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Bucking Bronc Lodge 04(8)

By:Rita Herron

Or a man in pain.

But she also wouldn’t allow him to run roughshod over her.

“I understand that you feel that way.” God knew, she’d been tempted to track down the teenager who’d killed her little brother and make him suffer.

But killing him wouldn’t have brought Richie back.

So, she’d decided she could do more good by helping other kids avoid falling into the kind of trouble that her brother had.

The kind that had led to his death.

“As a matter of fact, I do understand your anger, but that’s not going to help your son.” She gave a pointed glance at her wrist where he still held it. “And neither is manhandling me.”

A muscle ticked in his jaw, but his dark eyes flickered with regret, then he released her so abruptly her heart fluttered at the missed contact.

“I just want justice,” he said in a gruff voice.

Jordan’s gaze met his, one brow raised. “And for your son to be well.”

Emotions made his taut face look even harsher. “That goes without saying.”

In spite of his tough act, guilt underscored his words, and her heart softened. Guilt was one thing she understood. Rational or not, it held a power over you that could cripple you.

But a low sound that bordered on a sob echoed through the speakers from the attached room, and she glanced back at Timmy. He needed her help.

Her job didn’t include counseling his father.

But still, she had to make Miles realize that they had to work together.

Miles removed his Stetson and raked his hand through his hair. “Do you think you can help him?”

Jordan nodded and dragged her gaze from his rumpled head. She had no business thinking that he looked sexy right now. “Yes, but like I said, it’s going to take time. You have to trust me.”

Miles tensed, his body going ramrod-straight. “I don’t trust anyone.”

Jordan gave him a challenging look. “Then you need to start.”

He started to speak, but she held up a warning hand and cut him off. “The mind is a fragile thing, Miles. If you push too hard, you could damage Timmy even more.”

Anguish deepened the lines of his face, but Jordan also saw fear.

She hated to put it there, but she had to in order to make him listen. Because there was one thing she was certain of—if Miles didn’t give Timmy time to heal, and allow him to deal with what had happened in his own time, he would never have his son back.

And that would only add to the man’s already burgeoning guilt and destroy him.

Just as her own guilt had almost done to her two years ago.

* * *

MILES TRIED TO MASK the fear Jordan’s words drove deeply inside him. If he pushed Timmy, he might hurt him more.

As if he didn’t have enough guilt dogging him. As if he wasn’t already terrified his little boy would never be normal—or happy—again.

His cell phone beeped the familiar ringtone for Mason Blackpaw, and his fingers slid inside his jacket pocket over the device. Normally he ditched it for a few days when he came to the BBL to help, but there was no way he could turn it off while Dugan was loose.

“I need to return this.” Even as he said the words, he felt the censure in Jordan’s gaze.

“It might be about the case,” he explained, irritated for worrying about her approval. But dammit, he didn’t want her to think he didn’t care about his son.

“All right. I’ll spend some time with Timmy. Are you settled into your cabin?”

Miles shook his head. “No, and I need to talk to Brody.” He glanced through the window at Timmy, who suddenly picked up the drawing he’d made and crumpled the paper into a ball between his little hands.

Suddenly he felt Jordan’s fingers close over his arm. “You should tell him that you’re going to be gone for a few minutes. He needs reassurance that you’ll be back.”

His gaze was drawn to her slender hand. Her fingers were delicate, long, thin...soft. And they felt gentle, comforting. Something that stirred a yearning he didn’t have time to contemplate.

He had let Marie down in the worst possible way. Not just by putting his job first, but...by not loving her the way he should have.

And then he’d gotten her killed.

So he gave a clipped nod, then headed to the other room. Except for a stiffening of Timmy’s shoulders, he barely responded when Miles entered.

He approached slowly, concerned about startling Timmy, then knelt in front of him. “Son, I have to talk to Brody, the rancher who runs this place. You remember him?”

Timmy’s eyes looked blank, but he angled his face toward Miles. The sheer paleness of his skin sent another pang through Miles’s chest.

“Anyway,” Miles said gruffly. “I won’t be gone long, then we’ll settle into our cabin. And maybe we can take a walk to the stables later and look at the horses.”