Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame


  “No way,” he says once he realizes what my next move is. “You’re gonna owe me new tires after this.”

  And he’s right. I will owe him new tires after this, because I’m about to burn the hell out of them.

  The engine revved enough, I hit the accelerator and floor it. The car spirals to the right, the tires burning against the ground, screeching. I laugh as the car continues to swerve, and when I glance in the rearview mirror, I smile proudly as clouds of smoke engulf the vehicle. As swirling loops appear on the ground, I decide to quit burning anymore rubber, and I hit the brakes.

  We sit in silence for a few seconds, my heart beating rapidly from excitement, and we wait for the smoke to clear. “Okay, I’m done,” I announce. I can’t wipe the smirk off my lips.

  “Where the hell did you learn how to do that?”

  “Dean’s dad showed me,” I admit. It was back in March, and we spent hours on it until I finally got it right.

  Tyler furrows his eyebrows at me as though he doesn’t believe a single word I’m saying. “Hugh taught you how to spin donuts?”

  “Yeah,” I say with a shrug. I still feel rather smug about my impressive skills, however. Tyler most definitely wasn’t expecting it. “He was about to replace the tires on his truck so he let Dean and me wreck the old ones first.”

  “Hmm,” he says. “Alright, switch.”

  As he steps out of the car and walks around the hood to the driver’s side, I climb over the center console and nestle myself into the passenger seat. I don’t bother to pull my shirt or my hoodie back on, but I do tug on my seatbelt. We’ve got the half-hour ride home now.

  But in Tyler’s mind, the stunt show isn’t over quite yet. He shuts the car door behind him, pulling on his seatbelt and glancing in the rearview mirror as he intensely studies the area behind us. He doesn’t give me any warning whatsoever, and just as I’m narrowing my eyes at him suspiciously, he puts the car in reverse and steps on the gas. He cranes his neck to look back over his shoulder, his eyes zeroed in on the road behind us as he stares out the rear windshield. The car begins to pick up speed as we fly backward in a straight line, and as Tyler quickly turns back around to face the front, he murmurs, “Hold on.”

  The second he says this, he slams on the brakes, spinning the wheel in a full circle. The car spins around 180 degrees to the right, and the instant we’re facing the direction we just reversed in, Tyler slams the gearshift up into first. The momentum from reversing at such a speed is transferred quickly, and we’re suddenly driving along the same straight line, only now we’re no longer backward. Tyler brakes just as we reach the exit of the parking lot.

  I blink at him and reach up to switch on the overhead light. It makes the emerald in his eyes seem even brighter. “Since when could you do J-turns?”

  “Since when did you know what J-turns are?” Tyler shoots back, right before he grasps my face in his hands and presses his lips to mine again.

  It doesn’t feel like the middle of the night and it doesn’t feel like we just did all of this a few hours ago. I’m kissing him back and it all feels so familiar now that I can’t help but smile against his lips. I like that none of this feels foreign anymore. I like that it just feels normal. Not wrong. Normal. Gripping onto Tyler’s hoodie, I sit up on my knees and pull him toward me, pressing my chest to his. The space available is limited, but we persevere, and although cramped, it doesn’t prevent Tyler from brushing his hands over my skin, grabbing my hips.

  “I’m starting to wish my car had a backseat,” he murmurs against my jaw with a slight laugh.

  With the roll of my eyes and a seductive smile, I whisper, “We can improvise.”

  The engine’s still running, but neither of us seem to pay any attention. I reach back up to turn off the overheard light again while Tyler’s hand rests on the clasp of my bra. He’s getting better, a lot less fumbling, and just as he’s about to unclasp it, my phone rings.

  It vibrates in the back pocket of my jeans and I freeze. I share a rather perplexed glance with Tyler as I pull back from him, reaching for the device. I’m taken aback when I see Rachael’s name flashing across the screen.

  Tyler slumps back in his seat in defeat as he runs a hand through his hair, resting the other on the steering wheel. “Goddamn, Eden.”

  “It’s not my fault!” I apologize. I don’t know what Rachael could possibly be calling for at this hour and, slightly irritated by the interruption, I answer the call sounding a lot more grouchy than I’d like. “What?”

  “Woah, Eden, you sound like such a moody-ass New Yorker,” Rachael’s voice chirps back. “I haven’t spoken to you in forever and you answer my call like that?”

  “Rachael,” I say slowly. “You realize it’s almost four here, right? As in, the middle of the night?”

  “Oh my God, no way!” she explodes, letting out a small gasp. Rachael often forgets the time difference. The first week I got here, she almost always called me when it was after midnight in New York. No matter how many times I remind her of the three-hour difference, she never seems to remember. “I totally forgot. It’s barely one here yet. Did I wake you up?”

  “No, I’m awake.” Tyler fixes me with an impatient glare and I shrug back at him. I can’t just hang up on her.

  “Okay, so I have to talk to you about Tuesday.”

  “Hurry up,” he mouths.

  I wave him away with my hand, crossing my legs on the seat and pressing my phone harder against my ear. “What do you need to talk to me about?” Tuesday is when Rachael and Meghan arrive in New York for Meg’s belated birthday trip. They’ll be here for five days, and I can’t wait to see them. Right now, however, my thoughts aren’t exactly focused on my friends coming to the city. They’re focused on Tyler and the fact that he’s glowering at me. It’s rather distracting.

  “We’re staying at the Lowell Hotel,” Rachael informs me, voice clear and confident. I never expect anything less of her. “I’m looking at the map right now and it’s on the intersection of Sixty-third Street and Madison Avenue. You got any idea where that is?”

  I try to picture the grid layout of the borough. Madison Avenue, I’m pretty sure, is only three blocks west from Tyler’s apartment. Sixty-third Street is eleven blocks south. “Tyler’s apartment’s on Seventy-fourth Street. North of your hotel.”

  “So we’re close?” she asks.

  “I guess?”

  “Great. Here’s what I need you to do.” Pausing, she takes a deep breath while I sigh away from the phone. Knowing Rachael, I shouldn’t be too surprised by any requests she makes. They’re often unrealistic. This one, however, isn’t. “On Tuesday night, can you come by our hotel? Tyler too. I’ll text you the room number when we check in and whatever. We really wanna see you guys.”

  “Sure, we’ll come by.” Out of the corner of my eye, Tyler sits upright and arches his eyebrows, questioning my plural use. He wants to know what I’m dragging him into. I’ll explain later. “Rachael, it’s really late.”

  “Oh God, yeah. Sorry, Eden,” she apologies, and for once she sounds genuinely sincere. Usually her apologies have to be forced out of her. “Night, babe.”

  I hang up the call and sigh, but then I begin to smile. I make a point of shutting my phone off completely, throwing it to the floor and stretching over the center console to run my fingertips along the edge of Tyler’s jaw. He doesn’t look impressed to start with, but the second I glance up at him as innocently as I can from beneath my eyelashes, he seems to forgive me for interrupting our moment, because he reaches for me and picks up exactly where we left off.

  He doesn’t bother to ask what we’re doing on Tuesday.

  20

  It’s just after eight on Tuesday evening when Tyler and I make our way to the Lowell on Sixty-third and Madison. The sun is slowly starting to dip behind the buildings of Manhattan as Tyler drives south along Park Avenue. He’s wearing a pair of black shades as he drives, with one hand on the wheel and the other toying at his h
air, his elbow propped up against the door.

  “I think they’re punking us,” he murmurs after a while. “The Lowell? Give me a break.”

  I glance over at him. “What?”

  “C’mon.” He scoffs, and despite the fact that I can’t see behind his shades, I can tell he’s rolling his eyes. “Rachael and Meghan are college students. You think they can afford that place? I mean, Meghan just got back from Europe. She’s probably only got ten bucks to her name.”

  “Tyler, you were a sixteen-year-old high school student when you bought this car with that big old trust fund of yours,” I remind him, and then, to prove my point, I add, “You really think sixteen-year-olds can afford cars like these?”

  “I’m just saying,” he says, ignoring my comment.

  It only takes us ten minutes to reach Sixty-third Street, and Tyler reverses into a free spot in one swift maneuver, right in front of the Santa Fe Opera. My parking skills aren’t on a par with his—I’m still getting used to his ability to park in less than six seconds.

  While I step out of the car, Tyler throws his sunglasses onto the dashboard right before slamming the car door behind him, and I can’t help but arch my eyebrows as I follow him along Sixty-third Street. I’m not sure what his problem is.

  The Lowell is only a few buildings down, just off the corner of Madison Avenue. With red bricking and gold-plated doors and a gorgeous white canopy, I stare at it from outside for a while before Tyler groans and pulls me inside by my wrist. A doorman greets us and holds open the door, welcoming us to the hotel and wishing us a great evening. I get the impression that Tyler doesn’t particularly want to be here when he sighs. Right now, he’s either anti-luxury-hotels or anti-Rachael-and-Meghan.

  The lobby is small but inviting, with plenty of seating, and Tyler and I briskly whisk past the front desk and head for the elevator. Rachael and Meghan’s suite is on the tenth floor, so that’s exactly where we head. Tyler folds his arms across his chest and leans back against the hand railing.

  “What’s your problem?” I ask, finally.

  “Why am I here?” he replies without missing a beat.

  I furrow my eyebrows, perplexed at his question. “They’re your friends.”

  “Eden,” he says, “I don’t think I’ve spoken to Rachael more than six times in the space of a year and I haven’t spoken to Meghan at all. Neither have you. Admit it.”

  I shrug. He’s right in a way. Meghan doesn’t particularly make much effort to talk to any of us anymore. It’s almost like she was glad to leave LA. The only time I really got the chance to talk to her was when she occasionally came home. Even I don’t feel as close to her as I used to be. “Okay, sure, Meghan’s a little more difficult to stay in touch with,” I admit.

  “C’mon,” Tyler says with a harsh laugh, “she clearly doesn’t wanna deal with any of us anymore. She’s all about Utah and that Jared guy. Are they married yet? Because they sure as hell act like they are.”

  “Jesus, Tyler.”

  “Look,” he says quietly. “I just think it’s awkward. I’m not friends with them anymore. It’s just what happens.”

  The elevator comes to a smooth stop and the door pings open, cutting our conversation short. I’m not sure I would have mustered up a reply, anyway. Tyler still looks moody as hell and he doesn’t even attempt to hide it as we head along the tenth floor. I pull out my phone again as we walk, double-checking Rachael’s texts to ensure I’ve got the details right, and then draw Tyler to a halt outside the correct door. I rap my knuckles against it.

  As we wait, my eyes drift to Tyler. He’s staring at the door, expression now nonchalant, and I can’t help but study every inch of his face. His tanned complexion and his dark, tousled hair that he blames on his Hispanic genes, his vibrant emerald eyes that alternate between dull and bright, his perfectly defined jaw with just the right amount of stubble . . .

  All of that . . . All of that is mine.

  “What?” he says, catching my stare. Those green eyes gaze into mine.

  I can’t even begin to hide my smile, and as my lips curve further up into a sheepish grin, I just shrug. “Nothing.”

  The door unlocks then. It swings open so fast it creates a breeze, and before I’ve even had the chance to look up I’m being yanked over the threshold and into someone’s arms.

  I recognize the perfume and the shampoo scent in a heartbeat. It’s Rachael’s, and it has been for as long as I can remember. Her long hair gets in my face as she hugs me tight all while squealing, and I can do nothing but laugh against her shoulder. It really is good to see her. It reminds me of my life back in Santa Monica. The past four weeks, I’d almost forgotten about it entirely.

  “God, Rachael,” I murmur, “are you trying to break my arm?” Still laughing, I manage to wrangle my way out of her firm hold and then take a step back so that I can study her.

  Her hair’s a few shades darker than I remember and has clearly had several inches trimmed off, but I don’t mention it. I remember Dean said she wasn’t all that impressed with it. Other than that, she’s my same old best friend who’s wearing a huge grin. “I’ve missed you!”

  “I’ve missed you, too,” I say. I hadn’t realized that I had until now. I’ve just been so distracted by everything else going on, and now I’m starting to feel guilty.

  “Tyler!” Rachael’s eyes widen as she stares at him for a moment, and I honestly can’t blame her. He looks like he’s aged half a decade in the time that he’s been gone. He’s lingering awkwardly at the door, but Rachael steps around me to pull him into a hug, too. It’s only brief, and once she draws away from him she pulls him into the suite by his arm and clicks the door shut. “I can’t believe it’s been a year!”

  “Yeah, it’s crazy,” Tyler says. There’s a small smile on his lips now, and I can’t figure out if it’s genuine or fake. Either way, he no longer looks uncomfortable.

  While they talk, I take a minute or so to check out the suite. It’s huge, and it looks like there are separate bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchenette. It’s all hardwood flooring with oriental rugs, and it all feels rather elegant and vintage, yet somehow modern at the same time. There’s some impressive artwork on the walls, but I don’t stare at it for long before I walk back over to Tyler’s side.

  “So is the subway safe?” Rachael asks him, eyes wide. “We won’t get shot or anything?”

  “Don’t worry about the subway,” Tyler says. I can tell he wants to roll his eyes at her, but he refrains. “Just don’t look like a tourist and you’ll be fine.”

  I glance around the suite again. Something’s missing. It takes me a second to realize, and when I do, I flash my eyes over to Rachael and interrupt their conversation. “Where’s Meghan?”

  Slowly, Rachael glances over. She almost smiles, but she bites it back and shrugs rather nonchalantly instead. “She brought back some virus with her from Europe. She literally couldn’t stop throwing up so she didn’t come.”

  “So you came all the way over here on your own?”

  The words have barely left my lips when someone throws their arms over my shoulders and Tyler’s, grabbing us tightly. I flinch at the abruptness of it, and before I even get the chance to turn around a voice is murmuring, “Hey, New Yorkers.”

  My heart stops. Not because of the momentary scare, but because of the voice. It’s one I recognize all too well.

  It’s Dean’s.

  Shrugging his arm off me, I spin around at the exact same time Tyler does, and I’m exactly right.

  Dean’s standing in front of me. There’s a huge grin plastered on his face and his dark eyes are sparkling as he steps toward me, wrapping his arms around me and hugging me tightly against his chest. I feel so numb that I can’t even hug him back. I just stand there, my lips parted in disbelief and my eyes wide. Over Dean’s shoulder, Tyler’s staring back at me, his face as pale as mine. We’re both thinking the exact same thing: I wish this wasn’t happening right now.

  “Sur
prise,” Dean whispers. His voice sends a chill down my spine as he buries his face into my hair, and it all feels so foreign now. I’m not used to Dean. I’m used to Tyler.

  Dean shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t be in New York with Tyler and me. He’s supposed to be in Santa Monica. I’m supposed to have two more weeks to figure out what I’m going to do about him. I’m not ready to deal with this now. Dean being here could ruin everything.

  When he finally lets go, he stares down at me in awe, shaking his head as he smiles. Wide and sincere. It hurts to see it. “God, I’ve missed you so much,” he says, and he presses his lips against mine.

  I’m taken aback at first, so surprised that I can’t even bring myself to pull away. I used to feel something when I kissed Dean, but now I feel nothing. I don’t experience any sort of rush. Dean kisses me softly but frantically, like he’s trying to remind himself of what he’s been missing, but I can’t return his energy. I don’t want to. To me, the kiss feels lifeless.

  I try to shoot Tyler an apologetic glance. His body has stiffened and his eyes have hardened, and he’s staring fiercely at us with a cold expression on his face. Out of nowhere he grabs Dean’s shoulder and pulls him back a step, breaking our kiss. I’m thankful.

  “Hey, man, are you forgetting about your best friend?” Tyler asks, and by the time Dean turns around to face him, he’s got a smile on his lips. I can see straight through it, though. I can still the furious glint in his eyes. I can still see the way the muscle in his jaw has tightened.

  Dean, however, can’t see anything but the smile on his best friend’s face. “Geez, what happened to your voice?”

  “New York City. Roommate from Boston,” Tyler says dryly. “Tends to mess up your accent.”

  Laughing, Dean draws him into a half-hug while they thump each other’s back, and when Dean steps back Tyler asks, “So why are you here?” He doesn’t bother to hide the harsh tone of his voice. Just folds his arms across his chest and raises his eyebrows at him, awaiting an answer.

 
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