Bittersweet Symphony (3 page)

BOOK: Bittersweet Symphony
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Ryder

 

Thoughts of Kennedy assault my thoughts over the next week. I date and have sex with countless women. I have no connection to Blondie when it comes to that kind of thing, but here I am thinking about her. I don’t even have a legitimate reason to be thinking about her. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Her blue eyes, her blonde hair, and her smell all seem real when I close my eyes. Dreams try to take root, but nothing can make the pain that my nightmares brought go away.

“Why the hell can’t you be more like your brother? At least he knows what he’s doing with his life!” my father screamed into my face as he grabbed my chin. I tried not to show how much it hurt... He released me, only to back hand me. I felt the blood dripping from my nose as I leaned over onto my side. Wrong choice, Ryder.

My father’s boot connected with my side as he kicked me repeatedly.. Each kick told me how much he hated me, how much he wished I was dead. Never had I wished I was dead more than in that moment.

His hand twisted in my hair and pulled me off the floor as he looked at me like the monster he was.  I knew that when I got older, I never wanted to be anything like him.

“Your mother should’ve aborted you,” Dad said between clenched teeth as he threw my body back onto the floor. As soon as I was free, I pulled myself up onto my hands and knees. My blood was getting all over the carpet, and I knew another beating would be coming my way.

“You think I’m done with you? You’re a filthy piece of shit.” His booted feet stomped onto my hands as I fell to my stomach, the pain soared past anything I’d ever experienced. I couldn’t help wondering, why I was born, why Rex couldn’t had just been born, why I had to go through this…

I couldn’t stop what happened next from happening. My father’s boot connected with my jaw, but the pain was almost a welcoming feeling. My body radiated so much pain that it made the hurt melt away. It made it become numb; it made me numb.

I shoot awake, as sweat pours from me. It’s always the same nightmares. I calm myself down by telling myself he’s not here. I reassure myself he’ll never touch me again. I’ll kill him if he tried.

I gaze at the night stand. I only slept three hours. Fuck this. I climb out of bed, grab some sweats, and throw them on. I need to find a way to bury this shit, so a run is my solution.

I throw my phone in my pocket and head outside. Time to sweat it out. Just as I turn the corner to head down the street, I see Blondie sitting on a bench. What the hell is she doing out alone at this time of night? After everything I have been through and how fucked up I am because of it, I want to protect her. I want to wrap her in a security blanket and put her out of everyone’s reach, including my own.

“Are you aware there are rapists out here? Criminals, people who will kill you without blinking?” Blondie lets out a loud shriek, and her tablet falls to the ground as she turns around. Just from the way she’s looking, I can tell her heart is beating out of her chest. Fear shows in her eyes, and I almost want to keep it there. Almost. I want her to tremble beneath me, beg me to take her instead.

“Oh my God, you scared the crap out of me,” she says, gasping for breath. I can’t see her ocean blue eyes in this light and wish I could.

“That was the point. Anyone, and I mean anyone, could take advantage of you out here. You were completely oblivious to your surroundings, so much so that I could’ve snuck up on you. What If I was a bad guy?” I don’t want to be a dick, and I don’t want to put her down, but I can almost guarantee that if she had seen half the shit I had, she wouldn’t just sit on a random corner on a bench at three in the morning.

“But you’re not the bad guy, so it doesn’t matter. Besides, anyone who would attempt to attack me would have another thing coming.” I advance on her so quickly, I think I see her head spin. One second we are feet apart and the next I am directly in front of her. She holds herself together, even though she’s shaking slightly. The breeze blows lightly, and I can’t help but catch a whiff of cherries and vanilla.

“You don’t know if I’m the bad guy or not.” I try to forget her scent but can’t. It surrounds me, and for a second, I think I can taste the cherries.

She holds her chin up high; her eyes never leaving mine. There is a confidence in her stare, begging me to break it.  “Yes, I do. You’re a good guy because anyone else would’ve walked right on by had they seen what Sam was doing. But you, you put yourself right in the middle of us. You protected me without even knowing me. If that doesn’t make you a good guy, I don’t know what does.” I watch her for a second, absorbing her words. She is so, so wrong; however, at the same time, I want her to be right.

I pick up her tablet and hand it to her. “You should probably get a case for that if you plan on throwing it like that.” I give her a wicked smile, one that would have anyone else dropping to their knees in front of me.

“Yeah, if you keep sneaking up on me, I probably will need one.” Blondie lets out a quiet sigh as she looks up at the night sky.

“I haven’t really meant to scare you, Blondie; I just don’t want you to get hurt.” I can’t believe I just said that. When did the ice around my heart start melting?

“There you go again trying to protect someone you hardly know. You don’t know me, Ryder, not from Adam, but you’re out here telling me that you don’t want me to get hurt…. Why?” Her voice is sharp, and I can tell she’s looking for answers.

“Your innocence. You ooze it from every pore in the way you talk and the way you dress. You don’t even realize how beautiful you are. People like you get hurt more often than not by guys like me. I don’t want someone to hurt you, to take your innocence away. I don’t want someone to taint that perfection, that light in you. I want you to be whole and find happiness; I want you to find love and that stupid fairytale bullshit. I want you happy because if someone else ever had a choice to make for me in the matter, I would hope they would pick for me to find happiness.” By the time I am done speaking, her eyes have grown wide, and her lips part. I won’t lie, I’m attracted to Kennedy so much that I want to take her and hide her from the world.

“You don’t mean that…” she starts to say, but I interrupt her. I don’t want to hear her excuses.

“I do, Blondie. I fucking do from the bottom of my heart. So, while you might not give a shit about sitting out here, I do. I don’t know you, but I know I want to get to know you, and that to me is a good enough reason to care.”

We sit in silence as she absorbs my words, probably shaming herself for being caught out here in the dark. After what Sam has put her through, I would think she would be more careful.

“Do you ever just look up at the sky and wonder what’s out there? Wonder if there are other people out there?” I give her a “are you off your rocker” look and then dissect her question. It isn’t often that I think about much of anything other than… Okay, not going there.

“I’m sure there are; people would be stupid to think that we’re the only people in the whole universe.”

“You’re right,” Blondie says, shrugging her shoulders as if she has given up on the whole conversation.

“Well, I better get going,” she says, grabbing for her tablet. I can’t help what I do next. My hand reaches out to hers, our skin touches, and it’s like an electrical charge runs through us.

“Sorry,” I mutter. I’m not sorry that I touched her, just that I shocked her.

“Do you want to go to breakfast?” I ask her.

“Is this your lame attempt at a date? Because I don’t date guys like you. Hell, I don’t date period.” Her smile is like sunshine, and I never want it to go away. I want to do whatever I can to keep it here.

“Nope, no date. Just breakfast between two friends.”

Blondie looks at me, hesitant as to what to say. I can see the unsureness in her eyes; she doesn’t know what to think.

“Friends? We’re friends?” she asks curiously.

“Of course we’re friends, Blondie,” I reply, unable to not smile when someone that adorable peers up at me.

“Okay, we can only be friends if you stop calling me Blondie. My name is Kennedy; you may use it.” I let out a quiet laugh, knowing for sure I have no choice but to give in to her.

“Okay, Kennedy, breakfast as friends it is.”

Kennedy

 

Ryder has told me on numerous occasions that us going to breakfast isn’t anything out of the ordinary. I mean, friends can always be seen going out to eat together, but it didn’t feel like that with Ryder; it felt deeper. Every time our fingers accidently touch or our eyes meet, there is a charge.

I am just putting all my books into my backpack when Mimi sends me a text telling me to meet her at the library. Wow, little, ole Mimi is going to actually study!

I let out a low growl. This is the only shitty thing about college: why couldn’t we stay inside, wear no pants, and go to school? I mean, I would love it if I didn’t have to leave home and walk to every class.

I leave the dorm room and walk down the hall. I hate living here; even though I don’t have to share with a roommate, it doesn’t make it any better. Living anywhere, where it seems like a bee hive, isn’t my kind of thing.

Once outside, I suck in the fresh air. It’s January in California, and the weather is anything but hot. Then again, it’s not really cold enough for it to snow either. I make the trek over to the library. Just as I’m about to enter the building, a shadow casts in front of me and I look up, my gaze colliding with Sam’s.

“I see your little boyfriend is nowhere in sight.” Every time he comes around I feel like puking. Ryder’s right, there are bad people out there, and Sam, yeah, he’s one of them.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I say, holding my head high. Sam has done so much damage to me. He thinks he can control me, mold me into the person he wants me to be. But he can’t. I won’t conform to whatever it is he wants.

“Sure looked a lot like it when he was sticking up for you. What did you pay him? Oh wait, you’re poor, Kennedy, so we all know you didn’t pay him anything. What did you give him?” That comment right there, yeah, that’s a low blow: insinuating that I had sex with him in return for protection. I’m thinking he’s been smoking a little bit more Mary Jane than usual.

“Are you high? You realize how stupid that makes you sound right? Do I look like the type to slut myself out for protection from you? You’re the only person who ever fucks with me. Leave me alone, Sam,” I growl out. There’s a new found confidence in me, seems Ryder’s words affect me more than I thought. I am scared, terrified of Sam and what he’s capable of. Yet, here I am standing up to him.

“Did you just talk back to me?” His eyes bulge out, and his perfect hair falls onto his face. The more and more I look at him, the less perfect he seems. He’s a monster, a monster who talks to me as if he’s my mom. I must be getting brave or my give a shit meter has reached its limit because I find myself mocking him.

“What are you my mom?” I don’t expect an answer; hell, I don’t want an answer.

“God no, if you were my daughter I would have gotten rid of you the moment I knew I was pregnant with you.” He laughs right in my face. He’s evil and sinister, and his words really hurt, but they’re just that: words.

“I know what you’re trying to do, and it’s not going to work. Now move out of my way, so I can go study. My IQ dropped by like a million standing here talking to you.” Honestly, I don’t even recognize myself right now.

Sam steps into my space, my sparkly, pink bubble pops as his fingers dig into my collar bone. The pain brings tears to my eyes. I see the hate and anger bubbling right under the surface on him. Why does he think he can touch me? What possesses him to think he has a right to be near me, to even breathe the same air as I? Because you let him, a little voice echoes back to me.

“Remove your hands from me. If you ever, and I mean ever, touch me again, I will break every single one of your fucking fingers. I don’t know who you think you’re but this isn’t high school anymore. You don’t rule this school. You’re not the king and I will not bow to you anymore.” I let every ounce of anger out as I pull away from him.

The pain he inflected throbs through me, but fades as I realize I sent him to the curb.

“Growing balls now, are we?”

I roll my eyes, already done with his shit. You know someone’s off the rails when they start thinking they can physically hurt you. Although, that’s nothing new with him.

“She’s got bigger balls then you’ll ever have,” Mimi says before I can conjure up a response.

“Are you jealous?” She adds, standing right next to me. There’s a look of hate in her eyes, and as many times as we have talked about what Jenna went through, I never wanted her to know about Sam and me, about the way he treats me.

“And you are?” Sam spats out, obviously irritated by Mimi’s presence.

“Your worst nightmare,” she purrs. They stand staring at one another, and I start to feel like I’m intruding. Mimi has that effect on people sometimes: like if you piss her off one too many times, she’ll gladly put you in your place.

“A nightmare is definitely what you are…” Sam says, running his hands through his dark, black hair. He used to be beautiful, kind of like that brand new toy you open up on Christmas morning. Over time it gets worn out and broken, and eventually it gets left behind. He is still nice looking, just a whole lot more of an asshole.

“Listen here, buddy, take yourself and your shitty attitude and go elsewhere. I’ve drawn maps for assholes like you and let’s just say yours will land you in the local jail. Put your hands on someone like her again, I will hurt you.” There’s so much distaste in her words, I can almost feel it. Then Sam does something he’s never done: he smiles, turns around, and walks away without another word. My mouth hangs open, probably dragging on the floor as I look at Mimi.

“What? He should know better than to treat a lady like that. Are you okay?” Mimi shrugs as if it’s no big deal. It’s strange how she can go from being an angry, mad woman to a caring person in five seconds flat.

“Yeah… I’m okay.” I’m so flabbergasted that I stumble over my words.

She eyes me carefully. “You don’t look okay. Actually, you look rather shocked.” Well yeah, of course I’m in shock…in less than a week, I have had not one, but two, people stick up for me. Better write it down in the world record book.

“Sorry... I’m just not used to having people stick up for me, that’s all.” I shift my backpack on my shoulder, the weight of it becoming heavier and heavier as this conversation carries on.

“Just watching your back, girl. You know everything Jenna went through. He…” she says, pointing in the direction Sam went. “He has a problem or problems. People aren’t like that for no reason. Someone either fucked him over or hurt him somehow. The only way for him to deal with it is to lash out at others.”

The truth pricks at me like a million little needles digging into my skin. Yeah, it’s your fault he’s this way. Had you just loved him, he wouldn’t be so dark and cold. He wouldn’t hate the world. You would be the reason for his happiness, and you would have saved him.

After being in my head a moment longer than needed, I start talking again.

“When did you become a psychologist?” I ask sarcastically. I know what causes people like him to tick. Unlike Jenna though, I stood up for myself from the beginning. Jenna wasn’t weak, but she also didn’t show Corey and his lackeys who she was. They broke her, and I refuse to let Sam break me.

“Uhh...let me think,” She mocks back. “I was born a psychologist. Actually, now that I think about it, I was probably born an asshole too.”

“I’m pretty sure you weren’t born a psychologist; otherwise, you would be able to figure out your own problems and not burden me with them.” I can’t help but tease her about Corey. Everyday it’s something new. Corey’s bothering me or God, I hate him so much are her daily mantras. It seriously never ends.

She lets out a vulgar laugh. People watch us as we walk the distance over to our usual spots. “That’s hilarious, girl, but I’m sure if a psychologist got his hands on my problems, he would need help himself. Besides, I ran out of welcoming T-shirts that say Welcome to Crazyville… We can’t help you! We can’t even help ourselves!

I look at her like she is crazy because, well, she is crazy. “You’re frickin’ crazy.”

“I know. I was just telling you that.”

“Well, leave your crazy behind, we have a study session to get to.” Mimi smiles, letting out a harsh laugh. I stare at her, feeling as if something is off. She doesn’t look differently, but most people who were dying on the inside don’t show much on the outside.

“Is something wrong?” I question, sitting down in the chair in front of her.

“No. Does it look like there is something wrong?” She retorts, her tone aggressive and defensive.

“Uh no.” No way am I getting into this with her; some things are better left unsaid.

“Good.”

 

***

 

By the time my study session with Mimi was over and I had finished my afternoon classes, I am starving to the point where I could eat someone’s arm off like a walker from The Walking Dead.

“Blondie, want to get lunch with me?” Ryder’s voice is velvety, smooth, rich, and welcoming. I can practically see the smile on his face, even without turning around.

“You want to go to lunch with me?” I ask, swinging around. He’s at the end of the sidewalk under one of the awnings. He looks beautiful - his eyes twinkle in the sunlight, and his skin looks darker. He is wearing a pair of low hanging blue jeans and a dark blue Henley. He is crisp and clean.

“Well, who else would I be asking?” His response is playful, which seems strange to me because Ryder’s anything but playful. He’s a brute, aggressive by nature and just plain scary.

“I’m sure you have your pick of women throwing themselves at you. Right?” I can’t help raising my eyebrow. Does he honestly think he can fool me with that line?

He eats up the distance between us in no time, and why I continue to stand there watching him walk toward me, I can’t tell you. Wait, maybe I can…He is just that distracting.

“You’re right, I could, but none of them are you, Kennedy.” His words are for my ears only, and they send a shiver down my spine. His eyes are intense, but there isn’t an ounce of dishonesty in them.

“Okay, okay, lunch it is.” I turn around ready to walk away, hoping he doesn’t follow. Honestly, though not much is known about him, I can see myself easily becoming like the rest of the women here at Berkeley. I can join the melting women who would be there at his every beck in call.

“Tacos,” he says, his voice obliterating whatever thoughts I’m thinking.

“Huh?” I ask, confused on where tacos came into the conversation

“Tacos. That’s what I want to eat, sweetheart, and if we’re having tacos, you’re going the wrong way.”

I stop dead in my tracks causing him to bump into the back of me. His hands wrap around my body instantly, holding me into place so I don’t fall. I can feel his warmth on my back, on every part of my skin. It draws me in, reminding me of those cold nights at my grandparents’ in the mountains. Of how one simple, little blanket in the dead of the night could bring so much warmth. I know that if I want to, I can let Ryder be that blanket.

“Come with me,” he demands, releasing his hold on me. His hand gently grabs my forearm as he pulls me in the direction he wants us to go.

“Hello, let go of me. I can walk. I am not a toddler,” I say as seriously as I can. In reality, no woman in her right mind would be screaming and yelling at him if he was pulling her somewhere against her will. Well, except me. I, Kennedy Chaps, am a different kind of breed, and I’m damn proud of it.

The second the words come out of my mouth, he releases my arm.

“I didn’t say you were a toddler, but obviously you’re not good with directions.” He smiles and winks. He smiles and fucking winks. Is there anything this man can do that doesn’t make me want to combust into a raging fire?

“Clearly you’re not good at hearing.” I can’t help the smartass responses that come out of my mouth when I’m around him. He has this cockiness about him that makes me want to slug him and hug him at the same time. It’s a strange feeling.

“I’m all ears, baby, all ears.” His tone is flirty, and I can’t pull my eyes away from his.

“Just shut up and let’s go.” I growl, trying to hide the fifty shades of red my face is sporting.

“The carriage awaits my lady.” I glare at Ryder before walking away from him. The only problem is that being a short person means the distance I walk is nothing to him. When you’re tall, you can take long strides, and Ryder always takes long strides.

“This is your car?” I ask in awe as we approach a sleek, black Dodge Challenger. I know shit about cars, but damn, it was hot and sleek. Did I say sleek?

“Why yes, what else would I drive?” He asks, his eyebrow raises as he unlocks it. I/m afraid to get in it, to even touch it.

“Are you getting in, Blondie?” The sound of the horrible nickname he gave me has me shooting daggers at his head. He knows just which buttons to push.

I grab the handle to open the door; he already had the key in the ignition and was ready to take off. I slide into the seat, my jeans gliding across the leather. The interior was masculine and powerful. The engine roars and we’re off.

“Ever been in a car like this, Blondie?” Ryder asks, his eyes dragging from the road and back to me.

I clench my teeth together as a small smile peeks from his lips. I’m positive he did what he did to get a rouse out of me.

BOOK: Bittersweet Symphony
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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