My mouth dropped open. “I know how to have fun, you ass.”
Kyler smirked. “That’s bullshit. You’re the most uptight person I know. You’re—”
“If you say frigid, I will kick your ass and crash this car.” My heart thumped painfully. “Seriously.”
He looked at me then, almost like he was startled. “I wasn’t going to say that, Syd. I would never say that.”
“Whatever,” I muttered.
“Anyway, you’ve distracted me from my final point.”
“Oh, do tell.”
The infuriating half-smile was back. “There isn’t a damn thing wrong with the friends I bring home.”
“But there’s something wrong with me?” The moment those words left my mouth I wanted to punch myself. I don’t think I could possibly sound more pathetic.
“Other than the fact you should wear a sign that says ‘interact with at your own risk?’ No. Nothing at all wrong with you, sweetheart.”
“Oh, shut the hell up.”
Kyler drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, a sure sign he was close to losing his patience. “Sometimes, I don’t even know how we’re friends,” he said, running one hand over his head. “Honestly, I don’t.”
Tears sprang to my eyes, and I quickly turned my attention to the side window. Pressure clamped down on my chest, a powerful ache that made it hard to breathe. We really were the lion and the gimpy gazelle.
“Me, neither,” I whispered.
The drive was painfully awkward, on a level that jumping out of a moving vehicle seemed like a viable option. We hit a traffic snarl halfway there that added another hour and half to our trip, and then we hit a snow squall. After our little argument, Kyler had turned up the radio, leaving it on the hard rock station the whole way. Yep. He wasn’t in a better mood.
Sometimes I don’t even know how we’re friends.
This wasn’t the first time Kyler and I had bitched each other out, but usually we weren’t stuck in a car together immediately afterward. I couldn’t even lick my wounds in private.
About an hour out from Snowshoe, we stopped at a gas station to fill up. As he headed into the store to grab munchies, I checked in with Andrea.
“Where you guys at?” I asked, staring at my uneven thumbnail.
Andrea’s voice was muffled and then, “We’re stuck outside of Frederick. We hit this huge-ass snowstorm. It’s totally snowing us down. Ha. Did you get that—hey! Shut up, Tanner. It was funny. Tell him it was funny, Sydney.”
“It was funny,” I replied. “Back to the snow—is it a part of the nor’easter? Has it changed paths?”
“Looks like it.” She paused. “We might have to pull over soon and wait it out, so we’re going to be late.”
Late? More time alone with Kyler. Great. I wanted to bang my head off the dashboard.
“What’s going on with you?” Andrea asked. “It’s the start of winter break, our senior year, and you sound like someone ran over your cat and then laid it on your bed.”
Ew. I made a face. I had such weird friends. “I don’t know. Kyler and I kind of got into an argument earlier, so it hasn’t been a fun ride.”
Andrea laughed. “You guys argue all the time.”
“This was different.”
There was a pause and then her voice was real low. “Was that girl with him when you went over to his place this morning?”
I cringed, knowing Tanner and whoever else was in the car could most definitely hear the conversation.
“I knew it!” she exclaimed. “He’s such a sleazeball sometimes. You—”
“It’s all right, Andrea.” I peeked out the window. “Hey, he’s heading back. Call me when you guys know when you’re getting closer. Be careful.”
Kyler hopped in, shaking the fine dusting of snow out of his hair. Then he reached into his plastic bag and pulled out a ginger ale—my favorite—and handed it over.
“Thank you,” I said.
He grumbled something incoherent.
I took a deep breath and dared a glance at him. He was ripping open a bag of beef jerky as he pulled around the gas pumps. “I just talked to Andrea. They’re stuck just outside of Frederick due to the snow. They’re going to be late. Maybe we—”
“We’ll be fine.”
And those were pretty much the last words we exchanged. The rest of the ride was silent. Even though I still wanted to unbuckle my seatbelt and hit him a few times in his stomach, I didn’t want to start winter break off like this. We still had to drive back home to our families.
It seemed like forever before we saw the sign for Snowshoe just beyond Marlinton. The steady flurries had died off by then, sparking hope that we were just going to be clipped by the monster storm and nothing else.
Snowshoe Mountain really was beautiful. Like a winter wonderland with the fresh snow and the main lodge rising several floors, majestically placed between the tall, snowcapped elms and slopes. Down on the narrow streets between the condos and businesses, the lampposts lining the streets and the many chalets nestled together always reminded me of the North Pole. With the heavy clouds and the approaching dusk, the shimmering white lights circling the posts and draped over the smaller firs trees were already glowing.
We passed the Starbucks just as their Christmas lights blinked on and a group of people spilled out of their doors, laughing and carrying steaming cups of coffee.
Man, I missed my cappuccino.
As we crested the hill, I could see the ski lifts off in the distance. Those things scared the crap out me. Feet dangling into thin air and you’re just supposed to jump? Yeah, not my idea of a fun time. Curling up by a fire and reading a good book? More up my alley.
I dared a quick peek at Kyler. The tension had eased out of his jaw and his eyes were lighter, already filling with a gleam of excitement. He loved Shay’s Revenge, the nastiest slope Snowshoe had to offer. Just looking at the fifteen hundred vertical drop made me want to vomit.
Quinn Lodge was right next to the slopes and one of the larger privately-owned homes. Two stories high, with multiple bedrooms and a pimped-out basement with a big screen, pool table, and various other boy toys. It would be ours for the week.
Kyler hit the brakes and hopped out, keying in the security code to the garage door. With a loud rattle, it slid up. Out of habit, I unbuckled my seatbelt and wiggled into the driver’s seat. Kyler disappeared into the garage and a second later, light flooded the space.
I barely reached the pedals, but I eased the massive SUV into its spot between the three snowmobiles, the headlights shining on a stack of ski equipment. Killing the engine, I opened the door and started to hop down, but Kyler appeared in the space.
Before I could utter a word, his hands were on my hips. My breath hissed between my teeth at the intimate contact. It was the second time today he’d gotten all grabby hands with my hips. Not that I was complaining, but heat simmered in my veins, curling my toes inside my boots and my poor body could only take so much.
“Here,” he said, his voice light. “You’re about the size of a teacup chihuahua. You’ll hurt yourself.”
Kyler lifted me out the Durango, and I gripped his upper arms. Hard muscles flexed under my hands and a smartass retort died on the tip of my tongue. He was touching me, which probably meant he wasn’t pissed at me anymore, and since his fingers were wrapped around my hips, I hadn’t the foggiest idea why I’d been mad at him.
“There you go, safe and sound.”
I mumbled something—no clue what it was. Knowing that if I looked at him, as close as our mouths were, I was likely to plant my lips on his and really embarrass myself. I kept my eyes fixed on his scuffed black boots. A kiss? I shouldn’t even be thinking that, for a multitude of reasons. He only saw me as his friend, and God only knows where his mouth had been in the last twenty-four hours. Thinking that should have dampened my arousal, but it didn’t. My imagination pictured his hands slipping around my hips to cup my ass. My skin tingled all over at the thought of that. Warmth flooded my cheeks and I sucked in a sharp breath.
“What are you thinking?”
My head jerked up at the deepness in his voice, and he let go of my hips. I immediately missed his touch. “Uh, nothing—nothing at all.”
He arched his brow, but said nothing. “Want to head in and turn on the lights while I get the luggage?”
Happy to get away, I nodded and practically ran toward the door. What the hell was wrong with me? My hands were shaky as I opened the door into the small hallway that led into the basement. As I smacked my hand along the wall, I told myself to get a grip. I could not spend the entire week lusting after the unattainable.
Finding the light switch, I flicked it on and hurried around the covered pool tables. The air smelled of cinnamon and pine. Climbing the stairs, I entered the first level. The house’s interior was as beautiful as the outside. A wide, square foyer led to the large living room, with a spacious kitchen and formal dining area beyond.
Kyler’s mom must’ve been here recently. A Christmas tree stood in front of the windows in the foyer. There were two presents under it.
Curious, I walked over to the tree, my boots silent on the hardwood floors. I knelt down and picked up the red and green wrapped one, reading the little note attached to the sparkly bow.
Sydney—open this once you’re home and it’s Christmas morning. No cheating!
I smiled as I placed the present back under the tree. There was one for Kyler, too, and hanging from the windowsill behind the tree were several stockings, each one for our friends. Kyler’s mom was awesome. Besides the fact that she’d made a billion bucks starting her own company, she was one of the sweetest women I knew.
“What you got over there?” Kyler asked, placing the guitar case down outside the living room.
Standing, I turned around, thrilled to find that I hadn’t immediately started drooling or caved into the silly notion of brushing the strand of hair that had fallen across his forehead. “Your mom left us presents, but we’re not allowed to open them until we’re home and it’s Christmas.”
He laughed as he rounded the stairs leading to the second floor. “I bet it’s a cheesy Christmas sweater.”
I followed him upstairs. “Your mom would never give a cheesy gift.”
“No. That’s usually your mom.”
“So true,” I replied, sliding my hand along the polished banister. Mom was such a cornball when it came to Christmas. “You know, I can carry my own stuff.”
“A girl shouldn’t carry luggage.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Especially someone who weighs ninety pounds.”
I rolled my eyes at that. “I don’t know what girl you’re talking about, because I’m pretty sure my ass alone weighs ninety pounds.”
“Uh-huh.” He stopped at the top landing. There were five bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. “Which room do you want? Andrea is staying with Tanner, right?”