House of V (Unraveled Series) (30 page)

BOOK: House of V (Unraveled Series)
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The rest of the Jones family met
Delaney and James then headed toward the Church for the small social gathering
afterward. Sanchez stood back and gave me a short salute which I returned
before he disappeared onto a path that led out of the cemetery.

The roar of his motorcycle ripped
through the air shortly after. I finally turned my focus on the hand still
wrapped around my own. Sister Josephine’s arm was wrapped in heavy gauze
beneath her white, long-sleeved dress.

“I want you to keep that rosary,”
Sister Josephine said, pointing to the beads around my neck. “It wasn’t just a
loan. It’s yours to keep.”

“Thank you,” I said as I pulled it
over my head. “But I can’t. You have worn it for over twenty-five years and it
belongs to you.” I placed it over her head and let it fall to her chest. “I
don’t want anyone else taking that from you, ever. They’ll have to get through
me, first.”

She smiled and squeezed my hand.
“Thank you, my guardian angel.”

“I think I’ve heard that enough to
last a lifetime from you,” I said.

“I’ll never stop saying it,” she
replied. “I’ve missed you,

“I’ve missed you, too, Sister

“Do you think this is the end of it
all?” she asked as I walked to the back of the wheelchair and began pushing her
out of the canopy.

“I hope so. I honestly don’t know
how much more I can take,” I said as I stopped and pulled an umbrella from the
handle of the wheelchair. I was about to pop it open when her hand rested on

“We don’t need it. It’s stopped
raining,” she said as she pointed to the break in the clouds. A small hint of
sun was poking through. “Father
is looking
down on us, you know.”

I put the umbrella back and grabbed
the handles to roll the wheelchair toward the Church.

“Why did you wear white today,
Sister Josephine?”

wouldn’t have wanted to be mourned. You know that,” she replied with a twinkle
in her eye.
“Because today is a day for celebrating life.
Today marks a day of new beginnings.”


January, Six Months Later
Cottage Near Lake Michigan


I wrapped the blanket tighter around
my body as I watched the crackle of the fire burn a vibrant dance while the
wind thrashed against the windows overlooking Lake Michigan.

I never thought I would be able to
stand being here.

My eyes gazed up at the rows of
books lining the bookshelves. Delaney had replaced them all within the first
week that I had gotten here, and I had already burned through the first three
rows. I only had one row left and six more months of waiting until I was off

I closed my eyes and thought of
Elizabeth’s sweet bouncy curls and Ethan’s strong but patient face. Their
memories lingered here, and while most of me wanted to move on from them, I
felt a comfort in their presence.

The ding of the microwave buzzed me
up from the couch. I walked past the stretched bay windows that reflected the
snow-covered ground. It was beautiful here, it really was, but I hadn’t decided
if I would stay. Delaney had gifted the cottage to me despite my declines just
days after finding Sister Josephine. As she had placed the keys in my hand, she
had told me that I should sell it if I didn’t want to stay. I had finally
conceded and taken the cottage; I had six more months to figure out if I wanted
to stay.

I pulled the hot chocolate from the
microwave and set the scolding liquid on the counter. As I waited for it to
cool, I pulled my laptop open and logged into an email account Delaney had
insisted that I create and actually check. After all, I was four hours away
from her, and she couldn’t help sending pictures of their baby, my
every couple days.

Delaney and James had named their
first son Seth. And I had to admit, he was a beautiful baby. Most people say
that about all babies, but there was something about Seth that made him the
perfect bundle. James had claimed he had taken over his own dashing good looks,
and while I couldn’t exactly disagree, I tended to lean toward the wavy brown
hair and the promise of translucent blue eyes. Not that I was partial to that
or anything.

I hadn’t logged on in a few days,
and I knew Delaney would be calling soon if I didn’t reply. I opened the first
email to see a smiling Seth in a baby bathtub with a suds-created Mohawk. I
smiled back and skipped to the next picture of Delaney and Seth sleeping in a

I was finally getting used to the
fact that they were my family. Of course the monthly Sunday night dinners at
Mark’s house were helping. We’d had five dinners so far, and each night had
been filled with more laughter than I had been able to gather in my whole
lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, it had been hard to crack that first smile, but I
eventually did. I probably didn’t laugh as much as the rest of them, however,
they were growing on me. Mark had a new girlfriend - I was gratuitously
thankful for that news at the last dinner because we
a family now -
and new job. Parker Enterprises was
sold off and was now being run under new management and a new name. Ben and
Meghan were working on baby number two.

I visited Sister Josephine on the
afternoons that I went to Appleton. We had fallen into a good routine, and I
was happy to have her back in my life. She told me about the Holston she had
known as a young girl. He’d been mentally anguished even as a child, she had
said, but he had found a way to deal with his desires. She hadn’t known the
magnitude of
he had become and had apologized over
and over that she hadn’t done things differently. I told her that everything
turned out exactly as it was supposed to. Most days I believed that line of

And my mother, well, she never
seemed to stop smiling at me when I saw her. She also had whispered to me that
she needed to see more of me, yet she knew I had a limit and suddenly being a
part of this family, any family,
difficult for me. My father cried at least once every dinner, it never failed.
I guess it could be worse.

The FBI turned over the love
letters that Holston had written Ann. In true Ann fashion, she had them
shredded at the headquarters before they could even send them to her. She made
Agent Allen record the shredding so she could verify that they were gone.

Kevin Carpenter was in prison and
serving a life sentence for the death of Fred Sullivan. Holston’s house in
Appleton was in foreclosure. The Vigilante League had been dismantled and the
site taken down. Sanchez had pulled one last string for me before I moved in
here that caused a little stir with the county judge, but I was grateful that
he stuck his neck out, again, for me. A loaded 9mm was underneath the pillow of
my bed.
In case,
he had said. I
hadn’t needed it yet and didn’t plan on it.

I pulled my attention back to my
email, closing out the pictures Delaney had sent, before hovering over the next

The name soared through my heart.

Luke Montana.

My hand shook as I clicked on the
email entitled
Red Shoes



I’m writing to let you know
about an editorial that was published a few weeks ago before I left Norway. I
really think it’s something you should know about. I’ll give you the English
translation since I’m sure your Norwegian is rusty. The title of the article is
‘To the Girl in Boots.’

‘I’ve looked for you for the
last six months with no luck. I want to thank you for your courage in fighting
off my attacker in June in the alleyway of
It is because of you that I am alive and unharmed. Your actions gave me the courage
to go to the authorities, and as a consequence, the individual has been
captured and is imprisoned. More importantly, he will not have the chance to
hurt anyone else. If I never learn your name or where you are from or what made
you who you are, know that I will never forget you. I will never forget the
woman who saved my life and countless others. You are my protector. And I am
eternally grateful.
- The Girl in the Red Shoes.’

Bernard did confront me right
away, if you were wondering, and I told him he better watch his back in case
you ever came back. I never heard a yell after that, and Rolf seemed happier.

I sold my house and boat, and
I’m in London working on my English accent. Anonymity is a beautiful thing. I
know you have six more months yet on your parole, and I don’t know where you
are, but know that you’ll always have a piece of me. I’ll be here, along with
your knife.

Luke from





House of V
Smith’s third novel in the Unraveled Series. When she isn’t writing novels, she
spends her time wrangling two small sons and teaching at a technical college.
She lives in Sherwood, Wisconsin with her husband and boys.

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A special thank
you to my husband, Brandon, for pushing me time and time again. Yes, I
will keep writing.

To Reba, thank you for being a huge support in my writing adventures. Your
sound advice and willingness to help brings me to tears.

To Stephanie, thank
you for listening to me go on and on and on about my story ideas and struggles.
Your encouragement and empathy has pushed me forward.

And to all the indie
writers out there who have both inspired and encouraged me, THANK YOU! You have
been true trailblazers on this crazy rollercoaster.

Thank you to my editors,
and Kris of C&D Editing. Any mistakes are my

Last, thank you to my friends, family, and readers who have encouraged me
to continue to dream. The journey continues!

BOOK: House of V (Unraveled Series)
11.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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