My Fallen SaintJ. Kenner
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My Beautiful Sin
About the Author
About My Fallen Saint
His touch is her sin.
Her love is his salvation.
Charismatic. Confident. Powerful. Controlling.
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A brilliant investor with a Midas touch, Devlin Saint turned a modest inherited fortune into billions, and now operates one of the world’s foremost international philanthropic organizations. He’s a man determined to help the underprivileged, to fight injustice, and to make the world a better place. And that, at least is true.
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It’s not, however, the full truth.
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Because Devlin Saint is a man with a dangerous secret. One he’ll do whatever it takes to protect. And when investigative reporter Ellie Holmes turns her attention to an unsolved murder, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue and passion as Devlin draws her closer and closer. But as the intensity and sensuality of their relationship grows, so do Ellie’s suspicions. Until she is no longer certain if the heat between her and Devlin is real, or only a facade he constructed to hide his dark and twisted secrets.
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“J. Kenner knows how to deliver a tortured alpha that everyone will fall for hard. Saint is exactly the sinner I want in my bed.” - Laurelin Paige, NYT bestselling author
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The Fallen Saint Series
By J. Kenner
My Fallen Saint
My Beautiful Sin
My Cruel Salvation
A huge smoochy thank you to Darcy Burke for going a little bananas with me, for helping me work out the core of this book, for being there when we both felt a bit like Jason Bourne after the freakazoid driver nearly ran us off the road, and for All The Other Reasons.
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To Jon Brown, for introducing me to the real life Shelby … even if he wouldn’t let me drive her. And to J. Craig Stiles & Lisa Carolin for putting up with me as I edited at their kitchen table.
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And to my mom. Love you. Miss you.
The wind stings my face and the glare from the afternoon sun obscures my vision as I fly down the long stretch of Sunset Canyon Road at well over a hundred miles per hour.
My heart pounds and my palms are sweaty, but not because of my speed. On the contrary, this is what I need. The rush. The thrill. I crave it like a junkie, and it affects me like a toddler on a sugar high.
Honestly, it’s taking every ounce of my willpower not to put my 1965 Shelby Cobra through her paces and kick her powerful engine up even more.
I can’t, though. Not today. Not here.
Not when I’m back, and certainly not when my homecoming has roused a swarm of butterflies in my stomach. When every curve in this road brings back memories that have tears clogging my throat and my bowels rumbling with nerves.
I pound down the clutch, then slam my foot onto the brake, shifting into neutral as I simultaneously yank the wheel sharply to the left. The tires squeal in protest as I make a U-turn across the oncoming lane, the car’s ass fishtailing before skidding to a stop in the turnout. I’m breathing hard, and honestly, I think Shelby is, too. She’s more than a car to me; she’s a lifelong best friend, and I don’t usually fuck with her like this.
Well, now she’s dangerously close to the cliff’s edge, her entire passenger side resting parallel to a void that boasts a view of the distant coastline. Not to mention a seriously stunning glimpse of the small downtown below.
I ratchet up the emergency brake as my heartbeat pounds in my throat. And only when I’m certain we won’t go skidding down the side of the cliff do I kill Shelby’s engine, wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans, and let my body relax.
Well, hello to you, too, Laguna Cortez.
With a sigh, I take off my ball cap, allowing my dark curls to bounce free around my face and graze my shoulders.
“Get a grip, Ellie,” I murmur, then suck in a deep breath. Not so much for courage—I’m not afraid of this town—but for fortitude. Because Laguna Cortez beat me down before, and it’s going to take all of my strength to walk those streets again.
One more breath, and then I step out of the car. I walk to the edge of the turnout. There’s no barrier, and loose dirt and small stones clatter down the hill as I balance on the very edge.
Below me, jagged rocks protrude from the canyon walls. Further down, the harsh angles smooth to gentle slopes with homes of all shapes and sizes nestled among the rocks and scrubby plants. The tiled roofs follow the tightly winding road that leads down to the Arts District. Tucked neatly in the valley formed by a U of hills and canyons, the area opens onto the town’s largest beach and draws a steady stream of tourists and locals.
As far as the public is concerned, Laguna Cortez is one of the gems of the Pacific Coast. A laid-back town with just under sixty-thousand people and miles of sandy and rocky beaches.
Most people would give their right arm to live here.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s hell.
It’s the place where I lost my heart and my virginity. Not to mention everybody close to me. My parents. My uncle.
The boy I’d loved. The man who broke me.
Not a single one of them is here anymore. My family, all dead. And Alex, long gone.
I ran, too, desperate to escape the weight of my losses and the sting of betrayal. I swore to myself that I’d never return.
As far as I was concerned, nothing would get me back.
But now it’s ten years later, and here am I again, drawn back down to hell by the ghosts of my past.
I met Alex Leto on my sixteenth birthday, and the first time I saw him, something inside me turned on. Something like happiness, yet so much more complicated. Optimism, maybe, but mixed with rainbows and unicorns.
The day started gray and dismal, with storms rolling in at dawn. They parked themselves over my house, spread their dark gray arms, and stirred up wind and rain from daybreak all the way into the evening. Six of my ten invited guests called to cancel, but even before the party started, I’d known that it was ruined.
I should have seen it coming. Maybe not a gale, but something. After all, I was not the most blessed of kids. For starters, I was an orphan.
I’d turned four the day after my mother died, and though
I used to tell my dad that I remembered her, by the time I was ten, that was a lie.
Her brother, my Uncle Peter, moved his commercial real estate business to Laguna Cortez after she died. My dad couldn’t afford to hire help, and as Chief of Police he had an erratic schedule. Daddy and I lived in the hills, but I’d go to Uncle Peter’s huge, light-filled beach house most days after school.
It was a stunning home, but I hated every moment away from my dad. Maybe some part of me knew what was coming. I don’t know. All I know is that I wanted him beside me and safe.
But wanting doesn’t matter. It never does. Wants are just so much fluff, and Fate is a goddamn bitch. The summer I turned thirteen, I learned that lesson well.
That’s when a gunman murdered my father, then killed himself. People tried to comfort me by pointing out that my father died on duty in the job he loved. But it didn’t help. He was still horribly, painfully dead.
After that, my life spiraled even more. I moved in with Uncle Peter, and all my friends thought that I was so lucky, because there aren’t that many beachfront homes in Laguna Cortez.
But I wasn’t. I wasn’t lucky at all.
Eventually, I grew accustomed to my new normal. I’d find myself going entire days feeling happy, only to hate myself at night, because how could I experience joy when my parents had both died so horribly?
Which was why I wasn’t surprised when the storms rolled in on my birthday, because life will always sneak up and bite you.
Still, even with only a few kids showing up, we’d had fun. Instead of the beach, we settled into the media room to watch movies. And when Brandy and I went downstairs to ask Uncle Peter if my favorite pizza place was delivering in the storm, there he was.
A few years older than me, Alex was tall and lean, with close-cropped blond hair, a clean-shaven face that still had a boyish roundness, but an expression that was fully adult. His sandy brown eyes held me in place when he turned to look at me. And when his wide mouth curved into a friendly smile, a low, thrum teased between my thighs.
I’d had a crush or two by then, but I’d never reacted that viscerally to a guy. But Alex … well, a mere glimpse gave me more understanding of what all the fuss was about than any of the late-night gossip sessions at Brandy’s frequent slumber parties.
When he came over to shake my hand and wish me a happy birthday, I almost passed out. I was so flustered that I could only stand there, my hand in his, as I tried to play back the conversation of the last few seconds.
Alex Leto. That’s how he’d introduced himself. And he was working for Uncle Peter during his gap year while he decided on a college.
“Hi,” I’d squeaked, then kicked myself for being utterly uninteresting.
“Trouble with the movie?” Uncle Peter had asked, and I’d squinted at him, not understanding a word. “The projector,” he clarified. “Did you come down because I need to fix something?”
“Oh! Right. Pizza. We want to order pizza. Will they deliver in this weather?”
“If not, I can go get it for you,” Alex said, and if I hadn’t already fallen hard, that would have sealed the deal. A real live Prince Charming right in my kitchen.
Once Uncle Peter agreed, there’d been no more reason to hang out in the kitchen, and Brandy and I reluctantly went back to the media room. “Oh. My. God,” she whisper-squealed as we climbed the stairs. “Did you see the way he was looking at you?”
“He was being polite,” I countered, though her words revived that down low tingle, now complemented by a swarm of butterflies in my belly.
“Was he?” She winked at me, and I grabbed her wrist before she could burst into the media room.
“Don’t say anything.”
“What? Why not?”
“I just … I … please? Can we tell them about the pizza and leave it at that?”
“Yeah.” She shrugged. “Yeah, sure. If that’s what you want.”
She gave me a quick conspiratorial smile. “But he really is super cute.”
“I know, right?” And we both burst into giggles, only to fall into total hysterics when our friend Carrie pushed open the door with a scowl.
“Hello? Waiting the movie on you two. I mean, rude.”
We clapped our hands over our mouths to bite back another flood of laughter, took our seats, and settled in until the pizza came. And even though Alex was the one who delivered it—and even though he stayed to watch the second half of Aliens and sat right next to me—Brandy never said a word. Not then. Not ever.
Which is a big part of why she’s my best friend to this day.
After that, Alex was around a lot. Peter had a home office, but he did most of his work at construction sites or in the offices of the apartments and hotels he owned. He’d hired Alex to do administrative stuff, which meant that Alex was at the house most every day.
I turned down beach and movie offers from my friends, choosing to stay in and fetch Alex water and snacks and coffee. Each time I’d linger a bit, asking what he was doing, and he’d never blow me off. He’d even invite me to stay. Then one day he asked if I wanted to help.
“Not as interesting as spending the summer with your friends,” he’d said, “but I’d love the company.” He smiled then, and that tiny little motion—nothing more than muscles around lips—had melted me.
“Good. Because I’d rather be here.”
I nodded, my heart pounding with such ferocity I was sure he must be able to hear it.
“That works out great, because I like having you here.”
I met his eyes, and something deep inside me roared. For the first time in my life, I felt the hard punch of true, sexual desire.
“Right.” I swallowed, trying to overcome my desert-dry mouth.
So that’s what I did, helping him when I could, taking up space the rest of the time. And we talked. About anything and everything. I’d never been as comfortable with anyone in all my life, and that was despite the humming, buzzing, crackling in the air whenever we were near each other.
“Have you done anything?” Brandy asked when we were back in school months later.
“No! He works for my uncle, remember? Besides, he’s eighteen. Me, sixteen. And he knows it.”
She waved away my words. “Yeah, but so what? You act older. Ever since … well, my mom says you raised yourself.”
Honestly, Mrs. Bradshaw wasn’t wrong. My uncle may have sheltered and fed and clothed me these last few years, but that was about it. Nurturing, I got at Brandy’s house. And the rest? Well, I guess maybe I did raise myself.
“Eighteen,” I repeated firmly. “Nineteen next week.”
“That’s perfect.” Her blue eyes twinkled. “Wrap yourself in a bow, and you can be his present.”
I didn’t give myself to him, of course, but when he turned nineteen, I gave him a leather friendship bracelet with a Celtic knot. “That’s called a love knot,” he said, and I felt my cheeks burn hot.
“I—I didn’t know.”
“Didn’t you? Well, it makes it all the more special to me.”
He held out his arm to me. “Fasten it?”
I did, lightly stroking my thumb over his wrist as I manipulated the clasp.
“This is fucked up,” he said, so soft I could barely hear him.
“Us,” he said, the words like ice.
“I’m sorry. I should—” I turned to go, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me back. We were alone in Uncle Peter’s study, and he held me in place.
“You’re sixteen.” He practically growled the words. “Why the hell are you only sixteen?”
I shook my head, blinking as I tried to prevent the flood of tears.
“We can’t,” he said, and I didn’t have to ask what he meant.
“I know,” I whispered. I’d been talking to the ground, but I told myself that wasn’t fair. He deserved the words. He deserved to see
my heart. I looked up and met his eyes. “But I want to.”
His head tilted in the slightest of nods. “I know,” he said. “I want it, too.”
For months, being with Alex was both torture and bliss. It was like living in a pressure cooker, and I think we both knew that the day would come when we couldn’t fight it anymore.
Then, right after Christmas break, Brandy’s dad pulled up stakes and moved the whole family to San Diego with barely any notice at all. We’d been devastated, and the day before she left, I helped her pack her room and stayed until her mom said I had to go because the movers were coming at five in the morning. I’d left reluctantly, fighting back tears so that Brandy wouldn’t lose it all over again.
I got home to find Alex waiting up for me, ostensibly catching up on Uncle Peter’s paperwork. I’d hurried up to my room, unable to even talk to him without risking more tears.
I’d been about to doze off when I heard the light tap at my door. I propped myself up, assuming it was Uncle Peter coming to say goodnight. Instead, it was Alex.
He shut the door behind him, then stood on the far side of the room. “I wanted to make sure you’re okay.”