Echoes of silence unquie.., p.24
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       Echoes of Silence (Unquiet Mind Book 1), p.24

           Anne Malcom
 

  Mom. Zane.

  Zane would take care of her. I had to believe that. These bullets couldn’t take her away from me. It wasn’t the end of the world, as much as it sounded like it. Killian’s body on top of mine, his smell, it calmed me. I was safe. Kill was here.

  Suddenly, there was silence. Not complete silence; there was the screech of tires and people yelling and crying. But it was silent compared to the deafening gunfire that had filled the air moments ago.

  I was pulled up to sitting. Kill’s face was pale as he ran his hands frantically over my body. He wasn’t setting it on fire like normal. There was no hunger in his eyes; it was almost desperation.

  “Lexie,” he said urgently, making me think it wasn’t the first time he’d called my name. “Baby, you need to tell me if you’re hurt anywhere?” he asked softly, his eyes locked on mine.

  I blinked, understanding his question. “No,” I said quickly. “The boys….” My head whipped back and dread filled my chest.

  “We’re fine, babe,” Sam called in a shaky voice.

  “Lexie good?” Noah called urgently.

  Killian pulled me gently to my feet. “She’s good,” he said, relief clear in his tone. He quickly surveyed the area around him. I couldn’t do it. Not at that moment. I was terrified of what I’d see. If I kept my gaze on Kill—living, breathing Kill—it’d all be okay.

  “You guys go and help get the kids inside,” he barked at them.

  He cupped my head in his hands, resting his forehead on mine for a split second. “You okay, Freckles?” he whispered.

  I couldn’t speak. I could only nod.

  Kill didn’t say another thing. He led us to the side of the stage and jumped down first, then held his arms up to me. I rested my hands on his shoulders, letting him grasp my hips and set me down on the grass. I still couldn’t look anywhere. I could hear it all. The people crying, the urgent barked orders. The sound of someone’s heartbreaking sobs. Sobs that echoed in my soul.

  This isn’t happening, I chanted.

  I finally found the courage to move my eyes and everything in me relaxed as my gaze landed on my mom. In Zane’s arm. Living, breathing.

  “Mom!” I cried, pulling out of Kill’s arms to sprint over to my mother.

  I buried myself in her arms, needing them more than anything at that moment. More than Kill’s. I needed my mom. For her to make it better. I was five years old again, believing with every fiber of my being that my mom could fix anything.

  “You’re okay,” she whispered to me softly.

  I sagged against her arms. I was okay.

  ****

  “So is anyone else craving fried chicken something wicked?” Sam asked the group of us huddled in the corner of the Sons clubhouse. There was silence as Noah and Wyatt just looked at him. “No? Just me, okay then,” he muttered.

  I smiled weakly at him trying to lighten the mood, trying to normalize something in this situation, despite the fact his face was as white as a sheet. Despite the fact there were people in this room with gunshot wounds. There was a man outside. Dead. Dead.

  I shuddered in Killian’s arms and he tightened his grip around me, kissing my head. I snuggled deeper in his arms; the silent presence was the only thing that had me breathing evenly. That and the fact my mom was across from me. Not suffering from a gunshot wound. Zane wasn’t here, but I knew he was okay too. The people I cared about, my people, were okay. Others weren’t so lucky. I thought of the dead man and the woman who had to be dragged away from his lifeless body by Steg, an older man that Kill spoke of fondly. She was in the corner, staring blankly into space, a glass of clear liquid in her hands. Evie, Steg’s wife, was sitting near her.

  There were no smiles. Everyone in this room was either wearing blank faces of shock, pain, or anger. Anger mostly came from the men in the leather cuts. It simmered underneath, but it was barely hidden. I peeked up at Kill. His jaw was hard, his eyes shuttered and carefully blank. He sensed my eyes and looked down at me. His eyes immediately softened.

  “Are you okay?” I whispered before he could speak.

  His eyes narrowed at me. “That’s my line, Freckles.”

  “The man that...” I trailed off. “The man that died. He was your family,” I said softly.

  Kill’s body went hard and his arms flexed at my words. His eyes went above my head, not staring at anything in the room, nothing I could see at least. Most likely something only he could see. Ghosts.

  He only nodded sharply.

  I reached up to cup his jaw. “I’m sorry, Kill.”

  Before he could say anything, his eyes focused. On something. On someone. I turned my gaze.

  “Mom,” I exclaimed, moving out of Kill’s arms to move in front of my mother.

  She gave me a small smile and squeezed both my hands. “You okay, doll face?” she asked quietly.

  I nodded. “I’m fine,” I lied. I was far from fine. I was close to freaking the F out, but I didn’t need Mom to know that. It would deepen the line between her brows that became pronounced when she was worried.

  She gave my hands a squeeze and looked over my shoulders at the boys. “How about you guys?”

  Sam gave Mom a shaky grin. “Totally fine, Mia.” He paused. “Well, freaked the fuck out, but fine,” he altered his original statement.

  Wyatt and Noah both punched him in a synchronized move. Sam’s face was contorted in pain.

  “Dudes,” he whined. “What in the ever-loving shit was that for?”

  Wyatt glared at him. “Watch your fuckin’ language.”

  I couldn’t help but smile a little. Mom full-on grinned at the boys. “If there was ever a time to use that word, it’d be now,” she told them. “Consider me giving you my explicit permission to swear as much as you find appropriate for the rest of the day,” she deadpanned.

  All three boys grinned back; even though they were shaky, they were grins. Only Mom could do that, make them smile after they almost died.

  Her face went serious. “I’ve called all of your parents. I think it’s safe to say they are all freaking the F out.” She paused, her eyes soft. “Apart from yours, Sam. I’m sure they will be when they find out. I just couldn’t get hold of them.”

  Sam shrugged. “I would imagine my own house could get shot up, and Dad wouldn’t be likely to care as long as he didn’t spill his beer,” he responded, feigning nonchalance. “That’s if he was conscious. Fifty-fifty chance there.”

  Mom’s line between her eyes deepened. I knew how much she had come to care about my boys and considered them family. She knew about Noah and Sam’s parents and the problems they had with them. Well, she knew some. I would expect she would apply to adopt them both if she knew all. It looked like she was considering that right now.

  “You can come home with us,” she declared. “After we get the all clear, of course.” She glanced over at Cade, who was in a man huddle, though his eyes touched on us.

  “Thanks for the offer, Mia,” Sam replied. “But I’m gonna head home and steal a couple of my old man’s beers and try to chill the... heck out,” he replied. His eyes bugged out. “Shit," he muttered. “Any chance you can forget you heard the ‘beer’ part of that plan?”

  Mom’s eyes twinkled slightly. “One time. It’s the only ‘get out of jail free’ card on that one, kid,” she told him. “But if I hear it again, or if you involve my daughter in the underage drinking I know nothing about, I’ll personally come to your house and shave your entire head,” she warned. She knew how attached Sam was to his mop and her threat had the intended effect.

  Sam blanched slightly and nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I mean, no, I won’t ever do that,” he stuttered.

  Wyatt shook his head and muttered something that sounded like “idiot” under his breath.

  Mom turned her gaze to me. “Gotta talk to you for a moment, doll.”

  “Okay,” I replied, noting something in her tone.

  She glanced around the room, eyes narrowing a small sofa tha
t was currently vacant. She led me to it. I knew Kill was behind us. He sat on the arm of the sofa when Mom and I sat in it. His hand went to the back of my neck.

  Mom glanced at him and smiled. “Guessing you’re now Lexie’s shadow until the end of time?” she teased lightly, but she seemed glad.

  The hand at the back of my neck squeezed. “Not lettin’ her out of my sight.”

  Mom nodded as if this was exactly what she expected. Then again, she lived with me; she was my mom, and she knew exactly how much Kill meant to me.

  Her eyes moved to me and they turned serious. “I’ve just been speaking to Cade,” she began, her voice gentle. “Honey, I hate to ask this. I hate all of this.” She glanced around the room, her eyes settling on a man getting a bleeding arm bandaged. “That any of this is even happening,” she said after a pause. “That my little girl had to be involved in this.”

  I reached out and squeezed her hand. “I’m okay, Mom.”

  She smiled sadly at me. “Yeah, and your very okayness is creeping me out, like a lot. You’re braver than your mom, kiddo. Stop showing me up,” she teased lightly. She sucked in a breath. “I need to ask you, Lexie. When... when it happened, you were on the stage.”

  Kill’s hand tensed at my neck.

  “I was on stage,” I confirmed, confused at this turn of events.

  “Yeah, honey, so you had the best—” she cringed “—view. Cade wanted me to ask you if you saw anything,” she clarified. “They’ve already spoken to the boys. They were a bit behind you so they didn’t see much.” Her face was hard, and I had the feeling she was not asking me of her own volition. “No one expects you to see anything, hon. If you didn’t… good,” she declared finally.

  I got it. The reason for my mom’s tight form, for the way she seemed to physically hate saying the words. Kill’s body stilled behind me, and I noticed the way Cade was looking at me across the room. They wanted to know what I saw. Who I saw. They wanted revenge.

  “Yeah, I saw,” I replied quietly.

  Mom sighed, her face falling into what was close to despair. She closed her eyes a second, then opened them again. “You up to telling Cade what you saw, baby girl? I’ll be there the whole time.”

  “So will I, Freckles,” Kill declared tightly from behind me.

  I nodded quickly. “Yeah, I can talk to him.”

  Mom tore her gaze away from me and gave Cade a little nod that seemed to signify something.

  So that’s how I ended up in the room off the common area, the one with the word “Church” over it. There was a long oak table taking up most of the room, surrounded by seats. One bigger than the others sat at the far end of the room. A gavel, like the one judges use, sat on the table in front of that chair. I had a feeling this room was not intended for teenage girls and their moms. Then again, an anniversary party had not been intended to turn into a bloodbath either.

  I was sitting on a chair with Kill beside me, his hand in mine. Cade and Brock leaned on either side of us on the table. Mom was close behind me, chewing her lip.

  “Sweetheart, you just tell us what you saw. This all gets too much, you stop. We won’t mind,” Cade told me, his hard face turning soft.

  Brock, the tall and equally menacing blond biker covered in tattoos, had the same soft look on his face. They were being patient and kind with me. Even though I guessed they were furious. I smiled at them. They were good people.

  “It’s okay,” I replied. I took a deep breath and thought back to the moment the shots had started, the moment I’d stopped singing, frozen in place. I would have gotten lost, gotten terrified in that horrible memory had Kill’s hand not been in mine, serving as my anchor. In my mind’s eyes, I saw the bikes. The men on them, the guns in their hands. My heart sped up. “They were covered,” I said, remembering the bandannas jerked up to their noses, the helmets covering the rest. I glanced up at Cade. “Their faces, I mean,” I clarified. I thought back. “But they had bikes,” I continued, trying to remember exactly what they looked like. “Kind of like yours, like Zane’s, but not as cool,” I attempted to joke and smiled. Kill squeezed my hand. I tried to think about the labels on the bikes, but couldn’t. I furrowed my brows. “Couldn’t say what make they were, but they definitely weren’t Harley’s,” I said, hoping that would be at least helpful. I had paid a little bit of attention when I was sitting in the garage with Zane, and I listened when Kill talked about how there was only one motorcycle he’d be seen on. A Harley. So I knew a little. Not enough, it seemed.

  Both Brock and Cade looked surprised at me. I couldn’t be sure, but Brock seemed almost impressed. I couldn’t say why; I wasn’t being much help.

  “Lost Knights,” Brock muttered, glancing at Cade.

  I had no idea what that meant, but Kill’s form stiffened beside me.

  Cade nodded. “Maybe.” His eyes were hard, but they softened when they looked back to me. “Anything else, honey?”

  Something came at me. An image of the men. What I saw before Kill had jumped on stage.

  I nodded. “The vests,” I said, thinking of every detail I could see in that memory. “Leather like yours but with a different patch. I don’t know what it was, but it had red in it,” I continued, remembering the splash of color sticking out in my mind. I sat up straighter suddenly, my mind snapping into place. I’d seen that bike before, one of them at least. “The bikes,” I half shouted. “I knew they were familiar, but I just remembered where from.” I glanced at Mom, who was watching me with a line threatening to become permanent between her brows. “You know that day in that vintage shop in Hope?” I asked.

  She nodded, her face seemed to pale.

  “That’s where I know them from. They’re the same ones. I’m sure of it,” I said, turning back to Cade and Brock. My blood turned cold at the idea Mom and I had been so close to... murderers. Spoken to them. I shivered.

  My words seemed to turn the air in the room electric. Brock’s mouth turned into a grim line. Kill’s hand was tight on mine.

  Cade’s face was looking into the distance; it was full of menace. That menace disappeared the moment he shook himself out of it and turned to me.

  “Thanks, honey, you did great,” he declared, looking like he was about to move from the room.

  “You don’t want me to tell the police, do you?” I asked them quickly. The police had been called, of course they had, but I knew the relationship between the club and the police. I didn’t exactly know the details, but I knew it wasn’t good.

  “Lexie...,” my mom said from behind me, full of something I couldn’t place.

  I turned to look at her horrified face. “No, Mom, it’s okay,” I reassured her. I turned back to Cade and Brock, who were staring at me in what I could best describe as shock.

  I wasn’t thinking of that. I was thinking of the woman’s tortured sobs over that man. The grief I felt in my soul for her. The life that was stolen away, when I knew how precious life was. I was thinking of Kill losing his dad, and that man in the cut only becoming a memory in a photograph for that woman. Like Kill’s dad. Like Steve and Ava.

  “I get it,” I told Cade and Brock. “The police probably won’t find them. Even if they do, there’s a chance they might not even go to prison.” I paused. I wasn’t an expert, but I knew that the law was never certain with these things. “Not all of them anyway. “But you—” I stared at Cade. “You’ll find them, won’t you?” It wasn’t really a question.

  Cade nodded slowly like he didn’t know what to say.

  I nodded right back. “Right, well, that’s that then,” I declared. I didn’t need to know what would happen afterward. I just needed to know the people who tried to steal the most precious things from my life, that stole it from someone else, would pay. I didn’t even know where this vengeful thought came from. I was certain if I hadn’t lost Ava and Steve, I wouldn’t be so clinical about this. I’d have doubts. But I wasn’t that Lexie now. The before Lexie. The after Lexie saw the world much differently.


  Cade was still staring at me. Then his body did a little jerk, and to my utter amazement, he bent down to kiss my head gently. As quick as he did it, he had straightened once more. I knew what it was. A silent thank you. His eyes cut to Mom for a moment. Then he and Brock, who winked at me, left the room.

  Kill leaned into my ear. “You’re amazing, Freckles,” he murmured. “So proud of you.”

  I turned to him and shrugged. “They’re your family.”

  ****

  Everything was black. I was blind. I couldn’t see a thing. But I could hear. I could hear it all. The deafening shots. Then they were gone. Then I heard screams. Sobs.

  I jerked awake, blinking rapidly at the dead quiet, dark room. Arms tightened around me.

  “Freckles?” a worried voice murmured.

  It took me a moment to register where I was. On the sofa. It was the last place I remembered being after we had finally made it home. Mom, Kill, and I. We also had a man on a bike following us. Kill had immediately led me to the sofa, deposited me in his arms, and turned the TV on. We barely said a thing.

  The TV wasn’t on anymore. It was the middle of the night, if the lack of light was anything to go by, and I was reclining on the sofa, my head on Killian’s chest.

  I must have fallen asleep. That didn’t surprise me. I’d ridden on adrenaline for most of the afternoon. I was bound to crash. I was surprised at the fact it was the middle of the night, and I was waking up on the sofa in Kill’s arms.

  “You’re still here,” I whispered.

  Kill’s arms tightened. “I said I wasn’t lettin’ you out of my sight,” he murmured into my hair.

  “And Mom was okay with this?” I asked in confusion.

  Mom wasn’t strict in any sense of the word, but she was firm when things came to Kill. I had a curfew, I had to have the door open when he was in my room, he wasn’t allowed in there when Mom wasn’t home, and he most definitely wasn’t allowed to sleep over.

  Kill stroked my head. “Yes, but I’m under strict instructions to deposit you in your bed and come back to the sofa if you were to wake up.”

 
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