“We need to talk about this,” I said. “We need to clear the air between us. You—”
“I don’t want to, Kyler.” She stood swiftly. “I don’t see the point. I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough over the last couple of days to last a lifetime.”
I shook my head. “I’m not trying to embarrass you. That’s the last thing I want.”
“Then we don’t need to talk about it. You don’t want me. I get it.” She stared at me a moment, her lower lip trembling in a way that was a sucker punch straight to my chest, and then she turned to the curtained window. “There’s nothing else to say.”
“There’s a hell of a lot to say, Syd.” My voice hardened, and I swore to God, if she got closer to that window after what’d happened earlier, I was going to tackle her. “Why didn’t you say something before? Or did you just wake up a few days ago and decide you wanted that from me?”
She let out a strangled laugh. “Yeah, that’s how it works. I just woke up one morning and was like, ‘gee, I want to screw Kyler.’ Seriously, you have no clue.”
“Then tell me.” I sprang to my feet and crossed the room. She backed away, putting the recliner between us. “I need to know why you wanted me to do that. Why you thought that would be okay.”
She gripped the back of the recliner. Her throat worked. “You make it sound like it would be such a chore for you.”
My eyes narrowed. What in the hell? “That’s not what I said, or am saying.”
“Okay. You want to talk about this. Why are you so against it?” The words seemed to burst from her like a dam overflowing. “I’ve been your best friend since I can remember. I watched you start paying attention to girls and I watched you start dating them and I don’t think you’ve ever turned down an offer from any girl before.”
I jerked back. “I’m not a fucking prostitute, Syd.”
Her eyes widened. “But you will fuck anything that walks and smiles at you, but not me!”
“Yes! That’s what I’m saying.” I took a step forward. Her eyes were as dark as tumultuous waves in the soft glow of the candlelight. “I don’t want to fuck you, Syd. That’s not what you and I are about.”
She took a shaky breath. “You wanted me. I could feel that you did.”
I looked away, grinding my teeth together so hard I was surprised my molars didn’t break. “You don’t get it.”
Wrapping her arms around herself, she backed away from the recliner and started toward the door leading to the rest of the house. Oh hell to the no, where did she think she was going? We were so not done with this conversation.
“I do get it,” she continued, her eyes taking on a sheen that made my entire body lock up. “I’m not good enough—or whatever enough—for you. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been in love with you—” Blood drained from her face. “Oh, my God…”
The fucking world stopped. People say that shit happens when you hear something completely unexpected and shocking, and I thought it was just people being melodramatic, but hell if it wasn’t true. The fucking world really did stop for me right then.
Syd was in love with me? She’d been in love with me?
“Oh my God,” she whispered again.
I was in front of her so fast I didn’t remember moving. Clasping her cheeks, I tipped her head back so she had to look me in the eyes. “What did you just say?”
She looked like she was about to be sick. “Nothing—I said nothing.”
“Bullshit.” My eyes were wide. “You’re in love with me?”
“Of course I am.” She laughed, but it sounded like it was forced. “We’ve been best friends since forever and I would be in—”
“That’s not what you meant.” My voice dropped low and my heart thundered in my chest. That couldn’t be what she meant. “Come on, Syd. That’s not it.”
She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. You don’t—”
“You. Don’t. Get. It.” I wanted to shake her. She wasn’t good enough? Was she insane? I was beginning to think so, because it was the other way around. “You’re better than a one-night stand, Sydney. I can’t do that to you. You’re nothing like those other girls. You deserve more than that.”
Her eyes flared wide again. As close as I was, I saw the tiny tears well up and spill down her cheek. Getting punched in the nuts would’ve felt better than seeing her cry and knowing I was the reason.
And it struck me then that this wasn’t the first time I’d made her cry. There were other times. Little dots on the map of us that didn’t seem like big deals then, but looking back now, they’d meant everything to her. Each memory felt like getting cut with a rusty butter knife.
I was a bigger asshole than I could’ve ever imagined.
In the ninth grade, when I’d ditched movie night with Syd for the junior varsity cheerleader who’d had an extremely talented mouth. Syd’s eyes had been red and swollen the next day in class and she’d told me it was allergies, except…Syd didn’t have allergies. Then during the summer of our sophomore year, I’d constantly broken plans with her to spend time with girls. Our senior year, I promised her a dance at the prom, but I’d left early. Had a hotel room with a girl whose last name I couldn’t even remember. She would always smile and say it was okay, but later…later she’d have something in her eyes—or have just read a sad book, or watched a depressing movie. The same thing in college, even when she was with someone. Even recently—I remembered the look on her face when she’d seen Mindy coming out of the bathroom the morning we’d left for Snowshoe. I’d been wrong and I’d been right. It wasn’t disgust, but it had been crushing disappointment. All those times I’d broken her heart, and she was still here.
She was still here.
A sound came from the back of my throat. “Don’t cry, baby. That’s not what I wanted.” I leaned in, catching the tear with my lips. “You have no idea how much you mean to me.”
Another tear snuck out and I caught that one with my thumb. “I didn’t sleep with her,” I blurted out like a total fucking idiot.
Syd blinked. “What?”
My cheeks heated. “I didn’t sleep with Mindy—the chick who was at my apartment. I didn’t sleep with her, Syd. I know that doesn’t change much of anything, but I didn’t.”
That only made her cry harder, and I didn’t really know what to do. I’d fucked up more than I’d realized and bigger than I’d feared. She tried to turn her head, but I held her face in a gentle yet firm grip. An ache formed in my chest.
The same ache I’d felt when she’d started dating Nate in high school.
So I did the only thing I could think of—the only thing I wanted.
I kissed her.
At first I didn’t know if he was kissing me to get me to stop crying or if there was another motive behind it. A really strange way to do it, but it worked. I stopped crying, because I just stopped thinking. He was kissing me. Years of wondering what this would be like and yearning for this moment had passed, and now his lips were on mine.
And it was such a soft, tender kiss that reached deep inside of me and stole my breath, and then my heart. But Kyler had always had my heart.
His lips brushed mine once, and then twice. I sucked in a sharp breath and my hands fell to his waist. A deep sound emanated from him, and it rumbled through every part of me, eliciting a series of shivers that skated over my skin. The pressure against my lips increased and his hands slid off my cheeks, delving deep into my hair. He slanted his mouth as he tipped my head back, his teeth tugging on my lower lip, coaxing my mouth to open.
My heart sped up so fast I thought it would come out of my chest. My fingers tightened around the soft material of his hoodie, and a small moan escaped me as his tongue flicked over mine. The kiss deepened, and I’d never been kissed like this before—like he was thirsting for the very taste of me. It left me spinning. An ache blossomed deep within me, starting in my heart and spreading like the sweetest fire possible.
Kyler pulled back as his hands slid down to the sides of my face again, cradling my cheeks. His lips brushed mine as he spoke. “Do you get it now?”
I could barely breathe as my eyes fluttered open. “Get what?”
He slanted his head, lining up our mouths once more. “You.”
“Me?” I shuddered as our lips brushed again.
“This is what you deserve.” He pressed a kiss against my lower lip, and I knew at that point I must’ve cracked my head on something and was dreaming, because this couldn’t be real. “And this,” he added, his hands drifting to my shoulders. He pulled me against him, until I was pressed so tightly I could feel every inch of him. “You don’t deserve what you wanted in that sunroom, baby.”
His tongue swept past my parted lips, and I kissed him back like I had dreamed of doing for years. He groaned as his hands snuck to my hips. When he lifted his head again, I was panting. “What else do I deserve?”
One side of his lips tipped up. “Everything, baby, you deserve everything.”
My heart swelled so much that I thought I’d float right up to the ceiling, but confusion trickled in, threatening the happy bubble building in me. “Kyler, I…I don’t understand.”
A dimple appeared in his right cheek as his smile spread, and my heart flopped over heavily. “Then you really don’t get it yet. I think I’m going to have to educate you.”
A thrill coursed through me. The old saying “never look a gift horse in the mouth” was screaming at me right now. Go with it, I told myself. Just go with it. Don’t freeze up. Don’t mess this up, whatever this was. I didn’t want to look back and regret that my mouth and endless questions got in the way. “Educate me?”
“Mmm-hmm,” he murmured, angling his body so our hips pressed together. “By the time I’m done, you will completely understand what I mean. And I think we’ll start with this sweater.”
Kyler nipped at my lower lip, and I gasped. “I like the sweater. The color is good on you. Perfect.” He picked up a strand of my hair that had fallen across my chest and draped it over my shoulder. “But you know what I like best about this sweater?”
His lashes lifted and his stare pierced me. Tension stirred and coiled tightly within me. The heat in his intense gaze told me I was so, so out of my league with him. The dimple disappeared into a knowing smirk as he slid his fingers under the hem of my sweater. “Figure it out yet?”
I shook my head.
“Hmm…” That low grumble of his had me wanting to knock him flat on his back. His fingers spread across the bare skin of my stomach and my breath caught as they pressed into my ribs. His head cocked to the side and his brows lowered. “Syd, are you not wearing a bra?”