay—” I started, but he’d already turned and grabbed the bag, flopping it on the now-naked bed to unzip it. I swallowed as he began digging around. Not that I had anything to hide, but I didn’t like him touching my things. Way too intimate.

“Nice,” Ruger said, turning back toward me, dangling a black, lacy push-up bra from one finger. The side of his mouth twitched and those dark eyes warmed. “You should wear this one.”

“Put it down, Ruger,” I told him. “Just go outside. I’ll find what I need.”

“I like these ones, too,” he said, pulling out a pair of turquoise panties. “They’d go good with the garter belt.”

I bit back a groan. I might have a thing for pretty underwear, but I didn’t need his input. Jerk. I checked my towel, making sure it was securely tucked in. Then I walked out of the bathroom, determined to get his hands off my panties.

“Just put them down,” I repeated as I moved across the floor. He turned toward me, eyes sweeping over my figure and pausing on my breasts. I felt exposed and uncomfortable, which was silly. The towel covered more than most swimsuits. He had a hungry gleam in his eye, though—one I refused to take as a compliment. We’d already established that Ruger found me attractive on a basic, biological level.

Problem was, Ruger found
woman attractive on a basic, biological level.

I really didn’t like this new dynamic between us. Things were more comfortable when Ruger treated me like a piece of unwanted furniture.

“But I like them,” he said, examining the soft fabric with a smirk. I grabbed for the panties but he held them out of my reach.

“I just got done convincing myself I’ve been unfair to you,” I told him, narrowing my eyes. “Don’t ruin it.”

Ruger didn’t say anything for several seconds. Then he stretched the panties between his hands like a rubber band and shot them at my face. I lurched to grab the silky blue missile. That’s when the towel slipped and I flashed enough of myself to earn a damned fine collection of Mardi Gras beads.

“Nice rack,” Ruger told me. “Checked out the rest of you before, but never those. Usually the other way around, now that I think of it. Tits before—”

“Jesus, you’re a pig,” I said, cutting him off as I jerked up the towel.

“I’ll concede the point,” he said, shrugging and stepping away from the suitcase. “But only if you wear that black bra. I liked the girls. They deserve something nice.”

“Asshole,” I muttered, pissy mood back in full force.

I dug through my bag, pulling out a pair of ratty cutoffs. Then I spotted the super tight, super low-cut “Barbie Is a Slut” tank top my friend Carrie got me two years ago for Halloween, when we
stayed with her folks in Olympia. We’d taken Noah out trick-or-treating wearing friendly witch costumes early in the evening. Then we tucked him safely in bed at her mom’s place and took ourselves out trick-or-drinking. I made out with three different guys at three different parties … using three different names. We finished by eating our weight in chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP as the sun rose.

Best. Night. Ever.

I pulled the tank out with a smile. Ruger wanted to treat me like one of his sluts? I could go there. I’d let him perv on my boobs. All day. Publicly. Maybe I’d flirt a little, too, but not with him. Nope, he could just suck it while I flashed the world. That would teach him to play with my panties.

I hoped his balls turned so blue they froze.

I ignored him as I took the shorts, tank, bra, and panties back to the bathroom and got dressed. I dried my hair and put on full war paint. Then I stepped out to find Horse and Noah were back.

“Hey, Mom—Horse has a dog named Ariel. Can we get a dog, too?” Noah asked the instant he saw me.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “A dog’s a lot of work. We should start smaller. Maybe a hamster. Let’s ask Uncle Ruger if that’s okay or if he thinks it’s too much.”

I smiled at Ruger, whose eyes were glued to my chest. I adjusted my tank, pulling it down just enough to expose the top of the bra he’d requested.

He wanted to break our rules and bully me?

No problem. I was a big girl now, and I could fight back.

“So what do you think, Uncle Ruger?” I asked sweetly. “Is it too much?”

BOOK: Reaper's Legacy
2.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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