Hush - Anne Malcom Page 0,1

smile he flashed as he held her hands on the back porch, the sun setting behind them and casting beautiful reds and oranges like fire across the sky. Slightly crooked, that smile of his. But not his teeth. Being the son of the town dentist had more benefits than just a nice home. For a moment, it reminded her of her own teeth, crooked as they were, though white from habitual cleaning, so she flashed him a tight-lipped smile back.

The way he looked at her then, a stupid grin on his face as his eyes traced her lips, made her both nervous and excited. When he finally kissed her, she forgot all about the fact that he had just broken up with Sharlene Evans, the most beautiful girl in school. She forgot about the long line of beautiful girls who had come before Sharlene. Forgot about her crooked smile, her Walmart clothes, and her shitty parents. None of it mattered because right then, in his embrace, he saw only her and she saw only him—the world was theirs for the taking.

He kissed her passionately, like she was the only girl in the world. It was the kind of first kiss that girls with straight teeth and more reputable last names deserved.

But Ri didn’t think about that.

She just thought about how perfect he tasted, how freeing it felt to be wanted by the boy she had loved for so long. The boy all the other girls wanted.

Maddox pulled back, staring at her with a smile in his eyes, but not on his lips. He rubbed his thumb over her bottom lip in a practiced move that was so very adult and manly.

“You’re so beautiful,” he muttered through a grin.

“Thank you,” Ri said, voice meek and raspy, her nervous eyes jutting to the wooden deck beneath their feet.

Maddox’s fingers went to her chin, forcing her gaze upward.

“I mean it,” he said. Louder this time. More forceful. “I’ve always thought about what it’d be like to kiss you.”

Ri’s stomach dropped much like she imagined it would’ve had she been on a roller coaster—which of course, she wasn’t. Her family could never afford Six Flags. But she figured it’d feel like thrill, fear, and excitement mixed up in her insides.

“Really?” she asked, unable to keep the shock from her voice. “I mean, it felt like lately, maybe you were feeling some kind of way about me. Flirting, I guess, but I didn’t know, I couldn’t ever imagine you actually liking me. And then with everything else . . .” Her voice trailed off. She shouldn’t have talked so much. Shouldn’t have made her doubt so prominent, right on the surface. She should’ve buried it deep down, much like the shame her last name brought with it.

Maddox shrugged. “You mean my sister.”

Ri nodded. April had not been blind to the way Ri looked at her brother, and she’d given Ri a bunch of crap about it, making it clear she didn’t approve. Orion tried denying her feelings, but unlike her parents, she was no good at lying. She’d made a promise to her best friend that she would stop liking Maddox. The promise wasn’t a lie, per se. She really did try.

Then came this moment, on this perfect summer evening, with this perfect boy, and it all had gotten the best of her. A first kiss was important to a girl, especially a kiss like this. And though she had defied her best friend’s request, she was certain that no first kiss had ever been better.

It was in the midst of this perfect kiss when Orion heard a familiar voice, thick with agitation.

“Ew, Orion . . . I did not just catch you making out with my brother.”

Orion glanced up and found April with a hand on her hip and annoyance in her eyes.

Maddox moved slightly but purposefully in front of Ri, like he was going to protect her. Not only from his pissed-off and overly dramatic sister, but from the world. “Give it a rest, April,” he said. “It’s none of your business.”

“I wasn’t talking to you, buttface,” April snapped, her piercing gaze focusing on Ri. “Orion, are you aware that it’s almost dark?” She pointed to the sky. “Um, hellooo . . . your mom’s gonna kill you.”

Ri, who had been feeling delightfully soft and carefree, snapped her eyes up at the sky. Panic crawled into her throat. Reality hit.

“As mad as I am at you right now, I’d prefer my best friend