Home > Watch Me Follow(14)

Watch Me Follow(14)
Author: Harloe Rae

Seriously, Lennon?

Gah, I’m so awkward. Out of everything there is to ask, I choose to point out his change in appearance. Real winner, right here. Ryker doesn’t catch my internal struggle and answers my ridiculous question without hesitation.

“I want you to see me.”

My loopy mind screeches to a halt. “Wh-what?” I gulp down a bundle of nerves. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

He nods sharply. “Good. That’s how it should be. I like you and want to make you happy, so that makes sense. Right?”

I offer a soft, “Yes.”

He tosses out amazing lines, full of feeling, without thinking twice. Similar to his romantic notes, these words take my breath away and leave me off kilter. I’m not sure how to handle such raw honesty, especially after Ryker told me he doesn’t want to be different. This conversation is the definition of different, at least in my sliver of experience.

The way he speaks his mind without filter is a rare trait I haven’t found in another person. I’ve always felt it was best to be open and honest to avoid misunderstanding but earlier, I managed to upset Ryker without realizing it. I figured he would be alright walking on the odd side with me, but maybe not. My need to know what bothered him pokes at me while I stare at his relaxed face. Ryker brings forward a lot of questions that muddle my already confused mind. Such as his desire to fit in and not stand out but he’s been blurting out sentences without preamble. Does he realize the contradiction? Should I point it out? How am I supposed to handle this?

Obviously, I’m not an expert on acceptable flirting behavior.

According to Lucy there are rules for dating. I’ve never understood why girls need mind games and manipulation to land a boyfriend but she swears that type of stuff is expected. Why should I wait for him to call? What if I want to express my true feelings? Why would I pretend to be busy when he asks me out? I always cringe when she brings this up because it makes finding love seem cheap and fake. I don’t want to act like a broken see-saw.

Clearly Ryker isn’t typical, which makes my spirit soar. I don’t want to use Lucy’s dumb list either. But what should I do next? So far, he seems fairly content just standing close to me. We can’t just stare silently at one another all night. That would be . . . too weird. I think?

Am I supposed to start a discussion? Ask him everything I want to know? My mind is a tangle of turmoil because I’ve never done this before. Threads of panic lace around my neck but I shove them away. I don’t want to screw this up again but he needs to accept that I’m different. Whether he wants to be or not. I won’t pretend to be someone I’m not, even for Ryker.

I chew on my lip while glancing away from his searing stare. When he grunts, my gaze refocuses on him but maybe I shouldn’t have. Ryker is grinding his teeth while his nostrils flare with a huge exhale. My head tilts as I study his features.

“Is something wrong?”

Ryker’s jaw works back and forth. “I’ve been waiting so long to stand in front of you, just like this. I’ve imagined it so many times over the years. I want us to talk but . . . I don’t know what to say. I’m . . . frustrated about that. I don’t want to be silent while I’m with you. I’ve spent my entire life in silence. Can you . . . please tell me what to say?” He blows out another breath and I imagine that took guts to admit. He’s being brave so I should too.

I have questions, so very many that really need answers. My memory keeps circling back to Ryker ignoring me in school. Every day I waited for his ocean waves to crash into me but they never did. I clear the dryness from my throat. “Can we go back to the beginning? Like four years ago?” Ryker shrugs before nodding. An idea pops up and I blurt, “Oh! Can we also make a deal?”

“Like what?” His tone is gruff as he squints at me.

“Well, I really don’t want to make you mad again—”

He interrupts. “You didn’t make me mad.”

“All right. Ummm . . . whatever you want to call what happened earlier. With the whole ‘being different’ thing.” I use air quotes and heat scorches my face for being a dork. “We want us to be honest with each other, right? I don’t want to tiptoe on eggshells and be afraid to speak my mind. Don’t shut me out if I say the wrong thing, okay? This is all new to me.”

Ryker stretches his fingers before shoving them deep into his pockets. He kicks at the floor before catching my unwavering stare again.

“Okay. I always want the truth from you, Lennon. And I’ll be honest too.” His chest lifts with a big sigh. “I’ve always been the outcast because people were scared of me but . . . the feeling was mutual. I was fine with it, until you showed up. I don’t want to be different or weird in your eyes. I just want to be normal. For you.”

This enormous man just wants to be understood and maybe . . . loved. His admission has emotion clouding my vision. Ryker uses his thick thumb to wipe the tear streaking down my cheek, like he did this morning. I chuckle lightly while my insides turn into gooey mush. “Oh, wow. I had no idea you even noticed me back then. Now I’m not sure what to say,” I murmur as my shoulders hitch up.

He snorts. “Are you joking? You’re all I think about.” An adorable blush colors his face when he adds, “You’re my sunshine.”

I shiver when that name leaves Ryker’s lush lips. His husky tone sparks some serious desire in my veins, sending another tremor through my limbs.

“Are you cold?” He asks softly.

Before I can say anything, Ryker pulls me into his arms. Even though my skin is blazing hot, I’d never complain about being close to him. My cheek rubs against comfortable worn cotton and his heart pounds steadily against my ear. A happy sigh escapes me.

I could definitely get used to this.

Ryker hums before resting his chin on my head. “Better?”

“Oh, yes. This is perfect.” I nestle deeper into his embrace and let the moment swallow me up. Because I’m toasty warm with happiness wafting off me like an expensive perfume, my inhibitions loosen. “Why do you follow me?”

He’s silent for a few beats before his muttered response vibrates against me. “Isn’t it obvious?”

I shake my head while saying, “No. Not to me.”

Ryker moves us to a nearby workstation and leans back against the table, making sure to never break our connection. We settle into the new position before he replies.

“You’re not going to get upset? Run off scared or anything?” His voice holds a decent dose of fear and I want to settle his nerves.

“Of course not. I need to know why.”

“The honest truth?” He pauses for a long breath. “I can’t leave you alone. For my own sanity and well-being, I need to stay close. All the time. If I can’t see you, my lungs seize up and panic closes in. I constantly worry something will happen to you if I’m not there. Or you’ll disappear and I won’t be able to find you. What started as a teenage crush has grown into much more. I’ll admit that stalking you probably wasn’t the best way to show my feelings but it just . . . happened. I need to protect you and keep you safe. Always. No matter what.” His arms tighten around me, as if trapping me in place.

I manage to squeeze even closer on my own. “Whoa, really? Wasn’t expecting that at all. But for real, it doesn’t scare me. There’s something about you that’s always drawn me in. I just wish you wouldn’t have kept it a secret.”

“Yeah, I know. Me too.” His words puff against my hair.

I lick my dry lips before diving in deeper. “So, why didn’t you talk to me again after that shit with Jason?”

Ryker tenses and grips onto my shirt tighter. “I wanted to, Lennon. I thought about approaching you every day. My confidence wasn’t great and after years of verbal lashings and vicious torment, any lingering shreds were decimated. Even though it was difficult to breathe without you around, I waited for you to approach me. Days piled on top of weeks and before I knew it, graduation arrived and my time was up. I had a lot of chances but blew them all. I settled for watching you from a distance and keeping you safe that way.”

I relax against his strong build as realization strikes. I’m incredibly protected and Ryker will slay all my monsters. I just wish this connection happened sooner. “Those stupid jerks ruin everything. How did they get away with it for so long? Didn’t you ever report the bullying?”

His right shoulder hitches up before he tells me, “Snitches get stitches. Besides, I handled it my own way.”


“Let’s save that for a different day, yeah? Can we talk about something else?” The plea is clear in his raspy voice.

My head bobs slowly and I bite my lip, deciding what to ask next. “So, after all this time, why did you choose to finally reveal yourself? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure happy you did but was there a reason?” I inhale his addictive musk and hold back an embarrassing purr.

Ryker sighs softly. “I was tired of staying away. Each day, I became a bit more desperate to get closer. For a long time, the distance didn’t seem so bad but suddenly I couldn’t rest until you noticed me. Even if it was in a small way. Plus, you’re about to graduate again and I didn’t want to wait until it was too late. I was just . . . ready.”

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