Chapter 43

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F O R T Y—T H R E E

      I DIDN'T CONSIDER the fact that I hadn't asked Julian when, exactly, he wanted these plans to happen. I soon realized my mistake as I sat in class, Ryder's gaze searing into the side of my skull.

      He wanted to know what I'd been talking about, I knew, but I wasn't sure what to say. It was clear Ryder's thoughts toward Julian were less than friendly, but what was I supposed to do? Drop one and run off into the sunset with the other? Julian me I were just friends; nothing more.

      Although, I couldn't say the same about the relationship I shared with Ryder. We weren't friends, but we weren't . . . more, either. We were something unfamiliar. New. Terrifying.

      "Skye," a soft voice rang out from my left. It was a voice that made me less and less nervous the more I spoke to her. "Are you okay?"

      I shifted my attention to the gorgeous, dark haired girl and sent her a cautious but grateful smile. Ever since Cyrus and Selena spoke at Tyler's about me, and since the dinner with Cierra, Selena's attitude towards me has been anything but hostile. I could sense the slight bit of tension between us from before, but she was trying to make things better, and that's all that mattered to me. "I'm fine."

      Selena nodded and shifted her gaze back to her paper when the teacher glared at her. Quietly, she nodded towards my hand and said, "You're squeezing your pencil. Your knuckles are white."

      I abruptly released my tight grip on the pencil, wincing as it rolled off he desk and into the floor. The sound practically echoed throughout he silence of the room, but the only people who really noticed were Tyler, Selena, and Ryder himself.

      I started to quickly lean down and grab the pencil when my hand landed on Ryder's instead. I didn't make eye contact as he lifted the pencil and handed it to me, our faces way too close for comfort.

      "Thanks," I whispered quietly.

      The corner of his lip quirked up in my peripheral. "You know, I'd be thankful, too, if you'd kindly share why you've been avoiding eye contact with me all period."

      Heat rose to my cheeks at him blatantly calling me out. "I haven't been," I lied.

      "Sure you haven't." He leaned back so that he was sitting right in his seat, no longer hunkered down in front of me. This time, he spoke much quieter. "You've just coincidentally left your eyes trained on the floor and away from me at all times. My apologizes."

      I lifted my narrowed eyes to meet his. "I'm looking at you. Happy now?" I huffed. "You act like you're the only thing on my mind." And you'd be right.

      He grinned, face lighting up with challenge at my words. "From the way your eyes are always on me every other day of the week, how could you think about anything else?"

      "You're a cocky ass, Williams."

      "And you're an in-denial bitch, Valkyrie."

      "Guys," Tyler interrupted. When he successfully gained the attention of the both of us, he gestured towards the teacher.

      I winced at the dark glare we were receiving and lowered my head, whispering a quick, "Thanks, Tyler," before staring down at the paper we were supposed to be finishing silently.

      I managed to last maybe five seconds before muttering, "And I'm not 'in denial'."

      Tyler sighed and glanced at Selena. "I tried."

      Completely ignoring Tyler's comment, Ryder laughed quietly. "Sure you're not."

      "Is that just your new favorite phrase?"

      "It is when everything that comes out of your mouth is bullshit."

      "Guys," Tyler snapped. I winced, but didn't bother holding back the glare that Ryder happily returned. "Would you two just fuck already and get it over with?"

      My face flared with heat at the comment. Instantly, my eyes averted from Ryder's and back to my paper as my face undoubtably turned beet red. "We're not—"

      "We wouldn't—"

      "Sure you wouldn't," Selena mocked, cutting Ryder off. Tyler snorted loudly before ducking his head at the teacher's glare.

      He stood from his seat with crossed arms. "Mister Luck, is there something you'd like to share with the class?"

      I tugged at my bottom lip with my teeth to hide my smile. Don't laugh. Do not laugh.

      "No, sir," Tyler stuttered out. "Just asking Ryder for a little help."

      Ryder shot a heated glare at the side of Tyler's head.

      "You come to me if you need help, not another student." He shifted his attention over to Ryder. "Is there anything you'd like to share?"

      There's been times I'd seen the most mature, well mannered side of Ryder. The same side that cared intently for his six year old sister—who I've still yet to meet—and took care of the other boys like they were brothers. It was the same side that made me feel comfortable around him and smile when I felt like all I could do was fall deeper into the darkest parts of my mind.

      Then there was that other side. The side that didn't have a care in the world. The side that made people laugh uncontrollably and got him into so, so much trouble. The side that liked to sneak out at the worst possible time.

      And that time was right now.

      The mischievous gleam in his eye and the way he grinned at the teacher told me all I needed to know about what he was about to say. He may as well have written WARNING in glowing, red letters on his forehead.

     "We were just discussing who I should fuck the next time I'm feeling a little frisky."

      He winked. Winked.

      It took a full three seconds for the teacher to process Ryder's words before his face turned an ugly shade of red. If this were a cartoon, I could have sworn you'd see steam blowing out of his ears, accompanied by a high-pitched whistle. "To the office," he demanded. "Now."

      Slowly, dramatically, Ryder rose from his seat and gathered his things. He offered us a small salute with a cheeky grin before leaving the classroom, silence ensuing after his leave as students tried their hardest not to laugh.

      It wasn't until later that we all learned he'd managed to get a suspension of two weeks. One for the inappropriate subject and two for the vulgar language.

      Then it hit me. Ryder was gone for two weeks, and most likely grounded once his parents found out. I was going to be stuck with Julian, Ryder's fiery glares no longer here to run him off. Shit.

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