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Tatum wasn’tsure how she had gotten so lucky to find Ryder, but that was exactly how she was feeling lately. She had fallen in love with him but telling him that wasn’t an option. She wanted to make sure that he’d stick around after she was out of danger. Tatum worried that Ryder was only with her to keep her safe. They were kind of thrown together—first with her running him over and offering to help get him back on his feet, literally. And second with the threat of someone wanting to hurt her. How could she be sure that Ryder wasn’t with her out of a sense of obligation? The truth was, she couldn’t until this whole mess was over, and then, she’d give him options. One where he could walk away and she’d not think any worse of him, and one where they’d end up together and she’d admit to being in love with him. For now, she’d just keep that bit of information to herself.

She had been soaking in the tub for almost ten minutes when she heard the front door shut. The cabin was small, with only two bedrooms and a bathroom. She could hear everything from the bathroom. It was where she used to spy on her mother and grandmother’s conversations when she was a kid. She could hear everything they were saying out in the great room and kitchen. Tatum would pretend that she had to use the bathroom, but she was spying on them.

“You’re back quick,” she called to Ryder. He told her that he was running into town to pick-up dinner but he didn’t specify where. “You forget something?” Tatum waited for him to answer and when he didn’t, she worried that something was wrong. She quickly did the math in her head and realized that ten minutes wasn’t enough time for him to get to town, pick-up dinner, and get back to the cabin. She was going with her gut, that something wasn’t right, and quickly got out of the tub and pulled on her robe and wrapped her wet hair in a bath towel.

“Ryder,” she said, walking out of the bathroom to find the front door wide open, letting in the bitter cold and snow. She bundled her robe around her damp body and shivered. The wind must have blown the door open but Ryder said he was going to lock her in the cabin on his way out.

“Ryder isn’t here, Honey,” a man’s voice called from the corner of the kitchen. She quickly turned to find a man who looked a lot like the picture that Jackson sent her. His dark hair was longer and he looked leaner than his picture portrayed him to be, but she was pretty sure who she was dealing with.

“Dante,” she breathed.

“Have we met?” he asked. “Because I’m pretty sure that I’d remember meeting a pretty little thing like you.” His smarmy smile made her want to vomit. She knew that Ryder wouldn’t be back anytime soon with dinner but Dante didn’t know that.

“Ryder will be back any minute,” she said.

“Well, then,” Dante drawled, “we better get a move on,” he insisted. Dante nodded at her and she was suddenly very aware that she wasn’t alone. A guy stood just behind her and when she tried to run, he grabbed her arm and pulled her against his body. She fought to get free from his grip but he was about twice her size.

“I like her,” the guy breathed. “I’m going to have some fun with this one.” He stuck a needle into the side of her neck, and she could feel whatever he was injecting into her body, burn through her veins. The pain didn’t last long and she succumbed to the numb darkness that overtook her. There would be no more fighting or trying to escape. Dante and his henchmen had seen to that.

* * *

“Ryder,”she croaked. Her voice sounded gruff and her mouth was dry—like she went on a bender the night before and drank shots, kind of dry. Tatum gingerly opened her eyes and looked around the dark room. There was only one light bulb in the corner of the musty smelling room and she wondered where she was. A flood of memories hit her like a ton of bricks and she remembered Dante standing in her cabin and his guy standing behind her. They had injected her with something that made her sleepy and she knew that they had moved her because she wasn’t at the cabin anymore.

“Where am I?” she shouted into the darkness. A man’s laughter filled the room and she squinted to see who was there with her. “Who’s here?” she asked.

“I’ll give you three guesses, to be fair. Your first guess was wrong,” he said.

“My first guess?” she questioned, not remembering guessing who he was.

“You called for Ryder and I’m not him,” he said. She remembered his voice from earlier. It was gruff and had a southern drawl that made her think of Alabama.

“Dante,” she hissed.

“Ding, ding, ding,” he said, clapping his hands together. “I’d offer you a prize, but I’m afraid I don’t have one.”

“What do you want from me?” she asked. “Why are you doing this?”

Dante stepped into the light, dragging a chair with him, and turned it around to sit on. “Well, Honey,” he drawled, “I’m doing this for a pure and simple reason—revenge. Your brother fucked my life completely over. I had a couple women and a baby on the way but your asshole brother tore that all apart. So, I’m going to rip his life apart and destroy everyone and everything he loves. I’m betting that includes you, Tatum. You’re the little sister he’s always tried to protect. Where’s your big brother now, Baby?” Dante taunted. She couldn’t let him get the best of her. He wanted her to beg and cry for him to let her go but that wouldn’t get her anywhere. She needed to figure out where he had taken her and then she’d have to come up with a plan to escape. It was as simple as that because the alternative wasn’t one she wanted to think about.

“Where are we?” she asked. “I know this isn’t my cabin. Where have you taken me?” If she could keep him talking, she knew that she might be able to find a way to free herself. It was her only hope—rescuing herself because she was sure that Ryder wouldn’t be able to find her.

“Don’t you worry about that,” Dante said. “You just get good and comfortable because you won’t be leaving here for some time. We’re going to have a little fun and then, I’m going to sell you off. It’s time I got my little company back up and running, don’t you think? I had quite the empire before your brother came in and ruined it for me.”

“You should just kill me now because there is no way I’m going to let one of you fuckers touch me,” she spat. She meant it too, there was no way she would let them lay one finger on her.

Dante’s laugh was mean, “I like a woman with some spirit,” he taunted. “You’re going to be fun to break. But make no mistake about it Tatum, I will break you.” Dante walked out of the small room and she shivered against her bindings. He left on the light and her eyes darted around the room, adjusting to the brightness. She looked more closely at the room, taking in the wood plank floors and walls. It looked like she was inside a barn and judging by how cold it was, that was her best guess.

She was wearing her robe still but it barely covered her body with her hands tied behind her back. Her one breast was exposed and she was freezing. The towel she had wrapped around her wet head was gone but her long hair was still damp, telling her that she hadn’t been out for long. They probably hadn’t taken her too far—she was betting that they were still on her grandmother’s property. There was an old outbuilding that her grandma used to use as a makeshift barn. When Tatum was little, her grandmother had two goats she kept in it and she was thinking that’s where they were keeping her. If that was the case, she wasn’t far from the main cabin. That also meant when Ryder got home with their dinner, he wouldn’t find her there, in the tub where he left her. Instead, he’d find Dante and his goon and she worried that Ryder wouldn’t end up tied to a chair in her grandmother’s old barn. They wouldn’t keep him alive and that thought scared her to death. They had only just begun and now, she was going to lose him. Unless she came up with another plan and fast because letting Ryder die wasn’t going to work for her.