Home > Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)

Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Chapter 1

Resting on her knees, Rosie Herpin drew in a deep, calming breath as she ignored the sharp pebbles digging into her skin. She leaned forward, flattening her palm against the warm, sun-bleached stone. Kneeling wasn’t exactly comfortable in a wrap dress, but she wasn’t going to wear jeans or leggings today.

She closed her eyes, sliding her hand down and to the right, tracing the shallow indentations painstakingly carved into the worn stone. She didn’t need to see to know she’d reached the name—his name.

Ian Samuel Herpin.

Dragging her fingers over each letter, she mouthed them silently, and when she finished, reaching the N on the last name, she stopped. Rosie didn’t need to keep going to know what the dates read underneath. Ian had been twenty-three. And she didn’t need to open her eyes to read the single line etched into the stone, because that line had been carved into her brain.

May he find the peace that had evaded him in life.

Rosie jerked her fingers off the stone, but she didn’t open her eyes as she brought her hand to her chest, to right above her heart. She hated those words. His parents, bless them, had chosen that, and she hadn’t the heart or the mind at the time to disagree. Now she wished she had.

Peace hadn’t evaded Ian. Peace had been right there, waiting for him, surrounding him. Peace just . . . it just couldn’t reach him.

That was different.

At least to Rosie it was.

Ten years had passed since their plans for the future—plans that had included college degrees, the house with a beautiful courtyard, babies, and maybe, God willing, grandbabies they could spend their days in retirement spoiling—ended with a gun Rosie hadn’t even known her husband owned.

Ten years of replaying the time they did have together, over and over, looking for the signs that everything they had been and everything they were supposed to have become was a facade, because they were living two different lives. Rosie had believed that things were perfect. Yeah, they had problems like everyone had problems, but there was nothing major going on. But for Ian? His life hadn’t been perfect at all. Things had been a struggle. Not a constant one. Not something he’d faced every day. What had preyed on his thoughts and emotions had been well hidden. His depression had been a silent killer. There hadn’t been a single person, not his family or his friends or even Rosie, who had seen it coming.

Not until many, many years later, after a hell of a lot of soul-searching, did Rosie come to the shaky realization that their life hadn’t been a total lie. She’d struggled through all the stages of grief before getting to that point. Some of it had been truth. Ian had loved her. She knew that was true. He’d loved her with everything inside him.

High school sweethearts.

That’s what they’d been.

They’d married the summer after they’d graduated and both of them worked hard to make a life, maybe a little too hard, and that had added to what had troubled him. He’d spent long days at the sugar refinery while Rosie attended Tulane, working toward a degree in education. They talked about those plans—a future, one that she now knew Ian had desperately wanted more than anything.

She was twenty-three, almost done with her degree, and they’d been looking for their first home when Rosie got the call from the police while at her parents’ bakery in the city and was told not to go home.

She’d been a month shy of graduation when Ian called the police and told them what he was about to do. They were just beginning the stressful process of applying for a mortgage when she learned that her husband of almost five years hadn’t wanted her to be the one to come home and discover him. It had been a week before his birthday when their walking, living, and breathing all-American dream turned into an all-American tragedy.

For so many years, she never understood why he did what he did. So many years of being so damn angry and so damn guilty, feeling like she should’ve seen something, could’ve done something. It wasn’t until she went to the University of Alabama and enrolled in the psychology program that she began to accept there’d been warning signs—red flags that most people would never have picked up on.

She learned through classes and her own experience that depression looked nothing like what people thought—like what she had thought.

Ian smiled and lived, but he’d done that for Rosie. He’d done that for his family and friends. He smiled, laughed, and got up each day and went to work, made plans and had lazy Sundays with her so she wouldn’t worry about him or feel bad. He didn’t want her to feel the same way he felt.

And he’d kept doing that until he couldn’t any longer.

Guilt finally turned to regret, and regret lessened until it was a kernel of emotion that would always, no matter what, be there when she really let herself think about where they’d be, who’d they’d be, if things had been different. And that was, well, it was life.

He’d been gone now longer than she knew him, and while each month, each year, got easier, it still killed her a little to even say his name.

Rosie didn’t believe you could simply move on from losing someone you truly loved, someone who was not only your best friend but your other half. You didn’t get back that part of you that you irrevocably gave to another person. When they left, that part disappeared forever with them. But Rosie believed you could come to accept that they were no longer there and keep living and enjoying life.

There wasn’t anything she was prouder of than the fact that she did just that. No one, not a single damn person could say she was weak, that she didn’t dust off her ass and pick herself back up, because you could never begin to understand the turbulent, ever-changing whirlwind of utterly violent emotions that came with losing someone you cherished more than anything in this world to their own hand.

No one.

She got not one or two degrees, but three of them. She went out and had fun, the crazy fun that sometimes felt like it was moments away from becoming the kind of fun that ended with the police showing up. She took what used to be a curiosity for all things paranormal, an interest she shared with Ian, and turned it into a legitimate side career where she’d met some of the best people in the world. Rosie also dated. Often. Hell, she’d just gone out with a guy at the beginning of the week she’d met while working at her parents’ bakery. And she never held back. Never. Life was too damn short to do that.

That she had learned the hard way.

But today, on the tenth anniversary of Ian’s death, it was hard not to feel like it happened yesterday. It was almost impossible to not be cloaked in suffocating sadness.

Reaching around her neck, she tugged on the gold chain she always wore. She pulled it out from under the collar of her dress, curling her fingers around the gold band. Her husband’s ring. She lifted it to her lips and kissed the warm metal.

One day she would put this ring away somewhere safe. She knew that, but that one day just hadn’t come yet.

Opening her eyes, she blinked back tears as she lowered her gaze to the bouquet of fresh flowers resting on the ground. Peonies. Her favorite, because Ian didn’t have a favorite flower. They were half-bloomed mignon peonies, crisp white with pink centers that would eventually turn all white. Picking up the damp stems, she inhaled the rich, rose fragrance.

Rosie needed to get going. She’d promised to help her friend Nikki move today, so it was time to head back to her apartment, get changed, and be a good friend for the day. She leaned—

A soft, swift curse jerked her head up. Normally, she didn’t hear a ton of cursing in a cemetery. Usually things were quite quiet. A faint grin tugged at her lips. Cursing and cemeteries typically did not go hand in hand. She scanned the narrow path to her right and didn’t see anything. Leaning back, she looked to her left and found the source.

A man knelt on one knee with his back to her as he picked up flowers that had fallen into a puddle left by the recent rainstorm. Even from where she sat, she could see that whatever delicate bouquet he’d carried was ruined.

Placing a hand over her eyes, she squinted in the sunlight as she watched the man rise. He was dressed as if he’d come straight from work. Dark trousers paired with a fitted white dress shirt. The sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, revealing tan forearms. It was late September and New Orleans was still circling the seventh level of hot, currently as humid as Satan’s balls in the afternoon, so she figured if she was close to dying in her black dress, he had to be minutes away from stripping off the shirt.

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