Hail mary, p.1

Hail Mary, page 1

 

Hail Mary
 


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Hail Mary


  Text copyright ©2017 Lani Lynn Vale

  All Rights Reserved

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Dedication

  To my youngest baby. I sure do hate when you’re sick, but the love you give me when you are makes me cherish each and every cuddle.

  Acknowledgements

  Photographer: FuriousFotog

  Model: Quinn Biddle

  Editors: Ink It Out Editing, Ellie McLove, Danielle P.

  Betas: Barbara, Leah, Mindy, Kathy, Amanda, Diane, and Laura.

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Prologue II

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Epilogue

  Other titles by Lani Lynn Vale:

  The Freebirds

  Boomtown

  Highway Don’t Care

  Another One Bites the Dust

  Last Day of My Life

  Texas Tornado

  I Don’t Dance

  The Heroes of The Dixie Wardens MC

  Lights To My Siren

  Halligan To My Axe

  Kevlar To My Vest

  Keys To My Cuffs

  Life To My Flight

  Charge To My Line

  Counter To My Intelligence

  Right To My Wrong

  Code 11- KPD SWAT

  Center Mass

  Double Tap

  Bang Switch

  Execution Style

  Charlie Foxtrot

  Kill Shot

  Coup De Grace

  The Uncertain Saints

  Whiskey Neat

  Jack & Coke

  Vodka On The Rocks

  Bad Apple

  Dirty Mother

  Rusty Nail

  The Kilgore Fire Series

  Shock Advised

  Flash Point

  Oxygen Deprived

  Controlled Burn

  Put Out

  I Like Big Dragons Series

  I Like Big Dragons and I Cannot Lie

  Dragons Need Love, Too

  Oh, My Dragon

  The Dixie Warden Rejects

  Beard Mode

  Fear the Beard

  Son of a Beard

  I’m Only Here for the Beard

  The Beard Made Me Do It

  Beard Up

  For the Love of Beard

  Law & Beard

  There’s No Crying in Baseball

  Pitch Please

  Furious George (Spring 2018)

  The Hail Raisers

  Hail No

  Go to Hail

  Burn in Hail

  What the Hail

  The Hail You Say

  Hail Mary

  The Simple Man Series

  Kinda Don’t Care (4-5-18)

  Maybe Don’t Wanna (5-4-18)

  Johnny & June (6-7-18)

  Mary Persephone Hail

  Mary—well-wished-for child.

  Persephone—destruction.

  Hail—well that speaks for itself.

  Her name is painful to think about. Mary, his newfound daughter, isn’t a wished-for child. Persephone, though? Yeah, destruction is a fitting description. And Hail? Yeah, that’s just the final f-you.

  The moment that her mother drops her off on his doorstep, Dante’s hell becomes complete.

  Or so he thinks.

  What can make life worse after losing one’s wife and kids, you ask? Here’s what: being given a baby that depends on him for her survival. Finding out that the baby’s mother is dying of brain cancer, and has a husband that he never knew about. A husband that Dante knows in the marrow of his bones is trying to kill her just as surely as the cancer eating her brain.

  Dante’s a bad person. He’s done some not so nice things, and now he’s being punished for his misdeeds. Karma is finally catching up to him.

  This child that he’s been stuck with is of his flesh and bone. This child is his salvation. This child is the final nail in the coffin of his wife and daughters’ too short lives.

  He doesn’t want this child.

  But this child will save him whether he wants her to or not.

  With the help of a friend—yes, a woman friend—Dante finds his way back to life. But what he finds when he gets back isn’t the same life that he left behind. Turns out, he has to start living a new one. One where he's suddenly having feelings for a friend that helped him get through some tough times, and loving a daughter that won’t let him quit.

  Prologue

  I miss you like an idiot misses the point.

  -Dante’s not-so-secret thoughts

  Dante

  Dante, honey. You need to just relax. Nothing will ever happen to us.

  I woke with a start and bile creeping up the back of my throat.

  I screamed.

  The tiny cabin was empty except for my bed, so my anguished cries echoed off the empty walls.

  This cabin… Lily and I had bought it as our retreat. Our home away from home. The place we would go when we needed time alone, away from the daily grind. Time to be together, just the two of us, with no interruptions, not even phone calls.

  Dante, this place is perfect. Let’s get it.

  I made a noise akin to a wounded animal in the back of my throat and gritted my teeth.

  I will not cry today. I will not cry today.

  I’m a grown man! Grown men don’t cry!

  Everything, and I do mean everything, hurt.

  I’d drunk myself into oblivion the night before, and I was feeling the after effects now.

  I moaned as I rolled out of bed and walked stiffly to the bathroom.

  My foot hit the corner of the door, and I cursed.

  Dante, don’t cuss in front of the girls. What are you going to do when they get in trouble at school for swearing when they fall down?

  I ran to the toilet and threw up.

  Today wasn’t going to be a good day.

  And, as if God, the life giver and the life taker, was listening, I felt a piece of hair tickling my chest.

  I reached into my shirt and pinched what I thought was the hair, and pulled.

  The hair…it was long. So long that I knew without a shadow of a doubt whose it would be.

  The moment that it was exposed to the harsh, bright light of the bathroom, I bent over the toilet and threw up the last of the whiskey that I’d drank a few hours before.

  I moaned and let my head rest against the lid of the toilet seat, turning it so that I could examine the strand of ha
ir.

  Even after all this time…after she’d been dead for so long…I still found her hair in my clothes.

  Everywhere.

  In my shirts, on my jackets. On my pillowcases.

  God, she hadn’t even stayed the night at this place, and her hair was on my sheets.

  Sheets that I hadn’t washed once since the last time she’d put them on the bed in anticipation of having a little alone time at our cabin.

  I reached up blindly and flushed the toilet with the hand that wasn’t clutching my dead wife’s strand of hair, then sat back until I was on my butt.

  Obviously, today wasn’t going to be the day that I got my act together.

  Hell, that day might never come.

  I love you, Dante.

  Prologue II

  A million men can tell a woman that she’s beautiful, but the only time she will listen is when it comes from the man she loves.

  -Fact of Life

  Marianne

  “Dante!”

  “Don’t talk, just feel me,” he growled as he slid his shaft into me in long, full strokes.

  I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t do anything but feel.

  I don’t know why he was telling me to just feel. Just feeling was all I could do whether I wanted to or not.

  “I love you, Lily,” Dante growled. “God, you’ve never felt so good.”

  I froze and then immediately started to shake as tears rolled down my face. “I-I’m not Lily. I’m Marianne, remember?”

  The look of shock in his eyes as they met mine proved to me that he didn’t.

  Goddammit.

  Chapter 1

  I can walk the walk, but please don’t ask me to jog the jog or run the run.

  -Meme sent to Dante from Baylor

  Marianne

  The only time a goodbye is painful is when you know, for certain, that it’s the last one.

  I’d read those words in a magazine when I’d been nine months pregnant with my baby.

  I had no idea that, within weeks of having her, I’d be saying goodbye. And I knew in my heart I’d never say hello again. It hurt.

  I swallowed the lump in my throat.

  It was, by far, the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.

  I looked back at the little girl in the car seat, my reason for still being alive.

  Oh God, did it hurt.

  It hurt so bad that I wasn’t sure if I could draw my next breath.

  A sound had me turning to the man that was standing on his doorstep.

  I’d only just found out where he lived. It’d taken me four precious days to find him. Four days that I didn’t have to give.

  Why couldn’t he be where he was supposed to be? Instead, he was living here, in this Godforsaken place.

  Though, I did have to admit that when we’d been intimate, we’d done so at my old place. I hadn’t exactly known that he wasn’t living at the place across the street.

  I got out of the car, walked around to the back door, and opened it.

  He watched me the entire time, arms straining his shirt as he held them crossed over his chest.

  His eyes felt like invasions of my privacy, and it physically hurt to have him this close to me and not touch that beautiful skin.

  We’d spent one single, beautiful night together before he’d flipped out. One single, beautiful night that would forever be the best memory that I ever had.

  Chapter 2

  I don’t need you, I have memes.

  -Meme

  Marianne

  “Come on, baby,” I whispered, pulling her out of the car seat and placing her on the bench seat next to it.

  The next thing I did was unstrap the car seat itself from the car and set it on the grass.

  He’d need all of it.

  From what I’d been able to deduct over the last couple of days from my various sources, Dante lived minimally. He didn’t have much of anything when it came to himself, why would he have anything when it came to a child?

  So, I made sure to bring everything that I had.

  I placed everything on the front lawn.

  Diapers, bottles, a Pack ‘n Play, her portable swing that I’d yet to get her to enjoy. It all went by the curb, making my tiny SUV that I’d stolen the night before look barren.

  Once it was all out, I walked back to where my baby girl was sitting quietly in the seat and pulled her into my arms.

  Through all of this, he only watched.

  The moment my eyes met his, I felt his confusion.

  It was almost palpable.

  Why was I here? What was I doing?

  I’d known that he’d been trying to find me.

  Someone had tipped him off that I was pregnant. Someone had told him that we’d had a child together.

  It was his brother who had found out, a man named Tobias, and it was his other brothers who continued to look into me.

  However, them prodding into my life hadn’t been what broke the camel’s back. That had been something else. Another time, and another life.

  God, how I’d hoped that it was all behind me forever. This was supposed to have been my second chance.

  Yet here I was.

  The moment I got to the bottom of the steps that Dante was standing on, I looked up at him.

  He didn’t move. Didn’t speak. Didn’t even look down at the baby I had in my arms.

  “I have her medical information in a packet in her bag.” I pulled in a deep, calming breath that didn’t calm me in the least. “She needs you, Dante. I realize that you’re broken, but she’s not. Watch over her. You’re my last hope. My only hope.”

  “Why now? What’s going on?”

  Dante’s words felt like caresses on my overheated skin.

  I sat my baby girl down on the swing next to where he was standing.

  “Look up my name. You’ll see.”

  With those cryptic words, I started to walk away.

  “I don’t know your name.”

  Those words hurt. In fact, it felt like that final, killing blow. The one that would leave me forever broken, never to be put back together again.

  Nevertheless, I told him my name.

  “Marianne Genevieve Garwood.”

  Chapter 3

  I’m actually weirder than you think.

  -Text from Baylor to Dante

  Dante

  I looked at the kid that was mine.

  How did I know she was mine?

  She looked exactly like my other children had.

  All the way down to the bright blue eyes, the shock of white blonde hair, and the heart-shaped birthmark on her neck.

  Looking down at this child was one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life.

  The moment that her eyes met mine, I realized the truth.

  I, Dante Hail, was a coward.

  Lily, my wife, was dead, and Jade and Toni, my two baby girls, had went with her.

  Amy, my sister who was responsible for the accident that caused the death of my family, killed herself.

  All of that was on me.

  I would not be responsible for killing another living being.

  I. Would. Not.

  Pulling my computer out from where Lily had last left it—underneath the coffee table of all places—I opened it up and placed it on my lap.

  Just the act of doing something I used to do when they were alive nearly sent me into a tailspin.

  There was nothing to check on anymore. Not a goddamn thing.

  Or, at least, there hadn’t been last night.

  Tonight would be different.

  I looked over at the little girl, who was now sleeping, and pressed the power button.

  It took a few seconds for the screen to blink on, and once it had booted up, what I saw caused my throat to tighten.

  Now I remembered why I hadn’t picked this computer up for two years.

  A picture was on the scree
n.

  One of my family.

  I was in the middle while all three girls—my wife and children—kissed me.

  It’d been our Christmas card the last Christmas we’d had together. The Christmas right before they’d died.

  I was laughing my ass off as Jade, our youngest, gave me more than just kisses in the form of snot and slobber.

  She was absolutely adorable.

  A moan left my throat as I typed in the password: 1loveJadeToniLily.

  Fuck.

  As I waited for the laptop to boot up, all I could do was stare at that picture, remembering how happy I’d been.

  By the time the main menu was up, I was on the verge of hyperventilating.

  A whimper had my head turning, and I blinked as I saw the little girl staring at me with tears in her eyes.

  “I… fuck.”

  Fuck.

  I couldn’t say fuck in front of a little girl!

  Lily would’ve kicked my ass had I done that with her around!

  I reached forward and picked the little girl up. Old muscle memory took over, and I cradled the little girl—my little girl—to my chest and looked down at her.

  “Are you hungry?”

  She blinked away her tears, and I studied her.

  She really was adorable.

  She had that fine, wispy baby hair that looked like it was spun from silk. Her curls were fuckin’ everywhere, and she looked exactly like me and nothing like her mother.

  Her mother had long brown hair, dark brown eyes, and an angular face.

  This girl was all me.

  The computer beeped, making me look away from the little girl, and to the screen.

  I frowned, and my eyes took in the reminder on the computer: Change the air filter, lazy bones.

  I grinned at my wife’s reminder.

  She wasn’t even here anymore, and she was still taking care of me.

  Goddammit.

  I clicked the X on the corner of the reminder and went to the Chrome app, smiling when I heard Lily in my head say that she would never cheat on Internet Explorer.

  Rolling my eyes at that funny memory—funny, but it still fucking hurt, even the happy memories—I typed in the woman’s name into the Google search engine.

  “Marianne Genevieve Garwood,” I muttered as I typed.

  The search instantly picked up hundreds of hits.

 
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