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Ruckus (Sinners of Saint #2)
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They say that life is a beautiful lie and death a painful truth. They’re right.
They say the brightest stars burn out the fastest. They’re right.
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“Because the birdsong might be pretty,
But it’s not for you they sing,
And if you think my winter is too cold,
You don’t deserve my spring.”
Stars are known for symbolizing the eternal. They’ve been a fixed constant in the sky since time immemorial. The first inhabitants of earth used to stare at the same sky as we do now. And our children.
And their grandchildren.
Stars also symbolize the cycle of life, solitude and gravity. They glow in the dark energy that’s the majority of space, and remind us that even in the pitch black, there’s always something that can shine.
I SHOULD PROBABLY GET ONE thing out of the way before we begin. My story? It doesn’t have a happy ending. It won’t. It can’t. No matter how tall or handsome or rich and captivating my Prince Charming might be.
And my Prince Charming was all those things. Oh, he was all those things and more.
Only problem was he wasn’t really mine. He was my sister’s. But there is something you should know before you judge me.
I saw him first. I craved him first. I loved him first.
All that didn’t matter when Dean ‘Ruckus’ Cole had his lips on my sister’s in front of my eyes the day Vicious broke into her locker.
The thing about these moments is you never quite know whether it’s the beginning or the end. The fluidity of life stops, and you’re forced to examine your reality. Reality sucks. Trust me, I know firsthand just how hard it does.
Life ain’t fair.
Daddy said it right when I hit sixteen and wanted to start dating. His answer was resolute. “Good Lord, no.”
“Why not?” My eyelid ticked with annoyance. “Millie dated when she was sixteen.” It was true. She went on four dates with our mailman’s son, Eric, back in Virginia. Daddy snorted and wagged his index finger at me. Nice try.
“You’re not your sister.”
“What does that mean?”
“You know what it means.”
“No, I don’t.” I did know.
“It means you have something she doesn’t. It’s not fair, but life ain’t fair.”
Another fact I couldn’t argue with. Daddy said I was a magnet for the wrong kind of boys, but that was like sugarcoating a ball of dirt and rusty nails. I understood the underlying complaint he had made, I did, especially as I’d always been his little princess. Rosie-bug. The apple of his eye.
I was racy. It wasn’t intentional. It was even, at times, an inconvenient liability. With thick lashes, cascading caramel hair, long milky legs, and downy lips so full they took over most of my face. Everything else about me was small and ripe—wrapped in a red satin bow with a siren expression that seemed to have been permanently inked on my face, no matter how hard I tried to wipe it off.
I attracted attention. The best kind. The worst kind. Hell, every kind.
There were going to be other boys, I tried to convince myself when Dean and Emilia’s lips touched and my heart shriveled in my chest. But there was always going to be one Millie.
Besides, my sister deserved it. Deserved him. I had Mama and Daddy’s attention, all day, every day. I had plenty of friends at school, and admirers lining up outside our door. All eyes were on me, while no one spared my sister a second glance.
It wasn’t my fault, but that didn’t make me feel any less guilty. My older sister had become the product of both my illness and popularity. A solitary teenager hiding behind a canvas, obscured behind paint. Quiet all the time, sending her message through her weird, eccentric clothes.
When I think about it, it was really for the best. The first day I noticed Dean Cole in the hallway between trig and English period, I knew that he was more than just a high school crush. If I had him, I wouldn’t let go. And that in itself was a dangerous concept I couldn’t afford toying with.
See, my clock was ticking faster. I wasn’t born like the rest.
I had an illness.
Sometimes I conquered it.
Sometimes it conquered me.
Everyone’s favorite Rose was wilting, but no flower wants to die in front of an audience.
Besides, it was better that way, I decided when her lips were on his and his eyes were on mine and reality became a complex, agonizing thing I was desperate to run away from.
And so I watched as my sister and the only guy who made my heart beat faster fall in love from my front-row seat.
My petals falling one by one.
Because even though I knew my story wouldn’t end with a happily ever after, I couldn’t help but wonder…could it have a happy ending, even if just momentarily?
The summer when I turned seventeen was bad, but nothing prepared me for its fucking grand finale.
All arrows pointed to calamity. I couldn’t isolate what path would lead me to it, but knowing my life, I braced myself for a sucker punch that’d send me straight to hell.