Chapter 8

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E I G H T

RYDER CLOSED HIS eyes and let out a heavy breath through his nose to calm himself down.

After walking in on the four of us together, Ryder simply clenched his fists, took deep breaths, and sat down on Tyler's bed. Cyrus had instantly put some distance between us, trying to make the situation just slightly less compromising, and took a seat in one of the game chairs. Tyler eased himself on the end of the bed—a good distance away from Ryder—and motioned for us to join him.

Ryder had seemed even more infuriated at seeing Jay rest his hand encouragingly on my lower back, and at seeing the fond, but worried smile I'd been getting from Tyler. The boys bad quickly explained how we'd met, and that they didn't want to tell him after a while because of his grudge towards me. I stayed silent through the entire explanation, afraid of making things worse.

And that led us to where we were now.

Ryder took another deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. "How long?"

We all froze. None of us had mentioned exactly how long we'd been friends—probably the reason he hadn't been as furious as I'd expected.

Cyrus, bless his brave heart, took a deep breath and blurted, "Two months."

Ryder practically shot out of his seat. "Two months? How the fuck—"

"We knew how you felt about her," Tyler interrupted quickly, his leg bouncing where it hung off the bed and onto the floor. He was just as nervous as the rest of us; even his calm facade couldn't hide that. On the bright side, he didn't seem to be worrying about his sexuality right now. "We didn't tell anyone at first because she wanted to keep everything a secret, and by the time we'd thought about telling you, it had already been too late. By then, we knew that if we told you, you'd be pissed." He paused. "Well, even more pissed."

Jay nodded, still looking nervous at the fact that Ryder was fuming. "The three of us," he gestured to himself, Cyrus, and Tyler with his free hand, "had talked about trying to warm up to her in public so that you could see what she's really like. If that worked, we figured you wouldn't be as mad when you found out."

I furrowed my eyebrows as I took in what he said, suddenly frustrated that decision had been made entirely without me. I glanced over at Jay, who was now rubbing circles into my back with his thumb. "I never knew about that."

Cyrus shook his head. "I know. We didn't even decide on it until right before we cornered you in the hallway."

"Wait," Ryder said. He seemed to have calmed down some and sat down, wearily watching Jay's hand behind me. "You talk to her at school, too?"

"Sort of," Tyler explained, his leg picking up speed before stopping its movement entirely when he noticed us staring. "She doesn't want noticed at school, so we don't talk to her unless we need to. Even then, we make sure we block off whoever we're talking to from anyone passing by."

"What about at home? Do you guys go to her house?"

My breath caught in my throat.

My home life . . . it was a little complicated. There were reasons I always stayed with one of the three, even though they only knew the basic gist of the situation. I didn't like talking about my life outside of them, and I wasn't planning to any time soon.

So, I decided to take the same easy and simple route that I'd taken with the boys when they'd asked. "I don't have one."

"What do you mean you 'don't have one'?" Ryder pressed, looking very annoyed. Either the guy had a short fuse, I decided, or was a little bi polar. "So, you're an orphan?"

I flinched at the word. Choosing not to answer his second question, I said, "I have a place to live, but it's not home. I avoid the place as much as possible."

"Then where do you stay when you're not there? In an alley?" he snapped. I could tell he was getting impatient with my vague answers, but I couldn't really blame him. He just learned his three best friend had been lying to him and sneaking around with somebody he hated for months now. Nevertheless, I still flinched at his harsh time.

I sent a sideways glance at the boys, focusing on their expressions and how thy were taking all of this. Unsurprisingly, Cyrus appeared eerily calm, as if he expected this reaction from Ryder. Tyler looked angry and stressed, his leg once again bouncing uncontrollably against the carpet covered floors. Jay looked ready to blow a fuse and go off, and had his free hand clenched at his side. Despite Ryder watching my movements closely, I laid a hand on Jay's thigh and gently squeezed. Almost immediately, his fist unclenched at his side and a small breath escaped his lips. He was trying to be calm, for my sake.

Ryder seemed to notice their expressions, too. It also seemed to calm him down a little. "Look, I'm just tired of these simple answers. Two months you guys kept this from me. I couldn't even tell you guys were keeping something from me in the first place, and I can't help sitting here wondering what else you're keeping that made you that good at lying to me me." He shook his head, his eyebrows furrowed in what I could only assume was hurt. I couldn't help but notice this was the first time I—or anyone else, for that matter—had ever seen Ryder Williams look vulnerable. "I've known you guys my whole life, and it took two months for me to get even the slightest suspicion that something was off."

I suddenly felt like I was intruding on a personal conversation, like they'd forgotten I was there. I slowly removed Jay's arm from behind me and slid off the bed. I knew the four occupants of this room were staring at me, and I hoped nobody would question where I was going or why. This conversation was no longer something I was supposed to be apart of, and I couldn't help thinking I was disrespecting their privacy by listening in.

"Where are you going, Skye?"

Expecting the words to come from Ryder, I stopped short at the hurt sound in none other than Tyler's voice. I paused for a few moments, then sighed and turned to face him, only to be startled when he was right in front of me. I hadn't even heard him get off of the bed.

I looked up to meet his eyes and smiled a small, gentle smile. Softly, I said, "I felt like I was intruding on something personal. I just thought I should give you guys time to talk things out."

Tyler furrowed his eyebrows. "Skye, anything we have to say we can say in front of you."

I sent a glance over his shoulder to Ryder, who was watching me with an unreadable expression. Then, in a voice only Tyler could hear, I said, "You guys, maybe. But, Ryder? Not so much." I looked away from Ryder piercing gaze and met Tyler's eyes again. "I haven't done anything to earn his trust, and that vulnerability I saw a minute ago? That was for you three to see, not me."

Tyler sighed. "Just be careful with those idiots out there. I think all of them are out cold, but there still might be one or two awake."

I nodded. "I will, I promise." Then I smiled and leaned forward to whisper," I think you should talk to Dakota. He seemed just as shook up as you after all of that. Get to know him some, and you might be surprised. Sometimes people aren't always how you first interpret them."

With that, I turned without another word and left the boys to have their talk.

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