I liked the idea of throwing her and her stoner boyfriend to the wolves. They deserved a friendly visit from the boys in blue.
But since her man was in a motorcycle club, calling the cops might not be the smartest move. Guys in MCs generally weren’t fond of the police, a perspective he and his club brothers might feel the need to share with me once he made bail. Not to mention Child Protective Services would get involved, which could also get pretty ugly.
I loved Noah and would do anything for him. I was a damned good mother. When other girls my age were out partying and having fun, I was taking him to the park and reading him stories. I spent my twenty-first birthday holding him while he puked from stomach flu instead of hitting the bars. No matter how rough things got, I spent time with Noah every day and made sure he felt loved.
But I didn’t look so good on paper.
Single mom. Dad out of the picture. No family around, crappy studio apartment. Probably unemployed after tonight … What would CPS make of that? Would they blame me for leaving him with Miranda in the first place?
I had no idea what to do. I took a long pull on the beer and then turned on my phone, where Ruger’s message glowed at me accusingly. Crap. I hated calling him. No matter how much time he spent with us (and he made a point of seeing Noah regularly), I just couldn’t relax around him. Ruger didn’t like me and I knew it. I think he blamed me for destroying his relationship with Zach. God knows, I played my part. I pushed that memory away.
I always pushed that memory away.
If only I unnerved him, too, but apparently that was too much to ask. Instead he just looked right through me, hardly bothering to acknowledge my existence.
Even more frustrating? Ruger had to be the hottest guy I’d ever met. He was all danger and hard muscles, with his tattoos and piercings and that goddamned black Harley of his. When he walked into a room he owned it, because it only took one look to see he was a f**king badass, the type who takes what he wants and never says he’s sorry.
I’d been nursing a hell of a crush on him for longer than I cared to acknowledge, something he’d failed to notice despite his apparent fascination with every other woman under the age of forty within five hundred miles. Well, failed to notice all but once, and that hadn’t exactly ended well.
At least he never brought any of his club whores around (which I greatly appreciated), but that didn’t change the fact that he was one of the biggest sluts in north Idaho.
So that’s where we stood.
Presented with my nonthreatening charms, the panhandle’s sexiest, most prolific man-whore still preferred hanging with my seven-year-old child during his visits.
I sighed and hit the play button.
“Sophie, answer your f**king phone,” he said, his voice cold and unyielding, like usual. “I just got a call from Noah. I talked to him for a while and tried to keep him calm, but then some bitch started yellin’ and took the phone away. Nobody answered when I called back. I don’t know what the f**k you’re thinking, but your kid needs you. Get off your ass and go get him. Now. I swear, if anything happens to him … You don’t wanna go there, Sophie. Just f**king call me when you find him. No excuses.”
I dropped the phone and leaned forward on my knees, rubbing my temples with the tips of my fingers.
In addition to everything else, now I had to deal with Mr. Being-a-Biker-Isn’t-a-Crime losing his shit on me. Which he would do, I had no doubt. Ruger was scary enough in a good mood. The one time I’d seen him truly enraged still gave me nightmares, and that’s not a figure of speech. Unfortunately, he had a point. When my son needed me, I hadn’t answered the phone. Thank God Ruger had been there for Noah. But still … I really didn’t want to deal with him right now, either.
I couldn’t leave him hanging, though, worried about Noah all night. He’d called me a bitch the last time I’d seen him, and maybe he had a point, but I wasn’t a big enough bitch to torture him like that. I hit the callback button.
“He all right?” Ruger demanded, not bothering with a hello.
“I’ve got him and he’s fine,” I said. “I couldn’t hear the phone ring at work, but I found his message and left about forty-five minutes later. He’s okay. We got lucky and nothing happened, not that I can tell.”
“You sure that ass**le didn’t touch him?” Ruger asked.
“Noah said he tried to tickle him and make him sit on his lap, but he ran away. They were completely cross-faded. I don’t think they even noticed when he took off. He was hiding outside on the fire escape.”
“Fuck …” Ruger said. He didn’t sound happy. “How high up was he?”
“Four stories,” I replied, closing my eyes in shame. “It’s a miracle he didn’t fall.”
“Okay, I’m driving. I’ll talk to you later. Don’t f**king leave him alone again, or you’ll answer to me. You got that?”
“Yeah,” I whispered. I hung up the phone and set it down on the table. The room felt stifling and I couldn’t get enough air, so I crept softly across the floor to the window. The splintery wooden sash slid up with a groan and I leaned out, looking down at the street, sucking in the cool breeze. The bars had just emptied and people laughed outside, walking along like everything was fine and dandy.
What if I hadn’t checked the voice mail? Would any of these happy drunks have looked up and seen a little boy clinging to the fire escape? What if he’d fallen asleep out there?
Noah could be dead on that pavement right now.
I finished my beer and grabbed a second one, then sat on my ratty couch and pounded it. The last time I checked the clock, it said three a.m.
A noise in the predawn darkness woke me.
A hand covered my mouth as a large body came down over mine, pinning me to the couch. Adrenaline poured through me too late—no matter how I struggled, bucking my entire body against his, my attacker held me trapped. All I could think about was Noah, sleeping right across the room. I needed to fight and survive for my son, but I couldn’t move and I couldn’t see a damned thing in the darkness.
“You scared?” a rough, dark voice whispered in my ear. “Wondering if you’ll live through the night? What about your kid? I could rape and kill you and then sell him to some sick pedophile f**k. You couldn’t do a goddamned thing to stop me, now could you? How you gonna protect him livin’ in a place like this, Sophie?”
Fuck. I knew that voice.