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 me, 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.
“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 child,” 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.
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 … Stupid. 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 br**sts. 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 every woman attractive on a basic, biological level.