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    Noah

    Echo shifts, and the cold rush of air against my skin causes my eyes to flash open. The Colorado State Park Ranger for the Great Sand Dunes wasn’t kidding when he said temperatures drop overnight. I stretch the muscles in my back then turn onto my side in order to touch Echo again. My palm melts into the curve of her waist.

    She’s curled in with her back to me, and she’s tugged the blanket tight to her neck. Her tank top no longer provides protection against the elements. Last night was hot, in more ways than I can count, and the cover wasn’t required for any of our activities—neither for the sleeping nor the kissing. Without a doubt, this has been the best damned summer of my life.

    Outside the tent, birds chirp, and off in the distance an engine sputters to life. Gravel cracks as a car leaves the campground. Echo releases a contented sigh. She’s gorgeous in her sleep. Her red curls flow over her shoulder, and a few strands cover her face.

    We’ve got one week before we have to return to Kentucky. College orientation is starting, and my place of employment, the Malt and Burger, will reopen after being closed for renovations. I’ll no longer be a burger-flipper. Instead, I’ve entered management, where I’ll be teaching other assholes how to flip burgers. Who’d have thought I’d be the responsible type?

    My hand wades through the mess of clothes near Echo’s head, and I dig out my cell. Seven in the morning.

    Good and damn.

    Good—Echo slept through the night again without a nightmare and damn, she needs to wake up. I’ve got a promise to keep to a nine-year-old.

    I lean down and press my lips to Echo’s shoulder while my finger teases the strap of her tank. A disgruntled groan slips from her throat, and I chuckle as she halfheartedly swats at my hand. “Go away. I’m sleeping.”

    My nose brushes the hair away from her ear. Her sweet scent overwhelms my senses, and my mouth waters. I’m about to trash my intention of seducing her awake and replace it with plain seducing, but there’s one lesson I learned quickly at the start of our road trip: Echo’s not a morning person.

    I gently nip her earlobe. While mornings aren’t her thing, she’s definitely a night girl. “I promised Jacob I’d video chat with him today. You wanted to shop for a new dress, and we have one more stop before we hit Denver.”

    Jacob—my younger brother.

    I spent the past three years of my life plotting and scheming to gain custody of him and our youngest brother, Tyler. This spring, after experiencing one of those life-altering moments you see in the movies, I walked away from the custody battle and gave my brothers the life I could never provide. I shattered the fucked-up remains of my heart in the process. But Echo, being a damned magical siren, gathered the pieces and has slowly sewn them together.

    “I take it back,” Echo mumbles into the pillow. She fails at pulling the cover over her head when I pinch the blanket with my fingers to keep it in place. “I don’t want a new dress for Denver. You take the keys and go chat with Jacob.”

    Echo’s been invited to an art showing, and this one has her on edge. If I had to guess why, I’d say she’s tired of the same pretentious jerks acting like they know everything. I’ve been over this nonsense since our second week, but Echo’s into it, and I’m into Echo. “We need to map out the rest of our trip so I can call ahead and get shifts. I need cash if you want to stay in a hotel again.”

    I worked at the Malt and Burger for two years in Louisville, and thanks to their employee travel program, I can take swing shifts at sister stores throughout the nation. Gas and food on this trip hasn’t been cheap, and then I sent a chunk of money to my best friend, Isaiah, for a deposit on an apartment.

    “I’ve got money.” Echo nestles in like it’s three in the morning instead of seven, and damn if she doesn’t look sexy doing it.

    Even with the slump she’s hit this past month, Echo did well earlier this summer by selling her paintings at galleries. I agree she could finance us, but the only thing I have left is my pride, and I’ll eat shit before anyone rips that from me.

    “I’m earning my way,” I say. “If you don’t come with me today, we’ll end up going through Kansas again.”

    She wrinkles her nose but has yet to open her eyes. “It’s a large country, Noah. We can live without seeing Kansas again.”

    “If you wake up and come with me, we’ll have plenty of time to plan a new route.”

    “Know what I haven’t had plenty of in two years? Sleep. Now—shhhh. I’m nightmare-less, and you’re ruining my streak.”

    Echo’s been nightmare-less for seven days. It’s a big milestone, for both of us. “Echo...”

    “Please,” she whispers in this sensual Southern drawl full of the cracked grogginess that drives me crazy. “Pretty please?”

    Everything inside me softens. Hands down, this girl owns me. I gave up caring this past spring how fucked I am because of it. “Five minutes.”

    “An hour.”

    “Ten minutes, and we’ll stay in a hotel tonight.” We’re visiting Colorado Springs for the next two days before we drive to Denver. It’s our last sightseeing trip before going home. Until this point, I’ve been adamant we camp.

    Accepting her silence as consent to the deal, I hook an arm around her and draw her into my body. Echo flips, resting her head on my bare chest, and I don’t miss the unrepentant smirk. Her breath tickles my skin, and the thought of seducing her creeps back into my brain. I shove the impulse away. I made a deal and I’m a man of my word.

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