Echoes of silence unquie.., p.11
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       Echoes of Silence (Unquiet Mind Book 1), p.11

           Anne Malcom

  “Your gig’s tonight.”

  I nodded.

  “You nervous, Freckles?” he asked softly.

  “I was,” I whispered, eyes on his. “Until now.” Nerves didn’t seem important when Killian was right there. Everything seemed insignificant apart from this immediate moment.

  Something moved behind his eyes at my words and his hand flexed at my forearm. “You don’t have nothin’ to be nervous about, Lexie. I don’t have any doubt in the world my girl’s gonna rock the roof off that place.”

  I swallowed. “What if I suck?” I whispered my greatest fear. “What if I freeze or fall over on stage or forget the lyrics to Pearl Jam?” I babbled in horror. “Any rock band that forgets the lyrics to Pearl Jam has dug their own grave.”

  My freak out was silenced by lips on mine. Killian’s lips. Every single thought left my body as he kissed me, slowly, gently, his arms going around my waist.

  When he pulled away, I felt like I might float off if it wasn’t for his hands holding me.

  “You’re not going to suck,” he promised against my mouth. “It’s physically impossible for you to be anything more than amazing.”

  “You’re amazing,” I blurted without thought.

  My mind caught up with my words. Shoot. Who says that?

  Killian grinned against my mouth. “Glad you think so, Freckles. It ups my chances of being able to stick around you for a bit longer.”

  “Chances are already through the roof,” I replied instantly. With him, I didn’t even think about playing hard to get or cloaking my true feelings. I had no choice but to be honest, whatever we had was too special to be tainted by dishonesty.

  Killian didn’t reply; he merely searched my face, that intense look returning.

  “Good,” he said finally. He kissed me softly on the mouth once more. “Break a leg, Freckles,” he murmured, then his warmth was gone.

  I stood there stock-still and watched him saunter back to his bike and roar off.

  “Lexie,” a voice jolted me back to the present.

  I focused my gaze on Wyatt, who was standing in front of me, guitar slung over his shoulder. He was grinning, a light of excitement in his gaze.

  “You ready to rock the roof off this place?” he asked.

  I gazed at him, then looked at the two other boys at my side. Noah handed me my guitar.

  I took it and slung it over my shoulder. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

  “Holy shit, that was awesome. We were awesome!” Sam all but yelled as we walked into the room backstage.

  I was grinning from ear to ear. I was afraid my heart was going to beat out of my chest and my feet didn’t seem to touch the floor.

  Sam stood in front of me, his hands grasping my shoulders, shaking me slightly. “You fucking rocked, my girl! Seriously, apart from me, you carried the whole thing,” he declared, yanking me into his arms for a quick hug before he released me, pacing around the room, smashing his drumsticks on every surface.

  Wyatt grinned and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. “You were brilliant, babe,” he said on a slightly quieter decibel. His eyes were almost glowing. “I think this was a pivotal point for us,” he predicted sagely.

  I smiled at him, then to Noah, who was relaxed on the sofa, his eyes lazy but a grin painting his face.

  “We were all great,” I said to them. “That was—”

  “Like smoking weed, doing a tequila shot, and having sex all at the same time,” Sam finished my sentence as I trailed off.

  We all looked at him. He looked mildly chastised. “Or what I imagine it would feel like doing those things, considering I’m underage and all that,” he quickly backpedaled with a grin.

  Wyatt rolled his eyes and Noah shook his head. I giggled slightly, but I felt a small twinge at the fact I hadn’t done any of those things. Not that I particularly wanted to drink tequila or smoke weed. The other thing... I hadn’t thought that would be something that I’d think about. But now I felt a weird tingle at the base of my stomach as I touched my lips, thinking of Killian’s on mine.

  That’s what being on stage felt like. Not exactly kissing Killian, but the same principle. Everything fell away but the moment. I felt like there was no world outside of that, that this, that moment, it was natural, who I was. Where I was meant to be.

  “And,” Sam continued, unaware of my being lost in my head, “did you see the freaking guys from the Sons of Templar were here?” He was pacing around the room with electric eyes. He stopped and regarded each of us. “The Sons of Templar,” he repeated as if we didn’t hear him. He threw up his hands. “The fuckin’ badass bikers who basically rule our town came to watch us play? Like what? This will do awesome things for our image,” he declared.

  “Like we have an image,” Wyatt interjected with sarcasm. “Dude, this was our first show. It was kickass, I grant you that, but I doubt the biggest badasses this side of the country came here to see a high school band. More likely they came to drink beers or pick up chicks.”

  I chewed my lip. I had a different theory. While I was on stage belting out music that seemed to become a part of me, I didn’t notice much. My eyes caught my mom’s watery ones once or twice, but other than that, the crowd was a big blur. Apart from the line of hulking men at the bar. One man in particular. Zane. I’d been spending more time with him since I’d sat with him a few weeks ago. I’d pop over when I saw him in his garage and Mom was at work. We didn’t really say much; I just sat and watched him tinker with his bike. He’d explained some of the mechanics of it, and I even helped him with some stuff. For the most part, I just enjoyed the silence. My life was never quiet. Mom and I talked all the time. It was a constant stream of dialogue, even when we watched movies. School was the same, especially with Sam as one of my best friends. When I wasn’t talking to people, I was listening to music. Or reading. That was meant to be quiet, I supposed, but characters came alive in my head, speaking, shouting sometimes. It was the same when I was writing songs. My head was loud, sometimes deafening with the thoughts demanding to be put to music.

  So those moments with Zane, I had come to treasure them. I felt a connection with him. I saw something in him I didn’t understand. It was pain. I could see that much. But I couldn’t understand the depths of it. I couldn’t fathom the sort of agony that I thought I glimpsed behind his eyes. I had hope, some romantic hope that had been birthed from my world of fiction, that Mom could repair that pain. That he could repair the pain I sometimes saw in her.

  She hadn’t told me about... whatever they were yet. I didn’t want to push her. But I wanted, more than anything, for them to become... something.

  “Wait,” Sam said, eyes shooting to me. “Isn’t your mom like, friends with them. The Sons of Templar, I mean. Dude, is she dating one of them?” he asked with childlike excitement.

  Wyatt punched him. “Bro, you can’t ask Lexie something like that about her mom. Actually, I don’t think you should be allowed to talk about Mrs. Spencer anymore,” he decided.

  Sam rubbed his arm. “What? It was a compliment. Have you seen their old ladies? They’re hot. Mia’s joining some prestigious ranks,” he continued.

  “Stop talking, now,” Wyatt commanded tightly.

  I giggled, I couldn’t help it. I went to sit on the sofa beside Noah, who slung his arm around me and squeezed me tightly.

  “You were seriously awesome, Lexie,” he murmured in my ear.

  I grinned at him. “Right back at you, Noe.”

  Sam and Wyatt were still arguing in front of us. Wyatt was attempting to lecture him on the social niceties around referring to people’s moms as MILFS. Again.

  Noah looked at them, shaking his head. “This is our future.” He nodded his head to them. “Acting as mother and father to two petulant children.”

  “In addition to being wildly rich and famous,” I added dryly.

  Noah nodded. “Of course.”

  I laughed and rested my head on his shoulder. “I wouldn’t have it any othe
r way,” I whispered.

  “Me either,” Noah replied.

  Wyatt gave up on Sam and sat beside me on the sofa, muttering to himself and glaring at Sam.

  My eyes moved to the doorway and I leaped off the sofa. “Mom!” I yelled, launching myself across the room and into her arms. “That was awesome,” I exclaimed, pulling myself from her arms. “We totally rocked this place.”

  Mom’s eyes were twinkling and I knew she was about to cry.

  “Hell yeah,” Wyatt interjected, causing Mom to jerk slightly.

  “I think I carried your asses,” Sam teased. “It’ll definitely be me on the cover of Rolling Stone. I’m the best looking,” he informed the room.

  Mom’s tears were a memory thanks to my crazy friend; her face erupted in a grin.

  I poked my tongue out at Sam—a gesture of love in my opinion.

  Mom smiled at him and then moved her gaze around to rest on Noah for a moment. “You guys are definitely the best band I’ve seen live,” she declared with pride.

  I raised an eyebrow. I didn’t think Mom spent much time at rock concerts, but the pride in her voice was evident. I felt a happy heat at the bottom of my stomach at this.

  “Thanks, Mrs. S.” Sam grinned at her. “We totally appreciate you bringing us here and not getting all parental about the venue and time. We just gotta rock—you know, no rules,” he drawled like he had been performing concerts for decades, not minutes.

  I rolled my eyes at him but smiled. I was thankful for my mom. For the fact she let us do this and brought us here. I knew not many parents would do that.

  “Okay, guys, the only reason I’m not getting all ‘parental,’”—she air quoted Sam’s articulate term—“is because we’re blowing this joint in T minus two on account of the fact your delicate teenage sensibilities are yet to be corrupted by what’s in this bar, and I’m afraid long-term exposure could be dangerous for your music career and Clay’s reputation. Get your stuff,” she ordered with a grin.

  Because we knew how lucky we were, underage high school kids playing in a bar, we hustled with her request. We had to be well-behaved or at least maintain an illusion of good behavior in order to be invited back, that’s what Sam said. He had all sorts of ideas for our “reputation” that he intended on building. I helped them gather everything, not paying too much attention to Mom chatting to the club owner, Clay. I did notice he was standing pretty close to her. I felt a weird sort of irritation at that as I put my guitar in its case. Clay was nice; he was awesome in fact, letting us play at his bar. He was okay looking for an older guy, I guessed. He was tall and not as muscly as the hulk-like Sons of Templar men. He had silver in his black hair. He worked it, in a gruff, George Clooney type of way.

  That didn’t irritate me. He wasn’t right for Mom. Zane was. It was a completely irrational thought. I had no idea about what was going on with them, but it didn’t matter.

  “She’s not fuckin’ going anywhere with you,” a deep voice brought me out of my ponderings.

  I looked up and struggled to fight my grin at the owner of the statement with trademark profanity.

  Zane stood behind Mom, like right behind her, glaring at Clay. I didn’t exactly understand where Clay was meant to be going with Mom; maybe he’d asked her on a date. Whatever it was, it seemed like that would happen over Zane’s dead body.

  “Holy shit,” Wyatt muttered, his eyes on the glaring match between the two men.

  “Dude, as much as I’d love to see it, please don’t let Bull go postal on Clay. We need him for our career,” Sam whispered in my ear.

  Zane yanked my mom to his side and slid his arm around her neck. My eyes widened, and somewhere I did a little happy dance at what this gesture meant.

  “Called it,” Sam muttered from beside me.

  I ignored Sam and let that little warm feeling that sparked from my mom’s look of pride earlier and Mom and Zane in such a position grow bigger. You didn’t think they’d fit. My mom wasn’t tiny, but Zane dwarfed her. She looked glam in her black dress and high-heeled boots. He looked gruff and dangerous covered in tattoos and wearing all black and his motorcycle vest—cut, whatever. But they did fit.

  “Zane!” I said, hitching my guitar on my shoulder as I made it over to the little huddle that Mom had going on. “I’m so glad you came! This gig freaking ruled!” I said with a grin.

  Zane’s attention stayed on my mom for a split second, and then his eyes moved to me. He released Mom and took my guitar off my shoulder with much more ease than I ever handled it. It may have been like an extension of my arm, but it was heavy. My heart bloomed at the simple gesture. It was something a dad would do. I knew Zane wasn’t my dad. I wasn’t delusional, but it felt nice to have something so small feel so big.

  Zane’s big hand moved to yank one of my curls lightly. His face was blank, but he did one of those eye smile things that he only did with me and, when she wasn’t looking, my mom.

  “You were great, Lex,” he told me, his deep voice a soft rumble. “Got a lot of talent, girl.”

  I beamed at him. People said that to me all the time, but coming from him, someone who mattered, someone I wanted to think would matter to our family, it meant everything.

  “Dude, you’re in the Sons of Templar?” Sam interrupted the moment. “That’s like... freaking sick!”

  I couldn’t help but smile. Only Sam would call one of the biggest, baddest bikers I’d ever met “dude.”

  Zane’s attention moved to one of my best friends, his eye smile gone. His face was hard, scary even. Sam didn’t seem to blanche at all, but I deflated. I found myself wanting, more than anything, for Zane to like and respect my boys.

  “Okay, let’s get out of here, guys. You’ve all got parents to get home to, who I’m sure will think I’ve taken you to a rave if I don’t get you back soon,” Mom said, clapping her hands together, her voice interrupting the glare Zane was sending at Sam.

  I breathed a sigh of relief. My mom was a superhero at that moment.

  Clay opened the door, the boys, Sam most so, hustled out pretty quickly. I lagged behind a bit, waiting for Mom and wanting to say good-bye to Zane.

  Clay was staring at my mom, despite the glare Zane had directed back at him.

  “Offer’s still good, babe. Call me if you change your mind. Regardless”—his eyes cut to me and I swallowed at being involved in whatever this conversation was—“I’ve got her covered.”

  I looked to Mom. I had no idea what this meant. She looked just as confused, albeit a smidgeon more panicked than I felt.

  Zane looked to me, his glare slipping away for a spilt second before he turned to Mom. “Take Lexie to the car,” he commanded.

  “Zane,” Mom protested, looking between him and Clay. I guessed she was worried about potential fisticuffs.

  “To the fuckin’ car, babe,” he said, his tone brokering no argument.

  I smiled on the inside, despite the tense atmosphere. It was cool hearing Zane call Mom “babe.” That meant good things. Maybe not at that moment, but for the future, I was certain.

  Mom grabbed my hand after a small stare off with Zane. “Let’s go to the car, baby girl,” she said, a forced lightness in her voice. “Let the men have their... conversation.” She gave Zane a meaningful look and murmured something in his ear.

  I grinned on the inside once more.

  “Why was Zane so angry at Clay?” I asked with false innocence once we’d gotten into the parking lot.

  Mom looked behind her. “Angry? He wasn’t angry. He’s just a big, bad biker. They act angry with everyone. It’s their way of communicating. They’ve got their own language, like German. To the outsider, it seems like they’re constantly arguing, but it’s just their way. Call it alpha male speak.”

  I rolled my eyes and shook my head at her as we reached the car.


  I lay in bed, wide awake, unable to sleep. That was partly because my phone kept lighting up with texts from the boys.

; Sam: We need a name. We’re obviously going to be world famous. We need a name to reflect our future stardom.

  Wyatt: How about “Music & Tonic”?

  Sam: Be serious. Do you even want a Grammy?

  That wasn’t the only reason I couldn’t sleep. I was jazzed. It was like I’d had four coffees. Or a million. I couldn’t sit still; my mind was whizzing like a million bees were stuck in there. I was scribbling thoughts onto my notebook, sure half of them would be complete nonsense on rereading in the morning. I was also waiting. Waiting for the text, not from Sam or Wyatt, but from Killian. I’d carefully chosen my mint green pajamas and had tamed my previously rock star teased hair, leaving it down because I knew he liked it.

  I had no doubt that he’d come.

  But then 2:00 a.m. came and went.

  Then 3:00 a.m.

  Then came the doubt.

  You would think the day following a successful first gig played by my band would have had me floating on cloud nine, that I would be wandering around with a smile on my face.

  This was not the case.

  I had been up since some ungodly hour because sleep didn’t give me the solace from my mind. I couldn’t lapse into dreamland when my eyes always seemed to be peeking at my phone, waiting and hoping it would light up. It wasn’t healthy. It was downright desperate in fact. I was more than a little angry at myself. So I decided if my mind couldn’t be healthy, my body sure as heck would.

  Hence me being up before the sun, ridding our house of coffee on the thought that it was bad for both Mom and me and green tea was much better. I would have rid the house of junk food as well, had our cupboards had something more than a tub of peanut butter.

  We ate out a lot and hadn’t gone grocery shopping in a while.

  I thought about going for a run but deduced my traitorous feet might take me past Killian’s house, and I’d cement myself in becoming a crazy stalker. Instead, I decided on a kickboxing DVD which turned out to be a bad idea when my mom stumbled down the stairs and glared at me.

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