Chapter 24

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SURPRISINGLY, THE REST of the evening wasn't awkward between Ryder and I. If anything, we'd been talking more.

I mean, we didn't openly talk to one another, but we'd both interact in conversation more while eating with the others and Dakota at Ryder's house. If Tyler or Jay made a joke, we'd both laugh instead of seeming tensed up and anxious around the other. We'd both cut in and interact more with conversation, rather than sitting there and silently judging the other person.

Honestly, it was kind of nice. I'd just wished that nice feeling could have lasted a lot longer than it had. Not that the two of us got in a fight or anything, more like the school found something new to gossip about the next day.

The moment I'd walked into my first period class, excited chattering fluttered through the air as different groups of friends all whispered about similar theories. And, of course, the first assumption was that I was the source of the gossip. Or, rather, my mystery counterpart.

On the contrary . . . sort of.

It wasn't until lunch that I actually found out what was located at the center of all the gossip.

I'd been about to walk into the cafeteria doors with my skinny jeans, black hoodie, hair up and no makeup—we'd all stayed at Ryder's, so Tyler ran home and grabbed some clothes—when a hand wrapped around my arm and dragged me to the nearest supply closet.

I was about to chew out Tyler for pulling me aside again when the door shut and darkness enveloped my vision. Tyler had never dragged me into a dark, completely secluded room before.

"What the fuck?" I snapped, struggling until a flip was switched and the lights turned on.

Stormy gray eyes locked on mine as Ryder glared, his firm, warn hands on my biceps. "Quit struggling."

I glared back, heart pounding anxiously in my chest. Heat pulsated through my arms from the contact, and I fought the urge to squirm from the unusual feeling. "You four have got to quit pulling me random places and giving me heart attacks."

So maybe we still bickered sometimes, but we didn't hate each other anymore.

He let out a breath through his nose and closed his eyes for a second to calm down.

I have that affect on people.

"Anyway," he started tensely, releasing my arms and dropping his hands to his sides. "Are you even aware of what the talk of the school is?"

I shook my head, shifting my shoulders around to eliminate the warm, lingering feeling from his hands. "No. But, damn these closets are small. Not as small as they are in the movies, but still—"

I was stopped as Ryder's hand covered my mouth. My eyes focused on his instead of shifting around the small closet. His body was nearly pressed against mine, a sliver of air all that separated us.

He seemed irritated.


I nodded.

A beat. Two.

"Shut up."

I snorted out a laugh, to which he yanked his hand away in surprise, his eyes wide. I covered my mouth with my own hand this time and tried to keep it together. "S-sorry."

I was still grinning and giggling when Ryder sighed in exasperation. I honestly had no clue why I was in such a bubbly mood. Things had just been going so well recently, and I couldn't help thinking that I'd been more happy within the last two and a half months than I'd ever been in my lifetime.

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