You’ve laughed with them. You’ve cried with them. Now it’s time to say goodbye to the Lanza Family, in the final installment of The Riverdale Series.
Luke Lanza is a man who has always done the responsible thing. He has faced a lot of challenging obstacles in his life; from raising his daughter on his own, to building a successful business, even being the only viable donor that could save his brother’s life. Knowing this about his brother and knowing that he was going to die, Jake asked him to look after the love of his life. Now Luke is torn between the promise he made to his brother and the pull of something he’s never known before.
“Promise me, I need to hear you say it, Luke.”
Luke swallowed. “I promise I’ll take care of Cara, you don’t have to worry about her.” A tear slipped down his cheek as he finished his vow to his little brother.
Jake smiled slightly and closed his eyes. “I could always count on you.”
Cara Sloane is struggling with the loss of her first love and the power of addiction. Jake had been her rock for so long, with him gone she realizes how broken she is. She doesn’t want to feel anything, least of all the emptiness in her heart.
“I know you’re at peace and I should be thankful for that, but I can’t be. I never realized what a selfish person I was. You were suffering and all I could do was pray for you not to leave me.”
A tragic accident leaves Luke and his family pleading with Cara to change the course of her life. Can Cara face her demons and learn there is life after Jake? Can she learn that she can hold onto to the beautiful memories they made together and still live her life?
“I don’t want to fix her because she’s broken.” He said with his own voice sounding a bit broken. “I want to help her because losing her too isn’t an option.”
Individually they try to heal, together they wonder if they can fit the pieces of their broken lives.
Coming soon, the final installment in the Riverdale Series…
Fitting The Pieces.
Read an Excerpt:
Luke Lanza glanced into his rear view mirror as he pulled up in front of Riverdale Elementary and watched his daughter as she looked out of her window.
“Here we are, my lady.” He said as he put the truck in park and twisted in his seat to face her. Ava unsnapped her seatbelt and grabbed her book bag from the seat beside her. She slung it over one shoulder and leaned over the console. She smiled at him with her lopsided toothless grin and eyed him as if she owned him, which he could admit, she did.
“Give me some sugar.” She said pointing her finger towards her cheek.
Luke laughed, his daughter never ceased to amaze him with her wit. He leaned over to shower her cheek with kisses before pointing to his own. She wrapped her arms loosely around his neck and kissed his cheek with a smacking sound.
“That’s my girl!” He said before moving his hand to ruffle her hair.
“Dad! Don’t you’ll mess my hair!” She cried exasperated.
Luke held his hands up in the air as if he had just been caught red-handed. “Okay, fine!” He said surrendering to his seven year old. “Don’t forget, you’re going home with Aunt Sam today, and then I will pick you up after work.”
“Okay, oh and it’s Friday! Pizza night!” She exclaimed reminding him of their weekly ritual.
“It’s a date.” He confirmed with a smile as he watched her open the door. He hesitated for a moment, wanting to get out of the car and help her out, but stopped himself because she claimed it would be too embarrassing. She jumped out of the car and when she landed firmly on her two feet, Luke sighed relieved. “I love you.” He called out before she could shut the door.
“I love you too.” She whispered before slamming the door shut.
He ignored the car behind him that honked for him to pull away and looked after Ava until she made her way safely into the school. The horn honked again and with a smile he pulled away from the school.
Friday’s were usually a day full of routine for Luke, who was he kidding, his whole life was one big routine. There wasn’t a day of the week he didn’t have mapped out. However, Friday’s was the day he went to his late brother’s tattoo shop. He had been delegated the responsibility so, once a week he made his way over to the shop and checked on everything. He was certain the shop would be up to par, it always was. When Jake had died, his good friend and right hand at Riverdale Ink, Pete DeSantis had agreed to run the tattoo parlor for the Lanza’s. Everyone in the family agreed that Pete was best suited for the job. He worked beside Jake for years watching him grow his business. It was the right decision because Pete was undyingly loyal to Riverdale Ink and even with its owners passing the business was still striving.
Luke pulled up into the spot in front of Riverdale Ink. It was still early and the shop didn’t open until noon, but Pete would be there for his and Luke’s weekly meeting. He stepped inside the place and like every time before something inside of him ached. The bell chimed letting his presence be known as he glanced around, noticing everything was just as Jake had wanted. Not a thing was altered, except he wasn’t in the first booth wiggling his eyebrows at the first person who walked through the door. He made his way towards Jake’s station, it was clear to see no one had used any of his equipment. On the counter sat some of the sketches that Jake had been working on, and on top of the pile sat the drawing Jake had tattooed to his chest. There was no mistaking the beautiful women staring back at him in the form of black and white. She was the woman who haunted his dreams. Luke lifted the piece of paper, realizing he was probably the first person to ever touch anything in his brother’s area since his passing. How fitting, he thought, as he stared down at the drawing of Cara.
“He was one talented son of a bitch.” Luke heard Pete say from behind and quickly placed the sketch back in its rightful spot. “I still can remember how he pleaded with me to make sure when I inked him I captured her just as he drew her.”
Luke turned around to face Pete, who stood just outside of the cubicle. “My brother was a perfectionist when it came to his work.”
Pete nodded in agreement as Luke stepped out of Jake’s station and they walked towards the lounge area in the front of the shop. There was no office in the shop because there was no need for formalities Jake had figured. They each took a seat on the black leather couches.
“We had a decent week.” Pete said, handing Luke a manila envelope. “The spreadsheets are all in there, along with the credit card receipts.” He handed him another envelope. “There should be two thousand there. Everyone’s been paid but there are a few bills that came in, those are in the manila envelope.” Pete said as he leaned back against the sofa, his tattooed arms sprawling out along the back of the couch.
Luke placed the envelopes on top of one another and then looked up at him. “So everything’s good.”
“Yeah, we’re all good.” Pete paused and then ran one of his hands along his shaved head. “There’s just one thing.”
Luke arched an eyebrow and peered at Pete.
“I fired Spike.” Pete said flatly and waited for Luke to respond.
Luke drew his eyebrows together as he tried to put a face to the name. “The guy who does the piercings?” Pete nodded. “What did he do?”
Pete blew out a breath and leaned forward as he looked across at Luke. “He’s been selling pills and I’m not a hundred percent certain but he could’ve been selling them out of here a few times.” He paused and let Luke digest his news then continued cautiously. “To Cara.”
Luke tore his eyes away from Pete and looked down at the floor. “He was selling pills to Cara?”
“She came here a few times. She wasn’t herself man, she was strung out on something.” Pete said remorsefully. “Spike has been dealing for a few months now. He calls himself the Street Pharmacist so my guess is she’s killing the pain with prescription pills. Last night she came in here like a bat out of hell and went straight towards him. I was inking someone so I couldn’t just stop but I saw the exchange and by the time I was able to check out what was going on, she had already left out the back door.”
Luke swiped his hands down his face and let out a breath. Cara was spiraling out of control and he blamed himself. He blamed himself because he knew about this for months and it was still going on, and now it was probably worse. He should’ve put an end to it already; he vowed to himself right then and there, that he would now. It didn’t matter what it took, he wouldn’t fail her or his brother even though he felt as if he already had failed his brother in more ways than one.
“I’m sorry Luke. I didn’t know what else to do. I had to tell someone, she needs to get help.”
Luke looked up at Pete and shook his head.
“No you did the right thing.” He sighed heavily. “I know she needs help.” He looked at Pete evenly. “I’ll do everything I can to make sure she gets it.” He slapped his palms against his knees before he stood to his full height and leaned down to grab the envelopes. He held them up to Pete. “Thank you.”
Pete nodded and stood as well. “No problem man.” He followed Luke towards the door. “When are you going to let me finish your piece?” He asked him.
Luke looked down at his arms and stretched them out before turning them slightly. His inner right forearm had the outline of a warrior with wings symbolizing Jake’s fall from the greatest battle of his life. Pete still had to shade it in. His left forearm had his daughters name scripted across it, Ava Rose, which was complete. He glanced up at Pete. “I’ll be in touch maybe next week.”
“Sounds good. Oh, and good luck with the Cara situation.” Pete said as Luke waved a hand above his head and walked out of Riverdale Ink. He was going to need a miracle not luck, he thought as he made his way to his truck. He pulled his phone out of his pocket to call her. The date stared back at him and he froze in his tracks. Today was the day she was supposed to marry Jake. He threw his phone onto the seat of his truck and slammed his palm against the roof trying to figure out what he should do. It was no use, he was fucked.
* * * * * *
Cara Sloane made her way up the steep green grassy hill in the cemetery. Her feet walked robotically up the incline to the willow tree that sat perched on top of the hill. The two most important people in Cara’s life now rested eternally a couple of yards away from one another. Her mother who had died when she was just a teenager and the only man she ever loved. The man she was supposed to marry on this day.
Jake Lanza had become her whole life. Still she wondered how she never noticed all those years they had been best friends, that, she had been in love with him. That was just another regret to tack onto the list. Had she not been too frightened to take that leap and let him know she wanted more than to be just his friend, they would’ve had more time. She could have been standing in front of his headstone as his wife and not just his fiancée that held him as he left this world.
Cara stared at the headstone with bloodshot eyes. It still felt surreal to her that he was gone, and all that was left was the stone in front of her.
“Today should’ve been the happiest day of our lives.” She said flatly. “Instead I’m talking to your tombstone, wondering for the love of God, why I am still here?” She looked up at the clear sky. She had never questioned death when her mother had passed, but now it was all she could do. “I know you’re at peace and I should be thankful for that, but I can’t be. I never realized what a selfish person I was. You were suffering and all I could do was keep praying that you wouldn't leave me."
She paused for a moment then glanced back at Jake’s headstone and lifted her bare left hand. “I’m not wearing your ring anymore. Your sister and Nick are engaged. They’re really going to get married; you always said they belonged together.” She frowned and let her hand fall to her side. “I guess seeing them so happy and on the brink of a wedding made me feel a little ridiculous. Sam’s wearing a ring that is full of promise and represents the future, when all mine did was represent the past and something that will never be. I will never be your wife.”
She let out a shaky breath that she seemed to be holding in. “I guess that’s what it meant all those times I dreamt of myself getting married. In my dreams I never saw who I was marrying; there was no one there waiting for me at the altar.”
She kneeled before his head stone, not caring that the ground was moist and her jeans would surely stain. She reached into her pocket book and pulled out a black leather bound journal. Her fingertips grazed the cover before she averted her eyes back to his stone.
“I found your journal.” She said her voice hoarse and full of emotion as she tapped the cover of the book she held in her trembling hands. “There must be something wrong with me because every page made me madder and madder.” She closed her eyes and shook her head slightly. “I’m so mad at you, because each letter is a goodbye. You knew we weren’t going to get married.” She opened her eyes and the tears slipped from the corners as she did so. She lifted the book to the stone as if he could see it. “It’s all right here in your own words. You expect me to move on with my life when all I can think about is how angry I am that you knew you would leave me. You said your goodbyes while all I got to do was watch you die.”
She wiped her tears away with the back of her hand before she slipped the book back into her bag. “Well now wherever you are it’s your turn to watch.” She straightened her posture and stared at his name. “You can watch me exist...” She wouldn’t dare say live, because she knew that was anything but what she was doing. No, exist was the better choice of word. She stood up and brushed the fresh grass clippings off of her jeans. “…Until I don’t anymore.” The last part of her sentence came out in a harsh strangled whisper. She sniffled before leaning down to press her lips against the cold headstone. Her warm lips full of life against the slab of stone only reinforcing the fact that she was alone. She stood straight and reached into her purse to pull out the orange prescription bottle that was her salvation. She unscrewed the cap and threw her head back as she shook the pills into her mouth. She closed her eyes as she swallowed the pills. Her eyes slowly fluttered open and she turned on her heel without another glance towards Jake’s tombstone.
Her phone rang as she made her way back down the hill. She reached into her purse and pulled out the phone. She cringed when she saw it was Luke who was calling her. She declined the call just as she did every Friday. He’d leave a voice mail telling her he deposited the profits of Riverdale Ink into her checking account. He’d end the call with “I hope you’re okay, please call me back.” She had the whole voicemail down pat. Too bad she never called him back.
* * * * * *
“Goddamn it!” Luke said as he threw his phone across the office and slammed his fist against the desk. He ran his hand threw his hair and cupped the back of his neck in frustration.
“What the hell is with you?” Nick asked standing in the doorway of the office they shared. He took a step inside and picked up the phone Luke had thrown, examining it before handing it back to him.
Luke took the phone and let out a breath before shaking his head. “It’s nothing.”
Nick crossed his arms against his chest and cocked an eyebrow at him, calling bullshit. Luke rolled his eyes at his friend before shoving the phone into his back pocket.
“I’m just stressed out.”
“You’re throwing shit and slamming your fist.” Nick said observantly.
“Yeah and? We all deal with stress differently.” He turned around and began to shove some order forms for parts around. “Did the transmission come in for the Chevy?”
“Yes and it’s installed.” Nick peered at him. “Are you trying to blame this place on your stress?”
Luke looked up and shot Nick a look. “No but at the current moment you seem to be raising my stress level.”
“Yeah you’re blood pressure is probably high too.” He said as he motioned to his own forehead. “You have veins popping out all up in this area.” Then he crossed his arms again and cocked his head to the side. “You might want to get that checked out.”
“Are you finished?” Luke asked as his patience wore thin.
“I’m not sure.” Nick said and then sat down in the chair in front of the desk. “Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on with you? If not I can keep going…”
“When did you become so annoying?” Luke asked before sliding into the chair behind the desk. His shoulders slumped in defeat. He sighed heavily and glanced over to his friend. “I’m worried about Cara.”
“Ah hah…and there it is.” Nick said leaning forward and holding Luke’s gaze.
“Today is the day she and Jake were supposed to get married.” Luke felt his hands clench into fists beside him. The significance of the day coupled with not hearing from her, had him on edge. He couldn’t shake the feeling in his gut that was telling him that she needed him. “I can’t get a hold of her.”
“She probably wants to be alone.” Nick offered. “She seemed fine when we went to dinner a couple of weeks ago.”
Luke nodded absentmindedly. She wasn’t fine that night either, sure he was able to catch a glimpse of the Cara he once knew, but she disappeared quickly as the night progressed. He saw the change in her after Nick and Sam had asked them to stand up for them at their wedding. He should’ve known today was going to be hard on her. He should’ve planned a way to help her get through it. He kicked himself, as he thought of all the places he could’ve whisked her away to, so she could forget. Luke could’ve been the one to make things okay for her today. It could’ve been him who made her forget the pain and not the pills but instead he was sitting here feeling like helpless fool.
“You can’t keep beating yourself up. I know you made a promise, but sometimes things are just out of our control.” Nick said breaking Luke from his train of thought.
Luke’s eyes met Nick’s and he shook his head slightly. “I won’t give up…not on her.” He glanced at the clock and pushed out of his chair. “I’m heading out.”
Nick’s eyes widened but he didn’t say a word as he watched Luke walk out of the office.
* * * * * *
Later that night Luke was sitting across the kitchen table from Ava, sharing a pizza. Only the slice that sat in his dish was barely touched. He managed to smile though when he stared across at his daughter who was licking the sauce off her thumb.
“You love pizza.” He told her as he handed her a napkin.
“Yep! It’s my favorite.” She said before she took another big bite. He laughed and folded his slice before taking a bite. He watched her enjoy her dinner and knew that Fridays were just as much her favorite night of the week as it was his.
“I bet they don’t have pizza at Melanie’s birthday party.” She said before taking another bite.
Luke’s eyebrows furrowed at her comment. “Was Melanie’s birthday party today?” She nodded as she chewed. “Well, how come you didn’t tell me?” He put his pizza down and looked at his daughter with concerned eyes, praying she hadn’t told him and he forgot.
She shrugged her shoulders. “Because Friday night is our night and besides it was a spa party and all the other girls moms were going.” She looked up at her dad. “Can I have another slice of pizza?”
Luke swiped his hands over his face before he placed another slice in her dish. He looked at her for a moment trying to get his words right. “It would’ve been okay if you wanted to go to Melanie’s birthday party. We could’ve had our pizza date another night.”
“But then what would you have done? Eat pizza by yourself?” She stared down at the slice he had just put into her dish. “That isn’t nice.” She glanced up her blue eyes meeting his.
He smiled at her as he pushed out his chair and patted his lap. “C’mere.” She slid off her chair and walked around the table jumping into her father’s waiting arms. Luke placed a kiss on her forehead. “I love you, Ava, more than anything in this whole world.” He said as he tucked some of her hair behind her ears. “I don’t want you to worry about me. You’re a kid you shouldn’t be worrying about anything. I want you to have fun and always smile.” He paused for a moment. “You could’ve told me about Melanie’s birthday party and we could’ve asked Aunt Sam to go with you. She loves spas and parties.” He winked at his little girl.
Ava looked up at her dad and she sucked in her bottom lip before she spoke. “Is it too late to go now?”
Luke glanced at the clock and then back towards Ava. “I tell you what. I’ll call Melanie’s mom and tell her you would like to go to the party but the party will probably be over before Aunt Sam gets dressed and ready to take you. I can go with you if you’d like.”
Ava’s eyes widened and she wrapped her arms around Luke’s neck. “Dad, I love you but I can’t take you to a spa party.” She kissed his cheek. “It’s okay I can go by myself.”
Luke smiled at her and lifted her off his lap, settling her down on her own feet, before standing himself. “Okay then. Go get ready while I call Melanie’s mom.”
“Thanks daddy! You’re the best.” She said in a singing tone as she hurried out of the kitchen.
* * * * * *
The Emergency Room was bustling and Leah felt as if she had been on the clock for two days straight. She placed the last chart on top of the nurse’s station and was just about to remove her stethoscope and call it a night when the head of the E.R. called over to her.
“Leah we have a trauma coming in.” The doctor called. Leah took a deep breath so much for going home and raiding her stock of ice cream. She ran to the door beside the doctor as the E.M.T.’s wheeled a patient on a stretcher.
“What do we got here?” asked the doctor beside Leah.
“Female Caucasian. Twenty-nine years old. Breathing on her own but unconscious. She may be bleeding internally. She was the driver of the vehicle you might want to do a toxicology report.”
Leah stared down at the female body that was bruised and battered. She gasped when her eyes landed on her face. Cara laid on the gurney unresponsive. Her head was cradled by a brace and she was bleeding from her temple.
“Leah can you grab her identification and see if you can contact a next of kin.” The doctor ordered, forcing her out of her trance. She watched as a team of doctors wheeled her into the nearest trauma room and began to work on her.
‘Here Miss, this is what we were able to recover from the crash.” An officer said as he held Cara’s pocketbook out towards her. Leah wondered for a moment where he had come from before she took the purse from him. “License says her name is Cara Sloane.”
“Thank you.” She said before she found her footing and made her way to the nurse’s station. She typed in Cara’s name into the registration log and listed as her next of kin was Jake Lanza. Leah closed her eyes of course Jake would be her emergency contact person. She picked up the phone and as much as she hated the position she was in, she dialed the one person who came to her mind. Luke hadn’t really left her mind since the night she called him out on having feelings for Cara. The moment the words had escaped her mouth she had regretted it and now she was about to call him and tell him Cara needed him. He’d come running of course, because as much as she regretted accusing him of caring for Cara, she knew it was undeniably true, even if he didn’t realize it.
“Hello?” Luke’s familiar voice spoke into the phone.
“Luke, its Leah.” She said with a hoarse voice and cleared her throat before she began again. “Cara was in a car accident. They just brought her into the E.R. and Jake was her emergency contact…”
“I’m on my way…” He said exasperated and then the line went dead.