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Tatum

Tatum wasn’tsure if hitting someone with her car could be considered a good thing, but it was turning out to be just that for her. Running her brother’s friend down with her car, had turned out to be a lifesaver for her and the irony wasn’t lost on her. Meeting Ryder had solved all her problems when her brother was ready to just write her off—again. She felt bad for breaking Ryder’s leg, really she did, but taking care of him would give her a place to stay for at least a few weeks until he could get around again.

The orthopedic surgeon had been in to see Ryder and said that he didn’t need surgery, but they wanted to keep him overnight to make sure that he had no underlying injuries since he had been hit by a car. Tatum hated that she had caused so much turmoil in Ryder’s life. The doctor assured him that he’d be able to leave in the morning, as long as all his other tests came back negative.

She’d have the night to pack her meager belongings and be ready to move into his place as soon as he could go home. That would also give her time to talk to her roommate and tell him that she lost her job and wouldn’t be able to pay her rent. Hugh had always been kind of a jerk to her and honestly, she wasn’t going to miss living with the guy. When she was looking for a place, she had to go with what she could afford and that wasn’t much. She found Hugh’s advertisement online and immediately called him to make sure his listing was on the up and up. Tatum toured the apartment and immediately fell in love with the place and gave Hugh his first and last month deposit. She quickly moved in and honestly, it was one of the best apartments she ever lived in but now, none of that mattered. No job meant no money, and no money meant no rent, and no rent meant that she had no place to live. Her perfect apartment was going to be just a memory but she was used to disappointment. She had moved around so much, staying in one place for too long felt oddly wrong. Tatum guessed that it was just time to move on—like it or not.

She got back to her apartment in time to catch Hugh leaving for the night. He usually went out this late at night to troll the women at the local night clubs and she could tell that he was in a hurry to get to wherever he was going tonight.

“Oh good,” she breathed. “You’re still here. I’m glad I caught you, Hugh.”

“Yeah—just barely though, Tatum. I have to meet Shawn and Danny. We’re hitting up the new club in town. You want to come?” he asked. The last thing she wanted to do was go to a night club with Hugh, Shawn, and Danny. They were all douches and she knew to steer clear of guys like them.

“Um,” she squeaked. “No, but thanks for the offer. Listen, it’s been a long, bad day,” she breathed. “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just come out and give it to you straight. I’ve lost my job and I can’t afford to live here any longer,” she admitted. Hugh smiled down at her and she knew that she wasn’t going to like what he was about to say next.

“You don’t have to move out, Tatum,” he said. Hugh leaned into her body and she felt about ready to be sick. “I’m betting we can work out a way that you can pay me your portion of the rent.” Hugh put his hand on her shoulder and she shrugged it off.

“Sorry, Hugh,” she said. “I’m not sure that my boyfriend would be happy with me giving you sexual favors to pay you back for my rent.” Yeah-she was a big fat liar but she didn’t give a shit. He was disgusting, and she’d do or say just about anything to keep him from touching her.

“Boyfriend?” he questioned, cocking an eyebrow at her. “Since when do you have one of those, Tatum?” he asked.

“He’s kind of new—a friend of my brothers,” she admitted. Hugh had met her brother a few times and she could tell that her roommate wasn’t a fan of Jacksons. He seemed downright afraid of her older brother, which she often used to her advantage. If she had to use Hugh’s fear of Jackson to keep his hands off her, she’d do it—no problem.

“How’d you meet this new boyfriend?” Tatum could tell from his snarky tone that he didn’t believe her, but she didn’t care.

“At my brother’s MC bar—Savage Hell,” she said. Hugh made a face and she immediately knew he had heard of the place. It was hard to live in Huntsville and not hear of the MC bar.

“Oh,” Hugh breathed. “So, he’s a biker then?” She wasn’t about to tell Hugh that she didn’t know much about him. If he kept asking questions, she wouldn’t be able to answer many of them, but this one, she could answer since she had run him over while he was on his motorcycle.

“Yes,” she said. “His name is Ryder and like I said, I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t be happy with me giving you sexual favors to pay off my rent. He’s protective like that, you know?”

“Sure,” Hugh agreed. “I was just kidding, anyway,” he lied.

“Okay, well, I’ll be packing up my stuff tonight and out of your hair by late morning. I’m sorry to do this to you, Hugh. I’ve enjoyed living here,” she said. That part wasn’t a lie—she was going to miss the apartment, just not her roommate. Him she could live without.

“Listen, I’m late and have to get going,” Hugh said. “Good luck, Tatum. Just leave your key on the kitchen counter when you leave in the morning.” He turned to leave and didn’t bother looking back at her, just letting the door shut behind him. She needed to get to work and pack up her shit. She was going to have to pick up her “brother/new boyfriend” at the hospital in the morning and she wanted to be ready.

* * *

Tatum woketo her cell phone ringing and she tried to shut off her alarm but the incessant ringing wouldn’t stop. She stretched and yawned, rolling over to find her offensive phone. “Who’d call at this ungodly hour?” she whispered to herself, picking up her cell to find her brother’s picture on her screen. “Shit,” she grumbled.

“Hello,” she answered.

“Tatum,” Jackson said. “Tell me that you haven’t run down any more of my friends,” he teased.

“Yeah, yeah,” she griped, “you’re very funny. Don’t you have something else to do at this hour—you know like sleep?”

“Sleeping’s overrated,” he insisted. “Besides, I wanted to hear how Ryder did. Was his leg broken?” Jackson asked. Tatum knew he was fishing for information—it was the detective in him, always asking questions, and needing to stick his nose in everyone’s business. She was his favorite project and he was constantly in her business.

“Sorry to break the news to you, but it is,” she said, snickering at her play on words. “You see what I did there, right?” she asked.

“Yeah—you’re so funny, Sis,” he said. “So, you ran over one of my friends and broke his leg and now, you’re joking about it? You are heartless, Tatum,” Jackson accused.

“Hey—am not,” she grumbled. “I feel awful about it, but you know that I handle stuff like this with humor,” she said.

It was true when her mother was sick, she did just about anything to make her laugh through her pain. It became her go-to move and after her mom passed, she practically did stand-up at her funeral. No one understood how she could be making jokes at her own mother’s funeral—especially not her big brother. Jackson was mortified that she acted the way she had, but that was par for the course. Her brother seemed upset with her most of the time.

“Did you at least give the poor guy a ride home from the hospital last night?” Jackson asked.

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