Tatum Hart satacross from her older brother, Jackson, listening to him drone on about her life choices and bad decisions but all she heard was, “Blah, blah, I’m not bailing you out again this time, blah.” Yeah, she got the message loud and clear. She was going to need to find another place to live because her big brother wasn’t about to jump to her rescue again and she really couldn’t blame him.
This was the second job she lost and it would also be her third move in less than six months. She was unstable and unpredictable. Her problem wasn’t that she was lazy, as her dear brother liked to put it. No, her issues went deeper than that. She didn’t want to take orders from anyone else. Tatum didn’t like having a boss telling her what to do, how to do it, and when to show up. And, sure—that put a damper on the whole work thing.
Her past two jobs had been in little clothing boutiques in Huntsville. They were in one of the most prominent shopping centers on Bridge Street and she loved working at both places. Working in clothing retail was her dream. No—scratch that, working in the industry wasn’t her dream. She wanted to own a clothing retail store and if she could turn it into a chain, even better. But that was just a pipe dream since she couldn’t seem to hold a job or keep a place to live.
“What about your roommate?” Jackson asked. “Can’t he float you a few months? Hell, he owns the place, right?”
“Sure,” Tatum said. “Hugh owns the house and I’m sure he’ll be more than willing to let me live there rent-free while I find a new job. It’ll just cost me a few blow jobs, is all.” She knew she wasn’t playing fair. Jackson hated it when she even hinted about having sex which was laughable since she never had—ever. Which was possibly even more pathetic than her current jobless, almost homeless, situation. She was almost twenty-three and had never had sex and yeah—that was more pathetic than losing her job and possibly her home. The truth was, she never found a guy she wanted to give her virginity to. She was an outrageous flirt and loved to tease and lead guys on but that’s usually where things stopped. Once a guy realized that she wasn’t a sure thing, they took off and left her high and dry.
“Fuck no,” Jackson growled. “No fucking way are you giving that asshole, Hugh, a blow job for your room and board. I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” he insisted.
“Sure, Jackson,” she spat, standing from the corner booth to grab her purse and keys from the tabletop. “I usually figure things out for myself—no sweat. I’ve gotten pretty good at landing on my feet since Mom died,” she said. It had only been six months since her mother passed. Their dad died when she was just eight and her brother was fifteen. It was just her and Jackson and her brother became her stand-in father. Hell, he had bossy and overbearing down pat and she was sure that her father wouldn’t have done half the job Jackson had done. He taught her how to drive and even paid for part of her college.
Their mom got sick about two years ago and when she just couldn’t function on her own, Tatum moved in with her and took care of their mom. It became who she was, and she wouldn’t change one thing about spending her mother’s last few months with her. It was a gift to have that time with her mom but now she just felt a little lost and so alone.
“Don’t go, Sis,” Jackson begged. “I’m sorry that I’m being an ass.”
“You are being an ass but like I said, I’ll land on my feet, I always do.” Tatum turned to leave the little bar that housed Jackson’s MC and didn’t bother to look back to where her brother sat. She’d cave if she did and that was the last thing she wanted to do. Her best bet was to walk out of Savage Hell with her head held high and figure her shit out—to hell with Jackson.
She jumped into her little red sports car that her mother left her and tossed her purse in the passenger seat. It was time for her to go back to her place and face Hugh. She’d probably end up out on the street by nightfall, but she’d worry about that later. Right now, she needed to get home and start putting out feelers for her next job.
Tatum turned up her radio, blasting some song that she didn’t know the words to, but that didn’t matter to her. She put the car in reverse and peeled out of her parking spot in the back of the lot, running right into some guy on a motorcycle.
“Fuck,” she spat when she heard the grinding of metal. She looked in her rearview just in time to see the biker go down and she wasn’t sure what to do next. Tatum put her car in park and cut the engine, jumping out to run around to the back bumper, praying that everything that just happened was just a bad dream. Guys were coming out of the bar to see what all the commotion was about and God, she just wanted to hide under a rock with the way the big, bad bikers were eyeing her. Hart was one of the last guys out and when he saw what had happened, he crossed the lot to confront her.
“What the fuck, Tatum?” he barked. “You okay, Ryder?” he asked the big biker who laid on his side, holding his right leg.
“I think my leg’s busted, man,” the guy her brother called Ryder said.
“I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. “It was all my fault. My music was too loud, and I didn’t hear or see you and your bike.”
“I’ll call an ambulance,” Savage offered.
“No,” Ryder said. “If one of you can right my bike and give me a ride to the hospital, I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s probably nothing.” Tatum watched as her brother helped his friend off the pavement and when he shouted out a string of curses when he put weight on his leg, she was sure it was broken.
“Here,” she said, holding open her passenger door. “Put him in my car since it’s close and I’ll run him to the hospital.” She stood there like a crazy person holding the car door open and her brother just looked her over and scowled.
“You’ve done enough, haven’t you, Sis?” Jackson spat.
“This is your sister?” Ryder asked. Tatum took two steps towards him and awkwardly held out her hand.
“Yeah,” she breathed. “I’m Tatum Hart.”
“Ryder,” he returned and nodded, not taking her hand. “Can’t shake now. If I let go of Hart, I’ll fall back to the pavement.”
“Please let me take you to the hospital to be checked out,” she begged. “It’s the least I can do.”
“You think?” Jackson asked. Ryder shot him an easy smile and Tatum realized how good looking her brother’s friend was. She had been to Savage hell a handful of times and had never seen him there. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that her brother said that every guy in the bar was off-limits. Every time she showed up, he ushered her to the back of the bar as if he wanted to hide her in a deep, dark corner—too ashamed to let anyone see her.
“Go easy on her man,” Ryder said. “I’ll take your offer, Tatum,” he agreed.
“Fine man,” Jackson grumbled. He helped Ryder into her passenger seat and was about to shut the door. “Just keep your fucking hands off my sister,” he ordered. Ryder gave a mock salute and Jackson slammed the door in his face causing him to chuckle. Yeah, she was pretty sure she liked this Ryder guy. Honestly, she liked anyone who so boldly gave her older brother shit.
She opened her door and nodded to where Jackson watched her. “I like him,” she shouted, smiling when her brother’s scowl deepened. Yeah, this was going to be fun. But, then again, watching her older brother squirm was always a lot of fun.