Ryans bed, p.9
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       Ryan's Bed, p.9


  I wasn’t going to take on her life. That wasn’t my role.

  “Fuck you, Willow,” I whispered under my breath as I turned my back on them. I hurried upstairs.

  I wanted to grab anything I’d left up there and leave because that was me.


  I turned to find Ryan standing in his doorway, his hair wet and water dripping down his chest. He frowned. “You’re leaving?”

  Another round of fuck, shit, damn ran through my head. Let’s say it again, folks.

  I scowled, flicking away a tear. “Yeah.” I wanted to say more, but my throat wasn’t working.


  Let’s go for broke. All the religious swear words flared in my mind before I could speak. “It’s, uh . . .” I gestured behind me, in the direction of the pool. “I shouldn’t be here.”

  He repeated, “Why?” His frown turned to a scowl.

  “Why do you think?”

  He blinked, and his face changed. A sheepish look came over him, and his shoulders hunched forward. “I wasn’t thinking.”

  “Hanging with you is different from taking on the full social scene down there.” Another pointless hand gesture. “I thought I was fine, and I like your close friends, but this is too much.” I looked out the window. “I think I’m just going to go home.”

  “Let’s go.”


  His hand was in his hair as if he’d spoken before thinking. He blinked a couple of times and nodded. “Yeah.” His shoulders lifted. “I’ll go with you. Your suitcase is in my truck anyway.”


  “Look, you don’t really say much, and I’ve got a feeling I’m the only one you are talking to, but I know things at your house are sad. And that’s reasonable, but when you feel like shutting the world out, you don’t have to do that to me. I’m not everyone else.”

  My heart had been ripped out of my chest, and he was putting it back together.

  I laughed but felt my chest growing tight. “Willow would’ve been all over you.”

  I hadn’t meant to say that.

  His eyes grew keen. “Yeah?”

  God. What was I saying? I wasn’t Miss Talky-Shary, but this guy? I shook my head. “Why do you affect me so much?”

  “I affect you in a good way, right?”

  I bobbed my head. He already knew he did.

  “I’ll sneak in.”

  I lifted my head. “What?”

  “So you can sleep.” He nodded to himself again. “I know where you live, and your room’s on the west side? I’ll sneak in, every night if you want me to.”

  “Second floor.”

  “I can climb up. You have that big tree by your window.”

  “You won’t get in trouble?” He could sneak in and stay until I fell asleep. “If you get caught?”

  He shrugged that off, a cocky smirk tugging at his lips. He tucked a hand in his swimming shorts’ pocket. “We can improvise, but my mom never checks my room after midnight. I’ll come over after, climb in, sleep. I can set an alarm and slip out before anyone knows. As long as I’m back in my room by seven, I’m good.”

  A few hours would be nice.

  “Okay.” I was still unsure, but I needed sleep. If I became a zombie, the world was in trouble.

  There was a stampede up the stairs.

  “Dude!” Tom, Nick, and Pete rushed in, breathless. “Man! We—oh.”

  They saw me, and it was like they’d hit an invisible wall.

  Tom gave me a nod. “Hey, Mackenzie. How’s it going?”

  Pete rubbed his forehead.

  Nick rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

  Tom frowned, glancing at them. “What?”

  Ryan took two steps toward him and punched him in the shoulder. “You’re being weird. Don’t be weird.”

  “Ouch!” Tom rubbed where he’d gotten hit. “What was that for?”

  “We were talking.” Ryan wasn’t messing around. He glared at Tom. “What do you want?”

  Nick and Pete began snickering.

  Tom shot them a look, his hand falling away from his shoulder. “We got a text. Mullaly is having a party, and the girls are going over there.” His eyes lit up again, and he turned toward me. “You want to go, Mackenzie?”

  But before I could answer, he was looking back at Ryan. “We were rushing up here because Nick’s brother said he’d get us booze, but we gotta go now. He’s heading to Lakeville for a college party—”

  “Let’s go to the college party.” I winced. The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying. What the hell was going on with me?

  This was not me. I didn’t care about college parties. If I’d been to one before, it was because someone forced me or tricked me into going. I would’ve needed to be promised Taco Bell on the way home, and maybe I would’ve tried to go in my pajamas. A good fluffy robe was hella sexy.

  Ryan’s eyes snapped to mine.

  Tom’s eyes went round. “What?”

  Ryan studied me a moment, as if he were looking for something I wasn’t sure was there. I don’t know whether he found it or not, but he turned to Nick. “Would that be okay with Ben, if we went with them?”

  “Um . . .” Nick’s lip twisted.

  “Let me ask him,” I suggested. Okay, then. I was throwing all caution to the wind.

  The guys glanced at each other, and another round of: what the fuck am I doing? circulated my head.

  I didn’t even think Willow would’ve done this, or maybe she would have. Maybe she wouldn’t have been happy with tackling the seniors. She might’ve moved on to college guys. I knew she’d started talking to one before we moved. Duke didn’t know it, but he’d been about to be dumped. Sorry, Duke.

  I wanted . . . something different.

  Apparently, a college party was it for me.

  “Nah. Um . . .” Nick frowned. “I’ll text him quick.” He glanced at Ryan before adding more quietly, “I can tell him you’re coming.”

  Ryan’s jaw clenched, and he jerked up a shoulder. “That’s fine.”

  I glanced between the two, noticing how quiet everyone else got. “Uh, what’s going on?”

  They all looked at Ryan, who shook his head briefly. “It’s nothing. Ben’s a big b-ball fan. He’ll want to shoot the shit with me for a bit.”

  “Oh.” There was more. I could tell, but after a quick scan, I could tell no one would speak on it. Some unspoken situation had just materialized, and I wasn’t in on it.

  Nick’s phone beeped a second later.

  “Yeah.” He looked around the room. “He said we could go, but we gotta move now.”

  The guys flew around, preparing to change from their trunks to their regular clothes. They forgot I was in the room until Ryan snapped at them. Tom and Nick’s hands were pushing their swim shorts down, and they froze.

  I threw up a hand and looked at the floor. “I’m good. I’ll grab some clothes and get ready downstairs.”

  “Hey.” Ryan followed me into the hallway, making sure his door was shut. “You sure about this?”

  I jerked up a shoulder. “I think it’s safe to say I’m up for anything right about now.”

  Robbie was going to his new school this week. I’d be going to mine.

  Who the fuck cared? Right?

  “Mackenzie . . .”

  I clipped my head to the side. “I’ll be ready in a few minutes.”

  “If you’re sure.” His eyes were heavy with concern, and the look warmed me, but he was talking to me like I was normal.

  Normal died in my twin sister’s puddle of blood.

  I slipped away, grabbing some clothes from my suitcase in his truck. I’d planned on using a random downstairs bathroom, but the entire first floor was crowded. The guys were still in Ryan’s room, so I looked around, seeing Peach’s door open.

  Sorry, Peach, but I’m about to use your shit.

  I ducked in. After dressing, I went to her bathroom. She could sue me; I didn’
t give a rat’s ass. I used some of her stuff, putting product in my hair, and I went through her makeup too.

  We were going to a college party. I had to look the part.

  When I finished, I’d aged five years. Heavy eyeliner and eye shadow helped the image.

  I pulled on a pair of jean shorts, and I undid one button to shimmy them down an inch on my hips. There. That completed the look.

  Ryan and his friends were at the front door, and when Ryan caught sight of me, his eyes rounded, darkening.

  “Whoa.” Pete actually took a step toward me. “You’re fucking hot, Mackenzie.”

  Nick snorted and hit him in the arm. “Real smooth, Peepee.”

  “Shut up—and what?” Pete gestured to me. “She is.”

  “You have to say it in a nice way, a way that doesn’t make us think you’re creeping on Ryan’s girl.”

  Pete looked from Ryan to me, his brows furrowing. “Um . . .”

  Ryan only raised an eyebrow; his lips remained shut.

  Pete’s face reddened, and he coughed. “Mackenzie, you are—”

  I snorted, waving at him. “Please stop. We all look good. Let’s leave it at that.”

  A satisfied smile settled on his face.

  I looked at Nick and narrowed my eyes. “You, on the other hand . . .” He called me Ryan’s girl. I should correct him, but after a quick glance at Ryan, I didn’t want to. He was staring steadily at me, his eyes heated.

  Yep. He was totally affecting me, and I coughed. “Are we ready?”

  The guys took off out the front door.

  Ryan held back till they were gone. Without saying a word, he took my hand. He threaded our fingers together as we headed after them, and I tried to ignore the little flutter in my chest.

  Red Solo cup in hand, rap music blaring, slight buzz started—I was there. And we’d been embraced as if none of us were losers. Hell yeah. We’d turned down a high school party to be at a college one.

  I was damn right succeeding in life.

  Willow would’ve been fucking green with jealousy.

  A mean streak raced through my insides, causing my stomach to twist around. I raised my cup, looking at the sky from where I stood in some college dumbass’ backyard.

  You up there, Wills? Or are you right next to me?

  I hated her. She wasn’t supposed to be either of those places. She was supposed to be there, not me. She was supposed to be yelling at our parents, telling them they couldn’t send Robbie away. She was supposed to be stressing about school, making sure I got my locker number, and only she knew what else. I had no fucking clue.

  It was Saturday night. I had one more day, and then I was going to the new school—just me. It wasn’t supposed to be just me.

  She was my partner in crime. No matter how much she pissed me off, made my blood boil, annoyed the crap out of me, she was my other half.

  “You okay?”

  I didn’t know the girl who spoke to me, and maybe that was why I was honest. “I’m going crazy.”

  She’d been passing by, empty cup in hand, but did a double take.

  I waved her on, a nice fake smile on my face. “I’m good. You?”

  “Oh.” Her head tilted to the side. I could’ve been a green alien, and she would’ve looked at me the same way. “Okay. Good then.” She edged away.

  Run, little girl. Run from the crazy, pissed-off psycho drunk.

  No, scratch that. I was the crazy, pissed-off psycho buzzed chick. The little buzz I’d had before faded on the drive there. I was playing catch-up. Two more beers, and I’d be in the drunk stage. And that was something I needed to address.

  I swung around, looking to follow that girl, but Ryan was there. He grabbed my arms as I walked into him, and he took away my cup.

  “No.” He tossed it to the side, turned me around, and began walking me away from the beer.

  I pointed behind us. “I have to go that way.”

  He shook his head, still walking behind me. “We’re going this way, away from the keg.”

  I pointed again. “But the keg is that way.”


  “I want to go toward the keg.”

  “I don’t.”

  I dug in my feet and crossed my arms over my chest. We were about to have a difference of opinion, but Ryan didn’t care. He kept pushing me ahead, and when I locked my legs in place, his arm wrapped around my waist, and he lifted me.

  “Oooh!” I squeaked. I hadn’t been expecting that.

  Two points for him.

  He carried me until we were far away from everyone with some trees to our right, lawn to the left, and a creek crossing both. I ignored the full moon above us. I’d already looked up as I talked to Willow. The sky and anything else up there were cut off from my attention. She didn’t deserve it anymore.


  Ryan’s hand went to my shoulders as if he were going to push me down, but I shrugged off his touch and moved farther away. Wrapping my arms around myself, I warded off a chill that wasn’t in the air.


  I waved a hand at him. “I’m good. I won’t drink anymore.”

  “That isn’t why I stopped you.”

  I looked up, frowning. “Why did you?”

  He shrugged, cocking his head to the side. “You looked upset. Okay, and yeah”—his eyes flicked upwards—“maybe it was to stop you from drinking. Getting drunk when it’s just me is one thing. Getting drunk around strangers . . . I don’t know.” He looked back at where we’d come from. The bass thumped softly in the background. A few laughing shrieks rang out. “I didn’t like how some of the guys were looking at you,” Ryan confessed.

  “Oh.” I’d already forgotten how Nick’s older brother had gaped at me. I’d gotten that a lot since Willow. I blocked it out. “Don’t worry.” I shot him a grin. “I won’t sleep with any of them. I think the magical sleeping aid exists only with you.” And remembering how Nick’s brother and then his other friends had fawned over Ryan when we arrived, I nudged him with my elbow. “I’m not sure if I liked how they were looking at you either.”

  He smiled and seemed to relax. “Sit with me?”

  I nodded. It was stupid, but I liked that he asked. This time I wasn’t told where to go. I wasn’t taken somewhere. I wasn’t given a rule.

  As I folded down next to him, he asked, “What?”

  “What?” I looked over.

  “You sighed. You okay?”

  I frowned for a second. “It’s weird. My parents don’t really watch me, but in some ways, that’s all they do.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “I don’t know.” And I didn’t.

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