What if Kyler now thought I was as frigid as Nate had claimed?
Rolling over, I shoved my face in the pillow. I was going to drive myself crazy, because I didn’t have answers for any of this. And there’d be no—
I lifted up onto my elbows and frowned. Had I already gone crazy? Because I’d swear I thought I’d heard a—
Pushing onto my knees, I twisted, scanning the room. I didn’t see anything that could have made that noise.
“Okay,” I whispered, sliding off the bed. I walked to the center of the room and stood completely still.
Oh my God, what if my house was haunted now? Or what if I was about to pull some Black Swan shit? What if—
I whipped toward the window. Aha! It was coming from my bedroom window…two floors off the ground. What in the world?
And then it hit me. The sound—oh, holy-baby-Jesus-in-a-manger—the sound was familiar. It wasn’t a ghost, but insanity was still an option, because it couldn’t be what I thought it was.
Years ago, Kyler used to throw rocks before he’d climbed the massive walnut tree outside my bedroom window. So cliché and ridiculous, but he did it up until middle school.
It couldn’t be.
My legs shook as I took a step forward, and then two. I reached the window, and hands trembling, I parted the filmy white curtains. A second later, a small rock smacked off the thick glass of the bottom part of the window.
I froze as my heart sped up, and then I lurched forward, unlocking the tiny latch and lifting the window up. I slid the screen up next and leaned out into the freezing December air.
And my heart skipped a beat.
Kyler stood below, next to the lit wire reindeer, a knit cap pulled low, one arm raised. He let go a second before he saw me. “Oh shit!”
I jumped back as a small pebble zoomed past my face. Holy crap. I put my hand over my racing heart and gingerly approached the window again. I leaned out.
Kyler waved his arm. “Sorry about that!”
“It’s okay.” This was really surreal. Maybe I was dreaming. “What are you doing, Kyler?”
“Talking to you.”
“I can see that. Why…why didn’t you call me?” Because that seemed like the easiest way to talk to me.
He shuffled from one foot to the other, huddled down in his jacket. “I needed to talk to you face-to-face.”
The porch light came on and I winced. A face-to-face conversation was so not possible with him standing outside and with obviously one, if not both, of my parents awake. “Kyler—”
“Hold on,” he called out. “I’m coming up.”
I’m coming up? Then I realized he wasn’t using the door. Oh, dear Lord, he was climbing the tree. He was going to kill himself! I leaned out the window, my breath puffing small white clouds in front of my face as he shimmied up the trunk. “Kyler, are you insane?”
“No. Yes.” He pulled himself up on the first thick limb. Straightening, he glanced down with a frown. “Well, this is harder than I remember.”
My mouth dropped open. “Maybe you should just go back down and use the front door, like, I don’t know? A normal person would?”
“I’m already halfway there.” He got his foot in a groove and propelled himself up to the limb closest to my window. Wrapping his hands around it, he looked at me. His cheeks were rosy from the cold and his eyes glittered in the moonlight. “If I fall and break my neck, will you say something nice at my funeral? Like ‘Kyler was usually more graceful?’”
“Oh, my God…”
Kyler chuckled as he pulled himself up, so he was crouched against the massive trunk, holding onto the tree above him. “Don’t worry. I got this.”
My gaze dropped to the snow-covered, hard ground below. I wasn’t so sure about this. “Why didn’t you just knock on the door?”
He cocked his head to the side, like he hadn’t thought of that. “I didn’t think you’d answer.”
“I would’ve answered,” I said.
“Too late now.” He winked, and my heart tumbled. “You might want to move back.”
Backing up, I held my breath as he eased out on the limb, causing half the tree to rattle like dry bones. Oh God, I didn’t want to watch this. I wanted to close my eyes as he crawled near the edge, stopped, and then peered down. He lifted his head, appearing to judge the distance.
My heart seized up. “Kyler, don’t—”
Kyler half-jumped half-threw himself toward my open window. I was wussy. Closing my eyes, I balled my hands up near my chest and let out a little shriek. There was a sound of flesh hitting wood and my eyes flew open. He came through the open window, landing on his feet like a damn cat. He stumbled though and banged into my desk, causing books and my computer to shake.
He held his hands out to his sides and looked around slowly before his gaze settled on me. “I am awesome.”
I could barely breathe. “Yeah.”
A knock sounded on my bedroom door a second before it opened. Dad popped his head in, eyes wide. “I’m just making sure he made it up here alive.”
I nodded and Kyler flashed a grin. “I’m in one piece.”
“That’s good to see.” Dad started to close the door, but stopped. “Next time, use the front door, Kyler.”
“Yes, sir,” Kyler said.
Shaking his head, Dad closed the door, and Kyler and I were alone in my bedroom. It wouldn’t be the first time. When we’d been home over fall break a few months ago, he’d been in here, but now?
It felt completely different.
Having him in here, so close to the bed—and with me not wearing a bra or panties under my clothes—made my skin flush. This spelled trouble.
Kyler pulled off his knit hat and then he paused halfway through taking off his jacket. “Do you mind?”
I shook my head as I pulled the edges of my cardigan closed.
Lean muscles flexed as he stripped off the black jacket and draped it over the chair at my desk. Then he turned to me, and the air leaked out of my lungs. He had never looked so…unconfident and vulnerable. His throat worked several times, and then he sat down on my desk chair and let out a long breath.
“We need to talk,” he said, resting his hands on his knees.
“I know,” I whispered, because there was no point in lying or delaying the inevitable. I couldn’t sit, so I stood. “I’m sorry about how I left Snowshoe without saying anything. I just needed to get out of there.”
He nodded. “I can understand that.”
I thought about what Andrea had said about Zach and what he’d done. Guilt burned like acid in my belly. “I…I shouldn’t have said some of the things I said to you about Zach. That wasn’t your fault. Not really, and it was low of me to put that on you, so I’m sorry.”
Kyler blinked. “Are you apologizing?”
The sound of disbelief in his voice unnerved me. Like he didn’t want my apology, that it was too late for that. “Yes. I shouldn’t have said that to you. And what you did a year ago—”
“Hold up.” Kyler raised his hand. “You can’t be serious.”
I sucked in a deep breath, but it got stuck in my throat. My heart pounded fast and suddenly I did need to sit. I sat on the edge of the bed, feeling like we were about to break up…except we weren’t together.
Kyler toed himself forward, the wheels of the chair squeaking over the hardwood floor. “You have absolutely no reason to apologize, Syd. ‘I’m sorry’ shouldn’t even cross your lips.”
“No.” He rubbed a hand over the scruff on his jaw. “All of this is my fault. I fucked up, Syd. I fucked up so bad, so many times, that I shouldn’t even be sitting here. You shouldn’t even be talking to me.”
“Oh?” I wasn’t sure how to process that.
He let out a shaky breath, and then he straightened. I tensed, because he had this look like he was steeling himself. Like he was about to rip off a bandage, and maybe that was why he was here. To tell me that nothing should’ve happened between us, that we should’ve stayed just friends, and he was sorry for allowing it to go any further. I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew I needed to. It was going to hurt—hurt like hell. I thought of Nate and what he had said, and I wanted to crawl under the bed, but I forced myself to sit there. No more running. No more hiding. Life was imperfect. This was going to be one of those moments.
Our gazes locked.
“I’m sorry for a lot of things,” Kyler started, holding my gaze. “I wish that you hadn’t had to go through what you did with Zach. He hurt you. I know you say you’re okay, but he put his hands on you, and it was because of something I had done. I’ll never forgive myself for that.”
“That wasn’t your fault.” The earlier guilt grew like a noxious weed. “Please don’t think that. The guy was obviously unstable—”
“I know, but it’s going to take me a lot to get over that,” he admitted openly. “I keep reliving the whole thing, and every time I think about you getting hurt, it kills me a little. I’m serious and I’m so sorry, Syd. I am so sorry.”
My heart hurt hearing him talk like that. “Kyler…”
“But that’s not what I’m most sorry for,” he continued, and I thought, here it comes. I tried my best to prepare myself, but a lump already was growing in my throat. Kyler ran his hands through his hair. “I’m most sorry for hurting you. I know I have. I know I’ve hurt you before with the other girls. I hurt you by not being up front about Sasha. I didn’t mean to lie. I just wasn’t thinking, because Sasha and I aren’t like that, but I should’ve told you that we did have relations before. And I didn’t sleep with her again. I sure as hell didn’t sleep with her when I went to her cabin to help her with the busted windows—”
“Busted windows?” I repeated numbly.
“Zach had bashed her windows the night before. She lives on her own up there and needed help,” he explained. “But I wish I hadn’t helped her. I should have been there for you and I wasn’t. I can’t forgive myself for that.”
I closed my eyes, feeling so much I didn’t know where to start. Too many emotions whirled inside me to really digest all of this. “Oh, Kyler…”
“And I don’t expect my apology to make a damn bit of difference. Trust me,” he rushed on, and I opened my eyes, blinking back hot tears. “I know there is a lot for me to make up for. There’ve been times I ditched you to go the movies with another girl, broke plans to get laid, that kind of thing. Because that’s all I was about, was screwing, you know? And then there was prom. I didn’t even dance with you. And this whole time, you were right there beside me, and I’m…” He shook his head. “I’m fucking rambling. I probably can’t fix any of that. I won’t blame you if you tell me to get the fuck out of this house, but just know, there are a lot of things I wish I could do over, but there is one thing I’ll never regret.”