The flight home was awkward as Danica sat in the back and hadn’t said much. Something about her was off. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t think it had anything to do with me. I mean she was just a child when my parents were killed. There was also this calming feeling she gave me. The need to protect her was strong. I got up and walked over to her and took a seat. “How are you feeling?” Her face looked pained and full of sadness. “Danica, I won’t let anyone hurt you.” She gave me a small smile.
“I know you won’t Ryder, but...” She looked around the jet and then got quiet.
“Don’t worry, we will talk when we’re alone. Just please try and relax. I have work to do. If you need anything. Let me know.” She nodded at me and just turned and looked out the window. It was almost like she had given up. I hated that she looked this way. The little girl I remember was so full of life and spunk. Now all I could see was doubt and fear. It angered me.
I had Jason put Danica in the bedroom next to mine. I wanted to give her some time to get settled in. I lightly tapped on her door. I didn’t hear anything so I opened the door. Just as I closed it behind me. She came walking out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her small frame. She froze when she saw me and I turned away from her to give her privacy. “I’m sorry, I knocked but I didn’t hear anything so I came in.”
“ usually a person would just come back instead of coming in.” My lips smiled. Normally I would lose it, but she didn’t make me angry.
“Would you like for me to come back?”
“You’re already here.” I turned as she walked into the closet.
“I had my assistance get you clothes. I hope I got your sizes right?” I waited for an answer as she walked out all dressed in a soft black dress that fit her curves perfectly. I smiled again.
“I’m guessing you approve?”
“You look beautiful.” She turned her head slightly to look at me.
“Would you like to have dinner in your room tonight? Or would you like to join everyone in the dining room?”
“Everyone?” I cleared my throat.
“My most trusted members live here in my home. We join for dinner every night. There are about ten of us.”
“I don’t mind eating with everyone.”
“Good, I will introduce you to everyone and then you and I can have a long talk in my office.” I could see her get nervous. I needed to know her story. I couldn’t protect her if I had no idea what she was going through. Not that whatever threat she had bothered me. I knew whoever or whatever her problem was. They wouldn’t come here looking for her. Unless they had a death wish.
Danica was the only female to be in my home. Female members had homes of their own. Ten of my most trusted men lived in the house with me. Including Jason, my right-hand man. Also my best friend. Danica finished getting ready and then she and I headed downstairs for dinner.
As I walked into the dining room with Ryder. I couldn’t help but feel all eyes turned on me. Ryder explains to me how the house is full of men but some of those female members would come for dinner in the evenings. Ryder placed his hand on the small of my back. We walked in together and the two blonds standing in the corner stared daggers at me. Obviously, I knew Ryder was a prize to be won. I just wasn’t sure that I would be judged the minute I walked into the room. One of the blonds, the one that looked like she just stepped off the cosmetic surgery table. Came running over to Ryder. “It’s so good to have you home, boss.” Ryder looked over at her and then completely ignored her and lead the way to the table and pulled my chair out for me.
The look on that girl’s face was priceless. She already hated me. Something I was completely used to because most females didn’t care for me. Growing up with the people I grew up with, male attention was something I was used to. Of course, most girls blamed me for being a whore only because most males in the room were looking at me instead of them. Even though I have only slept with one man. Who turned out to be a controlling asshole that wasn’t even good in bed. He was also my boyfriend. They still all called me a whore. Why should things be any different here? Only this time the focus was on the fact that I had Ryder’s attention.
I watched as everyone took a seat around this massive table that could fit over fifty people no problem. “Listen up everyone.” Ryder stood up and all heads turned towards him. I could see the respect all over this room for Ryder. “This young woman sitting here is Danica. She will be staying with us for a while. I expect you all to give her the same respect you do me. If she tells me any different from any of you. You will pay dearly and the consequences will not be overlooked. She is important to me and my men understand why. Keep that in mind while she is here.” Most heads nodded at him. I knew the woman would be more of a problem. Even though I wasn’t involved that way with Ryder it didn’t matter.
The rest of the evening, Ryder introduced me to all his men. They all seemed nice enough, but at the same time, I knew they were all criminals. The very type of people I was trying to stay away from. Ryder walked us to his office and my nerves were getting the best of me. How much do I tell him? Do I need to leave out the fact that the same people that were after me? We’re also the same people that killed Ryder’s parents. Would he understand? Or would he kill me too? “Have a seat, would you like a drink?”
“Wine if you have it.” He nodded at me and I watched him pour me a glass and hand it over to me. Ryder took a seat next to me on his large brown leather couch.
“So talk to me Danica, who are you running from?” I started to play with my fingers as I had no idea where to even start. I felt Ryder place his hand on my knee. “You can trust me. I won’t let them hurt you.” I knew he meant what he said, but he truly had no idea what I was about to tell him. I was struggling with my words and then I felt the tears start to fall. Ryder pulled me into his strong arms. “What did they do to you?” He softly asked me. How was I going to tell him they hurt me because of what I knew about Ryder? They hurt me because they didn’t want me running to him and telling him who they were. How do I tell him my parents handed me over to these people because of what I had overheard when I was only five years old? I took a deep breath as I cried in his arms. “I promise I will make them pay.”
I sat up and looked him in the eyes. Here went nothing, “they hurt me because of you.” Ryder just looked at me with a confused look on his face.