Chapter 9

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N I N E

I WAS SITTING on the kitchen counter, browsing through Pinterest on my phone when I heard feet marching down the stairs. I glanced up, shit off my screen, and hopped off the counter. Tyler's counter was abnormally high, especially to my short height, so I stumbled a bit when I landed. I blushed when I realized all four boys had witnessed the entire thing.

Jay snickered as Tyler doubled over in giggles, Cyrus sending the two an exasperated look for joking during a serious situation.

I spared a quick glance over at Ryder and was pretty relieved to see that he didn't seem quite as angry anymore. Actually, it looked like he was trying to fight back a small smile of his own.

I turned my attention back to Tyler and Jay with a shit eating grin, then leapt forward. Both Jay and Cyrus's eyes widened as they realized what was happening and sidestepped, pulling Ryder with them as I tackled Tyler to the floor. There was a loud oof! as he hit the ground, the breath knocked out of him instantly.

"No fair!" he shouted, attempting to fight me. I tightened my thighs around his waist and struggled to pin his arms back. He was fighting back pretty well, but we both knew he'd lose. Tyler was a partier, not a fighter. "They were laughing, too!"

I shrugged the best I could in my situation. "I don't know what you're talking about. All I saw was you, doubled over in laughter."

"But, it was funny!" Tyler argued. Jay and Cyrus were forced to use each other as support they were laughing so hard, and Ryder had his head tilted away from us to hide his smile. I grinned down at Tyler as a sudden thought struck me. "Oh no." His eyes widened in realization and he started struggling harder. "No, no, no, no, no! Don't do it, Skye!"

I glanced up at the other three, only to see two of them with looks of realization. Ryder watched me with an unreadable expression, like he was trying to figure something out, completely oblivious to what was going on.

Jay grinned and cracked his knuckles, taking a few steps forward. "I think we've just started ourselves a war."

Cyrus let out a loud bark of a laugh. "I think you started yourselves a war. I'll have no part in this."

Ryder's eyes widened, surprised at Cyrus's laugh enough to pull him from whatever thoughts he'd been lost to. It wasn't something that happened too often; usually he just smirked or grinned, or laughed quietly in a small enough group to stay unnoticed. As strange as it sounds, it's not every day you hear Cyrus let out a laugh on his own.

Jay surged forward into all the action. He took Tyler's from my hold and effortlessly pinned them above the boy's hair, giving me full access to pinch and poke at his sides. "Suit yourself!"

Tyler loud out a loud squeal as he struggled more. "C-Come on! This is isn't f-fair!" He said between giggles. "S-Stop!"

Eventually, Cyrus decided that Tyler had experienced enough torture and told us to let up. Tyler didn't bother trying to come after us when Cyrus checked the time on his phone and saw that it was around three in the morning, cutting off whatever conversation he'd been having with Ryder to suggest we all start cleaning up. I was exhausted from today's excitement and really just wanted to get some sleep, but I knew he was right. If we didn't clean tonight, we definitely wouldn't had the energy to pick everything up in the morning.

After about an hour of picking up the majority of stray cups around the house, a small yawn escaped my lips and I paused to stretch out my arms over my chest. Jay stopped what he was doing to send me a concerned glance. "You tired?"

I nodded, yawning again despite my best efforts to keep it in. "A bit, but I don't mind helping you guys pick up before I head to bed."

Jay chuckled. "You sure? I'm sure we can all handle it, especially with Ryder's help now. If you want to go to sleep you can go on up and we'll be up there in a bit."

At the mention of Ryder, I thought about his odd behavior since he'd found out about me. He didn't seem all that angry anymore, but he did seem overly cautious of my presence. I'd caught him examining me and how I acted with the other three more than once, and I could already tell he didn't trust me in the slightest. Though it frustrated me to no end, I couldn't blame him. I'd only known the boys for two months, and even I was surprised by how quickly we'd all grown attached to one another. If I was in Ryder's place, I probably would have assumed I had some kind of hidden agenda, too.

Though, I had to admit, keeping an eye on me wasn't all Ryder was doing this whole time. He was still laughing around the guys and making jokes, but he didn't seem as carefree as he was around them during school. Whether it was because of my presence, still being upset with them, or something entirely different, I had no idea.

I shook my head to Jay's question, rubbing my palm against my eye. "I'm going to finish helping you guys clean." There wasn't that much left to pick up, anyway. It wouldn't too much longer with four of us working on it together.

Jay looked up at something over my shoulder as I yawned again, then nodded his head. Before I had the chance to turn around and figure out what he'd been staring at, I was being picked up bridal-style and carried towards the stairs.

"Hey!" I protested, punching Cyrus's chest in annoyance. He didn't seem phased by my half-ass punches. "Put me down."

Cyrus' lip twitched. "Nope."

"Tyler!" I pleaded, craning my head to see over Cyrus's shoulder as I squirmed to get away. Tyler glanced over from the living room, where he'd seemingly been having a conversation with Ryder—who, might I add, looked very peeved at me for interrupting. "Help me!"

Tyler's laugh echoed from the living room as he asked Cyrus, "Where are you taking her, man?"

"Bed!" Cyrus called back, then flushed at the unintentional innuendo as Tyler and Jay tried to hide their laughter. "I didn't mean it like that," he mumbled, more to himself than to them.

I snorted, momentarily forgetting that I was supposed to be struggling. "Great job there, big guy." Then I sighed as realization sunk in. "Doesn't matter what I do, I'm not getting away, am I?"

Cyrus smiled and shook his head. "Nope."

I let my head fall against his shoulder another sigh, reluctantly closing my eyes and snuggling closer to my captor's chest. I was fast asleep before we even made it to the top of the steps.

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