Chapter 32

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Thank you for the beautiful cover by @magi_bear

T H I R T Y—T W O

      NEEDLESS TO SAY, Ryder was not 'right back'. Slowly, one by one, everyone seemed to notice Ryder's disappearance upstairs and started questioning it. In the last twenty minutes he'd been gone, I'd obviously considered running up to check on him, but didn't fully decide to until Selena opened her mouth to offer, herself.

      It was rude, I know, but I still didn't trust her.

      Before anyone had the chance to protest, I jumped out of my seat and made my way upstairs, through the familiar hallway to Tyler's room where I'd assumed Ryder would be hiding. The door was cracked when I finally made it there and I gently pushed it open.

      I stepped further into the room when I saw that the coast was clear and started towards Tyler's walk-in bathroom, just for that door to be cracked, as well. Relieved that I couldn't see him from the little bit I could see of the toilet, I gently pushed the door further to see if he was there. The scene before me shocked me, to say the least.

      There Ryder stood in front of the sink, head in his hands as he pulled at his tousled hair in frustration while his beanie rested beside him on the sink. I couldn't see his face to tell for sure whether or not he'd been crying, but I wouldn't have been surprised if he had been. Either that, or he was royally ticked.

      Quietly, I twisted the door's knob and pulled it shut behind me. In his distress, he didn't hear it click shut. "Ryder," I whispered softly, empathy clear in my tone.

      His head shot up to look at me through the mirror, and his bloodshot eyes confirmed my former thought. He stumbled back a little in surprise before choking out, "What are you doing in here?"

      "You were gone for a while," I explained hesitantly. He averted his eyes, and I fought the urge to step forward. "Everyone started to worry, so I offered to come check on you."

      He nodded quietly. "Okay."

      After a moment of silence, I stepped forward and reached out to touch him reassuringly, but a shot of pain tore through my chest as he flinched back. I stopped abruptly and dropped my hand regretfully to my side. Eyes averting to the floor, I stared to turn around. "I'm sorry. I'll just—I'll go."

      A hand shot out for my wrist. "Skye, no—I didn't mean to—" he stopped and sighed, and with a quick tug, spun me around to face him. "Fuck, I didn't mean to flinch away from you."

      I could feel the heat radiating off of his chest from the close proximity, and at noticing himself, he took a small step back. "It's okay, Ryder. I understand."

      "No." He shook his head, claw clenching and unclenching as he spoke. "You don't."

      My head tilted to the side slightly in confusion, and a strand of hair fluttered into my face. Instinctually, Ryder reached out and tucked it back behind my ear. I shook my head in confusion. "What's wrong?"

      He laughed dryly and dropped his hand. "What isn't?"

      I shifted my feet and lowered my stare back to the ground. "You know that's not what I mean. What's on your mind right now?"

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