The end of the Anastasia Phoenix series is almost here! Take a peek inside the final book, End of the Lie, which releases on March 4, 2019.
He handed me the gift, and my heart sprinted—it was a little black jewelry box, like that type of jewelry box. I had never been given so much as a Ring Pop before, not even by my parents. Sure, my ears were pierced, but I rarely wore earrings, and when I did they were fake diamond studs I picked up at a department store for 75 percent off the day after Christmas. Keira was the one who loved jewelry. She had boxes filled with vintage ’80s fashion accessories, which used to include the gold K ring I gave her, until we lost that outside of Luis Basso’s car in Tuscany.
“You bought me jewelry?” I said in a small, uncertain voice. My hands shook as I stared at the black velvet box.
“Don’t freak out,” he said quickly, reading my thoughts as he squeezed my hand. “It’s not like that. It just…made me think of you.”
I held my breath like the roller coaster was about to take the big plunge—equal parts scared and excited. Inside, nestled in a puff of black foam, was a silver Victorian key twisted into a ring. I lifted it out. The key had been melted down and designed to wrap around a finger. The lock tip and decoratively etched oval-shaped handle meeting on top. Its silver surface was a little scratched and imperfect, showing it had clearly been a real skeleton key at some point. “Try it on,” Marcus instructed. I slid the ring onto the middle finger of my left hand and it t snugly, perfectly. “The saleswoman said it was really old, and she thought it was made in Spain, like me.” His voice was gushing with pride, but I couldn’t look at his face. I was too busy staring at the ring on my finger. “Given everything you said about home, and not having one, I wanted you to know that I’ve been feeling the same lately. Yes, Madrid is my home. But now all my memories there are tainted. But you’re not. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I think Julian’s estate is home now.”
My heart practically exploded like smiley face reworks. I had spent my whole life dreaming of a home, with a real family and real friends. I always pictured it on a street with a white picket fence, where kids learn to ride bikes and dads mow the lawn. But maybe all those cheesy slogans are true. Maybe home is more about people than a place. Only before I could throw myself at Marcus and kiss him like he’d never been kissed before, he bounced on his toes.
“More?” I yelped, my eyes locking on his. “How could there possibly be more than this?”
“Not more, exactly,” he hedged, wagging his head in explanation. “Just matching.”
He lifted the silver chain that hung from his wallet and snapped a tiny vintage padlock into place, the size of a silver dollar. “I bought the lock in the same antique store, and I already threw out the key, in the river. Now it’ll never open. It’ll never come off,” he explained, leaning his face toward me. “As long as you wear the key.” My jaw dropped as I stepped back. “Aw, Marcus! Why you gotta do stuff like this?” I whined, staring petulantly at the ceiling and tossing my hands in the air.
“You don’t like it?” He sounded wounded.
My gaze shot toward him. “No, I love it! Obviously! How could I not? It’s perfect!”
“Then, I’m confused.” His brow furrowed.
“It’s just, you went out and got me this insanely thoughtful gift. I mean, a key to your lock!” I gestured to him in frustration. “And I got you—”
“You got me something?” His voice was hopeful as his eyes widened.
“Oh, don’t get excited,” I groaned, reaching into one of the plastic drugstore bags on the floor, the one that held the broken candy hearts and the penis straws. I cleared my throat and tried to sound as respectful as I could. “I got you this.”
I pulled out a stuffed lion in zebra-print underwear holding a fuchsia pillow heart that read “You make my heart roar!” Then I tossed it at his head.
Marcus ducked, laughing as he plucked the lion off the marble floor. “Oh, really, you shouldn’t have.”
“Well, I didn’t know you were going to go all Romeo, or I would have made an effort!” I griped, though I couldn’t stop looking at the ring.
“Were there no Pez dispensers left? No dying flowers?” he teased, wiping his eyes as he giggled.
“I’ll have you know that Keira and I always bought each other awful gifts like this, so I thought it was appropriate, fitting with the theme of our celebration.” My cheeks flamed.
“It’s perfect.” He grabbed my hands and pulled me toward him, his fingers pinching the ring he’d given me. “I love you.”
Pre-Order Your Copy of End of the Lie Today!
With her harrowing tale of espionage and near death experiences finally out in the open, Anastasia Phoenix thought things would be better. That she and her friends had outsmarted Department D, the criminal empire her parents helped create.
She thought wrong.
Former friends have turned to enemies, causing more innocent lives to get swept up into the dangerous world her parents created. Now it’s up to Anastasia to stop the damage before anyone else gets hurt—or worse. She embarks on a treacherous trail from Poland to Prague, and old rivals emerge at every turn. But when the final confrontation occurs, will she be too late to protect the ones she loves…or even herself?