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Her eyes flared wider than the tires he spent all day replacing. “I… I hear you.”

“Shit like this turns into stalking, which turns into attacks, Prickles. I will not sit back and watch that happen to you.”

“H-he can’t hurt me. He’s in prison for a few more years. I hate getting those letters, but they’re not a threat.”

“And then? When he gets out, and he’s tired of you ignoring his letters? What happens when he decides it’s time to see you in person?”

“How do you know I don’t answer them?”

He barked a half laugh. “Because you’re a fucking badass who wouldn’t give scum like him the time of day.”

A laugh bubbled out of her. Not one of humor but self-loathing and hysteria. “If only that were true. My whole life would be different if only that were true.”

Her anguished admission chased away his anger. “Let me help you,” he offered in a much softer tone.

Her eyes pleaded for him to drop it, but he wouldn’t, not ever. He couldn’t. Not when her safety was involved. So she sighed and nodded once.

“Tell me about the letter. You can trust me, Harper,” he said.

“No. I can’t.” The whispered confession held so much sadness his heart ached. “Not because of you, but because of who I am. Mistakes I’ve made. I can’t trust anyone.”

“You will,” he rumbled in a low tone. “Maybe not today but someday soon.”


IN THE PAST two minutes, Harper had gone through such a wide range of emotions her head spun, and her body tingled.

Or maybe that was the incredibly big and sexy man practically lying on top of her. His pelvis was right there. All she had to do was push her hips up a fraction of an inch and she’d be able to grind against him. To try and find some relief for the desire between her legs that only seemed to occur when he was around.

Then she remembered why they were positioned like this. He’d read Aaron’s letter and wanted to know her secrets. Hot shame burned through her at the thought of revealing her darkest days to him.

No, she didn’t trust him fully. And despite his confidence to the contrary, she never would. That was something Jinx probably couldn’t understand, but she wouldn’t let herself trust him because she didn’t trust herself anymore. She did not trust herself to choose loyal and safe friends. And certainly not when it came to lovers.

He was the type of man, however, who wouldn’t let this go. And he’d brought her ice cream, which she now realized was a ploy to butter her up before he dropped the bomb of Aaron’s letter. But was there a chance Jinx could make it so she never received another one? If so, maybe talking a little was worth that outcome.

It meant she had to trust he’d keep his word and help. That he wouldn’t use her story against her somehow or betray her. Did she trust that?


Fear outweighed her ability to see beyond past mistakes, which wasn’t fair to him. He’d never hurt her. And he was asking for a chance to prove he and his club were on her side.

She wanted to trust him.

She truly did.

But she couldn’t get there.

What she did instead was a quick mental rundown of all the ways he could use her story against her, and in the end, the worst she could fathom was humiliation and shame if he were to run out in disgust or gossip to his entire club. If he couldn’t help end the communications from Aaron, nothing would change for her. She could leave Florida and start again if he tried to use her mistakes against her. She’d only lived there a few weeks and hadn’t planted deep roots.

Something inside her balked at the idea of leaving, but it could be done if necessary.

She sighed, suddenly exhausted. “I’ll tell you about it,” she said with a nod.

His victorious grin made her huff a tiny laugh.

Please don’t make me regret this.

He levered himself off her, then tugged her up to a sitting position. For a second, she thought he would pull her onto his lap, and she both feared and wanted that in equal measure. But he returned to respecting her space and quietly waited for her to speak.

Here goes nothing.

“I had a semi-crappy childhood. Nothing insane that required CPS intervention or anything like that, but it wasn’t any kid’s dream. My dad left when I was five, so it was just me and my mom living in a sketchy trailer park. She worked at a call center for a marketing company during the day and spent her nights drinking and watching infomercials. She had me young, like sixteen young, and never really took much interest in my life beyond keeping me alive. Anyway, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t… good. You know?”