Home > My Fallen Saint

My Fallen Saint
Author: J. Kenner

Chapter One

 

 

The wind stings my face and the glare from the afternoon sun obscures my vision as I fly down the long stretch of Sunset Canyon Road at well over a hundred miles per hour.

My heart pounds and my palms are sweaty, but not because of my speed. On the contrary, this is what I need. The rush. The thrill. I crave it like a junkie, and it affects me like a toddler on a sugar high.

Honestly, it’s taking every ounce of my willpower not to put my 1965 Shelby Cobra through her paces and kick her powerful engine up even more.

I can’t, though. Not today. Not here.

Not when I’m back, and certainly not when my homecoming has roused a swarm of butterflies in my stomach. When every curve in this road brings back memories that have tears clogging my throat and my bowels rumbling with nerves.

Dammit.

I pound down the clutch, then slam my foot onto the brake, shifting into neutral as I simultaneously yank the wheel sharply to the left. The tires squeal in protest as I make a U-turn across the oncoming lane, the car’s ass fishtailing before skidding to a stop in the turnout. I’m breathing hard, and honestly, I think Shelby is, too. She’s more than a car to me; she’s a lifelong best friend, and I don’t usually fuck with her like this.

Now, though…

Well, now she’s dangerously close to the cliff’s edge, her entire passenger side resting parallel to a void that boasts a view of the distant coastline. Not to mention a seriously stunning glimpse of the small downtown below.

I ratchet up the emergency brake as my heartbeat pounds in my throat. And only when I’m certain we won’t go skidding down the side of the cliff do I kill Shelby’s engine, wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans, and let my body relax.

Well, hello to you, too, Laguna Cortez.

With a sigh, I take off my ball cap, allowing my dark curls to bounce free around my face and graze my shoulders.

“Get a grip, Ellie,” I murmur, then suck in a deep breath. Not so much for courage—I’m not afraid of this town—but for fortitude. Because Laguna Cortez beat me down before, and it’s going to take all of my strength to walk those streets again.

One more breath, and then I step out of the car. I walk to the edge of the turnout. There’s no barrier, and loose dirt and small stones clatter down the hill as I balance on the very edge.

Below me, jagged rocks protrude from the canyon walls. Further down, the harsh angles smooth to gentle slopes with homes of all shapes and sizes nestled among the rocks and scrubby plants. The tiled roofs follow the tightly winding road that leads down to the Arts District. Tucked neatly in the valley formed by a U of hills and canyons, the area opens onto the town’s largest beach and draws a steady stream of tourists and locals.

As far as the public is concerned, Laguna Cortez is one of the gems of the Pacific Coast. A laid-back town with just under sixty-thousand people and miles of sandy and rocky beaches.

Most people would give their right arm to live here.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s hell.

It’s the place where I lost my heart and my virginity. Not to mention everybody close to me. My parents. My uncle.

And Alex.

The boy I’d loved. The man who broke me.

Not a single one of them is here anymore. My family, all dead. And Alex, long gone.

I ran, too, desperate to escape the weight of my losses and the sting of betrayal. I swore to myself that I’d never return.

As far as I was concerned, nothing would get me back.

But now it’s ten years later, and here am I again, drawn back down to hell by the ghosts of my past.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

I met Alex Leto on my sixteenth birthday, and the first time I saw him, something inside me turned on. Something like happiness, yet so much more complicated. Optimism, maybe, but mixed with rainbows and unicorns.

The day started gray and dismal, with storms rolling in at dawn. They parked themselves over my house, spread their dark gray arms, and stirred up wind and rain from daybreak all the way into the evening. Six of my ten invited guests called to cancel, but even before the party started, I’d known that it was ruined.

I should have seen it coming. Maybe not a gale, but something. After all, I was not the most blessed of kids. For starters, I was an orphan.

I’d turned four the day after my mother died, and though I used to tell my dad that I remembered her, by the time I was ten, that was a lie.

Her brother, my Uncle Peter, moved his commercial real estate business to Laguna Cortez after she died. My dad couldn’t afford to hire help, and as Chief of Police he had an erratic schedule. Daddy and I lived in the hills, but I’d go to Uncle Peter’s huge, light-filled beach house most days after school.

It was a stunning home, but I hated every moment away from my dad. Maybe some part of me knew what was coming. I don’t know. All I know is that I wanted him beside me and safe.

But wanting doesn’t matter. It never does. Wants are just so much fluff, and Fate is a goddamn bitch. The summer I turned thirteen, I learned that lesson well.

That’s when a gunman murdered my father, then killed himself. People tried to comfort me by pointing out that my father died on duty in the job he loved. But it didn’t help. He was still horribly, painfully dead.

After that, my life spiraled even more. I moved in with Uncle Peter, and all my friends thought that I was so lucky, because there aren’t that many beachfront homes in Laguna Cortez.

But I wasn’t. I wasn’t lucky at all.

Eventually, I grew accustomed to my new normal. I’d find myself going entire days feeling happy, only to hate myself at night, because how could I experience joy when my parents had both died so horribly?

Which was why I wasn’t surprised when the storms rolled in on my birthday, because life will always sneak up and bite you.

Still, even with only a few kids showing up, we’d had fun. Instead of the beach, we settled into the media room to watch movies. And when Brandy and I went downstairs to ask Uncle Peter if my favorite pizza place was delivering in the storm, there he was.

A few years older than me, Alex was tall and lean, with close-cropped blond hair, a clean-shaven face that still had a boyish roundness, but an expression that was fully adult. His sandy brown eyes held me in place when he turned to look at me. And when his wide mouth curved into a friendly smile, a low, thrum teased between my thighs.

I’d had a crush or two by then, but I’d never reacted that viscerally to a guy. But Alex … well, a mere glimpse gave me more understanding of what all the fuss was about than any of the late-night gossip sessions at Brandy’s frequent slumber parties.

When he came over to shake my hand and wish me a happy birthday, I almost passed out. I was so flustered that I could only stand there, my hand in his, as I tried to play back the conversation of the last few seconds.

Alex Leto. That’s how he’d introduced himself. And he was working for Uncle Peter during his gap year while he decided on a college.

“Hi,” I’d squeaked, then kicked myself for being utterly uninteresting.

“Trouble with the movie?” Uncle Peter had asked, and I’d squinted at him, not understanding a word. “The projector,” he clarified. “Did you come down because I need to fix something?”

“Oh! Right. Pizza. We want to order pizza. Will they deliver in this weather?”

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