The flight took almostfour hours and Ryder did more flying than he probably should have. Tatum had to admit, watching him in action was hot and she was sure that dating a pilot would never be boring.
“You guys need me to stick around?” Rachet asked, handing Ryder a bag. They were allowed to run back to his place and pack quickly before they drove to the hanger where Ryder kept his plane. Rachet and Savage were waiting for them there, to make sure they got off safely.
“No,” Ryder said. “I’d hate to tie you up like that. If something happens or we need the plane, I’ll be in touch. You’re only three and a half hours away.” Honestly, Ryder didn’t seem to know much about the guy, other than the fact that he worked for the FBI. Ryder filled her in on the details about Rachet while he was resting his leg in the back cabin with her. He was a mechanic, of sorts, and a damn good pilot, according to Ryder. He also didn’t seem to have an issue with trusting him with his plane. She certainly didn’t want Rachet waiting around for his next order, especially if he had a family to get back to, and Ryder seemed to be on the same page.
“I’m sure your girlfriend or wife would want you back as soon as possible,” Tatum teased. Rachet full-on belly laughed and Tatum giggled. “What’s so funny?”
“I’m not taken, Honey,” he said. “But, if you ever want to dump Ryder here,” he put his arm around Ryder’s neck and she laughed. “I’m only a phone call away.”
“Not going to happen, man,” Ryder grumbled. Tatum liked the way he seemed to become so possessive of her around the other guys in his club. He all but thumped his chest and went full-on caveman when her brother insisted that he be the one to get her out of town. Hearing Ryder declare her to be “his woman” might have pissed off her older brother but she thought it was hot as hell. She already felt that way with him—like she belonged to him. Especially after the scorching night that they shared, but it was more than that. She felt a strange connection with him and fighting with herself to keep him at arm’s length never seemed to work out. She wanted him but more than that, she was starting to need him and that scared the shit out of her.
Rachet chuckled and tossed Ryder the last bag, “I hear you man, loud and clear. If I had a woman like Tatum, I’d act like a caveman too.”
“I’m not acting like a fucking caveman,” Ryder protested.
Rachet laughed, “Whatever you say, man. Your car is right over there,” Rachet said, pointing to a black SUV that was sitting in the corner of the small parking lot. The little airport that was closest to her grandmother’s cabin was small and off the beaten path—just what they needed to stay one step ahead of anyone coming after them.
Her brother and his friends had come up with a good plan. She just hated that she was going to have to leave him behind to stay safe. Having Ryder by her side made the trip a whole lot easier. She crossed her fingers that things kept going smoothly.
“Take it easy with my plane, Rachet,” Ryder said. “I don’t want to find one scratch or ding on her.” Rachet shot him the finger and he chuckled.
“Call if you need anything guys and remember to check in with Hart and Savage every night at four. Let them know when you get to the cabin,” Rachet said.
“Jesus, man,” Ryder griped. “You’re worse than a mother hen, clucking at us like that. We know the plan, Rachet. You just get my plane back to Alabama in one piece.”
Rachet waved over his shoulder and shut the door. Tatum didn’t miss the way Ryder looked back, one last time, at his plane. “You’re worried about her, aren’t you?” she asked.
“Not so much worried as sad that I’m not the one flying her. I can’t wait to get my cast off so I can be cleared to fly again. I miss work and my clients are depending on me,” he said. She hated the guilt she still felt about running him over with her car, but if she hadn’t, they would have never met. Ryder opened the trunk of the SUV and tossed in the bags he managed to carry while on his crutches. She had the rest of them and tossed them in after Ryder moved out of the way.
“You did hear your brother bark something about packing light, right?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow at her. Tatum shrugged and he laughed. “You don’t like to do what he tells you to do.”
“Nope,” she said. “I’ll drive.” Tatum grabbed the keys from his hand before he could protest and rounded to the driver’s side of the SUV. When he shot her a look, she just smiled and shrugged again. “I know the way and you need to rest your leg.”
“Fine—but I’m only letting you drive because you know the way to the cabin. Plus, I’ll be able to keep an eye out to make sure that we haven’t been followed,” he said. Her stomach felt like it did a flip flop at the mention of them being followed. “Don’t worry, Baby. I made a promise to your brother that nothing and no one would touch you. I plan on keeping my promise,” he said.
“Thank you, Ryder,” she whispered.
“For?” he questioned.
“Everything,” she breathed. He nodded, not saying anything more. “We’ll be to the cabin in about an hour. Buckle up,” she ordered.
“Turn on the radio. Let’s see if we can get a local forecast. The app on my phone said it’s going to snow,” he said. She loved the snow. It had been years since she had seen a real snowfall. In Alabama, they didn’t usually get any significant snow.
“I remember coming here as a kid for Christmas and there was always snow on the ground. I loved coming up here and having a white Christmas,” she said. “But, when my dad died, my mom couldn’t afford to make this trip with us as often and we started missing years. My Grandma passed just before my mother did and well, it’s just going to be good to see the cabin again. When my mother died, she left everything to Jackson and me, including this old place.” She didn’t like thinking about the fact that she and her brother were the only ones left from their family.
“It must have been hard losing everyone you loved like that,” Ryder whispered. “You said that you moved in with your mother to take care of her?”
“Yes,” she breathed. “When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was still in high school, but then she went into remission. The second time it came back, I had been out living on my own and when we found out how bad it was, I didn’t even think twice about moving back in with her. Jackson had work and his hours were crazy, so he couldn’t stay with her. He made sure we had what we needed—food and her medications, he paid for it all and I took care of Mom. It gave me time with her—time I cherish now.”
“How about your dad?” he asked. Tatum didn’t remember her father very well.
“He died when I was just a kid,” she said. “I don’t remember a whole lot about him. He liked to play around a lot—you know like tease me and play pranks. Jackson likes to tell the story about when I was really little and my dad would pretend that I hurt his feelings. You know, like—‘Tatum doesn’t love me anymore,’ when I’d tell him that I didn’t want to watch television with him or play a game. He’d stomp off to the bathroom and slam the door and I’d feel bad and chase after him. I’d bang on the locked door and promise him that we could do whatever he wanted and he’d ignore me. Finally, he’d shout back through the door, ‘I’m going to just flush myself down the potty since my little girl doesn’t love me anymore.’ He’d flush the toilet, unlock the door, and hide behind the shower curtain before I could even push my way into the bathroom.” Tatum giggled at the memory, well partial memory. Jackson had told that story so many times that she wondered if she remembered it or if she just knew the story. “I was never smart enough to look behind the shower curtain,” she whispered.
“That’s kind of mean,” Ryder said. “I mean, it had to of upset you, right?”
She nodded, “Yeah,” she breathed. “Jackson said that I’d shut myself in my little bedroom upstairs and cry until my father appeared in my doorway and told me that he couldn’t stay away from me. He said that he loved me so much, he had to come home. Plus, he said the toilet was one stinky place to live and that always made me laugh.”