The colors and sights of the club merge. There’s too many people. Too much noise. A few feet away a trio of girls from school are staring at me—watching me and Kyle. One gestures toward me. The other two laugh.

Nausea knots my intestines. I didn’t mean to be the girl people laughed at. In fact, I craved the opposite. I wanted to be me for once, but to be me without the judgment and hate.

Wetness stings my eyes and I pivot away from Kyle. His fingers circle my wrist and he slides in front of me again. “Don’t be upset. I can make this better. For one year, don’t you want to be someone more than the weird smart girl?”

Sadness sinks past my defenses and creates an ache of pain, but then a flash of anger whips through me like a storm gale through trees. I tilt toward him as if he should be scared of me. “I am not that girl!”

“When did you stop? New clothes don’t change who you are, but I can help.”

He said it. Out loud. My fingers form into a fist. I should hit him. I should throw a punch into his face and hurt him exactly how he’s torturing me.

“Let me get you another drink.” His grip on my wrist lightens and his thumb slowly moves across my pulse point. His touch sickens me. “And we’ll talk.”

“Leave me alone.”

Kyle releases me, then sags like I crushed him and I find him confusing. He’s the one causing me to suffer. He’s the one causing the tears flooding the rim of my eyes.

“I’m not trying to make you cry.” He crams his fingers into his hair. “I’m saying this wrong. Doing this wrong. I swear, I’m not trying to make you cry.”

I’m terrified to peek across the room again—afraid the girls from school will be cackling like hyenas. I desperately try to cling to the anger, but it slips through my fingertips.


I turn and there’s Addison. The elation that was on her face wanes as her eyes crazily take me in. “What happened?”

“Nothing.” My lungs burn and I want so badly to curl into a ball and cry, but I can’t. Not in public. Not with everyone gawking.

When she spots Kyle, she rolls her shoulders back. “What did he do?”

“Nothing,” I say, and I’m moving. Through the crowd. Past guys who ask me to dance. Past Reagan, who’s all smiles and tries to snatch my hand to join her and another friend. Past tables and chairs. I run past my name being called by multiple people.

I need air. I need to disappear. I need out of Snowflake and out of my home and out of this life and out of my skin and just out, and with a push of my hands on the door, I am out.

I suck in a breath when my heels click against the blacktop, but then the door bangs shut and my heart jumps. No, I went out a side door. Not the front door. I spin and my fingers graze the smooth steel where a handle should be. It’s a security door and I’m officially locked out.

“Crap!” I shout into the night, but no one is around to hear.

To the right is a Dumpster. To the left is another alley. Both are shadowed. I choose left and pray once I reach the corner there will be light. But as I go to walk, the world becomes disoriented. I throw my hand out to the wall when stumbling seems easier.

“Alone again?”

My head snaps back to the entrance and a surge of adrenaline shoots through my veins. Emerging out of the darkness is a large, looming figure. I stagger back. Away from the night of the alley, toward my hope for light, but there’s a crunch of glass under my feet. I trip, my ankle twists and a spasm blasts from my foot up to my leg.

My already bad balance is completely thrown. My arms flail, there’s a pain near my elbow as it connects with the brick and my body topples back.

I close my eyes, bracing for the impact of the ground, but as fast as I was falling, I hit something and then I’m ascending. My eyes fly open and I’m greeted by the most beautiful blue eyes. But then I shiver. Those eyes are as frozen as ice.

“You have the worst luck,” he says.

It’s Razor and he’s cradling me in his arms. As my skin vibrates, there’s a part of me that agrees with his assessment. But a small dissenting voice wonders if, in this moment, I’m lucky.


TEAR TRACKS MARK Breanna’s face and mascara smudges near her eyes. The sight of her unhappy tugs at my soul. She’s light in my arms and her hands clasp around my neck. She grabbed for me as I caught her. By the shock on her face, she has no idea how her fingers have started to play with the ends of my hair near the base of my neck.

It’s a tickling sensation and it’s causing me to want to hold Breanna much closer than she already is. “Are you okay?”

Breanna nods, but the answer is no. She’s crying, she ran out of the club and she’s in an alley alone with me. No part of that equation adds up to okay, but girls never make sense.

“I tripped,” she admits. “You scared me and I tripped.”

“Sorry,” I say, and I mean it. “Let me get you over the glass.”

She glances around, then trembles. Someone lost their mind in the alley and smashed entire cases of bottled beer along the walls and concrete.

“Wow.” She cuddles into me.

“Yeah.” The broken glass isn’t by happenstance. It’s the reason I tried to warn Breanna from coming here. New school year also means a new class of Army recruits. Drunk Army boys on a high after kicking another guy’s ass doesn’t spell a good night for a high school girl.

The glass crunches under my boots and her arms wind tighter around my neck as I guess she’s noticing the blood trails along the wall and ground.

Most Popular