Sinful Like Us (Like Us, #5)

Sinful Like Us (Like Us, #5)

Krista Ritchie


Nearly 1 Year Ago


Late in the quiet night of the lake house, I’m curled up on a leather sofa. Eyes raw from crying, pastel purple stationery paper lies on my lap, and I lift my ballpoint pen off inked words, my stomach sunk low.

I stare faraway at my messy scrawl. “This isn’t the end,” I whisper, grabbing at any leftover optimism.

I’m all alone and talking to myself. It’s certain then: happy or sad, I can’t shut up.

My cousins, brothers, and bodyguards are in their bedrooms for the night—while I’m in the living room, staying warm in flannel pajamas beside a lit fireplace.

I don’t love the solitary quiet, but the crackle of flames fills the silence a little. Light flickers against the dark walls, and I blow out a breath. “Come on, Jane.”

My heart has been broken. Just recently.

Torn to bleeding shreds, and I’m trying not to sit with these painful feelings. “You can withstand anything,” I murmur. “You’re a Cobalt.” A lump lodges in my throat, and I bite the inside of my mouth to quell emotion—emotion that pierces all the armor I’ve ever built.

I’m not sure I want to be a Cobalt these days, and even the thought feels sacrilege. My family is my everything.

But I never prepared to be hurt by the people I love. By two Cobalts. By my parents.

Aren’t they supposed to believe me and trust me? When I’ve done nothing devious in my life to elicit their doubt. Yet, they’re the ones who believed I could be in a forbidden relationship with my best friend.

Oh, and that best friend—he happens to be my cousin.

It’s unthinkable. Never in my life have I ever even imagined…

My face starts to twist in a cringe and then morphs into a grimace as I remember how my parents will be at the lake house tomorrow. I’ll have to confront them face-to-face then.

I can’t say that I’m ready. Not when I’m wallowing. More pitifully than I like.

I sigh at myself. Where is the fierce roar of a lion? “Where are the claws?” I mutter and tuck a piece of wavy hair behind my ear.

God, I feel kicked down and meek. As the firstborn Cobalt, I’m supposed to be the fiercest, the most vicious and courageous of them all.

Not a puddle that people can splash in.

My voice falls to a softer whisper. “Buck up.” Soon, I’ll be on a tour bus and on the path to rebuilding my tarnished friendship with Moffy.

I nod. We’ll be okay.

It’s the bright side of an awful December. I take another breath and focus more on the stationery paper.

My fingers brush along my handwriting, a few words scribbled at the top:

For Thatcher Moretti.

I continue writing out a list.

- I prefer that you ride in my car with me. You don’t need to follow in a security vehicle.

- Fans can approach, but if you feel they’re possible threats, please don’t let them near me.

- I talk a lot. (If I bother you, please let me know.)

I spend a few more minutes making notes for my brand-new bodyguard, and I end with just three words.

I write: keep me safe.

Once I pick my pen off the paper, I look around. Half expecting one of my cats to keep me company. They’re not here at the lake house in the Smoky Mountains.

I really don’t love being alone, and these rumors have wedged something between me and Moffy. Pushing him further out to sea while I’m standing on a lonely island.

I take an umpteenth breath and pull out my phone. Without second thought, I text my new bodyguard: I have the list you asked for. We can go over it now if you’re still awake. I’m in the living room.

It’s late and it’s highly likely he’s fast asleep. But as I lower my phone to my lap, a message lights up the screen.

I’ll be down in a minute. – Thatcher

A small smile tries to tug my lips. Thatcher coming at my call is new to me. Lately, and very slowly, it’s been dawning on me that he’s been transferred to my detail.

Just temporarily.

He’s considered my secondary bodyguard, you see. Quinn Oliveira, the youngest SFO bodyguard, is still on my detail. I’ll have two men protecting me during the charity FanCon.

I look up as floorboards creak.

Thatcher walks across the third-floor balcony towards the stairs, moving with grave authority. A sort of domineering confidence. Like he’s on a single life-or-death mission. It lures me in for a much longer moment, an even longer minute, reminding me that he’s a leader among security, and this is the first time I’ve ever been protected by a lead.

His shoulders are bound strictly, a radio in his fist, and his serious gaze sweeps the living room—he sweeps me.

He zones in on my eyes, which must be red and bloodshot I’m guessing. Mostly because he lingers on my gaze for quite a while. At the same time, he’s hiking down the steps.

And he nears me.

I leave my notes on the couch and rise to my feet. I plan to extend a hand in greeting, but his sheer imposing height seizes my attention.


My eyes slowly widen.

He’s an archangel. Sent to protect me. And I doubt it’ll be the first time I think it—because, dear God, the analogy fits.

I lift my chin to meet his gaze, my hands naturally perching on my wide hips. “We’ve obviously met many times before,” I say aloud.

He nods. “Yeah. We have.” The corner of his lip almost lifts, I think, but then he rubs his mouth. Not much else passes through his stoic features. He attaches his radio to the waistband of his black slacks, also dressed in a black button-down while I’m in pajamas. “But this is different.”

My brows jump. “How so?”

He rakes a firm hand through his brown disheveled hair, longer pieces curled under his ears. “I’m here to protect you, Jane. You’re my first priority now.”

“Even though you’re a lead?”

“Even though I’m a lead,” he confirms. “Your safety is what matters most to me.” He holds my gaze.

I don’t want to look away. I lean closer, even.

He asks, “Do you prefer I call you Jane?”

“I do,” I say softly, entranced by him. Thatcher might be hard to decipher, but I realize that I’m finding his strong presence extraordinarily comforting. His whole protective demeanor envelops the room and wraps around me—as though silently commanding: I am here for you.

Warmth spreads through my limbs, and I could bask in this safe feeling for eons of time. Maybe that’s why I keep my eyes on his eyes, even as my neck aches.

“And I should call you Thatcher?” I make sure since I’ve called him Mr. Moretti before (I was a little drunk) and he said, Thatcher is fine.

He nods. “Thatcher works. Unless you feel more comfortable calling me something else.”

“No,” I say quickly. “I like your name. It’s unique to you. I don’t know any other Thatchers.” We’re still staring intently at each other, and I can’t tell if he’s reading into my bloodshot eyes. Knowing that I’ve been crying.

“I don’t know any other Janes,” he admits.

I nearly smile. “I always thought Jane was a common name. There were five in my grade in high school. But most people just referred to me by my full name anyway.” I rock forward on my feet. “I was the Jane Cobalt. Still am, I suppose.” I think of my family.

I think of my mom and dad, and a frown drops my lips.

My eyes burn.

Thatcher never breaks my gaze. “Look, it might not be my place to say something, but you should just know that you’ll get through this.”

I clutch the comfort in his eyes. Earlier today, Thatcher told most everyone here that he knows what these kinds of accusations feel like. So I say, “As a twin, you said you’ve received rude questions before?”

“Yeah. That and more.” He weaves his arms over his chest. “Guys in high school used to say that my brother and I did some…things together for fun.”


I assume it verges on incestuous things, which is why he can relate to me now. I do wonder if he’s censoring himself to remain professional or because the past is hard to talk about. Either way, I won’t pry.

I tilt my head. “Did it change your relationship with your brother?”

He’s nodding.

And my hands fall off my hips, and my heart plummets. It’s what I feared. That this rumor will forever destroy my relationship with Moffy.

“It made us closer,” Thatcher says. “We got stronger.”


I inhale. “I want that so terribly for Moffy and me.” I stare off at the burning fireplace logs. “I think our odds are 50-50.”

His brows draw together. It takes him a second to ask. “You’re that unsure?”

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