Breaking the Rules (Page 52)

Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits #1.5)(52)
Author: Katie McGarry

The relief of seeing Echo makes me feel like a man teetering on the edge of hell only to be brought back to life. With the dinner I bought her in her hands, Echo’s eyes flicker between me and her computer screen. “I can come back.”

“Echo,” Mrs. Collins says, and my girl’s shoulders roll forward like she got caught shoplifting.

“Yes?”

“We still have a Skype appointment next week, correct?”

“Yep.”

“Good. Do you mind giving me and Noah a few more minutes alone?”

The urge is to tell Mrs. Collins to fuck off. Instead, I nod, and Echo caresses my biceps in support before she leaves. When the door is shut, I turn back to Mrs. Collins. “You know I’m done, right?”

She points a finger at me. “Just a little more time.”

“One minute.”

“It’s okay to be mad at your mom.”

She’s wrong. “I’m not mad at her.”

I can’t be. That would be unforgiveable. Besides, if anyone had the right to be mad, it’d be Mom. She should be fucking pissed at me.

“We’ll discuss this next time.”

“There won’t be a next time.”

“Yes, there will.” She waves away my statement. “You paid me in advance. My departing thoughts are a word of caution.”

That gains my undivided attention.

“I understand your need to connect with surviving blood relatives, but before you do, I think it would be wise for you to understand why you’re reaching out to people your mother never mentioned. Maybe consider the options as to why your mom didn’t tell you about her family. Maybe think of what your expectations are before you reach out to them.”

“I don’t expect anything from them.”

“I have a feeling you do, but don’t realize it.”

“Is what Carrie and Joe said true? Are they awful human beings?”

“I don’t know the answer to that. I only know what Carrie and Joe have told me.”

Every single conversation and fight I’ve had with Echo about her mom crashes into my mind. The irony of the next question isn’t lost on me. “Is it possible they’ve changed?”

“People do change, but you know I don’t have the ability to answer that question as it pertains to your mother’s family.”

“If they had known that I was in the system, do you think they would have taken me?”

A shadow spreads over her face—she knows more than she’s telling.

“What?” I push.

“Keesha swears to me that your mother’s family understood the situation. She admits that the state made a mistake when they initially didn’t search for surviving blood relatives—”

I shake my head, cutting her off. “I told them everyone was dead. Why would they have looked? But when Carrie and Joe started filing for adoption two years ago, and they searched to confirm there weren’t blood relatives, did Mom’s family think I was also being adopted? Is it possible that the system screwed up?”

“Mistakes can be made,” she admits. “But Keesha is good at her job. Even you know this. Noah…I’ve seen some of the paper trails between Carrie and Joe and your mother’s family. I don’t see how there could have been a mistake.”

Talking to Mrs. Collins was supposed to help, not mess me up more. “Then why are they reaching out to me now? Why would they lie?”

“I don’t know, and because of that, please be careful. Please keep me involved in this.”

I somewhat tip my head. Not really an agreement. Not really a dismissal.

“Answer me one more thing,” she presses. “If you do, I think it will help you understand what you’re looking for.”

I toss my hands in the air in a why-the-hell-not.

“Give me the first thing you’d want from your mother if she were here.”

My eyes flash to Mrs. Collins, and my insides wither and die.

“Tell me,” she coaxes.

My stomach acids churn. “Redemption.”

Mrs. Collins blinks. “Redemption?”

“Redemption.” And this session is done. “I’ve gotta go.”

“This conversation isn’t over.”

Yeah, it is. I end the call and slouch back in the seat and run my hand over my hair. Echo asked me for simple and damn if my life doesn’t keep getting complicated.

Closing the computer and swiping it up, I shove away from the desk and poke my head into the hallway. Looking sexy as hell with her damp hair and wearing a pair of drawstring pants plus a shirt that fits snugly across her breasts, Echo leans against the wall across from me.

“You okay?” she asks.

“Yeah. Are you?”

“Yeah,” she parrots. “Do you want to talk about it?”

No. “Do you want to tell me why Mrs. Collins is stalking you from yesterday?”

“Not particularly.” Echo holds up the Styrofoam container. “Dinner?”

“Let’s go.”

Echo

Because the streetlamps illuminate the hotel parking lot like noon at the equator, the stars aren’t visible, and I’m perfectly fine with avoiding the constellations tonight. Noah and I sit on the hood of my Honda Civic and share the sweet-and-sour chicken. Noah would have grabbed food at work, but I picked Chinese because that’s one of his favorites to eat…mine, too. It’s the simple things that we have in common that create warm fuzzies.

The container rests on our joint knees, and I like the closeness of the meal. We’ve been quiet, but this type of familiar quiet is a gift. We’re synchronized, and I love it.

Noah likes to combine the pineapple with his chicken so I push the last pineapple chunk in his direction. I pop another bite of chicken into my mouth then twist the fork to him.

“You better watch it.” Noah hands me the rest of the egg roll while taking the fork. Like I predicted, he goes for his preferred combo. “You’ll get my cooties.”

I choke on the egg roll, and Noah pats my back as I cough down my dinner. He cracks open the water and offers it to me. The cool liquid helps, and I hand it back to him when I can properly breathe. “Did you say cooties?”

Noah chuckles. “Yeah.”

“Cooties seems like too tame of a word for you.”

He winks and scoops another forkful. “I like to keep you guessing.”

“Well, it’s too late. I already have your cooties.”

Noah finishes chewing and peers at me. “There’s a party tomorrow night. We should go.”