Chapter 25

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      "TAKE A PICTURE, love, it'll last longer." He raised his eyebrows expectantly, and it took me a minute to realize that he didn't recognize me.

      Of course he didn't. Not only had I been dressed differently, but I'd also been covered in paint.

      My anxiety diminished some as that realization hit me, but I was pretty embarrassed at still being seated on the less than sterile floor. The still unnamed guy from before leaned his side against the lockers next to us, arms and ankles crossed as he stared down at me.

      I hadn't realized how long we'd been in the hallway until I heard Ryder's booming voice from behind me.

      "Skye?" He stepped up beside me and offered me a hand, glaring at the guy in front of us. I wasn't sure whether or not Ryder remembered him, though it was clear he already disliked him, regardless.

      I shook myself out of my daze and took his hand, letting him pull me up. It took another moment for me to realize Ryder that was talking to me. In public.

      My eyes widened. Does he even realize?

      "Well, if it isn't Ryder Williams," the brunette said. "I've heard quite a bit about you, though I was under the impression you only spoke to three selective guys?"

      Ryder's eyes widened for a split second as he realized his slip up—I guess he hadn't noticed before—then switched back to a bored expression. "It's not a crime to be polite when someone's on the floor, not that my personal life is any of your concern."

      "Can't blame a guy for being curious." He shrugged and stepped away from the wall, nodding his head towards me. "I take it your name would be Skye? Is it short for anything?"

      I raised my eyebrows, every ounce of restraint in me going out to not going off and kicking this guy in his family jewels. Hard. "Just Skye."

"Not much of a talker, are you?"

Typically, yes, but I wanted to leave my speech to a minimum. He'd seen me before, and I hated to admit that I was slightly scared to think of what he might say or do if he recognized my voice or face. Instead of answering his question verbally, I shrugged.

Ryder turned and started the other way after checking something on his phone. He glanced over his shoulder, but kept his pace. "We're already late for class. I'm leaving, and I suggest you two do the same."

I silently thanked Ryder for getting me out of this mess as I turned to the new guy. "He's right," was all I said before turning on my heel and heading to my fifth period, head down.

Unfortunately, my next class didn't seem to relive any more stress over the situation. You'd think I'd be a lot more happy to be sitting behind Tyler with Ryder a few seats over, but I wasn't. For one, I couldn't talk to them. And, two, the only way we actually could talk to one another would be if they were insulting me in front of everyone.

I think I preferred the silence for once in my life.

Though, to explain the reason that class was extremely stressful, I would have to start off with the fact that nearly everyone had already been talking about the 'mystery girl' from the lake. Some of the comments I heard whispered around ranged anywhere from how hot 'she' was in underwear, to how 'she' was some sleazy whore who'd probably slept with all of the guys on multiple occasions.

Jokes on them, though; Tyler's gay for Dakota, Ryder's got the hots for his old best friend (I think), Jay and I decided the two of us should never try to be anything more than friends, and the only thing Cyrus is interested in is his mother's health.

I sighed and tried not to take the comments to heart. I was well aware that  it was all just gossip and conspiracy theories, but that still didn't halt my overactive mind for taking a less than confident turn.

I'd never admit it to the guys, but judgment is another reason I'm so afraid of people finding out about how I really am. The guys all assume I'm this fearless girl who's now afraid of the law or getting beat up when I trash somebody's car, but I'm not. I'm horrified that the moment people find out, I won't be able to stay hidden anymore. I'm afraid people will try to get close to me in order to get with one of the guys, or someone will make the guys hate me.

Or worse, I get arrested and forced into a new foster home.

I was torn from my thoughts as the classroom door opened. I glanced up to see a girl with long, shinny dark hair and high cheekbones. Her eyes were a bright blue, and she had this older feel to her that made me think she was an upper classmen. Senior, maybe.

Something about her felt strangely familiar, but I couldn't place from where. I didn't think I'd ever seen her before, but something about her features made me feel like I might've known a relative of hers, or seen her in a photo once.

To my complete and utter surprise, as well as everyone else's, Ryder abruptly stood up from his seat and stared. I assumed this was the first time anyone had ever seen him show any sort of emotion besides anger—eyes wide, lips slightly parted, stance rigid. In fact, I saw that same, raw emotion I'd seen at the lake in his eyes right now.

Realization hit me just before he opened his mouth a blurted out the dancing across my memory. I knew exactly who was standing at the front of the class room.


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