Ryder wasn’tsure what he had done to earn him a second chance with Tatum, but he wasn’t about to ask too many questions. The last thing he wanted to do was give her a chance to change her mind. The waiter brought back her dessert, boxed and bagged, and handed him the check. He couldn’t get his credit card out fast enough to pay the bill.
“Ready?” he asked, standing from his seat to grab his crutches.
“Yes,” she breathed. “You sure this is a good idea, Ryder?” she asked.
“Oh, Honey,” he said, “dessert is always a good idea.” He winked at her and she giggled. He had convinced her to leave her car at work and ride with him in his pick-up on the way to dinner, promising to take her back for her car afterwards. But now, that seemed like a horrible plan. It would give her time alone to think and possibly change her mind. That wasn’t something he could let happen.
“How about we go home and I’ll run you to work in the morning?” he asked. She clutched the bag with her dessert like it was a lifeline. “You have all the say here, Honey,” he promised. She did to. Tatum had all the power when it came to him and what they were about to do. He liked to think he was in charge of just about everything in his life. He really wanted to be in charge of her but he was also sure that Tatum wouldn’t allow that. What she didn’t know was that she held all the power when it came to him. Ryder pulled out of the parking lot and started toward his house, not waiting for her to give him an answer about leaving her car at work.
“You seem to be in a hurry, Ryder,” she teased.
“Just a little bit,” he admitted. “I just don’t want to give you a chance to change your mind, Tatum.” He was giving her his honesty and hoping that she wouldn’t run from him or put up her walls again because he was done waiting for her.
“I’m not going to change my mind, Ryder,” she whispered. “I want this. I want you.” God, hearing her say those words out loud made him half crazy with lust.
“Thank fuck, Baby,” he breathed. “I want you too.”
“What about my brother?” she asked.
“He’s not my type,” Ryder teased. She giggled again and slipped into the passenger side of his truck. “I still think you should call your brother, Tatum,” he said. “He’s going through a lot right now and he’s worried about you.”
“Because I’m living at your place,” she griped.
“No,” Ryder said. She might not like this next part but she had a right to know if she was in danger. “Your brother helped our club’s Prez, Savage, out a while back. He and a guy named Cillian went into a rival club—the Dragons, to get Savage’s little girl, Chloe back. They took her and were going to sell her off—you know, as in human trafficking?” he asked. Her gasp filled the cab of his truck. “Your brother went in with Cillian and got Chloe out of there before they could do anything to her. It was a shit show but Hart helped save that little girl’s life.”
“I knew he was a hero but I had no idea,” Tatum admitted. “He never really talked about his work with me. I guess he didn’t want to upset me.”
“Yeah,” Ryder breathed, reaching across the center console to take her hand. He had a feeling that this next part he was about to tell her was the reason Hart never told his sister about his job. “There’s more though,” he breathed. “The Dragons are affiliated with a larger group called the Anarchy Kings and apparently, they want revenge for your brother’s involvement in taking down their trafficking business.”
“Oh God,” she whispered. “Is he all right? What’s going to happen to Jackson?” she asked.
“He’s fine, Tatum,” Ryder said. “Your brother can take care of himself. It’s you he’s worried about. They threatened to go after his loved ones to make him pay for what he did to them. He’s worried that you’re in danger.”
“He told you all of this today?” she asked.
“Yes,” Ryder admitted.
“And that’s why you showed up at my work, wanting to take me out to eat,” she assessed. She wasn’t wrong but he wanted to take her out for two weeks now, not just since finding out about the threat to her and Hart.
“Not exactly,” he admitted. “You did agree to go out with me two weeks ago,” he said. “I just found out about this shit with the Anarchy Kings this afternoon. I showed up at your work to make sure you were safe but asking you to dinner had nothing to do with that.” Tatum looked as if she didn’t believe him and he worried that they had hit another bump in their already rocky relationship road.
“Did my brother put you up to keeping an eye on me? Did he send you to babysit me?” she asked. Ryder pulled into his driveway and cut the engine. The last thing he wanted to do was argue with Tatum. He wanted to take her into his house and finally make her his but the way she was looking at him made him lose all hope of that happening.
“Hart asked me to keep an eye on you. Stopping by your work was my idea and dinner was definitely my idea. If you remember correctly, your brother warned me to stay away from you, Honey,” he said.
“I remember,” she whispered. “I just don’t want to be your obligation, Ryder.” He laughed and unbuckled her seatbelt, pulling her onto his lap. He was surprised that she actually allowed him to do so.
“If anyone should feel like an obligation, it should be me,” he said, looking down at his leg. “You’ve been taking care of me, if you remember, Tatum.”
“But I did that to you,” she said, pointing to his busted up leg. “I wanted to make things right and take care of you.” He knew she felt bad about running him down but she also needed a place to stay. That thought nagged him daily and he worried that was the only reason she agreed to move in with him. Now that she had found a good job and was getting back on her feet, Ryder worried that Tatum was going to find a place to rent and leave.
“I appreciate that, Honey,” he said, stroking his big hand down her back. “But you don’t owe me anything, Tatum,” he said. “What happened was an accident and you don’t need to take care of me. I want you here with me because you want to be, not because you feel guilty or need a place to stay for a bit.” She looked out his driver’s side window and back at him.
“I like staying with you, Ryder,” she whispered. “And I don’t mind taking care of you.” He was so damn happy to hear her say that but she still wasn’t making him any promises to stay with him.
“Then stop looking for a new place to rent,” he said.