Return to poughkeepsie, p.1
Return to Poughkeepsie
Return to Poughkeepsie, Copyright © 2013 by Debra Anastasia
All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher.
1901 Avenue of the Stars, 2nd Floor
Los Angeles, California 90067
First Omnific eBook edition, December 2013
First Omnific trade paperback edition, December 2013
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
Return to Poughkeepsie / Debra Anastasia – 1st ed
1. Poughkeepsie—Fiction. 2. Contemporary Romance—Fiction. 3. Kidnapping—Fiction. 4. Organized Crime—Fiction. I. Title
Cover Design by Micha Stone and Amy Brokaw
Interior Book Design by Coreen Montagna
Tattoo Design (used on cover and interior) by Shannon Lumetta
T, J, and D, it’s always all for you.
A True Friend
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 protection from the worst of society’s evils. 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 shivering 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
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 he woke a good fifteen hours later, his head was cracking open with whatever he had drunk the night before. But 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.
It took him two days to get back to Poughkeepsie, where it all had started. He’d driven these streets as a king. A man to be feared. And now he was twitching at the cop cars and bright lights, pulling his hat down low and trying not to act like the fucking suspect he was.
Beckett could see the lights on in Blake’s apartment. He parked in a spot and quietly closed the door of his paid-for-in-cash Lincoln. If the police were still searching for him, Blake’s place should be first on their list. But he was going to get to see his brother’s home—his first real home. The thought stopped him mid-stride.
Thank you, God. He has a home inside, in a building, in a girl’s arms. I don’t think you’re taking my calls anymore, but take this: Thank you.
Back when Eve was still his and she was helping Blake deal with his sun thing, she’d told him about the apartment in detail—like they were a SWAT team about to attack. He knew where every piece of furniture should be, where the windows were, but he was dying to see it. With his own eyes he wanted to see his brother standing and breathing and happy.
He knocked softly on the door. He listened as two locks clicked and watched the knob turn. Livia’s arms were around him as soon as the door flew open. She had enough sense to not say his name out loud.
He mumbled into her hair, “Don’t you look in the peephole before you open the fucking door?” He could feel warm wetness on his T-shirt and knew she was crying. She was happy to see him. He put one thick arm around her back and walked her into the apartment, closing the door behind them.
“Beckett, I missed your crazy ass.” Livia put her hands on his shoulders and looked into his eyes.
“Mrs. Whitebread, you look as fantastic as anyone could in a pair of polar bear pants.” Beckett smiled for her.
“You just missed Blake. He left for work. Let me call his cell and tell him you’re here.” Livia let go of him long enough to retrieve her phone from the end table in the living room.
Beckett covered her fingers as she began to call. “Wait, babycakes. Work? He has regular work?”
She was like metal in a microwave, she lit up so instantly. “I should let him tell you.”
Beckett raised an eyebrow. “Say it. Spit it out.”
Livia took a deep, smiling breath. “Okay, so he’s been working at the piano bar? He took over for the full-time guy, and he’s been a big hit. Of course, right?”
Beckett nodded. “Of course.”
“Well, just yesterday an agent stopped by and wants Blake to make a demo. In a studio. With microphones.” Livia’s voice went up an octave with every sentence. Beckett was pretty sure she now hovered a few inches above the floor.
“That’s fucking amazing news, I can’t even tell you. Look how great you guys have been doing with me gone.” Beckett wanted this to be a compliment, but Livia’s eyes widened, then narrowed.
“Oh, no. You don’t get to say that. He misses you so much. Things that remind him of you? They just stop him in his tracks. He even wrote a song about you.” Livia put her hand on his arm.
“As fucking gay as that is, it chokes me up like a bitch.” Beckett laughed but covered his mouth with his fist.
He took a moment to look around, finding touches of his brother: two glasses in the sink, a pile of music paper, a picture of Blake and Livia in front of a Disney castle stuck on the fridge with a magnet, an extra pair of his shoes by the door. An extra pair of Blake’s shoes by the door. Fuck yeah. It was better than he could’ve ever imagined. On the coffee table, he saw a brand new pair of baby socks and a teeny, tiny hat.
“Wait a minute, is your sister knocked up? Did Cole do this?” He pointed at the pile of hope. Livia shook her head and put her hand on her own belly.
“You? You! Oh, baby, come here.” He gathered her again in his arms, patting her back. “You and my brother are having a kid?” Beckett kissed her on the forehead.
She smiled even wider now. “We just found out on our belated honeymoon last week. The honeymoon you paid for, by the way. Thank you.”
Beckett brushed away her thanks. “That’s you guys’ money. I’m glad you did something cool with it.”
He let her go and picked up the impossibly small baby clothes. Winnie the Pooh was printed happy and fat repeatedly on the fabric. “Kids start out this freaking small? Holy crap.”
Livia nodded. “Yeah. I’ve got to say, I’m a little scared. I’ve never even held an infant.”
Beckett put the hat and booties down as if they were made of glass. “Whitebread, I can just picture you, hair in a ponytail, spooning some glop into an adorable kid. You’ll be amazing.” The whole sight of Livia, glowing and smiling, made him think of Eve and everything he’d taken from her. He needed to find out if she was happy.
“Thanks, Beck. I sure hope so.”
“So, is Eve married yet?” Beckett looked at his feet, but he knew he’d tipped his cards. Women were so fucking intuitive.
“Ahh. I see. I’m glad you’re looking for her.” Livia sat on the couch.
Beckett shook his head and sat next to her. “No, see, I’m just checking on my people. So they’re not pregnant, but how’re Fairy Princess and Cole?”
“They’re doing really well. Cole has gone back to college to become a teacher. He’s going for his special education degree. His church congregation has provided him with the first-ever Riverside Church College Scholarship. Kyle is still at Mode, working her fashion magic, and the owner has made her a manager. Kyle and Cole also spend a lot of time hiking and volunteering at the church.”
Beckett ran his hand through his messy hair. “What does ‘special education’ mean? Who’ll Cole be teaching?”
Livia took his hand but waited until he looked at her to speak. “He can teach anyone, but his focus will be emotionally disturbed students. The ones who only have anger to respond to feelings. The ones who have big hearts, but big fists as well. He’ll be teaching them how to love without pain.”
“Kids like he was? That’s perfect.” Beckett could easily picture Cole driving to a school in his grandpa car. No kid would get one over on him. Cole knew all their tricks already.
Livia curled Beckett’s hand into a fist. “He says, and I quote, ‘I want to be there for the kids like Beckett. I want to be for them what I couldn’t be for him.’ He’s so proud.”
Beckett took his fist from her hand and stood. They were all doing great. Coming here was a selfish mistake. He didn’t even trust himself in the room with her, with a little baby in her belly. God, what if one of
“You have to promise to take good care of yourself. Good care of that baby. Good care of my brother. Okay? I’ve got to go. I need to go. I need to leave all of you here—in this storybook ending in my head.” Beckett hugged her again and headed for the door. He could feel his poison spreading through all he’d found.
Livia spoke harshly, “Beckett. You will not leave now. I need to know what the hell is going on. Why do you look like shit? Why are you acting paranoid? You show up after a year? I want answers. Blake will demand answers, and if I can’t give them to him, he’ll quit his job and go find you. Do you want that?”
Beckett paused with his hand on the door.
“Livia, please let me leave while I can.” He waited.
Livia grabbed her cell phone again.
Good, baby. Call the cops. Get me out of here.
She scrolled until she found what she wanted. She handed him the phone:
Lollipop’s Ladies: 702-555-1354
“We haven’t seen Eve since before the wedding. She calls from this number once a week to talk to Blake about the sun. She refuses to give him any information about what she’s doing. But Blake says he’s heard people calling her January.”
Beckett stared at the phone and smiled an evil smile. “Lollipop’s is a strip club—a skin shop outside of Vegas. She’s taking her clothes off for money. Which makes no fucking sense, because I paid her enough to live two comfortable lives.”
He was beginning to rage. Livia hugged him. “Beckett, I want to know what you’ve been doing.”
Livia was in front of a window again. Though the curtain was secure, Beckett had another flash of her being shot in his arms, so he pulled her back to the couch where they could sit in the semi-dark. He handed her back her phone.