An action-packed, edge-of-your-seat novel about a teen who, when backed into a corner, fights back, from the author of What Waits in the Woods
Kaia has been on the run her whole life. The daughter of professional assassins, she knows danger—and she’ll do anything to survive. After her parents vanished during a job gone bad, Kaia’s spent the last year in hiding, trying to blend in as an ordinary teenager, and there’s no one who makes her feel more normal, more special, than her boyfriend, Oliver.
But when she’s attacked by someone from her mother’s past and Oliver catches her fighting back, Kaia’s secret is exposed. In a split-second decision, she flees the small town, taking Oliver with her. Stalked at every turn, Oliver and Kaia must protect each other…or die trying.
KIERAN SCOTT is the author of several acclaimed young adult novels, including the Non-Blonde Cheerleader trilogy, the He’s So/She’s So trilogy, and Geek Magnet. She also wrote the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Private and Privilege series under the pen name Kate Brian. She is a senior editor at Disney/Hyperion and resides in New Jersey with her family. Visit kieranscott.net.
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“How did you find me?”
His thin lips curled into a sneer. “Word is out, liebling. You should thank me because I’m going to make your death nice and quick. Others will be coming for you and they won’t be as kind as I intend to be.”
Others? The very word sent a spiral of fear down my spine.
“What did you do to Henry and Bess?” I demanded.
Slowly, the visitor walked past me, slipping the side of his knife across the placket of his gray pinstriped jacket over and over again. My blood left tiny red hash marks in the fabric. He came to a stop behind my chair.
“To who? Those trolls you call protectors? I’m sure they’ll find their bodies before the end of the month.”
A real sob welled in my throat. “You sonofa—”
He grabbed me by the hair. Before he could bring the knife to my neck, I drew my arms forward, then yanked my elbows back as hard as I could into his gut. His knife hit the floorboards as he doubled over and I kicked it away. He was as good as dead, but knives were not my style. I was a gun girl, born and raised. I yanked the shotgun off the mantle—the one Henry had told me he always kept loaded in case of emergency—turned around, and whacked the guy across the chin with the side of the stock so hard even I saw stars. I was going to have to thank Bess for making me keep up the kickboxing training—for keeping me strong. If I ever saw her again.
Please let this guy be lying about what he’s done to them. Henry and Bess had become my family over the last year and a half. They were the only family I had left. I couldn’t lose anyone else. I just couldn’t.
The impact from my blow had laid the German out, and I brought my foot down on his neck, choking off his air supply.
Shotguns leave a serious mess, and they can be painful as hell to fire, but you can load the shell from the magazine into the chamber with one hand. Click clack. It’s pretty badass. I aimed the gun at his face and looked down the sightline at the man’s quivering, bloody upper lip.
“Please, kid,” he rasped. “Please. I’m only doing my job.”
“Not anymore,” I said.
But then I started to sweat. My throat tightened, and my vision went fuzzy. I didn’t want to do this. Not really. Not again. But I had to. If I didn’t kill him, he was most definitely going to kill me.
I had this sudden, vivid memory of my uncle Marco frying ants with a magnifying glass when I was about five. When I’d burst into tears, he’d looked over his shoulder at me, his glass eye glinting, and sneered. “Survival of the fittest, baby.”
“Please kid,” the guy choked out now. “Please.”
I clenched my teeth. My finger twitched on the trigger. Before I ended him, I needed to ask him who’d sent him here. It was what my parents would have done.
I blinked. The screen door creaked open, and Oliver was there, staring. Oliver Lange. My boyfriend. His unruly blond curls were slicked back with water from his postpractice shower, and his solid soccer bod practically filled the doorway. Oliver was the love of my life. The only person left on this godforsaken earth who gave two shits about me.
“What’re you doing?”
He looked, understandably, like he was about to throw up, and suddenly I was reliving, in vivid detail, the day just over a year ago when Oliver and I had met. I’d dropped my books all over the floor in front of my locker when Oliver’s soccer ball had hit my shoulder—an accident that felt like the icing on the crapcake that was my life. It was my second week at South Charleston High School—the first normal school I’d ever been to, and hardly anyone had said a word to me. I’d spent every night for three months not sleeping, searching the internet for any sign of my parents, waiting for a text or a call or an email, and afraid of the nightmares I had whenever I closed my eyes. I was so exhausted that when my books hit the floor, I’d almost lost it. Yes, I’d almost cried over spilled books.
But then Oliver was there, helping to gather up my things, looking directly into my eyes. And unbelievably, what I’d seen there was understanding.
“Hey,” he said. “It’s gonna be okay.”
“Is it?” I asked.
“I’m Oliver,” he said.
“I’m Kaia,” I replied.
He offered his hand to shake, and when our fingers touched, I knew nothing would ever be the same.
“Kaia?” Oliver said again in the here. In the now.
Behind him, a black SUV careened around the corner into view. No plates. It didn’t belong here. We were about to have more company. And Oliver was in their line of fire.
No. Hot desperation welled inside my chest. Not Oliver.
He was everything good and pure in this world. Broken, yes. But to me that made him all the more perfect. And he loved me. Almost every single detail I’d told him about myself had been a lie, except for the fact that I loved him too. That was 100 percent true. And I wasn’t about to let him die.
I flipped the gun around, brought the butt down in the center of Picklebreath’s forehead, and snatched my canvas backpack from the floor. My eyes lit on the German’s duffel, tossed carelessly next to the front entry.
“Grab his bag,” I ordered Oliver.
I groaned, leaned past him, and picked it up myself. Brakes squealed outside.
“Get inside!” I shouted to Oliver as I grabbed his arm and dragged him into the house.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Oliver, I swear I will explain everything!” I shoved him ahead of me, through the kitchen toward the back door. There was blood all over the floor—Betty and Henry’s blood—and he slipped in it as he reached for the handle. I swallowed hard and held my breath to keep from throwing up. Outside, a second set of brakes screeched, and a car door popped, then another, then another. “Please! Just run!”