Echoes of silence unquie.., p.21
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       Echoes of Silence (Unquiet Mind Book 1), p.21

           Anne Malcom
 

  Stacy looked shocked. “Lexie, I don’t know what you’re—” She tried to play innocent.

  I cut her off again. “Don’t play dumb, Stacy. We both know you’re a lot of things, but not that,” I said sharply. “No matter how much you try to convince the world that head is empty, it’s full of bitterness and ugly thoughts. That’s not my problem. All that ugly will eventually reach the surface thanks to a little thing called karma. My problem is you making up lies about me. That’s not something I’d usually worry about, but when that lie causes people to get hurt, that’s too far,” I declared.

  “Lexie—”

  “Not finished,” I cut her off. “You decide to make yourself feel better by making people feel worse. That’s evil, but it’s not up to me to change. You involve me or Killian once more, I’ll make sure to change it. Trust me, you won’t like how I do that,” I promised.

  Stacy lost the innocent look on her face and her expression turned snide. “What, are you threatening me, Lexie?” she asked. “I’m so not afraid of a hippie-wannabe loser.”

  I laughed in a humorless way that I didn’t recognize. “I don’t care whether you’re afraid of me or not. I know you’re not stupid enough to be so fearless in the face of the Sons of Templar, and you’ve screwed with a member of that family, so I’d be careful.”

  Her eyes went wide at this, and I was happy to see my words hit their mark. I didn’t know how appropriate it was to be using an outlaw motorcycle club in high school drama, but I knew how much Zane cared about me. He made that clear this past week, taking care of Mom and me when we couldn’t take care of ourselves. He was protective, in an intense and kind of scary way. Kind of like Kill. I knew neither of them wanted to see me hurt. I wasn’t sure if it was wrong to capitalize on that or not, but I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Loss and sorrow had drained me, exhausted me.

  I didn’t let Stacy see that. I gave her one more glare before storming out of the bathroom.

  Kill pushed off the wall he was leaning on the moment I emerged.

  Sam looked at me. “Not a scratch,” he exclaimed. “Knew you’d own her.” He sounded proud.

  Kill took my head in his hands. “Not cool, Freckles, venturing the one place I can’t go,” he bit out. “Though I’d brave even the girls’ bathrooms for you,” he added, his eyes twinkling with amusement amidst concern.

  “No need for you to venture into such scary territory,” I reassured him, walking us away before Stacy could come out.

  “You okay?” he asked, pulling me into his shoulder.

  “No,” I replied honestly, making his arm flex. I gazed at him, then to Sam and the boys who were trailing behind us. “But I will be.”

  I was drooling. I really hoped I wasn’t drooling. I quickly wiped the side of my mouth as inconspicuously as I could.

  Nope, no drool.

  I didn’t know how it was possible because in front of me, right in front of me, was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen. Killian. Shirtless. I barely heard the crash of the waves or the boys arguing about something. There was only Killian. He was wearing cut-off black sweats that slung low on his hips. Way low. Low enough so I could see every inch of his muscled torso. Every defined, carved ridge. I knew he was muscled. I had run my hands along his arms and chest many times. I had felt his strength, but it was quite a different thing to see it, see those muscles free from the chains of clothes.

  He had been chatting to Wyatt, laughing about something when, as if he had some sixth sense, he turned his head. I had stopped slightly before the edge of the pier where the boys were congregated. We had decided to forgo the confines of the garage this Saturday afternoon and go swimming. We lived five minutes from the beach but never made the most of it. And Killian had the afternoon off, so of course he came. Wherever I went, he went, and wherever he went, I went. We had been attached at the hip since I’d gotten back from DC. I wouldn’t have been able to breathe if it had been any other way. Knowing how quickly people I cared about could get taken away meant I wanted to clutch the ones I had left as tight as I could. I would have moments when fear paralyzed me, stilled me with the realization that it could happen. Any moment the phone could ring, and my heart could break all over again. Killian chased away that fear with his kisses, his gentle touch, and his liquid eyes.

  Mom did it too with her smiles that conquered the grief and her strength. And Zane. I knew he gave that to her. And the smiles. He may not have smiled yet, but he was the reason for a lot of Mom’s. He was part of our life now. He stayed at our home every single night and I didn’t even question it. It was normal, where he was meant to be. He never said much, but that was because Mom and I said enough. Said it all. It was nice to have his silence balance out our loud. He didn’t need to speak to show me what he felt for Mom. I could see it. My sixteen-year-old eyes saw it clearer than ever. Maybe it was because I knew what it was like to be in love. He didn’t have to speak to show how he felt for Mom, and he definitely didn’t have to speak to show how he felt about Kill. Since Zane was at home every single night, it meant he had to put up with Killian every single night. He would glare at him any moment he was in his presence, a glare that would most likely make any man run screaming.

  Not Kill. He didn’t blink at it. Or act like it bothered him.

  It bothered me, more than a little. I cared about Zane. A lot. About how happy he made my mom, about how happy he made me. About how he somehow turned the three of us into a family.

  I needed him to like Kill. Because Kill was my family too. My future. I was certain of that.

  I finally tore my gaze upward to meet Killian’s face, to get my mind back in the present moment. His icy blue eyes burned into mine. Literally burned my whole body.

  I had slipped my yellow kaftan off at the pile of clothes the boys had haphazardly thrown at the edge of the wharf. This meant Killian’s eyes ran over every inch of my exposed body. I had never blinked at wearing a bikini before, never felt... naked. But right now, with Killian’s hungry gaze rippling over my body, I wanted to cover up, and at the same time, I wanted more. I wanted that feeling of him devouring me with his eyes to last forever.

  I managed to unstick my feet and walk on unsteady legs toward Kill and the boys. Wyatt’s gaze followed Killian’s, obviously wondering why he was flat out ignoring him. He grinned knowingly when I reached them.

  “Cute bikini, Lex,” he observed in a light voice.

  I blushed. Kill did not. His head turned to Wyatt and he looked like he might just strangle him right there on the spot.

  Wyatt laughed in the face of the fury and gave Kill a reassuring tap on the shoulder. “Don’t mentally plot out where you’ll bury my body just yet,” he teased. “I’ve got my own girl to ogle.” He nodded to one of the many girls that were on rotation, currently laughing with Noah. “I’ll just go and do that.” He winked at me and sauntered off. I gave his broad, muscled back an appreciative glance. But only the way I guessed a sister would notice their brother’s body, with a fraternal kind of realization that their sibling was attractive, nothing further. It was the same with all of them.

  Wyatt yanked the girl—Tillie, I thought her name was—into his shoulder. I could never keep track. He and Sam always had new ones on the go. Some were from school, most from the next town over. Smart. Most of them were perfectly nice girls, albeit a bit ditzy. I liked Tillie. I really hoped she lasted. But I didn’t have high hopes.

  My gaze moved back to Kill, whose jaw was hard as he stared at me. I grinned shyly, searching for something to say. But the look in his eyes muted me. I’d never seen such... hunger in it before.

  Kill stepped a hair’s breadth away from me, his hands lightly resting on my bare hips. I held my breath. We’d been this close before, closer in fact. But not like this. Not with my bare skin under his hands and his perfect, naked torso inches away from me.

  “Jesus,” he muttered, his jaw clenched. “Looking at you right now, Freckles, I’ve never been more confli
cted,” he said. His eyes flickered down my body once more. “All I want is to put you over my shoulder and take you away to make sure I’m the only man to see—” he glanced down “—this.”

  My belly did a somersault at the huskiness of his voice, the electricity in it.

  “Then, I want everyone to see how fuckin’ gorgeous my girl is,” he continued. “Kiss you until you can’t breathe so everyone knows what this beautiful creature is. Mine.” His mouth dipped to brush against mine. He didn’t kiss me though, merely touched his mouth to mine before pulling back. “What do you think I should do?” he asked, eyes twinkling.

  As I gazed at him, my heart was pounding through my chest. I’d wanted Kill before, but this was different. I wanted him. I didn’t know what to do. To say.

  “Um, either of those options is... enticing,” I whispered, and Killian grinned. “But... I’ve got a better idea.” My eyes flickered behind me.

  Kill raised his brow. “I’m intrigued.”

  I reached forward on my tiptoes, placing my palms lightly on his hard chest. He sucked in a breath as I laid my lips gently on his. Just before the kiss got any deeper, I put pressure on his chest and shoved him backward. In any other moment, this would not have worked. But Killian was not expecting this, not now. The look of surprise on his face as he tumbled backward into the water was almost worth losing his mouth on mine. His body. Almost. But I had to. Because I had to get him out of my proximity before I climbed all over him like an idiot. He landed in the water with a splash and the boys barked out laughter from beside me.

  “That was fuckin’ awesome!” Sam exclaimed, his eyes darting to where Killian’s head had popped up.

  Killian pushed his wet, inky hair back and glared at me. “You’re going to pay for that, Freckles,” he warned in a dark voice.

  I grinned at him. “I don’t see how,” I replied tartly. “You’re down there and I’m up here. Seems I have an advantage.”

  His eyes turned darker, and with speed I didn’t know he had, he swam forward toward the dock. I tottered back, preparing to run, but I hit a hard wall of muscle. I turned to Noah, who was grinning.

  “Traitor,” I hissed at him.

  I whipped my head back around, my escape route now blocked. I had intended on trying to run around, but I got distracted. Very distracted by a wet Killian pushing himself onto the dock. My eyes locked on the way the veins in his sinewy forearms pulsed as he did so. Then I found out his six pack looked even better dripping with beads of seawater. I realized I was standing there like an idiot. I managed to turn and dart around Noah, who was standing with his arms crossed but, I only made it about two steps further. Strong arms circled my middle.

  “Not so fast, Freckles,” a voice murmured in my ear.

  I squealed as he deposited me over his shoulder with ease and threw me into the water. I was submerged in the chilly water, which worked well to quell the pulse of desire I had been fighting previously.

  That didn’t last long when water splashed on my face as a form dived in beside me. Killian pulled me to his body once he surfaced. I instinctively wrapped my arms around his neck, and he kept us afloat effortlessly.

  “Hey,” I whispered, our faces inches away.

  His eyes were liquid. “Hey,” he murmured back. His hand brushed my wet hair from my face. Then he bent his head to mine and kissed me. Really kissed me. I got so lost in the kiss I was sure I would have sunk if it wasn’t for Killian’s arms around me.

  I jerked my head back when a splash sounded next to us. Kill did the same, but he didn’t let me go. His hands tightened.

  Sam surfaced not too far from us. He shook his head. “Got to keep it PG kids,” he chided. “I’ve got delicate sensibilities. Young and impressionable you see.”

  I threw my head back and laughed, and Kill even chuckled.

  Sam’s eyes went back to the water’s edge where two girls about my age were running into the water. “Ah, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and corrupt my delicate sensibilities.” He paddled over in the direction of the girls.

  I laughed again, watching him swim toward the unknowing girls.

  My eyes flickered back to the wharf where Wyatt was lying on his side, chatting to Tillie. Noah was reading a book, leaning against a post of the pier. His eyes met mine and he smiled. He had well and truly warmed to Kill now, and all was well in the world.

  I turned my head back to Kill, who had been watching me the entire time. “I like this,” I informed him. “You hanging out with us. All of my boys together. Having fun. You being here instead of the garage and acting almost like a real teenage boy, not a broody, biker man.”

  Killian’s face turned hard to read. “You don’t like the broody, biker man?” he asked, his voice teasing.

  “Yes,” I whispered. “I like him a lot. A lot a lot. Which is why I like it a lot when he forgets about his worries and forgets to be broody and has fun once in a while too.”

  Killian smiled, more than Zane. That wasn’t saying much. But he usually only smiled at me. Sometimes at something stupid Sam or my mom said, both had rivaling, ridiculous senses of humor, which meant you had to be a cyborg not to find them amusing. But this was still rare with Killian. He didn’t speak much to them either. He’d have boy grunting conversations with the boys, silent macho man speak with Zane, and clipped but friendly banter with my mom, but nothing like he was with me. It was like he was two people. The person he showed to the world and the one I got. The one who spoke tender, beautiful words, kissed me slow and gently, and treated me like the world’s greatest treasure.

  Kill’s hands tightened around my waist. “Baby, I’m always havin’ fun when I’m with you. Always happy.”

  I frowned at him. “What about when you’re not with me?”

  Killian grinned. “Then I’m thinkin’ about you, so I’m also happy.”

  I screwed my nose up at him, but my heart flew at the statement. “I think about you too, when I’m not with you.”

  Kill rested his head against mine. “Good.”

  “I worry about you,” I continued.

  His head left mine and he touched my jaw. “Don’t you worry that pretty head about me, Freckles. I’m fine as long as I got you,” he declared. “And I plan on having you for a good long while.”

  ****

  “Mom!” I yelled as Kill and I walked in the door, hand in hand.

  We had spent the rest of the afternoon bathing in the sunshine on the dock, letting the air dry us, and joking and goofing around with the boys.

  “Kitchen! Doll,” Mom’s voice called back.

  I went to go into the kitchen, but Kill’s hand yanked me back. Before I could I ask him what he was doing, his mouth plastered over mine, kissing me with a ferocity that matched the look in his eyes when he first saw me on the dock.

  “What was that for?” I asked, catching my breath.

  He regarded me. “Just needed to kiss you.”

  We stared at each other for a long moment.

  “Doll! You get lost in the labyrinth that is our house? Do I need to send a search party?” Mom called out.

  Kill grinned at me; then he led us into the kitchen.

  Mom smiled knowingly when we entered. “Oh, not the labyrinth that is our house, but the labyrinth that is the boyfriend. Hey, Kill,” she greeted warmly.

  “Mia,” he replied, nodding. His eyes went to the beautiful woman at the table, jostling a toddler on her lap. “Gwen.”

  She beamed at him. “Hey, Kill. Lexie, honey, beautiful as always,” she said, eyes light.

  Gwen was seriously the nicest and prettiest person I’d seen in real life. She was petite, with a small baby bump and a killer fashion sense. She let me borrow her designer stuff for our first gig. Her accent was kickass as well; New Zealand I thought it was. She was clad in designer gear head to toe and looked like she belonged in New York or L.A, not Amber. She certainly didn’t look like she would be married to the president of an outlaw motorcycle club. Then again,
Cade was smoking hot and I could totally picture them together.

  The toddler struggled off her lap and she let her down. The beautiful little girl darted over to Kill, stretching her chubby arms up to him. “Ill, Ill,” she called in her little baby voice.

  Killian’s whole body turned soft, and he let my hand go and bent down to take the little girl in his arms. “How’s the little pipsqueak today?” he asked, nuzzling his nose against the little girl’s button one. She giggled wildly and attached her hands to Kill’s inky hair. I watched transfixed at Kill’s gentle manner with her, with his easy way, his obvious affection.

  “Jaw off the floor for a moment if you will, Lexie,” Mom teased. “Gwen’s got something else that will make you lose your little mind.”

  My gaze snapped to her and Gwen, who were both grinning at me watching Kill. Shoot. That was embarrassing.

  I walked to the fridge, grabbing a coconut water for myself and a soda for Kill. Mom and Gwen each had glasses in front of them. “Oh yeah, what’s that?” I asked, handing Kill the soda.

  He jostled Belle into one arm so he could take the can. “Thanks, babe,” he said softly.

  I gave him a warm look before turning my attention to the table.

  “Sit if you will, young grasshopper, and Gwen will explain.” Mom held her arm out to the table.

  I complied. Kill did the same, setting Belle in his lap, where she seemed content yanking at his hair. He didn’t seem to mine.

  I turned my attention to Gwen. “What’s up?” I asked with a grin.

  “Well, I’ve got a favor to ask you,” she began.

  “Sure,” I replied.

  Mom shook her head. “Not good form to agree to a favor without knowing what it is,” she chided. “What if she wanted a kidney? Now you’ve already agreed, which means you’re screwed.”

  I rolled my eyes. “You want a kidney, Gwen?”

  She smiled. “Not today, but who knows, I enjoy cocktails. I might be needing a young untainted one in the future,” she deadpanned, obviously right on track with Mom’s brand of humor. Luckily. Most people thought she was crazy.

 
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