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I stilled, thoughts and pulse racing.

Kyler stood and he walked over to me, kneeling down. He tipped his head back so he looked me straight in the eyes when he said the next words. “I will never regret being with you, Syd. Never. And I wish I could go back and relive those hours. I wish I could go back in time, and instead of hooking up with some chick, I’d man up and tell you how I really felt for you, how I’ve always felt for you.”

I opened my mouth and gasped, but there were no words. I searched his striking face, and he stared back, open and right there—finally, right there in front of me. My heart was swelling and bursting at once. Hope burned as bright as the North Star. “How you’ve always felt?”

“I’ve loved you my entire life,” he said, eyes locked on mine. “And I would love you for the rest of my life if you’d let me, Syd.”

Chapter 24


Once those words left my mouth, I knew it was the right thing to say. There was no doubt in my mind. It was what I should’ve said years ago, from the first moment I realized how deep my feelings for her ran. And there was a good chance it was too late now, but a weight lifted off my shoulders. I’d spilled the truth. I didn’t expect my apologies to be enough right now, but telling her how I felt could open a door for later. At least, that’s what I hoped.

But the longer Syd was quiet, the more worried I become. Syd looked a little dumbstruck. She didn’t move. Her hands were limp in her lap, palms up. She didn’t say anything. Her pretty, rosy lips were parted. She just stared at me.

It felt like I’d been punched in the gonads. Had I messed up so badly that my declaration of love had blown her mind in all the wrong ways? Aw man, I didn’t like this feeling. Most likely deserved it, but that didn’t make it easier to swallow, especially when her eyes turned glassy, as if she were fighting tears.

I hadn’t planned on that. Fuck.

“Syd, baby, say something, please.” I dropped my hands on my thighs to stop myself from grabbing her. “Please.”

She gave a little shake of her head, causing a few shorter strands to slip free from her bun. Dark tendrils brushed her temples and the nape of her neck. Then she leaned forward. Before I knew what she was doing, she cupped my cheeks with trembling hands.

Okay. This was good. This was heading somewhere I’d—

“I want to strangle you,” she said, her voice hoarse.

All right, that wasn’t good. Not at all.

“You have no idea how badly I want to kick you right now,” she added.

And that was worse. This wasn’t—

“I love you,” she said, and she swallowed. “I’ve loved you since you pushed me down on the playground. I swear—I’ve loved you since then.”

“I…what?” I stared at her. “What did you just say?”

Syd kissed me.

Her lips were soft against mine; the touch was hesitant and breathtakingly her and so damn sweet. I inhaled her through the kiss, pulling her deep into me. My brain shut down as I reveled in her kiss, like a dog rolling onto his back for a belly rub. I rose without thinking, my hands falling to her hips. She grabbed my upper arms, her fingers digging into my sweater in a way that had my entire body throbbing.

“Say it again,” I pleaded.

Her lips curved up at the corners. “I love you, Kyler.”

A shudder rolled through me. I lifted her up and set her down further on the bed. I came over her, kissing her back. In seconds our bodies were flush with one another. My tongue swept past her lips and she moaned, sending a thrill through me. Her hands ran down my back and mine found their way under the heavy sweater, against her camisole. She arched, as if willing my hand to travel further north. I rose slightly, my gaze drifting over her sweetly flushed face, long graceful neck, and the hard tips of her breasts straining against the thin material. My body shook with the effort to not strip her bare.

Oh, fuck.

My hand looked incredibly large splayed across her stomach, directly under her breasts. Whoa. I needed to slow it down, but I was aching to be inside her, to have nothing between us.

Syd reached up, running the tips of her fingers along my jaw. I pressed into the gesture, closing my eyes as I willed my heart to slow down. “You love me?” she asked.

“Always,” I said, pressing my lips to the center of her palm. “I know I’ve had a shitty way of showing it, but I’ve loved you since you made me eat mud pie.”

She trailed her hand to my chest, stopping above my heart. “Yeah, I’d say it’s a pretty weird way.”

I opened my eyes, ready to apologize more. Then I saw the soft smile on her face, and my heart actually jumped in my chest. I opened my mouth, but I was beyond words as my gaze traveled over her face. “Honest?”

“Honest,” she whispered.

“I really didn’t think you saw me as anything other than a friend.” I lowered my head, kissing her lips, because they looked like they were lonely. “And I didn’t realize I wanted more until you got with Nate, and I figured by then it was too late. Even after you guys broke up, it seemed like I’d missed my chance.”

Her brows pulled down. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“Why didn’t you?”

She pursed her lips. “The same as you. I didn’t think you saw me as anything other than a friend and the…”

“I know. The girls…” I pressed my forehead against hers. “I thought I couldn’t have you, so I wanted to forget about how I felt. It was a terrible idea.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Yeah, it was.”

My past really took the horn out of horny. “I wish I could go back and change those things. I wish—”

She placed a finger on my lips, a finger that smelled of cocoa. “It’s in the past. There’s nothing we can do about that. And hey, I could’ve said something. Developed some lady balls.”

“Lady balls?” I raised my brows.


I made a face as I eased onto my side beside her. “I really don’t want to think of you with balls, Syd.”

She giggled then, and the sound brought a smile to my face. I caught the light, happy sound with my lips. “If you had, I would’ve…” I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. It’s about what I’ll do now. That’s all that matters. I’ll spend the rest of my life making up for it. I promise.”

At first I thought I had said the wrong thing. Tears welled up in her eyes so quickly and she rolled onto her side, burying her face against my chest. Oh shit, I had most definitely said something wrong. That quickly. Wow. That had to be a record.

“Hey.” I slid my fingers under her chin. “What’s going on?”

She fought me, but gradually let me lift her head. “I’m sorry. It’s nothing you did. I’m just…really emotional right now.”

That wasn’t a good enough answer for me. Sitting up, I pulled her into my lap and she settled against me. “Syd…”

Wiping at her cheeks, she laughed softly. “They’re happy tears. I swear. It’s just that I never thought this would happen. Not really, and I thought…I thought you regretted being with me, and that’s why you wanted to talk. That you thought I was frigid, like Nate—”

“Whoa. Wait.” I tipped her face toward mine. “You’re the exact opposite of that, and I never once even thought that could be true. Man, I want to break his jaw all over again. I can’t believe you still worry about that.”

She sniffled. “I know it’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid.” I brushed a lone tear off her cheek.

She leaned into me, wrapping her arms around my waist. “It is stupid. I let that get to me for how many years? And I guess that’s why I was so ready to believe you were with Sasha, and I overreacted.”

“You didn’t overreact.” I held her tight, resting my chin atop her head. God. I didn’t realize how good holding her would feel until I was doing it. “I deserved everything you said.”

“Kyler.” She sighed.

“I know.” I laughed. “It’s in the past, right?” When she nodded, I resisted the urge to squeeze her. “You know what else is in the past?”


“These damn teddy bears on your bed. I think you’ve had the brown one since you were a kid. It’s probably covered in your germs.”

Syd pulled back, smacking me on my chest. “No it’s not, you ass!”

Laughing, I leaned back among the bears, knocking most of them on the floor as I brought her down with me. I turned so we were face to face, lying side by side. “Hey,” I reached around and picked up a ragged red one. “Is this the one I got you for your birthday years ago? You kept it?”

“Yeah.” She snatched it away from me, holding it between our chests. “Of course I kept it.”

A good dose of pressure filled my chest. I didn’t say anything as I watched her.

“What?” she asked, her eyes on mine.

Sometimes words weren’t enough—they couldn’t cover the feeling. This was one of those times. So I closed the distance and kissed her, putting everything I felt for her, every promise I made her, into that one kiss. When I pulled back, her eyes were glazed over and I wanted to throw that bear across the room and get all over her.

Parents downstairs and bedroom door unlocked? Not going to happen. And besides, I was just fucking thrilled to be here with her.

“This is the best early Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten,” I told her.

Her bright smile sucker-punched me. “I think that’s the smartest thing you’ve ever said, and I’d have to agree.”

“Uh-huh?” I caught a piece of her hair and twisted it around my finger. “I’m so lucky. I know that. So damn lucky to have your love.”

She wiggled closer and the bear was smushed between us. She kissed me in a way no other person ever could, because it was Syd. I cupped the back of her neck, holding her there as I took control of the kiss. It wasn’t long before the bear ended up on the floor and our arms and legs were tangled. We were making out like two teenagers sneaking a few seconds. She was under me, her hips rocking against mine, urging me on. With how thin her bottoms were, it was like having almost nothing there. Need was driving me insane, pounding through my veins, and I didn’t want to stop, even though I knew it couldn’t go any further than this. And it was too good to stop, and the way her body moved against mine was too perfect, and her soft, barely audible moans too sweet to pass up.

I don’t know how long we stayed like that, kissing and touching, whispering to one another and laughing. It was late when I looked at the clock.

“Can you stay a little longer?” she asked.

I doubted her dad would appreciate finding me in her bed in the morning, but I couldn’t refuse her. “How about I stay until you fall asleep?”

“Perfect,” she murmured, resting her cheek on my chest. “Just use the front door when you leave.”