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“You don’t have to worry about getting me fired,” she said. “I lost my job this morning. That’s why I was at your bar, visiting my brother today. I had to break the news to him about losing my job.” Ryder winced at her use of the word “break” and she giggled.

“I’m fucking this whole thing up, aren’t I?” she asked.

“Naw,” Ryder said. “I kind of like the way you say what you want. It’s strangely hot,” he admitted. His brain was shouting at him to steer clear of sexy little Tatum Hart but his dick wasn’t getting the memo. He wanted her and Hart warning him off her, only made him want Tatum more.

“Really?” she squeaked.

Ryder shrugged and nodded, “Sure. And if you mean it about helping me, I guess we can make something work. You have a lot of shit you’ll need to pack and move?” he asked.

“Not really,” she admitted. “Just my clothing and personal effects. I rented my room already furnished. I travel light.” He liked that because that was how he lived his life. Being in the military for so long, Ryder learned to travel light too. “I have a couple of friends who can help me out since you’re—you know, laid up. I’ll just need to find a pick-up truck to borrow,” she said.

“I have one that you can use,” he offered.

“Thanks,” she said.

“I also have a spare room you can use and it has a pretty comfy bed in it,” he added.

“I appreciate that, Ryder,” she almost whispered. “There is one more thing,” she said.

“All right, shoot,” he said.

“We can’t tell my brother that I’m staying at your place,” she said. Ryder huffed out his breath and she stood from the chair that sat next to his bed and slipped onto the bed next to him. “Jackson won’t understand that we’re doing this to help each other out. He’ll think I’m taking advantage of you.”

“Taking advantage of me? I think Hart will see our living arrangements the other way around,” Ryder said.

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “My brother and I don’t always see eye to eye. He thinks I should give up my dream and take the first stable, boring job that’s offered to me. He thinks I’m lazy,” she whispered. “But I’m not.”

Ryder worried that he was putting himself in the middle of a family squabble he shouldn’t be in. Hart was his friend, even if Ryder liked to give him shit. He liked the guy and the last thing he wanted to do was put himself in the middle of their problems.

“I’d never peg you as a slacker, Honey, and I’m a pretty good judge of character,” Ryder said. “I don’t know that I like the idea of keeping your brother in the dark though. We’re not doing anything wrong, we’re just two people helping each other out. Hart can’t find fault with that, Tatum.”

She barked out her laugh, “You sure you’re friends with my brother?” she teased. “Jackson can find fault with just about everything I do. I’d just hate to drag you into his disapproval of me. Please, this is for the best,” she said. “This isn’t permanent, so why tell him at all?” She had a point. Tatum wasn’t going to be living with him forever—just a few weeks and then, they’d both hopefully be back on their feet. Telling Hart might cause more trouble than their short living arrangement warranted.

“Fine,” he agreed. “I agree with your stipulation. Hart won’t hear from me that we’re living together.”

“Temporarily,” Tatum corrected.

“Temporarily,” he agreed. “Just until we can both get back on our feet.” She giggled at his choice of words and nodded.

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