THE RUMBLE AND roar of the Dark Knights MotorcycleClub cut through the cheering crowd as they led Peaceful Harbor’s Halloween parade down Main Street. Even in costumes the Dark Knights were an intimidating bunch, but Sarah Beckley wasn’t afraid. Two months ago Bullet Whiskey, a Dark Knight, had rescued Sarah and her family after they’d been in a horrendous accident. In the months since, the Dark Knights had come out in droves to assist them. They’d pulled together a fundraising rally to help pay for their medical bills, helped her find a job and babysitting for her two children, and drove her brother, Scott, to physical therapy when she was unable. Sarah didn’t know much about bikers’ lifestyles, but she’d learned a few things lately. Their families went well beyond bloodlines and birthrights, extending to claiming and protecting the friends and families of each and every member of the Dark Knights. To be included in such a group was an honor.
Sarah glanced ahead at her three-year-old son, Bradley, riding in a sidecar attached to Bones Whiskey’s motorcycle. She couldn’t see Bradley’s face, but she knew her sandy-haired warrior was grinning from ear to ear as he waved at the people on the sidewalks. He had been excited about the parade, but the prospect of riding with Bones had left him too elated to sleep for the past two nights. Her gaze shifted to Bones, the all-toohot physician/biker, and her heart raced. He had taken to her children like an adoring uncle and to her like a hungry, protective man, as if she were his to protect, rendering her not only sleepless, but hot and bothered, for weeks.
Not in a million years had she imagined sitting on a float waving to a community of people who treated her and her children as one of their own, much less catching the eye of someone like Bones. But here she was, sitting atop a giant cupcake-shaped chair Bones had insisted he and his overprotective clan of biker brothers build for her, surrounded by a gaggle of new friends who had embraced her family and brought them into the fold of the close-knit community. Not for the first time since moving to Peaceful Harbor, Sarah took stock of her life, thanking the powers that be for her good fortune—powers that until now she had been sure were evil.
How had she gone from homeless to happy?
If all these people knew the truth about her background, would they still be as accepting? Or would they hide their husbands and children, treating her as the pariah she’d often felt like?
As the float rolled to a stop, Dixie Whiskey, Bones’s sister, tossed her red hair over her tattooed shoulder, straightened the seashell bikini top of her mermaid costume, then shimmied to adjust her shiny green sequined skirt. Ever the biker, she’d paired the outfit with chunky black leather boots. “Finally! If I have to smile for one more second, I’m going to scream.”
“I loved every second,” Sarah said honestly. She knew what it felt like to be alone, hungry, and scared, and she treasured every second that she wasn’t. Bathing in the warmth of good feelings, she gazed down at her eleven-month-old daughter, Lila, looking precious in her red onesie with THING 1 printed on the front. Her little hand rested on Sarah’s burgeoning baby bump, which proudly displayed THING 2. At five and a half months pregnant, Sarah felt good, and maybe more important, for the first time in her life she was truly, deeply happy.
Therein lay the problem.
Every time Sarah had dropped her guard, her world came crashing down around her. She knew better than to let the comfort of these warm, welcoming friends sway her into believing she was on solid ground.
Sarah glanced at Bones as he climbed off his motorcycle. Denim strained over his powerful thighs. He whipped off his helmet, and his sexy dark eyes sailed over the sea of heads separating them, landing on her with the heat of a volcano. His lips curled up into a panty-melting smile that made her forget she was a pregnant mother of two and caused her to think about all the dirty things she’d like him to do with that beautiful mouth. Because of her history with men, his attention was as disturbing as it was comforting. She constantly battled the urge to dig deeper into his comfort versus hiding her and her children away from the rest of the world just in case…
Bones tossed her a suggestive wink. Her stomach dipped, and she looked away, her cheeks burning. But his draw was too strong, and she had to steal another glance.
Her heart thundered as she took in his handsome, rugged features and a body that put every other man to shame. She noticed several women watching him. He didn’t seem to pay any mind to the attention he drew as he talked with Bradley, Sarah’s real Thing 1. Her boy was as enamored with Bones as she was. He’d refused the Dr. Seuss–themed costumes in favor of matching Bones.
Bradley hadn’t even batted an eye when four-year-old Kennedy, the daughter of their friends Truman and Gemma Gritt, had convinced all the guys in their group to dress up as cheerleaders while she dressed up as a football player—with a pink tiara, of course. Bradley carried his pom-poms proudly and had even been willing to wear the skirt. The men, however, weren’t quite as open to the idea. They’d donned denim shorts, white T-shirts that read TEAM KENNEDY across the front, black leather vests with the Dark Knights emblem on the back, and their biker boots. Pom-poms were not optional, and most of the men had them crammed in their back pockets.
Bones seemed to enjoy taking her family under his very sexy wings. He had insisted on buying Bradley a little leather vest and boots. The tattooed, burly bikers had revealed their hearts of gold, and her little boy had been over the moon to be included. Bones did a lot for them. He was helping Scott finish their basement, and he helped Sarah with the kids when they went out as a group. Sarah was still learning to accept such generosity and was slowly coming to understand that not all gifts were given expecting something in return.
As her friends moved toward the edge of the float, their significant others appeared like the cavalry to help them. Bullet lifted his fiancée, Finlay, into his arms, kissing her on the way down. His thick arms and body swallowed her up as their rottweiler, Tinkerbell, who had ridden on the float with Finlay, whined for attention. Finlay owned the catering company for whom the float was built, and she looked adorable in a short pink skirt and white apron that proudly displayed Finlay’s in fancy pink script, along with a big, puffy baker’s hat. The petite blonde had been another saving grace for Sarah after the accident, preparing allergen-free meals for her day after day.
Bullet and Finlay were getting married next weekend. Although Finlay was as demure as a bunny and Bullet was like a beast ready to charge, they made love look easy.
Sarah had once believed love could be something, though certainly not easy. She’d since learned how treacherous even thinking about being in love could be.
On the other side of the float Scott helped Dixie and their friend Isabel climb down. He had that goofy look in his eyes guys got around hot girls. It was nice to see him involved and happy.
“Daddy!” Kennedy hollered to Truman as he approached.
She clung to Gemma’s hand. “Get me and Mama!”
Carrying Lincoln, their toddler, Truman reached for Kennedy. “Come on down, princess.”
“I’m a footballer, Daddy!” Kennedy climbed down as Bear, Bones’s younger brother, helped Gemma down, then reached for his wife, Crystal.
She noticed Bones holding Bradley’s hand and heading her way. The love and support of the Whiskeys was beyond admirable. She swore their protective nature was woven into the very fabric of their beings. The crowd pushed forward, and she lost track of Bones and her boy.
Scott pushed through the crowd and reached for Lila. “Give her to me, and then I’ll help you down.” He didn’t seem to care how silly he looked dressed as the Cat in the Hat to match their Dr. Seuss theme, and she loved him even more for it.
When they’d first reconnected, she’d seen hints of their father in his facial features. She’d mentioned it to Scott, and he’d stopped shaving and had let his hair grow out. Sarah didn’t think that mattered now that she’d gotten to know him. There was no hint of her father left in him.
“I’m not sure I should give up my baby to a giant cat-man,” Sarah teased as she handed him the sleeping baby.
Scott had kept a heavy hand on Sarah’s shoulder during the entire parade. No doubt he worried that this life they were creating could go up in smoke at any moment and she’d disappear again. It would take a pack of wolves to separate her from the brother she hadn’t seen in so many years she’d thought she’d lost him forever.
They’d only just reunited, and the first night they’d gone out to celebrate, they’d gotten into the car accident that had landed her babies and Scott in the hospital. Lila had scars on her face and arms, and Scott was still doing physical therapy to strengthen his legs, which had been broken in the accident. Thanks to Bullet’s fast thinking, they’d all survived.
That seemed to be the story of their lives. Surviving. She wondered if any of the others were waiting for their own beautiful lives to implode, or if she was alone in that fear.
She hiked her baby bag over her shoulder and climbed down, taking Lila from Scott. They were quickly swept into the crowd as they made their way toward the motorcycles. Sarah peered around a heavyset woman and scanned the crowd, quickly finding the broad shoulders she’d know anywhere. Bones was surrounded by a group of women dressed in sexy costumes with short skirts and tight bodices. They were gazing up at him like he was the Wizard and held the answers to all their problems.
Sarah pushed through the crowd, and Bones turned, his dark eyes locking on her so intently she stilled. She lowered her gaze, looking for Bradley, and her stomach took a nosedive.
A woman dressed as a witch grabbed Bones’s arm, turning him away.
“Scott, where’s Bradley?” Panic gripped her as she spun around, searching the crowd. In her heart she knew Bones would never put her children in danger. But her children’s own father, the man who was supposed to protect them with his life, had put them in harm’s way. She no longer trusted her instincts like she used to.
“It’s okay. I’m sure he’s nearby.” Scott plowed through the mass of people, hollering Bradley’s name.
With her heart in her throat, Sarah pushed forward, clutching Lila and calling for Bradley. Bones spun around and quickly closed the distance between them.
His arm circled her waist, hauling her and Lila closer.
She pushed out of his arms, panicked. “Where’s Bradley?”
“He’s with my mother, Babs, and Chicki. They’re taking him to get cotton candy.”
Relief washed over her. Babs’s and Chicki’s husbands were Dark Knights, and they were both as close as family to Bones. Babs babysat Lila and Bradley, and Chicki owned the salon where Sarah worked. She trusted them and Red, Bones’s mother, explicitly, but that didn’t stop her fear from tumbling out. “You’ve got to let me know before you let someone else watch him.”
“You’re absolutely right. I was just coming to tell you, but one of the nurses from the hospital cornered me. I’m sorry.” He drew her closer and then held her even tighter. “You’re shaking.”
“Damn right I’m shaking,” she said, trying to calm her remaining panic. “I thought my baby was lost. I need to see him. Can we—”
Bones was already on the move, barreling through the crowd with Sarah tucked against his side. He did that a lot, and she didn’t think she’d ever get used to the pulse of heat seeping from his body to hers. He hollered to Scott as they passed, and Scott joined them, making a beeline for the cotton-candy vendor.
“He’s with Red, Chicki, and Babs,” Sarah explained. The relief on her brother’s face was as pure and present as her own.
“Thank God,” Scott said. “I told you it was going to be okay. Bones would never let anything happen to Bradley.”
“Not a chance,” Bones said fiercely. “I didn’t mean to alarm you guys. I was heading over to tell Sarah when I got snagged by a nurse.”
Bones pointed to Bradley sitting on Chicki’s lap in the grass beside Red and Babs, dousing the last of Sarah’s lingering panic. Bradley had sticky blue cotton candy all over his cheeks, and he was giggling as he held the sugary puff out toward Red. Red leaned forward, making a dramatic show of taking a big bite of the sticky treat, and then Babs did the same. Bradley giggled, and Chicki hugged him.
Sarah might be wary of fully trusting anyone, but seeing those women love up her son made her warm all over, and embarrassment for overreacting after Bones and his family had done so much for them nearly swallowed her whole. In addition to everything else the Whiskeys had done for her and her family, after Scott’s injuries had cost him his new job, the Whiskeys introduced him to the guys down at the marina, where he now worked.
Before she could apologize to Bones, Quincy, Truman’s younger brother, hollered “Scott” from across the street. He was with Isabel and Jed, Crystal’s brother. “Dude, want to hang with us?”
Scott glanced at Sarah. “You okay? I’ll stay if you want me to.”
“I’m fine. Go have fun. We’ll catch up later.”
As Sarah watched Scott cross the street, she noticed his limp was a little more pronounced and was glad he had his cane in the car in case he needed it. He had a permanent plate and pins in one leg. He’d been fortunate in his healing, and his doctors no longer anticipated future surgeries. He still had days when he couldn’t do as much as he would like, but at least he was out of the woods.
“Sarah, I’m really sorry,” Bones said, pulling her back to the moment.
When he looked at her as he was now, gazing deeply into her eyes like he meant every word, it was hard to concentrate. She liked to look at him too much, and she found herself trying to put the pieces of his life into some semblance that she could understand. He didn’t look like a biker, and yet the club was a huge part of his life. He was tall and clean-cut, and he didn’t have any tattoos like most of the other bikers did. At least none that she’d seen. Then again, Bones didn’t need ink to underscore his badassery. He had a commanding presence made even more powerful by the angular cut of his jaw and his piercing dark eyes. He was the kind of man women lusted after and men looked up to.
She shifted her gaze back to her son and said, “I know. It’s okay. I’m just overprotective.”
“As you should be. When I saw the fear in your eyes, I felt horrible.”
The emotion in his voice drew her gaze back to his. She had no business noticing anything about him, much less letting her overactive imagination run wild. Bones could have any woman he wanted. She wasn’t fooling herself into thinking he’d be crazy enough to want a pregnant woman with two children. Besides, she’d made the mistake of trusting kind words and sexy eyes before. She couldn’t afford to fall into that dark place again.
“How about a smile from this pretty little lady’s beautiful mommy?” He tickled Lila’s chin, earning sweet baby giggles.
Her insides melted when he did things like that. It was no wonder she was a mess of confusion around him. She desired him so much she ached with it, but her mind continually threw out warnings and barricades in the form of painful memories.
She flashed a quick smile and then headed for Bradley before her hormones had a chance to overreact again. When Bones’s hand landed on her lower back, she forced herself to focus on Red, who was tickling Bradley’s cheek with a blade of grass, instead of the delicious warmth his touch created inside her. It wasn’t an easy task, distracting herself from such an enticing creature, but she was determined. She studied the three women, who acted like sisters although they looked as different as could be. There was one thing about their appearance they had in common, though: They emanated strength and resilience like Sarah had never before seen. Maybe it was because they were bikers’ wives, or maybe they were born that way.
Sometimes Sarah felt strong, but at other times she felt like she had a magnet on her back, drawing bad shit from every direction and it was all she could do to duck and cover.
“THERE’S MAMA AND Sissy,” Babs said to Bradley as they approached. Bones had known Babs his whole life. Her long blond hair always looked windswept, and her clothes were constantly disheveled, but she was as warm as she was tough.
Red smiled up at them and said, “Escorted by my big, brave boy.” With her fair skin and short hair, it was hard to believe she had birthed three dark boys. But like them, she was a biker through and through, and she almost always dressed in black, from her T-shirt and jeans right down to her chunky leather boots.
Bones ruffled Bradley’s hair, and Bradley flashed a sugaryblue toothy grin.
“Hey, Red. Ladies.” Bones leaned down and kissed his mother’s cheek. “Will I ever graduate to being called a man instead of a boy?”
“That’s what other women see you as,” Chicki said, her legs tucked beside her. She was the most fashionable of her friends, exotic almost, with olive skin, dark hair she often pulled back in a severe bun, and a penchant for colorful blouses and zipping around on sky-high heels. “No matter how big and bad you are, to us you’ll always be the boy who toddled around naked in the backyard, saying, ‘Check this out!’ and then doing a hip swivel to make your willy swing around.”
Christ. He was in his thirties. Would they ever stop bringing up this shit?
Sarah snort-laughed as she sat down beside Chicki, quickly covering her mouth. Her beautiful brown eyes flicked up to his, dancing with amusement. Damn she was gorgeous. Sometimes those eyes of hers looked troubled and haunted or a million miles away, and other times, like now, they were carefree and innocent, even if it lasted for only a few brief seconds. He wanted to capture those seconds in a glass, treasure them, and give her more reasons to feel that way.
“You think that’s funny, do you?” he said to Sarah. “I bet your mother has some embarrassing stories about you, too.” Sarah’s face blanched, and pain appeared in her eyes.
“My grandma is in heaven,” Bradley said matter-of-factly. He thrust his cotton candy at Lila, who grabbed a fistful and began sucking it off her fingers.
Man, I’m batting a thousand today.
Bones touched Sarah’s shoulder and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize…”
“It’s okay,” she mumbled just as Lila shoved her sticky fingers into Sarah’s mouth. Sarah gently moved her daughter’s wrist, keeping her from putting her sticky hand elsewhere, and smiled lovingly, the pain instantly disappearing. “Mm. Thank you, Lila boo.”
It was that smile, the one she shared only with her children, that had first captured Bones’s attention when he’d seen her in the hospital after her accident. Sarah was as guarded as a wounded bird, but when it came to her children, she was strong, open, and loving. He wondered what had happened in her life to make her so untrusting of others.
“Here come the troops.” Red pointed across to the sidewalk, where Bullet, Finlay, and Tinkerbell led a pack of their siblings and friends, a motley crew of princesses and the worst-looking, hairy, thick-legged cheerleaders Bones had ever seen.
Babs nudged Chicki. “They look like they’re ready to go have some fun before trick or treating. Come on, girls. Let’s let these young’uns do their thing.”
“Thank you for watching Bradley,” Sarah said. “Bradley, say thank you, honey.”
Bradley threw his arms around Chicki’s neck and said, “Thank you!” His high-pitched voice rang out as he scrambled off her lap and into Red’s, doling out more hugs and kisses.
Then he threw himself into Babs’s arms.
Bones wondered if he missed his own grandmother.
Sarah went up on her knees, and he helped her to her feet, drawing her body against his and holding her there for a beat just to see her blush. As if on cue, her cheeks flushed, and she put space between them. If she blushed when he held her, what would she do when he got his mouth and hands on her? When he poured his desires into pleasuring her?
I can’t wait to find out.
He’d always found pregnancy a time of wonder and beauty, but he’d never been attracted to a pregnant woman before Sarah. There was something about the sweet, sexy blonde, pregnant belly and all, that had drawn him in from the start. She was feminine, and yet she resonated inner strength like a watchful soldier who had seen too much darkness. The thought made his blood simmer, though he had no idea if he was reading her right. He had all types of women vying for his attention, but he rarely dated women from Peaceful Harbor, preferring to keep his conquests far away from his turf, protecting his reputation with the same vehemence he protected his family. But with Sarah, he had no choice. There was an unstoppable force driving him toward her—and for once in his life it wasn’t his head, but his heart.
“Thank you for letting Bradley ride in your sidecar and monopolize your attention during the parade,” Sarah said as she adjusted Lila on her hip.
“He’s a great boy. I enjoy having him around.” He raked his eyes down her body, lowered his voice, and tried to earn the sexy blush he loved. “I’d like to take you for a ride sometime.” Her eyes widened, and he worried he’d pushed too far, so he added, “In my sidecar.”
His mother and her friends rose to their feet, watching him with a spark of intuition, as if they sensed his feelings for Sarah growing right before their eyes. Damn, he hated that spark. He swore they had some kind of truth radar, having caught him and his siblings weaving stories on too many occasions to count when they were kids. He shifted on his feet, turning away from them and toward Sarah. He didn’t know much about her background. She evaded questions about her past and the children’s father—or fathers—like armor deflected bullets. She’d mentioned an ex, but he didn’t know if she was married and using ex figuratively, hiding out from an actual ex, or if she was just cautious in general. She had two beautiful children, was pregnant with another man’s child, and still she had invaded his darkest fantasies and provoked protective urges well beyond what he was used to. There was no denying the burn of attraction he felt, but the idea of messing around with another man’s woman wasn’t even on his radar.
He glanced down at the precious girl in Sarah’s arms, who was watching him with smiling blue eyes. The difference between Lila’s trusting gaze and Sarah’s guarded one was inescapable. He hoped to fix that, but first he needed answers.
An embarrassed smile lifted Sarah’s lips, and she said, “I’m sorry I freaked out about Bradley. My greatest fear is something happening to my children.”
“I should have realized. I’ll never give you a scare like that again.”
Bones was a protector by nature, but his desire to protect Sarah and her children was like a bone-deep ache he couldn’t, and didn’t want to, shake. He didn’t know if it was because he’d watched each of his brothers find love and they’d never been happier, or if what his mother had told him so long ago was really true. When you find the one person who you’re meant to be with, nothing can change it. All he knew was that if Sarah was married, if she was spoken for on any level and all he could do was admire her from afar, he’d do whatever it took to show her that she could trust him.
“Who’s ready for trick or treating?” Finlay asked as Tinkerbell pulled her toward Bradley.
“Tink!” Bradley stood up, and Tinkerbell pushed her big head forward, licking his face so hard he plopped down on his butt, giggling.
Bones crouched between them and grabbed Tinkerbell’s collar. “You okay, B-boy?”
“Yes,” Bradley said through fits of giggles. “Let her go!”
“How about we get you on your feet first?” Bones helped him up and put one arm around his waist as Tinkerbell bathed him in doggy kisses. The boy needed a puppy his size, but Bones imagined the last thing his mama needed was another mouth to feed, train, or care for.
Red and her friends said quick hellos before heading off to find their husbands.
“Looks like your boy’s got a bodyguard,” Finlay said to Sarah.
Bones glanced at Sarah, who was watching him warily. It was rare for him to be on this end of scrutiny. He saved lives for a living. Most people looked up to him, valued his word as if it were golden, and he tried to live up to that. What would it take to earn Sarah’s trust? And where the hell was the lucky bastard who had earned her heart and fathered her children?
“Come on, B-boy,” Bones said as he rose to his feet. “Let’s show these guys how trick or treating is done.”
“Shoulders! Shoulders!” Bradley jumped up and down, arms stretched up toward the sky, earning an excited woof from Tinkerbell.
As Bones lifted Bradley onto his shoulders, Sarah touched his arm and said, “You don’t have to…”
Bones winked. “I don’t usually do things because I have to.
I do them because I want to.”
“Uncle Beah, I want a shoulder ride like Uncle Boney is giving Bradley. Please?” Kennedy pleaded, looking precious in her little football uniform complete with shoulder pads, cleats, and a pink tiara. Truman had taken her to a high school football game, and she’d been enamored with the sport ever since. Kennedy was such a girly-girl, so they’d all been floored when she decided to be a football player for Halloween instead of a cheerleader.
“Sure thing, sugar pop.” Bear hoisted her up to his shoulders.
Bear was the most emotional and lighthearted of his siblings. Bones had no idea how, with all he’d been through over the years. His affable personality had saved their family in more ways than one. When Bones had been away at school and Bullet was on tour with the military, their father had suffered a stroke. Bear had just graduated high school, and he’d put his life on hold to take over their family business, Whiskey Bro’s, and eventually, after their uncle passed away, Whiskey’s Automotive. He’d not only kept them solvent over the years, but he’d helped them flourish, all while taking care of the homestead so Bones could put focus on becoming a doctor and Bullet could give himself over to their country. Now it was Bear’s turn to follow his dream, and Bones couldn’t be happier for him. He’d married Crystal several months ago and was currently designing motorcycles for the elite Silver-Stone Cycles. And because he loved the business so much, he continued working part-time at the auto shop as well. Bones was in awe of each of his brothers and their accomplishments, and he would forever be thankful for Bear’s selfless generosity.
Kennedy set her pink tiara on Bear’s head and said, “Now you weally look like a cheerleader!”
“Only for you, Ken,” Bear said with a shake of his head.
“Where’s Dixie?” Bones asked.
“Penny and Izzy dragged her off with Jed, Quincy, and Scott,” Crystal explained.
“Penny said they were going to do single-people things, which was quickly followed by a waggle of Quincy’s brows,” Gemma said.
Bones glanced at Sarah. I’d like to do single-people things with you. As if she’d read his thoughts, she blushed and looked away.
Bullet grunted something Bones couldn’t make out. Like the rest of the guys, he looked ridiculous in his cheerleading outfit, with two pom-poms sticking out of his back pocket, but he was six foot five, and there wasn’t a man alive stupid enough to make fun of him. And like all the Whiskeys, there was nothing they wouldn’t do for Kennedy.
“Shoot. I forgot the stroller,” Sarah said.
“I’ll carry her.” Bones reached for Lila. “Come here, peanut.”
Sarah turned her shoulder toward him. “You’ve already got Bradley.”
Bones reached up and put one hand on Bradley’s back and waved his other hand. “And I’ve got a free arm.”
“Mommy, he’s a good holder,” Bradley said, patting Bones on the head. “He’s holded me a lot.”
She blinked up at Bones with an apology in her beautiful brown eyes. “It’s okay. I can carry her.”
Lila reached for Bones. He stuck his finger out, and she wrapped her tiny fingers around it, pulling it toward her mouth.
“I don’t doubt that you can,” Bones said. “But this is what friends are for, lightening the load.” Didn’t she have close friends wherever she’d moved from? Or had they scorned her? The thought made his muscles constrict. “If you’re not
comfortable with me holding her—”
“No, it’s fine. I’m just being—”
“A responsible mother.” Which makes you even more alluring.
“It’s an admirable trait.”
Sarah shook her head. Her pretty blond hair billowed around her shoulders. “But really, Bones, you can’t carry them both.”
“Oh boy,” Finlay said, glancing knowingly at Gemma. “You haven’t learned not to question the manhood of a Whiskey.
They’ll always prove you wrong.”
“Darlin’, you’ve got a bun in the oven and you’ve been out here all afternoon.” Bones extended his arm. “Now, please hand over that pretty little lady. We’ll walk over to your place and pick up the stroller if you’d like, and then we’ll trick or treat in your neighborhood. We should probably get her hedgehog and blanket, too, in case she gets fussy.” Sarah lived only three blocks away. It wasn’t a long walk for him carrying the kids, but he worried about Sarah lugging a baby on her hip all evening.
Sarah gave him an incredulous look, her eyes full of wonder. “Her hedgehog…”
“I have no idea how you got out of the house without it.” Bones had given Lila a stuffed hedgehog when she got out of the hospital, and from what he’d seen, Lila rarely let it out of her sight.
Gemma sidled up to Sarah and said, “They say you can tell a lot about a man by how he treats his mother.” She turned loving eyes to Truman and said, “I think you can tell more about a man by the way he treats other people’s children.”
Bear had befriended Truman when Truman was a teenager. A few years later, Truman had taken the fall for a crime Quincy had committed and had spent several years in prison. Shortly after being released, he’d rescued Lincoln and Kennedy, siblings he hadn’t known existed, from a crack house where their mother had overdosed. He’d met and fallen in love with Gemma, and they’d since married and adopted the children, raising them as their own. The kids had come a long way. Kennedy had been afraid of everyone and everything. Now she was in preschool three mornings a week and loved being the center of attention. Truman was a good man who had been through hell and given himself wholeheartedly to others. Bones was proud to call him his brother.
Sarah finally relented, handing Bones her sweet baby girl with an appreciative smile. “I hate feeling like I’m taking advantage of you. You’re always helping us out. One day you’re going to spin around and wonder where all your free time went.”
“Take advantage, darlin’.” He couldn’t keep the double entendre from sounding like one, and the widening of her eyes told him he’d better pull back or she just might run scared. But he wasn’t great at pulling back from something he wanted, and when he caught Sarah stealing a glance at him—a very heated glance—he added, “As often as you’d like.” Then he tipped his chin up and said, “Hang on tight, B-boy. We’re about to get our trick or treat on.”