Chapter 34

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T H I R T Y—F O U R

      WE WERE COMPLETELY silent. That was just one of the many thoughts drifting through my mind as we sat leaned up against a tree, both of us with bits of stomach acid and vomit staining our clothes. We'd been here, maybe fifteen feet away from the pile of partly digested beer, out of view from the street lights. It was not surprisingly dark, so much so that I could barely see Ryder's ever-changing expressions whenever I glanced over, and the little bit I could see was because of the moon's light.

      I was tempted to question his thoughts, thanks to my new found feeling of sobriety, but was scared to. Whether I was actually any more sober than I'd been thirty minutes ago or just having a moment of temporary clarity, I didn't know. Clearly I wasn't sober enough, because I still found myself opening up my big mouth and saying one of my more constant thoughts as of late.

      "You frustrate me."

      His bark of a laugh surprised me, and the slightly bitter tone to it made me wince. "Yeah, we've established that."

      I shook my head, but didn't dare glance over. I was too nervous to make eye contact. "You do these confusing things and never explain yourself. Then you leave me frustrated and questioning everything I think and fe—everything I think."

      Risking a glance over, I noticed his furrowed eyebrows as he stared straight ahead. He opened his mouth to speak, but I didn't give him the chance.

      "Like when you found out about me and the guys. You helped me with my panic attack, and you seemed all kind and sincere and caring." I bit my lip in thought, then shook my head. "Next thing I know, that stony expression is back and you won't even look me in the eye."

      "I didn't know you then," he defended. I turned my head to glance at him again, but quickly looked away when I saw him already staring intently at me. I couldn't handle those silvery eyes right now.

      "That's the thing." I threw my hands up with a laugh. "You do it all the time! Even now."

      "What do you mean?" he asked, shifting his body to face me. He wanted me to look at him, I knew, but I wouldn't. I couldn't. "I've been more open with you about some shit I haven't even told the guys; I grew up with them!"

      I tucked my knees to my chest and winced as his voice raised. "I don't mean about that." I puffed out a sigh and shook my head, my hair falling in front of my face like a shield. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Ryder's fist clench and unclench as he resisted the urge to push it behind my ear. The action almost made me smile, but I bit it back. "You did it again this morning, after we got to Tyler's, remember?"

      He opened his mouth to protest, then closed it. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I didn't let go of your hand when you sat it on mine."

      "No, you didn't," I agreed. I lowered my legs and turned towards him, one folded underneath of me, but still didn't lift my eyes to meet his. "Until you did. Suddenly."

       "And ran upstairs," he finished.

      I nodded. "Then, you did it again up there."

      He stayed silent, stormy eyes averted to the ground as he realized all I accused him of was truth.

      "You drive me fucking crazy, Ryder."

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