“Good,” Hart growled. “Get her on the plane and have Rachet standing by. I’ll be right behind you and we’ll leave as soon as I get there.”
“What about Dante?” Hart asked.
“Well, that will be up to him. If he plays nice, he’ll be accompanying us back to Huntsville where the FBI will be meeting us to pick him up. He’s wanted for human trafficking and he’s been a fugitive for a damn long time,” Hart said.
“And if he doesn’t play nice?” Ryder asked.
“Then he’ll be coming back to Huntsville in a body bag. One way or another, this ends today,” Hart said.
* * *
Ryder tookthe three guys that Hart left for him back through the woods to the old barn. “She’s in there,” he whispered, nodding to the dilapidated building. “How do you guys want to do this?” Ryder wasn’t used to being in charge of the rescue. He was always the guy who followed the leader in. The last time he was on a mission like this was when he had to follow Savage and Whiskey in to rescue Luciana. She was Whiskey’s woman and being held by her drug lord father. That rescue went sideways fast and they were damn lucky that they not only got Luci out of there but they all got out alive—just barely.
“You two go in the back,” one of the guys said. “Ryder and I will go in through the front,” he ordered. Ryder nodded. “Let’s go in there and get her out safely, guys.” That was all Ryder wanted—the rest of the world could completely stop and fade away. If he didn’t have Tatum, none of it mattered.
He followed the guys down to the barn and watched as the first two went around to the back. He and the one they called Wilson went in through the front. The barn was colder inside if that was even possible, and he worried that Tatum had to be freezing. From what he saw earlier, she wasn’t wearing much in the way of clothes—possibly just her robe. The barn was divided into two rooms and there was no sign of Tatum in the first. He wanted to call out to her but he also knew that would be foolish. If she wasn’t alone, that would put her at risk.
Wilson rounded the corner into the second room and looked back at Ryder, a smile on his face. “She’s in here,” he said, “and she’s alone.” Ryder breathed a sigh of relief. She was all right and that was more than he could hope for. Gunshots rang out and he knew that they were coming from the main cabin.
“Ryder,” she cried.
“I’m here, Honey,” he said, turning the corner into the room. It was dark and he could barely see her face but he knew she had been crying. He could tell it by the break in her voice.
“You’re really here?” she asked.
“Yes,” he breathed. He knelt behind her, trying to cut through her bindings. The assholes had her tied to a chair, her body partially exposed to the freezing temperatures. Tatum’s lips were blue and he knew that she was probably suffering from hyperthermia.
“We need to get her checked out,” Ryder said to Wilson.
“Our orders are to get her out and to the airstrip. I’m sure Hart will make sure she’s all right after he has her safely out of here,” Wilson promised. Two more gunshots rang out and Tatum gasped.
“Who else is here?” she asked. Ryder freed her hands while one of the other guys freed her legs.
“Hart’s here, Honey,” Ryder breathed, pulling her into his arms. Her skin was cold to the touch and she shivered against him. “He brought an entire team.”
“He did?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Ryder said. “When we didn’t check in yesterday, he panicked and flew up here with some guys.”
“Good,” she whispered. “I’m so cold, Ryder,” she breathed against his neck.
“I know, Honey,” he said. “I’m going to get you to the plane and then we’ll work on getting you warm.”
“K,” she said. She yawned and Ryder worried that she was going to fall asleep. That couldn’t be good right? When someone was dying from hyperthermia in the movies, they were told to stay awake. He needed to do something to keep Tatum from going to sleep.
“I need you to stay awake, Honey,” he ordered. She smiled, her eyes still closed, and nodded.
“Just need a little nap,” she grumbled.
“You can’t fall asleep, Tatum,” he said again.
“So bossy,” she protested. “It’s one of the things I love about you, Ryder,” she whispered.
“What else do you love about me, Honey?” he asked, trying to keep her talking. Honestly, he’d been waiting weeks for her to admit she was in love with him. He could see it in her eyes every time she looked at him, she just hadn’t given him the words. He felt the same way about her but he was being a coward, waiting her out to say those three little words first.
“Everything,” Tatum breathed. “I love you, Ryder,” she whispered and suddenly, his whole damn world felt right.