Published by Swoon Reads Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, Young Adult
You Won’t See Me Coming
(The Black Angel Chronicles #3)
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: January 8th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, Young Adult
After finally taking down Torres, her mother’s merciless killer, Reagan and Luke have two targets on their backs and are forced into hiding. With new names, looks, and cover stories, they’re living quiet, “safe” lives, but revenge comes at a steep price. Reagan’s actions continue to haunt the pair and put the people they love in danger.
When Reagan discovers her best friend Harper is on the verge of being kidnapped, she and Luke defy Black Angel orders and risk blowing their cover to save their friend. After the rescue attempt goes wrong, the three friends must go on the run with an army of assassins hot on their trail and the list of trust-worthy Black Angels getting smaller and smaller. Will they make it out alive? And at what cost?
Fast-paced and suspenseful, this is the explosive finale of Kristen Orlando’s Black Angel Chronicles series.
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I’ve come to hate my hands. I used to just think they were ugly. My palms, too big. My fingers, too short. My skin, too wrinkly. Freak hands, I used to joke. I don’t make jokes about my hands now. When I stare down at them, I still see his blood. Blazing red ovals with tiny tails on my fingernails, knuckles, and wrists. The rational side of me knows it’s gone. Washed away in a tiny bathroom sink at thirty thousand feet, Santino Torres’s DNA circling the drain somewhere over the Indian Ocean. Still, if the light is right, I see it, freckling my skin.
The bell at the front door of the bookshop jingles, breaking my zombie-like trance. I shake my head, clearing my mind, and my hands begin to move again, searching for a book Bird Lady asked us to order. She has a name: Dorothy. But she has one singular passion in life: birds. She loves birds so much that she wears broaches with pictures of her pet birds on them. Her purse is covered in colorfully stitched birds. Her winter scarf, again: birds. I’ve been living here for only a few weeks, but in a town as small as Manchester, Vermont, you get to know the locals pretty fast. I’m told Manchester is packed with New Yorkers and Bostonians with vacation houses in the summer and tourists for the leaves in the autumn. But come winter, as the temperatures dip and snow begins to fall, the volume of visitors fades and we’re left alone with the bitter cold and the townsfolk.
“Olivia, did you find it yet?” Bird Lady’s coarse voice asks from behind me. My shoulders tense, still uneasy with the sound of my new name.
I’ve been a dozen different Reagans. Reagan Bailey. Reagan Schultz. Reagan MacMillan. But with Fernando searching for me, eager to put a bullet in my skull, the Black Angels said keeping my first name was no longer an option. Staying any version of my former self was far too dangerous. Before, I would have kicked and screamed over losing my name. But now, I just don’t care. With each new identity and cover story, I used to keep pieces of Reagan Elizabeth Hillis behind the pretender mask. I weaved my true self into the girl I was instructed to become. But not now. The girl I was before is disappearing. And I doubt she’s ever coming back.
“Just about,” I answer and clear my throat. I lift the lid of one more box and flip through all our recent orders. Finally, I find it. I pull out the latest edition of the Field Guide to North American Birds and turn back around to face Bird Lady.
“I certainly hope the shop didn’t give my copy away,” Bird Lady says playfully, her wrinkles deepening around her mouth.
“Of course not, Dorothy,” I reply with a small smile and hand her the book. “We didn’t even put it out on the shelves. We saved it especially for you.”
“Well, it’s not really for me,” she answers and pulls open her wallet. It has birds all over it. Of course. “It’s for my youngest granddaughter for Christmas. She’s ten. I hope she’ll like it.”
“I’m sure she’ll just love it,” I reply as sweetly as possible and plaster a fake smile on my face (my cheeks ache at the end of a shift from all the forced glee) as I scan the book and begin to ring her up. “That will be twenty-three dollars and forty-nine cents.”
“Here you go, dear.” Bird Lady hands me her credit card, which I swipe and hand back to her. The printer whines and spits out a receipt.
“I hope you have a great evening,” I say and hand her a plastic green-and-white Manchester Book Loft bag with the present for her granddaughter tucked inside.
“You too,” Bird Lady replies and wags her bony finger at me. “Now don’t work too hard.”
“I’ll try,” I answer with an artificial laugh and watch as Bird Lady slowly walks across the store, out the front door, and into the snowy, dark night.
I glance down at my mother’s watch ticking away on my wrist: 9:57. Nearly closing time. I scan the lower floor of the bookstore. It’s empty. “O Tannenbaum” from A Charlie Brown Christmas plays over the speakers; each cheerful strike of the piano keys makes my heart heavier, my mood darker. Christmas used to be my favorite time of year. Not just because of the carols and presents and lights, the general merriness that comes with the holiday season. I used to love Christmas because it meant my parents were home. With their seniority, they were able to request the days around Christmas off and, unless it was a true emergency, they were almost never called away.
We had our little traditions for that week. We’d make Christmas cookies using twenty-year-old cookie cutters, and Dad would make fun of the crooked candy canes and the blobs that were supposed to be Santa Claus. Then Mom would yell at him for licking red and green dyed icing off of his fingers before touching other cookies, spreading his germs everywhere. Aunt Sam would come over to try to put together gingerbread houses, but they were always disasters, falling down or having the candy picked off of cookie rooftops within the first twenty-four hours of construction. Mom would make us string popcorn for the Christmas tree and I’d always whine and say we should just buy strings of little gold beads and call it a day. “You’ll miss these moments when you’re grown up,” my mother used to say. I’d roll my eyes when she’d turn her back and think yeah right. But I’d do just about anything to have those moments back. This will be my second Christmas without my mother. My first without Dad. He’s still so angry with me, I doubt I’ll even get a phone call. Even if he wasn’t so irate with me, the Black Angels would never allow him to visit me for the holiday. I must stay hidden. I must remain a ghost.
I clear my throat, lost memories stinging at my eyes. I try to push back the sorrow that’s crept out of its little box, flooding my bloodstream and leaving my layered body cold. I shove my hands into the pockets of my jeans and dig my fingers into my hipbones, redirecting the ache. The threatening gloom retreats, tucking itself back where it belongs. I don’t deserve to feel sad.
I did this myself.
“Olivia, you ready to go?” my manager, Adam, calls to me as he emerges from behind a row of cookbooks. He’s twenty-six with a law degree from Columbia but opted out of taking the bar exam. He gave up an almost guaranteed partnership at his dad’s prestigious Manhattan law firm to move to Vermont and start a very different life. I feel like there’s a lot of that up here. People who leave behind lives of privilege to make cheese or blow glass or something. Smaller paychecks but a simpler, happy life. And with its sweeping mountain views and postcard-worthy quaintness, I can see why so many give up everything for peace in the Green Mountain State.
“Yeah, let me just close out,” I say and punch a few buttons into the register, locking it with a key for the night.
“Ben’s waiting for you,” Adam says, and my shoulders flinch beneath my thick sweater once again. I’ll never get used to his new name either.
“Okay. Your key, good sir,” I say and hand over the key to the downstairs register. For being in a small town, the Manchester Book Loft is quite expansive, with two floors, a large café that serves delicious goodies, and lots of quirky nooks where customers can hide out and get lost in a good book.
“Let’s get out of here before the snow really starts coming down,” Adam says, flipping off the light behind me. With a curly mop of blond hair and an easy smile, Adam looks like a cherub. I’m kind of surprised he doesn’t have wings coming out of his flannel button-down shirts. That baby face is the current catch of Manchester that every single girl (and divorced cougar) has her eye on.
I follow Adam through the store, turning out lights one by one. When I reach the Young Adult section, I catch my distorted reflection, the light inside creating an imperfect mirror against the dark window. It takes all my energy to repress the shiver crawling up my vertebrae. I barely recognize myself. My long dark hair has been chopped into a bob and dyed honey blond. I’m a horrible-looking blond, and I hate maintaining this modern Barbie hairstyle. The worst part is bleaching my dark eyebrows, trying to make this new me look somewhat natural. I avoid mirrors. The acid in my stomach roils every time I see myself. Just another reminder of why I’m here. What I’ve lost.
What I’ve done.
“Liv,” Adam’s voice calls out to me from the last dark room.
“Coming,” I say and flip off the light. My ghostly reflection disappears.
I walk past the magazine display, past a pair of comfy, worn couches, and up three small steps that lead into the café.
“Hello, love,” a voice says once I reach the top. I look up to see the new version of Luke smiling at me. His beautiful blond hair has been trimmed short and dyed a dark brown (lots of hair dye under our bathroom sink). He’s even started wearing colored contacts, turning his two pools of cornflower blue a muddy brown. The only pieces that remain of the Ohio boy I fell for are his dimples.
“Hi, babe,” I reply and lean in for a quick kiss, the scruff of his threatening five o’clock shadow (which he has to shave daily since it’s so much lighter than his hair) scratching my face. “You make out okay?”
“Sold out of all my apple crumb bars,” he responds sweetly and pulls my body in for a side hug. I wrap my arms around his waist and take in his scent. He smells like coffee and powdered sugar from a twelve-hour shift working in the bakery and café section of the bookstore. I never learned to cook. I thought I’d never need to. I was supposed to be a Black Angel: my days spent rescuing hostages, taking down terrorists, and arresting drug kingpins. But Luke is a master in the kitchen. His mother is an amazing baker. He spent hours with her, melting chocolate for triple-chocolate-chip cookies and kneading dough for pies. So when it came to finding a real job, he was easy. But I didn’t have much to offer the real world. I mean, if someone needs a swift kick to the face or a quick and clean execution, I’m your girl. But starting a hit man business while trying to hide out is probably not the best-laid plan in the world.
“Here, let me help you with your coat,” Luke says as I slip my arms through my camel-colored peacoat.
“Ben, you guys working tomorrow?” asks Imogene as she throws on her blue puffy winter jacket. She pulls her long, dark hair out of the neck of her coat and zips it up over her petite frame. She’s one of the baristas in the Book Loft café and makes one hell of a cappuccino, complete with decorative foam hearts or leaves or flowers.
“Yeah, we’re both on for tomorrow,” Luke responds and pulls me into his body again, giving me a kiss on the forehead as the four of us walk out of the warm bookstore and into a chilly December night.
“You two have a great evening,” Adam says as he locks the front door of the now dark Manchester Book Loft. “Shit, I forgot to turn off the Christmas music.”
“That’s okay. The books love A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Imogene says with a throaty laugh.
“Screw it,” Adam says and puts the key in his pocket. “See you guys tomorrow.”
“Have a good one,” Luke says cheerfully as he takes my gloved hand into his own. We walk in silence to our car, parked two blocks away, and I relish these quiet minutes. Fat snowflakes cascade down from a black sky, like falling stars, filling the dark trees and carpeting the sidewalk with their brightness. The spruce trees near the bookstore are wrapped in old-fashioned Christmas lights. Bright bulbs blink red, yellow, green, and blue. Garland is wrapped around store windows and a wreath hangs on nearly every door. Twinkle lights hug thin parkway trees and thick felt red ribbons are tied into perfect bows on every light post. It’s like walking onto the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie, but without the hollow buildings and paper snow.
We approach Charlie’s, a popular bar with the locals, and my stomach begins to knot with what’s next. Our turn is coming up. In ten seconds, we’ll be out of sight of Imogene and Adam.
In ten seconds, the show’s over.
I breathe in the cold night air and it stings against the delicate flesh of my lungs like a warning. We pass by Charlie’s front door. It opens and the sound of clinking glasses and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” fills the quiet. We turn the corner, off the main street, and like clockwork, Luke drops my hand. No, doesn’t drop. More like heaves it back to me. The boy from the bookstore disappears, his smile replaced by a scowl. His eyes angry, lips tight, and dimples gone until the next day when he has to throw a phony smile my way while we work. Pretend we’re a couple. Make believe that we’re happy.
I look up at him with wounded eyes, missing his hand in mine. Even if it’s all for show. He can feel my eyes on him. I know it. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his heavy coat and stares straight ahead, his face far icier than Vermont’s below freezing temperatures. I thread my rejected fingers through my other hand, filling the space where his palm used to be. I take in a bottomless breath, preparing myself for another evening of tense silence. And I deserve it. I deserve his anger, his borderline-hatred. Because I didn’t ruin just one life. I’ve ruined two. Without consideration. And without his permission.
I lie in bed at night, trying to come up with things to say to him. I run through apologies, scenarios where I beg for his forgiveness. But I have yet to say those words out loud. I’m too afraid of what he’ll say. Because I know what I’ve done is unforgivable.
The Reagan I was before may be fading, evaporating into the air, piece by broken piece. But the beautiful boy I fell for is truly gone.
Writing is one of the great loves of Kristen Orlando’s life and she has been lucky enough to make it her living, first as a television producer, then as a marketer and now as a novelist. Kristen graduated with a B.A. in English literature from Kenyon College. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with the other great love of her life, Michael. You Don’t Know My Name is her debut novel.
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