Echoes of silence unquie.., p.9
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       Echoes of Silence (Unquiet Mind Book 1), p.9

           Anne Malcom
 

  “This wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact we had to eat our lunch with a very silent and very broody Killian today, does it?” he asked casually.

  My head snapped back to him. “You had lunch with Killian today?”

  He nodded. “We all did. He was mighty curious as to where you were, considering Sam informed him you were, indeed, in the building. Curiosity quickly turned to concern when you didn’t reply to any of our texts,” he said. “I’m surprised he didn’t arrange a search party or put out an announcement on the loudspeaker system.”

  I fumbled into my bag, looking for my forgotten phone. I wasn’t someone who was glued to it. Its main use was for music. I hated texting and wasn’t hugely keen on social media. Unbelievable for the generation I belonged to, I knew, but that was me.

  “It’s dead,” I declared, looking at the blank screen.

  “Phones away, Ms. Spencer,” a brisk voice ordered.

  I glanced to the front of the class. Mr. Lindon regarded me with a raised brow. I felt multiple eyes on me. “Sorry,” I muttered, throwing the useless piece of technology into my backpack.

  Noah squeezed my hand. “You okay? Do I need to get out my shotgun?”

  I gave him a look out of the corner of my eye, waiting for the teacher’s attention to go off me before I replied. “You don’t have a shotgun.”

  “I’ll find one if need be.”

  I patted his hand. “I’m fine,” I reassured him quietly.

  I could feel his disbelieving face out of the corner of my eye, but he didn’t say anything more. Although, he doodled on a piece of paper, with “Shopping list” at the top. Underneath he wrote, “Shotgun.”

  When I glanced at it, I let out choked laughter, which earned me another disapproving look from the teacher, but it lifted my spirits.

  ****

  I stepped out into the warm sunshine, thinking I had somehow made it through the day, helped immensely by my friend.

  “We’ll meet you out front,” Noah had told me before we parted ways for last period. “Since you went MIA at lunch, you weren’t able to hear the news.” He grinned. “That’s bound to perk you up to your original level.”

  I hated surprises. “What news? Tell me now.”

  Noah shook his head. “Sam will kill me if I don’t wait for all of us. See you after school,” he called, turning down a hall.

  “Tell me now,” I shouted after him, a couple of people giving me sideways looks.

  Noah merely grinned at me over his shoulder and threw up a peace sign.

  So I hadn’t actually used all of my brainpower to think about Killian, only about 80 percent. The other twenty I wondered about the “news.”

  “Freckles.” A voice beside me hampered my escape.

  I felt his heat at my side and I gave myself a split second before I met his eyes.

  “Kill,” I greeted, my voice flat. My eyes immediately went to the fading bruise at his eye, and I had to ball my hands into fists to stop myself from reaching up to stroke it.

  “I missed you at lunch,” he said quietly, stepping closer to me.

  I held my breath. It was an exquisite pain being this close to him with the cocktail of emotions simmering beneath my surface.

  “You didn’t reply to my texts either. No ones. I was worried.”

  I looked up at him. “My phone died.”

  Killian’s brows furrowed as he gazed into my eyes. “Where were you?” he asked quietly.

  I pursed my lips. I didn’t want to tell him. He wasn’t exactly Jordan’s biggest fan. I didn’t know how he would think about my tutoring services being extended his way. Then again, who cared what he thought? He was the one who’d been rude to me, who I hadn’t heard from until today. Now I don’t even get an apology. I opened my mouth, but someone beat me to it.

  I felt pressure on my shoulders from behind me. “Just a reminder, I’m your slave for the rest of time,” Jordan’s voice sounded in my ear.

  Killian’s body went hard in front of me.

  “Thank you for your excellent tutoring skills, Lexie Spencer,” Jordan said. He obviously didn’t notice the furious glint in Killian’s eyes because he leaned in and kissed my cheek before winking at me and sauntering down the steps, followed by a group of people who waved and smiled at me.

  Stacy did not wave, nor did she smile. Her gaze was locked on Killian and me. It was smug, considering Killian’s jaw looked like it was going to shatter.

  “Tutoring?” he gritted out, eyes on the back of Jordan’s football jersey.

  “You attempting to shoot laser beams out of those baby blues?” I joked.

  Killian’s eyes snapped back to me. “You were with him at lunch?”

  I cocked my eyebrow up. “I wasn’t aware it was illegal.”

  “He took you away from having lunch with me. He should be shot,” he declared seriously. “He took away my chance at apologizing,” he added in a softer voice.

  Killian’s dark gaze threatened to dissipate my bravado. I was in danger of melting at his feet. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Though his gaze and his words made my heart pound, I was still pissed. Pissed at not just him and his over-the-top reaction to Jordan, but pissed at myself for letting him have such an effect on me.

  I stepped back. “You don’t possess my every lunch break, Killian. I’m sure I’m not the only girl you’re having lunch”—I emphasized the word—“with. I’ve got to go.” I turned and started down the steps, willing the boys to appear.

  Killian caught up with me, firmly gripping my arm to stop me at the bottom of the steps by the curb. “What are you talking about, Lexie?” he growled, his brow furrowed.

  I yanked my hand out of his grasp. “I know I’m not too hot at this.” I nodded my head between us. “I’ll admit I have terrible experience with boys. Terrible experience meaning no experience.” I paused and took a breath. “I thought I was different, this was something different. Special,” I whispered, glancing at my feet. I found my strength and looked back into his ice blue eyes. “I’m not going to be another girl on the assembly line.”

  His glare turned murderous. “Freckles, what are you talking about? This is—”

  Luckily, the universe wasn’t finishing intercepting emotional bullets for me because a car screeched up beside us on the curb.

  “Get in, loser. We’re going shopping,” Sam called, hanging out the window with a grin. “You can come too, Kill, though it’ll be a squeeze,” he told Killian, not registering the body language between us.

  I stepped fully away from him. “No, Killian won’t be coming with us. He’s busy,” I said icily.

  “Lexie—” His eyes darted to the car.

  “Good-bye, Killian.” I quickly opened the door before he could stop me.

  I watched as Killian stared at the car as Wyatt sped off.

  Noah frowned at me from across the seat. He opened his mouth to ask about that little scene, I was sure, but luckily Sam cut in.

  “Did you tell her?” he shot at Noah, twisting around in his seat.

  Noah dragged his gaze from me. “Since you threatened to stab me with your drumsticks if I did, no,” he responded dryly.

  I grinned despite myself.

  Sam’s excited gaze cut to me. “You are not going to believe what I have done for us,” he exclaimed. “Seriously, you’re going to want to marry me, have my children, name a statue after me—”

  “Short version, Sam,” Wyatt instructed, his voice teasing. I didn’t miss the serious glint in his eyes as he glanced at me in the rearview mirror.

  “Dude, this news needs an intro, for dramatic effect,” Sam drawled. “Okay.” He lifted his drumsticks and pounded them on the head of the seat. “We’ve got a gig!” he yelled after an appropriate amount of buildup.

  I raised my brows. “A gig?”

  Sam nodded rapidly. “Yes, because I am a god among men, I know people.” He waggled his eyebrows.

  “Technically, I know people,” Wyatt cut in.

/>   Sam glared at him. “You know them, but it’s my terrific charisma that got people feeling like doing us a favor,” he snapped. “People who know people who know people who own clubs. Clubs where record execs have been known to hang. A certain club that is willing to turn a blind eye to the fact we are a smidgeon under age.”

  “If you call five years a smidgeon,” Noah added in.

  Sam didn’t respond, only gave him a glare before turning back to me, a smile immediately returning. “So tell me how much you love me.”

  I leaned forward and kissed his head. “I love you so very much, Sammy,” I told him seriously. I did. Not only for the gig, which I was totally psyched about, but for distracting me from my pounding heart, sweaty palms, and buzzing mind.

  His cheeks reddened slightly, but he grinned. “Yes, well, I’m sorry to break your heart, darlin’, but I’m saving myself for all the groupies I’m bound to have. Probably a good thing we nip our affair in the bud right now. I’m quite fond of my face. I don’t need Killian rearranging it. What’s the deal with you two? You’re boyfriend and girlfriend, right?” He spoke rapidly; I was impressed.

  My stomach dropped at his question, and my mouth went dry as I searched for an explanation. I could feel both Noah and Wyatt’s knowing eyes on me.

  “Anyway, that’s why we’re going shopping,” Sam continued, luckily not waiting for me to answer. “We, meaning me, need to construct our image,” he declared.

  “Your image?” I repeated.

  Sam nodded.

  I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing, the feeling warming up the body that had felt ice cold before.

  “Okay, let’s talk options,” I said, rubbing my hands together.

  Luckily, the rest of the ride was taken up with talk of wardrobe and set lists.

  “Your mom gonna be okay with this, Lexie?” Sam asked as we got out of the car in Hope, the town over from Amber.

  I thought a second. Would any parent be happy about their underage, teenage daughter playing in a club at 11:00 p.m. at night? “Yeah, she’ll be fine,” I told him. I didn’t doubt it. Mom, more than anything, wanted to help me achieve my dream. She also knew I was the furthest from a rebellious teenager as you could get. She trusted me.

  “What about your guys’ folks?” I asked as we walked in the door of some rock vintage shop.

  Sam snorted. “I’m sure my dad will give his complete approval from his position passed out drunk on the sofa,” he said.

  “I’ll have to sweet talk them, but I’ll be good,” Wyatt added in.

  “My dad will be glad to have me out of the house. I doubt he’ll notice I’m gone,” Noah muttered.

  My heart fell that two of my boys had such rough home lives. I couldn’t imagine not having a supportive parent.

  I didn’t know how it could be possible, but we had the most amazing afternoon, each doing our own fashion show with equally outrageous outfits.

  I found myself thanking my stars. I might not have Killian, but I had my boys. I prayed I’d find a way to be okay with that.

  ****

  Killian: Backyard

  The text didn’t wake me up. I was already wide awake. The afternoon with my boys had chased away the feelings dredged up by Stacy and Killian, but they all came hurtling in with the darkness.

  I didn’t even think. I threw the covers back and shoved my feet into sequined Ugg boots. I left my hair wild around my shoulders and didn’t even put a jacket over my lacy tank. I was that eager to see him.

  I didn’t think of the shame or the guilt I felt sneaking out of the house without my mom’s knowledge. I rushed down the stairs after closing the door quietly, aiming for the dark figure with his back to me.

  “Kill, I—” I started to say the thing that I had come to realize moments ago.

  I was cut off by Killian turning around and clutching the sides of my head, bringing his mouth down on mine. I was paralyzed for a split second, taken completely unaware by the feeling of his mouth on mine. Then I relaxed into his touch, his arms circling around me as his lips coaxed mine open. They opened automatically, letting him in, letting the fire explode in my body at being subjected to such an amazing kiss for my very first time.

  I felt his loss the moment his lips left mine. He didn’t move far away, resting his forehead on mine. I could only see the dim outline of his body in the darkness, but I felt his eyes on mine.

  “I was going to wait,” he murmured in a husky voice. “Wait till out first proper date to do that, till you were ready. But seeing that asshole putting his mouth on you today, I had to claim yours. To make sure it wasn’t his touch that lingered on you. That I would be the only one kissing you for the near future.”

  I breathed into his mouth, my body still burning a thousand flames. His arms were tight around my hips and I drank in the feeling that came from this.

  “Wow,” I whispered in response.

  “Just wow?” Killian asked. I could feel the smile in his voice as his hands flexed against my waist.

  “Wow may be a small word but it encompasses a lot,” I stuttered. “Give me a second,” I whispered dreamily.

  “I’ve got you in my arms. I’ll give you a lifetime,” he murmured back.

  “Not helping,” I told him.

  He chuckled and I felt the vibration through my body.

  “No one’s ever kissed me before,” I admitted finally.

  A hand moved up to cup my jaw. “Know that, Freckles. I don’t have much—a car I built up with my dad, my bike. Thought they were the most precious things I had in this world.” He paused and brushed his lips against mine once more. “I was wrong. You giving me that, me having that, it’s the most precious gift I’ve ever gotten. Mine.”

  I couldn’t fathom all of this was happening right now. My stomach was a mess of butterflies, of joy, of fire.

  “We need to talk about whatever that was today after school,” he murmured, his arms still tight around me.

  I stiffened at the reminder of that, of Stacy’s words.

  Killian didn’t miss this. He didn’t miss anything. His arms flexed around me and he leaned back to grasp my chin and face it toward him in the dim moonlight.

  “Freckles,” he probed.

  I blinked up at the dark silhouette. “It was nothing. Silly,” I said, hoping to dismiss the subject altogether.

  “You were upset. So that’s not nothing. That’s never nothing,” Killian argued.

  I sighed, feeling warm and cold at the same time. His words, the sentiment behind them, warmed my heart, but the echoes of Stacy’s words battled against that warmth.

  Killian rubbed my arms, his hand leaving my chin to warm them, as if he sensed the battle inside my head. Inside my heart. He waited patiently for me to find the words, as if he had all the time in the world.

  “Stacy just said some things about... what you wanted from me. About how it was something you took from other girls and then dropped them, forgot about them,” I said, my words tumbling out in a rush. I hoped, if I said it quick enough, they wouldn’t settle into the air like a weight.

  Wishful thinking.

  Killian’s whole body went taut, and I could almost feel the change in his emotions; his fury was that physical.

  “She said that?” he gritted out.

  I nodded slowly. “Not those exact words, but that was the gist,” I whispered.

  Killian’s hands moved from my arms to cup my face so his nose brushed mine and I could feel his breath on my lips.

  “Someone that bitter, that empty, could never know what I want from you,” he rasped, his voice hard and soft at the same time. “That I’d never take anything from you. I want to give you everything. The fuckin’ world.” He paused, breathing heavily. I, for one, wasn’t breathing, his words like actual oxygen. “Nothing. Nothing would make me forget about you, Freckles,” he promised fiercely.

  We were silent for a long time, his head resting against mine, his words chasing away every single echo of doubt i
n my mind.

  “Promise you’ll never let ugly words make you forget that,” Killian whispered.

  “I promise,” I whispered back.

  Killian landed a featherlight kiss on my lips, electrifying my entire body with the small gesture.

  “We’ve got more shit to talk about,” Killian continued, like his words hadn’t just rocked me to the core. “But we’re not doing that in the middle of the night when you don’t have a sweater on.” His hands rubbed my arms.

  “I’m not cold,” I protested. I was burning hot. His arms were better than any sweater ever invented.

  “Yeah, well, I don’t want my girl getting sick,” he said. “Plus, I don’t want us sneaking around in the shadows. You need to be in the light, Freckles.”

  “Is that what I am?” I asked quietly. “Your girlfriend?”

  Killian brushed hair from my forehead. “No, not until I take you on a proper date. One your mom knows about,” he replied, staring at me.

  I chewed my lip. “What, so we can’t be boyfriend and girlfriend until you’ve formally asked my mom?” I asked, dumbfounded.

  “Already consider you my girl, Freckles. Have since the moment I laid eyes on you. Want to take you on a proper date so your mom knows, so the world knows your mine. Only mine.”

  My heart thrashed against my chest with those words, with being in Killian’s arms. Being his freaking girlfriend.

  He bent his head to kiss me softly once more. I melted into him immediately. Too soon, he pulled back. “You need to go back inside,” he murmured against my mouth, rubbing my arms. “Tomorrow we’ll talk about today, about everything you said. And I’ll give you a proper apology for Saturday, an explanation,” he promised.

  “You don’t have to apologize,” I said quickly. I feared he could burn down my house and, as long as he kissed me after, all would be forgiven. It was a dangerous thought.

  Killian squeezed my arms. “I’m givin’ you an apology. You deserve it. You didn’t deserve that shit,” he told me firmly.

  He kissed my forehead. “Inside, Freckles,” he ordered.

  I stayed for a moment, staring at his dark form. “Thank you,” I whispered.

 
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