Tied (Page 44)

“Your first day of independence and you came here?” he teases.

“This is my favorite place to be.”

He smiles and reaches for my hand, which has become a natural gesture of affection for us, and we walk to the edge of his yard to sit on the stone bench together, surrounded by flowers that have smiling faces that I love so much. Pansies, he called them, the first time I saw them here in his yard, and he plucked one and tucked it behind my ear. It’s now hidden away with the cards he’s given me, my own little smile from him, saved forever in the form of a flower.

“How was your first drive by yourself?”

“Very freeing.”

“Good,” he says. “That’s what you need.”

“You look different today,” I say shyly. “I like it.”

He winks at me, and my heart melts. He’s been different since the kissing started too, smiling more and saying sweet things to me. His attitude has diminished a lot since the first time I saw him, and his speech has improved. I hope I’ve had some part in that.

“I had a sort-of fight with my mom,” I tell him.


“The car. Zac was there, and he told her he helped me buy it.”

“Your brother’s a good guy.”

“Yeah. He is. But he followed me outside when I left and made me tell him where I really got it, so I had to tell him the truth.”

“And? How did he feel about it?”

I shrug. “He’s worried about me. He thinks I’m too young to get into a relationship, especially with you. He’s afraid you’re a reminder of my past.”

“Am I?”

“Not at all. I don’t understand why I have such a hard time with my family. I love Zac and Anna, but I can’t seem to form any kind of…relationship with my parents. They make me feel so wrong.”

“You’re not wrong, Holly. I think it’s just a hard situation for all of you.” His thumb moves gently across the top of my hand as he talks, and all my senses focus on that tiny touch. “Let’s face it. You’re all strangers. I know it’s harsh. In time, things should get better.”

“Do you miss your family?”

He answers without hesitation. “Every day.”

“Then why don’t you see them?”

“It’s complicated. But ya know what? I think, like with your family, in time it’ll get better.”

“I hope so. Sometimes I feel so lost, Ty,” I whisper, leaning into his side.

“You’re not lost, baby,” he says in his soft, scratchy tone. “I found you, and you’re right where you belong.”

His words make me sigh with contentment. “You always make me feel better,” I murmur.

“Good.” He kisses the top of my head. “Do you want to do something new today?”

I tighten my arms around his waist. “Yes. I love new things with you.”

“Come inside with me.” He grabs my hand again, and we go inside together, with Poppy and Boomer chasing after us with excitement.

“I wanted to bring you up in the loft,” he says. “To watch the clouds through the skylight with you.”

The usual apprehension washes over me as I peer over to the small stairway that leads to the loft, the one place in his house I’ve never been. Much like a basement, it’s a space that is not easy to get out of. He waits patiently while I mull things over in my mind.

“You can go up first and look around,” he suggests. “I can stay here, or outside.”

I breathe air into my lungs. “No,” I reply. “I want us to go up together.”

His lips curl into his smirky smile. “Good answer.”

Tyler’s loft immediately becomes my favorite part of the house. It’s small, with slightly slanted side walls with built-in shelves filled with books. The bed takes up almost the entire room, and it’s covered with a dark gray down comforter with large black pillows and our special blanket. A narrow oak night table is on each side of the bed, one with a twisted metal lamp with a red light bulb. A two-foot dreamcatcher with rows of flowing beads, feathers, and tassels hangs on the wall over the center of the headboard. The floor is unpolished wood, with thick, colorful throw rugs.

“It’s beautiful up here!” I exclaim.

“I knew you’d like it up here.”

Directly over the bed is a window in the ceiling, exactly as he described, and I can’t believe every bedroom doesn’t haven’t one of these amazing windows. He sits on the bed and takes off his shoes as I walk around and peruse the spines of his books and take in the details of all of his wooden and resin statues. A large glass jar is on the floor in the corner, with a few coins on the bottom and several tiny folded pieces of paper thrown on top of the coins.

“What’s this?” I ask.

His smile morphs into a frown. “Oh…that’s a jar of failure and hope.”

I blink at him quizzically. “It’s what?”

He pushes his fingers through his long hair, and it falls back over his face. “The jar is a sort-of family tradition. It started with my great-grandfather, I think. They would put coins in a jar when they were in their teens, I guess?” He clears his throat. “And then when they were ready to propose, they would use what was in the jar to buy an engagement ring.” He shrugs. “I quit that idea a long time ago.”

I swallow over the sadness that pushes through my good mood. “And the little papers?” They almost look like folded-up fortune cookie strips.

The muscles in his jaw twitch. “Every time you said, or texted, something nice to me, I wrote it down. And put it in there.” His eyes shift to the jar with indifference. “It’s stupid…”

I cross the small room and throw my arms around his neck. “It’s not stupid,” I whisper against his throat. “It’s incredibly sweet.”

He hugs me tight against him for a few minutes then slowly releases me, his hands lingering on my waist. “Take your shoes off and lie on the bed with me.”

Kicking off my shoes, I watch as he stretches out on his back, the material of his T-shirt stretching over his muscular chest and arms and riding up to reveal his hard stomach. My insides respond by swarming with that unfamiliar tingle.

I crawl onto the bed and settle into the spot next to him, and I join him in staring out the skylight at the blue sky and clouds above us.

“This is amazing,” I say. “I need to have one of these in my own bedroom someday.”

“Hopefully, someday you will. It’s really cool at night when you can see the moon.”

He turns on his side to face me, grabs my hand, and lifts it to his lips; then he moves his lips down to my wrist, then farther up my forearm. My breath catches as I watch his mouth move along my scars, kissing each one.

“Ty…” I whisper.

“Shh…I’m going to kiss them all.”

I give myself over to him, relaxing into the softness of his comforter as he kneels over me and slowly removes my shirt, bending down to press kisses on each and every faded cut and burn, tiny versions of his own. His fingers brush against the silk fabric of my bra, causing my heart to race even faster, and he rubs his cheek against the swell of my breast.

“Your heart is like a little hummingbird.” He breathes. “It was beating like this the day I found you…” He kisses the valley at the center of my chest, his tongue slowly sending a warm shiver up my spine. “I could feel it against my chest. And it made me want to hold on to you forever.”

I reach up to run my hands across his back, my mind growing fuzzy, drunk on his words and his touch.

“I’ve always wanted you to.” My whispered words invite his mouth to mine, and he kisses me softly at first, then unapologetically rough and deep, pulling me further into a woozy haze. I move my hand up to the back of his neck, beneath his hair, and now I know why he tugs my hair when we kiss. The sensation of his hair moving between my fingers is addictive, and the deeper he kisses me, the more I want to tangle my hand in it.

He groans against my lips and rests the full length and weight of his body on top of mine, sending me into a frenzy of physical and emotional upheaval. We’ve never been this close, body to body.

His mouth comes down on mine again as his hand gently moves over my breast, pushing the fabric aside. His rough palm grazes over my nipple, and a small sound of surprise escapes me at the sensation jolting through my body from that tiny touch.

“I fuckin’ love that sound…” he growls, and he roughly yanks the fabric up to expose my breasts, his mouth and tongue dragging over skin that’s never been touched. Surprise and fear are chased away as he sucks a nipple into his mouth, his tongue flicking over the hard tip, and my entire body responds, craving more of this, more of him, more of everything that feels so incredibly good. For so long my life was filled with loneliness, fear, pain, and then an odd numbness. Ty was slowly obliterating those feelings and awakening an entirely new realm of physical and emotional experiences for me.

He looks wild when he sits up on top of me, his breath heavy, eyes glazed, his hair messy around his face and shoulders. He pulls off his T-shirt and throws it onto the floor, and I can feel what he wants and needs radiating from him—the same thing I do.