Home > The End of Me (The Downfall of Us #1)

The End of Me (The Downfall of Us #1)
Author: Claudia Burgoa

My name is Finnegan Gil, and I should be dead.
Before you continue, be warned. This isn’t a love story. It’s the beginning of a tragedy, the end of what could’ve been a happily ever after, and the end of me.
Who am I?
Some people think I’m a ghost.
Many fear me.
I’m a shadow.
A man who moves in an underground world not many know about. People would be trembling if they knew it existed.
Some would condemn me to life in hell if they knew what I’ve done. And there are two people who think I have a soul, but I don’t. They should leave me.
I don’t deserve a future.
I can’t seem to remember my past.
And I live a fucked-up present.
Chapter One
March 3rd
Anxiety is a form of pain.
Pain no one sees but paralyzes many of us.
There are books, apps, and exercises claiming to help control the worst enemy of our minds, anxiety.
So far, I’ve tried everything to calm the fuck down, but it’s impossible. Archer, my partner in crime, best friend, and soulmate, has been gone for two months.
He’s been off the grid for two long, painful months.
No one knows if he’s okay—not even his boss—and that’s how it’ll remain for another four months. He’s on a special mission with my cousin. It’s not their first rodeo, and they’re capable.
I should be calm and trust Archer. After all, this is what he does best. It’s a big part of his life. The logical side of my brain understands but being away from him for so long is becoming unbearable.
Trying to live without him by my side is wearing me down. It sounds ridiculous and somehow codependent. It’s not.
Archer St. James and I have been together since he was four and I was three. First, as friends. As teenagers, we became boyfriend and girlfriend. We were engaged by the age of eighteen and secretly married when he turned twenty-one.
My hand immediately touches the platinum chain hanging on my neck. It holds our wedding rings. I carry both close to my heart until we’re ready to marry in front of everyone. Only two people witnessed the ceremony, but they were so drunk they don’t remember anything.
The point is that Archer has been my constant for so long that this separation is more strenuous than either of us could’ve predicted. I should try therapy or some new coping mechanism to deal with his absence.
“Pull yourself together, Piper!”
Instead of following my orders, I sneak back into my unmade bed and bury myself under the covers. The scent of his cologne is fading again. I might have to change the sheets and spray a little more so I can pretend he’s hugging me.
“Stop being so extra.” I shake my head at my ridiculousness.
I should be okay with his absence. He’s worked for The Organization since he was sixteen. Within the past seven years, nothing has happened to him. But not long ago, my oldest brother, Tucker, was hurt. For a couple of days, we didn’t know if he would live or die.
Is it possible to hate The Organization as much as I love the work they do?
The high intelligence agency Uncle Mason set up so many years ago saves lives and helps the world. However, sometimes during missions, some men come back injured or, worse, dead.
I can’t stop asking myself: What if something happens to my man?
Archer should quit, but I can’t ask him to. He loves being an agent, saving lives, and making this world a better place.
However, the uncertainty of not knowing if he’s safe is slowly killing me.
I can barely sleep, and when I do, I have nightmares.
Night terrors where I see him, lost in the jungle, wounded and desperate to come home. Yet, he always promises that he’ll come and find me. That he will never leave me.
I touch my stomach. My entrails have been tied into knots since last week when the dreams began.
Last night was the worst. His voice was so clear when he said, “Don’t ever let go of me, baby. I’ll find you soon.”
It’s senseless to be obsessed with those dreams, but this mission is different. Arch and my cousin Seth are isolated. They can’t contact The Organization until the operation is over. If only I knew they were okay.
Push through these crazy thoughts, Piper. He’s going to be okay.
“He will,” I say out loud, finally pushing the blankets away from me.
Turning to my side of the bed, I pick up the frame I have on my nightstand. It’s a picture of the two of us when we moved into this penthouse—the beginning of our life together. I kiss it, place it back where it belongs and convince myself that it’s time to start my day.
After breakfast, I take a shower, do some yoga, and work for a while. Nothing I do calms me. It’s time for my last resort: to write in our mutual journal.
Bleeding words on the pages makes me feel slightly better. Every sentence carries the anguish I’m living with. It’s around noon when I get a call from the doorman. My family is on their way up to visit me.
It’s probably Mom and one of my fathers coming to check on me after our weekly video call. They weren’t thrilled to hear that I was a little anxious. I hate to be a burden to them, but I’m glad they’re here. Mom might give me some exercises to help with the anxiety that’s keeping me awake all night.
When the elevator doors open to the foyer of our penthouse, I smile. Seth is here. I sigh with relief, knowing Archer is about to rush toward me, lift me up, and twirl me around.
But there’s only silence. The sigh of relief changes almost immediately when I look at Seth’s fallen face. Archer isn’t here.
A pang strikes my middle, my heart throbbing forcefully and desperately.
“No, no, no,” I say, shaking my head violently.