The man didn’t say anything, giving me time to study him.
“Welcome,” he muttered. “You shouldn’t be in there.”
I laughed and pushed the straps the rest of the way off my shoulders before reaching for my Kindle. “Yeah.”
The movement caused the birthday present from my grandfather to shift, nearly falling to the ground outside the helicopter.
He caught it and handed it back to me, which I took and sat back on my right leg this time.
“What’d you get?” he asked, his eyes coming to clash with mine for all of a half second before they skittered away.
That one second was enough to allow me to see a perfect set of gray eyes.
I looked at the unopened box in front of me and shrugged. “My guess is that it’s a new phone. I broke mine this week.”
He blinked, his eyes once again flicking to mine before they moved away. “How’d you do that?”
I thought about whether I wanted to tell this man—however new to the man-life he was—how I’d broken my phone and decided it really didn’t matter. Somebody like him would never give a girl like me a second look.
“I was walking to my truck and it fell out of my pocket. I stepped on it and shattered the screen,” I lied.
“You’re lying,” he muttered, walking away.
I opened my mouth to deny that and then realized that I couldn’t. I was lying.
“Okay, so I might’ve been crawling over a razor wire fence at the time, and stepped on it by way of actually falling on it,” I called to him.
He stopped half in/half out of the shadows.
At least he was listening.
“When I peeled myself up off the ground, I realized that my phone had bitten the dust,” I admitted. “Happy now?”
He shrugged. “Whatever.”
He didn’t leave, though.
Nope. He stayed where he was, gazing out through the large, open bay doors, staring into nothingness.
It was when the silence went on uncomfortably long that I pulled out my Kindle and started to read. If he wasn’t going to talk, I wasn’t either. Plus, I had a new book that I wanted to finish, which was my reason for not wanting to come today.
Hushed whispers from somewhere had me looking up, and at the nose of the helicopter that I was sitting in was another boy that I’d never seen before—which was easy seeing as there were three clubs here right now and all of their families—and two girls. Two girls that I had seen before, but I couldn’t figure out how I knew them or who they belonged to.
“He’s stupid,” one of the girls whispered. “And he never makes eye contact. My dad said that he was special.”
“Special as in retarded?” the girl asked as if she hadn’t spoken loud enough to wake the dead.
“No.” The girl shook her head, glancing at the man’s body as if he was deaf and couldn’t hear a word that they were saying when I damn well knew he could. “My dad called it Asperger’s. He has a mild form of it, and Dad said that it could be worse. But hell, I’m not sure how. He’s awful right now. I tried to talk to him last week and he ignored me like I wasn’t even there.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to talk to you,” I suggested to the three. “And maybe he can hear every freakin’ word that you’re saying and doesn’t want to talk to two-faced bitches.”
The girls looked around for me, finally finding me in the helicopter.
“Who the fuck are you?” one of them sneered.
“Phoebe Mackenzie, daughter of Sam Mackenzie, granddaughter of Silas Mackenzie, club president of the Dixie Wardens MC, Benton, Louisiana chapter,” I answered. “Did you want my social security number and driver’s license, too? Or will what I’ve already given you suffice?”
They all blinked, and I heard the sweetest laughter come from the man beside me. I doubted the others heard it, it was so low, but it was music to my ears.
“I’m not sure why you think you’re hot shit because you’re a president’s granddaughter, but you’re not,” the girl on the left said, crossing her arms tightly over her ample chest.
She had to be about eighteen or so, because she was tall and voluptuous while still retaining her young, baby face.
“I’m not hot shit,” I admitted. “I’m a Mackenzie. You asked who I was, so I told you.”
The girl on the right scoffed. “And you know nothing. He doesn’t talk because he doesn’t comprehend. I googled his affliction.”
I tilted my head to the side.
“Hey, you,” I said to the man. “You understand everything they say, don’t you?”
The man nodded. “I do.”
One of the girls gasped, while the boy started to laugh.
“Fuck you, Hoax,” he muttered.
“Sorry, Benson,” the boy who wasn’t a boy at all, but a young man like Benson, said. “It’s just so fuckin’ annoying listening to you not say anything while they tear you to shreds. These bitches were going on and on about you, and I wanted to see how far they could stick their feet into their mouths.”