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The Legacy by Elle Kennedy


The Legacy

by Elle Kennedy

Published by

Book 5 in the Off-Campus series


Four stories. Four couples. Three years of real life after graduation…


A wedding.

A proposal.

An elopement.

And a surprise pregnancy.


Can you guess which couple is which?


Come for the drama, stay for the laughs! Catch up with your favorite Off-Campus characters as they navigate the changes that come with growing up and discover that big decisions can have big consequences…and big rewards.


Age Recommendation:

18+


Genre:

Contemporary Romance

New Adult

 

The Legacy by Elle Kennedy is compilation of four, interconnected short stories from the main couples of her very popular Off-Campus series. We get epilogue-ish stories featuring Logan and Grace, Dean and Allie, Tucker and Sabrina, and our first couple - Garrett and Hannah. Four years after The Deal, we get an up close, touching, and humorous look at some of romance readers favorite couples.


I was soooo excited to finally jump into some contemporary romance, and with Elle Kennedy's Off-Campus crew! If you have read my reviews on that series (The Deal, The Mistake, The Score, and The Goal), you know I loved this series, I love Elle Kennedy's writing. And I'm so happy to report that The Legacy for sure continues the trend, and feel that these books first inspired in me. To begin, I don't know why I expected four, completely separate short stories, one for each couple. The magic in these books isn't just the romance - it's the friendships. So I am SO happy Elle Kennedy wrote these stories interconnected, so we get the crew together as much as possible. And of course a whole new character - Alexander - keeps the gang together too.


I'm going to go story by story to keep myself a bit organized here. Starting off we get Logan and Grace, and I love that their story is so ... realistic. It's been four years. Logan is in his rookie season in the pro's. Grace is finishing her final year of college. They love each other, and know they are end game. But there is one conflict, that both are silently suffering with, and that is time. As in, not enough time together. When Garrett advises Logan that he needs to prioritize some time for them to have some adventures, Logan plans a weekend getaway for him and Grace over New Years. It's perfect ... until they get caught in a blizzard, and get stuck in a ravine. What could have been a disaster, turns into an adventure, and I love these two together. Their banter is hilarious, their passion is A+, and the way this story "ends" ... superb. And perfect for these two.


The next couple featured is our favorite ex-manwhore Dean, and Hannah's best friend Allie, who are still going strong four years later. Dean is still a gym teacher at an all girls private school in New York, and Allie, is finishing up her final season on a hugely popular cable TV show. When Dean decides he wants to take the next step in their relationship - engagement - he is all in. But Allie is sure she isn't ready. Engagement leads to marriage and marriage leads to babies ... which she is definitely not ready for. I think the way this story plays out is also perfect for this couple. Dean and Allie were one of my favorite couples from the series, and I loved catching up with them. And can I just say, Dean's idea for Tucker's bachelor party brought literal tears to my eyes. It was just the PERFECT addition to this book.


Next up - Tucker and Sabrina ... and Jamie, who, is the freaking breakout star of this book. Yes, their daughter is a rambunctious, and busy three year old. Sabrina is about to graduate Harvard Law, and has multiple job offers to choose from. Tucker has opened up a second bar, and both are wildly successful. And now that Sabrina is graduated, they have decided it was time to tie the knot (which actually happens in Dean's story), and go on a ten day long honeymoon. Leaving behind their little princess is difficult, but Tucker is looking forward to spending ten days reconnecting and spending time with his wife - child free. Disaster after disaster occurs (some funny, some not) and some truths come to light, that actually felt so important to their story overall. One of the problems I had with their relationship in their book, was how easy going Tucker is, which I love, but it almost was at the expense of his happiness. When he is forced to open up and admit that --------spoiler-------> he is bored with the bars, and would like to consider something different, and that he wishes Sabrina was home more with him and Jamie, I wanted to fucking cheer. Yes Tucker! You need to be happy too. <------------- Don't think I'm not understanding Sabrina's side though. She is right. She isn't a mind reader. I loved how this story reflected some issues I had with their book, and faced them head on, and came to a solution. I love how it ended. Chef's kiss!


And lastly ... Hannah and Gerrett's story. And I won't lie, I was excited enough for this one that I stayed up WAYYYYY too late to finish the book. Ended with a little ugly cry, and woke up feeling hung over, but I digress. By time we get to this story, we know what it will be about from the other stories. And I loved every moment of this story. The tension alone - GAH! I can't get into this story without spoilers, so if you have read it, highlight the text, and read my thoughts. If you haven't, what are you doing? Go read it, and come back! All I can say - The Legacy has multiple meanings. Hannah and Garrett are still going strong, and both successful. And things that were never resolved in the Off-Campus books are resolved here. Okay, spoiler time ---------------spoiler------------> I fucking loved this story. Hannah and Garrett are too perfect, so I loved them having a true, realistic conflict, that strengthens their relationship. I loved that it was something I related to. I was a teen mom. Obviously wasn't planning on having children any time soon. So automatically, I related to Hannah's fears of an unplanned child, and telling the father. Doesn't matter if you love each other. A child is a big deal - especially if unplanned. I didn't even tell my now husband I was concerned about being pregnant, so when I told him, it was a big fucking shock. How it ends, also very relatable for me. Because just as we came around to being the parents to one - an emergency ultrasound after some unexpected bleeding lets us know that we were having two babies. And I tell you now ... sixteen years later, and I can still remember the shock. Aside from this, I fucking loved that we are finally getting a little closure on Garrett's childhood trauma. Garrett's shame over his abuse is understanding, and drives me crazy at the same time. So him going public with it, especially in hopes that other children can find help in those circumstances - well, I cried. Go Garrett! <----------------.


The Legacy was a wonderful conclusion to these characters and their stories. We get beginning legacies, continuing legacies, and ending them. We get realistic issues that these couples face, and heartwarming conclusions. We get romance, and friendship, and we get to see the gang together, for better (weddings) or worse (Alexander). We get that stellar banter Elle Kennedy is great for, and a little steam on the side as well. Honestly, The Legacy fulfilled all the hopes I had for a book with short stories, and I can't wait to see where Elle Kennedy goes next!


  1. Logan making a bet he couldn't lose

  2. Alexander

  3. Happy New Year in the car

  4. Logan and Grace!

  5. Dean practicing hi proposal with Garett and Logan

  6. The Bachelor party <3

  7. Coach's speech

  8. Iris overhearing the guys wondering about Coach's sex life, and her confirming a few details.

  9. Allie's dad

  10. Allie walking in on Logan naked

  11. The proposal

  12. Sabrina throwing Alexander in the sea

  13. The coconut

  14. Garrett's apology to Hannah

  15. Garrett finally deciding to tell the world the truth about his father

  16. The surprise



Grace: “Oh my God. Let’s get out of here and finish this somewhere private?”

Logan: “No. I want you now.”

Grace: “Now?”

Logan: “Mmm-hmmm.”

I rest one hand on her slim waist, moving my palm in a teasing caress.

Logan: “I hear the ladies’ room has real big, private stalls…”

She presses her own palm to the center of my chest. Not to push me away, though. She teases me too, while her hot gaze roams the length of my body. Then she slants her head and asks,

Grace: “What would your girlfriend say about that?”

I give her a dirty smile.

Logan: “She’d say…hurry, John, I need to come.”

Grace moans again.

Logan: “That’s what I thought,”

I mock, but my girl doesn’t look fazed. Sometimes it’s hard to believe she was once that nervous, babbling freshman whose dorm I accidentally wound up in. That the sweet Grace Ivers I fell for is this fearless woman in front of me, the sexy vixen who’s about to let me fuck her in the bathroom. Granted, Grace picked this bar and researched the cleanliness situation of the bathrooms before agreeing to tonight’s roleplaying exercise. So, yes, she’s still that weird girl I met years ago. She just also happens to be my hot, sex-starved girlfriend. I take her hand and pull her off the stool. I’m still hard as a rock and in need of relief. Judging by her shallow breathing, she’s as aroused as I am.

Logan: “So what do you say?”

I ask, rubbing the inside of her palm with my thumb.

Grace stands on the tips of her high-heeled boots and presses her lips to my ear.

Grace: “Hurry, John, I need to come.” Logan: “What if it’s a bomb?”

Grace's Dad: “Then it will explode and we’ll die, and the atoms of which we are composed will find new uses elsewhere in the universe.”

Logan: “And Merry Christmas to us all!” Grace: “No! No. No. No. No, no, no, no.”

Her rageful gaze turns to me. She jabs her finger in the air.

Grace: “Get rid of him, John.”

Oh boy. Realization dawns as I approach the box. I have a pretty good sense now of what it contains, and—yep. It’s Alexander. Grace’s father wrinkles his forehead as I lift the porcelain doll from the cardboard.

Grace's Dad: “What is that?”

Grace: “No. I want him gone. Now.”

Logan: “What exactly would you like me to do? Throw him in the trash?”

She pales at the suggestion.

Grace: “You can’t do that. What if it makes him angry?”

Logan: “Of course it will make him angry. Look at him. He’s perpetually angry.”

Trying not to shudder, I force myself to look at Alexander’s face. I can’t believe it’s been almost seven blissful months since I’ve seen it. As far as disturbing antique dolls go, this one tops the list. With a porcelain face so white it looks unnatural, he’s got big lifeless blue eyes, weirdly thick black eyebrows, a tiny red mouth, and black hair with an extravagant widow’s peak. He’s wearing a blue tunic, white neckerchief, black jacket and shorts, and shiny red shoes. He is the creepiest thing I ever did see.

Grace: “That’s it. You’re not allowed to be friends with Garrett anymore. I’m serious.”

Logan: “In his defense, Dean started it,”

Grace: “You can’t be friends with him either. Tucker’s okay to keep because I know he hates this as much as I do." Logan: “And you think I like it? Look at this thing!" Logan: “Dean bought him a couple years ago at some antique auction. The listing said he was haunted, so Dean thought it would be hilarious to get the doll for Tuck’s daughter, who was, like, a baby at the time. Sabrina lost her shit, so she waited till Dean and Allie were in town a couple months later and paid off someone at their hotel to leave the doll on Dean’s pillow.”

Grace giggles.

Grace: “Allie said he screamed like a little girl when he turned on the light and saw Alexander there.”

Logan: “And now it’s a thing,”

I finish with a half-grin, half-sigh.

Logan: “Basically, we all ship Alexander to one another when the other person least expects it.” Text: SABRINA: I think the more important question is—what are Hannah and Grace gonna do now that we know their boyfriends are secretly banging in elevators?

HANNAH: I feel so betrayed.

ME: For real. They’ve been sleeping together this whole time and haven’t even let us watch??!?

HANNAH: !!!

SABRINA: !!?!!

ALLIE: !!!?? Logan: “I told you a long time ago—you’re it for me, Gracie Elizabeth. I’m going to marry you one day.”

Pleasure heats my cheeks. Logan’s not the most romantic man on the planet, but when he does express his feelings, he doesn’t do it halfway.

Grace: “Who says I want to marry you?”

I tip my head in challenge.

Logan: “Don’t you dare pretend we’re not forever.”

A smile breaks free. He’s right. I’m not that good of an actress.

Grace: “We’re definitely forever,” Logan: “You make me feel everything,” I finally reveal. “You make me smile. You make me hard. You drive me crazy. You make me feel safe.” Grace: “What if we starve to death?”

Logan: “We won’t,"

Grace: “What if we die of exposure and—oh my God. I just realized something. What if we’re being punished?”

He sighs.

Logan: “All right. I’ll bite. Punished for what and by whom?”

Grace: “By Alexander! For hating him. What if he did this?”

I gasp suddenly.

Grace: “Oh my God, Logan, do you think this is how Willie felt when he was lying at the bottom of that ravine with his broken leg? Before his spirit entered Alexander? Do you think he knew he was going to die?”

Logan doesn’t speak for a moment. Then he nods.

Logan: “I’ve made the decision to ignore you for the next ten minutes, or however long it takes for the terror to leave my body.” Logan: “What fucking pact?”

Grace: “If we’re dealing with a starvation situation, the person who’s still alive has to eat the dead one.”

Logan stares at me.

Grace: “What? It’s a matter of survival.”

Logan: “You want us to eat each other.”

Grace: “Well, not each other. Only one of us will need to do it. And I just want you to know—if I die first, I give you permission to eat me. Do whatever you need to do to survive. No judgment whatsoever from beyond the grave.”

He just stares again.

Grace: “So it’s a pact? The living one eats the dead one? There’s a Swiss Army knife in the emergency kit. Oh, and I think the butt is the best part to cut into. Fleshier.”

Logan: “No,”

Grace: “Yes. The butt is the best part—”

Logan: “No, as in, I’m not cutting off a piece of your sweet ass and consuming it,” he clarifies. “I’d rather we just die in each other’s arms, old-people-in-Titanic style.”

I shake my head in disappointment.

Grace: “Fine, don’t agree to the pact. I’m still doing it.”

Logan: “A pact requires the agreement of both parties,”

Grace: “Not when my life is at stake.”

I stick my tongue out.

Grace: “Sorry, babe, but I’m eating your ass whether you like it or not.”

I don’t realize how poorly I worded that until after the words exit my mouth, which earns me howls and howls of laughter from my immature boyfriend. Dean: “Allie, where do I even start? Bottom line: you’re incredible. From the day we met, I knew we were meant to be… Okay, well, no, you had a boyfriend when we met and I was a manwhore. But. From the day that we hooked up—shit, no, it was a one-night stand, and you were ashamed and didn’t speak to me for days after…”

I take a breath and regroup.

Dean: “From the day that you took me back after we broke up because I was an asshole and got high and missed your play.”

Nope. Also terrible. I try again.

Dean: “Allie. I don’t even know where to start.”

Garrett: “Clearly. By the way, the answer is no. Go ahead and close that box.” I stare at the open jewelry box in my hand, all plush blue velvet and glittering diamond, trying to tamp down my frustration. I’m still kneeling in front of Garrett, former college roommate and best friend for life, in the living room of his expensive Boston brownstone, while our other best friend watches with amusement from the couch.

Logan: “I didn’t mind it. It adds sincerity most proposals are lacking.” Garrett: “It was awful. And I will not be marrying you, Dean Heyward-Di Laurentis. Sorry to break it to you. Now do it again." Dean: “Okay. Allie,”

I try again, looking into the expectant eyes of a grown man.

Dean: “I love you. I love everything about you. I love your sense of humor. I love how melodramatic you are—”

Garrett: “Veto. You can’t insult her in the proposal.”

Dean: “But it’s a compliment. I love the drama.”

Garrett: “Yeah, but women don’t want to hear they’re drama.”

Logan: “He’s right. I told Grace she was being dramatic when we got stranded on New Year’s and she lost it. Well, technically she lost it because I wouldn’t eat her ass.”

Garrett: “I’m sorry—what?” Logan: “Not what it sounds like. She wanted me to promise that if one of us died in the blizzard, we would eat the other one.”

Garrett: “Oh. Like that movie.”

Logan’s face goes blank.

Garrett: “You know the one. About a football team or something that crashed in the mountains and cannibalized each other to survive? It’s heartwarming.”

Dean: “Sounds like it,”

Logan: “Yeah, exactly like that, then. But I wouldn’t make the promise, and she got pissed. Luckily that didn’t stop her from—”

Dean: “From what?”

I prompt. Logan runs a hand over his buzzed hair. For a second I get the sense he’s nervous. Dodging. But then a wolfish grin curves his lips.

Logan: “From spending all of New Year’s Day in bed with me. Anyway. Trust me, girls don’t want to be called drama-llama.”

I mull over Grace’s hypothetical for a second.

Dean: “Would you eat me if I died first?”

Logan: “Oh, for sure. You too, G.”

Garrett sounds intrigued.

Garrett: “You’d eat us for sustenance, but you wouldn’t eat your girlfriend?”

Logan: “I couldn’t. It’d feel completely wrong. The idea of cutting into her perfect flesh…”

He shudders.

Logan: “Nope, can’t do it. I’d rather die. Also, if she’s dying, I’m dying right along with her. I can’t live without her.”

Garrett: “There,”

Garrett says, jabbing a finger in the air at me.

Garrett: “That’s what you say.”

Dean: “That I won’t be able to cut into her perfect flesh and eat it?”

Garrett: “No, that you can’t live without her. Life isn’t worth living if she’s not with you, blah blah blah.” Dean: “There’s nobody else I want to be with. Nobody else I want to fuck. I love every inch of your body, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives seeing you naked—”

Garrett: “No! You’ve gone off the rails. That’s way too sexy. Sexiness plays no role in a proposal.”

Logan: “I disagree. I say go even sexier.”

Garrett: “Don’t listen to him.”

Logan: “More sexy,”

Garrett: “Less,”

Garrett shoots back. My gaze ping-pongs between the two of them, my temples beginning to throb. This is impossible. I don’t know how I’m ever going to get through this proposal. I’m not good with romantic words. I’m good with dirty, telling her I want to screw her brains out. I’m good at telling Allie I love her, because I do. I love her with all my heart. Why does a proposal need to involve a whole damn speech?

Logan: “You know what, try it on me. G is clearly not a good proposal receiver.”

Garrett: “Oh, fuck off, I’m a great proposal receiver. It’s just that the proposal sucks. I’m not going to say yes to something that doesn’t wow me.”

Dean: “Go wow yourself,”

Garrett: “I do. Every day when I look in the mirror.” Dean: “Allie. I love you so much. You changed my entire life when you decided to bless me with your love. You make my world better.”

Logan: “Sexier,”

Dean: “Every time I’m with you, my heart feels like it’s going to explode. And so does my dick.”

From the corner of my eye, I see Garrett shake with laughter. Logan, however, nods his approval. Our gazes are locked in disturbingly intimate eye contact.

Dean: “You’re the only one for me, baby.”

Logan: “More physical contact,”

he urges. I don’t know if he’s messing with me or not. I decide that he is, so I play along.

Dean: “You have no idea how stunning you are.”

I lean forward, still holding the ring box in one hand. I place my other hand flat on his muscular thigh. Logan narrows his eyes. You wanted it, I think, battling a grin.

Dean: “Every time I look at you, I can’t even fathom that you’re mine. Your beauty is otherworldly. It makes me want to rip your clothes off. You make me so hard.”

My hand skims up his chest toward his collarbone. I’m desperately trying not to laugh as I cup his stubble-covered cheek.

Dean: “Baby. Will you marry me?”

There’s a brief silence. Then Logan’s mouth falls open. He turns to Garrett, wide-eyed. Then back at me.

Logan: “Chills. Genuine chills, man. Look.”

He rolls up his shirt sleeve to show me his arm.

Logan: “That’s the one.”

Garrett: “That is not the one! Don’t you fucking say any of that or you’re going to lose the girl.”

I hop to my feet, because this entire exercise was completely useless.

Dean: “I think we’re done here. You two are truly, and utterly, the worst.” Dean: “Jesus. We’re talking bachelor and bachelorette parties and nobody is seeing a fucking stripper? And you’re bringing a child? This is a travesty.” Grace: “Are you saying he might not be your forever person?”

That summons a growl from Summer.

Summer: “You better not be saying that, because I already have a design in mind for our custom sisters-in-law Christmas onesies.” Summer: “Oh, I love weddings so much! Are you excited? This is so exciting!”

Jamie: “SO EXCITING!”

Jamie randomly shouts out. Then she peers up at her mom.

Jamie: "What’s exciting?” Coach: “Thanks for having us,”

There’s a beat of silence. Then he nods.

Coach: “All right. Carry on.”

He rests one big hand on the small of Iris’s back, trying to lead her away. Logan bursts out laughing.

Logan: “Seriously? You’re just gonna walk off without giving a speech? Without congratulating the groom?”

Nate: “What kind of sociopath does that?”

Garrett: “Despicable,” Coach rubs the bridge of his nose as if warding off a migraine. It’s a gesture I’ve seen thousands of times over the years. Next to him, Iris laughs softly.

Iris: “Oh, come on, Chad. Say a few words.”

He huffs out a breath.

Coach: “Fine.”

But then he doesn’t continue. Still laughing, Iris kicks it off for him.

Iris: “Let’s raise our glasses to Tucker…”

We all raise our glasses or beer bottles. Finally, Coach Jensen clears his throat.

Coach: “Well,”

he says, his shuttered eyes sweeping over the group.

Coach: “As you know, I don’t have any sons. And after coaching all you boys for so many years, I’ve come to realize I’m glad I don’t.”

Mike Hollis hoots loudly. I muffle my laughter against my palm. Coach glares at us.

Coach: “With that said, out of all the players I’ve coached, John, you’re the one who’s given me the least amount of grief. So thanks for that. Congratulations on everything. The lawyer wife. The cute rug rat. I’m proud of you, kid.”

Tucker’s eyes are a bit shiny. He blinks a couple of times, then says,

Tucker: “Thanks, Coach.”

Dean: “I can’t believe Coach has a girlfriend.”

Then another thought occurs to me. I go quiet and squint in their direction.

Hunter: “Are you having a stroke?”

Dean: “Nah, I was trying to picture Coach having sex.”

Guffaws break out all around me. Hollis, however, is nodding vigorously.

Hollis: “I think about that all the time,”

Fitzy: “All the time?”

Fitzy echoes. Hollis ignores his best friend.

Hollis: “Oh yeah. I’ve spent years trying to solve the mystery.”

Fitzy: “Years?”

Hunter: “What mystery?”

Hollis: “The mystery of how he fucks. Because here’s the thing—Coach is like this big burly man’s man, you know? So you’d think he’d be a power fucker, right? Like, he’s going to drill fast and hard.”

Garrett: “I don’t like this conversation,”

Hollis: “But maybe that’s too obvious,”

Nate: “So what are we thinking?”

Dean: “Submissive,”

This might not be appropriate wedding subject matter, but now I’m invested.

Dean: “I bet he lets her tie him up and have her way with him.”

Hunter: “No way. He’d need to be in control.”

Hollis: “Agreed. But here’s what I envision: tender.”

Hunter: “Nah,”

Hollis: “Tender. He’s all about the foreplay. He spends hours pleasing his lady. But he’s in full control, right? Then, after he’s made her come like four times, he slowly enters her—” Nate: “Enters her?”

Nate hoots. Fitz sighs.

Hollis: “—and they make love. Lovemaking all the way.”

I purse my lips. Honestly, I can see it. Coach’s exterior is so rough, I bet he throws curveballs in bed.

Hunter: “Nah. I still vote for power fucker.”

Hollis: “Coach doesn’t fuck. He makes love.”

Someone clears their throat.

Iris: “Gentlemen.”

We jump in surprise when Iris Marsh appears behind us. Biting her lip like she’s trying not to bust into laughter, she casually leans past Tucker to grab the silver clutch on the table he’s leaning against.

Iris: “Left my purse,”

To Hollis’s credit, he’s not the least bit abashed. I don’t think that dude is capable of feeling shame.

Garrett: “Uh, enjoying the band?”

Garrett asks her, as if we don’t all know she’d overheard us dissecting her sex life with Coach.

Iris: “They’re excellent. I loved that Arcade Fire cover.”

She tucks the purse under her arm and takes a step back.

Iris: “Anyway. Sorry to interrupt.”

Just before she goes, however, she leans closer to Hollis and murmurs something. So quietly I think I imagined it at first.

Iris: “He definitely fucks.”

Hollis’s jaw drops.

Iris: “But you didn’t hear that from me,”

Iris calls over her shoulder, waltzing off in Coach’s direction.

Hunter: “Told you,” Allie: “What do you think they’re whispering about over there?”

I nod toward the group of boys. Their conversation looks intense.

Sabrina: “Hockey, probably.”

She takes a second to study them, then shakes her head.

Sabrina: “No, they’re talking about sex.”

Allie: “Ha! How can you tell?”

Sabrina: “Fitzy’s face. He looks like he wants to wither away and die on the spot.” A knot forms in my stomach.

Allie: “What’s wrong?”

Hannah: “I might need a…um…pregnancy test.”

Silence crashes over us. It lasts about a second before my loud gasp reverberates in the air. Grace purses her lips.

Grace: “I’m pretty sure this was an episode of Friends. I’ve been watching reruns.” Dean: “Brought you some groceries,”

Joe: “Why?”

Dean: “My God, you’re like Tucker’s three-year-old. Because I thought you might need food.”

I turn to him with a mock frown.

Dean: “Want to know the proper response when someone brings you groceries? Why, thank you, pretty boy, I appreciate the gesture. How did I get so lucky as to have you in my daughter’s life?

Joe: “Dean. Don’t bullshit a bullshitter. You’re a nice kid. But you’re not a drop-off-groceries-for-no-reason kind of guy." While Joe slowly lowers himself onto a chair, I prepare two sandwiches at the counter, then grab two beers from the fridge.

Joe: “It’s noon,”

Dean: “I need the liquid courage.”

Just like that, his expression becomes more pained than usual.

Joe: “Aw man, no. Is that it? Today’s the day?”

Dean: “What day?”

He scrubs one hand over his eyes, the other over his dark beard.

Joe: “You’re gonna ask for my blessing. Aw hell. Just get it over with and ask, then. You really need to drag out the torture and make both of us uncomfortable? I’d rather be waterboarded. Goddamn it. We both know I’m going to say yes, okay? So do it already.”

I gape at him for a second. Then a wave of laughter spills out.

Dean: “With all due respect, sir? You’re the fucking worst. I had a whole speech prepared.” Dean: “All seriousness—are you truly okay if I ask her to marry me? You weren’t exactly my biggest fan when we first met.”

Joe: “Eh, you’re all right.” Allie: “I’ve always been a planner. And I’m definitely a relationship girl. But I see relationships as…I don’t know, picture a ladder. The relationship is a ladder and the rungs are all the steps.”

My tone turns a bit grumbly.

Allie: “First comes love. Then comes engagement. Then comes marriage, and then the stupid baby in the dumb baby carriage.”

Trevor: “Your opinion of children is inspiring.” Logan: “WHAT THE FUCK!”

We both jump when a male shout echoes beyond Logan’s door. It’s quickly followed by a female shriek. A very familiar shriek. Frowning, I march toward the door and loudly rap my knuckles against it.

Dean: “Logan, was that my girlfriend?”

Allie: “Dean?”

Dean: “Allie-Cat? Is that you in there?”

Allie: “Yeah, I’m here with Logan.”

There’s a pause.

Allie: “And his penis.”

Garrett’s head pops up from his phone. Sheer delight lights his face.

Garrett: “Oh God. I don’t even care that we got our asses handed to us by Jersey. This night officially just became the greatest.”

He hops off the bed and races to my side. One of G’s favorite pastimes is—to quote the asshole himself—“serving as a bystander to our stupidity.” I knock on the door again.

Dean: “Unlock this thing.”

When I hear a click, I throw the door open and burst into Logan’s room, where I find Allie and Logan facing off. My girl stands on one side of the king-sized bed, wearing the sequined dress she’d donned for the club. Only one stiletto, though. I look around, spotting the other heel on the carpet near the far wall by the bathroom. On the other side of the bed is Logan. He’s buck naked. I lift a brow.

Dean: “Nice dick,”

He sighs.

Dean: “Any reason why you’re showing it to my girlfriend?”

Logan: “I didn’t show her a damn thing.”

His bare pecs flex as he lifts both hands to rake through his damp hair. Droplets of water slide down his neck.

Logan: “I got out of the shower, and she was just right there, sitting on my bed. I thought it was another thirsty bunny.”

Allie: “So you decided to drop your towel?”

Logan: “I was mid-drop when I walked out of the bathroom. Don’t act like I was stripping for you. You wish.” Garrett snickers. In a helpful gesture, he picks up the towel and tosses it to Logan, who hastily covers up his pretty package. My attention returns to my girlfriend.

Dean: “Why are you in Logan’s room?”

Allie: “Why aren’t you in Logan’s room? Your text said Logan’s room!”

Dean: “His minibar was empty so we moved over to G’s. You didn’t think it was weird when you walked in and nobody was there?”

Allie: “I saw your jacket on the chair and heard someone in the bathroom. Thought it was you. I certainly didn’t expect your friend to walk out with his stupid penis.”

Logan: “My penis isn’t stupid,” Dean: “Fuck. I wish I had the ring on me. But it’s at home.”

Curiosity fills her eyes.

Allie: “Is it big?”

Dean: “Huge.”

Allie: “How huge?”

Dean: “Massive. Even your dad was impressed.”

Garrett: “You showed your dick to her father?”

Allie and I startle when Garrett comes stumbling into the room, a sweatpants-clad Logan flying in after him.

Dean: “What the hell? You guys were eavesdropping?” Garrett: “You’re in my room!”

Logan: “And I’m just nosy,”

He shoots me a pleased smile.

Logan: “Good call bringing up the dick at the end. I told you, every proposal needs a dash of sexy.”

Dean: “We weren’t talking about my dick. We were talking about the ring!”

Logan: “Oh.”

He blinks. Then glances at Allie.

Logan: “That thing’s ginormous. It’ll break your finger.”

Allie swivels her gaze back to me, beaming brightly.

Allie: “You know me too well.” I find a folded piece of paper lying beneath the cardboard flaps. The message inside is short and to the point. Congratulations on the engagement! The three of us are so happy for you!

Allie: “The three of them?”

Allie’s reading the note over my shoulder, her eager hands now reaching into the box. A sick feeling creeps up my throat. I have a horrible suspicion I know exactly what—

Allie: “No!”

she moans when the porcelain doll emerges from the box.

Allie: “Oh my God, Dean, he’s on our bed! We have to burn the sheets now!”

I glower at Alexander’s red cheeks and vacant eyes.

Dean: “Motherfucker. You realize Logan would’ve had to ask Grace to overnight this? This is literal betrayal.”

Allie: “Next-level betrayal.”

We both stare at the doll, neither of us wanting to pick him up and move him. I know I’m the one who opened this grotesque Pandora’s Box when I bought Alexander for Jamie, but how many times do I have to apologize? Why do these sociopaths keep sending him back? I grit my teeth.

Dean: “I can’t fucking believe Logan would do this to us. And after we complimented his dick?”

My fiancée sighs.

Allie: “We?”

Dean: “Oh, like you weren’t impressed too,”

Allie: “Fine, I was,” Tucker: “What happened to your tiara and jewelry, little darlin’?”

I scoop her up because she’s liable to fall asleep on her tiny feet.

Tucker: “You lose them in the rope tunnel?”

Jamie: “I gave them away,”

she answers, resting her cheek against my shoulder.

Tucker: “Now why would you do that?”

Jamie: “Because Lilli and Maria wanted to be princesses too, but they didn’t have any princess stuff so I gave them princess stuff.”

Danny: “Aw man. How come he gets the sweet princess, and I get the kid who tries to eat the dog?”

Tucker: “Are you sure you don’t mind parting with your things?”

Jamie: “Nope! There should be more princesses.” Tucker: “I was stung. I think I was stung by a jellyfish.”

Tucker plops down on his ass and lies back on the sand, handsome face contorting in agony.

Tucker: “Fuck, this hurts.”

Yeah, he’s definitely not lying. The skin is already puckered and swollen, bumps forming around the bright red marks.

Sabrina: “What do we do? Should I pee on it?”

Tucker jumps back into a sitting position.

Tucker: “What? Hell no.”

Sabrina: “I think I’m supposed to, aren’t I?”

Tucker: “Babe, I’m not letting you pee on me. That’s not even a real thing.”

Sabrina: “Pretty sure it is.”

He grits his teeth, still staring at the reddish-purple wound.

Tucker: “Man, it hurts.”

Sabrina: “Oh my God, do you think this was some sort of cosmic punishment for drowning Alexander? Did Willie’s spirit get its revenge?”

Tucker thinks it over. Then he says,

Tucker: “No.”

He glares at me.

Tucker: “I think I just got stung by a jellyfish.” Tucker: “That was for the plane, wasn’t it?”

Tucker accuses as I’m getting him back to the house after we leave Bruce and Kevin.

Sabrina: “I would never.”

Tucker: “You almost let a man pee on me, Sabrina.”

Sabrina: “That’s how much I love you.” Don’t get me wrong, we’re not perfect. We bicker often, but, I mean, that’s because she’s a stubborn asshole. Though if you ask her, it’s because I—supposedly—always need to have the last word. Which is something a stubborn asshole would say.


Hannah: “Please tell me someone is taping this. Last time you tried to golf, we had to pay for that guy’s windshield, remember?”

Garrett: “Not my fault his damned car was in the way of the hole.”

Hannah: “His car was where it was supposed to be—in the parking lot. The hole was right in front of your face.”

Logan: “That’s what she said,”

drawls Logan, wiggling his eyebrows.

Hannah: “Ew.”

She smacks his arm.

Garrett: “Logan hit a tree last time. It had a bird’s nest in it, and the thing toppled to the grass and all the eggs broke.”

He glares at me.

Logan: “Wow. What part of ‘we take this to the grave’ do you not understand?”

Hannah: “You killed a bunch of unborn birds?”

Hannah looks horrified.

Logan: “Not on purpose,”

Logan says defensively. To me, he mutters,

Logan: “Snitches get stitches, G. Don’t you forget that.” Hannah: “Let me give you some advice. When your girlfriend flies in from another continent to see you get an award and says she wants to go to bed early, you go with her.”

He looks to me and Logan. We nod solemnly at him. Not going to find me arguing with Wellsy on this one. I’m still hoping for some congratulations sex when we get home.

Jake: “All right then,”

Jake says, draining his beer and passing it off to Logan.

Jake: “Guess I’ll catch up with you guys later. And congrats,”

he tells me. He points to my award.

Jake: “Don’t get too comfortable, old man. I’m coming for that thing next year.”

Garrett: “See you on the ice, kiddo.”

Hannah: “He’s so handsome,”

Garrett: “Keep it in your pants,”

Text: Garrett: Hockey gods decided to spare you tonight. Just found a groupie in my bed. Bows on her tits and my name in Sharpie on her ass. Logan: Bahahahaha. You go girl. Permanent marker, eh? Wish my stalkers had that kind of dedication.

Garrett: Getting a new room now, so don’t shout random shit at my door. Won’t be there.

Logan: Why didn’t you just come crash with me?

Garrett: Cuz I’m a grown man who doesn’t need his hand held every time I’m assaulted by a pair of strange tits?

Logan: Your loss. We coulda cuddled. He kisses me again, his tongue seeking mine, at the same time he plunges inside me, his thick length filling me to the hilt. Then he fucks me on the living room floor carpet that we’d argued about buying for nearly an hour when we’d moved into this brownstone. I’d wanted something more durable, easier to vacuum. He’d argued valiantly for the longer, softer shag. And then after I kept asking why, he got frustrated. In the middle of IKEA, in front of a sales associate whose anxious gaze was ping-ponging between us, Garrett had yanked me closer and growled in my ear,

Garrett: “Because there’s gonna be a time when I’m too hot for you to make it to the bedroom, and I’ll end up fucking you on the living room floor. Sue me for wanting your ass to be comfortable.”

In response, I’d shut up and told the sales guy we wanted the carpet. Doctor: "This can lead to bleeding in some cases. Sexual intercourse, for example, or a number of other athletic activities, can exacerbate this. Have you engaged in any strenuous activities in the past few days?”

I bite my lip sheepishly. Garrett clears his throat.

Garrett: “Uh, yeah. We had some, ah, vigorous intercourse the other night. Like, multiple times.”

Hannah: “Vigorous intercourse? Really? Couldn’t find any better words?”

He lifts a brow.

Garrett: “I was going to say I gave you a good pounding, but I figured the doc wouldn’t want to hear that.”

I feel my cheeks heat up.

Hannah: “I’m sorry. Ignore him.” Logan: “Hey, G. Good timing. I just got back from the craziest lunch with Grace and her mom. Josie took us to a café near the Eiffel Tower where all the waitstaff were—not shitting you here—goddamn mimes. Can you imagine a worse nightmare scenario?” Garrett: “Hannah’s pregnant.”

That stuns him into silence.

Garrett: “Wait, I just realized how that sounds. I’m not using that as an example of a nightmare scenario. I just needed to say it and didn’t want to hear your stupid mime story anymore.”

Logan: “First of all, wow.”

Garrett: “I know, right? She totally threw me a curveball yesterday.”

Logan: “I meant wow, my story wasn’t stupid.”

I can’t help but snort.

Logan: “Second of all. Wow.” I withdraw my hand as if I’d just burned it on a hot stove. My betrayed gaze flies to Tucker and Sabrina, who smile innocently before nodding toward their daughter.

Sabrina: “Jamie saw this adorable little guy in Tuck’s suitcase when we got back from St. Barth’s."

Tucker: "Can you believe he floated right back to shore like he couldn’t bear to part with us?”

Sabrina: “It’s like he knew exactly where he belonged. At first we were going to let Jamie keep him—”

I glare. Because, bullshit. They’d never let their precious child have prolonged contact with a doll housing the spirit of Willie the Gold Rush corpse. Never.

Sabrina: “—but when we told her Auntie Hannah and Uncle Garrett were going to have a baby, she decided she couldn’t possibly be selfish and deprive the new baby of this joyous gift. Right, little one?”

Jamie: “Right! Do you like him?” I stare

at Alexander’s smirking red mouth, dread filling my gut. Then, pasting on a big fake smile, I address the little girl.

Hannah: “I love it,”

I tell Jamie. While beside me, Garrett mouths “You’re dead” to Jamie’s parents. He slashes his finger across his neck.

Tucker: “Oh wait, but there’s more!”

Tucker is loving every second of this nightmare. He lifts the second box out of the bag, and my stomach does a queasy somersault that has nothing to do with my pregnancy and everything to do with whatever new horror we’re about to experience. Sabrina offers an evil smile.

Sabrina: “Last year Tuck and I did some research on Alexander’s history and discovered that he was part of a lot.”

Hannah: “Oh my God,”

Garrett: “No,”

Garrett says, holding up his hand as if that’ll achieve anything. Tucker takes up the narrative.

Tucker: “This particular dollmaker designed ten dolls, each one custom-made but part of the series. We had an alert set if any other dolls in the lot came up for sale. And last week, one became available! I think they call that serendipity. Maybe. I’m not sure. But it’s wild, huh?” Sabrina nods enthusiastically.

Sabrina: “Wild.”

Tucker: “So we said to Jamie, hey, what’s better than one doll for Auntie Hannah’s baby? And what did you say back, princess?”

Jamie: “I said two!”

Jamie dances around her father’s legs. This poor innocent child whose parents recruited her to do their malevolent bidding. They had to know that if Jamie wasn’t here right now, I’d be trying to shove Alexander in the garbage disposal.

Tucker: “Two dolls are always better than one,”

Tucker agrees, and then he pulls out a second porcelain nightmare and holds it up. This one is a girl doll, with white-blonde curls that, oh God, look like they could be actual human hair. Her cheeks are like two red apples, her pink lips stretched in a macabre frozen smile. In a blue dress with a white sash and shiny red shoes like Alexander, she is creepy and awful and I want to punch Tucker in the face with her.

Sabrina: “Her name is Cassandra,”

Sabrina says, grinning at my expression.

Tucker: “And don’t you worry, she comes with a verified biography. It’s in the box. Some fun reading for later.”

Tucker winks.

Sabrina: “We don’t want to spoil it for you, but let’s just say while Alexander and Willie were traversing the California Trail, Cassandra here served as a wonderful companion for a child in a German insane asylum."

Jamie: "Yayyyyy!"

Jamie stars clapping, clearly ignorant to what most of those words mean.

Garrett: "Yay."

Garrett says weakly.

 





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