Just a Little Crush (Crush #1)(8)

By: Renita Pizzitola

He slipped his tongue past my parted lips. It swept over mine, bypassing steps three through five. I was out of steps. What now?

With his forefinger, he tilted my chin and slanted his mouth. His tongue twirled with mine and I did my best to mimic his every move in reverse. It only made logical sense. When his tongue ran over and under, I countered with under and over. When his lips nipped at my bottom lip, I nipped at his top. When his head moved left, mine moved right. The kiss was in perfect balance as I focused on applying the basic Unity of Opposites theory.

Ryder moved his hand to my waist. His grip tightened and the magnitude of the kiss hit.

I was kissing Ryder.

He was kissing me.

My hand slipped behind his neck as I pushed my fingers into his hair. The proverbial falling in love made no sense, since I was certainly in love, yet felt as if I could float right out of the room.

His fingers dug into my waist and he pushed his body against mine.

But what was th—Oh my God.

My feet landed firmly back in reality and I panicked. Shoving him away, I stared down at his swim trunks which, instead of concealing, only confirmed what I’d felt. How did we go from first kiss to…to that? I glanced at his face.

Pink crept into his cheeks almost matching the reddening of his lips.

But nothing in my magazines had prepared me for this, so I did the only thing I could think of. I bolted. I clawed at the door, flung it open and raced out. Everyone stared as I attempted to escape, but the pool-house door wouldn’t open. Trapped, I yanked again. Laughter surrounded me and I jerked the door harder.

“Um, try pushing,” said Ava.

With a push, I flew out the door, stumbled and glanced back just as Ryder made his way out of the bathroom, looking as horrified as I felt. I spun, caught my ankle on a chair and went toppling, headfirst, into the pool.

I wanted to just drown, but my head popped out of the water and I was forced to swim to the steps. Laughter echoed around me. Thankful the water hid my tears, I pushed my hair out of my face and stepped onto the stairs. A hand reached out to me and I looked into Mason’s dark eyes.

Someone spoke from within the forming crowd. “Man, Ryder, what did you do to her?”

Against every ounce of my better judgment, I glanced back.

Ryder stepped through the crowd, his expression a mixture of embarrassment and confusion. He seemed to be making a decision and something sparked inside of me. Like a tiny bit of hope that he’d defend me. He’d tell them he kissed me. He wanted me.

Another guy said, “Whatever it was, she needed to nose-dive into the pool to cool off.”

Ryder muttered, “More like bellyflop.”

He’d mumbled it like some random thought he didn’t really plan to share and I’d almost wondered if I heard him right.

But then, with a laugh, his friend raised his hand in the air and said, “Good one.”

Ryder glanced between his friend’s raised hand and me. His confused expression slipped into a cocky grin, as he high-fived his friend and winked at me. “Not my problem if she can’t handle the heat.”

And in the seven seconds it took for him to make that decision—the one where he threw me under the bus—I made one of my own. I hated Ryder Briggs. My lip trembled and I clamped it with my teeth as my throat tightened.

“Nice training bra.” Ava snickered, staring at my transparent white top.

“Shut up, Ava. Just because you stuff a box of tissues down your shirt—”

“Get out,” she screamed at Mason.

He grabbed my hand and led me away. Dumbfounded, horrified, humiliated—the trifecta of loser.

I’d gained three things from that party. A new best friend—Mason. A new nickname—Bellyflop Brinley. And a new opinion of Ryder Briggs—he was scum. I swore to hate him from that day forth, and I did. And that hatred traveled with me all the way through high school.

I hated the way Ryder’s hair fell over his eyes, begging me to brush it away. I hated the way his T-shirt hugged his biceps when he slung his backpack over his shoulder. I hated the way he’d run his tongue over his bottom lip when he was lost in thought. I hated the way he sprawled in his chair, his jeans always reminding me of that day. But most of all, I hated the way he grew, right before my eyes, from a boy into a man. Yep, I hated every freaking thing about him.

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