There’s nothing I like better than the sound of silence. It’s round and big and full of potential.
When my phone rings, I scowl at it. Demanding, piercing, rude thing. The opposite of the lovely silence it violated. I swipe it off the kitchen counter and glare at the screen.
Oh. “Marcus,” I say after accepting the call from my favorite cousin. “Is everything okay?”
He laughs. “Has it been that long, you assume I’m calling because of a family emergency?”
“Right. Well, everything is fine.” He says the words carefully, like there’s a but.
It comes a second later. “I could use a favor, however.”
“I have an acquaintance who is very good at mountain climbing. A very hard worker. Principled young woman.”
There’s something about the way he says principled that makes me think he means something else. “What did she do?”
“She didn’t do anything wrong. But she did get in over her head with some political activism, and she could use a stay-cation in the wilds of British Columbia.”
“I live in Vancouver.”
“So take her to the cabin. Put her to work. I’m sure you’ve just recently fired an assistant and could use a new body.”
I’ve happily gone without an assistant for the last year, because it’s just easier this way. But Marcus has always had a soft spot for stray animals, and never took no for an answer when our grandfather was reluctant to take them in. “Have you graduated from collecting stray pets to stray people?”
“I think technically speaking I’m asking you to take in a stray this time. She’s a great kid, Astrid.”
I laugh. “A kid. Oh, heaven help us both.”
“She’s smart, too.”
“Surely there’s somewhere closer you could hide her?”
“She’s not hiding.” He sighs. “This job wasn’t what she thought it would be. She took the election hard.”
I snort. Didn’t we all? But we fucking carry on. “And?”
“And she reminds me of you when you were young.”
God damn it. “Before I got all jaded and bitter?”
“Before you learned how to twist your anger into something productive.” He lowers his voice. “You know I’ve always got your back. But there are lessons she just won’t hear from me.”
One of the things I adore about my cousin, which puts him on the very short list of people I actually like, is that he never cares about the spotlight or recognition. And he quietly does a lot.
I sigh. “I’m not sure if I’m cut out to be anyone’s mentor, but sure. Send her my way. I’m heading up to Whistler in a few days anyway. But if she decides I’m too tough to work for, she needs to find her own way back down the mountain.”
“That was suspiciously easy.”
“Mmm. I actually need a favor in return.”
He laughs. “This is pretty much how my day has gone. Shoot.”
“I want to come and visit you in the spring. Photograph you at work.” Something he’s never allowed in the past. It’s a simple request for most people, but Marcus values his privacy for many reasons.
There’s a long stretch of silence before he responds, his voice gruff. “I may not be here in the spring.”
That’s new. It’s also not a no. Interesting. I spin around and lean against the counter. “What?”
“Lots of things are changing.”
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
He laughs. “I’m in love. With a reporter from Washington, D.C.”
“That sounds terrible.” I don’t bother to try and cover my shock. “How did that happen?”
“Ask Brianne when she gets there. Speaking of…I have to go. I’ll email you her flight details. She’ll arrive sometime tomorrow afternoon.”
I sigh as he disconnects the call. Great. Now I need to dig out the spare room.
I leave my phone on the counter, though. At least I can work in silence. That’s been more than enough noise for one day.
Brianne the Kid. What the hell am I going to do with her?
copyright Ainsley Booth, 2017
Ainsley Booth is an alter-ego of Gigi Ford. All rights reserved.