“Absolutely,” Ryder agreed, kissing the top of her head.
“Listen, I have to stay up here for a bit and work things out with the local authorities,” Jackson said. “Can you make sure that my sister gets back to Huntsville safely?”
“Yeah,” Ryder said. “I think I can manage that, Hart.” She hated the animosity between her two favorite guys, but Tatum knew that only time would fix that.
* * *
They got backto Alabama and Tatum felt as though she could sleep for weeks, not just days. Ryder had insisted that she go to the hospital, to get checked out, as soon as they landed, and she reluctantly agreed. Besides some mild hyperthermia, the doctor said she was going to be fine, even though she felt far from it.
Ryder hadn’t left her side since they got back home and even Jackson was calling her two to three times a day, claiming that he just wanted to check-in. He was busy cleaning up the mess back up at the cabin and tying up loose ends with the authorities up there. Honestly, she wished she just had some space to breathe and think, and the only way she would be able to do that is to go back to work. First, she had to make sure that she still had a job to go back to, and the only way to know that would be to talk to Jack.
Luckily, she caught him at the boutique while she was running a few errands. Ryder had a quick flight to Florida with a client and promised to be home in a few hours, giving her just enough time to figure some stuff out.
“Well, the rumors are true—you’re alive. It’s good to see you, baby girl,” Jack said. He rounded the check-out counter and pulled her in for a hug. “You have been missed. Please tell me that you’re ready to come back to work,” he begged. “I’ll even give you the easy stuff around her to do—I’ll handle all the heavy lifting.”
Tatum giggled, “Let a girl get a word in, Jack,” she teased. “I’m fine and yes, I’m up to coming back to work. But I won’t say no to you doing all the heavy lifting,” she teased.
“So, when will you be back?” Jack asked.
“Um, tomorrow?” she questioned. “If that’s okay with you.”
“It’s more than okay,” he agreed. “In fact, you just made my whole day by saying that.”
“All right,” she said. “I’ll be in at nine tomorrow.”
“How are you and that beefcake—what was his name?” Jack asked.
“Ryder,” she breathed. “And we’re good, I think. I feel like he still wants to take care of me and I’m worried that’s all I am to him—someone to watch out for, you know?”
“That sounds awful,” Jack teased. “I’m not sure that I see the problem with a man who wants to take care of you, Honey,” he said.
“Yeah, well he’s smothering me,” she said. “And I’m worried that he’s only staying with me because he feels this strange obligation toward me. I want him to be in the same place I am in our relationship.”
Jack took her hand into his own and squeezed it. “Why not tell him how you’re feeling? You know and ask him how he’s feeling.” She started to protest and Jack held up his hand, stopping her. “I know it’s a novel idea but I’m betting that if you’re feeling this way, he just might be too. You two have been together long enough now that you should feel comfortable talking about feelings and the rest of the stuff that has you all tied up in knots.”
Tatum nodded, “You’re right,” she agreed. “But if you haven’t noticed, Ryder isn’t exactly like other guys. He doesn’t do well talking about feelings—he’s a big, tough biker.” She made a face and Jack laughed.
“It’s your life, but if you’re asking my opinion, you need to have a good old fashioned ‘come to Jesus’ meeting with your guy.” Jack pulled her in for another hug and released her.
Tatum nodded and headed for the front door of the boutique. “Thanks, Jack,” she said turning back to find him rifling through a box of sweaters that needed to be tagged and put out.
“No problem, Honey,” he said. “I’ll see you in the morning.” Tatum knew that Jack had a point, but his advice was easier to listen to than follow through with. Talking things out with Ryder would mean having to come clean and tell him that she had fallen in love with him and she wasn’t sure he was ready to hear that from her yet.