#SaintOnSaturday – Chapter 6!

Welcome to Chapter Six of My Fallen Saint as I countdown to the September 15 release day!

If you’re coming in late, you can link through all the #SaintOnSaturday posts so far here!

Also, be sure to PRE-ORDER your copy since that is the ONLY way to get the exclusive before-the-story story that I’ll be distributing on September 22 only to those who have pre-ordered and submitted proof of preorder. If you have a Google account, you can submit through this form.  If you don’t have access to a Google account, submit HERE.

This content won’t ever be offered again! So don’t miss out!

Coming 9.15.20:
• Amazon – https://jklinks.co/mfs_amz_aff
• AppleBooks – https://jklinks.co/mfs_apb_aff
• Nook – https://jklinks.co/mfs_nook
• Kobo – https://jklinks.co/mfs_kobo
• GPlay – https://jklinks.co/mfs_gplay

CHAPTER SIX

“You’re here!”

I hear Brandy’s squeal at the same time I see her running down the sidewalk, her pink-tipped blond hair flying as she launches herself at me. Six feet tall and curvy, she has almost seven inches on me, and it’s a wonder we don’t topple over.

“You bitch!” Brandy’s musical voice is laced with humor, plus a hint of genuine irritation. “You were supposed to be at my place yesterday. We were going to drink and gossip and you were supposed to tell me all about your assignment, and then we were going to have a run on the beach this morning before you did the whole reporter thing.”

“That’s completely untrue,” I protest as I extricate myself, then tug her toward the exterior wall of The Cask & Barrel so that we’re not blocking the sidewalk from customers trying to get inside. “Never in a million years would I agree to go running.” Brandy knows this. As far as I’m concerned, running constitutes one of the primary torments of hell.

“Okay, fine. You were going to play catch with Jake while I did the running.” She leans against the stone and wood facade, her arms crossed over her chest.

“Poor Jake.” Jake is Brandy’s ancient lab-mixed-with-mutt who is still convinced he’s a puppy. I was there the day she brought him home from the shelter, and I definitely count Jake among the few friends that I truly missed after leaving town. “Does he hate me?”

“Not as much as I do,” she tells me. “Come on, Ellie. Where the hell were you? First you tell me you’re coming yesterday, then all I get is a text this morning saying you’ll ping me when you’re free.”

“I did ping you when I was free. And I called yesterday. I left you a message that I was staying overnight with friends in LA.”

“Message, my ass. You didn’t leave me a message.” She grabs her phone from her waxed canvas bag, then taps the screen. “Not a single voice mail, and—”

“Your machine, Brandy. The one you insisted on getting at the house so that you could be—what did you say?—less tethered to your cell phone?”

“Well, yeah. But I never thought my actual friends would call it.”

I force myself not to bang my head against the rough exterior of the pub. I’ve known Brandy since preschool, so we’re both well-familiar with each other’s quirks. Then again, considering she spends most of each day on social media promoting herself and the online store where she sells handmade purses and tote bags like the one she’s carrying now, the “less tethered” thing had always seemed like a dubious goal to me.

“Inside,” I say. “I need a drink, and I want to hear all about how BB Bags is doing.” The initials are for her—Brandy Bradshaw—and though it’s not the most original brand name in the world, I thought it up, so I feel personally invested in the success of her company.

“Really good,” she says as we nod thanks to a cute guy who holds the door open for us.

The Cask & Barrel is a new bar, down the hill from where Brandy now lives, and try as I might, I can’t remember what used to be in the space. It’s a strange feeling, underscoring the fact that this isn’t my town anymore. But maybe that’s a good thing. I ran far and fast from the Laguna Cortez I knew. Maybe the reboot will sit better with me.

The place is essentially a pub dominated by an oval-shaped, polished oak bar with seating all around.

“Define really good,” I demand after we’ve snagged the only two empty seats at the bar and put in our order.

“Great online sales. Plus, I’ve got them in a few boutiques here and in LA.”

“That’s amazing, though I’m not surprised.” That’s not just a platitude, either. The bags she designs and makes are fabulous, and if I didn’t love my dad’s satchel so much, I’d carry one regularly myself.

I’m totally convinced that Brandy’s going to explode on the scene one of these days. Until then, she’s a starving artist. A lucky starving artist with a great house, an angelic landlord, and bare minimum rent.

“I’ve already paid off my student loan, and next month I’m going to hire someone part-time to help with the piecework.”

“Wow,” I say as she flashes a broad grin, obviously pleased with herself.

She should be. For someone who got the wind knocked out of her at sixteen, my bestie’s done pretty well.

The bartender slides our drinks in front of us, a bourbon for me and a margarita for Brandy. I take a quick sip as Brandy sucks on the end of her straw before pointing it at me, her head titled to one side so that her pink-tipped hair brushes the tiny tattoo of a feather decorating the swell of her left breast.

“Okay, I can’t pretend to be uninterested any longer,” she finally says. “What is Saint like? Did your mouth go dry? He’s hot as hell in photos, but people say he’s so good-looking in person your mouth will go dry.”

I screw up my mouth, then reach for a Brazil nut from the bowl in front of us. “I wouldn’t know. He had a conflict, and it’s being rescheduled.”

“That sucks.”

I lift a shoulder. “It happens. Only…” I trail off, reaching for another nut, because, apparently, I’m hungrier than I realized.

“What?”

I swirl my glass as I swallow the nut, watching the single ice cube go round and round. “I saw him watching me when I was leaving. At least, I think I did.”

“You mean he blew you off? He didn’t have a conflict at all?”

“I don’t know. I’m probably imagining things.”

She shakes her head. “No way. Cop instincts, right? You’re supposed to act on the evidence but trust your gut. Lamar’s always telling me that.”

Detective Lamar Gage and I were in uniform together in Irvine. About the time I quit to go to New York, he quit to join the force in Laguna Cortez. I introduced him to Brandy and we’ve formed a friendship trifecta.

“I’m not a cop anymore,” I remind her.

“Bullshit. It’s in your blood.”

I shrug. “He probably was in his office but doing some big deal thing. Like a conference call with the Pope.”

“When’s it rescheduled for?”

“Supposedly Monday, but I’m not waiting that long. I’m going to tomorrow night’s gala. Hopefully, I’ll corner him there.”

“Look at you being all Woodward and Bernie.”

“Bernstein,” I correct, and she rolls her eyes.

“I know. I was being amusing. Changing subjects,” she continues firmly. “Why are you here?”

“Because you said we should get drinks.”

“Forget journalism. Standup comedy. That’s your true calling.”

I scoff, then see the concern on her face and turn serious. “You think I should have stayed in New York.”

Her expression is a study in sadness so evocative it should hang in a gallery. Girl: Profoundly Sad. “I want you back,” she says. “I’m so glad you’re here right now, and I feel so guilty about being happy. Because you left for a reason, Ellie. Hell, you left for a lot of reasons.”

“I’m not back to stay.” She knows that. We’ve had long calls and text conversations. “I’m here for Peter and the DSF article, and then I’m gone.”

“That is such bullshit. We both know it’s just going to end up being a nice little profile piece, and big fucking deal. You’ve been telling me you want bigger and meatier. Not some fluff piece about a foundation that’s doing good work.”

“You don’t—”

She holds up her hand, her fierce expression forcing me into silence. “And as for your uncle, as hard as the reality is, after ten years it’s probably going to stay unsolved. Mercado’s dead. Which means you’ve hit a wall before you’ve even begun.”

I wince but say nothing. Because, of course, she’s right.

“What happened to following in your father’s footsteps with a pen instead of a badge? Investigating horrible things and then exposing them on the page? All those things you say drive you. Don’t you know that’s what I love most about you? I mean, come on. I’m driven to make handbags. And I’m good at it, sure. But it’s not like I’m doing life-changing work.”

I open my mouth, but she tosses up a hand to silence me.

“I’m not,” she says firmly. “But you are. Or you should be. You never wanted to simply write about people who’ve made a difference. You wanted to be that person and make a difference with your words. And no matter how you spin it, that’s not why you’re here. Bullshit me if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself.”

“Wow,” I say.

She winces. “Sorry. I know. I’m a bitch. I shouldn’t—”

“I think I’m looking for closure.” I blurt the words out so fast they sound like gibberish.

“Alex,” she says, and I nod. Brandy’s the one person who knows that I slept with Alex—and that he bolted. It’s a secret she swore she’d take to the grave. Even Lamar, who knows about Alex and the way he left doesn’t know that he took my virginity. Only that a boy I’d fallen for blew me off on one of the worst nights of my life.

“I honestly do want to know what happened to Uncle Peter,” I say slowly. “I swear I’m going to do everything I can to dig out the truth. And I’m going to write a kickass, in-depth profile that finally tells the public something real about Devlin Saint and about the horror of that Nevada trafficking ring. But, yeah…”

My shoulders rise and fall as I take a breath. “Yeah, I came back because I need some closure. Facing this town. Facing those ghosts. I think I need this.”

And then, maybe, I can finally let it go.

“Closure,” she repeats, and I nod.

Her smile starts slow, but in the end, it could light up this dim room. “Well, there you go. That’s all I wanted to know.”

And that, I think, is the thing I love most about Brandy—she doesn’t dwell. As soon as something is over, it’s over.

“Should we order food?” She reaches for the bar menu. “Potato skins, maybe, to soak up the alcohol for the next round?”

“Let’s finish these, then go back to your place. We can order pizza.”

“The way to my heart,” she says. “Can we do both a veggie and—Oh.”

“What?” I sit up straighter, as if the tone of her voice is a taut string tugging the top of my head.

“Opportunity knocking. Cute guy at eleven o’clock eyeing you. Other side of the bar.”

“I don’t think I—”

“Just look. You can’t get back in the saddle if you avoid the horses.”

“What does that even mean?” I protest, but I do look, to no avail since my view is obstructed by the intricate shelving unit filled with colorful, shining bottles of spirits.

“Lean this way,” Brandy whispers when I say as much.

I do, then suck in air as I quickly move back to upright, my heart pounding so hard I’m surprised my shirt isn’t vibrating. “That’s him,” I whisper.

“Him? Who?”

Saint.

Her eyes go wide. “Seriously?” She starts to lean over to see him better. “No, surely I would have—”

I pull her back.

“It’s him,” I whisper. “He’s looking this way.”

“So go over there. Tell him you can do the interview right now.”

“You really think I should?” But even as I ask the question, I know the answer: Hell yes, I should. If it was a legit conflict, he should be fine with that. And if he’d intentionally blown me off this afternoon? Well, at least I’ll know.

“Go on.”

“Right.” I slam back the last of my drink, then nod. “Okay, then. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

And I do, too.

Except by the time I get to his side of the bar, Devlin Saint is gone.

 

Grab your copy now!

Coming 9.15.20:
• Amazon – https://jklinks.co/mfs_amz_aff
• AppleBooks – https://jklinks.co/mfs_apb_aff
• Nook – https://jklinks.co/mfs_nook
• Kobo – https://jklinks.co/mfs_kobo
• GPlay – https://jklinks.co/mfs_gplay

And remember: for EVERYONE who pre-orders and submits  proof of preorder through this form, I’ll be sending  you a BONUS prequel short story that is EXCLUSIVELY for readers who preorder the book!  It won’t ever be offered again! So don’t miss out!

 

Be sure to come back next Saturday for Chapter 7 — the final chapter before release!

 

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