“I deserved this,” I said, my face crumbling. “But you didn’t. I’m so sorry you were mixed up in this … in my fucked up universe. I really did think…” I blew out a slow breath, trying not to sob. “It doesn’t matter.”
Tyler found his boxer briefs and yanked them on. “Ellie, wait.”
I turned on my heels, rushing down the hall and pushing out the door. As promised, Marco was waiting for me in a rented Lexus with my sister looking freshly fucked and content in the passenger seat. I slid into the back, and Marco pulled away just as Tyler burst through the door with just a towel wrapped around his waist.
“Don’t stop,” I said, hearing Tyler scream my name until we turned the corner a block away.
“You might as well turn off your phone until you can change your number,” Finley said. “That’s what I had to do with Sterling. Are you going to your apartment, or the chateau?”
My phone buzzed, and I scrambled to turn it off.
“Told you so,” Finley said. She sniffed her hair and made a noise, disgusted. “Agh, I still smell like him.”
“Shut the fuck up, Fin. Just shut up.”
Marco drove me to the MountainEar. By the time I climbed the stairs, put on a T-shirt and sweatpants, and washed my face and brushed my teeth, Tyler’s truck had slid into a parking spot, and he was banging on the back door.
I looked down at him from my window. He was wearing just a T-shirt and jeans, his boots on but untied. I could see his breath puffing out in white clouds, and he rubbed his hands together between knocks.
“Ellie!” he yelled. “I’m not fucking leaving. Open the door!”
I unlatched the window and pushed it up without effort, leaning on the windowsill as I peered down at Tyler. “I’m not mad.”
He looked up at me. “Then let me come up.”
He held out his hands. “It’s fucking freezing out here.”
“Then get in your truck and go home.”
“I didn’t fuck your sister! I was in the shower this morning. You stumbled to Taylor’s room, so I slept in there with you. I held you in my arms all fucking night. Taylor must have slept in my room and your psychotic sister must have crawled in bed with him, thinking it was me. You caught Finley with Taylor!”
I frowned, knowing I could tell them apart by now, but I had just woken up and was upset. Maybe…
“Just let me come up. Please? I’m gonna start losing fingers soon.”
“You’re going to let Taylor take the fall for you? This is beyond fooling your teachers in school, don’t you think?”
“I swear to God. Just let me come up so I can explain. We’ll call Taylor if you want.”
“Ellie, please? It’s my birthday.” His dimple appeared, but I stayed strong.
“Then go find your brother and celebrate it.”
He shook his head, smiling. “I want to spend it with you. Even if that means I spend the day trying to figure out what the hell happened last night.”
“Then let me in,” he said, his smile fading. “I can’t leave. It’ll ruin my whole day.”
“I think you ruined your day when you slept with my sister!”
“I didn’t sleep with your sister! Goddammit!” he yelled, kicking the door.
Tyler perched his hands on his hips, breathing hard. He shook his head, and then looked up. “Open this door, Ellie, or I’ll kick it in, I swear to God.”
He held out his hands. “And your sister’s a bitch.”
I closed the window and stomped downstairs, twisting the bolt lock and opening the door. Tyler passed me, jogging up to the apartment. By the time I walked into the living room, he was shivering on my sofa, wrapped in the comforter off my bed.
I rolled my eyes and turned on the Keurig.
“I almost got hypothermia over this,” he said.
“I didn’t have much time, considering my brother busts into the bathroom to tell me a half-ass version of the story, and I had to run after you in a towel down the block and then back. I grabbed the first clothes I saw, put them on, and ran out the door. The only woman I touched last night was you. You have to believe me.”
“I’m making you a cup of coffee, and then you’re leaving.”
Tyler stood. “C’mon! You know this isn’t right! Think about it!”
I let my hands fall to my thighs. “So what? My sister came back and deduced it was your room because of our pictures on the wall, undressed, and climbed into bed with a sleeping, naked Taylor?”
“Maybe! I have no idea, but that’s more likely than me mistaking her for you.”
The Keurig beeped, and I placed a mug under the spout and a K-cup in the holder, pressing the BREW button. I opened the fridge, grabbing a beer and Tyler’s favorite hazelnut creamer.
I handed him the mug, cracking open my beer. “I didn’t stir it,” I snapped.
“Goddamn,” he said, offended. “I thought you said you weren’t mad.”
I glowered at him while he sipped the coffee with a tiny grin on his face. “There is nothing funny about this!”
He laughed once in disbelief. “I would never do that to you. Thank God your sister can’t tell us apart, but I’m a little concerned that you can’t either.”
I crossed my arms. “I’d just woken up and walked in on you and my sister. I might not have been seeing clearly.”
“You gotta know that. I carried you to bed. You were wasted. I wouldn’t have left you. The only thing I can’t figure out is where Falyn was.”
His phone rang, and he answered. “Did you find her?” He nodded, looking at me. “Putting you on speaker.”
“Ellie?” Taylor said as Tyler held out the phone. “Falyn went to the store to get a few things for a birthday breakfast. She let Finley in. She doesn’t know everything, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell her. I didn’t sleep with your sister, and this could get really complicated trying to explain.”
I covered my eyes with my hand. “I won’t say anything. I’m sorry, Taylor.”
Tyler hung up the phone and slid it into his back pocket. “Come here,” he said, holding out his hands.
I kept my face covered. “I’m so sorry.”
“This isn’t your fault,” he said. He walked over to me and wrapped the blanket around us both.
I pressed my forehead against his chest, breathing in stale cigarette smoke and his cologne.
I left him to sit on the couch, lighting a cigarette. He sat next to me, letting his head fall back against the wall. “I’m not sure which one of you should hate the other more.”
“You heard her. We’re sisters. We can’t hate each other.”
“I can hate her,” he grumbled. “I have to know how she crawled into bed with Taylor without him knowing. He must have thought she was Falyn coming back to bed.”