Ryans bed, p.12
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       Ryan's Bed, p.12


  As the teacher rounded the tables, heading toward me, Ryan stood and got between us. He blocked me from the rest of the class at the same time.

  “What’s the problem?” the teacher asked.

  I heard chairs scrape against the floor, and soon Tom and Nick were standing in front of me as well. All three of them shielded me. The gesture was so sweet, so kind, that I almost lost it again.

  I reached out, grabbing Ryan’s shirt, and he sucked in his breath at the touch.

  His voice came out a little strained. “She, uh—she needs a minute.”

  I bent my head forward, my forehead resting against Ryan’s back.

  “Well, take her outside,” the teacher added softly. “I know about—”

  “Will do,” Ryan cut him off.

  He swept his arm backward, sliding it around my waist, and pulled me with him. Twisting against his chest, I walked with him toward the door.

  “My stuff,” I mumbled.

  “Tom and Nick will grab it for us.”

  Then we were out in the hallway, but Ryan didn’t pause. He let go of my waist and threaded our fingers together. Tugging me behind him, he stopped at his locker, grabbed his bag and keys, and took me to mine.

  “Combo.” He pointed to it.

  I didn’t want to let go of his hand, but I did, unlocking my locker.

  Grabbing my backpack and some of my books, he paused. “You have your phone?”

  I nodded before reaching to get it.

  Then he shut my door.

  Slinging both backpacks over his shoulder, he threaded our fingers again, and we walked to the parking lot. We were skipping school. Only a few students were in the hallway, but all of them watched us go, their eyes on our hands. No one stopped us.

  We were pushing out the doors as a guy in a black bomber jacket came in the opposite way. He had long black hair, dark eyes, and a sneer that turned into a frown when he saw Ryan.

  “Hey, man.” He stopped, his hand catching the door as Ryan let it go. “Where are you going?”

  Ryan’s hand tightened over mine. His jaw clenched. “The fuck? You’re back here now?”

  They knew each other; that was obvious. But there was something else there.

  Cousins, maybe? Maybe they were family?

  The guy ignored Ryan’s question, his dark eyes sliding over me. He’d been chewing on the end of a pen, and he took it out, pointing at me. “You’re skipping with a chick? Am I in an alternate universe? Did we switch roles?” He looked at Ryan. “Are you the badass rebel and I’m the basketball star?”

  “Fuck off, Kirk.” But Ryan seemed to lose his heat. He started grinning and rolled his eyes. “You’re a pain in my ass.”

  Kirk cocked his head to the side, popping that pen back in his mouth. “Tell me something different. You’ve been a pain in my ass since we were kids.”

  Ryan laughed, and as Kirk held up a fist, Ryan met it with his free one.

  They gave each other a sideways hug, and then Kirk nodded at me again. “Who’s the chick? I thought I was the only bad influence on you.”

  Ryan lifted our linked hands, nodding toward me. “Mackenzie.”

  I waited for more of an explanation. Apparently, so did Kirk. We both looked at Ryan, but his mouth was set in a firm line. That was all he had to say.


  I hid a grin. There she was—my twin speaking in my head like she was with me.

  Kirk nodded slowly. “Nice.” He held his hand up, his grin becoming wicked. “Nice to meet you, Mackenzie. I’m Ryan’s real best friend. The others are just posers.”

  “Nice try.” Ryan rolled his eyes again, knocking Kirk’s hand down. “What are you doing here for real? You’re coming back?”

  The rebel-smooth-Casanova look faded. “Yeah. My folks are divorcing. I’m surprised Nan didn’t tell you. I’m back with my dad.”


  “My little sister stayed with Mom. They’re down in Los Angeles.”

  Ryan winced. “I’m sorry, man.”

  “Yeah, well . . .” Kirk’s eyes found mine again. A mischievous spark lit there. “Looks like you’ve been busy.”

  “It isn’t like that,” Ryan replied. His words seemed defensive, but his tone wasn’t. He spoke as if they were discussing the weather. “We’re taking off for the day.”

  Kirk nodded. “Don’t worry. I’ll watch over the posers.”

  “Be nice to Tom!” Ryan yelled as his friend headed inside.

  A hand in the air was Kirk’s response.

  Ryan sighed, still watching his buddy.

  “I’ll be fine.”

  He looked at me, frowning slightly. “Hmm?”

  I waved in the direction Kirk had gone. “If you want to go talk to him more, I can head out on my own.”

  “I gave you a ride here.”

  I shrugged. “I can call a car. That’s no problem.”

  He shook his head. “No way. Kirk’s crazy. I’m not this golden boy who doesn’t do anything wrong. You’re my excuse to skip today. I’m actually using you.”

  “Are you sure?”

  He still seemed worried about his friend, but he nodded with a soft smile. Letting go of my hand, he threw his arm around my shoulders and pulled me into his side. “Let’s go before the bell rings and the guys run out here.”

  We didn’t quite make it.

  The bell rang as we were getting into Ryan’s truck. Students were heading out for lunch as we left the parking lot.

  “So.” Ryan glanced over. “Where we headed?”

  I couldn’t figure this guy out.

  He’d wanted to skip school. I really was his excuse, but then his friend had shown up. The other guys he hung out with seemed like normal, loyal friends. Kirk seemed more dangerous.

  Willow would’ve been all about Ryan until she learned that, until she got a glimpse that he wasn’t the pretty boy/good guy she’d made him out to be.

  Looking at Ryan, another small thrill coursed through me.

  Maybe he was the guy I would’ve gone after in the first place. Willow could step aside.

  “I don’t care,” I told him. “Anywhere is good.”

  We went to my house.

  It wasn’t original, but it made sense. My parents were both in the city at their jobs. They’d be gone till seven or even eight in the evening, and there was no Robbie during the week anymore.

  Ryan didn’t have the same emptiness at his place with his mom in and out, Peach coming home after school, and the staff.

  So my house it was.

  Going into the kitchen, I dropped my bag onto the counter and picked up a delivery menu. “We could order food since it’s technically lunchtime.”

  Ryan smirked, jumping up to sit on the counter next to my bag. His feet almost touched the floor. “Whatever you want. You guys have food here?”

  I opened the fridge.

  Lettuce. Milk. Cheese. Two cartons of yogurt and some apples. The freezer wasn’t any better: some diet ice cream bars for Mom.

  I closed both doors and picked up the menu again. “Ordering it is.”

  He nodded. “Sounds good to me. Order whatever. I’ll pay.”

  I grinned over the top of the menu, reaching for the landline phone. “Are we on a skip date?”

  “We’re on a skip day, and you can pay next time if you want.”

  I laughed, the sound a little hollow. “Deal.”

  After ordering pizza, we grabbed some drinks and headed into the theater room. I kept the door open and my phone close by so I could hear when the food arrived.

  Ryan followed me in, lying on one of the couches and resting his arm up over the back. He kicked his legs up on the chair in front of him. I started to perch next to him, but he grunted and reached for me, hauling me almost onto his lap.

  “What are you doing?” he grumbled. “After last night, you’re shy?”

  I felt the back of my neck heating up and looked at my hands in my lap. “Yeah, actually.”

/>   “What?” He pulled back so he could better see my face. “Really?”

  I looked up. “I don’t really know what I’m doing day to day,” I admitted. “Hell, even hour to hour.”

  I kept to myself how I could almost see Willow sitting on the far end of the couch. She was everywhere.

  “I’m going a little nuts.”

  He shrugged, taking the remote from me. His hand brushed against mine, leaving a tingle in its wake.

  “I think if you weren’t, something would be wrong.”

  I leaned my head back, watching him as he turned on the large screen and began scrolling through the channels.

  “You think?”

  His eyes found mine again, holding them a moment before softening. “Yeah. My friend died, and I wanted to rail at everyone. They acted like I was supposed to be over it and done by the time school started again. I got a four-day weekend to mourn. My parents didn’t understand why I wasn’t so interested in doing things afterward.”

  “What do you mean?” I sat up next to him, but he grabbed my legs and pulled them onto his lap. His thumb rubbed the inside of my calf.

  He leaned back, turning toward the screen again, but he wasn’t watching it. A mask settled over his face, one I was starting to recognize—it fell into place any time he talked to someone who wasn’t one of his friends or me. Even his sister got the mask.

  “I don’t know.” His chest rose silently and then fell again. “He died during the winter, at the end of our holiday break, so football was done by then. But I probably would’ve quit that. I played basketball, kinda had to. The whole town would have erupted if I hadn’t, but I quit everything else. Baseball. Anything extra I was supposed to do. My parents were having a crisis. They didn’t know what was going on with me. I stopped giving a shit about anything they did.” He laughed quietly. “I smoked a lot of pot that year with Kirk. Drank a lot too.”

  “How old were you?”

  “It was two years ago.”

  My chest ached. I looked over, and Willow seemed to have moved closer to us, but she was fading. I almost couldn’t see her. I tuned her out and tuned into Ryan.

  “I’m sorry.”

  His hand began to move again, caressing my leg, moving a little farther down the inside and back up.

  My throat felt like it was closing in. “You and Kirk partied together that year?” I rasped.

  “No. Well, yes, but that isn’t why we became friends. Derek was Kirk’s cousin. He was as messed up as I was. He says I was worse. I say he was worse, but yeah, we did a lot of stupid shit together that year.”

  “And he’s been gone?”

  “Yeah. He moved to L.A. last winter. His mom got transferred or something, but I guess he’s back.”

  “You didn’t know?”

  He didn’t answer. A few beats passed before he looked at me again, his eyes haunted. “He called the last couple weeks, but I didn’t call back. I was distracted.”

  Me. I happened.

  “Maybe he can come over later?”

  Ryan laughed quietly, moving to face me more fully. Letting go of my hand, he slid his hands up the outside of my legs, grabbed my waist, and pulled me onto his lap.

  I gasped and then moaned as his hands slid around to my ass. His mouth hovered over mine, his eyes darting from my lips to my eyes as he murmured, “I don’t think so.”

  He dipped down, and I closed my eyes, already lifting to meet him halfway.

  His lips touched mine at the same time the doorbell rang.

  “Fuck.” He pulled back, panting a little.

  He deposited me gently onto the couch and then headed for the door.

  I heard it open, and a second later, “Thanks.”

  The door slammed shut, and Ryan hurried back downstairs. He strode into the room, deposited the pizza on one of the other chairs, and lifted me once again. He sat and pulled me to straddle him. I smiled, feeling lazy and sensual as I looped my arms around his neck. My hands slid into his hair, grabbing fistfuls as I bent down to him. He tugged me the last inch separating us.

  A thrill burned in me as I felt him plastered against every part of me.


  We’d kissed for the first time Saturday night. That was two days ago. He’d come over, and we’d fooled around more on Sunday and again that night, but those times were nothing compared to how this made me feel.

  I was breathless as his mouth opened over mine, as I felt his tongue slide inside. His hand went to my waist and slid underneath my shirt. He paused there, waiting for me to let him know what was okay and what was not. It’d been the same way Sunday night. He’d asked before touching me then, and he was asking again. And like that night, I answered by touching him the way I wanted to be touched. My hand went under his shirt and slid up his torso, over his stomach muscles and chest as I pushed his shirt the rest of the way.

  I began inching up my own shirt.

  He pulled back. “Are you sure?”

  I nodded, my mouth finding his again. I couldn’t stop touching him, kissing him, tasting him. My shirt went up, and his hands were on my bare stomach, smoothing to my back, then down to my ass as he anchored me more firmly against him. I couldn’t get enough.

  I wanted more of him, more of this.

  I wanted anything that helped me forget I was starting to feel like a ghost.

  We kept kissing long past when the pizza had gone cold.

  The sound of the garage woke me up.

  The room was dark. The big screen was off, and an arm curled around me.

  Ryan had fallen asleep behind me. We were tangled up together on the couch in the theater room.

  I bolted upright. “Shit!” I shook Ryan’s shoulder, but his eyes had opened as soon as I moved.


  We both heard the garage door going back down.

  He repeated my sentiment, “Shit.”

  Groaning, he swung around from behind me, pulling his shirt on. I grabbed for my shirt and then looked down. Yes, my pants were fine. I glanced at his; they weren’t. He was searching around, his hand raking through his hair.

  I pointed. “Crotch.”

  “Huh?” He looked down, another curse leaving him. He quickly buttoned his jeans.

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