Comfortably Numb

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Chapter 10

I arrive at Arrow's house faster than I expect.

Thinking back, I acknowledge that I had been blatantly ignoring the speed limit signs, flying past so fast I barely had time to read them.

As I slide in behind the Beast, I realize it is only 8:05, about thirty minutes earlier than I had realized. I'd been so excited to drive my car again, I'd dressed in a hurry and skipped breakfast. I debate with myself about whether I should wait or go into the house, but eventually decide to risk waking the house up in favour of showing off my car sooner.

I hop out of the shiny black vehicle and step quietly up to the front door. I rap my knuckles on the door three times in quick succession. Behind the door, someone is moving around. Mr. Cardinal tugs the door open a moment later, and his face splits into a massive smile when his eyes rest on me. His hair is sticking straight up and his eyes still hold traces of sleep.

"Andy! We weren't expecting you this morning!" I smile at him. He steps to the side and waves me into the house.

"Come on in! Arrow's just in the bathroom; she takes forever to get ready. Have you eaten? We were just about to have breakfast. Come, sit! Pancakes?" I follow him into the kitchen where he hands me a plate stacked high with pancakes. I shoot him a grateful smile and reach for the syrup. I smile brightly at the other Mr. Cardinal, who is sitting at the counter with a mug in his hands. I smother the fluffy cakes in sticky surgery goodness, and take a huge bite.

"Pop! Have you seen my green shirt? I washed it yesterday but it's not in my room anymore!" Ryker bursts into the kitchen wearing nothing but black boxers.

Without my permission, my eyes drift down his sculpted chest. I can't tear my eyes off of him, no matter how hard I try. It is as if suddenly all of the oxygen has been sucked from the room; He is the only source of air.

His hair hangs in loose waves, seeming to tease me to look further down. I trace the column of his neck down to his tan pectorals. I follow the lines of his chest to his abs, and gulp as I trace each individual ab. My heart stutters in my chest as I notice his hips have those V lines that disappear into his satin shorts. I glance back up his chest, trying to memorize every line, every freckle, every inch of glowing golden skin. My hands are itching at my sides, begging for me to run them up and down his muscled torso. I suck my bottom lip between my teeth, the urge to drool becoming uncomfortable.

The longer I stare, a deep rumbling builds from across the room. Suddenly, Ryker takes a step towards me. My eyes finally snap away from his glorious chest, only to fall into the trap of his eyes. They sparkle intensely; it looks like they have been lit by a fire from behind. I hear somebody clear their throat, but I can't force myself from the pool of liquid chocolate long enough to determine who it is. Something rumbles out of his chest, and the full force of the growl slams into me, settling in the pit of my stomach.

"Ryker, go put on some clothes." The deep growl of his father startles me enough to break the tension between us. I blink and look away from his half naked form, focusing on my pancakes instead. Although for some reason the food looks almost unappetizing now....

Ryker slips from the room without any words. I only know he is gone because the heat of his gaze isn't resting on me anymore. I glance up and feel my face flush as I realize both Mr Cardinals are smiling weirdly at me. I stuff another bite of pancakes into my mouth so I don't have to speak.

"Sorry about him, dear. He wasn't expecting you or I'm sure he would already be completely dressed and sitting here shoveling food into his mouth beside you. He didn't make you too uncomfortable, did he?" Mr Cardinal lilts.

I shake my head and focus more intently on my pancakes.

The sound of feet hitting the tile of the kitchen has me glancing over my shoulder. Ryker is back, but this time -thankfully- fully clothed. I push aside the odd spike of disappointment I feel over that fact. It is important he has clothes. Nudity isn't exactly something approved for school.

He is wearing a blue v neck t-shirt, and a tight pair of ripped jeans. The shirt molds to his frame, and now that I have seen what is underneath it is easy to trace the lines of his muscles through the thin material of his shirt. I shake my head and turn away from him, embarrassment staining my cheeks red at my thoughts.

He comes over and sits on the stool beside me. I glance at him from the corner of my eye, and his lips curl up at the corners. I bury myself back in my pancakes.

"Morning Andy..." He breathes at me. My mind spins, the slight huskyness of his voice pulling at something deep inside of me. I nod in his direction, steadfastly ignoring the small part of me that is screaming at me to reach over and brush my fingers through the dark black strands draping between us.
People start talking, but I can't quite understand them past the roaring in my ears. I feel my face go hot, images I have no place thinking dancing through my mind.

"You OK Andy?" Ryker's husky voice breaks through the haze in my mind, and my eyes snap to his. I gulp past the lump in my throat as our eyes connect once again. Something is shining in his eyes, pulling me deeper... I feel myself gasping for breath.

Warm fingers wrap around my own, and electricity dances up my arm. I expect panic to spike up my spine at his touch, but instead it seems to calm me. Air becomes easier to breathe, my thoughts stop swirling too fast for me to comprehend, and my erratic heartbeat slows down. I squeeze his fingers, and feel something kick in my chest. His eyes sparkle brighter.

"Andy!" Arrow's voice startles me, and I drop my gaze from Ryker's. He squeezes my hand before letting it drop, and I suddenly feel cold. I glance back at him, but he is shoveling forkfuls of food into his mouth. I turn so I can see Arrow.

She is smiling at me in the same way her parent's had been; the way that makes me feel like I am missing something. She is dressed in jeans and a white sweater and her hair is twisted into a French braid. I smile at her, still somewhat off balance from... whatever had just happened. She beams back at me.

"What are you doing here?" She sinks into the stool to my right and starts filling her own plate. I shake my head at my stupidity. I'd completely forgotten why I'd come here so early in the morning.

"W-want a ride?" Ryker chokes beside me, and I turn to look at him with furrowed eyebrows. He coughs a few times before grabbing the glass of water his pop is offering him. He takes a few sips before glancing at me for the briefest of seconds.

"Wrong pipe." He wheezes. Arrow snorts beside me and I turn to frown at her. She rolls her eyes at me. She swallows the mouthful she had left and then wipes her hands and face with her napkin. She smiles at me, hops off of her stool and skips over to the dishwasher to drop her finished plate in. I grab my own plate and copy her. She smiles at me while I wipe my hands on my jeans.

"You've got a car?" She questions. I nod with a big smile.She rolls her eyes at me. "Well why didn't you say that last night? Would have saved me like half an hour of arguing." I roll my eyes at her.

"D-didn't have it t-til last night. G-got delivered yesterday." She smiles wider at me

"It's brand new?" Excitement coats her words. I roll my eyes and start heading for the door. She follows behind me, asking a million questions I don't bother answering.

When I fling the front door open, she gasps. I survey my car as she does. It is a four door sedan, with shiny black paint and gleaming silver details. The rear doors are suicide doors, something all the men in my life had always inexplicably adored. It practically glows in the late autumn sun, and I appreciate the soft black leather of the interior.

Arrow walks towards it and gently tugs the passenger door open. Beside me, Ryker whistles. I turn and offer him a small smile.

"Nice car."I smile brighter at him and head towards it. He follows two steps behind. I let the twins admire my car for a few minutes, just letting them open and close all of the various doors. Ryker pops the hood and whistles once again.

"Engine looks brand new..." He murmurs. He lets the hood fall shut and I place a gentle hand on it. He turns to smile at me.

"M-my dad built it..." I find myself explaining to him, for some reason. He nods at me and glances back down at the car.

"He did a beautiful jbb." I nod, a warm smile spread across my face.

"He really did," Arrow appears beside me. I jump, having forgotten she was there. She winks at me and then turns to her brother.

"OK now shoo." Ryker frowns down at her.
"What?" Arrow rolls her eyes and gestures towards my car.

"This is our girl time. You aren't invited. So shoo." She flaps her hands at him again. He turns to me, and the look he gives me stops my heart. His eyebrows are lowered, and his bottom lip is jutting out. His eyes are sparkling in the way that makes my knees weak.

"Uh- um" I stutter, struggling for words. His bottom lip quivers the slightest bit and my train of thought flies into a brick wall.

"Enough of that!" Arrow scolds. He drops his eyes from me and I suck in a deep breath. He scowls at his sister.

"Why can't I come with you?" He whines. Arrow rolls her eyes once again.

"Because I said so. Andy, let's go." She tugs the passenger door open and sinks into the plush leather. She tosses her bag into the back seat over her shoulder and then turns to raise her right eyebrow at me when she realizes I haven't moved from my spot.

I gulp and turn to her brother. He is frowning at his sister through the glass of the windshield. I clear my throat and his gaze lifts to me, slamming into me like a ton of bricks. I wet my bottom lip and his eyes follow. The air between us grows heavy once again, and I suddenly feel the need to escape.

"S-s-sorry... " I whisper. His brows furrow and his mouth opens, as if to say something. But I don't give him the opportunity. Instead, I whirl around the front of the car and drop into the driver's seat.

I can feel his eyes on me still, but I refuse to let my eyes raise back to him. Instead I flick the keys and quickly reverse out of my parking spot. I speed out of the driveway and only once Ryker is no longer visible in my rearview mirror do I finally relax. I let off the gas and start following the speed limit.

Arrow laughs beside me as the wind whips her hair around through the open window. I smile and listen as she starts complaining about her second period class and the annoying girl she is partnered with for some project.

When we pull into the parking lot of the school, a massive crowd forms around my car. I nervously step out and gently close the door. I step carefully around all of the people; I don't want anyone touching me. Arrow forces her way through the crowd so she is beside me.

"Maybe bringing your car wasn't such a good idea..."

I nod at her, wide eyed. Suddenly everyone surrounding us lurches back. I glance up from the ground where my eyes have been locked, and shake my head in amusement. The Beast has just pulled up impossibly close to us – no wonder all of the people have moved. Ryker carefully pulls into the spot beside mine. The front doors of the truck swing open and the boys hop down. Rowan whistles, running his eyes along my car.

"She's a beaut, Andy. Drive as good as she looks?" I roll my eyes but smile nonetheless. Rowan reaches for the driver's door handle, and I step so I am blocking it.

"What?" He frowns down at me and I return the look. "I can't even sit in it?" He whines. My lips twitch up.

"N-not in m-my seat." He groans.

"Not even in the parking lot?" I shake my head. Ryker laughs behind him and shifts so he is beside me. I glance up at him and he offers me a blinding smile, The pure joy behind his grin slides down my spine and settles in the pit of my stomach. My throat becomes dry and the images of his muscled chest I'd managed to push out of my mind make an unwelcome reappearance. His eyes swirl and he stoops a little, so there isn't much space between us.

"You'd let me sit there, right?" He breathes.

My mind spins as the scent of him overtakes me. I blink up at him as the scent of old spice, something that reminds me of the woods and thunderstorms and the warmth he always seems to emit swirls around me.

My breathing becomes weaker and I feel myself shift so I am closer to him. His smile grows heated and he reaches for me. I freeze, anticipation sizzling in my veins. The click of my door opening surprises me.
Ryker sinks into the driver's seat and whistles. I haul in a deep breath and flick my eyes shut, annoyance at myself- and at him- thrumming through me.

After I calm down I flick my eyes open and frown at Ryker, who is still sitting in my seat. In fact, he'd tugged the seat back so he fit more comfortably in it. He beams at me and runs his fingers over the steering wheel. I suck my bottom lip in between my teeth and bite down to stop myself from leaning back towards him.

"He gets to sit there..." Rowan grumbles from behind me.
I spin to glare at him but Arrow beats me to it, smacking him against the back of his head. He groans and scowls down at her. She rolls her eyes.

"Should we go?" She nods her head in the direction of the school. I nod and turn to tell Ryker he needs to get out, but he's already standing. I gulp and look up, up, up his chest but stop myself before I get inexplicably lost in his eyes once again. I haul in a breath, but the scent of him- a scent that is now burning into my mind - has me taking a huge step back to allow myself to think. He frowns for a second, but quickly finds his smile once again.

I lock my car and we all start heading towards our lockers. Rowan starts complaining as we walk.

"I can't believe she let him sit in the driver's seat but wouldn't even let me look." Arrow snorts beside me.

When I glance over at them I feel like I'm missing something important... Rowan rolls his eyes before he smirks at me.

"Fine, I get it. No driving the car. Can I ask you a question though?" I nod and his grin turns shit eating.

"If I show you my boxers will you let me drive?" I choke on the air. Ryker reaches out and smacks him on the back of the head, and Arrow furrows her brows at me. I huff in a deep breath before turning to glare at Ryker. His cheeks turn a warm pink and he offers me a weak smile.

"Sorry?" I sigh and run my hand through my hair. I stomp off in the direction of my locker, but unfortunately they all follow me.

"Am I missing something?" Arrow mutters. I scowl at her, my face bright red, memories of this morning dancing across my brain and making my heart quiver in my chest. Ryker leans against the locker next to mine.

"I really am sorry, Andy." He whispers. My scowl deepens. "I didn't think he'd make any comments or anything. You have to know I never meant to make you uncomfortable." I sigh, and turn to my locker. I spin the combination and drop my things inside, switching my light jacket for my first period binder. I step aside to slam it shut, but I realize too late that that means I have to step right against the chest I can't stop thinking about. I pull away the second that I realize I'm touching him, but the feel of his chest against my side sends light shocks up my arm to my spine, despite the fact we're no longer touching. I glance up at him, and as our eyes lock I feel like I'm back in the Cardinal's kitchen. I forcefully shake myself and spin on my heel to head to class. Behind me, Arrow and the boys follow quietly.

The second the bell for first period rings, a folded note lands on my desk. I glance up to see Arrow staring intently at the board, obviously trying to fake that she's paying attention. I sigh and open the paper.

Did I miss something this morning?

I don't know what you mean.

I toss her back the piece of paper. She reads it, and throws me the dirtiest look possible. I roll my eyes and pull out another piece of paper.

I got to your house early, no one was expecting me. I was in the kitchen eating and your brother came into the kitchen... in nothing but his boxers. I got embarrassed, your dad had to make him put on clothes. I guess he told Rowan about it and now he obviously thinks I was gawking at his chest. That's it.
I thought that that was the end of the conversation, but a moment later I had another note flung my way. I open it carefully, trying not to attract attention.

LOL Must have been quite the surprise for you... Why does it matter if Rowan thinks you were gawking at my brother's chest?

I roll my eyes with a deep sigh.

It doesn't. It just likely means RYKER thinks I was gawking at his chest. And I wasn't.

Arrow snorts and glances over at me before scribbling something new back.

From the look on your face in the parking lot, I somehow don't believe that.

I can't suppress the gasp as I read her words. I turn to glare at her and she smiles wickedly. When I turn back to my own desk, I realize Ryker has turned to look over his shoulder at me. I scowl and move my arm so he can't read what we're talking about.

I don't know what you're talking about. He was in my personal space, that's all. It made me nervous.

She reads what I wrote and turns to make a big show of rolling her eyes. Ryker shifts in front of me again and I make a point of keeping my head turned towards his sister. She flicks the next note right between my chest and arm.

Puh-lease. You were practically screaming "take me now" and then when he moved past you instead of brushing up against you I totally saw the way you almost passed out from disappointment.

Shut up! I was not disappointed! He was too close. I was nervous.

Nervous he might never touch you, you mean.

I glower up at her before scribbling over the last few lines of our conversation. She smirks at me before I turn my attention back to the paper.

That's disgusting. You're disgusting. I don't want your brother to touch me. He's just a big dumb dummy that I Happened to see without a shirt or pants this morning. That's all it was. Your brother is gross. End of story.

She snorts and shakes her head at me. I scowl at her in return and she offers me a wink.

Don't worry babe. I won't tell him you've been salivating over the thought of his naked chest since you saw it this morning... even though he's likely wishing you would return the favour ;)

My jaw falls open and I simply stare at her. Her shoulders shake as she tries to suppress her laugh. I scowl and scrunch the paper up, not dignifying her last statement with a response. A minute later, another note falls into the crook of my arm. I scowl deeper and turn to glare at her. She offers me a small smile before turning back towards the teacher.

Sorry, it reads, You just don't offer a lot of teasing opportunities. I'll stop. I know you were probably really overwhelmed this morning.

My scowl falls off and I sigh.

It was... a lot. I wasn't expecting that this morning, and when Rowan mentioned it...

She offers me a sympathetic smile before scribbling something back.

Now do you see what I mean? Rowan is the LITERAL WORST!

I smile and shake my head.

You just think that because he busted your last prank.

It was going to be such a good one!

What even was the plan? I didn't understand the end goal.

She smirks at me and rubs her hands together lightly.

OK, so I was putting a bunch of different pictures of Nicolas Cage in all his picture frames, taping them inside all of his drawers and books, and i WAS going to put another on his backup camera of his car, plus a life size cardboard cutout of him in his shower, but he caught me before I could do that....

I furrow my brows.

Why?

Nicholas Cage freaks him out. Has ever since he saw him In that movie where he swaps faces with John Travolta. I figured he'd come home in the dark and start freaking out because all his stuff was covered in Nicholas Cage faces.

I roll my eyes at her.

And the boullion cubes?

She scowls.

That was retaliation for the prank my dad set off.

I smile and shake my head at her. She smiles back and rolls her eyes.

So what's your next prank entail?

Her grin becomes sinister.

I'm going to steal all of his clothes and replace them with empty toilet paper rolls.

I suppress a chuckle and shake my head at her.

Good luck with that Row. Just maybe this time make sure he's ACTUALLY out of the house.

She laughs, drawing everyone's attention. Luckily, though, before the teacher can ask what we are doing, the bell rings. I gather my stuff as she scrunches the piece of paper we'd been passing back and forth up.

Ryker and Rowan are each frowning at us, but we simply walk past them, smiling like the dickens.
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