He Will Be My Ruin: A Novel by K.A. TuckerHe Will Be My Ruin: A Novel by K.A. Tucker

He Will Be My Ruin: A Novel

byK.A. Tucker

Hardcover | February 2, 2016

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Discover the novel praised as a “nail-biting thriller” (Publishers Weekly), a “compelling web” (Kirkus Reviews), “tightly plotted character study” (RT Magazine), and a “dark, twisty tale of lurid secrets, lavish lifestyles, and devastating loss” (Lisa Gardner).

A woman who almost had it all….On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old in Manhattan could want: a one-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?

A man who was supposed to be her salvation….Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.

Until he became her ruin….On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.
Title:He Will Be My Ruin: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:352 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:February 2, 2016Publisher:Atria BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1501112074

ISBN - 13:9781501112072

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read The ending was pretty surprising, good read
Date published: 2017-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of K.A. Tucker's Best! I've read almost all of K.A Tucker's books, and this one really hooked me right from the beginning. Great twists! Usually, I find her books to be a bit predictable (in a good way), but this one really had me guessing until the end. Read this book in two days, very easy and enjoyable to read. Definitely recommend.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a great book I read this book a few months ago and loved it so much. Such a great author, I own all her books and buy anything that she writes. Because I know I will love her book!!
Date published: 2017-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must Read This book was amazing! I hadn't heard of K.A. Tucker before and I found out about this book through the Toronto Public Library website. When I read the synopsis, it automatically grabbed my attention and so I read it! It IS one of my favourite books that I have read. This mystery makes you go on a roller coaster ride and has you on the edge of your seat. I read this book within two days. I couldn't put it down and am looking forward to reading more books by this author. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend you read it especially if you're into mystery!!
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SUCH A GOOD BOOK!! This book is FANTASTIC! oh my gosh. Seriously. Its full of plot twists and turns and swirls and romance and oh boy its good.
Date published: 2017-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This made my life so much better. Agh. Thanks to the lovely publisher (and author of course), I have discovered my new favourite read of 2016. K.A. Tucker has continuously made me intrigued to read her books, coming from a fellow Canadian author who knows exactly how to captivate readers with her romance and suspense skills. This time around, He Will Be My Ruin really turned out to be my ruin. It turned out to be everything for me. Everything I expected from this fabulous author and much, much more. I found myself unable to put this beauty down, which does not happen often. While on vacation this time around, I decided to take all ARCs with me. ARCs that publishers specifically sent to me—not BEA ones. He Will Be My Ruin was one of the steady, monotone ones that caught my eye. I read K.A. Tucker’s words before, and somewhat enjoyed her stories. When I looked at the books that I chose one day when I finished a book previously, this one specifically caught my eye because of the setting. New York City, my fellow friends! Dealing with endless amount of suspense and plot twists as well as unforgettable romance, I could not have asked for a better put-together of an adult thriller. This is absolutely memorable and deserves all of the critics going crazy, film offers and positive reviews. I kind of felt dead without Maggie and this story afterwards. "A quick glance out their peephole and they've seen our faces, I have two choices: I either leave, or step inside. If I leave, will my secret stay safe with him? Taking in a deep breath, I step inside." You see, I was even planning to format this review into “The Highlights” and you guessed it, “The Lowlights.” But I reminded myself that there were not any lowlights. This story was written to perfection. Every word, phrase, chapter was written with passion and you feel the suspense throughout. Readers see flashbacks back and forth from different perspectives—from Maggie and Celine’s—we cannot even configure the true ending to the mystery, or how things will turn out by the end. The biggest thing that whacked my mind? HOW WE THOUGHT WE KNEW, AND THEN WE DID NOT. My oh my, authors are just so talented with making you think that your prediction is correct, and then it turns out that it is not, and then that it actually was by the end. But you cannot give yourself any more credit since you changed your mind. There’s this whole establishment that I went through. And many others will go through the same thing. After you have heard me being very light on the true nature of the story, I think it is time that you hear the master plot that Tucker has put out into this world. It is about a suicide, but turned murder. Celine Gonzalez committed suicide in her New York apartment, and her ultra-rich best friend Maggie discovers this after a phone call from Celine’s caring mother. Maggie is thrown into the city that she never liked, going to search through all of the things Celine left behind, knowing that her best friend would have never committed such a thing when she simply had it all. She had boyfriends, a job she loved, an admission to a college that she dreamed of, and she seemed happy. Knowing that it is too good to be true, Maggie searches. She meets Celine’s neighbours, friends and people who she connected with prior to her “murder.” "Now he's exploiting it. That must be what he does—he uncovers your secrets, your fears, your flaws—and he uses them against you. He did it to Celine. And now he's doing it to me. Tucker deals with many things in her story. She throws in prostitution and the sex trade, as well as friendship problems and trust. Even when people are adults, they could never be fully trustworthy. There are so many life lessons taught here as well. Readers were part of Tucker’s mystery, which made things interesting. I played along, making theories and trying to answer questions that stirred in Maggie’s mind. I connected to the characters and found that I could relate to Maggie especially so, so well. It’s the absolute best when you’re reading a book and you could feel the character doing something that you would do in their situation, too. Maggie was kick-butt and always there to save the day, even if Celine was gone. I loved her so much. We had two love interests that Maggie deals with throughout the novel though both turn out to have their disadvantages. There’s Jace, the utter-rich son-of-a-senator boy who works at the same building as Celine did. Then we have Grady, the building super who seemed to be the complete opposite of Jace. Maggie fell for both, and ended things off on different terms with the two. It truly was satisfying but gross at the same time, seeing what these guys were capable of doing. I guess that us just shows how everyone has their own secrets and how many are willing to keep them to do treacherous things in the end. The novel was written superbly. I read this super quickly, unable to put it down and let the characters go without stopping. THE SHOCKS WERE REAL AND I AM STILL TRYING TO GET OVER THAT ENDING, YOU KNOW? I bet that I will never read a book like this again.
Date published: 2017-01-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Least fave KA Tucker book - 2.5*'s I really wanted to love this one! KA Tucker is a top 5 author for me, and I was thrilled to hear about this thriller/mystery. The writing was great, as per usual, but the story just didn't hook me in and the characters were okay. Just not what I was expecting from this brilliant author. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 10 out of 5 stars!!!!!! This book. Let me tell you, it's full of plot twists. Seriously. I went the whole way through thinking holy shit this guy is suspicious, and this other guy is probably being framed when "WA BAM BAM THANK YOU MAM" -nope. It's the opposite. This book TOOK ME FOR A RIDE. An overly emotional, thrilling ride that I WAS NOT READY FOR. There's a reason K.A.Tucker is one of my favorite authors. He Will Be My Ruin is one of those reasons.
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read This book was amazing! I hadn't heard of K.A. Tucker before and I found out about this book through the Toronto Public Library website. When I read the synopsis, it automatically grabbed my attention and so I read it! It IS one of my favourite books that I have read. This mystery makes you go on a roller coaster ride and has you on the edge of your seat. I read this book within two days. I couldn't put it down and am looking forward to reading more books by this author. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend you read it especially if you're into mystery!!
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must Read!!!! This book. Let me tell you, it's full of plot twists. Seriously. I went the whole way through thinking holy shit this guy is suspicious, and this other guy is probably being framed when "WA BAM BAM THANK YOU MAM" -nope. It's the opposite. This book TOOK ME FOR A RIDE. An overly emotional, thrilling ride that I WAS NOT READY FOR. There's a reason K.A.Tucker is one of my favorite authors. He Will Be My Ruin is one of those reasons.
Date published: 2016-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved every suspense filled second This has to be my favorite suspenseful, who done it book that I've read. You can't get through this book without suspecting everyone and that's what makes it so great. K.A. Tucker will mess with your mind through out the whole book, right until the end. I could not put it down for a minute. I love K.A. Tucker's other books that are more romance than suspense but I really want more books like this one. She's able to write more than one genre and do an amazing job. This book should not be missed. It's a fresh breath of suspenseful air. #isuspecteveryone
Date published: 2016-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unpredictable Mystery This was a different K.A. Tucker altogether. Gone are the steamy bed scenes and romance, replaced by some good old fashion mystery that enraptures a reader. Admittedly, I was not completely sold at first. But the more I read, the more I got sucked into the vortex of mystery surrounding Celine’s death. OPEN AND SHUT CASE It was meant to be an open and shut case – death ruled by suicide. There was a note; a bottle of pills and alcohol beside her bed. But Maggie had a hard time accepting the fact that her best friend could do something so cowardly. She was a person full of life and ambition. A person who loved her cancer-stricken mother and was working her way to a degree. So what would make her kill herself in such a way? As Maggie tries to pack Celine’s belongings, she finds clues that will lead her to believe that not everything is at it seems. Slowly, she pieces together the life of her friend who struggled with money, love, and depression. PLOT-DRIVEN MYSTERY Like I mentioned above, this is not your usual KA Tucker fare. If you go into this book looking for romance, you will be disappointed. I tried my hardest to empathize with the characters, but at the end of it all, it’s a plot-driven book. I was more interested in what happened to Celine than I was with Maggie, or Grady, or Jace. This is also one of those few occasions when I didn’t care that Maggie had romantic trysts with both guys. I knew where Maggie’s head was at. And it wasn’t so much as getting romantically involved with the guys, but mostly because they were just…there. I wasn’t rooting for anyone. But through it all, Maggie’s focus was in solving Celine’s death. I found the book to be a bit more verbose than usual. Packed with narratives as Maggie tries to unravel the last few months of Celine’s life. I had a difficult time solving the mystery. Just when I thought I had it in the bag, a wrench gets thrown into the mix. So as mysteries go, this was a neatly plotted, annoyingly bothersome novel.
Date published: 2016-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Review from Swept Away By Books KA Tucker can do no wrong in my humble opinion. Her characters are intriguing and flawed, but appropriately so, not simply for the sake of drama. Her plots flow seamlessly and have the reader hooked from the first couple of pages and keep them drawn into the story. With her adult fiction debut, Tucker showed that she is capable of carrying her prowess in new adult over to adult fiction, and she did it flawlessly. Maggie was a character that I really appreciated. I’ve heard some other reviewers say that they didn’t necessarily appreciate how disconnected Maggie was from the people in her life that she considered herself the closest to, however, I appreciated how realistic it is that sometimes we aren’t as connected to our important people as we’d like to be. And Maggie had a job that I found incredibly realistic. One thing that I absolutely love about Tucker’s writing is that whatever situation she decides to put her characters in, it feels real. Sometimes with certain topics, and i’m thinking romantic thrillers here, the book doesn’t feel well researched, but i’ve never come across that in Tucker’s writing. The characters also at times had me feeling all sorts of conflicted, and you really won’t know what i’m talking about until you read it. I was so wishy washy in my feelings the entire time. I appreciated that a romance wasn’t the aspect to this story that had the most focus, and it really wouldn’t have worked if it was. What she succeeded in perfectly was keeping me guessing the entire time. I had certain thoughts, and then something would happen to completely override them and I was left guessing again. I called one part of the book but was extremely surprised when I turned out to be right. For Tucker’s first foray into this genre, she nailed it. And I am so excited to see where she goes with her writing next!
Date published: 2016-02-11

Read from the Book

He Will Be My Ruin CHAPTER 1 Maggie November 30, 2015 The afternoon sun beams through the narrow window, casting a warm glow over Celine’s floral comforter. It would be inviting, only her body was found in this very bed just thirteen days ago. “Maggie?” “Yeah,” I respond without actually turning around, my gaze taking in the cramped bedroom before me. I’ve never been a fan of New York City and all its overpriced boroughs. Too big, too busy, too pretentious. Take this Lower East Side apartment, for example, on the third floor of a drafty building built in the 1800s, with a ladder of shaky fire escapes facing the side alley and a kitschy gelato café downstairs. It costs more per month than the average American hands the bank in mortgage payments. And Celine adored it. “I’m in 410 if you just . . . want to come and find me.” I finally turn and acknowledge the building super—a chestnut-haired English guy around thirty by my guess, with a layer of scruff over his jawline and faded blue jeans—edging toward the door. Given the apartment is 475 square feet, it doesn’t take him long to reach it. I think he gave me his name but I wasn’t listening. I’ve barely said two words since I met him in front of Celine’s apartment, armed with a stack of cardboard flats and trash bags. An orchestra of clocks that softly tick away claim that that was nearly half an hour ago. I’ve simply stood here since then, feeling the brick-exposed walls—lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and filled with the impressive collection of treasures that Celine had amassed over her twenty-eight years—closing in on me. But now I feel the need to speak. “You were the one who let the police in?” Celine never missed work, never arrived late. That’s why, after not showing up for two days and not answering her phone or her door, her coworker finally called the cops. The super nods. “You saw her?” His eyes flicker to the thin wall that divides the bedroom from the rest of the apartment—its only purpose is to allow the building’s owner to charge rent for a “one-bedroom” instead of a studio. There’s not even enough room for a door. Yes, he saw her body. “She seemed really nice,” he offers, his throat turning scratchy, shifting on his feet. He’d rather be unplugging a shit-filled toilet than be here right now. I don’t blame him. “Uh . . . So you can just slide the key through the mail slot in my door when you’re finished, if you want? I’ll be home later tonight to grab it.” Under different circumstances, I’d find his accent charming. “I’ll be staying here for a while.” He frowns. “You can’t—” “Yeah, I can,” I snap, cutting his objection off. “We’re on the hook with the lease until the end of January, right? So don’t even think of telling me that I can’t.” I’m in no rush to empty this place out so some jackass landlord can rent it next month and pocket my money. Plus . . . My gaze drifts over the living room again. I just need to be in Celine’s presence for a while, even if she’s not here anymore. “Of course. I’m just . . .” He bites his bottom lip as if to stall a snippy response. When he speaks again, his tone is back to soft. “The mattress, the bedding, it’ll all need to be replaced. I would have already pitched it for you, but I figured that it wasn’t my call to make. I pulled the blanket up to cover the mess and tried to air the place out, but . . .” I sigh shakily, the tension making my body as taut as a wire. I’m the only jackass around here. “Right. I’m sorry.” I inhale deeply. The linen air freshener can’t completely mask the smell. Her body lay in that bed for two days. Dead. Decomposing. “I’ll be fine with the couch until I can get a new mattress delivered.” It’ll be more than fine, seeing as I’ve been sleeping on a thin bedroll on a dirt floor in Ethiopia for the past three months. At least there’s running water here, and I’m not sharing the room with two other people. Or rats, hopefully. “I can probably get a bloke in here to help me carry it out if you want,” he offers, sliding hands into his pockets as he slowly shifts backward. “Thank you.” I couple my contrite voice with a smile and watch the young super exit, pulling the door shut behind him. My gaze drifts back to the countless shelves. I haven’t been to visit Celine in New York in over two years; we always met in California, the state where we grew up. “My, you’ve been busy,” I whisper. Celine always did have a love for the old and discarded, and she had a real eye for it. She’d probably seen every last episode of Antiques Roadshow three times over. She was supposed to start school this past September to get her MA in art business, with plans to become an appraiser. She delayed enrollment, for some reason. But she never told me that. I found out through her mother just last week. Her apartment looks more like a bursting vintage shop than a place someone would live. It’s well organized at least—all her trinkets grouped effectively. Entire shelves are dedicated to elaborate teacups, others to silver tea sets, genuine hand-cut crystal glassware, ornate clocks and watches, hand-painted tiles, and so on. Little side tables hold stained-glass lamps and more clocks and her seemingly endless collection of art history books. On the few walls not lined with shelves, an eclectic mix of artwork fills the space. Very few things in here aren’t antique or vintage. The bottles of Ketel One, Maker’s Mark, and Jägermeister lined up on a polished brass bar cart. Her computer and a stack of hardcover books, sitting on a worn wooden desk that I’d expect to find in an old elementary schoolhouse. Even the two-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree has well-aged ornaments dangling from its branches. I wander aimlessly, my hands beginning to touch and test. A slight pull of the desk drawer finds it locked, with no key anywhere, from what I can see. I run a finger along the spine of a leather-bound edition of The Taming of the Shrew on a shelf. Not a speck of dust. Celine couldn’t stand disorder. Every single nutcracker faces out, equidistant from the next, shortest in front, tallest in back, as if she measured them with a ruler and placed them just so. Being enclosed in this organized chaos makes me antsy. Or maybe that’s my own ultra-minimalist preferences coming out. I sigh and drop my purse onto the couch. My phone goes next, but not before I send a text to my personal assistant, Taryn, to ask that she arrange for a firm double mattress to be delivered to Celine’s address. Then I power the phone off before she can respond with unnecessary questions. I’ve had it on silent since my plane landed in San Diego five days ago for the funeral. Even with two proficient assistants handling my organization’s affairs while I’m dealing with my best friend’s death, the stupid thing hasn’t stopped vibrating. They can all wait for me, while I figure out where to begin here. I know I have a lot of paperwork to get to the lawyer. All estate proceeds will eventually go to Celine’s mother, Rosa, but she doesn’t want a dime. She’s already demanded that I sell off anything I don’t want to keep for myself and use the money for one of my humanitarian efforts in her daughter’s name. I could tell Rosa was still in shock, because she has always been a collector by nature—that’s where Celine got it from—and it surprised me that she wouldn’t want to keep at least some of her daughter’s treasures for herself. But she was adamant and I was not going to argue. I’ll just quietly pack a few things that I think would mean a lot to her and have them shipped to San Diego. Seeing Celine’s apartment now, though, I realize that selling is going to take forever. I’m half-tempted to dump everything into boxes for charity, guesstimate the value, and write a check. But that would belittle all the evenings and weekends that Celine devoted to hunting antique shops, garage sales, and ignorant sellers for her next perfect treasure. My attention lands on the raw wood plank shelf that floats over a mauve suede couch, banked by silky curtains and covered with an eclectic mix of gilded frames filled with pictures from Celine’s childhood. Most of them are of her and her mom. Some are of just her. Four include me. I smile as I ease one down, of Celine and me at the San Diego Zoo. I was twelve, she was eleven. Even then she was striking, her olive skin tanned from a summer by the pool. Next to her, my pale Welsh skin always looked sickly. I first met Celine when I was five. My mom had hired her mother, Rosa Gonzalez, as a housekeeper and nanny, offering room and board for both her and her four-year-old daughter. We had had a string of nannies come and go, my mother never satisfied with their work ethic. But Rosa came highly recommended. It’s so hard to find good help, I remember overhearing my mother say to her friends once. They applauded her generosity with Rosa, that she was not only taking in a recent immigrant from Mexico, but her child as well. The day Celine stepped into my parents’ palatial house in La Jolla, she did so with wide brown eyes, her long hair the color of cola in braided pigtails and adorned in giant blue bows, her frilly blue-and-white dress and matching socks like something out of The Wizard of Oz. Celine would divulge to me later on that it was the only dress she owned, purchased from a thrift shop, just for this special occasion. Rosa and Celine lived with us for ten years, and my daily routines quickly became Celine’s daily routines. The chauffeur would drop Celine off at the curb in front of the local public school on our way to my private school campus. Though her school was far above average as public schools go, I begged and pleaded for my parents to pay for Celine to attend with me. I didn’t quite understand the concept of money back then, but I knew we had a lot, and we could more than afford it. They told me that’s just not how the world works. Besides, as much as Rosa wanted the best for her child, she was too proud to ever accept that kind of generosity. Even giving Celine my hand-me-down clothes was a constant battle. No matter where we spent the day, though, from the time we came home to the time we fell asleep, Celine and I were inseparable. I would return from piano lessons and teach Celine how to read music notes. She’d use the other side of my art easel to paint pictures with me of the ocean view from my bedroom window. She’d rate my dives and time my laps around our pool, and I’d do the same for her. We’d lounge beneath the palm trees on hot summer days, dreaming up plans for our future. In my eyes, it was a given that Celine would always be part of my life. We were an odd match. From our looks to our social status to our polar-opposite personalities, we couldn’t have been more different. I was captain of the debate squad and Celine played the romantic female lead in her school plays. I spearheaded a holiday charity campaign at the age of thirteen, while Celine sang in choirs for the local senior citizens. I read the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times religiously, while Celine would fall asleep with a Jane Austen novel resting across her chest. And then one Saturday morning in July when I was fifteen, my parents announced that they had filed for divorce. I still remember the day well. They walked side-by-side toward where I lounged beside the pool, my dad dressed for a round of golf, my mom carrying a plate of Rosa’s breakfast enchiladas. They’d technically separated months earlier, and I had no idea because seeing them together had always been rare to begin with. The house in La Jolla was going up for sale. Dad was buying a condo close to the airport, to make traveling for work easier, while Mom would be moving to Chicago, where our family’s company, Sparkes Energy, had their corporate headquarters. I’d stay wherever I wanted, when I wasn’t at the prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts that they decided I should attend for my last three years of high school. The worst of it was that Rosa and Celine would be going their own way. Rosa, who was more a parent to me than either of my real parents had ever been. Celine . . . my best friend, my sister. Both of them, gone from my daily life with two weeks’ notice. They’re just a phone call away, my mom reasoned. That’s all I had, and so I took advantage. For years, I would call Celine and Rosa daily. I had a long-distance plan, but had I not, I still would have happily driven up my mom’s phone bill, bitter with her for abandoning me for the company. I spent Christmases and Thanksgivings with Rosa and Celine instead of choosing to spend them with Melody or William Sparkes. To be honest, it never was much of a choice. Through boyfriends, college, jobs, and fronting a successful nonprofit organization that has had me living all over Africa and Asia for the last six years, Celine and Rosa have remained permanent fixtures in my life. Until thirteen days ago, when Rosa’s sobs filled my ear in a village near Nekemte, Ethiopia, where I’ve been leading a water well project and building homes. After a long, arduous day in the hot sun, my hands covered with cuts from corrugated iron and my muscles sore from carrying burned bricks, it was jarring to hear Rosa’s voice. California felt worlds away. At first I thought that I hadn’t kept myself hydrated enough and I was hallucinating. But by the third time I heard her say, “Celine killed herself,” it finally registered. It just didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t. Hollowness kept me company all the way back—first on buses, then a chartered flight, followed by several commercial airline connections—and into Rosa’s modest home in the suburbs of San Diego. The hollowness held me together through the emotional visitation and funeral, Rosa’s tightly knit Mexican community rocked by the news. It numbed me enough to face Rosa’s eyes, bloodshot and rimmed with dark circles, as she insisted that I come to New York to handle the material remains of her only child. The case is all but officially closed. The police are simply waiting for the final autopsy report to confirm that a lethal dose of Xanax—the pill bottle sitting open on her nightstand was from a prescription she filled only two days prior—combined with an unhealthy amount of vodka was what killed her. They see it as a quick open-and-shut suicide case, aided by a note in her handwriting that read I’m sorry for everything, found lying next to her. The picture frame cracks within my tightening grasp as tears burn my cheeks, and I have the overwhelming urge to smash the entire shelf of happy memories. This just doesn’t seem possible. How could she do this to her mother? I shift my focus to the picture of Rosa—a petite brunette with a fierce heart, who gives hugs to strangers who look like they’re having a bad day and spouts a string of passionate Spanish when anyone tries to leave the dinner table before every last bite is finished. Before this past week, I hadn’t seen Rosa since last Christmas. She still looks frail eleven months after the doctors told her that the double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation had worked and she was considered in remission. It’ll be a year in January since the day Celine phoned me to give me the good news: that Rosa had fought breast cancer hard. And had won. So why the hell would Celine make her suffer so horribly now? I roam aimlessly through the rest of the apartment, in a state of extreme exhaustion after days of travel and jet lag and tears, taking in everything that remains of my childhood friend. But there are things here that surprise me, too—a closet full of designer-label dresses that Celine couldn’t possibly have afforded on an administrative assistant’s salary, a bathroom counter overflowing with bold red lipsticks and daringly dark eye shadows that I never saw touch her naturally beautiful face, not even in recent photos. Knowing Celine, she bought those dresses at secondhand stores. And the makeup, well . . . She would have looked beautiful with red lipstick. I smile, sweeping the bronzer brush across my palm to leave a dusting of sparkle against my skin. I’m supposed to be this girl—the one with the extravagant clothes and makeup, who puts time and stock into looks and money. As the fourth generation of one of the biggest energy companies in the world, I will one day inherit 51 percent of the corporation’s shares. Though my parents don’t need to work, they each run a division—my industrialist father managing the ugly face of coal burning while my mother distracts the world with a pretty mask of wind and solar energy farms, hiding the fact that we’re slowly helping to destroy the world. I grew up aware of the protests. I’ve read enough articles about the greed and the harm to the planet that comes with this industry. By the time I turned twenty-one, still young and idealistic and embroiled by the latest disgrace involving our company and an oil tanker spill off the coast of China, I wanted nothing to do with the enormous trust fund that my grandmother left me. In fact, I was one signature away from handing it all over to a charity foundation. My biggest mistake—and saving grace—was that I tried to do it through my lawyer, a loyal Sparkes Energy legal consultant. He, of course, informed my parents, who fought me on it. I wouldn’t listen to them. But I did listen to Celine. She was the one who persuaded me not to do it in the end, sending me link after link of scandal after scandal involving charity organizations. How so little of the money ever actually reaches those in need, how so much of the money lines the pockets of individuals. She used the worst-case scenarios to steer me away from my plan because she knew it would work. Then she suggested that I use the trust fund to lead my own humanitarian ventures. I could do bigger, better things if I controlled it. That’s when I began Villages United. And Celine was right. VU may only be six years old, but it has already become an internationally recognized nonprofit, focused on high-impact lending projects throughout the world geared toward building self-sustainable villages. We teach children to read and give them roofs to sleep under and clean water to drink and clothes to wear and books to read. Between my own money and the money that VU has raised, we have now left a lasting mark on thirty-six communities in countries around the world. And I’m not just writing checks from my house in California. I’m right there in the trenches, witnessing the changes firsthand. Something my parents simply don’t understand, though they’ve tried turning it into a Sparkes Energy PR venture on more than one occasion. I’ve refused every single time. Because, for the first time in a long time, I’m truly proud to be Maggie Sparkes. I haven’t even warned them about my newest endeavor—providing significant financial backing to companies that are developing viable and economical green energy solutions. VU was preparing to announce it to the media in the coming weeks. As much as I can’t think about any of that right now, I’ll have to soon. Too many people rely on me. But for now . . . all I can focus on is Celine. I wander into her bedroom, my back to another wall of collectibles as I stand at the foot of the ornate wrought-iron bed, the delicate bedding stretched out neatly, as if Celine made it this morning. As if she’ll be back later to share a glass of wine and a laugh. I yank the duvet back, just long enough to see the ugly proof beneath. To remind me that that’s never going to happen. Edging along the side of her bed—I actually have to turn and shimmy to fit—I move toward a stack of vintage wooden food crates that serve as a nightstand. A wave of nostalgia washes over me as my finger traces the heavy latches and handmade, chunky gunmetal-gray body of the antique box sitting next to the lamp. The day that I spied it in an antique store while shopping for Celine’s sixteenth birthday, it made me think of a medieval castle. The old man who sold it to me said it was actually an eighteenth-century lockbox. Whatever it was, I knew Celine would love it. I carry it over to the living room, where I can sit and open it up. Inside are sentimental scraps of Celine’s life. Concert stubs and random papers, a dried rose, her grandmother’s rosary that Rosa gave to her. Rosa is supremely religious, and Celine, the ever-devoted daughter, kept up appearances for her mother, though she admitted to me that she didn’t find value in it. I pull each item out, laying them on the trunk coffee table until I’m left with nothing but the smooth velvet floor of the box. I fumble with a small detail on the outside that acts as a lever—remembering my surprise when the man revealed the box’s secret—until a click sounds, allowing me to pry open the false bottom. Celine’s shy, secretive eyes lit up when I first showed her the sizeable compartment. It was perfect for hiding treasures, like notes from boys, and the silver bracelet that her senior-year boyfriend bought her for Valentine’s Day and she was afraid to wear in front of Rosa. While I love Rosa dearly, she could be suffocating sometimes. My fingers wrap around the wad of money filling the small space as a deep frown creases my forehead. Mostly hundreds but plenty of fifties, too. I quickly count it. There’s almost ten thousand dollars here. Why wouldn’t Celine deposit this into her bank account? I pick up the ornate bronze key and a creased sheet of paper that also sits within. I’m guessing the key is for the desk. I’ll test that out in a minute. I gingerly unfold the paper that’s obviously been handled many times, judging by the crinkles in it. My eyes widen. A naked man fills one side. He’s entrancingly handsome, with long lashes and golden-blond tousled hair and a shadow of peach scruff covering his hard jawline. He’s lying on his back, one muscular arm disappearing into the pillow beneath his head, a white sheet tangled around his legs, not quite covering the goods, which from what I can see, are fairly impressive. I can’t tell what color his eyes are because he’s fast asleep. “Well then . . .” I frown, taken aback. I’m not surprised that Celine could attract the attention of a guy like this. She was a gorgeous young woman—her Mexican roots earning her lush locks, full lips, and voluptuous curves tied to the kind of tiny waist that all men seem to admire. Nor am I surprised that he’s blond. It has always been a running joke between us, her penchant for blonds. She’s never dated anything but. But I am surprised that she’d have the nerve to take—and print out to keep by her bed—a scandalous picture like this in the first place. I wonder if she ever mentioned him to me. She always told me about her dates, utter failures or otherwise. Though it’s been years since she was seeing anyone seriously, and she was definitely seeing this guy seriously if she was sleeping with him. Celine usually waited months before she gave that up to a guy. She didn’t even lose her virginity until she was twenty-two, to a guy she had been dating for six months and hoped that she would one day marry. Who broke up with her shortly afterward. So who the hell is this guy and why didn’t I ever hear about him? And where is he now? When were they together last? Does he know that she’s dead? Worrying my bottom lip between my teeth—it’s a bad habit of mine—I slowly fold the paper back up. Celine’s cursive scrawl decorates the back side in purple ink. Words I hadn’t noticed before. Words that make my heart stop now. This man was once my salvation. Now he will be my ruin.

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