Breaking the Rules (Page 29)

Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits #1.5)(29)
Author: Katie McGarry

A muscle in Noah’s jaw ticks, and a small part of me immediately regrets the words, but there’s no way I’m taking them back. Not until he apologizes to me.

“Tell me that you didn’t mean what you said to him,” says Noah. “Tell me that you were trying to get him to leave without me having to intervene and that you have no intention of meeting with a guy that stalked you.”

There’s a pleading expression on Noah’s face—his forehead wrinkled, his dark eyes a bit shadowed. I’ve only seen that type of desperation when Noah used to mention his need to be with his brothers, and it slightly kills a part of my soul that he’s wearing it for me.

Even worse? That he’s wearing it for me, and I can’t grant him what he craves. Not without compromising my dreams. “He owns three galleries, and I’ve heard of him before from multiple people. He can open doors for me. I believe him when he says he wants to talk. I’m going to meet with him.”

Noah throws out his arms. “He’s psychotic!”

“I’m meeting him at a coffee shop! It’ll be a little obvious to the staff if he tries to chop me into pieces!”

“We’ll find another gallery. Someone else!”

“No!” I scream.

“Why?” he yells back.

“Because!” My voice breaks. “Because I understand what it’s like when someone sees something in your work. Not just the beauty, but the message. I saw something in his painting, and he knows it. He wants to improve it, and I want to help. I need this. I need to belong to something bigger than me. Something…” My eyes flash to my arms. “Something more than me.”

Noah pivots away, and nausea hits my stomach. This is all we’ve done for days now—fight. We’re at odds with each other, and I hate it. I want us to go back to one week ago, two weeks ago, any time after graduation and before this—free from the world, free from arguing. “I don’t like fighting with you.”

“Neither do I,” he says so quietly that I’m not sure if he said it.

Someone knocks on the door, and I lower my head. How can we repair us when we keep pressing Rewind on the same parts of the same tired movie?

The knock becomes persistent, and when Noah says nothing, I open the door. I blink with the first glimpse and blink again because there is no way this is happening. Black T-shirt, ripped jeans, a backpack hanging on one shoulder, and her long black hair tumbles over the strap of the pack as she looks over my outfit. It’s Noah’s sister by choice, Beth, and my every nightmare come true.

A wide grin spreads across her face that spells eight layers of trouble for me. “I’m assuming your outfit means that Isaiah and I are interrupting this morning’s extracurricular activities. If so, hurry it up. I need to use the bathroom.”

Noah

Dressed and sitting on the edge of the bed, Echo shoves her feet into her sneakers and yanks at the shoelaces as she ties them. I told Beth and Isaiah that we needed a few minutes then slammed the door on any comment from Beth. Anything I do or say at this point doesn’t matter because I’m fucked. “I meant to tell you.”

“Yet you didn’t.”

As I said, fucked.

“How long have you known they were coming?” she asks as she strangles the laces of her right shoe.

I pick up the last of the clothes that I had laid out to dry, hoping to buy myself time. The truth isn’t going to help. “Since the morning we left the sand dunes.”

Echo tosses her hands into the air. “Oh, so you’ve only known a few days. Then my bad, why should I be angry? Tell me, is Rico coming? Maybe Antonio? Did we need to reserve adjoining rooms for your foster parents?”

Echo grabs her keys, and my heart pounds hard once, threatening to tear out of my chest. “Where are you going?”

She turns her head so quickly that her curls bounce. “To meet with Hunter.”

“Echo—”

“Coffee shop, Noah, not the Bates Motel, and I highly suggest keeping your opinions to yourself. If you’re lucky, I’ll come back.”

She jerks open the door, bangs it shut and leaves me alone in the room. I’m so deep in this damn hole that it feels like walls of dirt have collapsed and are smothering me. I reopen the door and a quick scan of the hallway informs me that Echo’s long gone.

Relaxing on the floor with their legs stretched out, Isaiah and Beth stare at me. Beth pops open her mouth, and I hold up my hand. “Not in the mood.”

Beth shrugs and returns to folding a brochure on mountain climbing into a paper airplane, but my best friend continues to study me. When a guy a year younger with more tattoos on his arms than he has skin gives the pity look, it’s bad.

“I’m sorry, man,” he says. “Look, we can go.”

“Fuck that.” Beth sends the badly constructed plane into the air. “You dragged my ass here, and you can’t make me get on another shit-ton bus if your life depended on it.”

“The phrase is if my life depended on it,” says Isaiah.

“Your life’s worth more. In fact,” she says, winking, “we should consider getting an insurance policy on you. Isn’t that what fancy, rich people do?”

“We ain’t rich,” he answers.

“I decided that since we’re here in Colorado, we are rich. Noah—” she snaps her fingers “—fill my room with bottled water.”

Isaiah smiles. “Gone dry?”

“Please, Isaiah. Have some class. We can’t drink before noon. That isn’t what fancy, rich people do. They wait until twelve-oh-five.”

The two of them never stop. “In or out, but I’m done listening.”

They stand, and Isaiah pats my back as he enters the room. “Seriously, we’ll go.”

I close the door behind me and sag onto the bed where I held Echo less than an hour ago. “We were fighting before you showed. I’ll talk to her. Straighten it out.”

Beth and Isaiah share one of those glances that say they see an oncoming train on the track I’m tied to, and they aren’t sure whether or not to tell me I’m on the verge of being creamed. “Me and Echo are fine.”

“Whatever.” Beth collapses onto the other bed and kicks off her shoes. Against the white pillowcases, she’s too pale. “How about you guys shut the fuck up and let me sleep.”

“You okay?” I ask.

“Trash can in puking distance may not be a bad idea and before you ask, jackass, I’m sober, thanks to Isaiah. I swear, Echo has totally destroyed the two of you with her squeaky-clean attitude. My goal in life is to get that girl—” Beth covers her face with both her hands then moans like she’s in pain “—stoned. If I was stoned right now, I wouldn’t feel like this.”