Echoes of silence unquie.., p.29
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       Echoes of Silence (Unquiet Mind Book 1), p.29

           Anne Malcom
 

  The window was yanked open the moment Kill’s shocked face recognized me.

  “Freckles?” he muttered, taking no time to put his hands under my arms and yank me into window. He did this effortlessly like I was as light as a feather. He set me gently on my feet and closed the window, pulling the curtains closed once more.

  His concerned and frantic gaze settled on me as he clutched my arms. “What’s going on? Are you okay?” He ran his eyes over me as if he were looking for injury.

  I did the same, realizing he was shirtless and wearing low-slung sweatpants. His hand came under my chin, tilting it up to meet his eyes. “Lexie,” he said firmly. “What’s wrong, baby? Why are you here in the middle of the night?”

  I looked at him for a moment then dived into his bare chest, suddenly bursting into tears.

  His arms automatically went around me, his mouth to my hair. “You’re okay, Freckles. You’re okay. You’re safe with me,” he promised.

  He very gently pulled me back to arm’s length. “I need you to tell me what’s going on,” he commanded softly. His entire body was held taut, but his eyes were liquid.

  I sucked in a breath and managed to get myself under control. “I just... needed you,” I whispered.

  Kill relaxed slightly. “You needed me,” he repeated.

  I nodded. “Mom, she... told me some things about my dad.” I watched Kill’s body stiffen once more. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I added quickly, desperately. I couldn’t, not right now.

  Kill looked frustrated and concerned, but he nodded. “Okay, Freckles,” he murmured.

  “Can I...?” I paused. “Can I stay here with you?” I asked in a small voice.

  Kill’s entire body jolted. There were questions in his eyes, a lot of them. And doubts, probably about the chances of Zane murdering him if he found out, but he must have seen something in my eyes because he nodded.

  “I’ll take the floor. You can have my bed.”

  “No,” I said quickly. “I need to stay with you. I need you.”

  “Lex,” he warned.

  “Please.”

  He closed his eyes for a second then nodded.

  I sank into his embrace once more. “Thanks,” I whispered against his bare chest.

  “You don’t need to thank me for making one of the things I’ve wished for ever since I met you come true,” he murmured against my hair. “Sleeping with you in my arms.”

  My belly dipped at this statement, regardless of the other things swirling in there. Kill released me again.

  “Sit,” he commanded, eyes going to the bed.

  I complied and he kneeled at my feet, slipping my boots off.

  I felt a flutter at this very intimate gesture.

  He stood up, bending over me to slip my cardigan off. Goose bumps erupted the moment he did so, but not from the cold. I was burning hot. His eyes ran over me, something I couldn’t place behind them. Then he shook himself a bit and is gaze moved to the top of the bed.

  “In,” he ordered softly.

  I jolted slightly but then did as he ordered. I curled under blankets that smelled of clean linen and Killian. I instantly relaxed at the scent. The bed depressed as Kill entered it. He didn’t hesitate before yanking me into his chest, arms going around me. We were silent for a long moment.

  “Not gonna make you talk about whatever this is right now, Freckles,” he murmured, “but I’ve gotta ask. You walk here?” His voice was tight.

  I was confused at the question. “Yeah, it’s not like I’m ready for the road just yet, despite your efforts,” I replied, attempting a joke. Kill was very patient and I was better, almost ready to take the test, but I’d been putting it off. I liked those times when Kill taught me. His hand covering mine, teaching me how to change gears. I may have been deliberately prolonging the process.

  His body went wired once more and the air turned thick. He rolled me over so I was half lying on him, my face looking into his. “Don’t you ever do that again,” he ordered, his voice hoarse. His eyes were hard. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered to himself. “You walking through this part of town in the middle of the night.” He shook his head, pulling me tight. “You’re not going to make such careless decisions about your safety ever again.”

  I touched his cheek. “I was fine.”

  “You were lucky,” he corrected. “You’re so goddamn smart in some ways, baby. So damn innocent in others. I’d like you to remain that innocent, blind to that sort of shit. In order to do that, listen to me now. You need me in the middle of the night, you call me. No matter the time or day. I’m there. I’ll always come for you,” he promised.

  I sensed me never being able to win this argument. “Okay,” I agreed softly.

  He seemed to relax a smidgeon, and he bent his head to press his lips to mine. I think he expected it to be a chaste kiss, but I had other ideas. I deepened the kiss immediately, yearning for him, needing him. He instantly complied, tightening me to him, hoisting my body up so I lay atop him, his hands trailing down my back, yanking me closer to him.

  This was different. We were in a bed. Killian’s bed. He was half naked, there was no curfew, and no one even knew I was here. There were possibilities here.

  Suddenly I was flipped, Kill’s body was hovering over mine. I knew he was holding some of his weight back. He merely brushed against my torso. I automatically wrapped my leg around his waist, needing him closer to me. He stilled with this movement. We were frozen a moment. Then Kill brought his head up. I watched him do this, guessing it was in great effort if the pulsing tendons in his neck were anything to go by.

  “Not doin’ this now,” he rasped out. “Not when you’re like this, Freckles. Not in this house.”

  I took a moment to move myself out of the fog. I was disappointed. I wanted him. I wanted to get lost in him, forget all of my problems in him so we were the only two people on Earth. But deep down, I knew that wasn’t right, wasn’t fair to use him in such a way. He meant more to me than that. I wanted it to mean more than that. I definitely didn’t want it connected to the night I found out about my father.

  Kill slowly moved off me, breathing heavily. He pulled me back into our previous position. “Sleep, Freckles. I’ve got you. Everything’s gonna be all right,” he whispered, kissing my head.

  I was certain, curling up next to him, falling asleep in his arms, that he was right.

  Oh how wrong we both could be.

  “No, Lexie, you cannot borrow that sweater,” Mom declared as we walked into the house. “It’s my favorite one, and I don’t want the risk of it disappearing into the depths of your closet, never to be seen again,” she proclaimed as we entered the living room.

  “You’re acting like I’d hold that sweater hostage,” I shot back.

  We had mended fences a few days ago, the morning after our fight.

  I’d emerged from my room, feigning sleepiness. Even though I’d only just changed into my PJs and had been awake since Kill dropped me off an hour earlier.

  Waking up to his mouth on my forehead, murmuring, “Time to get up, baby,” was pretty much the best way to wake up ever. All of my problems didn’t seem as big after a night in his arms. I had made him drop me down the street, slightly terrified I’d be caught hopping out of his car. Fate was feeling nice that day because I slipped in unnoticed.

  I had padded over to my bleary-eyed mom and wrapped my hands around her waist. “I love you, Mom, and I’m sorry. I trust you.”

  She had patted my head. “Love you too, doll.” She had let me go and gave me a long look. “I’m sorry too,” she added quietly.

  Zane was sitting at the table, dressed in his cut already, eyeing us warily. “Anything I need to know about?” he asked.

  Mom gave him a smile. “Nothing to worry that pretty little head over,” she declared. “Just a fight over a sweater,” she lied.

  Zane seemed to sense the untruth because he raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

  “It was a very import
ant sweater,” she added. “Get back to brooding over your cup of joe, please. I slaved over that thing.”

  The side of Zane’s mouth twitched. “You pressed a button on a machine, baby,” he teased.

  She put a hand on her hip. “And filled it with water and coffee. That constitutes cooking. It must mean I kind of like you. Count your blessings, buddy.”

  Zane’s face turned serious. “Trust me, I do, every day.”

  Mom lost her smile and her eyes went all dreamy.

  I had felt warm at that moment, at the little family we had. I understood Mom not wanting to ruin it.

  Since then, things had been brilliant, amazing in fact. I had swallowed the bitterness of the conversation about my father and just let it go, let myself be happy Mom had Zane and she was happy, which brought me back to the current moment, days after our fight and reconciliation.

  “It’s happened before. Remember the time you wouldn’t give me back my second favorite tee until I let you cook quinoa in the house?” she reminded me with her nose screwed up.

  “One time,” I argued.

  She grinned triumphantly. “Remember—”

  She was about to repeat a laundry list of offenses, I knew, so I decided to cut her off. “Okay, so I have a small”—I held my thumb and forefinger together—“history with clothing kidnapping, but I cross my heart it won’t happen with this sweater.” I made the gesture over my heart.

  She rolled her eyes. I grinned. “Fine,” she huffed out as she turned around to go upstairs.

  “If you could get it for me, that would be great,” I called.

  She didn’t respond, only muttered to herself about the pains she endured bringing me into the world.

  I was still smiling when I wandered into the living room, aiming at quickly touching up my makeup before Kill picked me up. We were having one last driving lesson then hanging out at a café in town with the boys. I loved spending time with Kill just me and him, but I also loved it when everyone I cared about was with me.

  My happiness turned into terror when I was faced with a masked figure in my kitchen. Pointing a gun at me.

  I froze in place, staring down the barrel. I should have run. Should have screamed. I didn’t do either. I was paralyzed.

  The form stepped forward. “Make a sound and you die,” a cold voice rasped. “Don’t do as I say, you die. Try to run, you die.” He leaned forward, enough so I could smell his rank breath on my face. My entire body shook and my vision swam.

  “So I’d move that pretty little ass where I tell you, before I decide to disregard my orders and taste those quivering lips of yours,” he drawled and I wanted to retch.

  My blood ran cold as I heard my mom’s terrified voice scream my name. I didn’t think, didn’t have any control over my actions. I ran in her direction.

  I made it to the bottom of the stairs and saw my mom’s face contorted in terror. “Run!” she screamed at me.

  I was about to do that, run, right toward her. No way I was leaving her, but I felt cold steel on the back of my head.

  Mom’s eyes widened in horror and someone yanked her back.

  “Remember what I promised?” the voice sneered.

  I closed my eyes, everything going dangerously silent at the realization I was going to die. I thought of Mom. Of Zane. Of Kill.

  Killian’s was the last face I saw when the gun went off.

  ****

  It took me a second to realize I wasn’t dead. That there had been a jolt in my body and grunting of flesh against flesh before the gunshot. My ears ringing, I turned, and in horror, I saw Kill wrestling with the man, red blossoming under his white tee.

  Kill was shot. He was shot and he was still fighting the man with the gun. Then he wasn’t. Then the man crumpled to the ground and Killian didn’t hesitate to run toward me, grab me in his arms.

  “Killian! Get her out of here!” Mom screamed from the top of the stairs.

  Both of our gazes cut to where she was struggling with another man, one in a suit who had a gun he was lifting toward us.

  Kill didn’t hesitate. He grabbed hold of me and yanked me toward the door.

  “No!” I screamed hysterically, fighting him. “I’m not leaving her. I’m not leaving Mom,” I yelled as he lifted me and ran out the door. “Put me down.”

  “Freckles, stop,” Kill ordered urgently, opening the car door and setting me in it. “We can’t help your mom if we’re both dead. I’m not lettin’ you get hit. We need the club. Zane will get her,” he promised.

  Tears streamed down my cheeks. Kill must have noted this as agreement because he rushed around the car and screeched away from the curb before I even knew what was happening. He drove fast. Way fast. He sped through the streets like the devil himself was at our heels. I thought back to the man at the top of the stairs. He very well could be.

  “Lexie, talk to me,” Kill demanded. “Are you hurt anywhere?”

  His urgent voice cut through my hysteria and I moved my gaze downward. Blood. There was blood all over my white dress. Mmy stomach lurched. My gaze snapped to Kill’s tee. The previously white one. It was now almost completely red on one side.

  “Oh my God,” I whispered in horror. My voice was quiet when my mind was screaming. “You’re shot! Kill, holy shit. Don’t die,” I pleaded.

  He reached out his arm, the bleeding one, and gripped my own for a moment before his hands grasped the wheel. He needed both of them on it the way he was driving.

  “I’m not going anywhere. I’m not leavin’ you,” he promised. “It’s a flesh wound,” he dismissed my horror.

  “It’s a bullet wound,” I clarified in a thick voice. “From a gun. Oh my God. Mom,” I whispered, starting to hyperventilate.

  “Lexie.” Kill’s voice was urgent. “You need to tell me right now, are you hurt?”

  I gaped at him. “You’re bleeding from a bullet wound and Mom’s....” I trailed off, feeling pain at the thought of Mom alone with that man. “And you’re worried about me?”

  Kill didn’t move his gaze from the road. We were quickly approaching the road that led to the clubhouse. We’d be there in minutes. Minutes my mom may not have.

  “Yes, I’m worried about you, Lexie.”

  “I-I’m... fine,” I stuttered finally.

  Kill’s body relaxed a little and he screeched into the clubhouse, laying his hand on the horn as he did so. He nearly ran down a bike, parking inches away from it. He knifed out of the car as soon as it was stationary. I did the same.

  “What the fuck are you doing, you crazy kid?” Steg yelled, coming out from a bay, glaring at Kill. His entire face changed as he registered the blood on Kill. His eyes flickered to me. He was instantly in badass mode.

  “Prospect!” he screamed. “Get doc, now!” he ordered, striding purposefully toward Kill.

  I let out a breath, knowing he was in good hands. I had to get to Zane. I had to get him to save Mom, so I sprinted in the direction of the clubhouse.

  “Lexie!” Kill bellowed from behind me but I didn’t slow.

  The entire room went silent the moment I ran in the room. I felt everyone’s gaze on me. I only had eyes for one person.

  “Zane,” I nearly screamed in desperation.

  He instantly turned to me, his eyes widening in horror, in fear as they flickered over me. In what felt like a second, he was in front of me, his hands at my shoulders.

  “Where are you hurt, baby?” he asked, his voice thick, his eyes urgent.

  I started shaking in his presence, unable to speak, to move now I was stopped. I thought of the gun at my head. At being prepared to die. At Mom. Oh my God. Mom.

  Zane’s large fingers grasped my chin so it tilted up. His eyes burned into mine. They were hard with concern. With panic.

  “Lex, you need to tell me where you’re hurt,” he demanded.

  I belatedly realized why he seemed to be barely holding himself together, why he was holding me like he expected me to collapse at any moment.

/>   Blood.

  I was covered in blood. “I-it’s not mine. It’s Killian’s,” I managed to choke out.

  I prayed that Steg was getting him help. I prayed for Mom. I used every inch of my entire body to wish for both of them.

  “Lexie,” I heard a pained grunt from behind me.

  I whipped my head around Zane still firmly gripping my arms. Kill only had eyes for me. He was shrugging off Steg, holding his shoulder.

  Zane’s body went tighter if that was possible and fury drowned the room. “What the fuck happened?”

  I looked from Kill to Zane, registering what I hadn’t said yet, what he needed to know. “They shot Kill. They’ve got Mom,” I sobbed.

  Zane’s entire body flinched at that like he’d been shot. The absolute horror on his face was clear before he quickly masked it.

  I clutched his arms. “You’ve got to save her. Find her,” I pleased. “Promise me.”

  Zane stared at me, his face dangerously blank. “I will. I promise.”

  ****

  “You need to sleep, Freckles,” Kill murmured, stroking my head.

  “How can I? How can I sleep? I don’t know where Mom is. If she’s sleeping, if she’s okay, if she’s...” I choked the last of my words out.

  Kill’s arms tightened around me. “She’s gonna be okay,” he promised. “She’s strong, just like you.”

  I pushed my head from where it was resting on his chest. “How can you know that?”

  His eyes were searing into mine. “I know that ‘cause Bull’s not gonna accept anything less than finding her okay and sarcastic as ever. ‘Cause I know what I’d do if that was you. I’d tear up this entire country if that’s what it took,” he said, his voice rough.

  I blinked at him, a single tear trailing down my cheek. He kissed it away.

  I glanced at the bandage covering half of his shoulder. He was shirtless. “Are you in any pain?” I asked softly, trailing my hand around the edge of the wrapping. He had barely let the “doc” stitch him up. He had been hell-bent on “briefing the men” on what had happened. Only when Steg had demanded he be stitched up did he comply. He did this without anesthetic while holding my hand loosely, his face blank. I think I’d flinched more than he did. Every time the needle threaded through his flesh, I felt it as if it was ripping through my own.

 
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