Breaking the Rules (Page 35)

Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits #1.5)(35)
Author: Katie McGarry

My body locks up. If this was a guy, I’d knock his head off. “You don’t know shit about me and Echo.”

Mia loses the confidence that pushes out eight feet in front of her and suddenly, she looks smaller than Beth. “Have you started fighting yet? Like no matter what the conversation is, you can’t be on the same page?”

It’s likes she’s crawled into my brain, and I don’t like it. “How about you shut up?”

“Want to know the next stage?”

I don’t, but I do. I rub my neck, ignoring the urge to tug at my shirt as my ability to breathe constricts.

“Soon she’ll find something that interests her and her alone. That special thing they were born to do and when they find it—they come alive. That’s when they meet the real people they’re supposed to be with. Suddenly, people like you and me, the rebellious one that was cool to be with six month ago? We morph into a strangling chain around their neck. Listen to what I’m saying. We’re a phase. That’s all we’ll ever be to people like them.”

I’m shaking my head, but I don’t have words. Mia’s verbalizing my worst fears. Like she’s reading my fucking mind and foreseeing my damned future.

“I’m getting my shit together. I’m going to be the man she wants.” Yet it isn’t lost on me that Mia and I are the ones standing in the back alley next to a Dumpster overflowing with trash. It’s where we met last year. It’s where we’ve met again and somehow, I’m more comfortable here than when I stand beside Echo at a gallery.

“I was going to become the girl he wanted,” she says. “But there’s no way people like you and me can move quick enough. Have you fallen back onto a bad habit and you got that look of utter disappointment? Sort of like they watched you kick a puppy?”

The expression Echo had when I threw the guy against the wall. The small apprehensive glances at the galleries when it’s clear I don’t belong.

“You were my rebound for my Echo,” she continues. “You helped me remember that it’s better to be in control. We’re the same type of person, Noah.”

“Why do you care?” I spit out.

She shrugs. “Because I wish I would have cut my relationship with him off earlier. I wish I could have walked away with my pride intact. You helped me once, and here we are meeting again. I don’t believe in coincidence. The reason I ended up in the middle of nowhere Colorado is to be the rebound for you.”

“You’re wrong,” I tell her, and begin toward the light of the main street.

A lighter clicks behind me. “I hope I am.”

Echo

Two seconds after I answered Mrs. Collins’s Skype call, I closed the door to the hotel’s business center, granting me the illusion of privacy.

“Is that it?” Mrs. Collins asks. I told her everything: how my sales plummeted, my mother calling, the conversation with the Wicked Witch gallery owner and me and Noah fighting. To cover that I’m lying, I hide my face in my hands when I answer, “Yes.”

I like Mrs. Collins, but I can’t look at her again if we share an analytical discussion regarding my sex life or, lack thereof, with Noah.

When I spread my fingers and peek at Mrs. Collins, her eyes have narrowed into slits. “That’s not everything.”

I lower my hands onto my lap. “Can’t it be enough?”

“I get the sense that there’s something else going on…”

She leaves her statement hanging as if it will bother me that something has been left unsaid, which, phsh, won’t work. I mean, just because the words just dangle in the air like a thousand pounds of rock doesn’t mean that I have to say something to close out the sentence. My knee bounces, and it causes the table to vibrate.

I’m not falling for it. Not at all… “Do you think Noah’s going to leave me?”

Aw, heck…my chin drops to my throat. Why did I ask that? I raise my head, hoping for a positive outcome to my slip. Mrs. Collins is good at putting things in perspective—good at making me discover things that are right in front of me.

What I prayed for doesn’t materialize as I meet her sad blue eyes. “I’m not a fortune teller, Echo.”

“It would be cool if you were.” I give her a weak grin, and she offers a genuine smile back.

“What makes you think Noah’s going to break up with you?”

I shrug, and Mrs. Collins leans forward so that her face encompasses the entire screen. “Tell me the first thing that pops into your mind. What makes you think Noah is going to leave you?”

I hate this game, but unfortunately, it’s effective. “I don’t know.”

“What do you eat at the movies?”

“Popcorn.”

“What color are you wearing?”

I glance down. “Blue.”

“What’s your middle name?”

“Cassandra.”

“Why do you think Noah’s going to leave you?”

“Because my mom did.” I honest to God groan after I answer. I’m so stinking pathetic.

“Why else?”

Evidently ripping out my heart and setting it on fire isn’t enough. Oh, sorry, it’s Mrs. Collins so no, she demands so much more—like my soul.

“Come on, Echo. Besides your mom, why do you think Noah’s going to leave you?”

“My dad left me.” Though not like Mom. He divorced Mom, married someone new and has begun a life that can continue fine without me. On top of that, my father ignored my desperate call to him for help the night I ended up with the scars. The night I almost died.

“Who else?” she says in a soft voice. “You know it’s safe to talk about it here.”

My lower lip trembles and I suck in a breath, trying to keep it all in: the words, the pain, the grief.

“Who else, Echo?” Mrs. Collins repeats as a lullaby.

“Aires left me,” I whisper.

She moves her camera so that the angle of her is less sharp horror film and more soft light. “We’ve been working together close to eight months and did you know that you rarely mention Aires?”

My head snaps up, and a wave of anger shouts at me to throw something at the screen. “Yes, I do.”

“Aires must have been a big part of your life, correct?”

There’s this ache deep within. Like millions of paper cuts. The type that happen quickly then continue to throb for days. Except this throb has lasted years, and each morning when I wake and think of Aires, it’s like someone pours alcohol over the open wound again and again. “I don’t want to talk about Aires.”