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King built his fortress to keep people out, not in. After his abusive old man kicked the bucket, King took the family fortune and built a haven for women and children who needed protection. He has one rule and that is the women decide when they get to leave. When Hayden shows up, all his self-discipline goes out the window. He’s ready to risk it all to keep her…even against her will.
Hayden came to find her sister—not a man—but one look at King has all her female parts kicking into high gear. He’s autocratic and demanding and everything she shouldn’t like but she can’t help being attracted to the soft heart he keeps hidden. She should run away but every moment she spends with him has her wishing that her home could be the King’s Castle.
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“Cabins three and six are occupied. Cabin two is reserved for our incoming guest. Number four should be here in”—I glance at my watch—“thirty minutes. Number five and seven are being cleaned. How long is the waiting list?”
Cynthia checks her tablet. “Twelve, King.”
“Damn.” The number never gets smaller. “When can we start construction of the rest of the cabins?”
“Not until March at the earliest.” Her glum tone matches my mood.
I pat her awkwardly on the back. “Nothing we can do for now. Why don’t you see what the girls in five and seven need since we’ve got the occupants flying in tomorrow?”
“Flying?” Cyn’s lip curls up.
“Jake’s picking them up.”
“What’s up with you and Jake anyway?”
“He’s a man and men suck.”
“I’m right here.”
“I’m sorry but it’s not my fault you were born with a dick.”
I drop my hand protectively around my crotch. “I’m a fan of my dick.”
“No one else is,” Cyn informs me.
“I mean…that’s your opinion.”
“No one here likes dicks. Dicks are bad and Jake has a dick.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” I haven’t checked out Jake’s package and have no intention of doing so.
“We should get a female pilot.” Cyn makes a note in the tablet while I fold the week’s itinerary and tuck it into my back pocket.
“If you find one, let me know.”
“I’ll put an ad in the paper.” Cyn jots something down. Probably, how to get rid of a body in the north woods.
“We live in a town of five hundred,” I remind my cousin.
“If you offer enough, you could lure someone out here.” Her chin comes out, as it always does when she is feeling particularly aggressive. “Aren’t you getting a doctor to come here?”
“Maybe? The jury’s still out. She may take one look at this place and hate it. She’s a city girl.” Cyn makes a disgusted face. “If she doesn’t like it, we don’t want her here.”
“Pretty soon you’ll be kicking me out,” I joke.
The ominous silence that greets me is a tad alarming, but since my name is on the deed and it’s my bank account that funds this haven I think I’m safe, although maybe I’ll start locking my door at night.
The doorbell rings and Cyn’s sassy mood dissipates. She folds the tablet across her chest and looks warily at the door. Inwardly, I curse out her ex. He’s in jail now and he better die there because the minute he steps out of his cell, I’m killing him.
“I thought you were checking on five and seven,” I prompt.
Cyn makes a jerky motion with her head, momentarily lost in a bad memory so I throw out, “Don’t forget Jake is coming. You probably want to condition your hair or something so you look nice for him.”
“In his dreams,” she snaps. And she’s back. She stomps out, letting the screen door slam noisily behind her as if to punctuate how much she dislikes Jake.
She doesn’t fully recognize that her so-called hate for Jake outpaces her fear of men, but I’m grateful for it, so even if she does find a female pilot, I’ll never fire Jake.
I couldn’t even if I wanted to. It’s his ‘copter and his time that he volunteers to pick up women in need of escape and bring them here. If I told him that he couldn’t land in my backyard, he’d put his bird down in the middle of the road and wait for Cyn. He’s determined to have her. He feels like he missed his chance back when they were kids. He’s right. He should’ve taken her away even though she was only eighteen and her daddy hated him. It’s not like Uncle Greg was a good judge of character. While I was off doing top secret shit for the government, Uncle Greg sold Cyn to the highest bidder—a man twenty years Cyn’s senior. He mistreated her bad, beating her up because he couldn’t get a rise out of his pecker. He thought a young wife would change things. It didn’t.
I wasn’t around to save her. Jake saw to that and I’ll be forever grateful. But she wasn’t ready to acknowledge either his feelings or his actions. I had my own wounds to lick. War’s not good for anyone’s mental health, so I brought her up here and we built this shelter together.
Cyn’s got a whole network she’s developed. Women who are in need of assistance, who need to go off the grid or who just need a place to hide for a while contact her. We feed them, clothe them, and help them find new jobs—sometimes even new identities. This place isn’t known to many people so Cyn had a right to feel a certain sense of unease at the ringing of the doorbell. No one who knows us would use it. No one who knows us would lean on the damn buzzer and let it ring endlessly like the person is doing now, being a damned nuisance. I grab my sidearm, slide it into the shoulder holster, and pull open the door.