Tied (Page 48)

He pulls me into a hug and holds me tight, hushing me.

I hate the bad man. I hate myself. I hate my parents. I’ve never felt so much sheer anger in my life. I feel like it’s ripping me apart from the inside out. “I’m scared. I don’t want this to be true.”

“I know. Neither do I.”

We hold onto each other in the dim room, the shroud of reality enveloping us. We can’t escape this. No matter what, this is us. We’re tied together by this awful course of events, unknowingly walking the same path.

What’s next? Where do we go from here?

I look up at him, searching his eyes, but all I can see is the hue of the purple and blue bruising around his eye and cheek and blood trickling from his nose. All evidence of his need to self-punish because of me.

“We just need some time,” he says a little too hopefully. “To let it sink in. It’s all fucked up.”

Time. Everything in life comes down to time.

His blue eyes lock onto mine, endless pools of blue sucking me in. “I meant what I said earlier.”

“I did too,” I whisper.

Nothing could ever change that.

“Then that’s what we have to focus on, right?”

I want to believe him…but his entire life has been built around focusing on the bad things that’s happened to him. It’s why he hides out here, ostracizing himself from his friends and family. How is he going to move past that awful night, now that we both know what happened? How will I?

I wait on the couch while he showers and admit to myself that I’m going to need to talk to Dr. Reynolds first thing next week to discuss all this. I’ve always felt regret over the boy being pushed into the fire, but now that I know it was Tyler, it adds a whole new level of insurmountable guilt. I’ll probably be in therapy for the rest of my life trying to come to terms with this, but no matter what, I won’t let it come between us.

“What are you thinking about?” Tyler asks when he comes back to the living room in a pair of black gym shorts. I’m relieved to see him without blood all over his face, not to mention that terrible mask.

“Everything… how so many bad things happened to you in your life because of that one moment…I want to go back and undo it. I want to somehow change all of it for both of us.” I shake my head and try to fight back tears. “What did we do to deserve this?”

“I just stood in that shower ’til the water turned cold trying to get my head around this…because if I don’t, I’m afraid I’m going to lose my mind. And you. And I won’t let that happen.” He stares at the floor for a few moments, chewing the inside of his cheek nervously before he continues. “I’m trying to tell myself if those things hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been living out here. I never would have found you in that fucking hole.” He sits on the couch next to me, our legs touching. “It happened the way it had to happen. I guess I was given a second chance to save you, and I didn’t fuck it up this time.”

I shake my head, still filled with so much guilt I feel nauseous. I can’t stand the fact that anything I did, accidental or not, has caused so much pain in his life.

“I don’t know, Ty,” I reply with tears spilling onto my cheeks. “I would have rather never been found, and have you never get hurt.”

A deep sigh pushes his chest up and down. “And I would fall into that fire a thousand times to be able to save you.”

An ache soars from my heart and lodges in my chest. “In my books, love doesn’t come with such awful repercussions. It makes everyone happy.”

He flips his damp hair out of his face and turns to me, his eyes filled with determination. “I think you have to let those books go, sugar. This…what we’re dealing with right here is reality. It’s ugly and it fucking hurts like hell, but it’s real. Life ain’t no fairy tale. If we want this to work, we have to accept that.”

“I need my books…” My voice is childlike, even to me. Maybe I was better off locked in the basement with nothing but books and TV and Poppy. Maybe real life is just too hard for me.

“You don’t, Holly. You’re free now. You can let the books go. Those stories are over now.” He grabs my hand in his and lifts it to his lips, closing his eyes as he kisses it. “We have each other, right? We have our own story.”

I nod. “Yes, we do.” I hope.

“Then we’ll be okay.”

I can see right through him, trying to be strong for me. But I know deep down, he’s petrified, and so fragile with guilt that he could crack at any moment.

We hold each other, kissing softly, until our hearts and minds calm down. We whisper promises to each other under our blanket, and as his clock ticks away the night on his mantle, I start to believe that he’s right. We’ll be okay.

Suddenly, Boomer and Poppy’s heads both shoot up from their sleeping positions, their ears twisting around like little antennas. A car door slams in the driveway.

“Is someone here?” I ask. “Its four a.m.”

Ty kisses my forehead before rising from the couch. “Stay here.” I pull the blanket over my lap as he crosses the small room and opens the front door, and a man steps inside, his heavy boots clomping against the wooden floor.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Ty asks. “Do you know what time it is?”

“Lighten up, scarface. I had a huge fucking fight with Darcy. I had to leave.”

“She kicked you out?”

“Not really, it was just better for me to give her some space.” He finally notices me. “Shit, I didn’t know you had company, man.”

Ty runs his hand through his hair, and looks from me to the man. “Tanner, this is my girlfriend, Holly.” I smile at the term girlfriend. “Holly, this is my brother, Tanner.”

A brother! I never would have guessed this person was a relative. They look nothing alike.

“Sorry to barge in,” he says, fingering his beard. “Nice to meet you, though.”

“It’s okay.” I reply, wondering if I should leave them alone since Tanner is clearly going through some kind of stress. Ty’s brother is a bear of a man, a few inches taller than Ty, and even more muscular. He’s wide like a wrestler, taking up a huge amount of space in the tiny room. His brown hair is shaved on the sides, but the center part hangs well past his inked shoulders.

He’s dark and intimidating in comparison to Tyler’s light hair and eyes and boyish smile.

“I should go…” I say. “So you two can talk.”

“No,” Tyler barks. “You’re staying.”

Tanner puts his hands up. “I’m gonna go, man. I’m sorry…you’re always alone, so I thought I could crash here.”

Ty grabs his arm. “Fuck you. And you’re not leaving either.” He coughs. “Do you need to talk or you just need somewhere to sleep?”

His brother picks up Boomer and throws him over his shoulder like a ragdoll, stroking his hand down his back. Boomer starts to chew on his hair. “I don’t wanna talk, Ty, but I gotta say it’s good to hear you talking so much. My brains just too fucked right now. I need to sleep and I’ll be out of here tomorrow.”

“All right. We were just about to go up to the loft anyway.” Our eyes meet across the room and I nod as my heart does a little trot. “You can try to squeeze your ass on the couch.”

Tanner shrugs. “I’ve slept in much worse places than this.”

I stand and shyly offer him the blanket. “If you sleep with this, you’ll feel better. Its magic.”

Smiling with charm I didn’t think such a towering, brooding man could have, he takes the blanket from me. “Thanks, sweetheart. I need all the help I can get right now.”

Don’t we all?



She cries in her sleep, and her body twitches as if it hurts. I watch her, wondering what’s happening in her mind right now—what she’s seeing and feeling. I worry about what demons could be brainwashing her.

I lie on my side and watch her sleep, taking in every delicate detail of her face, the length of her eyelashes and how they rest on her cheeks like little feathers, the way her lips part as she breathes. I want her in my bed like this every day, with the sun shining down on her golden hair like a halo.

Earlier, I teetered on the edge of letting guilt and regret consume me. First my father, and now this…this insane fucking regret that’s eating me like a virus. The night of the fire is still a haze in my memories, but I keep going back there, replaying every moment. If Wendy wasn’t such a self-centered bitch, she probably wouldn’t have laughed and ignored a terrified little girl. If I had been sober, I probably wouldn’t have fallen when he pushed me. If I had just remembered everything when they questioned me at the hospital, maybe they would have found her.

So many fucking ifs.

The escape of drugs is so fucking tempting. To go back to that place where nothing hurts, where I don’t have to face all these unfair twists and turns of life, to go down that rabbit hole of numbness would be a great vacation right now.

But if I put myself in that place again, I’ll let Holly down. And this time, knowingly so. I’ll lose her, and all the happiness that comes with her. I’ll drag her happiness down with me. If I don’t hide how much the guilt is killing me inside, it will tear her apart.