Echoes of silence unquie.., p.31
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       Echoes of Silence (Unquiet Mind Book 1), p.31

           Anne Malcom
 

  Bull stormed over to the uniform left watching them. “What the fuck is going on?” he growled.

  The uniform paled, and he seriously looked like he was going to piss himself. Pussy. Bull was about to do something that may or may not get him arrested when the radio crackled.

  “Got her. She’s pretty banged up. Think her arm’s broken—need a paramedic in here, stat,” Crawford’s voice clipped. “Also need bolt cutters. She’s fuckin’ chained to the wall.”

  Bull froze for a split second; then his monster roared to life. He did not give a fuck about uniforms or deals. He was going to his woman. As he strode toward the police tape, a uniform stood in his way.

  “You can’t go in there—”

  He didn’t even think; he just plowed his fist through the fucker’s face and kept walking.

  He heard the sounds of a struggle behind him and he was pretty sure his brothers were doing similar shit to what he’d done. If it had been any other day, he might’ve almost grinned. But Crawford’s voice repeated in his head.

  “Chained to the wall. Broken arm.”

  He broke into a run toward the house. He didn’t take in the carnage or the uniforms cuffing various well-dressed scum. Nor did he move slow enough for any of the fuckers to act on the questioning looks that were sent his way. His eyes darted around the living room, aiming for where a basement would be. They fell on Bill, the sheriff, who upon making eye contact with Bull merely shook his head like a disapproving father. The old cop was a lot less high-strung than his piece of shit son and was the only reason they had some form of relationship with the local PD, which was necessary when the Sons needed them to look the other way. Not often, but on occasion. Bill was usually down with that, on the provision shit didn’t hit his jurisdiction and they lined his pockets every now and then. Despite that, he was a good man. Bull didn’t think too much of him though, more on the man who was in front of him, his hands cuffed behind his back.

  Slightly younger than him he guessed, well dressed, in a white shirt and ridiculous fuckin’ shoes. Hair all slicked back like a greasy piece of shit. The eyes. That’s how Bull knew who he was. What lay behind them. The eyes of a killer. Empty. Devoid of anything that could be construed as human. Bull knew that look because it was what he used to see in the mirror after he went to work for the club. After he drained the life out of whatever fucker that deserved to be taken off this earth.

  That look wasn’t permanent. It was like the effects of a drug. A while after the killing, it drained away, back into the darkest recesses of his mind. After spending time with Mia, with Lexie, that look became a memory. The dark corner where it retreated to was bathed in light. The look in this man’s eyes was permanent. Bull’s entire frame tightened. This was the man responsible for taking Mia, shooting Killian, and trying to take Lexie. And sixteen years ago, almost killing her. Almost killing Mia. Thank fuck Lexie didn’t look a thing like him. He found himself stepping toward the man who was staring at him. Involuntarily, he reached for his piece in order to put a bullet through his brain. He didn’t give a shit he’d be killing an unarmed man in a room full of cops. Not in that moment.

  Bill stepped forward, jerking the man behind him roughly.

  “Not the time, son,” he told him firmly, meeting his eyes.

  Bull stared at him, struggling not to pummel the old man from getting in the way of justice. Of revenge.

  “Go to your woman,” he continued, not backing down at the no doubt murderous look on Bull’s face.

  That jolted Bull out of his haze. The monster took a backseat and Bull realized what was most important at that moment.

  “Basement,” he barked.

  Bill nodded at him, a look of relief flooding the old man’s face. He jerked his head to the hallway behind him. “In the kitchen, first door to your left.” His voice held a note of something; couldn’t be respect, but as sure as shit sounded like it.

  A meaningful look was communicated between the two before Bull moved past them both in search of his woman. Bull didn’t look at the maggot because if he did, he wouldn’t have been able to control himself.

  When he found the basement, he struggled not to take the stairs two at a time. He got to the bottom, not fully prepared for what he would see. His entire frame locked in place.

  Mia on the ground, Crawford crouching beside her, gently moving her arm in his hands. Bull gritted his teeth at the fucker’s hands on her. But he didn’t focus on that, not for long. He focused on her face. Her beautiful peaches and cream face. It was now covered in purplish bruising. Both of her eyes were darkened with evidence of the brutality she withstood, one almost swollen shut. There were rings around her neck. Hand marks. Someone had tried to strangle her. Tried to squeeze the life out of her. Unbidden, the memories assaulted him. A surprise attack.

  FOUR YEARS EARLIER

  His eyes watched the monitor that measured the beats of her heart, that showed him she was still alive. Barely. Barely holding on, he knew that. His eyes moved to the bandage that covered half her face. He knew what was underneath it, what that tattoo meant. Meant he’d failed. Failed his most basic job. Protecting his girl. Shielding her from the horrors that came with being connected with him. Shielding her from the darkness. The evidence of his failure was everywhere. The burn marks decorating her delicate arms. The cuts and bruises covering almost her entire body. He couldn’t even let himself think of what else they’d done to her. Not in this moment. But that was his failure too.

  “Brother.” He heard his best friend’s voice, felt his hand on his shoulder. He didn’t look up. Didn’t move his eyes from that machine.

  “Don’t fuckin’ touch me right now, Cade,” he ordered quietly, his voice dead.

  The hand left, but the presence didn’t. There was silence for a moment, the beeping the only sound in the room.

  “This isn’t your fault,” Cade began.

  “The fuck it isn’t,” Bull snapped. “This shit—” he nodded to the bed, to his broken angel “—is all on me.”

  “Bull,” Cade’s voice was stronger, ready to fight him on this.

  Bull whipped his head around to meet his friend’s eyes. “They fucking raped her,” he yelled, the ugly word seeming to echo in his brain, slicing him up inside. “Repeatedly,” he continued quieter and he watched his friend flinch. “She’s scared of mice,” he told him. “Laurie’s fuckin’ terrified of the tiny things.” His eyes moved back to the machine. “She’s afraid of mice. How do you think she felt when they were doing, that,” he spat the word, “to her?” He paused, choking on his breath. “Yeah, that’s on me,” he repeated. “Girl who lived her life in sunshine, losing it in the blackest, ugliest depths of hell.” And as if she heard him, as if she couldn’t keep it up any longer, the beeping stopped.

  A single tear trickled down Bull’s cheek.

  ****

  “Zane?” A small voice shocked him out of his own head. His own horrors.

  He realized he had been locked on the spot, his eyes glued on Mia, but his mind straying to someone else entirely.

  That voice, that very alive, very strong voice got him moving. He managed to make his feet move, and in a moment, he was in front of her, kneeling. He managed not to kick Crawford in the face, who merely released Mia and moved slightly away with a hard glare.

  Bull cupped Mia’s face with his hands gently, aware of the pain she must be in. But he had to touch her, to feel her warm skin under his. She met his eyes. He flinched, but not out of pain. Out of relief.

  Her good hand stroked his jaw. “You’re here,” she said.

  “I’m here,” he repeated, his voice sounding rough, even to his own ears.

  “Lexie?” she asked, her voice tight with worry.

  He stroked her face. “She’s good, baby,” he assured her. “Killian too,” he added when he saw her mouth open again.

  Her entire body sagged. She searched his face. “I’m okay now,” she promised him.

  His eyes ran over eve
ry inch of her body. The clothes weren’t hers but they weren’t ripped. They weren’t betraying signs of an unspeakable assault. That didn’t mean it didn’t happen. Bull swallowed the fire tickling at the base of his throat. His eyes worked their way back up to her face. It was covered in bruises. Bruises that made his fists clench and made him want to neuter the coward who thought he could lay hands on a woman. His woman. The eyes that met his once more made him calm. Because even though her face was battered, those bruises bringing the worst kind of déjà vu, the eyes were what held him together. They weren’t broken, weren’t empty. They were full, whole, strong.

  “Marry me,” he whispered.

  Her entire frame jerked. “What?”

  “Marry me,” he clipped.

  She regarded him. “You’re asking me to marry you while I’m assuming I’m a delightful shade of purple?” she asked, half teasing.

  Bull didn’t react. Outwardly, at least. Only Mia. Only his Mia would find a way to make a joke at this moment.

  She took his silence as affirmation of his seriousness. Her own face turned serious. “Of course, I’ll marry you,” she whispered with tears in her voice.

  Bull didn’t hesitate. As gently as he could, he claimed her mouth. He had needed to since the moment he laid eyes on her. Once he was done, he pulled back slightly. She was smiling. Almost laughing. Bull didn’t know how the fuck this was possible. She had just agreed to become his forever. He was happy. Ecstatic. But she was still sitting in front of him injured, battered but not broken, and somehow smiling.

  “What?” he clipped.

  Her eyes twinkled and flickered to Crawford, who had been watching the entire exchange with a blank expression. Bull had decided to ignore him.

  “We totally have to make up a ‘how did he propose’ story,” she informed him in a light tone. “The whole ‘he did it in a basement where I was chained up after being kidnapped,’ might not be appropriate for the grandchildren,” she finished with a smile.

  The tightening of his form went unnoticed at the mention of their grandchildren as paramedics, and more cops arrived. Bull was gently pushed to the side and he struggled to not punch the fucker that suggested he move further away. The look he gave the paramedic seemed to communicate something because no one uttered such a suggestion again.

  “Zane, honey, can you do me a favor?” Mia asked in a raspy voice as paramedics readied to put her in the ambulance.

  “Anything,” he promised. He’d give this woman anything. She wanted the moon? He’d find a way to lasso the fucker and bring it back to Earth.

  “You need to go and get Lexie, let her know I’m okay. Make sure she’s okay. Bring her to the hospital,” she ordered.

  Bull’s entire frame went solid, and he stepped forward so he was by Mia’s side. He gave the man beside him a look that made him pause and step aside. Bull would do anything, lasso the moon for this woman, but leave her side? When she looked like this? When she’d been enduring horrors for over twenty-four hours? When he’d been enduring his own?

  “I’ll get one of the boys to get her. Call Kill, get the kid to meet us there,” he told her.

  He wanted his girl to be by her mom’s side. He wanted to salve every bit of worry that had been tattooed on her pretty face, but that directly conflicted with the guttural need to not let the woman who possessed his soul out of his sight.

  Mia reached out to grab his hand, to squeeze it. “I need you to get our girl,” she insisted. “She needs you. I need her to have you. Please.”

  Bull gave her bruised face a long look. Etched it into his mind. Her bruised, battered but alive face.

  Our girl. That’s what she’d said.

  “Lucky,” he barked, not taking his eyes off Mia.

  The men had stormed the area and had all been loosely gathered when Mia had been wheeled out, their faces tight with relief when they saw her. Then tight with fury when they saw her.

  He felt Lucky’s form beside him. “Ride with Mia,” he ordered, every cell in his body resisting those words. “Make sure she gets taken care of. Don’t let her outta your sight,” he commanded, finally tearing away from his woman to face his brother’s eyes. For once, they weren’t twinkling with humor. “I’m going to get Lexie,” he continued.

  Lucky nodded tightly. “I got your woman. She’s good. Get your girl, brother,” he said, clapping him on the shoulder and giving it a squeeze.

  Bull nodded and turned back to the stretcher that held half of his world. He bent down to lay his lips gently on Mia’s.

  “I’ll be see you soon, baby,” he promised.

  “’Kay, fiancé,” she murmured, grinning.

  Only she could grin at that moment. Bull used every inch of his strength to straighten and give her a long look before he turned and went to his bike to get the other half of his world.

  We waited for what felt like an eternity, and then I heard the roar. That familiar roar of a Harley. Kill heard it too and his hand flexed in mine. His reflexes may have been quick, but he had nothing on me. I jumped off the sofa and was halfway across the room before he called after me. I didn’t pause, didn’t turn. I just ran out of the clubhouse into the parking lot. Various bikes were pulling back in, but I was searching for only one.

  The one Zane was riding, the one that pulled up in front of me. I was afraid. I was terrified of looking at his face, at seeing the demons Mom had chased away return to destroy him, and destroy me too.

  “Courage, dear heart.”

  I looked up at the same time he got off the motorcycle.

  I would have collapsed right there if he hadn’t been there to catch me. His arms circled around me.

  “She’s okay. We got her, Lex,” he murmured against my hair.

  I clung to his cut for a split second then found my feet.

  “Take me to her,” I commanded.

  Zane grinned, properly, ear to ear. He reached over to his bike, retrieving a helmet that he fastened on my head. Once that was done, he nodded to the bike.

  “Hop on.”

  I gaped at him. “Mom would kill me,” I replied instantly. He knew Mom’s rule.

  He stroked my cheek. “I think she’ll understand, just this once,” he murmured.

  He hopped on and I didn’t hesitate. I got on behind him and fastened my hands around his waist. He didn’t waste any time roaring out of the lot.

  Kill stood watching me with my boys by his side. I blew him a kiss as we left. And in a gesture I didn’t think any other person in the planet could execute while still holding onto his badass card, he caught the imaginary kiss and clutched it to his chest.

  Then he was out of my sight and I buried my head into Zane’s back, hoping upon hope that someone had answered my prayers, and everything would be okay.

  I’d find out later that they had. Every single one.

  Then even later, I’d find out they hadn’t.

  SIX MONTHS LATER

  Kill held my wrists above my head; they were clasped in one of his hands while the other spanned my ribcage, trailing down the side of my body, leaving a trail of fire in its wake.

  His mouth moved against mine, devouring me, turning me into a mess of need and desire. His body was pressed against mine and my back was flush against the wall. I let out a sound at the back of my throat that would have been slightly embarrassing, but all I thought of nothing but Kill’s mouth on mine and more.

  I had wanted more, but I got less. A lot less. Kill was suddenly gone and halfway across the garage in what felt like the blink of an eye.

  I stared at him, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hand.

  “What—?” I began to protest but then my gaze moved to the door, which Zane had just stepped into.

  His gaze was murderous on Kill. “It’s eleven,” he bit out. “You need to be at the club. Shit to do,” he declared.

  Kill returned his look and then nodded tightly.

  Zane’s gaze was on me and it softened immediately. “In the house in five, L
ex,” he said softly. “Also, your mom has instructed me to tell you, and I quote, ‘If you don’t get your butt inside before The Walking Dead, she’ll feed you to the zombies the minute they start taking over the earth,’” he informed me, his eyes dancing slightly.

  I wasn’t fooled by the way he spoke. It was not a request. Zane took to enforcing Mom’s loose curfew to something akin to how a drill sergeant enforced his soldiers. It may have disappointed me, saying good-bye to Kill, having to abide by rules when it came to my lawless boy, but Zane never annoyed me. It was something that I actually liked. It was how a father would enforce his daughter’s curfew.

  That’s what he was to me. The moment he slipped the ring on Mom’s finger, and even before that, he was my father. My second father. Steve was my first. The man who kidnapped and almost killed my mom and the love of my life was nothing. He wasn’t dead to me because he never existed to me.

  I didn’t know where he was. I had a feeling he might not be in this world if Zane and Kill had anything to do with it. I knew that should affect me, screw me up in a multitude of ways, but somehow I didn’t find myself haunted by my father’s ghost. That was because ghosts existed in the darkest of places, and for the past six months, I’d only seen light. Apart from the day at the club, two weeks after everything. It had been hard to face the results of what happened after Mom was kidnapped, but we didn’t have much time to focus on that, considering Zane proposed to her the moment he found her and declared he wanted a wedding as soon as possible. I’d gone into ultimate wedding planner mode, not letting Mom plan a thing. Hence me being at the club after a meeting with my fellow planners. Gwen, Amy, and Evie were amazing, helping out with anything and everything.

  I was about to walk out of the common room and into the bays to where I knew Kill would be.

 
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