Home > Wretched (Never After #3)

Wretched (Never After #3)
Author: Emily McIntire

 


PROLOGUE

 

 

EVELINE (EHV-AH-LEEN)

 

 

Seventeen Years Old

 

 

Grief is a weird thing.

It’s the only emotion in the world people claim to understand yet treat as an inconvenience.

Time heals all wounds, Evie.

Spare me.

Time heals nothing. Just gives things more space to grow and fester and rot.

I fidget in my seat, the old wooden bench tearing into the skin of my thighs and making me flinch. Dorothy, my sister—the one still alive—peers over at me, glaring down as if my movement is going to draw the wrong type of attention. As if every single man in the room isn’t already looking our way just to get a glimpse of her.

Her brown hair is perfect and bouncy, a high ponytail swinging behind her as she turns back toward the front, listening to the priest drone on about things he knows nothing about. About memories made and life not forgotten. But my eyes stay on her. Her and that stupid bouncy brown hair.

My hands itch with the urge to reach out and wrap the strands around my fist, pulling until it tears from the root. I sit on them instead. No matter how much I want to strangle Dorothy, this isn’t about her. Not today.

Today is about Nessa.

And Nessa always told me I was a slave to my impulses, so the least I can do is try to contain them. It’s her Memorial Mass, after all.

That weird feeling surges up my throat again.

Grief.

Sometimes it’s fluid, like waves of the ocean, and sometimes it’s stagnant like sculptures carved in stone. Right now, it’s rock solid and heavy in the center of my chest.

I bite my cheek trying to hold it together.

My father clears his throat, and I snap my eyes to him sitting on the other side of Dorothy, soaking in the tattoos that line his fingers and disappear up the sleeve of his shirt. Every once in a while, I’ll try to get a better look, searching for hidden clues about what they mean, wondering if one of them represents me. More than likely, though, he was just bored rotting away in a six by eight prison cell for the last eight years and wanted ink on his skin.

He peers at me from his peripheral, sadness weaving through his weathered light-brown eyes as he wraps his arm around Dorothy, and she rests her head on his shoulder. I’m not sure if the pained look is for the loss of Nessa herself or because of all the years he missed. Maybe it’s neither.

Not that it matters, really.

We made a life without him, and now he’s back, pretending as though he didn’t leave his family with nothing to their name when he made stupid mistakes.

My eyes scan the room, taking in the bobbing heads of the people who cared to show up. I choose to ignore how they’re either nodding off to sleep or whispering to each other like it’s somehow appropriate to be gossiping during the Memorial Mass of the most important person in my life.

“But above all else,” the priest’s voice cuts in. “Nessa Westerly was a woman of family. Of faith. And who better to speak on her love of both than someone she loved more than anything… her sister.”

My heart stutters in my chest, fingernails digging into the wood beneath my thighs until they feel like they might split in half. I didn’t know I’d need to speak. But I’ll do it because Nessa was more than just my sister. Ten years older and eons wiser, she raised me from the time I was nine; after our father got caught with ten kilos of coke in the back of a carrier plane and thrown in the slammer. Although, truthfully, she was caring for me long before that. My throat swells as I wonder what the hell I’m supposed to do now that she’s gone.

A passing thought slips through my brain, curious if our mom will show her slimy face; if she even knows her oldest daughter is dead, or that the man she claimed to love—then abandoned—is free. I shake off the notion, deciding to manifest that she’s dead and rotting, instead. It would serve her right for jumping ship before my father’s verdict was even final.

I side-eye Dorothy again, narrowing my gaze as she wipes a handkerchief under her eyes. As if she has any right to be sad. She hated Nessa.

To be fair, she hates me too, but with our sister, it was different. More volatile. At first, it was pure jealousy. Nessa was the oldest, and the most beautiful, catching the attention of everyone just by simply existing. And Dorothy was… second best. Middle child syndrome at its finest.

When Dad got locked up, his last words were for Nessa to “make him proud.” Not a single word for Dorothy or me. She changed after that. Her envy hardened into hatred, and her persona went from a bitter kid to the “ideal” woman with deep-rooted daddy issues.

She would have made a wonderful actress with how well she plays the part.

Sucking in a deep breath at the memories, I move to stand, but before I can even straighten my legs, Dorothy rises instead, pushing me back as she slips down the pews and into the aisle. She barely passes me a glance, but my eyes burn as I stare at her making her way up to the dais, that brown fucking ponytail fluttering, bright-red heels clacking on the wood floor.

My teeth clench so tightly my molars ache as I zone in on her feet.

Nessa’s shoes.

God, what a bitch.

Yeah… grief is a weird thing.

But so is anger.

And I’m angry.

I’m angry at Nessa for getting herself killed.

And I’m angry at Dorothy for killing her.

 

 

1

 

 

NICHOLAS

 

 

Seven Years Later

 

 

“What’s her name?”

I side-eye Seth, watching as he finger-brushes his dark beard.

“You know, it’s no wonder you get no pussy when you’ve got that shit on your face.”

He grins at me. “Women love this shit. And you’re deflecting.”

“What women?”

“All the ones your pretty ass leaves behind.” Winking, he stands up and grabs his jacket, the tan leather complementing his dark skin and dropping over the gun holstered on his hip. “You’re really not gonna tell me?”

Shrugging, I spin around in my desk chair, the small walls of my cubicle pressing in on me from either side. “I don’t remember.”

“Typical,” Seth scoffs.

Laughter bubbles from my chest. “She knew the deal. We fucked. I didn’t ask for her hand in marriage.”

He shakes his head. “I don’t think anyone’s stupid enough to think they’re getting more than one night with you, dude.”

My chest pulls and I force a grin. He’s not wrong. Even if I wanted to, there’s no room for a relationship in this job. I have a hard enough time keeping my sister safe. Everyone else would be baggage I have no interest in.

“Don’t get mad at me for refusing to play into some made-up fairy-tale emotion.”

His brow rises. “What the hell does that even mean?”

“Love.” I shrug. “It’s fake. Just a chemical reaction that people pretend is more.”

“Whatever you say, man.” Seth chuckles. “You wanna grab a bite?”

I stare down the long aisle of desks, accented by grungy blue carpet. “Nah, Cap wants to see me.”

Seth’s eyes follow my gaze until they hit the closed office door of our division supervisor, Agent Galen. “What for?”

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