Ryans bed, p.16
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       Ryan's Bed, p.16


  chest. I started for her, my hand reaching out.

  If I could take it back . . .

  And poof. She was gone.


  She was right there. She was real. I could see her, speak to her, and she was gone.

  Footsteps pounded on the floor behind me. The bathroom door flung open, and Ryan’s eyes were wild.

  “Mackenzie? What?” He saw I was staring at nothing and turned in a circle, looking around the bathroom. “Mackenzie? What . . .”

  The same words, but such a different meaning.

  No. Nope. I wasn’t—I couldn’t say it aloud.

  She wasn’t real.

  She wasn’t there.

  She was gone.

  “She was supposed to be here for this.” The words wrung from me.

  He turned around and sighed. “Oh, Mac.”

  Tears rolled down my face. I felt them falling, but I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t stop them.

  “Mackenzie.” He said it quietly, tenderly, and he pulled me into his arms. “I’m so sorry.”

  He cradled the back of my head and held me.

  “I know what you and Ryan did last night.”

  I jerked back, my hand hitting the locker and slamming it shut. I turned to face Peach, who seemed pissed. Her eyes were angry, her mouth a firm line. Her arms crossed over her chest.

  She didn’t seem it. She was angry.

  And she was tapping her foot.

  I eyed that foot. Who tapped their foot like that? Seriously?

  “Say that again.”

  She couldn’t be talking about what I thought she was talking about because then . . . ew. How the hell would she know that?

  Her arms uncrossed, and her hands formed fists, pressing into her legs. “You screamed last night. I was dreaming about taking a puppy to a fair. Ryan put it on me, but it was you. I know what you two are doing. He’s either sneaking over to your place or you’re at ours. It was you who screamed last night.”

  Prove it.

  I sooo wanted to say Willow’s words to her, but the truth was, Peach could. Easily.

  Open the fucking bedroom door at three in the morning, and the proof is there. So I kept my mouth shut.


  I ignored Willow. I was still mad at her for disappearing last night.

  Fuck you.

  I ignored that too.

  “What do you want?” I asked Peach.

  Fine. She wanted to play ball with me? Well, there were consequences. I was going to call her on it.

  She frowned, her head lowering an inch as she moved back a step. “What do you mean?”

  “What do you want? If I screamed, what are you going to do about it?”

  “Nothing.” Her frown deepened.

  “Then why’d you come over all heated like this?”

  She shrugged, crossing her arms again. “I don’t know. I wanted you and Ryan to know that I know. And why’d you scream?”

  It wasn’t something nightmare-worthy, at least not to others.

  “I dreamed my sister and I were at Homecoming.”

  “Oh.” She tilted her head. “That sounds kinda nice.”

  I snorted. “I knew you’d think that.”

  “It wasn’t?”

  I gave her a dark look. “It was my sister. Me. Homecoming. I’ll never be able to go to another dance with her. You do the math.” I turned toward my locker again.

  I left out the part where I was becoming Willow. The creep meter was off the charts there.

  “I’m sorry, Mackenzie.”

  Her quiet voice drew my eyes up to her again.

  “I’m sorry your puppy dream got interrupted,” I offered.

  A giggle left her and then another. She shook her head. “Sorry. Just . . .puppy dream. Sounds funny when you say that.”

  I grunted. “I’d take a puppy dream over the weird shit in my head any day.”

  She sobered. “Yeah. I’m sure you would.” A new softness emanated from her, and she murmured, “I’m really sorry about your sister.”

  I couldn’t remember if she’d told me before, but the ring of sincerity told me she meant it this time.

  Feeling choked up again, I nodded.

  The warning bell rang.

  I was standing in the hallway, getting all emotional with Ryan’s sister four minutes before the next class.

  Fuck this.

  “I’ll see you later,” I told her.

  I didn’t wait for her response. Everyone else had started for their classes, and I merged with the stream to veer toward my classroom.

  Ryan and I had sex.

  Yes, I was on repeat, but I was giving myself a break. I had to process things while I was refusing to process something else, and that something enjoyed haunting me.

  Aaand back to processing what I could: I was no longer a virgin.

  It hurt at first, but then it felt good. Then it felt really good.

  I was there for Willow after she had done the deed. I sat on her bed and listened to every detail.

  I hadn’t been crying last night because I couldn’t share that experience with her. I cried because I wouldn’t have.

  Willow was supposed to know. She would’ve cried, begged me for the 411, and I wouldn’t have said a thing because Ryan would’ve been important to me. Willow would’ve been jealous. She would’ve wanted him for herself, but I had him, and I got him because I crawled into his bed that night.

  Willow was supposed to know . . .

  Get over yourself. I’m so here, but you won’t admit it. Right, Mac? When did you start talking to yourself? Yes. Yes. You’re crazy. You’re so nuts, they’ll ship you to a hospital so you don’t do what I did. That’s your real worry, isn’t it?

  “Enough!” I roared, and like that, I was staring at my classroom, and Willow was gone.

  Every person in the room—including the teacher—was looking at me.

  I was smack dab in front of the door as the last bell rang.

  Mr. Breckley cleared his throat. “I quite agree. Enough. It’s time for some learning.” He ignored the light smattering of laughter and motioned to me. “Now, if you’ll close the door, Miss Malcolm, we’ll get to today’s lesson.”

  My neck felt warm.

  I kicked the doorstopper out and went to my seat, ignoring the questioning looks from Tom, Nick, and Cora.


  Ryan’s greeting shouldn’t have stood out with all the noise in the hallway, but it was as if I’d become attuned to his voice, his body, him. The rest of school, all of it melted into the background, and I turned, knowing he’d be standing there, watching me with the quiet concern maybe he shouldn’t have had. The tension eased from my body.

  This was wrong.

  I shouldn’t be depending on him this much, but I moved toward him. My body was already betraying me.

  “Your sister knows.” I meant to say more, explain, but the need to get Willow from my mind made me forget.

  I stepped toward him, and he mirrored me. It was as if we moved as one unit. My back went against the lockers, and he stood in front of me, his hand resting against the locker beside me. I couldn’t stop myself. I leaned into his hand and reached for the loop on his jeans. He reacted to my touch, sucking in his breath, and I saw him go rigid, but I didn’t pull him against me. I held on to that loop. It was an attachment to him.

  “What?” His eyebrows went up.

  “About me sneaking over,” I clarified. “That I screamed last night, not her.”

  “Oh.” His shoulders slumped. “Not about the other thing, right?”

  “No. Not that.”

  “Fuck, Mac.” He gave me a crooked grin. “You gave me a slight heart attack.”

  I smiled. “Yeah. Not that.”

  “We didn’t talk after . . .well, after us and after your bathroom thing,” he said.


  I glanced down, feeling all sorts of awkward again.

  He’d held me until we had
both fallen asleep. His first alarm woke me, and I told him I could hurry to my house alone. I’d started bringing clothes to his place and vice versa, but it was never the same as getting ready at your own house. I needed some space this morning, and when he’d picked me up an hour later, I’d been the Avoidance Girl.

  Avoid the sex talk. Avoid the bathroom meltdown. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

  I felt the walls closing in on me, and I knew I couldn’t keep avoiding forever, but I was going to do my best. Call me the Superstar of Avoidance. I’d wear that pin proudly, if I got around to it.

  I shook my head, a small signal that I still didn’t want to talk about it, and my finger moved against his stomach.

  His eyes warmed, and an invisible rope tightened between us, pulling us toward each other. He leaned closer, and I felt myself moving away from the locker door.

  The next bell was going to ring. We’d have to go into our class, but I didn’t want to pull back. I didn’t want to be with other people. I wanted to stay here, stay with him, or go somewhere else and just be alone with Ryan.

  I wanted to skip.

  I hadn’t skipped since that first day, and a part of me didn’t want to do it again. If I did, I didn’t know whether I could stop myself later. Already I could barely manage the temptation to disappear with only him. I could shut everyone else out, shut out the world, and yes, shut out Willow. She was the main one I wanted to shut out.

  Love you too, asshole.

  That was all I needed.

  “Let’s get out of here.”


  I nodded, scanning up and down the hallway. The others were starting to head to class. If we were going to go—I saw Kirk and Nick headed our way. Their eyes were right on us like we were targets and they’d locked in.

  “Never mind.”

  Ryan looked around and cursed under his breath before he moved, half blocking me from their gazes. “Hey, guys.”

  Nick’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, but he hung back as Kirk stopped in front of us.

  “Let’s skip,” he said.

  Ryan and I both straightened in surprise.

  “What?” Ryan asked.

  It was only then that I noticed how Kirk’s eyes were blazing. A scowl was firmly in place, and everything about him radiated anger. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his black bomber jacket, pulling it tight around his form.

  “I gotta bounce from here. Let’s skip.” He looked around at all of us. “You game?”

  Nick wasn’t saying anything, but Ryan looked at me.

  “I’m in,” I said.

  Ryan studied me a moment.

  “Are you going?” I asked Nick.

  Kirk shifted, throwing his arm around Nick’s shoulders. “Hell yes, he is.” He thumped him on the arm twice. “He’s coming.”

  “Yeah. Sure.”

  His tone didn’t suggest he was eager.

  Then Ryan pulled me away from my locker, opened it, and put away his books. Grabbing my hand, he shut the door and nodded. “Lead the way, Kirkus. You got point on this one.”

  “Sweet. Let’s go.”

  A few others saw us go, but Kirk ducked out through a side door, and we jogged across the lawn, heading for the parking lot. Nick and Kirk went for his truck, but Ryan grabbed my arm and pulled me a different way.

  “We’ll follow in mine,” he called.

  Nick looked like he was going to say something, but Kirk raised his arm. He didn’t look back, and if anything, his pace picked up. After a couple of beats, Nick turned and hurried after him.

  Ryan and I wove through a few rows of vehicles, closing on where he’d parked. Without speaking to each other, we broke apart, going to our doors. I waited until he unlocked the truck, and then I was in and grabbing the seatbelt.

  He climbed in, and a moment later we were easing out of the slot, waiting for Kirk’s truck, which didn’t take long. A black SUV sped past us, only pausing for a second at the exit before it took off.

  Ryan wasn’t as fast, but he caught up after a block.

  “Where are we going?”

  “I don’t know; Kirk will choose a place.”

  I remembered the almost-crazed look in his eyes. “Did something happen? Do you know?”

  “Who knows. Kirk gets like this. He needs space or has to get his mind off something.”

  “What do you guys do when that happens?”

  Ryan shrugged, flicking on his turn signal and pausing at an intersection. “Honestly, this isn’t that normal. I mean, it is for Kirk and me, but since he’s come back, he’s been with the others more than he was before. It used to be him and me.”

  I read between the lines there. “And you’re with me most of the time now.”

  “Yeah.” He started through the intersection, glancing at me as we moved in behind Kirk’s SUV.

  “You okay?” he asked moments later when we pulled into a driveway.

  We parked behind Kirk’s truck, but I didn’t see anyone still inside.

  “Where are we?”

  “Kirk’s place.”

  “Won’t his parents—”

  Ryan laughed. “His dad works in the city like yours, and the staff won’t say a thing. Kirk skipping is normal.”

  Great. Another abnormality that was becoming normal. I was on the fast track to becoming a juvenile delinquent.


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