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Fall into Me
Author: Mila Gray

 


Prologue LUNA

 


The noise of the crowd is a deafening roar, so loud it’s like being inside the barrel of a wave, but it still can’t silence the screams in my head.

Twenty minutes ago I was feeling calm and confident, and now I’m falling apart. It shows me just how shaky my new sense of self was. I was a badly constructed Jenga tower, and someone has pulled a block from the very bottom and I’m collapsing in slow motion.

Adrenaline pounds furiously through my veins, making it hard to breathe or think straight. I take a swig from my water bottle, hoping it might drown the million ants that have started to burrow and scratch beneath my skin. I thought I had it under control, was managing to swim with my head above water, but just like that, I’ve been dragged under.

The idea of walking onstage in front of seventy thousand people is suddenly an impossibility. How can I—knowing someone out there wants to kill me?

How did they slip unnoticed into my dressing room? How did they get past my bodyguard? Everyone with backstage access is meant to have been security-checked. No strangers should be able to get back here, so whoever it is must work for me. But who do I know that could secretly hate me that much?

The roar in the distance grows louder, making me think of a hungry crowd baying for a gladiator’s blood. I have to go out there. I don’t have a choice. The clock is ticking.

I think of Will to help calm me and wonder where he is right now. If he’s happy. Closing my eyes, I allow myself to picture him—focus on recalling every detail, pulling them out of my memory like treasures from a box. I see the soft curve of his lips and the rough scratch of his beard, how it felt when he kissed me. I remember the exact sensation of his hands gliding down my body, coming to rest on my hips, the way he’d tug me toward him. I can visualize the warmth in his smoke-gray eyes as he looked at me, seeing all the way through the outer layer to the real me inside.

For a while we were free, on the run together, never glancing over our shoulders or looking back, but only focusing on the present and each other. The rest of the world could have gone to hell. It was just us. I smile as I recall those days of dizzy escape, but then the smile fades. I always knew deep down that they’d have to end. You can’t be a fugitive from your life forever. One day you’ll get caught and sent back to do your time. I just wish it hadn’t happened so soon.

I wish we’d had longer.

 

 

ELEVEN MONTHS AGO WILL

 


There are few things worse than being forced to spend a whole evening with a bunch of strangers, but I promised that I’d show my face, so here I am, gritting my teeth and trying to get through it.

“Will!” I hear my name being called as I’m walking up the steps to the front door of the biggest house I’ve ever seen. I turn around and find my best friend, Tristan, arm in arm with my sister Zoey.

It still messes with my head seeing them together, but I have to admit they really do seem happy. And I know Tristan—he’s a good guy. I always worried Zoey might end up with someone like my dad, because they say that’s what happens to kids who grow up with asshole fathers; they gravitate toward what they know, not what they deserve. It gives me hope, because they also say that the sons of asshole fathers often end up modeling their father’s behavior, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I secretly sometimes worry that I might turn out to be a violent asshole just like him. It keeps me up at night.

I keep those concerns to myself, obviously. They’re not ones you want to share, even if I were the sharing type.

Zoey hugs me like a long-lost relative, even though she only saw me a few hours earlier. I can tell she’s relieved I made it to the party, and that makes me realize she thought I wouldn’t show. It bothers me. I guess that no matter how many times I apologize for joining the Marines and explain why I thought it was a good idea at the time, she’ll never fully be able to trust me not to abandon her again.

“How’s it going?” Tristan asks, and I pick up on the concern in his voice. His worry isn’t obvious, but I’m good at reading people. You get good when you have a father like mine, whose moods flipped on a dime. You also get good at it when you have to stand guard outside a Marine base.

“Okay,” I tell him. “Finding my feet.”

I’ve only been out of the Marines a couple of weeks. They warn you it’ll be strange returning to civilian life, and they are definitely right about that. I’m still getting used to not having to get out of bed at the crack of dawn, or wearing a uniform, or carrying a weapon with me wherever I go.

But I don’t miss a thing about being in the Marines. I couldn’t wait to get out. I figured I would feel like a free man, like the guy in the Shawshank Redemption movie who hightails it to Mexico after being released from prison to live on the beach and build his own boat. I have similar ambitions, but unlike the guy in the movie, I don’t have a stash of cash hidden away to help me achieve my dreams.

Until I have a job and some money and start paying off my debt, I’m stuck here. Not that Oceanside is bad—as its name suggests, it’s by the ocean. But it’s just not what I’ve been dreaming of for the last seven years.

“You’ll get there,” Tristan tells me with more confidence than I feel. “Did you talk to Kit?”

I shake my head. I haven’t seen Kit yet. He’s busy with the restaurant and the new baby. I don’t want to get in the way.

“You should ask him for a job,” Tristan says. “He’s always looking for people to work at the restaurant.”

“I can’t cook,” I say, pulling a face. “And I’m not sure I’d make much of a waiter.” I’m not the best at dealing with people, especially difficult ones. I don’t have the patience for rude idiots. But more than that, I don’t want to have to ask Kit for a job. It’s embarrassing.

“I’ll find something. Don’t worry,” I tell Tristan, forcing a smile. It’s not his problem.

We enter the house, which is packed with so many gold helium balloons that it’s like we’re swimming in a giant glass of champagne. Waiters drift past with trays of drinks and fancy-looking burgers the size of quarters, and a DJ is playing somewhere in the distance. There must be over a hundred people, but I spot Tristan’s twin sister, Dahlia, immediately as she rushes toward us through the crowd.

I used to have a crush on Dahlia, back when we were all fourteen and at school together, and I wonder if she ever suspected. I was pretty good at hiding my feelings, and I never worked up the courage to tell her how I felt because I figured she’d never feel the same way. Why the hell would she? I was the kid who was always getting into trouble, the one with the shameful family secret, who’d often show up to school with black eyes and bruises and act all sullen when questioned. I figured my survival rested on being both watchful and quiet, habits that have stuck with me.

I was surprised Dahlia invited me to the party, to be honest, as I haven’t seen her since I was sixteen and quit school to enlist. I’m guessing Tristan pushed for the invite, trying to get me out of the house. But Dahlia throws her arms around me and hugs me tight, and I realize that maybe she did actually invite me herself, without being prodded to.

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