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Broken Knight: Chapter 26


I wasn’t supposed to show up at school this week, for obvious goddamn reasons. I still did. Not to study, God forbid, but to catch Poppy alone, after her accordion class. Yes, she took an accordion class. Who was I to judge? I was a recovering alcoholic before it was even legal for me to drink.

I waited outside her class, loitering about, kicking invisible air to pass the time.

Apologizing to her was a knee-jerk reaction more than anything else, though I could see it was needed after taking a step back from the alcohol and pills and assessing the clusterfuck that was our brief time together. Specifically, the high note with which it had ended, when I was halfway through putting my junk in her trunk, before confessing that I just couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do it with someone who wasn’t Luna.

Not then. Maybe not ever.

That was the straw that broke Poppy’s back. I’d watched her descend the tree trunk from our treehouse, fall on her ass, and run in the opposite direction of my neighborhood, where she’d parked her car. Then, I’d had to go down and direct her to the right way, which, of course, was more awkward than bumping into your one-night stand in an STD clinic.

Vaughn and Hunter had tried to tell me I shouldn’t feel so bad, that Poppy had pretty much single-handedly managed our relationship for us, even when I’d tried to break up with her several times. But that was a copout, and I was having none of that bullshit.

I’d hurt her.

I’d wronged her.

I needed to apologize.

End of.

I caught Poppy timidly making her way out of class, staring down at the floor, wearing a huge-ass jacket and one of those big hats you only see in catalogs or on beaches.

“Are you a spy now?” I pushed off the doorframe and fell into step with her, shoving my hands into my front pockets. She was practically making a run toward the exit. Toward her car.

“Worse. I’m a hermit.”

“How so?”

“Everyone’s laughing at me. I’m a bloody joke, Knight. Because of you,” she whispered hotly under her breath, tilting her hat down.

“I’m here to make amends.”

“Pretty sure you’re here to make my life a living hell.”

“I deserve that.” I sighed, still following her as we burst through the double doors and descended the stairs toward the parking lot.

Poppy stopped on the last step, turning toward me sharply. “Look. This is my first day here in a while. Please don’t ruin it for me.”

“It’s mine, too,” I confessed.

“You’ve been sick?”

I shook my head. I didn’t want to say it out loud. First, because I didn’t think I could. And besides, I didn’t want her to think it was some kind of bullshit way to milk forgiveness out of her.

By the way Poppy’s face contorted and her lips clamped, trying to bite down the tears and emotions, I gathered I didn’t need to spell it out for her. I was just relieved to know people weren’t talking about what had happened in my family too much. Then again, people had to be a special brand of stupid to say anything about me—positive, negative, or otherwise—with Vaughn and Hunter around.

“Oh, Knight.” She tore the hat from her head, dumping it on the ground. “I’m so, so sorry. That is horrible. How are you holding up? Are you okay?”

Was I okay?

No, I wasn’t.

Not even close.

And in this moment, it felt like I might never be again.

I shook my head, swallowing down all the anger and sadness and bullshit.

“I will be,” I lied. “Seeing how you grew up to be wonderful and kind and understanding without a mom, I know I have a chance of being semi-tolerable as a person. Maybe. But that’s not why I’m here. It’s not, Poppy. I’m here because I screwed up, and I want to apologize. I understand how shitty it must be to walk these hallways and have people talk behind your back. I’m sorry I was the cause of that.”

More people began to pour out of different afterschool classes. A stupidly genius idea formed in my mind.

Full disclosure: It was mostly stupid, but I knew Poppy cared about saving face, and I didn’t give a shit what people thought about me. I knew Luna didn’t give a damn, either.

“It’s quite all right,” I heard Poppy say as I noticed more and more people looking at us curiously as they went down the stairs to their cars. “I knew you were the king of All Saints High. I still chose to pursue you. It is my fault as well as yours.” She sniffed.

“Please.” I shook her shoulders, crying out all of a sudden. Her eyes bulged in surprise. They asked, what the fuck?

Mine answered, just go with it.

“Poppy, I know you dumped me, but I need a redo. I will do anything for a redo, babe.”

So many emotions passed over her face, I thought she was going to faint.

She probably wondered why I was doing this. I wondered the same thing. Maybe I’d realized during Mom’s funeral how loved she was, and I didn’t want to leave this world unexpectedly one day, knowing so many people thought I was a world-class cunt. And to some, maybe I had been—certainly not on purpose, but it wasn’t like that mattered to them.

“No!” Poppy cried overdramatically, and I wished I could tell her to take it down a notch or two. She flung her arms in the air. “I will not! I will never give you another chance, Knight Cole. I’m in love with another.”

In love with another? Who the fuck was she, Billy Shakespeare? Who talked like that? Oh, that’s right. Poppy. Poppy talked like that. She knew how to play the accordion, for fuck’s sake. She probably knew Latin and how to tie a corset properly, too. I almost smiled at that. Almost. Instead, I shook my head.

“Who’s the douchebag?”

“I shan’t say!”

Shan’t? Shan’t? I was vaguely aware of the fact that people were beginning to swarm around us, taking their phones out to record. I didn’t mind an audience. I lived for it from Friday to Friday during football season. I just hoped to shit I could explain it to Luna if it ever leaked.

But deep down, I knew I wouldn’t need to do any explaining. It was obvious she had whatever was left of my heart. I could never be anyone else’s.

“Dude, I think she’s, like, expecting you to challenge him to a duel or something. Bitch is cray,” someone called out from a top stair.

I twisted my head and flashed him a murderous stare.

“Mind your business.”


I turned back to Poppy.

“I’m going to try to move on, but Pops, dude, I swear on everything holy, it’s gonna be hard.” I then looked around and threw my arms in the air. “Anyone need a fucking bucket of popcorn? Get the hell outta here!”

The speed with which people scurried to their cars and back into classrooms actually would have made me laugh if it wasn’t for the fact that I was newly orphaned.

Three minutes after, Poppy and I were alone in the parking lot.

I opened the door of her Mini Cooper for her. She smiled through her tears. I hated seeing people crying for me. Glass half full: she was no longer crying because of me. So there was that.

“You’re going to make Luna really, really happy,” she said.

“Yeah?” I had the audacity to ask her, mainly because I felt guilty about talking about Luna with anyone else.

Poppy nodded. “You truly are a knight.”

“That’s punny.”

“It’s true, too.”

“Thank you, Sunshine.” I kissed the top of her head. “P.S. soccer is soccer and football is football. Not the same shit. Okay. Bye.”

One by one, I crossed shit off my mental to-do list to accommodate the new situation, in which Mom wasn’t alive.

Movie nights on Friday.

Family sushi each Saturday.

Our weekly what’s-going-on-with-your-college-application argument.

Hushed gossip about Lev and Bailey.

I’d been working hard at it, perfecting the art of letting go. But I still fucked up sometimes. And those times…they hurt like a bitch. Like the time I’d casually strolled into Mom’s room, expecting to find her in her throne of pillows and duvets, looking for some feminine advice.

I’d found her bed empty—don’t look so surprised, idiot—and even though it was hardly news that she was no longer with us, I still allowed myself a nice forty-minute breakdown, consisting of punching everything in sight, ripping one section of the wallpaper, floor-to-ceiling, then proceeding to crack the TV from its base, seeing as I wasn’t going to watch any more movies in this room.

But I didn’t drink. I didn’t drink a drop.

Even when my bullshit, Prius-driving, preppy-looking counselor, Chris, tried to “dig deep” and help me “find my way to mindfulness”—practically throwing me back at the hard stuff—I stayed true to my promise to Mom. To Luna. Most of all, to myself.

What now? I’d finished things with Poppy—finally—but I needed a plan.

There was no way I was going to approach Luna before I knew exactly what to say to her, and in order to know what that was, I required a woman’s perspective—preferably, a sane, knowledgeable one. Problem was, Daria was a mini-Lucifer, and I trusted her slightly little less than I trusted a bag of fucking rocks. Let me rephrase: at least I could use a bag of rocks as a trustworthy weapon. Daria was uselessly evil, and at the bottom of the talk-to list.

Same went for all the girls I knew from school. They had hidden agendas. Either they hated me for my lack of interest in them or liked me enough to try to sabotage my efforts to get back with Luna.

I could talk to Edie, Mel, or Aunt Emilia, but the truth was, I’d been meaning to give Dixie the time of day to thank her for, oh, I don’t know, saving my life, and so I’d agreed to meet her one more time on that bench in front of the ocean where I’d originally told her to piss off.

Only now, I was privy to some information I hadn’t been aware of when I’d suggested she find her way back to Texas:

  1. Dixie cared enough about me to stay here, even when I hadn’t wanted her to. She’d saved my life when everyone else was too busy hating me or being disgusted with my sorry, alcoholic ass. She never judged, even though I’d made no efforts not to judge her.
  2. I needed a female perspective to help me with Luna, and Dixie was, indeed, a woman. An intelligent one, I was beginning to find out.
  3. Dixie had told me she had a one-way ticket back to Dallas, and it somehow felt like losing two moms in the span of a week. I cut myself some slack for feeling that way, since my head was all over the place, but it didn’t make the loss of her any less real.

Dixie was already waiting for me on the bench, hands in her lap, a timid smile on her face. I was fifteen minutes early, yet somehow it didn’t surprise me that she’d been waiting here. Dixie was always three steps ahead, and forever at my disposal since she came to Todos Santos.

Maybe that’s why hating her was so pointless. It got old fast. Mom was gone now, and my entire range of emotions was directed toward either mourning her loss or putting a plan together to get Luna back. Dixie was no longer a threat, because I wasn’t worried Mom would somehow find out about her and feel replaced.

Dixie handed me a purple and blue slushie. Berries and grapes. My favorite, though we’d never discussed slushies, so my guess was it was one of the many things she’d found out by stalking my ass.

“Thanks.” I took a big slurp, squinting at the sunset. She curled a strand of my tousled hair behind my ear in response.

“How are you holding up?”

Great. Small talk. Exactly what I needed. That, and a hot bleach treatment for my anus.

“Fine.” Everyone’s favorite word.

“No, you’re not. I’m relieved to see you hurting. Numbing the pain with substances would have made things much worse.”

I wanted to shatter her hope to miniscule pieces. To tell her that, although I had been sober—as promised to Luna, not her—I hadn’t been eating or sleeping. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw Mom. And every time I opened them, I saw a ghost-like vision of Moonshine walking away from me, getting farther and farther with each blink. I was shit-scared that, as time went on, Luna’s sense of responsibility toward me would lessen. She’d go back to Boon. To April. To FUCKING JOSH.

I wanted to tell Dixie I was haunted by two women, that I had no room for her in my heart, in my brain, or in the space in between them.

Yet, for the first time since we’d met, I didn’t say any of that mean shit.

“When’re you leaving?” I changed the subject.

Even talking about Mom with Dixie felt like a betrayal. I’d told Dad I was glad he gave Dix the third degree for attending Mom’s funeral, but the truth was, I mostly pitied her while she was there. Yeah, she was alive, and Rosie wasn’t, but Mom had been loved. Adored. Cherished by an entire community and put on a pedestal by the men in her life.

I’d never love Dixie the same way. Hell, I’d have given my own life for Mom, without even pausing to think about it.


“It’s a simple question, Dixie,” I snapped.

Silently, she handed me an envelope. It was already torn open and wrinkled to death. I rubbed the back of my neck.

“Couldn’t afford the glue?” I crooked an eyebrow.

“Read it.” She ignored my bullshit, nudging me. “Please.”

“And then you’ll tell me when you’re leaving?” I flashed a taunting smirk, trying to make her feel unwelcome, but no longer invested in making her feel unhappy.

“Then you will tell me if you still want me to leave.” She jutted her chin up.

That piqued my interest. I took out the letter, and the first thing I noticed was the handwriting. It was like a bucket of ice water in my face. Because I would recognize it anytime, anywhere, even in my sleep. Neat and bold, all long strokes.

My throat went dry, my eyes drinking in every word, as if they were water.

Dear Dixie,

I know I should stop writing to you. Maybe it’s compulsive at this point. Thing is, I don’t have much time left, and I cannot afford to leave this earth knowing I haven’t done everything I possibly could to connect you two.

I understand why you’re not replying to my letters when I send you pictures of him. It is frighteningly easy to get attached to our Knight. And by “our,” I mean mine, Dean’s, and yours.

Yours, Dixie. Yours.

He is gorgeous, isn’t he? The most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen. But it’s not just his good looks and athletic nature that make him so popular. I don’t want you to think he’s just another pretty face.

Did you know he is best friends with our neighbor’s kid, who is a selective mute? She doesn’t speak at all. He carried her backpack all through elementary and middle school, every single day, even when he was sick. Up until last year, when she graduated from high school, he had spent every recess and lunch break with her just so she’d have someone to sit with. He once punched a boy in the face for insulting her and got suspended. His heart is big and open and spongy. It’s soaked in goodness. I swear.

He’s funny, too. I hope this doesn’t come off as gloating, but he really is wonderful. Do you remember his father? Did he have a good sense of humor? Knight can bring me to happy tears when he puts his mind to it. And he does, often. Especially when I don’t feel well. He stands in front of my bed, like it’s a stage, and tells me jokes.

This is not me trying to convince you to love him. I know you already do. This is me basking in the joy we should share, for our son is kind, and handsome, and healthy, and strong. My only regret is the circumstances in which I want you to reconnect with him.

Knight deserves a mother. Someone who will take care of him.

Lev deserves a mother, too, although I would never ask you to take that role.

My husband, Dean, needs a companion.

I know you are single. I know you live alone. I know you never bounced back from giving Knight away.

Please, Dixie, don’t take this the wrong way. I understand I sound judgmental and patronizing. Why should I assume you would want what’s mine? Why would I think my life is so glamorously desirable that I’d invite you to slip into my shoes?

But know this, I’m not sending you this plane ticket to San Diego and reservations for a Todos Santos hotel because I pity you. I am doing this because I know, deep in my heart, that you can do all those things for them. If anyone should be given pity here, it is me.

So please give it to me.

I am willing to take it. I have no pride to spare.

Please come to Todos Santos.

Please meet Knight, our son.

Please try to reconnect with him.

Please keep this a secret.

And when my time comes, please be there for Lev and Dean. I loved every moment of raising Knight. Although unconventional, and perhaps downright irrational, I would be honored if you could return the favor by being there for my family when they need a woman to lean on.



Lovingly and desperately,

Rose Leblanc-Cole

My hands shook so hard, I had to drop the letter because the words became fuzzy.

Mom did this. She’d invited Dixie. She’d thrust her into my life.

This wasn’t betrayal. My seeing Dixie was following Mom’s wish. She’d wanted me to bond with this chick. This chick, who didn’t want anything to do with me, but somehow found the strength to do something good for a woman she didn’t know. Pay back a favor. I guessed I should be angry—angry that Dixie didn’t want to see pictures of me, didn’t want to make an effort or stake her claim on my ass.

But I wasn’t.

Honestly, I thought she was a badass for doing something this selfless for Rosie, even though she didn’t want to. She did this for my mom, whom I loved dearly. Besides, it didn’t matter what had brought Dixie here. She hadn’t quit at the first sign of me giving her shit. No. She’d stayed.

Stayed while I was an insufferable dick to her.

Stayed through my addiction. Ghosted phone calls. The breakdowns. The tears. The death.

She stayed even after Dad had told her to fuck off, and I’d cemented the sentiment by coming here and seeing her ass out myself.

Whoever this woman who gave birth to me was, she wasn’t the selfish witch I’d believed her to be.

I picked up the letter from the ground and handed it back to her, searching for the right words, yet somehow knowing they didn’t exist.

“Okay,” I said finally. Yup. Pretty far from being the right word, dipshit.

“Okay?” She tucked her chin to her chest, examining my face in my periphery.

“You really wanna stay?” I shrugged, aiming for nonchalance.

My heart beat wildly in my chest. Goddammit, Mom. Looking out for us, even from the grave. I somehow knew she would, knew there were a lot more surprises with her in them waiting for me down the line. That it was never really going to be over between us.

Guess Mom was like Luna in a lot of ways. We would always be unfinished business. She’d made sure of it.

“Yes,” Dixie croaked. “I have a good job back home. My family has money. But I want to stay here, with you. I want to get to know you. Rosie wasn’t exaggerating. You’re amazing, and you’re mine. I want to know the entire Cole clan.”

I side-eyed her, hard. She shook her head, sniffing and wiping her tears with her thumbs.

“Not like that. Oh, God. Never. I haven’t even…I’ve never…”

Her blush could start a fire. Was she a virgin? I mean, obviously not, she’d had me, but had there been anyone else since the night I was conceived?

“I’ve never had a partner.” She answered my unvoiced question. “I’m not planning on having one, either. I just want to return a favor to Rosie. She trusted me so much, she paid for my accommodation here. She even gave me access to your gated community. But, more selfishly, I want to gain a son. If you’ll have me, of course.”

If I would have her.

Should I have her?

That was the million-dollar question. Because if I was going to let her up and leave everything she knew and move here, I needed to be damn sure I wasn’t going to bail on her ass when things got tough.

“I have a test for you.” I stood up, folding my arms over my chest.

She followed suit, darting to her feet. I tossed the empty slushie cup into a trash can a few feet away without even looking, my eyes still on hers.

Her throat bobbed. “I’m listening.”

“It’s about Luna.”

“Your girlfriend?” she interjected.

She was already doing a great job being a nosy mother. I started strolling along the promenade, and she matched my step, hurrying beside me.

“No, she is not my girlfriend anymore. She broke up with me.”

“Why?” Dixie asked breathlessly.

“Because I was an abusive, drunk idiot. Actually, I was being a real jerk to a lot of people. I hurt another girl trying to get back at Luna.”

“What do you mean, hurt?” Her voice caught in her throat.

I immediately knew what she was worried about. I stopped, putting a hand on her shoulder. Surprisingly, she melted under my touch, the worry evaporating from the creases on her face.

“No, Dixie. Nothing like that. I kind of toyed with Poppy’s feelings, but she pushed hard to stay with me. I didn’t even want to sleep with her, though she wanted us to. So yeah, I hurt her, but not physically.”

“Okay.” She nodded. “Continue.”

“Anyway, so Luna dumped my ass. She told me she’d revisit the subject of us after I’ve been sober for a while. But what’s long enough? I just lost my mom. I can’t lose her, too. She is the only thing that matters to me anymore, other than Dad and Lev.”

The charged pause in the air suggested I should add her name. I was nowhere near ready to even consider such an idea, though. Dixie had just passed the threshold between enemy and acquaintance. She had a long way to friend territory, and mountains and rivers to cross before she was family.

“So, what’s the question?”

I stopped walking. So did she.

I turned to face her. “How do I get her back?”

“You want my help?” Her eyes twinkled.

Did I? Hell, yeah, I did. Luna had promised to be there for me, and she was, but only as a friend. She knew I was sober, and she still wouldn’t let me touch her. Kiss her. Feel her.

I got it. I’d screwed up. And she needed to give me an incentive to keep away from the alcohol and everything else. Especially now, when Mom was gone. But hadn’t she heard her own words at the funeral? If you love someone, don’t set them free. Smother the fuck out of them until they realize they have no chance of escaping. Yup. That was the sentiment I was down with, a method I was willing to try.

“Yeah.” I stuck my fingers in my hair. “Yeah, I want your help, Dixie. That’s the test,” I added. “If you help me, you’re in.”

“And if Luna doesn’t respond to your advances?”

I knew she’d asked mainly to know where she stood, that it had nothing to do with Luna and me, but the idea of failing made me want to throw up.

“We’ll discuss it further if that happens.”

“No,” she said. “I don’t agree to this. I’m about to hand in my resignation. So whatever happens, I want you to promise me I can see you twice a week. Consensually,” she added, which made me want to laugh.

No more of her stalking ways.

“If you wanna meet up, I get to choose where we meet,” I clarified.

“That’s fine with me.” She nodded.

“And I get to tell you when and for how long. We’ll need to do things my way.” I stubbed a finger to my chest. “Because your way proved to suck, Dix. No offense.”

“None taken.”

“So what’s your Luna plan?” I asked, getting back to business.

With all due respect to my gaining a mother, I needed not to lose Luna first.

“Give me a little time to form the perfect plan. Meet you at my hotel at eight? We can order Chinese.”

“I hate Chinese,” I deadpanned.


“Sushi is Mom’s and my tradition. So, no.”

“Sorry.” Her face twisted in apology, like she was the one responsible for Mom not being here. “How about donuts?”


“Donuts will be our thing. You love donuts.”

I said nothing.

“Aren’t you going to ask me how I know?” She grinned.

“Hmm, no. I’m alive, therefore I love donuts. Not exactly rocket science, dude. Carbs and sugar equal oral orgasms.”

“Right. Let me be more specific, then. Your favorite donut is pistachio and vanilla, and you’re partial to plain donuts, too.”

I hadn’t had any donuts in the last few months, so it couldn’t have been something she’d unraveled in one of her stalking sessions. “Now you’re being specific. And accurate. And creepy. How do you know that?”

Although I enjoyed donuts, I also enjoyed having a fucking six pack, and those two didn’t go together. True, I was too young and too active to get pudgy, but Dad and his friends said it’s about forming good habits, so you never find yourself looking sixty when you’re forty.

Anyway, this conversation didn’t majorly suck, so that was an improvement.

“Because when you were in my tummy, you were crazy for pistachio donuts.” She blushed.

I just stared, and continued staring at her, waiting for more.

“And milk. Oh, how you loved milk with your donuts.”

“I drink a gallon a day,” I confessed.

Fuck the haters. I had good, strong bones because of that shit. Also, Dixie was way more bearable than I gave her credit for.

“I indulged you, of course. I got us one every single day. First, I bought a whole thing of donuts in every flavor and took a bite of each. You kicked the holy Jesus out of me when I took a bite of the pistachio. So that’s what you and I had every afternoon. Pistachio donuts with a big glass of milk.”


“So, donuts and a plan?” She smiled.

“Donuts and a plan.” I nodded.


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