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  • Home > Katie McGarry > Breaking the Rules     

    With the soft sound of her even breaths and her body molded to mine, my eyelids grow heavy. I battle the urge to sleep along with her. This summer has brought a sense of peace I haven’t experienced since I was fourteen, since the night before my parents died.

    A herd of footsteps race past the tent, and seconds later a small kid’s voice yells, “Hey, wait up.”

    I force my eyes open. “Come on, baby. It’s time.”

    “You’re mean, Noah.”

    The blanket falls off her arm as I slide a finger down her shoulder. Goose bumps form along her skin at my touch. She may be cranky, but she’s responding.

    “A deal’s a deal,” I remind her.

    “I changed my mind. I’d rather sleep.” With her eyes still shut, she hunts for the cover, but I kick it off. She presses her lips together. “I’m serious. You’re the meanest person I know.”

    I kiss her neck then blow on the skin, pleased with the smile she’s fighting.

    “Does that feel mean?” I ask.

    “Horribly.” She giggles. “It’s torture.”

    Echo rolls onto her back, tossing her arms over her head, and flutters her emerald eyes open. Her red hair sprawls over the array of pillows, clothes and blankets. My heart warms when I spot the spark in her eye.

    I love her. More than I thought I was capable of, and I would sacrifice my life for her happiness.

    She sucks in a breath when I caress her face. It’s a slow movement, one that memorizes her skin. We’ve been traveling since graduation in June, visiting art galleries, exploring the country and each other. But there are some places that we haven’t been, and while I’m fine with waiting until Echo’s ready, there’s that span of time when she looks at me and I kiss her lips where I wonder: Will this be our first time?

    Echo’s phone rings. She blinks repeatedly then bolts upright. “Crap.”

    It’s a miracle her cell has power. She’s had a bad habit this summer of not plugging it in.

    Echo tosses my shirt at me before grabbing her cell. “I forgot to call Dad last night, and he’s going to be ticked.” She drops her voice so she can mimic his pissed-off tone. “‘I thought you were going to be responsible, Echo. You said you’d call every other day by seven.’” She returns to her normal voice. “Just crap. Will you please put your shirt on?”

    “Your dad can’t see I’m shirtless.” Because she’ll go red-faced and stutter if I’m not fully clothed while they talk, I slip the shirt on and unzip the tent. “Don’t forget to tell him I’ve been respectful.”

    I glance over my shoulder to see her answering smile freeze. The cell continues to ring, and Echo holds it in her hand, staring at the screen. Her face is void of color, and her body begins to tremble.

    “Baby?”

    Nothing.

    I edge closer and run my hand through her hair. “Echo.”

    The cell stops ringing, and Echo turns her head in a movement so slow that it’s painful to watch. The eyes that were full of life moments before are now wide and terrified. “It was my mom.”

    Echo

    Alexander, my baby brother, cries in the background.

    “Is he all right?” I ask.

    “Yes,” my father says on the other end of the line. “Just hungry. Can you hold on? Ashley needs his blanket.”

    “Sure.” I listen as Dad thumps up the stairs of our house.

    Alamosa is a small town in southern Colorado and the closest thing to civilization near the Great Sand Dunes. With that said, it was still a tortuous, caffeine-free, thirty-minute ride to coffee. Noah, being, well...awesome, waits in the winding line for my latte while I sit at the sidewalk table and chairs.

    He glances over his shoulder at me again. His shaggy hair covers his eyes so I have a hard time deciphering his emotions. Noah was quiet, unusually pensive, during the drive in, and that bothers me.

    Two girls in line admire Noah, and I don’t blame them. He’s undeniably hot: tall, dark brown hair, chocolate-brown eyes and cut in all the right places. The jeans and black T-shirt he wears definitely amplify that. Plus, he has swagger.

    As one of the girls drops her purse, he’s got a little more swagger than I’d like as he helps her collect her items.

    “I’m back,” says Dad.

    “Okay.”

    It’s like watching a horror film in slow motion. She tucks her hair behind her ears, gives him a hesitant smile and speaks. The girl is pretty—very pretty. I run my hand over the scars on my left arm. Sometimes I don’t understand why Noah’s with me. Especially when I’m so...

    “You’re quiet today,” Dad says. “Are you okay?”

    Noah answers the girl then motions at me with his chin. Both girls turn, and their faces fall. Noah waves. I wave back. Butterflies tumble in my stomach when he flashes his wicked grin.

    “Echo?” Dad prods.

    “I’m fine.” I blink three times, and Noah raises an eyebrow.

    “Lying?” he mouths.

    I throw a mock glare at Noah, and his shoulders move with a chuckle as he refocuses on the counter.

    I haven’t told Dad that Mom called because I don’t know how I feel about it, so I’m hardly ready to listen to his opinion. There’s no absolving Mom in Dad’s mind, and I’m not sure that’s fair. I forgave him for his part of the night that changed my life, so shouldn’t I at least try to forgive Mom? Nausea rolls through me, and I fight a dry heave. Okay—shouldn’t I at least consider trying to forgive Mom?

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