NY Times, Wall Street Journal &
USA Today Bestselling Author
Porter “Oz” Reed knows as well as anyone the damage words can do. So while he’s not looking for a relationship, he has no problem standing outside his apartment looking intimidating as his sweet neighbor finally kicks her verbally abusive ex to the curb. Just in case. But it’s Oz who’s punched in the gut when, at that precise moment, his ten-year-old nephew Logan is dropped on his doorstep.
After finally ditching her ex, Riley Rogers is ready for a break from men. But her plan to stay single takes an immediate hit when Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome from next door comes knocking, panicked at the prospect of caring for a nephew he never even knew existed. Riley’s only too happy to help. After all, Porter had her back when she needed him. And she feels a kinship with Logan…whose story hits a little too close to Riley’s own.
As they team up to make Logan feel safe in his new environment, Riley and Oz quickly fall hard for the boy, and each other. But they’ve barely adapted to their altered lives when Logan shares a secret that changes everything—again.
It’s been hours and conversation with Logan was stilted and uncomfortable, but now the boy was sleeping and Oz is panicking. He has next to nothing in his pantry and definitely no breakfast foods. He hears the TV in Riley’s apartment and hopes she’ll have ideas as he leaves Logan’s bedroom door open and the apartment’s while he knocks on her door.
This is just one of my favorite scenes.
Tiptoeing to the door so she could look through the peephole to see who was knocking at this hour of the night, Riley was shocked to see her neighbor, the gorgeous Porter Reed, standing on the other side. He looked agitated and kept glancing back down the hall toward his apartment.
Without thought, Riley took the chain off and unlocked the deadbolt before opening the door.
“What’s wrong?” she asked without preamble.
“I… What do boys eat for breakfast?” Porter blurted.
Riley blinked. “What?”
“I…uh…you saw that I just got custody of my nephew. He’s sleeping—I’ve got the bedroom door open, and the one to the apartment, so I haven’t left him alone—but I got to thinking about the morning, and he didn’t want anything to eat tonight, but I have no idea what he’s going to want for breakfast in the morning.”
“What do you eat?” Riley asked.
“Um…a protein shake, usually,” he said sheepishly.
Riley couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose in disgust.
“I know. I figured he wouldn’t want that, but I don’t know what he would want.”
“Do you want to come in?” Riley asked.
“Thanks, but I can’t. I need to watch my apartment and listen in case Logan wakes up.”
That’s right, he’d said that, but Riley was completely thrown by him showing up at her door and asking such an easy question. “Right, sorry. Um…let’s see…cereal, Pop-Tarts, pancakes, maybe scrambled eggs, granola bars…he looks like he’s probably not all that picky.”
But instead of her words making her neighbor feel better, they seemed to stress him out all the more.
“Shit,” he said under his breath. “I don’t have any of that. Not even eggs. I need to go to the store—fuck, I can’t go to the store with him in the apartment! I can’t leave him alone. Should I wake him up and take him with me? I really don’t want to. I’m not sure the kid even likes me. He’d probably like me less if I woke him up in the middle of the night to go to the freaking store. Damn it.”
Riley’s heart melted for the man. It was obvious he wanted to do the right thing for his nephew, but had no idea what that was at the moment. “Wait here,” she ordered.
She hadn’t meant to sound so abrupt, but instead of getting upset with her—or telling her to shut the fuck up and not tell him what to do, which is what Miles would’ve said—he merely nodded. His lips were pressed together in agitation and his forehead was furrowed with stress lines.
Riley left her door standing open and she walked quickly back inside her apartment. She headed for the kitchen and grabbed one of the reusable grocery bags she kept handy for trips to the store. Opening her pantry, she filled the bag halfway with odds and ends that she thought a kid might enjoy. Luckily, Riley wasn’t a health nut, so she had plenty to choose from.
Then she opened her fridge and threw in the carton of eggs, which had six left, a half-eaten container of cream cheese and the half-gallon jug of milk, which had just enough left in it for a bowl of cereal. She grabbed the package of bagels from her counter, and the three-fourths-full box of Froot Loops.
At the last minute, she threw in two bananas and three apples. The bag was overflowing by the time she was done, and Riley worried that she might’ve gone overboard, but decided the man and boy next door needed this food more than she did, and she wanted them to have plenty of options.
She rushed back to her door, hoping Porter hadn’t left. He was still there, standing with his back against the wall across from her apartment. He didn’t look any less stressed; if anything, he looked more concerned.
“Here,” she said, holding the bag out to him.
But instead of reaching for it, Porter just stared at it in confusion. “What’s that?”
“Breakfast stuff,” she said. “It’s all been opened, sorry, but I had several things that I’m sure your nephew will eat. You can find out in the morning what he prefers. I threw in some granola bars—the soft kind, the hard ones are disgusting—eggs, bagels, cream cheese, cereal, cheese sticks, some fruit, and peanut butter, just in case nothing else appeals to him. All kids eat PB&J sandwiches, I think. There’s also some other junk in there—don’t judge, I have a sweet tooth.”
“I can’t take that,” Porter said, still not reaching for the bag.
“Because, it’s your food.”
“Porter, it’s fine. I’m not wasting away, as you can probably see.”
He frowned at that. “There’s nothing wrong with your size,” he told her.
Riley wanted to bask in his approval, which was ridiculous, but she couldn’t remember the last time Miles had complimented her. “Uh-huh. Anyway, I’ve got plenty of food. This should tide you over until you can talk to your nephew and find out what he likes to eat. I’m assuming you’re going to get him enrolled in school, and you’ll need to figure out if he wants to eat the school lunches or if he wants to pack his own, so you’ll need lunch food as well. And dinner stuff. Chicken fingers, hamburgers, pasta, that sort of thing. Most kids eat a ton, so I’m sure this won’t last long.”
The more she spoke, the more the rattled look in Porter’s eyes increased. Riley realized she was freaking him out.
Taking a chance, she stepped forward and put a hand on his arm. “Porter?”
He blinked. Then said, “No one calls me that.”
“No, it’s fine. How did you even know that was my name?”
“Your mail was delivered to my mailbox once. I’m sorry, I can call you by your nickname…Oz, right?”
“I kinda like you calling me Porter,” he admitted.
“Okay,” Riley said. She couldn’t be imagining an attraction between them…could she? Now wasn’t the time or the place, but she couldn’t help liking how his entire attention was on her when she spoke. He wasn’t looking down at a phone, wasn’t checking out her boobs, wasn’t looking past her at her TV, which was on low inside her apartment.
His eyes flicked down to the bag she was still holding then back up to her face. “I really shouldn’t take your food.”
“It’s fine,” Riley insisted, holding the bag out once more.
“I feel horrible about it.”
“Don’t. It’ll give me a reason to get out of my apartment tomorrow,” Riley said. “I’m only sorry I don’t have any doughnuts or cinnamon rolls. I’m sure your nephew would love those.”
“Logan. His name is Logan. And he’s ten.”
Riley smiled and breathed out a sigh of relief when Porter reached for the bag of food she’d collected.
“I’m really sorry for bothering you. I panicked,” Porter admitted a little sheepishly.
“It’s okay. I’m glad you did. I work from home, so I’m pretty much always here. If you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to come over. I can also give you my number so you can text if you want.
Stoker, Susan. Shielding Riley (Delta Team Two Book 5). Kindle Locations.(215-267). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Edition.
To say Oz was a bit overwhelmed at first is an understatement, but he quickly got it together and with Riley getting him off the bus and hanging with him after school things fell into an easy pattern.
We get to see even more how the guys on the team are more like family with gatherings and including Logan in things when they can. Trigger and Gillian readily agree to be part of his family care plan while deployed and guardian if something should happen to him. All the others agreed to be backup. That right there is awesome!
The first deployment was rough on all of them and Gillian actually brought Logan to Riley so he could stay at Oz’s. Logan’s having problems and he’s also got a secret he’s not sharing.
Of course you know Riley’s ex is gonna show up again, boy does he.
Riley and Oz have an unusual courtship but they truly bond as friends then into a sizzling relationship.
Laughter, oh so many tears, with surprises both good and bad that combine into this page-turning read.
I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Susan!
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New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Susan Stoker has a heart as big as the state of Tennessee where she lives, but this all American girl has also spent the last fourteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee. She’s married to a retired Army man who now gets to follow her around the country.