I didn’t mean to fucking die.
Shit just … happens sometimes.
Even as I dragged my father down the beach, I had every intention of going back after I got rid of the bastard’s body. I’d watched until the sea swallowed him whole and I hadn’t moved even after he was gone and the sun made its appearance. Like it was the only goddamn thing that would keep him from coming back. Maybe it was. All I knew was that instead of remorse or fear or rage, all I felt was relief—a fucking burden lifted off my shoulders.
Her voice was what made me finally rip my gaze away, and I turned to find Rose, her face streaked with mascara, and her red dress sooty and torn. She was clutching a bottle of Jack in one hand and her eyes were dull, so her expression was more glazed than shocked.
“They … they all think you’re dead,” she whispered, and I’d frozen for a beat before I checked my phone.
It was just after five am.
“Then why aren’t you with them?”
“Because I … can’t.”
“You should. You’re ruining my goddamn morning.”
She’d rushed at me, a growl passing her lips, but I barely heard a fucking word she said as she slurred through an admonishment. Too many thoughts spun around my brain. When Rosalind finally snapped her lips shut and leaned away to give me a chance to respond, I did.
I hurled my phone into the sea. After my father. After the fucking Angelle name because I knew that everything that I’d discovered over the last few weeks would all come out.
The truth always fucking did.
“Saint?” Rosalind whispered. “Wh-why did you just—”
“Because it’s over. I’m not going back.”
“What about your friends? What about Mallory? She fucking loves you, and—”
“I said I wasn’t going back,” I interrupted on a low growl, my hands clenching at my sides because she was right. I hadn’t considered what leaving everything, what standing in the fucking light and air for the first time in my miserable life, would mean for Mallory. I wouldn’t give her up, though. Not even death—even faked—could keep me away from my little masochist. “I didn’t say I was done with her.”
Rosalind’s breath caught. “Just her? Nobody else?”
“You’re nobody now?”
She’d blinked at me for a long time, like she had something to say, but finally, she nodded.
That was always the good thing about Rose. For all her moral bullshit, the girl was a fucking vault and she would never give me up.
“What can I do to help?” she asked at last. “And what are you going to do about Mallory?”
Death isn’t as easy as I thought, but Ellis makes it worthwhile.
She calls me a prick as often as she can.
I still tell her she's mine, but she accepts that now. She is mine. I'm hers.
We fuck. We fight. And we make up a lot.
She wakes up with a smile and doesn’t hesitate to call me on my shit. She doesn’t look at me like I’m a monster every time there’s a new report on my father’s sins or what he did in that fucking house right beneath my nose for years. She tries to convince me that my mother had no clue what was going on, but I doubt that.
She doesn’t know my mother.
I’m glad I don’t have to anymore.
I focus on Mallory—and later, James, our son—instead. She’d wanted to name him Angel, and when I vetoed that, she came up with an angelic name that sounded suspiciously like Kyle. I told her that I didn’t want my kid punching through drywall and crushing Monster cans against his head, and she’d laughed and asked me if James was okay since the name was so close to my dad's.
But it made sense—to name him after the friend that still haunted her dreams—so that’s what we called him.
James Angel Jacoby because she wouldn’t let go of the Angel thing and there was no fucking way I was forcing the Angelle name on my son.
He’s her world, and watching her with him, I forget what it was like to grow up with parents that gave zero fucks about me.
Mallory loves more than anyone I’ve ever met, and sometimes I don’t say a fucking word as she talks. I only listen to her speak excitedly about her plans to help people with the Jacoby fortune—just like the fucking hellion that threw that apple.
“Why are you looking at me like that, Saint?” she asks breathlessly a few weeks after my memorial service in California while I make her pancakes. My baby is against her chest and her cheeks are flushed as she stares across the island at me. They’re fucking perfect.
All that matters.
“You’re beautiful,” I say.
There’s more to it, of course. That I know this will all come to an end sooner or later. James is only a baby now, but in a few years, he’ll start school. I won’t be able to hide anymore, and I don’t plan to. I’ll never be like my bastard father, and besides, Mallory deserves more.
She deserves better.
A ring and eventually more kids.
I can give her one of those, but my options in the marital department are limited as fuck considering I’m dead.
“Liar,” she says at last. “You kept me up all night. We both know I look like shit. You're just being weird and nice this morning."
"I'm always nice."
"What the fuck ever, Angelle."
Fucking Mallory Ellis. Everything is because of her, and a wry smile curls my lips when I remember how I once thought she’d be the death of me.
She was. Just not in the way I figured she’d be.
“I’m hungry, little masochist,” I say, and her blue eyes gleam.
“You always are,” she says with a grin. “But first … pancakes.”