Hello my lovelies. So it’s almost time unleash Killian and Lexie’s story to the world. It’s safe to say I’m excited to share this one with you. I’m also very aware that you’ll all be wanting the next one very soon since it doesn’t end with Echoes. I’m furiously writing book two and taking a little break to give you a peek at the first chapter. Here you are….
“Light reading?” a deep voice asked, making me jump out of the world that had replaced the garage around me.
Mom and I had stopped, or more accurately, been forced to stop on the way to the movies. Our car had decided to die right outside the aforementioned garage—luckily for us. I hated to think what would have happened had we been on a lonely stretch of road. Neither of us were exactly savvy with the workings of motor vehicles. Mom had ordered me to stay in the car, on account of who this particular establishment belonged to. The Sons of Templar. A motorcycle gang. Or club, as they called themselves. I had a feeling the distinction was important. I didn’t know much about them since we were new in town, but we knew Zane, our neighbor, was a member.
I regained my wits remarkably quick, especially since the boy leaning against my mom’s car could be considered as nothing less than smokin’ hot. His midnight black hair fell like inky silk around his shoulders, and he was tall. Even though he was currently leaning, I could tell from the length of his limbs he was tall. Those limbs were seriously impressive, and sinewy forearms rested against the open window I was curled up against. With him only inches away from me, I could see the veins pulsing in them if I looked hard enough. His eyes were the most vivid blue I’d ever seen. They almost stopped me from exploring the rest of his face. Almost. It was perfectly proportioned, with a defined jaw that looked like it belonged to a man, not a boy, who I guessed would be about my age. So yeah, he was smoking hot. Literally smoking—a cigarette.
I put my book in my lap and narrowed my eyes at the offending death stick. Some kids, a lot of kids my age, smoked those things for various reasons; image, weight loss, or the pursuit of the elusive ‘cool.’ With his male model good looks, leather jacket, and general ‘devil may care’ attitude, this boy did not need something as trivial as a cigarette to make him cool.
“Those will kill you, you know,” I pointed out, ignoring his question.
He smirked and shrugged. “So I’ve heard,” he replied in a voice that sent strange shivers down my spine.
“So, either you don’t think the nicotine, tar, and arsenic you are subjecting not only yourself, but me to, will affect you, or you just don’t care?” I asked with sarcasm that was automatic to me. I had my mom to blame for that.
His small smirk turned into a full-on grin. “Freckles, it’s just one cigarette. I won’t be dropping dead right here and now, don’t you worry”—his gaze turned blazing—“neither will you,” he promised.
“So,” he moved the subject on, nodding his head to my lap, “War and Peace… English Lit?”
I glanced down at the book I had completely forgotten about—something I would have thought not five minutes ago was completely impossible. I didn’t forget about books the same way I didn’t forget about oxygen. They were necessary to my survival. That and music.
“No,” I said finally, “just… reading.” I didn’t add it was for the second time, not wanting to look like a complete nerd. I would never be ashamed of my utter love of the written word, but I didn’t think this hot boy would appreciate the extent of my addiction. Few did. Books were so much a part of my life, a part of me; I didn’t know which parts were real, and which were constructed from the pages of a book.
He nodded in what looked like approval, taking a long drag of his smoke. He purposefully turned his head to exhale away from me. “Yeah, read that in ninth grade. I’m onto Anna Karenina right now, digging it,” he said, shocking my proverbial socks right off. His eyes flickered back to mine. “You read it?”
I gaped at him then nodded slowly, not speaking or anything, just nodded like an idiot.
He grinned again, showing a beautiful array of white teeth. I stared at his mouth, transfixed with it. I idly wondered what his lips would taste like.
“What’s your name, Freckles?” he asked, his eyes turning lazy.
My mind was still on kissing him. I was lost in the thought, maybe because I’d never done that with a boy I’d just met. Scratch that, I’d never done that with a physical boy. Only in fantasies featuring long-dead musicians and action movie heroes.
“Lexie,” he repeated.
I concluded my name had never sounded more awesome than when the hot guy in front of me said it in his husky voice.
“Killian,” he continued.
“Of course,” I said without even thinking.
He raised a brow. “Of course?”
“Um, well, of course, a boy like you would have a name like Killian. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was Heathcliff. No last name,” I babbled, like an idiot. “Scottish?” I guessed, my mind unwillingly picturing him astride a horse wearing the absolute crap out of a kilt and whisking me away to his castle.
I had to physically shake my head to get my mind back to the present and out of my daydream. I lived half my life in dream worlds. It was useful, most of the time, but I didn’t want to escape the real world right now.
Killian’s eyes turned slightly hard as he watched my head move, but his grin remained. “Irish,” he corrected. “I’m curious to know what you think a boy like me is. I’ll tell you now, I’m nothing like that asshole Heathcliff, not with pretty blondes,” he promised.
Something passed between us. In the silence that descended, something turned almost palpable. His ice blue eyes were locked on mine, and it was impossible to tear myself away from him. It was like falling into another one of my daydreams, but I wasn’t falling alone. It wasn’t me who chose to escape the world and venture into another offered by books or music. This was all him. Those ice blue eyes drew me in and had me tumbling away from everything. A promise lay behind them, a promise I didn’t understand, but I wanted to explore.
“Shouldn’t you be polishing hubcaps or sweeping out the garage, kid?” a deep voice shattered the moment, and I blinked rapidly as Killian lazily tore his eyes from mine.
He looked at someone across the car and lifted the cigarette in his hand. “Smoke break,” he replied nonchalantly, as if whatever had passed between us hadn’t actually happened, as if I’d dreamed it.
I stared at him as he gave me one last glance, which I clung to because the glance promised I wasn’t dreaming or hallucinating. It promised a shared secret. An impossible connection, one that would only make sense in books because people didn’t have that sort of connection from a five-minute conversation, not in real life.
I jumped when the driver’s door opened and my mother sat down in the car, her blue eyes accusing.
I swallowed, fighting to get my breath under control. “What?” I asked innocently.
I hoped my voice made it seem like I had nothing to hide. It didn’t work since I never hid anything from my mom. She was my best friend. I told her everything. Until now. Something, I wasn’t quite sure what, warned me to keep this to myself and not tell the woman whom I completely adored and respected, to keep it between Killian and me, the stranger who I knew nothing about.
Mom raised a disbelieving brow as if my forehead was transparent and she could see every thought it contained. “Don’t play dumb. That obscure Russian literature in your lap makes that act fall short.”
I sat up straighter. I had to do better if I were to hide the truth of my feelings from her. The best way to do that was distraction and to rely on my mother’s utter hatred for reading anything that wasn’t based on celebrities.
“Leo Tolstoy is hardly obscure. He is considered to be one of the best novelists of all time,” I informed her.
She rolled her eyes. “That book is fifteen hundred pages.”
I raised a brow. “So?”
“So that book could be used to sink a small boating vessel, or as a weapon to knock out even the most hardheaded attacker,” Mom said with complete seriousness.
I fought a smile. “I’m using it for its intended purpose.”
She didn’t miss a beat. “I doubt its intended purpose is to be sitting in the lap of a teenage girl while a teenage boy puffs smoke in her face.”
My elation at maneuvering the subject quickly dissipated, but luckily, I was saved when someone called from the vicinity of the trunk of the car.
Mom pointed at me. “This isn’t over,” she warned.
I sank back in my seat the moment she left.
I didn’t know what it was, this thing I had been so desperate to hide from Mom. I was almost ashamed at myself for being so adamant to hide it. My mom was not a person I hid anything from. But this was mine. This little feeling was mine to cradle, to treasure. I doubted it would go any further anyway; boys like Killian were not interested in girls like me. So I decided that I would just keep it to myself.
I sat in the car twiddling my thumbs for a couple of minutes, annoyed that the fact the hood of our car was up hindering my ability to peek at whatever was going on. Okay, hindering my ability to peek at Killian.
I thoughtlessly shoved my book into my bag—I usually treated my books with the deference they deserved—and yanked myself out of the car in order to insert myself in Killian’s intoxicating presence once more.
Once I rounded the car, it was not just Killian’s intoxicating presence I was faced with. Three other men in leather vests stood in a rough semi-circle around Mom. One seriously hot bald one was chatting to her with a smile on his face. It was not him I focused on, not even Killian, whose eyes cut to me when I rounded the hood. It was the biggest one in the group. The one who was scowling at my mom.
We had met him a couple of days prior when he helped change our tire. He was our neighbor. He didn’t say much and would scare most people, I guessed. His hulking form, multiple tattoos, his stormy gray eyes, and the general air about him screamed ‘danger.’ I was pretty sure that was his intention since I hadn’t seen him smile in the small amount of time I’d been in his presence. He needed to smile. Some part of me instinctively knew this and felt comfortable with him. He deserved to smile. So I grinned wide at him.
“Zane,” I greeted him in a bright voice. Nerves tingled down my spine at not only his hard gaze turning to me but all of the men who had been focused on Mom. I swallowed. I didn’t need to look like a bumbling idiot in front of Killian, plus I was seriously excited to see Zane. I knew there was more to him than he appeared.
“I so thought you might be here. This is your club, right?” I asked, glancing around the garage to a large building to the side, noticing the flag flying above it. “I told Mom we should come in and say hello.” I gave her a look. “But she didn’t want to disturb you. Totally sucks about the car, but at least you’re here and we can thank you again for the other day.”
The gesture had resonated somewhere deep down. It had made me realize that would have been something my dad would’ve done if he had been around. At least the dad I imagined would. Maybe that was why I immediately liked Zane, despite appearances. He was a good guy. I sensed that, and I also sensed he needed someone to help just as we might need to be helped every now and again. Don’t ask me where that thought came from either; I had no idea. I just knew it to be true.
A light bulb pinged above my head.
“You should come to the movies with us and we can treat you, as a thank you. Don’t worry, we don’t see girly stuff. We love action movies—the more unbelievable, unrealistic explosions and car chases, the better,” I added quickly, needing to let him, and maybe the other men, Killian specifically, know that Mom and I were different. I didn’t understand why I needed them to know that. I never said things in order to alter what people thought of me. Until now. A weird, instinctive part of me had the feeling that this was a pivotal moment, for Mom and I both.
Zane regarded me, although he didn’t smile, but mine didn’t falter. I knew he probably had to retain his street cred, or whatever. I had no such problems.
“Movies aren’t really my scene, Lex,” he replied.
My smile wavered slightly. I guessed it was a long shot.
The man with the bald head and tattoos snaking up his neck gaped between Mom and me. “Mom?” he repeated in disbelief. “No fuckin’ way, that’s your daughter?”
I swallowed a giggle at his blatant cursing. Mom never cursed in front of me. It was funny really. Every kid in school did, as well as every character in most movies we watched, but it was something she didn’t do. So I followed suit; it was instinctual to mimic some of my mom’s beliefs and habits. I didn’t particularly like cussing either. Maybe it was a throwback from my favorite books; you didn’t see Jane Eyre cussing like girls my age did these days.
“That’s what they told me at the hospital,” Mom replied dryly, and I noticed she had to tear her gaze away from Zane to address the man who spoke.
Something niggled in my belly at that gaze.
“You’re shittin’ me! There’s no way you’re old enough to have a kid,” he argued.
This was not an unusual response when people found out Mom was my mom and not the sister she looked like. She had me young, like really young, and she barely looked old enough to have a kid, let alone a sixteen-year-old like me. We were basically imprints of each other. We both had white, curly blonde hair, though I wore mine longer and didn’t tame it near as much as Mom did. We were both pale and petite, but I had a dusting of freckles along my nose that my mom didn’t.
My stomach flipped at that thought and my gaze cut to Killian. His eyes bore into mine as if they had been on me the entire time.
“Tell that to the doctors who cut her out of me sixteen years ago. I’d like to think I didn’t undergo major surgery for nothing,” my mom responded in her—and my—trademark sarcastic manner.
I was surprised when all of the scary biker dudes around us started chuckling at Mom’s words. It wasn’t that Mom wasn’t funny, she was, but these men looked serious—hot, but serious. It was comforting to see they had a sense of humor; it made them less intimidating.
“To formally introduce you, this is the fruit of my loins, otherwise known as Lexie.” Mom held her arms out, pointing to me as if she was presenting a prize bull.
I smiled warmly at all of them and did a little wave. “Hey,” I greeted, feeling comfortable with them for some unknown reason. I was a friendly person, but I didn’t always click with people straight away. These men, believe it or not, made me feel at ease.
Well, almost all of them. I could feel Killian’s gaze on me. I definitely did not feel at ease with him.
“I’m Cade,” a dark-haired, tall, and slightly menacing man replied, looking between Mom and me. His eyes seemed to be hard and soft at the same time. He was built, not as much as Zane, but big. And, like the rest of them, with the exception of Killian, he had various tattoos covering his body.
A blond man who was slightly leaner, but still big and had an awesome man bun grinned warmly. “And I’m Brock. Pleased to meet you both.” He directed his grin to Zane, but it was more teasing. “You already seem to know Zane.” He emphasized his name; I guessed because he had first introduced himself as “Bull” when he changed our tire. I had refused to believe that was his actual name, and he explained, in clipped sentences, that it was his “road name.” Zane was his real name. I liked it much better and felt it suited him more.
“Yeah, Zane totally saved our skin the other day when Mom got a flat,” I explained since Mom seemed to have turned mute while staring at Zane. “Mom can’t change one,” I added, baiting her only a little.
My statement hit its intended mark and her gaze cut to me. “I can change one,” she all but hissed at me.
I grinned at her. “Uh no, Mom, hence your suggestion to call AAA when we saw it,” I teased.
She narrowed her eyes at me. “I had yet to consume an ounce of caffeine that morning, doll,” she gritted out with a forced smile. “I barely had control over my fine motor skills, let alone be able to change a tire. I’m sure if the occasion arose again and I was properly caffeinated, I could change a tire, no problem,” she informed not only me but the men in the group.
“I’m so sure.” My tone may have been teasing, but I felt a little barb at the thought. I realized I didn’t want my mom to have to do things like this alone. She deserved a partner, one who would help her with more than changing tires. I wanted happiness for my mom more than anything, especially since I’d be going to college in two years. I didn’t want to leave her alone.
“Mullet photo,” she hissed out of the corner of her mouth in warning. It was her way of urging me against things. It was a threat to post a photo of baby me in a mullet on the Internet for all to see. It was not pretty.
She moved her attention away from me and back to the men who had been watching our exchange. “So I’m just going to circle back to the good news portion of this announcement. You mentioned we could still make our movie, despite your dire diagnosis of Betty,” she said to the man in the coveralls.
I hadn’t been aware that our car was in dire straits. Then again, the sounds it was making weren’t entirely natural. I wasn’t exactly cut up over the turn of events. My eyes locked with Killian once more. Not cut up at all.
“Betty?” Brock repeated, jolting my eyes away from Killian’s.
“Betty’s our car,” I answered for Mom once more.
“You named your car?” he asked in disbelief, looking at Mom.
“I didn’t name her, Lexie did. She was ten and decided a car such as this required a name,” Mom said quickly, embarrassment in her tone. It was unfamiliar. Mom never got embarrassed, even that time at a parent-teacher conference when she spilled coffee all down her white shirt, rendering it see-through. She had laughed it off and exclaimed, “I paid enough for this bra, at least someone gets to see it.”
“I didn’t technically name her,” I corrected, leaning against the car. “I merely broached the concept of naming the car. You were the one who christened her Betty.”
I may have been being slightly evil to my dearly beloved mother, but it was kind of entertaining seeing her flustered and also educating. Yes, these men were rather attractive and slightly intimidating with their biker cuts, but Mom wasn’t easily intimidated. I had a weird feeling it was Zane doing this to her. I nurtured this tiny thought and the idea of Zane smiling at one of Mom’s jokes.
“Only because all of the names you came up with were utterly ridiculous and didn’t suit the car’s personality,” Mom shot at me, finding her tongue.
“A car has personality?” Brock asked, half choking on a laugh.
Mom thrust her hand out to the car in question. “This particular car does. Some obviously do not. Like a Toyota Corolla or Volvo, any make. A cherry red VW Beetle on the other hand….”
She didn’t say any more; she didn’t need to, I thought. Betty spoke for herself, though that was a sixteen-year-old girl’s opinion; hot bikers might have other ideas.
“Okay, we’re getting off-track again,” Mom said, giving me a pointed glare. “The previews are lost to us at this rate, so we need to get back on track.”
I was happy to forfeit our much-enjoyed previews to watch Mom like this and to sneak gazes at Killian every now and then, feel his eyes constantly on mine.
Cade shook his head. “I’m guessing there’s no such thing as staying on track in a conversation with you two,” he deduced, correctly. Mom and I had a tendency to go off on tangents when the mood took us. It was part of our charm.
Luckily, it seemed that the men thought this was an amusing quality and chatted warmly and even gave us a loaner car to take in the meantime. Since it wasn’t quite ready for us to use, we couldn’t use it to go to the movies. Lucky, the smiling bald one in the coveralls had not only offered to take us, but to come with us. It was obvious, even to someone as inexperienced with such things as me, he was interested in Mom.
It must have been obvious to someone with even more experience since Zane’s face had turned positively stormy at Lucky’s suggestion.
He had stepped forward and all but barked at Lucky, declaring he would take us. I didn’t quite understand the dynamics of this gesture, but it filled me with warmth.
Zane didn’t want Mom going to the movies with Lucky. That meant something, even if he spoke in grunts basically the entire ride to the theater and barely even smiled. He had insisted on paying for all the snacks and I caught moments of Zane glancing at Mom with something in his eyes. I’d even used my brilliant skills to make them sit together.
I had been completely and utterly pleased with myself when Zane dropped us back at the garage to pick up our loaner car after the movie. “See you later, Zane,” I said with a grin as I opened the door. “You totally like it, I can tell. So you’ll come next time as well?” I asked hopefully. Mom and I had a weekly tradition of going to the movies. It was nice having his silent presence with us.
He gave me a little eye smile, his hard eyes crinkling almost imperceptibly at the edges. He never smiled with his mouth, for whatever reason, but that was his way.
I beamed at him. “Saaweet, catch you later,” I called, jumping out of the truck.
My plan was to give him and my mom a moment together. Most of it, anyway. A little part of me hoped I’d see Killian once more. It had only been two hours. I barely knew him, but I was hungry for his gaze. My eyes searched the bays, which had a few people in coveralls milling about. I then moved my gaze to what I guessed was the clubhouse. There was a grassed area in the front, and a few men milled about, wearing the same leather cuts as Zane. I squinted to see better.
“Want me to go and ask them if they’d be willing to sit while you paint them?” a voice said at my side.
I jumped at my mom’s presence. I had been unaware she’d gotten out of the truck so quickly.
I pasted a grin on my face. “I’ve got what I need. I’ll do it from memory,” I shot back.
She rolled her eyes and slung her arm around my shoulder. “Let’s get you out of here before you decide to get yourself a motorcycle,” she said, directing us away from the clubhouse.
I resisted the urge to glance over my shoulder in one last ditch effort to see him. He would have forgotten about me already, I was sure.