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“Jesus.” Jinx made a gagging noise. “Do you have to talk to him like that?”

“Yes, I do. Oh, yes, I do,” Liv cooed.

“Thank God you’re Spec’s problem,” he muttered.

“Hey,” she cried.

Harper couldn’t help the laugh that burst from her.

Jinx’s face lit up, and he winked. “You gonna be around when I come to pick him up?”

What? Why does he care? “I work here.”

He grinned. “Yes, you do.” He grew serious for a moment and strode toward her, not seeming to care at all that Liv and Brooke watched with rapt attention. He cupped her face in his large hand, tilting her chin up. “You in pain?”

Her throat thickened at the concern in his voice, and she refused to acknowledge the electricity buzzing under his finger where it stroked her jawline. “Uh… not much. I took some ibuprofen.”

“Good.” With a huff, he shook his head. “Wish to fuck I coulda had two minutes with the bastard.”

“I’m fine, Jinx.”

His wry grin only added a few more butterflies to her stomach. “Yeah, hon, you are.” With a touch so gentle—she wouldn’t have thought it possible for such a big man—he ran a finger across her bruised cheek. “Still wanna kill him. Ready, Brooke?”

Her head spun from the quick subject change.

“Sure am.” Brooke’s voice held a note of humor, but Harper ignored it.

“Oh, Jinx?” Harper called out as her brain came back to her.

He raised an eyebrow.

“Thank you. Uh… for the ice cream.”

Ugh, that smile could melt the icebergs.

“No idea what you’re talking about. Ladies first.” He gestured for Brooke to precede him, then followed her outside, tossing one final wink Harper’s way before he disappeared.

“Whoa,” Liv said with a chuckle.


“Is the air conditioner broken, or was that seriously hot?” She smirked, still bouncing the baby on her hip. He’d discovered her long necklace and seemed as fascinated with it as Harper was with Jinx.

Which meant a scary level of fascination.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Okay,” Liv said. “If that’s how you wanna play it, let me spell it out for you. That yummy man wants you.”

“He’s just a flirt. You guys have said so dozens of times. He wants every woman.”

“That may be, but this feels different. More significant. Trust me when I tell you that man wants you. Not just what’s between your legs, though I’m sure he wouldn’t turn it down.” She cleared her throat. “If you know what I’m saying.”

“Yeah, pretty sure I saw through that subtlety.”

Liv laughed. “I like you a lot, Harper. You fit well here.”

She looked to the door as though Jinx still stood there. “I don’t know how to handle all that.”

“Neither does he, sweetie.” The baby brought the necklace to his mouth so Liv walked over to the diaper bag. After a quick search, she pulled out a rubber giraffe and replaced the necklace in the baby’s hands. The toy immediately went into his mouth. “Might be fun to learn together, don’t you think?” She waggled her eyebrows.

Fun? No.

Terrifying? Yes.

But she wasn’t ready to admit that, so she conceded. “Maybe.”

“Oh, crap, I forgot to tell you I stopped by the PO Box on my way in. There was something for you.”

“Great, thanks. I’m waiting for some books I ordered.”

“This was just a letter. Here, let me get it.” She walked to her desk, where she’d set her purse before getting an arm full of baby. “Here you go,” she said as she held it out.

Harper took it. One look at the return address had her blood running cold.

North Carolina State Penitentiary.


She glanced up to find Liv watching her with kind eyes. She had to have seen where this came from. “Um…”

“You okay?”

“Not sure yet.” Her gaze drifted down to the letter lying on her open palm. How did he get the address? Stupid question. Probably from his father. He must have been keeping tabs on her.

“I’ll give you some privacy to read it, but Harper?”

“Yes?” She lifted her gaze.

“Whatever it is, good or bad, please know you can trust us both with your secrets and with you. We’re your friends.”

She blinked as moisture prickled the edges of her eyes. There would be no crying. “I don’t know how to do that either.”

“Neither did I when I first came here. But this place has a way of winning you over. Come on, Caleb, let’s go find some big bikers to get all mushy over you.” She smiled and gave Harper’s arm a squeeze before heading out the way Jinx and Brooke had gone.

Harper’s hands shook as she opened the envelope and unfolded the letter.

The crinkling of the paper sounded ten times louder than it should have in the quiet office. Familiar handwriting greeted her as this wasn’t Aaron’s first letter. Over the years, he’d sent many to her in prison. She’d hoped her release would mean the end of his communications, but it seemed his father had passed along a way to get in touch with her. God, how she loathed that man.

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