Chapter 35

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T H I R T Y—F I V E

      WE'D ALMOST MADE it back to the house when a thought occurred to me.

      "You know, you should be a doctor when you grow up."

      "When I grow up?" He laughed. "Skye, I'm already 'grown up'. I'm eighteen."

      "You know what I mean," I muttered, landing one more lenient punch to his back. "Whenever you've started college and gotten into all that stuff."

      Laughing again at my choice of wording, he asked, "Why do you think so?"

      I shrugged the best I could from being upside down over somebody's shoulder. "The way you handled me when I was almost hypothermic. You seemed so calm and collected compared to me."

      "Calm?" He laughed, but it was uneasy. I could tell he didn't like thinking about last night. "I was a nervous wreck; you just couldn't tell because you were worse off than I was. I couldn't stop shaking, and I was terrified I'd mess something up." His grip tightened just slightly on my thigh where he held me in place. "And you weren't 'almost' hypothermic. You were hypothermic."

     "Oh," I muttered quietly. The thought of Ryder being shaky and terrified honestly put what I was going through into a new prospective. I knew I could have died, but for it to leave even Ryder scared and unsure of what to do made me really realize the severity of my situation. I could have died. Painfully. "At least you knew what you were doing."

      "Barely," he admitted sheepishly. "Everything I knew about hypothermia I learned because of a project I had in one of my classes to research and make a presentation about it." He paused. "We're lucky I didn't half-ass it, or you might not be here right now."

      I nodded, even though he couldn't see it. I didn't know what else to say besides profusely thanking him for taking the paper seriously, dropping everything to get me when I'd called him, and taking care of me that night.

      "We're here," he said as the lights from the party lit up what I could see of the ground. I stared at the tall silhouette of his shadow around the lit grass as we neared the doors before he put me down. I stumbled as the blood rushed from my head and left me dizzy, but Ryder's hands shot out to catch me by my waist. "You okay?"

      I nodded, not fully prepared to go inside and face the insolent bitch that was Jessica Myers.

      "Come on." He ushered me once again with a hand on my lower back, this time much more firmly than the light touch of his finger tips like the previous times. He didn't look worried in the slightest by the strange looks people cast him for entering the house with me, very obviously showing that we knew each other and hadn't just shown up at the same time.

      I'd fully expected to be ushered into the living room, where I noticed Tyler sitting confidently on Dakota's lap and Selena talking animatedly to Cyrus, their thighs just close enough to brush against each other's in subtle movements that were much more obvious than I'm sure they thought. Imagine my surprise when, instead of my butt hitting the soft cushions of Tyler's couch, my feet hit the solid stairs littered with drunken teenagers.

      "Where are we going?" I asked, leaning back slightly to turn and look at Ryder. A panicked look crossed his features as I stumbled slightly, but was quickly righted by both of his hands.

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