Tied (Page 47)
I would welcome it.
“I’m the only one you can rely on, little girl. I’m the only one who loves you enough to never leave.”
Perhaps he was right. He was right about a lot of things, now that I think about it.
I don’t want to go home and face Feather, but I have nowhere else to go. I certainly can’t go to my parents, and I don’t know how to get to Zac’s house. I send Feather a text, telling her I won’t be home. Now I understand the appeal of the text message to avoid having to talk to someone. Restless and confused, I drive around town listening to music.
So this is what it’s like to have a car. You can drive all night and not go anywhere.
I turn the station to rock music, and the angsty music gets into my head, every song seeming to hold a hidden meaning into my life.
Making a careful U-turn, I drive back to his house. I don’t care if he’s not there and told me to go, he also told me I could come any time I want. He said this was my happy, safe place, and that’s what I need right now.
Using the hidden key, I let myself into his tiny house, and Poppy and Boomer immediately run to me, tails wagging.
“Okay, guys. You have to be good,” I whisper. “I’m going to hang out with you.”
I kick off my shoes and settle on the couch with the soft blanket over me. My heart hurts remembering how sweet Tyler was when he gave me the blankets and how he told me he loved me a mere hour ago.
What went wrong?
The sound of his bike startles me awake, and I squint at the clock on the mantle. 2:00 a.m. Where could he have been this late at night? Did he go back and get an escort? Envy washes over me.
He wouldn’t do that.
He loves me.
The front door swings open and he stumbles in. I sit up quickly and watch him maneuver through the tiny space.
“The hell you doing here?” His voice sounds worse than I’ve ever heard it, hoarse and garbled.
“I…I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to be with Poppy. And I was worried about you.”
He steps farther into the room and, as my eyes adjust to the dark, I see the mask on his face, crooked and seeping with blood. My heart leaps up into my throat, my stomach sinking as I scoot back against the arm of the couch.
“Wh-whats going on?” I whisper.
He falls into the chair across the room and puts his feet up on the old steam trunk he uses as a coffee table.
“Everything and nothing.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I, Holly.”
“Are you bleeding?”
“Did you crash your bike again?” Panic seizes me when I realize he could be hurt.
“No. I was in a fight.”
“What? With who? Why?”
He yanks the mask off, and tiny blue sparks of static electricity light up his head.
“A paid fight.”
My confusion and frustration mount. “I don’t know what that is.”
He sighs and leans his head back in the chair, staring at the ceiling. “It’s when people get paid to beat the shit out of each other. Like boxing, only dirtier.”
“When did you start doing that?”
“Years ago. I told you this once before.”
He shrugs. “I only do it now when I need it.”
“When you need money? I’ll give you money; I have a bunch saved up. I don’t want you getting punched…or hurt…”
“No,” he croaks loudly. “Fuck. Not money.”
I stare at him, completely lost as to what’s going on here.
“Just stop, Holly.”
Ignoring him, I go to the kitchen and wet a paper towel. When I turn on the floor lamp next to him, I gasp when I see his face, blood dripping from his nose, some dried at the edge. Leaning over him, I gently wipe his face, and I smell alcohol on his breath.
“Isn’t this dangerous for your face?” I ask. “To get punched after all the skin grafts you’ve had? And what about your throat? What if you got hit there?”
Without warning, he grabs my arm and pulls me onto his lap. “Stop fussing over my fucking face.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“Ty…” I’m confused and disappointed, and not at all sure what to say.
“You shouldn’t be here. I’m in a real fucking bad mood.”
“Then go to bed. I’ll stay down here.” I push his hair off his face. “I don’t understand what happened,” I say, resting my hand on his shoulder. “We were having such a nice date. I thought we were happy.”
His hand slowly slides down the outside of my thigh, the warmth of it seeping right through the fabric of my jeans.
“Because that’s what happens.” He swallows. “Nothing good ever lasts for me.”
“But it didn’t have to happen. We’re fine,” I protest as his hand grips my leg.
Snaking his arm around me, he pulls me down on him until I’m lying against his chest, my head on his shoulder, my face against his neck. I don’t move, unsure of his motive and equally unsure how I feel about being so close to him when he’s acting so strange.
“You have no idea how bad I wanted this.” I can’t deny how sexy his voice can be when his raspiness touches the right words at the right time. My thighs tighten in response, warmth radiating from within.
“I want you to be happy,” I whisper.
His arm tightens around me. “You make me happy.”
I relax into him after hearing his words and close my eyes as his hand lightly trails up and down my arm, over the uneven texture of my scars, without hesitation.
Yes. Bring the happiness back. Please.
“You really don’t know, do you?” he finally says.
“I was there,” he finally says.
“The boy you grabbed for help. The one he pushed into the fire. It was me.”
A jolt of pain slices through me, almost blinding me in its ferocity.
I sit up, almost falling off his lap, but he catches me and holds me against his chest. “What?” That can’t be true. We couldn’t have been in the same place at the same time so many times. That’s the kind of thing that happens on TV and, even I know, doesn’t happen in real life. “I don’t believe you.”
“Holly, it’s true. You described the entire night exactly how it happened. It was me. Look at me. Think back.”
The blue eyes…the shaggy blond hair.
“No…” I don’t want it to be him, I don’t want the horrible screams I heard to belong to him, the man who’s become my best friend, taken care of my dog, and given me special blankets and a dreamcatcher.
The man I love.
“I could have saved you. I was drunk, and I forgot you afterward. I never told anyone. Maybe if I had…” He gulps and coughs, and I close my eyes, hating his pain and struggle. “I could have described him to the police. I looked right at him. They could have drawn one of those pictures. He was a teacher. Someone would have recognized the photo in this small town. I fucked up, Holly.”
My heart is breaking inside, cracking and shattering, its tiny pieces coursing through my veins. “That’s not how I see it,” I say tearfully. “Not at all.”
He turns his face toward mine. “Really? How the hell do you see it?”
“If I hadn’t grabbed you, he never would have pushed you. You never would have gotten burnt, you never would have—”
His lips come down hard on mine, silencing me as I ramp up into hysterics.
“Shh…” he whispers. “Are you fucking crazy? You were just a little girl looking for help. You didn’t do anything wrong at all.”
He’s wrong. So wrong. “I’m so sorry, Tyler.” I cry. “I ruined your whole life…”
“No,” he says vehemently. “He ruined our lives. Him.”
I pull away from him and stand, feeling trapped and panicked. I think I need my pills. “Maybe I should go…” I say, looking around for my backpack. “Where is my backpack?”
He jumps up from the chair. “You’re not leaving like this.” He puts his hands on my shoulders and forces me to look at him. “I’m all fucked up, Holly. But I’m not letting you run out of here when you’re this upset. You’re staying here with me.”
I swipe my hand across my wet nose. “I’m all fucked up, too. Where the hell is my backpack?”
“You’re not leaving. And I don’t think you brought it today. Stop looking for it.”
I run my hands through my hair. How could I leave the house without my backpack and books? Is that why all this bad stuff is happening? “I feel sick.” I try to pull away from him, but he holds onto me.
“You’re okay,” he says softly. “I think you’re just having an anxiety attack.”
My heart races rapidly as I stare back into his eyes. “I’m so glad you killed him, Tyler,” I whisper. “I know I shouldn’t say that…but I hate him so much…even more now than I ever did. I hate him! I hate him!” I scream.