Echoes of silence unquie.., p.13
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       Echoes of Silence (Unquiet Mind Book 1), p.13

           Anne Malcom
 

  Mom looked at me with twinkling eyes; then she shook her head. But not to my statement, to some internal thought. “Yeah, kid, he’s my person,” she murmured. She clutched my hands. “But you’re my one and only, you know that, right? My main person. No one ever knocks you off that spot,” she promised.

  I blinked away any prickling of tears at her words to roll my eyes. “Well, duh. I’m like the most amazing daughter ever. Even a hot biker couldn’t knock me off that spot,” I responded. “Plus, I’m your meal ticket for when you retire. You need to stay on my good side.” I smiled at her, happiness radiating from me at the fact she’d finally told me, the fact my mom finally had her person. The thought of her revealing her secret made the issue of my date with Killian that more pressing. I swallowed that. Mom needed to have some time digesting what just happened.

  I stood up. “Got homework to do,” I declared, which was actually correct. I’d neglected it for far too long. I needed to get it done before... tonight. I glanced at Mom and my eyes prickled once more. I’d never realized how badly I wanted this for her, this happiness, this feeling. Maybe I never realized it because I never understood what she’d been missing out on the years she spent bringing me up, working her ass off. Now, I knew.

  “Glad you’re happy, Mom,” I told her quietly.

  She smiled. “Was always happy, kid,” she replied firmly.

  I thought on it a second. She was right. She was always smiling, laughing, content. Happy. But there was a different kind of happiness that came with what I guessed she and Zane had. I winked at her and quickly left the room. I felt like skipping. I’d always been happy too. Mom gave me a beautiful life. We may not have had material things, sometimes it was a struggle, I knew, but it was a good life. We had Ava and Steve, and we had each other. Now we got more. I sat down at my desk and got started on my calculus homework with a huge smile on my face.

  ****

  It was time. Calculus was done. English Lit was done. Even biology was done. My room was cleaned. I’d procrastinated enough. Almost my entire afternoon was spent doing it. I’d taken a break to go and chat to Amy, Rosie, and Lucy, women who were not only exceptionally beautiful but super nice too. Amy was married to Brock, and I was pretty sure Rosie was Cade’s sister. That was another thing that made me happy, Mom having friends connected to Zane and the Sons of Templar. Amber seemed to have welcomed us with open arms.

  I just needed to bite the bullet.

  I dragged my feet to the living room and leaned against the doorjamb, watching Mom fold laundry for a second before I built up the courage to speak.

  “Mom?” I said finally, in a small voice.

  She glanced up at me. “I’ll give you a hundred dollars right here and now if you agree to fold the laundry for the remainder of your time living at home,” she said seriously.

  I screwed up my nose, happy for the respite from my intended topic. “That’s like one hundred dollars over two years. That’s like... fifty bucks a year.” I raised my eyebrow. “That’s slave labor. Even Cinderella would have gotten more pocket money than that,” I informed her, sitting down on the sofa.

  “Cinderella got fancy shoes and a prince for a husband out of the deal,” she shot back.

  “So in addition to the hundred dollars, you’re going to wave a magic wand to get me horrifically uncomfortable shoes and a prince for a husband?” I clarified.

  Mom shook her head. “Of course not. I don’t need a wand to give you horrifically uncomfortable shoes. Just check out my closet. Fashion is pain,” she declared. “And on the prince front, I don’t doubt your ability to snag one of your own, though you better hurry up. All the good ones are getting snaffled up,” she teased.

  I swallowed, my throat was sandpaper. Mom had unintentionally veered us back to my dreaded topic.

  “What’s up, sweetie?” she asked. She knew me too well.

  Just do it. “I was wondering…” I dragged out the words, twisting my hands together. I glanced up at Mom and took a breath. “Well, I’ve got a date,” I said quickly, my whole body sagging with relief as soon as I spoke the words.

  Mom seemed to sink back in relief too. “So no tattoo?” she asked weirdly.

  I gave her a look of horror. How could Mom get a tattoo out of that? “Of course not. I’m only sixteen.”

  Now that she seemed to be comforted by my lack of ink, she grinned. “Thanks for reminding me. I would have forgotten otherwise.”

  I needed to make sure we didn’t veer off track like we did so often. “So the date, it’s okay with you?” I clarified.

  “Of course it’s not okay with me,” she replied, and my stomach dropped. “I’d rather you become a spinster and lived with me until you were old and wrinkly, but I knew it was a long shot,” she continued, quelling my panic. “So I guess it’s okay as long as you’re home by ten and don’t get frisky.” Her tone was light, but I knew Mom was serious about that particular detail. “So who’s the lucky guy?” she asked with a smile.

  My heart pounded even thinking about him.

  “Killian,” I told her, smiling. I couldn’t help myself. Since telling Mom we were going on a date, it was real. Like properly real. I had a strange yearning to cartwheel across the room. I suppressed the urge, mainly because of the way my Mom’s face dropped a smidgeon.

  That fear came back at the look on her face. The fear that she wouldn’t like Killian. Such a thing would likely split me in two.

  “He’s not taking you on his motorcycle, is he?” she asked, with an edge to her voice.

  I patted Mom’s hand in an effort to reassure her. “No, Mom, he knows your rule. He’s got a car.”

  My efforts to reassure her seemed to backfire. Mom raised her eyebrows in suspicion. “A car and a motorcycle? How does a teenage kid afford that?”

  I bristled at what was thinly veiled by her words. “He didn’t steal them, if that’s what you’re saying,” I snapped, feeling protective over Killian and irrationally annoyed at Mom immediately pigeonholing him.

  She held her hands up in mock surrender. “I didn’t say anything of the sort.”

  “That’s what you were thinking,” I retorted sharply. “He built the car from the ground up with his dad, and Cade gave him the motorcycle to do up when it was a pile of junk,” I explained, needing Mom to know the context, to know there was more to him than what she thought.

  Again, my efforts went awry.

  “You know a lot about the kid for someone who hasn’t been on a date with him,” she teased with a raised brow.

  My mouth suddenly went dry once more, with guilt. “Yes, because we talked first. Had actual conversations. Became friends. Isn’t that what you taught me to do?” I asked defensively, mostly to hide my guilt over the fact we’d already surpassed the “friend” stage.

  “Take a chill pill, dude. I was only teasing,” Mom said with a grin. “Let’s move along to the most important question.”

  I eyed her skeptically, waiting for more attacks on Killian’s character. Or waiting for the question “Where do you buy a shotgun?”

  “What?” I asked finally.

  Mom grinned. “What are you wearing?”

  ****

  “Okay, out,” I commanded, directing Mom to the door.

  She had the audacity to look offended. “What? Why?” she whined.

  “Because you are absolutely no help,” I informed her, with my hand on my hip.

  She put her hand on her chest. “I take that as a personal affront, an attack on my very character. My fashion prowess is highly sought after, and you’re getting it for free and trying to get rid of me? Well, I never!”

  I regarded her. “Your fashion prowess may be sought after, but you keep asking to borrow things instead of actually helping me pick an outfit,” I pointed out.

  “You should take it as a compliment. You’ve got great taste and a highly covetable wardrobe. Comes from your mother, of course.”

  I held back a smile. “Out,” I commanded.
>
  She pretended to jut her lip out. “Okay, okay. I’m just a call away if things get overwhelming.” Her eyes turned serious and she rested her hands on my shoulders. “You could wear a paper sack and still be too beautiful and too good for any boy,” she said quietly. “Please don’t though. We’ve got a reputation to uphold,” she added, giving my shoulders a squeeze and leaving the room.

  I sank back onto the bed when she left, staring at the ceiling. I was still for a moment before I grabbed my phone and put it to my ear.

  “I’ve got a date,” I blurted as soon as my best friend answered.

  “Holy shit, a date?” Emma repeated, not bothered by my lack of greeting.

  “Yep. In—” I paused to look at the time on my phone “—less than two hours. I have no idea what to wear, what kind of makeup to do, what to say, and what to do with my hands. Did I mention I have no idea what to wear?” I babbled, feeling panic creep up my throat. “Oh my God. I can’t go on a date. I’m canceling.”

  “Breathe,” Emma commanded calmly.

  I paused, doing as she said.

  “Okay, now that you’re not in danger of going postal, I need you to fill me in,” she ordered after a moment. “Last I heard from you, you had an awesome gig and I was gearing myself up to have a rock star best friend and to potentially have a fling with one of your bandmates.”

  I had kept Killian and my... thing a bit of a secret, even from Emma, my best friend. The closest person I had in my life in addition to Mom and Ava. We didn’t talk every day, but when we did talk, it was for hours and we’d talk about everything under the sun.

  Except Killian.

  I felt a little blossom of guilt at keeping this secret.

  “You can’t have a fling with any of the boys,” I snapped. “It would turn ugly and I simply couldn’t stand the drama.”

  “Don’t change the subject,” Emma ordered, knowing me too well. “Date. Boy. Spill.”

  I sighed and, like my mouth had a mind of its own, I did just that, spilled every last detail of my... thing with Killian.

  “And now that we finally have an official date, everything seems different and new, and I feel like I might vomit,” I finished, breathless.

  There was a pause at the other end of the phone, a long one.

  “Wow,” Emma said finally. “I want to be raging at you, my best friend for keeping such a colossal secret from me for so long, but I also have an urge to do a happy dance around the coffee shop I’m currently standing in, regardless of the hot barista who will think I’m a dork for doing so.”

  I braced. “Which one’s winning out?”

  I didn’t get a response, but I did hear the unmistakable sounds of Emma’s happy dance.

  I grinned.

  “Okay, I’m back. You totally owe me because the barista definitely thinks I’m an insane person. You’re taking back the ban on the bandmates,” she declared.

  “The ban stands.”

  She sighed dramatically into the phone. “You better introduce me to Prince Harry when you play for the Queen for her 100th jubilee,” she relented.

  I grinned wider. “Done.”

  “Okay, so it sounds like we don’t have much time, so I can’t talk as much as I would like to about this Killian character,” she said quickly. “I will say one thing. I’m happy for you, Lexie. Ecstatic. You’ve always been a knockout, and the idiots at school were always too blind chasing empty-headed teenagers to notice. It sounds like you’ve found one who knows you’re worth noticing.”

  I sucked in a breath. “He’s the one worth noticing.”

  “Uh-uh, none of that. You’re the catch. He better treasure you, or I’ll come down there and beat sense into him myself, after Mia does of course,” she stated. “We’ll have a debrief after. For now, go to your closest, get your favorite pair of faded jeans that make your butt look good and your bell-sleeved, plunge-neck Free People blouse.”

  I pushed myself off my bed and retrieved the items.

  “Got them?” she asked.

  “Got them,” I confirmed.

  “Good. Now you’ll borrow your mom’s dusty pink wedges to go with this amazing outfit,” she declared. Emma knew both Mom’s and my closets almost as well as we did, considering our home was like a second home to her. She didn’t have the greatest home life, so Mom made sure she was always welcome for sleepovers and dinners as often as possible.

  “Hair,” she mused. “Bohemian fishtail,” she decided finally.

  “Killian likes my hair down,” I informed her.

  There was a pause. “Well, this is the 21st century, and we do not do our hair in accordance to male preferences. We do it according to fashion,” she replied.

  I couldn’t help but giggle. “Yes, ma’am.”

  “Don’t go heavy on the makeup. You don’t need it. Just mascara, some highlighter, blush, and pale pink gloss. That stuff I gave you, so it doesn’t smudge when you guys kiss,” she instructed, having a lot of experience testing kiss-proof gloss. She was nowhere near as inexperienced as me on the boy front.

  “You’re a lifesaver.” I felt slightly less like losing my lunch.

  “It’s what best friends are for.”

  “You need to come down and stay. I miss you more than anything,” I choked out, having a serious bout of homesickness for my friend. I didn’t actually miss DC, just the people in it.

  “As soon as I rake up enough cash, I’m contemplating moving down there,” she joked.

  I noticed an edge to her voice that had me worried things with her parents might be getting worse, But I didn’t get time to question her on it.

  “We will talk tonight, or at the latest tomorrow. For now, go and make yourself pretty, not that you aren’t naturally like that, bitch,” she teased. “Love you long time.”

  “Love you longer,” I whispered back, before hanging up.

  I stared at the outfit on the bed and took a breath. “Okay, let’s do this,” I muttered to myself, swallowing my butterflies.

  I only had one shoe on when I heard knocking on the door. I rushed into the living room, hopping as I attempted to put my other shoe on.

  “I’m not ready, I’m not ready,” I chanted in distress. “Answer the door, Mom. Stall him,” I ordered before darting back into my room.

  I managed to get the other shoe on while rushing back to my room without doing myself permanent injury. I shoved some items into my fringed purse and moved to face the mirror. I had done as Emma instructed and tamed my curls into a loose fishtail braid, which tumbled down one shoulder. I had torturously made it so various curls wisped out, as if of their own accord. My makeup was light. I decided against the blush, knowing my body would be doing the job of that particular cosmetic product as a result of my nerves. I just dusted some glittery shadow on my lids and swiped mascara. I quickly applied my candy-floss-colored lip gloss and pulled at my top self-consciously.

  It was kickass. Mom and I had fought over it at a discount store. I’d won. It was gypsy and boho and way more me. The sleeves were long and flowy, but the print was delicate. It clinched in at the waist and draped down past my hips. It was the neckline that had me pausing. I usually wore a cami underneath, but I had decided against it tonight, so I was more than aware of how plunging it was. I wasn’t exactly lacking in the chest department, but I’d never shown so much of it, on a date no less.

  I jolted out of my thoughts. It was too late to change anyway. I took a deep breath, trying not to pass out, trying to shut up the hundred and one thoughts swirling through my brain. I succeeded in not passing out, but the thoughts wouldn’t be quiet.

  There was nothing for it. I slowly walked out my door and padded toward the living room, hearing the low murmuring of voices. I really hoped they were getting on, and Mom had not threatened to kill him or anything equally ridiculous.

  My thoughts stopped the moment I reached the living room. The moment Killian’s eyes locked on mine. He stood from the sofa, not taking his eyes off me.


  At that moment, my mind was quiet. The intensity in his gaze made everything else insignificant. It made me feel like I was ten feet tall. Like I was beautiful. Like I was his.

  “Freckles,” he murmured, his eyes traveling down the length of me. “You’re beautiful,” he declared as his eyes met mine once more.

  A flame burnt up my neck and onto my cheeks at his words and his soft, husky voice, in front of my mom no less. I was glad I’d forgone the blush.

  I watched silently as he crossed the room and grasped my hand. “Have her home by ten, Mia,” Killian told Mom, tearing his eyes away from me.

  I had a split second to take him in. He looked amazing, like usual. He was wearing faded blue jeans and a Grateful Dead tee that I coveted immediately. I also appreciated the heck out of the way it hugged his muscled torso. He wore his trademark leather jacket, despite the warm California weather.

  Killian gently pulled me out the door. I waved at Mom over my shoulder. She grinned sadly, and then we were outside.

  I didn’t think of much as Killian dragged me across our lawn in the direction of his car.

  My eyes traveled across the street where Zane was swinging off his motorcycle. His blank and serious gaze was locked on Killian, or maybe Killian’s hand, which was intertwined with mine. I gave him an exaggerated wave and a smile. Killian, who had been watching me, followed this gesture. He gave Zane a chin lift before taking us to the passenger door of his car and opening it for me.

  I smiled up at him. “How chivalrous,” I said.

  Killian’s returning smile was electrifying. He tipped an imaginary hat.

  I giggled as I got in the car, and he closed the door after me. While he rounded the car, I looked over at Zane, who was staring,—no, glaring over at Killian. I didn’t have time to think about that because Killian was in the car and we were moving. It was right then that I realized I’d never been in an enclosed space alone with Killian before. We’d had lunch together multiple times in a cafeteria full of people. We’d been alone together, but that was out in the open, surrounded by space. Now the fact we were actually alone, just the two of us, was all the more evident. I felt butterflies and fiddled with my hands nervously, unsure of what to do, what to say.

 
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