Chapter 56

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A brand new SNEAK PEAK of The Two Of Us, the official sequel staring the one and only Jay Spencer, is now up and ready to read on my profile. The complete first chapter won't be posted until the completion of TFOU. Enjoy!


      "ARE YOU SURE you're okay?"

      "I swear to god, I'm going to make Kyle regret this—"

      "Jay, calm down. You're not helping anything by threatening anybody."

      "And asking if she's okay for the sixth time is? Don't scold me, Tyler."

      "Guys," I said, a smile lighting up my face. Their bickering felt like the most normalcy I'd had in days. "I'm fine. Seriously. Ryder was there to back me up."

      All eyes drifted to Ryder nervously. According to Cyrus, news spread fast about Ryder's night-in-shining-armor move earlier today. It didn't take long for the comments about our proximity to follow, along with theories of what we were to each other. After all, Ryder had never taken a real interest in girls until now. It was always Selena, and that was a secret nobody knew besides Cyrus, Jay, and Tyler before I showed up.

      Ryder stood silently behind me, leaning against Tyler's kitchen counter, arms crossed defiantly over his chest. He glared when he noticed the attention, and everyone quickly looked away. Everyone except for me. "Ryder, I'm fine. It's fine."

      His jaw clenched so hard I thought it might break. He was still angry at Kyle, at the student population for not stepping in to lend me a hand. Most of all, he was beating himself up for not getting to me sooner, if the way he eyed the bruises on my neck all day were any indication.

      I turned back around. "Can you guys excuse us for a minute?"

      Jay looked like he wanted to argue, like he wanted more information to use against Kyle, but I shook my head. Cyrus took the hint and stood, leading Jay out of the room by the elbow despite the small struggle he put up. "Come on, man. They need to talk."

      I waited until they were safely out of earshot, the sounds of violent video games drowning out any sound outside of Tyler's room from their ears.

      "I'm going to kill him."

      I stood from my seat and made my way to where Ryder was standing. He hadn't moved, his arms still crossed tightly against his chest, more like a barrier from the outside world than to look threatening. He wouldn't look at me. "Ryder—"

      "I wanted to kill him. The moment he put his hands on you—I wanted to ring his neck."

      Hurt flashed across his face and he closed his eyes. I remembered him telling me about Selena's ex guy friend, the one who hit her. Ryder hated violence on women. Especially women he cared for. "I didn't need you to help me. I'm okay, seriously. Living, breathing, fine."

      His arms dropped to his sides, but not before his thumb lightly grazed the bruises on my neck. They were faint, more pink than an actual bruise, but they felt like a bruise. I wasn't going to tell him that, though. "I don't like keeping it a secret that I know you. I could have done more to help, been close by if this wasn't some big secret."

      I grabbed his hand and pulled it gently away from my neck. "I don't need you or the others as bodyguards. I can handle myself. I'm a big girl."

      His eyebrows pinched together in frustration. "You were in no way 'okay'. He had you by the throat, Skye. And from what you told me earlier, he wasn't even the first to put his hands on you."

      I winced at the memory, suddenly regretting filling Ryder in on my torment in his absence. "I would have still gotten out of it if you hadn't shown up. That wasn't my first time getting in a fight with some so bigger than me."

      "That wasn't a fight," he growled. "It was an attack. I'm not just going to stand by and let this shit happen. If anybody ever lays a hand on you gain, I'm putting a stop to it no matter the consequences."

      "No, you're not. It's not your business what happens to me." I shook my head and turned away from him. "I'm not arguing with you right now. I'm going back upstairs."

      I only made it a few steps away from him before feeling the familiar sensation of his hand grazing my wrist. "Ryder—"

      He spun me around, but before I had he chance to protest, his hand slipped behind my neck and pulled my lips to his.

      Flutters erupted in my stomach as his lips moved against mine. Everywhere his hands touched felt hot enough to burn, but I didn't want it to stop. This was so much better than the kiss I shared with Julian, and the more Ryder's hands roamed he more lost to him I felt.

      The hand on my wrist maneuvered its way to my lower back and tugged me closer to him. A shiver slid down my spine with every touch, and it wasn't long before my hands were running through his hair.

      A crash from upstairs knocked me back on my feet and I jumped back with a gasp. Everywhere Ryder touched felt cold where his hands no longer touched me. My heart raced against my chest as I tried to steady my breathing, my fingers involuntarily touching my bottom lip. I could still feel our lips touching, his hand around my waist and the other behind my neck. My hands running through silky hair while we pulled us impossibly closer together. Judging by his flustered cheeks and the way he was leaning against the kitchen counter, I guessed he felt the same way.

      Ryder pulled it together faster than I did and cleared his throat. "Everything okay up there?" he shouted, his voice raspy.

      After a moment of silence, Cyrus poked his head down the stairs some and nodded. "Tyler antagonized Jay, so he tackled him." He glanced between the two of us, then nodded to himself. "Having fun?"

      If I thought my face couldn't get any hotter before, I was wrong.

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