Chapter 20

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T W E N T Y

I WOKE UP to a slight bounce and a set of what felt like arms tucked under my back and knees. My face pressed against a warm chest, completely blocking out the cold wind from outside. A steady heartbeat thudded against my eardrums and picked up speed momentarily as I shifted around.

My mind set into panic-mode for a split second before I opened my eyes and glanced up. It took a moment for them to focus from the sleepy haze, but I eventually found myself staring into familiar gray eyes that stared straight ahead as he walked.

"Ryder?" I croaked, voice deprived of use from my sleep. I cleared my throat as he glanced down at me, both of us momentarily surprised by the situation. Why are you carrying me?

"Good, you're awake," he muttered hotly. "Now you can walk yourself."

"Rude," I stated as he dropped my feet, although he kept one arm behind me until I regained my balance. "Thanks."

He nodded as a response and we started forward again.

That is, until I stumbled after my first step. Heat flared in my cheeks from embarrassment as Ryder caught me, one hand on each hip.

"God damn it, Skye," he growled. "Do you not know how to walk?"

I winced, feeling oddly weak as I remembered my previous encounter with the admittedly intimidating guy from the warehouse party. I nodded silently as a response and started forward again, struggling to keep my balance.

You try walking to an unknown place at dark when you've just woken up.

I opened my mouth to question where, exactly, we were headed, but was cut off. Ryder huffed and let out a few choice words before his hand wrapped around my wrist and tugged me backwards. I stumbled and spun around slightly with a gasp, but before I knew it, a strong set of arms rested once again under my back and legs.

"Thanks," I whispered sleepily. I tucked my face into his warm chest. I knew it would he awkward to bring up later, but I was presently too tired to care.

He bounced me up slightly to adjust his hold with a grunt. "Don't get used to it."

"I won't," I said through a yawn. "Where are we going?"

When he opened his mouth and spoke, the words sounded like they were miles away, through the other end of a long tunnel. Before I could ask him to repeat himself, darkness clouded my vision and I slipped back into uncomsciousness.

•••••

The next time I woke up, I was laying in an unfamiliar bed.

I wasn't necessarily afraid, though. If anything, I was more confused about why I was here and where Ryder had taken me after I'd fallen back to sleep. I'd oddly come to trust him, and as much as I hated it, I felt a sence of security around him. Maybe it was the trust the boys had in him rubbing off on me, or maybe it was because he hadn't failed me yet. I wasn't sure.

But, just because I trust him doesn't mean I have to like him, right?

"Ryder?" I called as I sat up and rubbed my eyes. When they started to burn, I glanced down through blurry vision to see body paint smeared on my palms.

Nice going, Skye.

I made a point to glance around whenever my vision cleared up, although there was still a slight sting that would most likely bug me for the rest of the day. The room's walls were a light brown with white curtains covering two windows, a television in one corner of the room, a dark wooden dresser, and a fan in the other.

Darkness crept through the sheer curtains when I looked towards the window. It had only been a little dark by the time I'd woken up in Ryder's arms earlier, so I must have slept for a while.

"The hell do you want?" Ryder grumbled sleepily.

I jumped and whipped my head around to see his familiar figure curled up in a chair just past the window. "Ryder?"

"No shit," he responded, eyes closed and head leaned back against the back of the chair. "Who the fuck else would I be? Kris Kringle?"

I snorted out a horribly loud laugh at that response, then flew a hand to my mouth with a flush of embarrassment. I could've sworn I saw Ryder's lip twitch up in the ghost of a smile, but it was gone just as quickly as it came.

He yawned and shifted around to get more comfortable. "Let me go back go sleep."

I don't know if it was impulsive, dumb, or simply because of how deliriously tired I was, but I found myself blurting out the word, "No."

He peaked one eye opened with a raised eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me," I countered stubbornly, the seriousness of my words broken by my long yawn. "Look, it's physically paining me here to see you lay like that."

"I'm fine," Ryder argued, closing his eye again. His continuous shifting in his seat proved otherwise. "It's not as uncomfortable as it looks."

"Sure it isn't," I muttered incredulously. I quickly slid off the bed and feet-first onto the cold flood before anyone attempted to change my mind.

Walking over to the unsuspecting brunette, I grabbed his wrist like he'd done mine just hours ago and tugged him up and out of the seat. His eyes flew open at the action and he stumbled forward, crashing into me.

"What the hell, Skye?" He grumbled, backing up quickly to glare down at himself. "Now I've got paint all over me."

"Good," I snapped with a sleepy grin. I started tugging his wrist towards the bed. "I won't feel as weird."

      He gently attempted to slide his wrist form my grip, but gave up when he realized I wasn't going to let go. "About what?"

      "This." I tugged him forward quickly so that he stumbled in front of me, then pushed him down on the bed. I crawled up beside him and curled up, pulling the blanket over me after tucking my legs under it. "Because now you'll have to be covered in paint. So, in a way, I'm embarrassing you by helping you."

      He looked displeased by my actions and reasoning behind them, regardless of the fact that he still pulled the blanket over himself and laid sideways, facing me.

      I smiled to myself when I noticed the ghost of a grin on his lips and knew I scored a point in the book that is Ryder William's trust, then let the darkness once again take over me for the third time today.

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