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F O R T Y—S E V E N
THE NEXT MORNING I decided it was time to confront Ryder—about his avoiding me and being a dick, and about our so called . . . feelings.
Jay had actually been the one to convince me that now was the time—or, in his words, sooner was better than later because later would only increasingly piss me off and cause me to make bad decisions. And as guilty as I felt about taking his advice, I did, and now I was left staring absently at the front door to Ryder's house. It was a pretty maroon wooden door that matched nicely with the gray pain on the paneling of the house. I was stalling to knock, having just been ditched by Jay after he walked me over here. I wasn't ready to talk to Ryder at all. Not in the slightest.
I hesitantly raised a hand and left three raps against the door. It took a moment for anybody to answer, and I was momentarily hit with a rush of relief at thinking maybe, just maybe, nobody was home.
But then the door opened.
Except, instead of seeing Ryder's stunning gray eyes, I looked down to see a very similar set of brown ones on a little girl. She had curly, chestnut brown hair and bright brown eyes framed by long, butterfly-like lashes. Her full lips and straight nose were nearly identical to Ryder's, and the stunning smile that lit her face nearly took my breath away. She looked to be around six or seven, but I already knew it was the former.
I knew exactly who she was even before she belted out the words, "Hi, I'm Emily!"
I opened my mouth to speak, but before a sound could leave my parted lips, Ryder was flying down the stairs in just a pair of shorts, his hair dripping water onto his shoulders. Within seconds he was squatted at his sisters side, hands on her biceps, his breathing erratic. My stomach fluttered at the sight of him.
"Emily," he scolded. "How many times have I told you not to open the door without permission, especially when you don't know who's on the other side. I told you to yell for me."
Emily's happy smile dropped and she looked down at her feet. "Sorry, Ry."
"It's okay," he told her, just before his eyes found mine. "Skye?"
I awkwardly lifted a hand, trying my hardest not to stare at his bare chest. "Hey."
He nudged Emily further into the house. "Go play. I'll be inside in a minute." He looked back up to me when she was out of sight, leaning against the doorframe. His face slipped into an unreadable expression. "What are you doing here?"
Nice to see you, too. I shuffled my feet a little and tried to maintain eye contact. I was nervous, but he didn't need to know that "I wanted to talk."
He opened his mouth to speak, probably to tell me to go away, when his attention shifted to a loud noise inside the house. He sighed. "Come in. I need to keep her from making a mess."
For the next few minutes after following him inside, I watched him entertain his little sister. It was surreal watching the two of them and the resemblance, even though they shared very little physically in common. So many of their mannerisms were the same, like the way they smiled and the faces they made when they were playfully angry or feeling mischievous.
After a while, a movie Emily loved started on the TV, and within seconds she had forgotten about her toys and was only focused on the screen.
Ryder walked past me towards the stairs once she was distracted, nodding his head for me to follow.
As we walked, I couldn't help remembering that he'd been meant to watch Emily the night he found out about me. If he hadn't gotten the night off from baby sitting, where would we be now?
"The other night," I started as we walked into his room, "when I had hypothermia, nobody was here."
He sent a quick glance my way before rifling through his closet for a clean T-shirt, and I didn't miss the small flinch he tried to hide at the memory. "She was at a friends house staying the night."
He took a seat at the end of his bed and gestures for me to do the same. My nerves were on edge remembering all the times we'd been in this room, and my hands nearly trembled as I did as instructed. "And your parents?"
"They were on a date. They're at work right now." He leaned back against the pillow and folded his arms behind his head. "Why are you here, Skye?"
To talk about what's between us, I wanted to say, but couldn't quite get the words out. Something left me feeling terrified to hear the answer.
Maybe it was better this way. Talking about this thing between us could complicate things, and as long as I could keep him from avoiding me, I could live with how things were going now. "I'm not going to stand for you all ignoring me," I admitted instead. I took a deep breath before blurting our, "Especially you."
Something flashed across his face, but it was gone before I could read it. "I haven't been ignoring you."
"Bullshit." I crossed my arms over my chest. "All four of you have been completely ignoring my calls and texts since you were suspended. And I'm going to fight it until I get my way and it stops, or until you four hate me for being a pest." I shrugged. "Whichever comes first.
He rolled his eyes. "We don't hate you, Skye."
"What is it, then?" I snapped.
His jaw clenched. "It's the asshole you're always hanging around with."
I barked out a laugh. "So you can't talk to me anywhere and have decided to cut me out because you don't like me hanging around a guy who isn't half bad? Do you have any idea how petty that sounds?"
He winced and sat up. "Keep your voice down. I don't want to argue right now, especially not with Emily in the house."
Some part of me felt guilty, but I had to remember that I was still mad at Ryder for being a grade-A asshole.
He stood up and started for the door, sending me agitated look when I didn't immediately follow. "Are you coming?"
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