I needed to grow up.
Telling myself that it would be the first thing I did when he got back, I stood and hurried upstairs to get clean clothes. Once I was changed, I tugged my boots on over my jeans and sat on the couch, tapping my fingers off my knees.
Okay. Maybe the first thing I would do when he returned wouldn’t be jumping on him about our questionable relationship status. I’d let him tell me about the roads first, and then we were going to talk.
Unable to sit, I left in search of my cell phone. It was still in the bowl of rice in the kitchen. Taking it out, I brushed off the rice and put the thing back together with high hopes. It powered on, but the screen was nothing more than pretty waves of green and blue.
“Shit,” I moaned, fighting the urge to toss it across the kitchen like a football.
I glanced at the wall clock. Half an hour had passed since he’d left and I was already going stir crazy. I wanted to get out of this house. Without him here, I was developing a mad case of cabin fever.
Stopping by the Christmas tree, I huddled down in my sweater and stared out the large window. I felt…different. It was strange that only a handful of days had passed since we’d arrived in Snowshoe, but it felt like a lifetime ago.
A small smile pulled at my lips and I closed my eyes as I remembered telling Kyler that I wanted him. I did a little wiggle out of residual embarrassment, and then laughed, because seriously, I never in my life had thought I’d have the courage to put myself out there like that and until that moment I really didn’t realize how afraid I’d been. That wasn’t any way to live, I realized sort of dumbly.
It didn’t have anything to do with the sex—the different way I felt. Well, I did ache in a wholly pleasant way in areas I didn’t think I could ache in, but it was more than that. I never really went after anything I wanted. I’d always been too cautious, and ever since the way things had ended with Nate, I’d been even more afraid of letting go—of not being in control and doing things that could potentially end in a world of hurting.
In a way, it was like a childish security blanket that I’d wrapped around me. Telling Kyler I wanted him was like shedding that blanket. Now I just needed to follow through and tell him everything.
I needed to tell Kyler that I loved him.
My heart skipped a beat even thinking about doing that. I was going to be afraid. It was going to be painfully awkward, and I’d rather kick myself than do this, but I would.
When I’d been alone with those thoughts for an hour, I couldn’t take the waiting anymore. I made up my mind without really thinking about it. Pulling my coat on along with gloves and a hat, I headed down to the garage.
Dragging the other snowmobile out into the heavily packed snow was a huge pain in the ass. Since the power was out, it took a few moments to pull the garage door down by hand, and I didn’t close it all the way, leaving a gap a couple of inches high, so I could open it when I got back. I climbed on the red and white snowmobile and let out a happy sigh when it kicked on with no problems. Temps were brutal cold, so I hurried as I slid the helmet on.
I wasn’t a pro at driving a snowmobile, but there was so much snow, it glided smoothly, kicking up a fine dusting. Even with the gloves, my fingers felt like frozen fish sticks by the time I slid to a stop in front of the main lodge.
People stood in front of their businesses along the street, shovels in hand, starting the massive dig-out process. In some areas, snow drifts covered cars and only thin slices of metal peeked through. It was amazing and crazy to see what Mother Nature was capable of when she was pissed or bored.
Many snowmobiles were parked by the shoveled walkway, and I couldn’t tell which one belonged to Kyler. They all looked alike to me. As I headed up the pathway, I could hear machinery off in the distance, most likely plows.
The main lodge was all kinds of nice and toasty, powered up with lights and TVs. It was like paradise as I pulled my helmet off and looked around. They obviously hadn’t lost any power here. Lucky bastards.
But honestly, I couldn’t be that upset about the power thing. Cuddling with Kyler totally made up for eating crappy food and freezing showers.
There was a game room and sitting area off to the side, and the smell of fresh coffee and bacon. Hot damn, I bet that was where Kyler was, shoving food in his mouth. Not that I could blame him. I would do bad things for some scrambled eggs right about now.
A lot of people were clustered around the games and couches. Some of them were talking about how long they’d been out of power or when they were planning to leave. I scoured the crowd, but didn’t see Kyler. I did, however, recognize the bartender from the first night here.
He turned and smiled when he spotted me. “Hey, good to see you survived the blizzard of the century.”
Holding my helmet to my hip, I approached his side.
“Yeah, we survived without power.”
“That’s what I heard.” He took a sip from his coffee and my taste buds started drooling. “Your friend told me a tree took out the power lines.”
My brows rose. “Kyler?”
He nodded. “Yeah, he was down here not too long ago. He was telling me that he thought someone had been messing with the house during the storm—something about shooting out a window and cutting the wires to the generator?”
“Yeah, I was hoping it…” I trailed off, replaying his words in my head. “Wait. You said Kyler was here?”
Scratching his jaw, he nodded again. “Yeah, he was asking about the roads, too. He seemed eager to get out of town. Not that I can blame him. Snow is fun when you can get out and do stuff in it, but when it dumps on you like this, not so much.”
“Oh.” I shifted the helmet. “I must’ve just missed him, then.” As soon as I said that, though, I knew that didn’t make sense. There was only one way to get from the lodge to the house and I would’ve seen him. Dread turned the blood in my veins to slush. What if he’d veered off somewhere and was hurt? “When did he leave?” I asked.
His brows knitted in a concentration. “Ah, maybe about a half an hour ago?”
My heart stopped. I swore it totally missed a beat.
“Yeah, that sounds about right. Him and Sasha left around 9:30.”
“What?” I didn’t—I couldn’t have heard him right. There was no way. My ears were little fucks and were messing up words. There was no way he meant Sexy Sasha, the statuesque brunette bombshell that Kyler knew from waaay back. “He left with Sasha?”
“Yeah.” The bartender grinned, and I did not like that grin. It was an attaboy grin. “Seemed real happy to see her, too, but they always hang out when he comes here.”
I stared at him. Kyler came up here a lot during the season, sometimes alone and other times with Tanner and whatnot. I only did the Christmas trip, so it took no leap of imagination to think the bartender was familiar with Kyler.
Familiar with Kyler and Sasha together, apparently.
The bartender shook his head, grinning. “I think they were heading back to her place. She’s been without power too, but I doubt he’s checking that out.”
Yeah, I doubted that too because—oh God—because Kyler didn’t know shit when it came to electricity. He was with Sasha.
He was fucking Sasha.
I took a step back, my mouth open but I didn’t know what to say. My stomach roiled as a deep ache exploded in my chest. I was going to be sick.
“Hey,” the bartended said, putting his hand on my shoulder as I bent down. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” My voice sounded reedy and far away. “I’m okay.”
But I wasn’t. I was far from okay. That ache in my chest was crawling through my veins and up my throat. My eyes burned and my body felt numb.
“Oh, shit.” The bartender let go of my shoulder and cringed like he’d just told me I had some incurable disease. “Oh, shit, shit, shit. You’re with Kyler, aren’t you? Like with him?” He didn’t give me a chance to response. “Look, I’m just talking out of my ass. I’m sure he just went over there to check out the power thing and nothing else.”
I really didn’t hear any more of his backpedaling. My heart was thumping in my ears. The floor seemed to have moved out from under my feet, and even though I was still standing, it felt like I was falling. Part of me wanted to kick the messenger. Jump on him and slam my fists into his stomach and make him take back what he’d said, but it wasn’t his fault. I had to keep telling myself that.
“I’m not with him,” I blurted out.
He frowned. “What?”
“I’m not with him,” I repeated it, and it hurt. It physically hurt.
Like someone had stabbed a rusty knife in my chest and twisted, because it was the truth. I wasn’t with Kyler. I’d had sex with him, but I wasn’t with him. There’d been no labels between us, no promises. He said I’d deserved better than a hookup, but that’s what I was. I was nothing more than a hookup when it was said and done.
And this—this was typical Kyler, going from one girl to the next. It wouldn’t even be the first time he’d been with two girls in one day…or at one time. He’d been so quiet after the shower, so tense. Had he decided he’d had enough?
I knew him better than anyone else on the planet. Sex didn’t mean anything to him. Time and time again, he’d said it was only about two people getting off. Why would I think it would be any different with me? Just because he’d fucked me face-to-face and had forgotten to use a condom once? Holy shit, did I really think that meant something?
I did. God, I really had thought I meant more.
“Hon,” the bartender said. “I’m really sorry.”
Without saying another word, I turned and headed out of the large room. I started for the door, but stopped and backtracked to the main lodge. “Can I use the phone?” I didn’t recognize my own voice as I put my helmet on the counter.
The lady behind the desk nodded and placed the handset by me. I almost called Andrea, but I couldn’t talk to her. She’d know the moment she heard my voice. It rang twice before it was picked up.
There was a static-filled pause. “Sydney? Is that you?”
Unless there was another child I was unaware of… “Yeah, it’s me.”
“Oh, thank God. I’ve been worried with this storm and all and you haven’t answered your phone. Kyler’s mom said you did something to it and you two were okay and I knew you’d be fine with him, but…”
I winced at the sound of his name and almost lost it right then. “Mom, how are the roads back home?”
“Main roads are pretty much clear. Your father said the highways are fine.”
“Okay.” I squeezed my eyes shut against the burn. “Do you…do you think you guys can come get me?”
“Yes. Of course, but what about Kyler? Is he staying up there longer? Or is something wrong with his car?”
My mom, the queen of questions I couldn’t even begin to answer. “His car is fine. I just…I just want to come home. Please.”