Echoes of silence unquie.., p.22
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       Echoes of Silence (Unquiet Mind Book 1), p.22

           Anne Malcom
 

  “It’s mine and Cade’s two-year anniversary coming up soon,” she explained.

  “Congratulations,” I said. I meant it. They were pretty much the most awesome couple ever. Apart from Mom and Zane, of course. And maybe Amy and Brock. Okay, so top three. Cade kind of reminded me of Killian. He was hot, of course, despite the fact he was way older than me. But he was what I imagined Kill might grow up to be. Tall, muscly, dark features. Broody and almost scary. Until you saw him with his wife and daughter. Until you saw him look at them like they were the reason the world was spinning. It kind of reminded me of the way Kill looked at me. Something inside me yearned for that to be my future. Me and Kill. I chased that yearning away in surprise. I didn’t need to be thinking about that now.

  “Thanks,” Gwen replied, bringing me back to the present. My gaze flickered over to Kill, our eyes met, and I quickly focused on Gwen.

  “So we’re having a party at the club next week, as you know,” she continued.

  I nodded. We knew. We’d been invited. We’d been pulled into the fold ever since that terrible day at Rosie’s. Ever since Zane became Mom’s. Mom spent a lot of time with the women, and they popped over and invited us around to their beautiful houses.

  “Well, I was hoping we could hire you and your band to play at it,” she said. “Before you break out and we can’t afford you,” she joked.

  I gaped at her. “Are you serious? You want us to play at your party?”

  She smiled and nodded. “Dead serious. We heard you play at the club. You guys are something special. Even the men said so. Lucky won’t shut up about how you’re setting him up with a ‘hot MILF.’” She winked. “I don’t have the heart to tell him she’s with a country singer.”

  Mom laughed. “Yes, because that’s the only thing stopping him,” she scoffed.

  Gwen grinned. “So will you? We can pay you, of course—”

  “You’ll do nothing of the sort,” I interrupted. I felt strange at the idea of someone actually paying us to do something we loved. Strange that Gwen was even asking us, a high school band, to play at her anniversary. At Cade’s club. Zane’s club. Killian’s club. My eyes cut to him, jostling Belle on his knee. His eyes met mine and he smiled.

  “Yes, we will,” Gwen argued. “I can’t have the club violating child labor laws.”

  “Trust me, we don’t consider music labor. We consider it a necessity to our existence. It can be my anniversary present to you,” I added when it looked like she was going to argue.

  Gwen pursed her lips. “You drive a hard bargain, Miss Spencer,” she said finally.

  And just like that, we had our second gig, one that I thought might change our lives forever. Little did I know just how much at the time. And not for the better.

  “Stay in the car, Freckles. I’ll be two seconds,” Killian said, opening his door.

  I gave him a look, unbuckling my seatbelt. “Yeah, like that’s going to happen.”

  His face turned hard, and he put his hand on my thigh, not in the tender, belly squishy way like he usually did, but to keep me in place. Though I’ll admit, my belly did squish, just a little.

  “Lexie, you’re not comin’ inside,” he said harshly.

  “I’ve never been in your house. Met your mom. It’s got to happen sometimes,” I protested.

  Kill’s jaw was hard. “Not if I have anything to do with it,” he bit out. “My house, my mom…” He paused, his hand flexing at my thigh, almost to the point of pain. I didn’t say anything. I could see him fighting something in his mind. His ice-hard eyes met mine. “It’s not something I want you to think. Not how I want you to think of me. I don’t want you having to touch that shit, to have that shit touching you.”

  My hand covered his at my thigh, my heart breaking just a little at his tone. At the look in his eyes. The shame. It was a peek at the vulnerability he only showed to me. That he barely showed. But I knew it haunted him.

  “You want to know how I think of you?” I whispered. “I think you’re one of the best people I know. The smartest. The most loyal. Definitely the most broody..” I paused “Well, apart from Zane,” I amended with a small grin. I pried his hand off my thigh and moved it up to my lips so I could kiss it softly. “Nothing in there—” I nodded to the house “—could make me think any less of you. It could only make me think more of you, if that’s possible. Make me love you more.”

  Killian’s entire body froze at my words and I realized what I’d just done.

  Shoot.

  I’d actually just told the boy I had only been dating for a couple of months that I loved him.

  Shoot, shoot, shoot.

  What did I do in this situation? I was such a big idiot!

  I dropped his hand immediately. Instead of it flinching away from the clingy, arguably crazy girlfriend, it cupped my cheek roughly, yanking my head forward, and Kill touched my forehead to his.

  “What did you just say, Freckles?” he rasped, his eyes glued to mine.

  I blinked rapidly, my heart pounding so hard I thought it might explode out of my chest. “I-I,” I stuttered.

  “You love me?” he asked in a voice so full of disbelief, so full of vulnerability that it made my heart stop right there in my chest.

  Everything in me stilled and I gained beautiful clarity. “Yes,” I said in a clear voice. “I love you, Killian Decesare.”

  There was a moment of complete stillness as my words filled up the car. Filled up my soul.

  “Fuck,” he muttered. He closed his eyes for a long moment, and when he opened them, the raw emotion in them had tears clogging up my throat.

  “For the last five years, life has given me nothing but shit,” he whispered. “No gifts, no breaks, no respite, now I know…” He paused. “Now I know why. Been eating that shit so I could get given this gift.” His hands tightened at my cheeks. “What I’m holding in my hands. Hearing those words, it’s worth the five years of shit. Hell, it’d be worth fifty.”

  Tears rolled freely down my cheeks. Kill wiped them away with his thumbs.

  “Gotta kiss you now, Freckles,” he muttered. “Gotta taste those words on your lips.”

  “Okay,” I whispered.

  I barely got the ‘kay out before Killian’s head bent and captured my mouth. I expected the kiss to mirror the tenderness of his words, of his gaze. It didn’t. It was ferocious. Relentless. Unlike anything I’d ever experienced in my life. Like nothing I ever thought I’d experience. I couldn’t get enough of that kiss. I was angry at the confines of the car, the angle making me unable to press my body to his.

  Kill seemed to sense my frustration, or felt it himself because he let out a sound at the back of his throat and lifted me with ease across the car so I was in his lap. Our lips didn’t stop moving the entire time. It seemed I didn’t breathe the entire time. I pressed myself as close as I could to him. I couldn’t get close enough. It was like I wanted to crawl inside his skin. That’s how frantic I was.

  Kill’s hand went to my neck, pulling himself back slightly. We were both breathing heavily.

  “As much as I hate to say it, and trust me, it almost physically pains me to do so, but you need to get outta the car, Freckles,” he ordered, his voice thick.

  It took me a couple of seconds to understand his meaning, and despite the electricity coursing through my veins, I blushed.

  I leaned back, moving to climb out the driver’s door. Kill’s hands at my neck didn’t let me go. Instead, he pulled me in for one more gentle, open-mouthed kiss. He held me for a moment longer, then released me.

  I climbed out on shaky feet, a little scared my knees would buckle. I managed to stay upright for the short amount of time it took for Kill to knife out of his car and grasp my hand firmly. He eyed the house in front of us, his jaw hard.

  “Let the record state I’m firmly against this,” he muttered.

  “So noted,” I replied, squeezing his hand.

  He gave me a quick glance, swore under his breath, then
stepped his motorcycle boot forward.

  It was only as his hand circled around the doorknob that I realized he hadn’t said he loved me too.

  ****

  It was dark inside. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Walking up the cracked front walk, I had noticed all the curtains were drawn. The outside of the house was in a state of disrepair. The white paint was peeling, and half looked like the sun had melted it. On either side of the cracked pavers were forgotten flowerbeds, overgrown and scattered with what looked like dead roses. I was fascinated with them before I moved my gaze to the lawn. It was the only thing that hinted that someone was taking care of the place. Though it was yellowing in places, it was freshly cut.

  “This you?” I nodded to the lawn.

  Kill merely shrugged.

  He was silent when we got into the dark room, which smelled of cigarette smoke. It took a couple of minutes for my eyes to adjust to the darkness as Kill closed the door behind us. We had walked into a small living room. It was sparse, only a sofa with a faded floral pattern, a couple of old lazy boys, a coffee table, which was littered with various bottles, and a TV, which was blaring with infomercials. The walls were bare, but there was faded rectangles where I assumed pictures used to hang.

  My heart clenched at this. My mom decorated in pictures. Every inch of our fridge was covered in snapshots—selfies of us from two weeks ago to photos of me at two years old. They scattered the walls, and there was a framed photo on almost every surface. I’d say about two-thirds of those photos had either Steve or Ava or both of them. I had stared at them for hours when we’d gotten home for DC, trying to understand that was the only place they existed now, in a little frame, in a static image that captured a moment in time and turned them into a memory. It had hurt my soul staring at those photos. Destroyed it. It still hurt looking at those photos. And I did. Every single day. The only thing that hurt more would be not seeing them. Not recognizing those moments, those memories. Which is what I suspected happened here.

  I squeezed Killian’s hand.

  He didn’t make any notion he had felt it. He just dragged me forward, past a kitchen that was to my left and down a dark hallway. None of the walls held a single picture, but I could see the skeletons of the frames.

  I heard the dull thud of music coming from a closed door to my right, just off the living room. By the way Killian scowled at it, I guessed it was his mom’s. He quickened his pace and took us to the room at the end of the hall, yanking me in and closing the door behind us.

  Unlike the rest of the house, this room was bathed in light. A huge window opened up to the yellowing backyard, a wire fence, and a house beyond it. Not the best view, but it was daylight at least. I stepped further into the room as Kill let go of my hand, eyeing me with a blank look on his face, as if he was inspecting my reaction.

  The room had one thing in common with what I saw of the rest of the house. It smelled of cigarette smoke. But it was faint and mixed with the wondrous, musky aroma that was Killian. That was the only similarity. Where the house was bare of anything resembling memories or personality, Killian’s room exploded with it. His unmade bed was shoved in the corner of the small room, and a weight bench and bar were at the end of that. Across from that, under the window and spanning the length of his room was a bookshelf stuffed with books. Bursting with them. I wandered over, running my hand along the slightly rusting weight bar that had a scary looking dumbbell on it.

  I glanced back to Kill, raising my eyebrow. “Do you even lift, bro?” I deadpanned.

  The blankness on his face shattered and he grinned, shaking his head, still not saying anything, still standing there with his arms crossed, watching me. I tore my eyes away from his to look at all of the books crammed into every spare space of the case. On top of it was frames. A lot of them. I picked one up at random. In it was a small boy with shaggy, inky black hair sitting atop of a huge motorcycle. He looked tiny on the monster thing. His little boy face was stretched into a huge grin, and large hands spanned his shoulders. A man wearing a Sons of Templar cut stood behind him, his head slightly tilted down, laughing at the little boy. He had the same inky black hair as the boy, though his was streaked with silver at the sides. He wore it long, brushing his shoulders. The same strong jaw was obvious in profile, even under the thick stubble covering half his face. He was big and tall, with muscles protruding out of his white tee and a slight belly jutting over his thick belt buckle.

  He was looking down at the little boy with the most open and beautiful look of love I’d ever seen.

  A single tear trailed off my cheek and splashed on the glass.

  I felt heat at my back. He didn’t touch me, but his breath brushed at my neck.

  “Your dad,” I whispered, not looking down.

  “Had me on a bike before I could walk,” he murmured in answer.

  “He’s handsome,” I pointed out, “like his son.”

  Killian didn’t say anything.

  “He loved you. Very much,” I continued.

  Killian stayed silent.

  I carefully placed the picture down, looking at each and every one of the others. There was one of the large man cradling a tiny baby in his tattooed arms, a tear visible on his stubbled cheek. Another with a gangly, skinny boy with a backpack on, all in black, his arms around his dad’s waist and father’s around his shoulder. They were both flipping the bird to the camera.

  I smiled.

  The next didn’t have a little boy in it, just the man, surrounded by other men in the same cut, standing outside a familiar clubhouse. Then there was one with a roughly twelve-year-old Kill standing out the same clubhouse with the same men. A couple of women were in it too, one I recognized as a younger Rosie. Another slightly older woman was tucked into Kill’s dad’s arm, her hand on Killian’s shoulder. I didn’t recognize her. She had bleached blonde hair that tumbled around her shoulders, and even in the picture I could see she wore a lot of makeup. She was pretty in a hard sort of way. I might not have recognized her, but I recognized those ice blue eyes. Unlike her sons, even in this photo, they were empty.

  My eyes moved to a newer frame, and I let out a little gasp at the picture inside it, mingled between his precious memories of his dad. My hand was shaking when I picked it up.

  “When did you get this?” I asked, turning my head.

  Kill was so close I almost brushed his face when I met his eyes. They weren’t empty. They were full. To the brim.

  His hands rested on my hips lightly. “’Bout a month ago,” he replied.

  I gaped at him then back down at the photo. My fingers traced over the faces. My face. Kill’s profile.

  It was taken on one of the rare times Kill was caught off guard. I had enlisted Noah to sneakily take a photo of us on my phone. I needed it. Memories. Evidence. He had gotten a perfect one between sets when we were practicing one Sunday. Kill had been sitting watching.

  It was right after I’d sang “Church” by Hozier and he had walked up to me and kissed me, right in front of the boys.

  Sam and Wyatt had wolf-whistled and I had pulled back, blushing slightly, but smiling. I just happened to move my eyes in Noah’s direction and the camera he was directed at me. So he caught the lazy, blissful smile on my face and Kill’s profile, staring at me. Both of his hands were at my neck; my guitar was slung over my back. It was the wallpaper of my phone. I had meant to get it processed, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

  “How did you get this?” I asked him in a soft voice.

  His hands flexed at my waist and he nuzzled my neck. “Got it off your phone when you didn’t notice,” he replied into my neck.

  “How do you know my passcode?” I accused, not that it was really an accusation. I didn’t exactly have secrets hidden in my phone.

  “Babe,” he said, lifting his head. “It’s Bob Dylan’s birthday,” he told me as if it was obvious. It was, but only to people who knew me. Really knew me.

  I couldn’t find it in me to even be
a little bit annoyed at this. I was too busy trying not to burst into tears.

  I carefully put it down and turned in his arms, running my finger down his stubbled jaw. He was getting more like his dad every day. Turning into a man. My finger traced his mouth for a second. His hand came up and circled my wrist, turning my palm up so he could kiss it. When he released it downward but keep our fingers intertwined, I reached up to press a gentle kiss on his mouth.

  “Your dad would be so very proud of you, Killian Decesare,” I whispered against his mouth.

  Kill’s body stiffened and his eyes seemed to shutter over. “He’d be proud of the fact I managed to snag a girl way out of my league. Out of my stratosphere,” he stated, his voice tight with forced humor.

  I frowned at him as he kissed my head and released our hands so he could step back.

  “I don’t know where you get that notion, but you are very mistaken,” I informed him.

  He regarded me. “Agree to disagree.”

  I huffed out a frustrated breath and glared at him. That only made him grin.

  “You’re cute when you’re angry, Freckles.”

  I rolled my eyes. “Do what you gotta do,” I ordered, waving my hands at him. “We’ve got to get to the club soon. I can’t be in a bad mood because of my boyfriend’s stubbornness. I need to be mellow enough to diffuse whatever argument Wyatt and Sam will no doubt be having.” I turned my back to him and heard his chuckle but ignored it. My eyes settled on the wall across from his dresser. There were a couple of Rolling Stone and Grateful Dead posters, but my attention was glued to the frame in between them and what was in the frame—a worn, weather-beaten, and faded leather cut, one with a familiar patch. The Sons of Templar MC. The club that was his family. The thing most likely responsible for Kill being who he was today. The boy I loved. I loved the club for that alone. I also loved them because they welcomed us like family. Because Zane was part of it. Kill was going to be one day too. The thought filled me with warmth. Then something else, something colder, settled in the bottom of my stomach.

 
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