Other than when he cuts his steak, he keeps his hand on my thigh through the whole meal. I shift in the seat a little, just to feel his hand tighten on my leg.

Dinner ends too quickly and before I know it we are on our way to my house.

When he takes me home, he walks me to my apartment.

“My goodness, the parking lot is lit up like Fort Knox,” I say in awe, looking at all the lights. “Did you do this?”

“Yes. I told you I was going to make sure you are safe.” He unlocks my door and disarms the alarm for me, then walks through the small rooms just to double-check everything.

“Have you heard anything from Johnny?” he asks me when he walks back into the living room.

“No. Nothing. But I would say I won’t hear from him for a week or two. He won’t come around until he thinks I’m not mad anymore.” I shrug.

“You know you can’t keep letting him do this to you, honey. I won’t let him hurt you again.” He stands right in front of me and pulls my ponytail to force my head backwards to look up at him.

“I’m not going to let him. Not again.” I smile at him. I should be mad that he’s so controlling but all I feel when he gets like this is a slow burn that fills my body. He leans down and kisses me briefly with his hands gripping my hips. He pulls away from me and with one last glance, he leaves.

Ryder

The night ends way too soon. I would have liked to take her to her bedroom or better yet, to my house, and keep her in bed with me.

But after I took her home and went through her apartment, I kissed her briefly on the lips with a promise to see her the next day. I know she’s not ready for more.

Now I’m sitting in my truck outside of her apartment. I should just tell her what I’m doing but I don’t want to scare her or anything. Truthfully, she’s safe. I know she is safe. The lights and the alarm system should deter Johnny from coming back, but I’m not taking any chances. That’s why I’ve arranged for Charlie or me to watch her most of the time.

My phone dings and I figure it’s a text about work. I’ve had to hire some more installers because business is picking up. But it’s not, it’s a text from Sierra.

Thank you for tonight. I had a really good time.

A smile automatically forms on my lips. Me too, honey. I didn’t want to leave you.

Her reply is almost instant. Then why did you?

I want to make sure you’re ready. And when you are, I’ll be waiting. There’s no rush.

I stare at my phone. I can see she read my text, but there is no response. Finally, I see the little bubbles that she is typing.

Thank you Ryder. For everything.

Goodnight, sweetheart, I respond and tuck my phone back into my cup holder. I pull at my pants to release the tightness against my ever-growing bulge. It’s going to be a long night.

Chapter 4

Sierra

The next day, my phone dings toward the end of my shift. I have been working nonstop since I got here. But that’s great for me tip-wise. Ryder was waiting outside of my apartment again this morning, ready to take me to work. It’s been a busy shift, but my mind has been on Ryder all day.

While I’m walking to the back to fill up drinks, I pull out my phone and see I have a text from Ryder.

I’m running behind. I called you an Uber. She will be outside when you get off work. Sorry I couldn’t pick you up.

And then another ding. He sent me a picture of the driver.

I text him back. I can take the bus.

I’d rather you didn’t. It’s already paid for. Be safe.

I think about it for a second, and decide I will talk to him about all this later. Okay. Thank you!

When I get off work, I find my driver waiting for me and willing to take me anywhere. I give her my address and go straight home. I can’t help but think about the last few days, meeting Ryder, everything he’s done to help me and then going out on a date with him. I’m ready for whatever our next step is. He’s been a perfect gentleman and I appreciate him giving me time. It has been stressful, with work, school and everything with Johnny.

Once in my apartment, I’ve been in the door for a mere five minutes before the doorbell rings. Looking through the peephole, I see it’s a UPS driver. When I open the door, he has me sign for a package and then carries in a huge box. I thank him and when he leaves, I look at the box. It’s a sixty-five inch television. Oh my God! He’s crazy. I can’t accept this.

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