Barnabas and Alana stood on Widow’s Peak. He looked down at the breakers as the ocean crashed over and over.
She linked arms with him. “Are you ready?”
She smiled. “So am I.”
He took her hand and they jumped.
Alana could have sworn that she heard Angelique laughing. But no. It wasn’t her. It was Barnabas.
Laughing at the foaming waves.
Laughing in the night.
She was almost mad at him for laughing, but then she understood. She laughed with him as they fell.
The diamond in her wedding ring sparkled in the moonlight.
And the moon glowed cold white on the waves and the world below.
Raven closed the book. “The end.”
Missy took the book from him and reread the whole ending. She shook her head. “Seriously? How could Barnabas be that dumb?”
“There are many answers to that question.”
“Not enough. I mean, he had alternatives. He didn’t have to jump off the cliff with her. That was dumb and the reasoning was dumb and Alana was dumb and Barnabas was dumb and is there somewhere I can write a complaint letter to so I can vent all my anger? If this weren’t a library book, I’d turn into my XQ self and burn it to death. To absolute death. Stupid Barnabas. Stupider Alana. Stupidest Angelique and Dirge. I still don’t know why Angelique decided to hook up with Dirge. He wasn’t even that good looking in my imagination. He looked like Channing Tatum, but even blander than that and with significantly less charm and an ugly overly hairy chest and a overly hairy back. I just know he had a hairy back. Yuck. Dirge = yuck.”
Raven chuckled. “You need to learn how to speak your mind, miss.”
“You don’t agree with me?”
Raven took the book from her, took one look at the front cover, and laid it front side down on the table. “I certainly do agree. I agree with an aggressive amount of vehemence, but I doubt you want me to begin that rant.”
“You listened to mine. Fair’s fair.”
“Do you truly want to know what I think?”
“Mmm-hmm. Rant away.”
He took a deep breath and exhaled. “Well. For starters, the Barnabas/Josette romance was sadly underplayed. Angelique spent half the book drastically out of character. Her ‘love poems’ to Dirge made me ill. Gravely ill. I did not care for Alana’s character. I did not care for Dirge’s character. Barnabas romancing his descendant reeked of incest. Barnabas romancing Alana reeked in general. Alana was far beneath his station and his standards. Josette was a lady of quality. Alana was…There is not a nice word I can think of to adequately describe that scrap of low-class riff-raff. Dirge became utterly detestable as the story progressed. You could possibly blame Angelique for his behavior, but the point is he let her control him. He didn’t struggle against her commands, not even when she ordered him to kill Alana.”
Missy shrugged. “Could you blame him for wanting to kill Alana?”
Raven thought about it. “No. I suppose not. Still, as her brother, he should have indicated an interior struggle. At least, some hesitation. Would that have been too much to ask for?”
Ambrose entered the kitchen. He looked at them sitting on top of the table and shrugged. “Okay. I’m sure there’s a good reason why you’re sitting up there.”
Raven and Missy said, “Reading.” in unison.
Ambrose nodded his head. Apparently, that reason made sense to him. “I’m going to go clothes shopping with Barbara.”
Raven jumped off the table. “May I come with you, sir?”
He sounded very hopeful.
“Well. For starters, to guarantee that you will buy the right kind of clothes.”
“Ohmygosh, no. I want to wear comfortable clothes.”
Raven glared death threats at Ambrose’s cargo pants.
Ambrose glared back at him. “I like comfortable clothes.”
“A gentleman should possess at least three maybe four slacks AND shirts that are suitable for formal occasions.”
“If you come with, I will probably wind up punching your face off.”
Raven redirected his death-dealing stare at Ambrose’s face. “Do you have any church appropriate clothes?”
Ambrose stopped and thought about it. “Uhh…”
“Exactly my point.”
“Ooo! Could I come with?” Missy asked with too much enthusiasm. “I could help you take your shirt off.”
“No.” Ambrose and Raven said in unison.
“I can take my own shirt off, thank you very much.”
She sighed and shook her head. “I’ll never see you shirtless. What a waste.”
“There is one more reason why I would like to come with, sir.”
“And that would be?”
“It has been a long time since I have assisted a gentleman in purchasing a new wardrobe.”
“Wardrobe? Let’s not get crazy. I just wanted to buy something to sleep in that was meant to be slept in.”
“And what will you do with the shorts you are currently using?”
“Save them for the summer and wear them then.”
Raven tensed up. “Wear them then. As in wear them…outside?”
“Yeah.” Ambrose folded his arms across his chest. “Is there a problem with that?”
Raven sighed. “Many problems, but I doubt you wish to hear them.”
“You would be right about that.”
“Please, sir. Let me come with.”
“Just take him.” said Missy. “If you don’t, it will put him in a black funk. And no one wants to see my pretty shirtless Raven in a black funk.”
Ambrose unfolded his arms. “Fine. But if you criticize EVERYTHING I pick up, I’ll pick you up and throw you out of the store. Is that clear?”
Raven smiled. “Perfectly, sir.”