Chapter 46

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Thank you for the beautiful art by @jennamm_65

F O R T Y—S I X

      FORTY MINUTES OF walking and a few blisters on my feet later and I was stomping up Jay's porch steps with a fire burning in my lungs. My fist pounded against the door again and again until the sound of footsteps on the stairs echoed through the house. I ready to give that boy a piece of my mind.

      The lock clicked and the door opened to reveal squinted hazel eyes staring back at me. Jay rubbed a hand through his ruffled hair as I took in his shirtless attire and low riding pajama pants that showed the waistband of his boxers. Not Calvin Klein this time.

I shook the thought away and opened my mouth to release all the fury I'd built up on the walk over, but it faded almost instantly. I probably woke him up, which means he was probably sleeping and had his phone turned off. That would explain why he didn't get my calls.

I scolded myself for making excuses for him. Jay, along with the other three, had been avoiding my calls all week with no explanation whatsoever. I was allowed to be angry right now. I crossed my arms over my chest defensively.

Jay's eyes widened. "Skye? What the hell are you doing here?" He leaned to the side to glance over my shoulder, then pulled me inside. "Did you walk here? You know this is the worst neighborhood in the area! What were you think—"

"Would you shut the hell up?" I snapped.

Jay reared back in shock. "Excuse me?"

My heart raced as I walked past him into the kitchen. I sat my phone down on the counter and shook my head. "You don't get to be protective or act like you give a shit because its pretty obvious you don't," I started. Despite my newfound confidence, something about talking back to Jay left my nerves on edge. I knew he was worried for my safety, but it drove me nuts that he thought I would just sit and take him lecturing me about my wellbeing. I could've gotten hit by a bus at any point in the past week and none of them would've been the wiser. "Maybe, you should start answering your damn phone or checking your damn voicemail because you don't know what—"

      I turned to face him, to look him in the eye and let him see just how upset I was, but froze in place. His chest was inches from mine, and I was suddenly sent spiraling back to the first time we'd ever been this close.

      "Don't even think about it."

      He edged closer, a grin lighting his face and deepening the dimples in his cheeks. We'd been having a movie marathon with Tyler and Cyrus at Jay's when the others fell sleep, and were left arguing about who would win in a fight. It took two weeks of practicing to finally get the upper hand on Tyler, and Jay was convinced that just because I got luckily with Tyler, didn't mean I would be so lucky against him.

      He'd ended up chasing me up the stairs when I dared him to try, and now we were circling Jay's bed, him trying to catch to me and me trying to get away.

      "I thought you said you could beat me?" I sent a quick glance over his shoulder to the door. If I was quick about it, I had a chance of slipping past him before he could catch me. "You're not sounding too sure about that anymore," he continued to taunt.

      I shrugged and opened my mouth to make a retort as a diversion, but quickly leapt for the door instead.

      I squealed as Jay's arms wrapped around my waste and I was suddenly thrown onto the bed. I tried to squirm and slip away, but soon was pinned by Jay's hands around my wrists, my rms pinned above my head.

      "I think I won," he panted, minty breath fanning across my face as he tried to catch his breath. My own breath caught in my throat as I stared at our compromising position. Our chest were inches apart, our faces even closer, and the longer we laid there, the less I wanted him to move.

      "I think you did," I whispered. His eyes watched my lips as I spoke, and before I knew what was happening, his lips pressed against mine.

      My breath caught in my throat at the memory. It was the first time Jay and I kissed, about three weeks after I met the boys in that alley. All we'd done is kiss, and decided immediately after that it could never happen again. But, as all complicated things go, it did happen again. And again. And again.

      By the look on Jay's face, I knew he was remembering all the times we'd messed around. We'd gotten close through our secret outings. I think the only person who knew more about Jay than I did was Cyrus.

      I felt a gentle brush against my side as Jay slid a hand around my waste. His eyes danced between mine and my lips before his head started moving closer, and I couldn't help it when my eyes fluttered shut and my head raised just slightly to meet his.

      His lips brushed gently against mine, the touch as light as a hair, when reality hit me like a splash of cold water to the face.

      I lowered my head and stepped away, the cold counter pressing into my back. "I can't."

      Jay's hand slid off of my waste and fell at his side as he let out a heavy sigh. "Ryder," he guessed hopelessly, averting his gaze.

      Although some part of me knew he was right, I still found myself hesitantly asking, "What makes you think it's Ryder?"

      His eyebrows raised and his tongue pressed against the inside of his labret. "Seriously? It's petty obvious you two have a thing for each other."

      I lifted my eyes to meet his and winced at the pain behind them. Cyrus was right; Jay did feel a lot more for me than I realized. Guilt crashed over me in waves, but I had to remind myself there was nothing I could do to ease his pain. Even if I tried to give Jay what he wanted, it wouldn't be real. There was something there, something in me that felt something deeper than just friendship or the love of a family member for Jay, but it wasn't enough.

      I could never be what he really needed, and from the look on his face, he knew that as well as I did.

      I opened and closed my mouth in attempt to form words, but nothing came out besides a sincere, "I'm sorry."

      Jay sighed and closed his eyes. "Come here." I took a few hesitant steps forward until I was engulfed in Jay's arms, his hand running through my hair comfortingly. It almost made me laugh. He was the one who needed comforting, not me. "I'm not mad. A little disappointed, I'll admit, but not mad."

      I stepped back. "Why aren't you? Not that I want you to be," I assured, "but I don't understand."

      He looked up in thought. "I think I've known for a while now that things between us were never going to be what I wanted them to be."

      I hesitated. "Are we okay?"

      Jay nodded. "Yeah, we're okay."

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