I believed they were stories until now. What else would explain the cold chill slithering down my back?

“In case you’re wondering,” he says, “I have a plan in place if Razor touches me, or if I go missing or end up dead. That picture will still be posted on Bragger and then a letter from me will be sent to the police and you will be arrested for being an accomplice in my murder.”

Talk about being dramatic. “Razor isn’t going to kill you.”

“You spend ten minutes alone with the most psychotic member of the Terror and you think you have them figured out? You heard about the Terror shooting in Louisville this summer, right? I’m sure you’ve also heard about how Razor was seen tearing through town a few days ago chasing after the rival gang involved in that shooting.”

A sickening sensation causes a cold sweat to break out on my palms. No, I hadn’t heard that. Being around Razor, talking with him, listening to him...it makes it easy to forget there are some rumors that are true—that the Reign of Terror are dangerous.

“I’m saving you by telling you to stay away. Remember Mia Ziggler? She trusted the Terror and no one’s heard from her since. I’m doing you a favor.”

“He’s not the one blackmailing me.”

“I’m not blackmailing you,” he says in a clipped tone. “We made an agreement. You write my papers, I’ll help you make this a great senior year, and I’ve already started on my part. Our problem is that I had no idea Razor would be pissed. The way the Terror runs through girls, I had bet he would’ve forgotten when that picture was taken and who he was with.”

It’s like he socked me in my stomach and I wince with the verbal impact.

Kyle eyes my reaction. “Did you think you were special with him on Friday night? I’ve seen this guy and his buddies work. Girls are like running faucets for them.”

A stupid part of me did feel special with Razor. Special in how he listened, special in the way he touched and treated me. A lump forms in my throat. I threw myself at him, and the boy who goes through girls like toilet paper rejected me. Like Kyle, Razor’s sole interest in me is for my brain. “The lies on Bragger, that’s from you, isn’t it?”


“I may have said a few things. Explained how Razor was bothering you and I was helping you out. The story took off from there. Consider it my gift to you for writing my papers.”

“Everyone is focused on me and him. That doesn’t feel like help. That feels like a threat.”

“I’m reminding you to stay away from Razor and I will continue to remind you of that every time I see you together. I am not the asshole here. He’s the threat, not me!”

“Keep telling yourself that.”

“That’s not true!” Kyle rams his fist into the cinder-block wall. I stagger back, a scream teetering on the tip of my tongue. He turns his back to me and paces like he’s a caged tiger.

I should run. I should race down the stairs and out the building shouting “fire” the entire way, but it won’t solve my problem with Kyle. I’m trapped in this inferno.

Kyle shakes out his arms and it’s scary how fast he calms down. “Everyone thought of you as the freak, shy girl. Now you’re the girl I stuck up for. I already had two guys on the football team asking if I bagged you this summer because I stood up for you, and I told them no—that you weren’t that type of girl, that you were the type worth dating.”

“Am I supposed to thank you?” I clutch my folders tighter to my chest.

He gives me a “duh” expression. “Yeah. I built you up to them. Those two guys are thinking differently of you and it’s not as the school freak or the easy lay. They’re looking at you as the girl to take home to Mom.”

“Is that how it works?” Disgust swims through me. “Some closed-door boys’ club in a locker room and a girl’s reputation is forever set?”

Kyle shrugs. “I didn’t make the rules, I just play along.”

“You’re a pig.”

“I’m a pig that’s going to help get you on homecoming court if that’s what you want, or a date with one of my buddies. A real date. Flowers. Dinner. Respect. Stop being so negative and start looking at what we can do for each other. I have a paper due this semester on some book. 1980 something by George somebody.”

“Orwell. George Orwell and it’s 1984.” I roll my neck to stop the flood of information on him, like how he also wrote Animal Farm and he was born on June 25, 1903, and...

“Yeah, him.” Kyle interrupts my crazy train of thought. “Five pages. Double spaced. One-inch margins and, I’ve been thinking, you should throw in a few grammatical errors. If it’s too good, my teacher may not believe I wrote it.”

“If you’re that concerned, maybe you should write it yourself.”

“Could, but I’m not. Look, the rules of this game are easy—write my papers, stay away from the Terror and tell me what you want from this arrangement. As I said, it’ll be easier on both of us if we don’t consider this blackmail, but an agreement.”

The bells rings, and my head starts to throb. I don’t answer him because there is absolutely nothing he has that I could ever want—besides that picture banned from the universe. I pivot and slowly walk to my classroom. It’s hard to breathe as the walls close in.


THE BRAGGER MESSAGES are like taunts from a drunken frat boy begging to be punched:

Jenny @cutekitten · 30 s

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