Ryans bed, p.13
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       Ryan's Bed, p.13


  We hadn’t had sex, but we went a little further than last night. Grinding 101. I’d definitely felt him against me, and I’d definitely strained to get closer to him, which was a reality that was hitting me like a sledgehammer, I was glad that was all we’d done.

  “What if the school called them already?”

  He grabbed for his phone, scrolling through his messages. “Tell them the truth. You thought you could handle it, and then you couldn’t. You lost your sister, Mac. Your parents should be sympathetic to that.”

  He was right. I felt a little better, the old Mackenzie’s guilt lessening over skipping half a day.

  They would come inside. I could hear my parents talking to each other.

  They would call my name.

  When I didn’t answer, they would go in search of me.

  I wouldn’t be in my room, so they’d call again.

  They would come down because this was the obvious place I’d be. If I wasn’t in my room or in the living room, then check the theater room.

  So, I waited, my heart pounding against my chest, listening . . .

  The fridge opened. I heard glasses clinking. My dad walked to his office.

  The microwave started in the kitchen.

  Plates clanked as someone pulled them out of the cabinet.

  And then . . . nothing.

  They never called for me. They never went up to my room to see if I was in there. My mom went down the hallway to their bedroom. The microwave beeped and then the oven. My dad walked from his office back to the kitchen.

  “Food’s done,” he called.

  My mom’s soft tread came back to the kitchen.

  Chairs were pulled out, moving against the floor.

  I heard utensils hitting the plates, scraping.

  I couldn’t move.

  Ryan’s phone was flashing as texts came in, but he silenced it. Wait—I grabbed for my phone. I’d put it on silent too. There’d be a text from my parents, something to check in with me. They would’ve asked where I was, how school was, told me they were eating without me. They probably thought I was with friends. But when I looked?

  The screen was blank. No calls. No texts. Nothing.

  My parents weren’t going to look for me.

  Ryan scooted over and showed me his phone. He typed out: Want to sneak over to my place? Rose made spaghetti.

  Did I?

  A numb cold settled in. I saw the pizza we’d ordered and had never eaten. It was still on the chair, but I had no appetite. I ran through the scenarios in my head: go upstairs and pretend my parents hadn’t forgotten me or go to Ryan’s place. Peach would be there, but so would other people.

  I nodded, suddenly desperate to be anywhere else.

  We didn’t have to sneak.

  As we were going up the stairs, my parents finished eating. I heard them put their dishes in the sink, and as we came to the top of the stairs, they moved past us. My dad went into his office. My mom went to their bedroom. I saw each of their backs disappear into the different rooms, and then Ryan and I headed out the door.

  I locked it behind me.

  Holding my phone as we drove, I was sure it’d buzz any second. My parents would remember me. They’d want to know where I was.

  It hadn’t moved by the time Ryan parked in his driveway, and with a sigh, I slipped it into my book bag.

  Ryan eyed me as he rounded the front, waiting for me. “I’ll give the guys a call and find out if we already have homework for tomorrow.”

  I nodded. There was a storm battling the icy cold numbness inside me, and I would’ve jumped at anything to quiet my mind. “That sounds like a good idea.”

  But turns out, he didn’t have to do that.

  When Ryan opened the door, yelling, techno music, and laughter assaulted us.

  A blur streaked from the living room, past the entryway, and into the kitchen, then backtracked.

  Peach gaped at us and hollered, “RYAN’S HOME!”

  Footsteps stampeded toward us, coming from all angles. I stepped back instinctively. It was jarring going from my empty and almost haunted house to this. Ryan’s was full of life.

  Erin and two other girls ran from the direction Peach had come. Tom and Nick came down the stairs. Cora and Kirk busted up from the basement. As they skidded to a stop, most were red in the face and more than a little sweaty.

  “What the fuck?” Ryan dropped his bag with a thud to the floor.

  Kirk grinned at us, lopsided. He rested a hand against the wall next to him, his chin lifting in a cocky posture. “Your parents are at some banquet event overnight in the city—”

  “And Rose cooked a bunch of food for us and then left. It’s all in the fridge,” Peach cut in, her chest heaving.

  Ryan looked from her to Kirk. “So you thought you’d have a party here?”

  Kirk lifted a shoulder. “Seemed the best option, especially since your ass skipped out today.” There was an added heat to his words, and everyone’s eyes moved to me.

  You’re going to take that? I could hear Willow hiss.

  No, I answered in my head. No, I’m not.

  I looked right at him. “You didn’t seem to have any problem when you ran into us leaving.”

  “That was before I realized he’d be gone all day.” He switched to Ryan. “Seriously, man—”

  I interrupted, “Why the change of heart?” I flicked a look at the girls, who were following the back and forth like a volleyball game. “Have you been listening to my fans?”

  Erin’s eyebrows shot up. Her friends gasped, giving her nervous looks.

  Peach got redder in the face.

  Ryan looked from me to Kirk, his mouth curving down in a frown.

  “According to them, you’ve been all over my man since you arrived on the scene. You’re like a leech, taking him away from his friends, and I think it’s bullshit.” He raked me over, sneering. “I thought Ryan was taking you for a literal ride over the lunch period. Then I hear it’s been like that all summer long.”

  This asshole.

  I growled, jerking forward a step. “Are you kidding me?”

  A twinge of wariness stirred in his eyes. The sneer dropped, but his glare was still there.

  “Let’s run down the timeline. My family moves to Portside in June. I see Ryan at our parents’ company picnic June twenty-ninth. I didn’t even talk to him. Eight hours later, my sister kills herself.”

  The glare faded.

  “Four hours later, I’m at the Jensens’ house. Fast forward another month, I go to the movies with Ryan and his friends. Fast forward almost another month, I saw him this past weekend and yeah, we skipped today. Want to know why?”

  I didn’t know when I’d advanced on him, but I didn’t think anyone could hold me back. I was seeing red. “Because I couldn’t fucking deal with not having my twin motherfucking sister with me today.”

  I felt Ryan behind me. His hand on my back acted like a coolant. I felt some calm seep in, but I could still feel everyone in that room—their attention, their derision, their judgment.

  Willow would’ve creamed them in minutes.

  Feeling a bit more in control, I said, “You lost a cousin. I lost my other half. Save your judgment for the bitches who got in your head today.”


  If you’re going to get away with clocking one of those bitches, I’d do it now.

  Willow was in my ear again. I could imagine her snide looks at Erin. I suppressed a laugh, knowing I couldn’t do either, but she so would have.

  Ryan’s hand found mine. Softly, as if he were crooning to a cornered wild animal, he said, “Come on. Let’s go upstairs.”

  Another surge of rage was coming, so I let him pull me upstairs. Nick and Tom moved aside. Ryan said something to them, but it was so low I couldn’t make it out. He led me upstairs to his room, and once inside, I waved him away. “Go. I know you want to talk to them. I’ll be fine.”

  He hesitated at his door. “You sure?”
r />   I nodded, not looking at him. “Yeah. I have to chill out. I know.”

  “Kirk isn’t usually that wrong on things. He’ll correct himself.”

  I wasn’t holding my breath.

  I was embarrassed.

  Those girls wanted a reaction, and they got one. I’d lost it in front of them. They got the win. They’d used Ryan’s best friend to get it out of me.

  Point one for the rich bitches.

  I sat at Ryan’s desk, grinning slightly at Willow’s words. She would’ve been impressed with them too.

  You were cool as tight back there. Proud of you, little sis.

  Cool as tight? I had no idea what that meant, but it was something my twin would’ve said, in a moment when she was “cool as tight” too.

  There you go, thinking you’re funny. And look at you, getting it on with Ryan like you’re rabbits. Watch the sexual activity, twin sister. You don’t want to pop out little babies for Mom and Dad to ignore too.

  I was full-on smiling. Fuck you, you dead bitch.

  She would’ve laughed, and I swear, I almost heard it.


  Her presence was so strong.

  Head’s up. Your Willow-replacement’s little sis is approaching. In three, two . . .

  “Mackenzie?” Peach knocked on the door.

  I froze for a second and then looked around. Was Willow actually there?


  I was going insane. That seemed more logical.

  Ryan’s sister poked her head in. Seeing me, she pushed farther inside, shutting the door behind her with a gentle click. Her back kept to the door, and she looked down at her linked hands in front of her. “Um . . .”

  She was there for something. I waited for whatever it was.

  “I’m sorry.”

  She stopped after that, and I frowned. “For what?”

  “For?” Her chest lifted. She took a deep breath and looked up. Shame hung heavy, like bags under her eyes. “I didn’t really think about what you went through.” She held her hands up. “Are going through, and I’m sorry.”

  Okay. She apologized. I had no clue why. “I don’t understand you. What’d I ever do to you?”

  Her face closed in on itself as if she were in pain. “You’re going to think I’m an idiot.”

  I already did, so I kept quiet.

  She sighed. “I was jealous of you, and worried because of you.”


  “It’s so completely stupid. I—Ryan doesn’t like anyone.”

  I snorted. “Besides Tom, Nick, Cora, and Kirk?”

  “Yeah, but they’ve only recently come back in the picture, and he doesn’t talk to anyone in the family. I’m his sister, and after Derek died, Ryan only hung out with Kirk. Then Kirk left, and . . .” She didn’t finish.

  “What are you talking about?”

  “Derek died during Ryan’s sophomore year. Except for ball, he stopped doing everything for an entire year, and then Kirk left, and it was—he was like you until a few months before you moved here. When that happened with your sister, and you came here, I hated you. I saw how you attached yourself to him, but Ryan wasn’t pushing you away. He pushed everyone away until you showed up.” She faltered, glancing down for a moment. “I didn’t want to lose my brother again.”

  “You thought I would do that?”

  She jerked her head up. “I was scared he’d slip back into whatever had him before.”

  It made more sense. Ryan’s response to me, why maybe I was pulled to him, even her attitude.

  “I’m sorry for that.”

  “No.” She shook her head, smoothing back some of her hair. “I’m sorry.”

  I saw the tears that lined her eyes.

  She wiped them away. “Anyway, I wanted to say that.”

  She slipped out again before I could respond.

  I sat there, feeling . . . nothing. Again. Or maybe still?

  Another quick knock, and Kirk’s head came around the door this time.

  I read the apology on his face before he started to speak, and I held up a hand. “Please. Don’t.”


  “You’re here to apologize?”

  His head lowered. He grabbed the back of his neck, kneading it. “Uh. Yeah. I am.”

  I shook my head. “I honestly don’t need it. I didn’t go off on you and then come sit up here, expecting you to come to me with your tail between your legs.”

  “Well.” He looked down, the beginning of a playful grin tugging at his mouth. “It’s there.” He moved his hips from side to side. “I can let my hair grow longer, if you want, so there’d be a real tail.”

  “No.” I laughed a little at that. “Ryan’s letting everyone have it down there?”

  His hips stopped moving, and he nodded. “Yeah. I feel like a dumbass. Erin never told me any of that stuff. She just said that Ryan had changed since you came into the picture. I’m protective of him, and it isn’t just because of my cousin. If you hadn’t noticed, Ryan’s loved. By a lot of people.”

  I was getting that.

  I shook my head. “It’s fine. Don’t jump down my throat again, okay?” I laughed. “I think I’ve reached my quota of confrontations. There’ve been more the past few months than ever in all my life.”



  I could imagine Willow standing next to me, her arms crossed over her chest as she rolled her eyes. Yeah, because that was my job. You’re stepping into my shoes, sis.

  Kirk rubbed his hand over his face. “Look. I might be overstepping, but I get what you’re going through. I thought I was going crazy. After Derek died, I saw my cousin everywhere—or, I thought I did.”

  I didn’t know what to say. “Did he go away?” I finally asked.

  He didn’t reply at first. A second passed, and a hollow look entered his eyes. He was staring at me, but he wasn’t seeing me.

  “Not really, no,” he replied softly.

  Great. I should just go ahead and reserve my room in the mental hospital.

  “But I don’t want him to.” He nodded to me. “You won’t either, if it’s the same for you.”

  I sighed. “I’m sorry for going off on you.”

  “I’m sorry for being the asshole you had to go off on. And for the record, I deserved it. You don’t have to apologize for anything.”

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