Chapter 48

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Fun fact: Skye's fear of storms came from my fear of thunder, which is actually explained by a type of hypersensitivity. If you have problems with loud, abrupt noises like thunder and fireworks, or have problems with bass thumping in music, chances are you probably share our dilemma.

F O R T Y—E I G H T

      AS WE HEADED back downstairs, I managed to get a better look at the place than from all the other hectic times I'd been in Ryder's house. Photos lined the walls all down the stairs above the railing, and on each side of the TV downstairs.

      One picture in particular caught my eye halfway down the steps and I stopped to admire it, earning myself a confused stair from Ryder. "What are you looking at?"

      It was a photo of an older man, in his mid to late forties by the look of it. He had a pleasant grin on his face, his arm resting around a small boy I would recognize as Ryder any day. Ryder wore an old, oversized army jacket I assumed belonged to the old man, and the smile on his face was bigger than I'd ever seen it—even bigger than the smile on Emily's face when I first walked in.

      I pointed at the older man in the picture. "Who's that?"

      I felt Ryder tense beside me and nearly jumped from how close we were. "My grandfather."

      I regretted looking back when I saw the look on Ryder's face, how he couldn't take his eyes off the man in the photo. "How long ago?" I asked hesitantly.

      He shifted uncomfortably. "Four and a half years."

      I watched his face carefully, looking for the signs that I might be pressing too much. "Can I ask how?"

      "He was in the army," he said after a moment of silence. "Killed in action."

      I nodded solemnly, holding back the 'I'm sorry' that instinctually tried to fight its way out. Saying you're sorry never helped somebody who was grieving. You couldn't take their pain away. You could only be there for them when they needed it.

      Ryder's hand shifted down the necklace I now cradled between my fingers without realizing. I dropped the necklace and averted my eyes, but felt Ryder's hand on mine a second later. "It's okay."

      My brows pinched together. "What is?"

      He squeezed my hand, then brought it back up to my necklace and wrapped my fingers around the pendant. "You don't have to hide it whenever you think about her."

      I raised my eyes to meet his. "How'd you know I was thinking about my mother?"

      He let out a sigh and grabbed for the chain around his neck. I remembered seeing it when he came downstairs and a few times before that, but never brought myself to ask about it. "Because I think of my grandfather every time I think about these tags. I'm hyper aware that they're always there, even when I'm not touching them. When I'm stressed out, just their presence makes things better."

      "Like he's always there with you," I muttered.

      He nodded. "Exactly."

      It suddenly occurred to me how Ryder had helped me when I lost my necklace, the night Tyler was shot. "How did you know how to help me with my panic attack?"

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