Chapter 54

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Guys, I am so close to finishing this book! Who's excited? I know I am.

F I F T Y—F O U R

I DIDN'T BOTHER picking my books up off the floor before I left the building. My heart slammed against my sternum in quick succession and I struggled to breathe.

Don't panic. I repeated the mantra in my head and tried to keep my breathing even. My grip tightened around the pendant at my neck so hard I feared it might draw blood. Don't panic. Don't panic.

I needed to find Ryder. He helped me the last time I had a panic attack, maybe he could help me now. I fumbled with shaky hands as I dug through my pockets for my phone, eventually dialing Ryder's number and waiting impatiently for him to pick up. It went to voicemail.

I clenched the phone in my hand. Keep breathing. Don't panic. Keep breathing. Don't panic.

Relief flooded through me as the call finally went through. "Skye?" Ryder's voice flooded through the speaker, echoing in my panicked mind. "Aren't you at school?"

I sucked in a sharp breath. "Can't breathe."

He must've registered the urgency in my tone because the next thing I heard was a slur of curse words. "Where are you?"

"Two blocks from school," I gasped out.

"On my way." The words weren't very encouraging. Ryder didn't own a vehicle, so it would take him a good thirty minutes to walk here, maybe twenty speed walking.

I wasn't sure who hung up the phone. I wasn't sure when I sank to my knees in an alley close by. I wasn't sure how long it took before a red SUV pulled in the ally about fifteen feet away from me, or why Ryder was climbing out of it and running towards me. He didn't even bother to shut the driver's side door.

He crouched down in front of me with wild eyes and a panicked expression, completely different from the first time he helped me, stone faced and cold. He reached out to touch my face, but drew back when I flinched. His jaw clenched. "What happened?"

I couldn't slow my breathing long enough to answer, much less to think about what I'd seen.

Ryder sighed. "Listen to me. I want you to pull your knees to your chest and tuck your head between them." Black spots clouded my vision, but I did as he said and didn't protest when his hand gently guided my head down. "Count your breaths. Try to breath in for five counts, then out for the same. Do it with me."

It took a while, but eventually I slowed my breathing to match Ryder's five counts in between breaths. The panic attack was fading, along with the numbness in my fingertips, and I was suddenly slapped with the reality of what I'd just witnessed in the hallway.

I swallowed past the lump in my throat and rose my head, dark eyes meeting silver ones. "Selena's my sister."

Ryder reared back like I'd slapped him. "What?"

"I saw her in front of the office with—with my father." I shut my eyes to fight off the sting. I'd done my best to try and forget that man my entire life. Pictures were one thing, but seeing the source of your resentment in person was a whole other feeling. I hated him. "She called him dad."

Ryder clenched his jaw and stood, offering his hand to me. I took it and followed him, rather unsteadily, to the car. "We can go back to my place. Mom's home from work, but she's going to be at the neighbors for a few hours."

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