Authors: Alyne Roberts
Copyright © 2014 Alyne Roberts
All rights reserved.
Cover by: Alyne Roberts
Editing by: T.K. Editing
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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The drive was longer than I remembered it to be. I felt like I was driving forever, and I still had two more hours. I took my phone out and stared down at the conversation that had sent me driving down these roads again. The letters and words glared back at me, daunting me.
When I looked at my phone earlier today, during a slight lull in customers at my family’s jewelry store, I didn't expect to see anything on my screen at all. Ryder gave up on texting me while I was work. He knew I rarely answered and being ignored only frustrated him.
I'm getting married in 2 months!!!! - S
My immediate reaction was to smile. Who wouldn't be happy to hear that their best friend was getting married? However, my smile quickly faded when the next message came through.
I can't wait for you to meet him! - S
What? Who could Scarlett be getting married to? She never actually dated, as far as I knew. She was rarely lonely, though. In fact, she was always finding someone to be with, but never for longer than a night or two. I heard she had one boyfriend in high school, but she hadn’t settled down since. There were too many mornings where I had watched her sneak in after a spontaneous night with someone. However, they were never good enough for her to ever tell me about them.
In all honesty, I thought that if she were ever going to be tied down, it would be Logan to do it. Ryder would not like it one bit, but I saw the looks between Logan and her. Ryder was fiercely protective of his sister. All the boys were. I thought it would only be a matter of time before the two gave in to their feelings and dealt with the consequence of pissing off Ryder.
So the question was… who was this guy? I hadn’t been gone long enough for her to fall in love, tame her wild ways, and get engaged, right? It has only been... six months.
I snapped my head up from my phone and looked around me. The store was humming with customers talking in hushed voices. The bright lights bounced off all the sparkling jewels encased in immaculately clean glass. The smell of Windex and cologne hung in the air. Men in suits and women with expensive handbags wandered around, inspecting the diamonds and precious stones. No one noticed me or the shock I was going through. No one cared.
What the hell happened to me? I was only supposed to come home and help my father for a short period of time. I just wanted to help him while he healed and then go my own way. Now, I realized I'd been gone too long. I fell right back into my old life. I walked around like a robot; working, sleeping, barely living. I was disgusted with myself. I was miserable, and I didn't even have the time to stop and realize it.
No wonder Ryder was short and distant with me. I refused countless invites and suggestions to come visit because I was "too busy". I buried myself so deep in work and making my family happy, I missed the months flying by. I missed Christmas and New Years with him. What did I even do on Christmas? How could I have lost so much time? I immersed myself with a life I had finally decided I never wanted for myself.
I swiftly turned and marched straight to the back office. I threw open the door, making Ivan jump in his seat.
"Kallie?" he asked, standing up, clearly surprised at my outburst.
"I have to leave," I told him.
"Are you sick? Do you need a ride?" he asked while I gathered my purse and jacket from the corner of the office.
"No. I need to leave. Here. For good." I turned and left the office, ignoring Ivan calling for me.
I walked as quickly as I could down to my car in the parking garage. I wasted no time leaving the city and racing to my parent's house. The almost hour drive flew by. I refused to let them worry about me again, so I had to get home and tell them about my decision. I knew my father wouldn't be home in the middle of day, but my mother would be. She didn't look surprised to see me when I burst into the house. Which meant that Ivan called her, or she had been waiting for me to tell them I was leaving again.
On the lonely back roads, I started to get nervous. My hands were sweaty and shaky. My stomach was rolling and I couldn't stop bouncing in my seat. I knew I should text Ryder and tell him I was on the way, but I was too scared. The Ryder I walked away from six months ago would be thrilled. I just wasn't sure how the Ryder I drifted away from was going to feel. He could be happy… or he could be furious with me.
Part of me wanted him to scream at myself. He should be angry with me, and I deserved a verbal lashing. I doubted he could be more disappointed with me than I was with myself. Most of me had hope. He told me he loved me, and I truly believed him. I hoped that didn't disappear because of how I treated him.
I didn't see his truck at the apartment, so that meant he was still at the shop. I quickly turned around and headed that way. After parking on the street, I shut my car off and tried to gain the courage to get out of my car. What would I say to him? Should I run and jump into his arms? Before I could chicken out completely, I opened the door and stepped out.
Walking into the shop, I spotted Ryder bent over a car. His strong arms flexed while he tried to loosen something under the hood. Concentration was etched on his face, and I stood back to watch him for a second. I could tell when he sensed my presence. His body stiffened and his hands froze. Ryder slowly straightened up and turned to face me.
I watched the emotions wash over his face. Surprise, happiness, anger, and confusion. His features finally settled on a blank expression I couldn't read. I started to walk toward him when it became clear he wasn't coming to me. When I stood just a foot or two away from him, he made one long stride and grabbed my face in his hands.
He swiftly spun me around and pressed my back against the car he was just working on. His lips crashed to mine and all the air left my lungs. I drank him in and melted into his body. My lips burned where they’d met his and everything felt right. I remembered this was where I was supposed to be. How did I go so long without him?
"I'm so mad at you," he whispered harshly against my lips.
"But you just kissed me," I breathed out.
His hands left my face as he took a large step away from me. I felt cold without his body pressed against mine. My hands clung to the car behind me in an effort to hold myself up. He still had the power to make me weak in the knees with just one kiss.
"I imagined seeing you again a thousand times. There are a thousand different things I thought I would say," he explained, glaring at me. "But kissing you was my first instinct."
"I'm sorry," I offered in a weak voice. "I never meant to stay away for that long."
Ryder continued to look at me with his hard expression. His eyes roamed my face and body, seeming to try to read my mind. His jaw clenched and his hands were balled at his side. I waited for his anger to subside and hoped it would happen soon. I could feel the others in the shop watching our tense exchange.
"You came for Scarlett?" he finally asked.
"And you," I nodded.
"I don't think I can believe that." When he turned to walk away, panic rose inside me.
"Wait! I'm sorry, Ryder," I rushed. "Please, don't be like this."
He pulled his arm roughly from my hands. "Kallie, don't. I get it. Stop apologizing."
"You were bored and sad. You needed to rebel, and I was just the guy for you to do it with," he said simply. "It was fun. We don't need to pretend it was more."
Tears sprung to my eyes, and I tried to blink them away. "You said you loved me?"
"I did say that, but you obviously aren't that girl I thought you were," he said, pulling his eyes away from my desperate face.
"No, no. I love you," I pleaded with him. How could he say that after everything we went through?
He raised his head and looked around at our audience. Seeming to realize his coworkers were watching, he grabbed my hand and pulled me to the side of the building. When we were out of sight, I leaned against the brick wall and tried to suck in enough air. I didn't expect seeing him again to hurt this much.
"Kallie," he said gently and tilted my face up to look at him. "Calm down."
"Calm down?" I asked incredulously. "Don't tell me to calm down! I just came down here expecting to be with you, and you tell me it was all nothing?"
The intensity of my own anger blurred my vision. I swung my purse back and smacked him across the body with it. It's Coach; I shouldn't have done that. When did I even buy that? I stopped my assault to stare at the expensive leather. He was right. I wasn't the girl he fell in love with last summer.
"Kallie?" Ryder asked me cautiously.
"You're right," I squeaked out. "I fell right back into my old ways."
"You drifted away. You didn't call everyday like you promised. You constantly told me you were too busy to come and visit. You never asked me to come see you," he ranted. "You expect me to think that you were missing me? That you didn't realize that you had more going for you than what I could give you?"
"I never meant for any of that to happen," I cried.
He sighed and rubbed his hands roughly across his face.
"I should go," I croaked. My heart was shattering into pieces. It was too late; I had pushed him away.
"No," he rushed, putting a hand on mine. "You don't need to go." Hope filled my broken heart. "You can stay. You came for the wedding."
"What about us?" I asked. I was terrified of the answer. I could tell he didn't want me to leave, but he wasn't ready to want me to stay.
Stepping close, he rested his forehead against mine. "I don't know," he whispered as he met my hopeful stare.
I closed my eyes tightly to block out his pained face and hold back the flood of tears threatening to release. "I missed you. I can be her again. I never meant to stay away for so long. I never wanted to leave."
"We'll see," he said quietly.
I nodded and pushed off the wall to get past him. He made no move to stop me as I made my way to my car. The new BMW started right up and pulled away from the garage. My hands shook as I drove back to the apartment I once called home. Relived to see Scarlett's car, I made my way up the stairs. I stopped right before pushing the door open. This wasn't my home anymore.