Home > Cross (The Gibson Boys #2.5)

Cross (The Gibson Boys #2.5)
Author: Adriana Locke

One

Cross

“Where have you been in that thing?” Machlan shouts.

The roar of his muscle car’s engine winds down and he clicks the transmission into park. The purplish-black paint shines in the early afternoon sun.

Having just backed out of a parking spot onto Main Street, I check my rearview mirror. No one is coming. “Bluebird Hill,” I tell him. “After all that rain last night, I figured I’d test the new tires Walker put on my truck last week.”

“You’re a fuckin’ kid.” He laughs.

“Says the man driving that,” I tease, pointing at his ride.

“I’m not sure what your point is. This car is the baddest thing in town.” He punches the gas, the motor roaring like a banshee.

Glancing around at Doc Burns’ office with two cars in the parking lot and the Linton County History Museum across the street that only opens for the Water Festival once a year, I grin. “That’s not saying much.”

“Go to Hell.” His hand slips through his dark hair and over his chin. The amusement in his features evaporates as I watch … and cringe.

I know this look. I know all of his looks, actually, a by-product of being his best friend as long as I can remember. Many of them concern me and a lot of them worry me. But this one? It’s a flashing red sign with Vegas-inspired lights.

The thing is, I can’t just ignore it. When this look comes, so does the topic of my sister and, even though I love the both of them, I wouldn’t mind seeing them in a padded room until they fix whatever it is between them that is so broken.

With a sigh, I jam my truck into park too. “Yes,” I say, answering the question he’s yet to ask. “Hadley called and isn’t coming home this weekend. She said maybe next week.”

His jaw works back and forth as he stares down the street. “Why?”

That single word is spit with a lifetime of emotion. Machlan has loved my sister since the day she moved to Linton with our father and me when our mother died. She was fourteen and innocent and he was fifteen and infatuated. Through the years, they were off and on and together and not—at least officially. Everyone knew Machlan and Hadley were one and the same.

I’m not sure why she moved away from here. Being both her brother and his best friend precluded me from certain information, which is for the best. They both drive me nuts without having the details.

“Not sure,” I reply. “She left a voicemail last night saying she wouldn’t be home today. She didn’t pick up when I called her back.”

He flips his gaze to me. “You didn’t talk to her after that?”

“She’s a big girl, Mach,” I mock. “I’m sure she had shit to do.”

“Yeah.” His fingers regrip the steering wheel as his jaw goes back to work again.

“I’m gonna go wash this before I head back to the gym—”

“She’s all right, though. Right?” he interrupts. His face is stone-cold sober. “I mean …”

“She’s fine.”

He waits. Blinks. Re-grips the wheel again. “That’s it?”

Popping my truck into drive, I blow out a breath. “Yeah, that’s it. You want to know more? Call her. What a fucking amazing concept.”

“Yeah. I’ll get right on that,” he snips back.

“You should. Then you could quit this whole thing.”

“Got nothin’ to quit, man. Just being a decent guy.”

A decent guy. It’s my turn to turn my knuckles white on the steering wheel.

Machlan isn’t a decent guy. He’s a fucking great one … much better than the guy Hadley is seeing now. A guy I haven’t mentioned to Mach since I got home a couple of weeks ago from visiting her. I’m not mentioning him, either. I’ll save the boyfriend an ER bill and myself the bail money.

I can’t blame him. It has to be hard to see Hadley with another guy when, in Machlan’s mind, she’s his girl.

My stomach twists like it always does when my mind goes down this road. At least my girl didn’t bring other guys back with her. Hell, she didn’t even come back at all.

“Here comes Kip,” Machlan says, bringing me out of my reverie. Nodding toward the road in front of him, he laughs. “I’m not moving.”

I twist in my seat to see the sheriff coming toward us. He blares the siren twice as if to get us to move. We don’t.

Machlan pokes his head out of the window. “Need somethin’?” he shouts.

Laughing, I watch Kip’s car slide carefully between Machlan’s and the curb on the other side.

“You can’t park in the street!” Kip yells.

“What are ya gonna do about it?” I holler.

“Take ya both in.”

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” Machlan asks. “Someone to protect and serve? Or service, if I know you?”

Kip shakes his head as Machlan flips him the bird. The sirens come on again before Kip hits the gas and speeds off down the street and vanishes over the hill.

When I look back at Machlan, his attention is on his phone.

“What?” I ask, curious about the smile on his face.

He looks at me and laughs. Sticking the phone in the cup holder, he shrugs. “Nothing. But can you do me a favor?”

“No.”

“I need help moving a couple of things at Crave. Come help me. Just for a few.”

“What’s in it for me?” I ask.

“A beer?”

Throwing the truck in neutral, I rev the engine. It barely sounds before his is screaming over top of mine and we jet off in opposite directions. I get to a stop sign at the end of the street and do a quick one-eighty to head to Crave.

Two

Kallie

“Why are you smiling like that?”

Nora’s question drifts through the warm summer breeze. Glancing over my shoulder, the amusement dancing on her face makes me laugh.

“What? A girl can’t smile?” I ask.

“Absolutely she can, but can’t her friend ask why?”

I try to shrug off her observation as I kick at a pebble lying on the sidewalk, watching it fall into the storm drain. “I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe it just feels good to be home.”

We stop for a handful of cars along Beecher Street before we make our way onto Main. Nora takes out her phone when it chirps and whips out a few texts while I take in the town I grew up in.

Linton, Illinois is pretty much the same as it’s always been. A traditional small, Midwestern town, the most noticeable changes over the last few years seem to be minor. There’s a fresh coat of white paint on the post office and moss rose instead of impatiens filling the ever-present whiskey barrels lining the streets.

Closing my eyes, I breathe in the air, which is cinnamon-scented thanks to Carlson’s Bakery and their famous coffee cake, a staple of my childhood. The scent brings back memories of summers with the windows down, Christmas caroling along Main Street in snow up to my knees, and the Water Festival in the fall that the entire town waits for all year. It’s hard not to smile thinking about all that.

“I’m so glad you’re back,” Nora says, running a hand through her short blonde hair as we start across the street. My best friend since elementary school, she screamed when I showed up unannounced on her doorstep this morning. “When do you start work?”

“Next week. I’m starting over in the Merom office. Apparently, their attorneys have been sharing a paralegal and it’s a mess.” A hasty sigh sweeps past my lips. “I’m sure it’s going to be a circus in there for a while.”

“Yeah, but at least you’re here. Linton hasn’t been the same without you.”

My laugh is light and free. “I bet.”

“No, it true,” she insists. “It’s just me and the Gibson boys these days. Can you imagine how hard it is for me, the only girl, the only one trying to keep those boys in line?”

My smile falters, wobbling on my lips as I think about them. I have to look away from Nora.

“I mean, Molly McCarter tries to wiggle her way in there,” Nora continues, scowling. “Every time I turn around, she has her claws bared and ready to dig into one of them. You should’ve seen her trying to land Machlan last weekend. It was disgusting.”

“I forgot about Molly. What’s she up to these days?” I haven’t forgotten about Molly and I don’t have one care in the world about what she’s up to, but if I can shove off discussion about the Gibsons for a while, that’s a win.

Nora snorts. “Besides whoring around? Nothing that I know of.”

“What’s she ever done to you?” I laugh, attempting to dissect her reaction. To hear her talk badly about anyone is strange, and there’s a little more venom dripping from her words than I can just let go.

“Nothing. Nothing directly.”

“Uh-huh,” I tease, my curiosity more than a little piqued. “Because that’s a normal reaction for someone to have for a person who hasn’t ever done anything to them.”

She shoves her hands in her pockets, setting her gaze on some point in the distance, broadcasting pretty clearly that it’s futile for me to press the issue.

We step across chalk artwork on the sidewalk outside the library and wave to Ruby, the seventy-something-year-old librarian who used to chastise me for bringing in Goldfish crackers during story hour when I was a kid. Her silver hair is pressed to her head by a pair of glasses, and a floral-print bag is draped off her narrow shoulders. I give her a little wave.

“Well, look who it is!” Ruby calls out, her frail little hand going back and forth in front of her. “Are you in town for a while, Kallie? It’s so nice to see you, sweetheart.”

I pause at the base of the steps leading up to the oversized doors of the library. “It’s nice to see you too. How have you been?”

“I’m heading now to see Dr. Burns. I just have a little gout but he wants to run all these tests. The man doesn’t have the sense God gave a goat.” Ruby comes down to the sidewalk.

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