Filthy Foreign Exchange Book 2

By: S.E. Hall & Angela Graham

Prologue


“And no drinking,” Sebastian warns in a low whisper while giving me one final hug goodbye.

I make no promises while teasing, “I’m old enough to drink in the UK, so…”

“Echo.” He pulls back from our hug and braces his hands on my shoulders, his voice still hushed, but firm. “I didn’t spend the last month helping persuade our father—the most stubborn, overprotective man on Earth—to let you travel across the world just so you could spend that time getting drunk, or worse. So please be the smart, safe sister I trust. And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

He lifts one mischievous brow and flashes me a secret grin, a recognizable twinkle in his eyes. Right then, I know I have his blessing to live it up while I backpack through Europe…just as long as I remember he did give the big-brother speech, and heed some of its warning.

“I’ll be safe.” I smile. “And promise me you’ll tell me if Savannah or Clay come around. Or—”

“Stop,” he cuts me off. “You worry about having enough space to stretch your legs on the flight and your wings on this journey, and I’ll worry about everything here. Deal?”

I nod. “Deal.”

“I mean it, Echo. We’re not just switching places, we’re switching roles. It’s my turn to stay home and worry about the parentals, Sammy, and the snakes we thought cared about us. And it’s your turn to live, little sister. Don’t let the fast-talking I had to do go to waste. Go live.”

“I will.” I give a curt head bob, bound and determined to follow through with the promise I’d made both to Sebastian and myself, then look over at the rest of my family.

I’d already spent a good hour saying bittersweet farewells to my parents and Sammy, who are standing back a few feet, watching. My mom’s eyes are still red from earlier tears, but hold not a hint of sadness. Now, they’re filled only with a bright sense of pride, mixed with a slight hint of fear she’s failing at hiding.

And my father’s expression is tender, full of nothing but confident love. While shocking, it’s also invigorating and empowering…because if he’s not worried or nervous, how could I possibly be? I still have no idea how my mom and Sebastian persuaded him to let me leave, but I know I’ll be forever grateful.

“I love you, and I swear I’ll check in as often as I can,” I tell my parents before taking my bag from Sebastian.

As I’m getting ready to make my way toward the security line, Sebastian delivers one final, startling message.

“Kingston’s not all that bad, Echo. Everyone screws up sometimes, but sometimes they don’t. Just like sometimes you think you know a person, and it turns out you were wrong…or maybe you were right all along.”

His words are spoken in enough circles to make me dizzy. Where did all that come from—and why choose right now, when I’m literally about to step on a plane, to say it?

I haven’t heard Kingston’s name in over six months. And notwithstanding my birthday flowers and a card for my high-school graduation, I’d convinced myself that he’d fallen off my radar, or me his. Not to mention, I was told he wouldn’t be a part of this summer trip.

So why my brother is choosing now to spout off riddles—words that had the potential to be insightful, had he spoken them in anything close to plain English—about him, I’m not sure.

Or happy about it.

“What?” is all I can manage in reply, my face twisted in confusion.

Sebastian laughs at the scowl I know I wear, shrugging. “Just something to keep in mind.”

“Echo, you better get in line,” my mom says, and I wonder whether she heard the final, impromptu conversation between my brother and me. “Your flight leaves in less than an hour, honey.”

“Okay,” I say. I look at her, then jerk my head back to Sebastian. “Have you talked to him? Will I see him? I don’t want to!” I hiss.

He smiles. “You’re just gonna have to trust me. Now go have fun, and see if you can bring Sammy back a better souvenir than I did. I suck at shopping.” He squeezes my hand. “Love ya.”

He’s backing away as the growing security line reaches me, the carry-ons of impatient travelers hitting my legs.

“Have fun!” Sammy calls out.

I wave and turn to join the line, convincing myself that my father never would’ve allowed this trip if Kingston was going to be a part of it. Gerard Hawthorne and my dad have become friends, and there’s trust there…but not that much.

Maybe my brother was simply throwing out words for just-in-case situations, but it wasn’t normal advice. Sebastian had spoken in his best attempt at philosophical, vouching for Kingston’s character. I know my brother, and he wouldn’t just guess at something like that—especially after what we’d been through, with the two “friends” whose characters we thought we knew.

Had he talked to Kingston? When? Had they seen each other when Kingston returned to London?

So many unanswered questions spin dazedly through my head as I pull out my boarding pass and ID, handing them over to be checked with a twinge of nervous anticipation.

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