The SUV Beckett had stolen idled while he made his decision. This part should be easy—he was sufficiently soused, and the gun was so powerful they might find bits of his brain a mile down the road. If anyone cared enough to look. Which they wouldn’t.
It was a nice last view, if you got to pick one. The winding road was a snake in a beautiful clump of fall trees.
It was fall again. One full year since he had loved Eve enough to leave.
And yet she was all he could think about. When he was feeling gracious, he pictured her snuggled in a warm sweater under some lucky fuck’s arm. And when he was feeling jealous, which was most of the goddamn time, he pictured her naked under some nameless three-pump chump. Being a girlfriend or a wife.
God, please not a wife.
The pistol lay between his legs, the liquor sat in the seat next to him like a true friend.
Do it, you pussy-headed motherfucker.
But the sky was too blue. And his hand kept shaking.
He took another swig from the bottle, mentally listing all the reasons his life was over. First, no Eve. Second, his brothers were far safer without him. Third, he was the only thing he needed to protect his loved ones from anymore. So was he man enough to take care of the problem? Because he had no doubts he was the problem.
But he wanted her. He craved her. All of the loose-assed whores he’d fucked since her smelled like eggs, moaned like tramps, and never, ever dared him to be anything but an asshole. His brothers were tucked into perfect worlds with perfect girls. Christ, he couldn’t set them up sweeter if he tried. But he hadn’t tried. He’d only made shit worse and crazy dangerous.
He was the oldest of the foster brothers, but he certainly wasn’t leading the way toward happiness and fulfillment. But Beckett’s approach to life had been the only thing he could come up with back in the day. As a kid, he’d been really good at watching. He’d seen other foster kids age out of the system and hit the streets—homeless, minimally educated, and desperate to find a foothold in a society that didn’t even know they existed. He knew his troubled brothers would need protecting, and by the time he aged out ahead of them, he’d figured out a way he could do it: become the scariest motherfucker in Poughkeepsie.
He’d killed more people than shy folks probably talked to in their lives. And he’d gotten his hands dirty with everything from weapons to drugs to whores. But when Blake and Cole were cut loose from the foster care system, Beckett Taylor’s name in their mouth bought them safety. No one dared cross him. Cole had found his way by working at a local church, but Blake had remained a concern because—despite the money Beckett could provide—he chose to be homeless and his mind didn’t always seem clear.
But that was all in the past now. When the McHugh girls, Livia and Kyle, had barreled into his brothers’ lives, everything fell into place for them. Only Beckett was left behind as king of the bloodiest mountain, both ruler and prisoner now of all he possessed.
Despite all the times he’d used them, Beckett was afraid of this gun. It was more final than time. It wouldn’t erase the pain, and he was afraid that after his body was wasted, the only thing left would be fear. And he fucking despised fear. The gun had been his tool. His ladder. His friend. His medal of valor. Now it mocked him from between his legs. It was heavy. After clenching and unclenching his hand, he finally touched it. He lifted it and let the safety go. Beckett put the pistol back in his lap, with the muzzle pointed straight at him.
That’s better. To be serious, you have to get serious.
Would death be something he’d feel? He was going to Hell—Christ, he’d always been going to Hell. His first memory as a child was hearing the word Hell. It had bound him to the place like a rope.
He took another drink.
Here, in the bowels of suburban America, he would be no one. Just a down-on-his-luck bastard passing through town. He had no identifying papers with him. He looked at his singed fingertips. No prints to be found. He’d also yanked out his two fillings with a pair of pliers and thrown them in the trash by the CVS. He was his own best murderer. He could do it better than anyone else.
He should be deep in the fucking woods—where no one but a pissing bear would find his body. But he was here, facing the fact that he absolutely hated the thought of being alone. If his soul stayed stuck to his body like Velcro, he wanted to at least be in a grave with some other fuckers. Maybe he also wanted his brothers to know he was gone. To have them say, “Thank you, oh great big brother Beckett. You saved us from your fucking self.” Or maybe I want Livia, sweet little Whitebread, to come with her red, flushed cheeks, sobbing, to lay flowers on my grave. That would be okay.
Selfish son of a bitch. Beckett picked up the gun and set it to his temple. Do it! Do it! You’re nothing without them. Be gone. Go away.
His hand shook, and he could feel the muzzle imprinting a circle right where the bullet would pierce his skin. He started to sweat and worked hard not to piss his fucking pants. He squeezed his eyes shut. He willed his finger to have the guts. Sweat rolled down his face.
“Fuck me!” Beckett tossed the gun aside. The shaking overwhelmed him. Teeth chattering, he did go ahead and piss.
Her. He’d be sending a message to Eve by letting his body be found: See? See what leaving you did? I gave the fuck up. He looked at the pistol on the floor. I’m a selfish bastard. That’s why I’m doing this. I don’t want to nut up and do life without her.
Beckett didn’t bother to wipe his face as his shaking turned to sobbing. His breathing made a racket. When he saw himself in the rearview mirror, his whole face was puffy. He leaned his head back against the headrest, feeling his warm urine start to cool.
A tapping noise on the driver’s side window caused him to open one blurry eye. The speedy fluttering was so bizarre. The little bird tapping on his window had mistaken a flower decal for the real thing. It just hovered there like a helicopter, tapping on the window as if it were trying to get his attention.
Another hummingbird came along and tried for the same pretend flower, pecking at the first in anger. Eve’s right. These things are little assholes. The two birds decided to get in a birdy pissing match, diving and trying to outmaneuver each other. They tumbled away from the window, out of Beckett’s sight. Fucking hummingbirds. They couldn’t leave each other’s ass alone? It’s like they wanted to fight over their flower. Little knights without a queen to defend.
Then it was so obvious, it was almost funny. It was like he had a pair of glasses on his heart: Eve was a hummingbird, and so was he. They’d rather fight each-fucking-other than drink together from a boring old flower. She came to him then, for a moment—a vision on Cole and Kyle’s wedding day with her hummingbird brooch.
Beckett put the stolen SUV in reverse and weaved his way down the winding road. He was amazed, considering how drunk he was, when he made it back to his hotel. He left the vehicle sort of where he half-remembered taking it from, somehow stumbled to his room, and passed out on the bed.
When Beckett woke a good fifteen hours later, his head was cracking open with whatever he had drunk the night before. He knew where he was going.
Today, he was going to win the Big Fucking Humping Pussy Award and go back to Poughkeepsie.
He had no plan beyond that. Maybe stalk the fuck out of Eve.
Beckett Taylor is a murderer. His calling, his craft are destruction and intimidation—whether he wants it that way now or not. He left Poughkeepsie to keep his brothers safe, to keep Eve safe. Set up with happy lives to live, they’re better off without him, right?
But all his willpower crumbles when he hears his brother Blake’s frantic voice on the phone. An unknown enemy has moved in on his old territory, and Livia’s been taken. In an instant, Beckett knows it will take an attack only he and Eve can execute to bring her back. All his self-imposed embargoes are torn to shreds, perhaps along with the new man he’s struggled to become.
“Brother, call Eve. I’ll be there soon.”
In this emotional and action-packed sequel to Poughkeepsie, Debra Anastasia conjures a tale of love at its most raw and ragged. With Beckett and Eve, how could we expect anything less? But even when it’s messy, not magical, true love perseveres. Real love finds a way—for better or worse until death does part.