Brody interrupts me. “He broke into your house and stole from you… I think you do.”

Shrugging my shoulders in defeat, I give in. Honestly, it’s probably not a bad idea. “I will call them when I get paid this Friday.”

“No. I’m going to set it up today.” Ryder hasn’t said a word until now, and I feel chills slide down my arms at the sound of his voice. It’s deep and scratchy, like he doesn’t talk much, but when he does he gets his point across.

He’s looking straight at me and I almost shy away from his look but I stop myself. “I don’t get paid until Friday.”

He doesn’t respond to me. He tells Brody that he has everything set up in the back and drops a set of keys on the counter for him. “Here’s all your keys. Call me if you need anything else.”

They must be friends. Ryder is almost dismissing Brody and all Brody does is look between the two of us and nod as he walks away. I remember at the last minute to holler out Thank you to him.

When we are left alone just starting at each other, I ask Ryder, “Uh, do you have a card so I can call you, uh, Friday?”

Ryder

When I walked out from the back of Knox Tavern, I expected to meet a future client. Brody didn’t give me any details, except a woman out front needed her house secured. But the moment I saw her, I knew I would make sure she was protected. I stood here, silently listening to her and Brody talk about her “friend.” While they were talking, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She has long brown hair that is pulled back in a ponytail. She has on short jean shorts, showing off her thick thighs. Her T-shirt is stretched tightly across her large breasts and I can’t help but appreciate every curve she has. From this angle, I can see the slope of her ass and my mouth waters.

Being this close to her, I realize how short she really is. She’s tiny compared to me and that makes me even more protective.

“I’m free this afternoon. I would like to go ahead and do it today,” I tell her.

“But how much is it?” she asks me, still not budging.

I decide right then to take control of the situation. Grabbing her hand with mine, I appreciate the feel of her smaller one in my larger one before tugging her toward the door. “Today I will just do an estimate. Tell you what you need. We can discuss prices and everything once I know exactly what you need. Where’s your car?”

“I don’t have one. I just take the bus,” she tells me and I hold her hand a little tighter. Hell. The image of her sweetness riding on a public bus bothers me. Irritates me more than I would have thought.

I lead her over to my truck. “Okay, we will go in my truck then. Hop in.” I pull open the door and she pulls her hand from mine.

“I really can’t pay you until Friday. And I want to be honest with you, if it’s going to be more than $100, I will have to wait longer.”

She’s embarrassed and I don’t want that. I don’t ever want her to feel embarrassed with me. “I’m not worried about it, Sierra. I promise.”

She reluctantly climbs into my truck and I resist gripping onto her hips and putting her into the seat. I’m already a possessive pushy asshole, I don’t want to scare her off.

Once I’m settled in the driver’s seat, she tells me where to go. I ask her what happened for her to need a security system.

She takes a deep breath and finally admits, “A friend of mine has gotten mixed up with drugs and he stole a few things from me.”

My hands tighten on the steering wheel. “Drugs make people do crazy things, honey. But you deserve better than a boyfriend that would do this to you.”

She starts laughing. “Boyfriend? He’s not my boyfriend.” And then she tells me the story of her brother and his best friend. I can’t help but feel bad for her knowing she feels like she is torn between doing what is best for her but also trying to help her brother’s best friend. I’m relieved that I’m not dealing with a boyfriend, but it still bothers me that she trusts this man so much.

“And you thought you would just come to the restaurant and face him down… get your money back?”

She shrugs her shoulders. “He won’t hurt me. He’s just messed up right now.”

I want to tell her exactly how dangerous he could be. I don’t know what drugs he is on, but I’m assuming he’s digging himself deeper if he is stealing from his job and from Sierra.

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