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Wretched: Chapter 40

NICHOLAS

Imade it in time. 

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would. I hadn’t resigned yet, wanting to keep my eyes and ears open, and thank fucking god I did, considering it was only three hours ago I got the tip that Agent Baum was moving in.

When I heard, there was a moment of clarity, like staring into crystal clear waters for the first time in my life. There was no doubt left, everything I’ve been battling dissipated into thin air as though it never existed in the first place.

All I knew was that I couldn’t let her fall. And maybe that makes me stupid, maybe it makes me weak. Maybe she’s manipulated me into becoming something I never wanted to be. Whatever the case, I don’t care. Because she’s changed me fundamentally. Irrevocably. And there’s no going back.

I don’t love Eveline in spite of her flaws. I love her because of them.

Relief floods through me when she disappears to the back of the cottage, and I close my eyes, praying for the first time in years she makes it out okay. Then, I make my way out of the front door and I wait.

Tires crunch over the freshly fallen snow, black sedans pulling through the trees, ready to take the girl that I love into custody. To steal her away forever.

And to put it simply, I can’t live with that.

A dozen suited-up agents hop from their cars, local police department surrounding them as backup. They crouch behind open doors and aim their guns at me. “Drop your weapon!”

I raise my hands and walk onto the rickety wooden porch, dropping the pistol to the ground.

“I’m Agent Nicholas Woodsworth,” I call out. “I’ve been working this case.”

A man with dark hair and steely eyes comes out from behind the door, advancing without taking the target off my chest. “Where’s Agent Baum?”

“Dead.”

“And the suspect?”

“Gone.” My heart stampedes against my chest. “I’m going to reach in my pocket and show you my badge, okay?”

The man lifts his weapon higher. “Keep your hands where I can see them.”

“Fine, you can come check. I came to offer back up, but I was…” I shake my head, frowning. “I was too late.”

I nod toward my jacket pocket and he reaches in, grabbing my badge and flipping it open, scanning it before glancing up at me. Finally, he drops his arm and alerts the others to do the same.

“Agent Woodsworth, sorry about that.” He cringes. “Protocol.”

I smile. “I get it.”

The rest of the night is a blur. I’m brought in to give a statement and I watch as they load up the first man I’ve ever killed onto a stretcher, placing his bloody body in a bag and rolling him out.

I don’t feel regret, and I’m not wrestling with what I had to do. I just feel content knowing I kept the woman I love safe.

The next morning, I walk into my division, bypassing my desk and going straight into Cap’s office, placing my gun and my badge on his desk.

He lifts a brow. “What’s that?”

“This is me turning in my badge.” I shrug. “I’m done, Cap.”

He breathes deep, running his tongue over his teeth. “The hell you mean you’re done?”

“I mean just that. I’m done. I’m out. I quit.” Every time I say it, my shoulders feel lighter.

“That’s a big decision,” he says. “You sure it’s the right one?”

I sit with his question for a minute, and then glance at the paper on the top of his desk, a picture of Eveline with the word WANTED stamped underneath in bold letters.

Steeling myself, I nod. “This life’s not my dream. Not anymore.”

He squints his eyes. “You need to talk to someone about what happened with Agent Baum? We have resources, you know?”

I shake my head. “I’m good, but thank you. I appreciate that.”

“Okay.” He blows out a breath and walks around his desk, coming up to me and placing his hand on my shoulder. “I should probably try to convince you to stay.”

Smiling, a sense of sadness hits me in the chest. After all, being an agent is all I’ve ever known. For most of my life, it’s all I’ve ever wanted. But then Eveline’s face appears in my mind, and there’s nothing I want more than her.

“Don’t waste your breath, Cap.”

His brows draw in. “I’m not a fucking captain.”

I chuckle, grabbing him into a hug. He stiffens, patting me on the back and pushing me away.

“You’ll always be the captain of my heart.”


The first month without her was filled with anxiety. She was all over the news. The brains behind Farrell Westerly. Considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Agent Cody Baum was awarded the medal of merit posthumously, and I was called three times by Cap trying to get me back in the field.

Turns out, he doesn’t hate me so much after all.

The second month rolled around, and the coverage started to ease. She was old news now, and they hadn’t had any luck at finding her. Plus, the Cantanellis were being brought in on several different charges, thanks to the wires Mayor Norman wore when doing dirty deals, and they always were the bigger fish in the pond.

By month three, I was restless. I took up woodworking and found out I had quite the knack for creating custom furniture. Even started a little business to try and pass the time, but nothing stopped my soul from aching, crying out for its other half.

Month four, I debated calling Seth, seeing if he could track her down. But I never did. I’ve already put him in enough situations that put his career at risk. I may be a selfish man, but I’m done being a selfish friend. So I hired a PI, one who rides the edges of the law just enough that I won’t worry about him turning in the information he gathers to anyone but me. And at first, my hope was renewed.

But the months dragged by.

Then one day, twelve months and seventeen days after I killed Agent Cody Baum and helped Eveline escape, my phone rang.

He found her, living in a small town off the coast of Ireland. Exactly how she always dreamed.

It’s been three days since I’ve heard the news, and I still haven’t done shit about it.

Rose sighs, coming over to sit down next to me on the living room couch. “You should go to her.”

Swallowing around the knot in my throat, I shake my head. “She’s okay without me.”

“Well, I’m sick of you,” she laughs. “And while I appreciate the way you’ve been filling up our place with beautiful furniture, if you give me another end table, I’ll start a goddamn fire just to make some room.”

“I don’t want to leave you, kid.”

She smiles, nudging my shoulder. “I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland.”

That’s all it takes. The next morning I’m on a flight, with a scribbled address on a piece of paper and nothing but nerves and hope exploding in my chest. It takes eight hours and I’m on the edge of my seat the entire time, wondering what I’ll say when I see her, if she even wants to see me at all.

Time moves slower when you’re anxious to start the rest of your life, but eventually it does move.

I step out of the cab, staring up at the small bed-and-breakfast in Doolin Village. The town itself is quaint, colorful buildings lining a beautiful landscape of rolling green hills and a sparkling sea. But I’m not staring at any of that. Not when Eveline’s right in front of me.

She’s walking out of the front door and heading down the street, a notebook in her hand and a black flowy skirt swishing around her knees. She looks the same yet entirely different. Her black hair is gone, the natural brown waves flowing to the middle of her back, and the freckles scattered across her face are visible even from where I’m standing across the street.

My heart stalls in my chest and my hand comes up to rest on top of it.

She takes my fucking breath away.

I follow behind her.

We walk for what feels like hours, but I don’t mind the view, soaking in the way she’s just existing. Eventually, the path narrows and the view changes, going from rolling land into sharp cliffs that drop into the sea.

Waves crash against the rocks and she stops in a small area where no one else is around, staring out at the ocean, the wind making her hair fly in different directions behind her.

Thunder rumbles low and deep in the distance, and I look beyond where we are, noticing the dark-gray clouds rolling in, sheets of rain visible as they crash onto the land.

She sits down, crossing her legs and opening her notebook, and I stand back and watch her like an absolute creep. She scribbles then scratches and brings the pen up to her lips, her head tilting in thought.

Finally, I make my move.

“You’re trying too hard,” I take a step closer, my heart slamming against my chest.

Her body freezes and she twists around, her mouth dropping open as she stares at me.

“Excuse me?” she says. “Who says I’m trying?”

She stands, her gaze fierce and her lips turned down, and for just a moment, my chest stalls, thinking maybe she’s upset I’m here. That maybe she hasn’t forgiven me, and maybe she never will.

But then a grin spreads across her face. A real one, the kind that shows all her teeth and makes her eyes crinkle in the corners.

My heart skips and stutters then starts beating in a steady rhythm.

And with that single smile, I know I’ve made it home.

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