Authors: Penelope Douglas
Published by Piatkus
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Penelope Douglas
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
© 2014 by Penelope Douglas
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
Music inspires the development of my characters and inspires my scenes. Enjoy!
“Far from Home”
Five Finger Death Punch
“All I Want Is You”
“Why Don’t You Get a Job?”
“All I Need”
“What I Got”
In This Moment
A Great Big World
“You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid”
“Inside the Fire”
Smile Empty Soul
Guns N’ Roses
This novel is dedicated to my husband. Honey, I know life without me would be unbearable, but life without you would be unbearable AND boring.
To Hubs . . .
There are so many things throughout the years,
Things you have done that have brought me to tears.
You refuse to replace the empty toilet paper roll,
Or to load the dishwasher with your messy ice-cream bowl.
I pick up your socks, and you never have to vacuum,
And I toss your empty Coke cans, which you leave in every room.
But then I think of all the wonderful things that you do,
Like stocking the zombie weaponry with guns that are new.
We have machetes, daggers, water purifiers, and radios,
And the zombies will never get our stash of SpaghettiOs.
Your skill with back rubs and burgers is no small feat,
And I love that Zebra Cakes are your favorite treat.
You put up with my drama and inappropriate humor,
And I know you wish my
obsession was just a rumor.
I promise to always untie you as soon as I’m through,
Because, baby, there’s no one in the world as loving as
To my husband, who is my biggest supporter and always takes care of me. He is my partner and brightens my day with his wonderful sense of humor.
To my friends Bekke, Marilyn, Tee Tate, Ing, and Lisa—you have been constantly supportive with advice, feedback, words of encouragement, and humor. Thank you for sticking by my side.
To my agent, Jane Dystel—thank you for always being available and working so hard for me. You’re the only person who asks if I’m eating or sleeping enough, and I love how you look out for me.
To my editor, Kerry Donovan—you have been great holding my hand and making me happy during this new adventure. I am so grateful to have someone easy to talk to that cares as much about the characters as I do.
To all of the bloggers, reviewers, and readers—what a crazy ride we’ve had together, and it’s not over yet! With your love and support, I’ve been able to devote myself to writing and am so incredibly happy to be able to do this every day! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your positive comments, reviews, and promotion. You have honored me, and I hope that I continue to write stories you
here were people I liked and people I didn’t like. People I loved and people I hated.
But there was only one person I loved to hate.
“Why are you doing this?” I heard a whiny female voice ask as I rounded the hall to sophomore P.E.
I immediately halted, locking eyes on a red-faced Tatum Brandt as she faced off with my douchebag stepbrother, Madoc Caruthers, and his friend Jared Trent. They stood in the hallway next to the lockers with flat expressions, looking bored, while she clutched her backpack straps for security.
“You barked at me yesterday,” she continued, pinching her eyebrows together at Jared as Madoc smirked from behind him. “And then all of your friends followed along. It’s been forever, Jared. When are you going to stop? Why are you doing this?”
I sucked in a long breath and completed my usual awesome combination of eye-roll-head-shake.
I really hated turning corners. I hated closed doors. I hated not seeing the path ahead.
Your dad and I are getting divorced.
We’re moving. Again.
I’m getting married. Again.
I don’t really like you or my husband or his son, so I’m going to take fifteen vacations a year by myself!
Okay, my mom never really said that, but I’m damn good at interpreting shit. And corners sucked.
I hung back and stuck my hands into the pockets of my skinny jeans, waiting to see what this girl would do. Would she finally grow some balls, or at least take the little ones these idiots had? I kept hoping she would step up to the challenge, and she always disappointed me.
Tatum Brandt was a wimp.
I didn’t know much about her. Only that everyone called her Tate, except Madoc and Jared; she was a rocker on the outside, but played it safe on the inside; and she was pretty. Like cheerleader pretty.
Long blond hair? Totally.
Big blue eyes? Absolutely.
Long legs, full lips, and big boobs? Even at sixteen.
She was the perfect package, and if I were my stepbrother, I wouldn’t have any problem sticking my tongue into her mouth. Hell, I might do it anyway.
I chewed the corner of my lip, thinking about it. Yeah, I could be a lesbian. Maybe. If I wanted.
No, never mind.
The point is . . . why Madoc and Jared tormented her rather than tried to date her was a mystery to me.
But for some reason I was interested. From the start of freshman year, they had both bullied her. They spread rumors, harassed her, and did everything they could to make her unhappy. They pushed,
and she retreated time and again. It was starting to piss me off so much that I was about to go knock their heads together to defend her.
Except I barely knew her. And Tatum didn’t know me at all. I stayed so far off the radar that sonar couldn’t pick me up.
“Why?” Jared answered her question with a question and jutted into her space with a cocky swagger. “Because you stink, Tatum.” He scrunched up his nose in mock disgust. “You smell . . . like a dog.”
Tate straightened immediately, and the tears in her eyes finally spilled over.
Kick him in the balls, bitch!
Exhaling a furious breath, I pushed my glasses back up the bridge of my nose. It’s what I did before I braced myself.
She shook her head. “You don’t even remember what today is, do you?” She folded her trembling lips between her teeth and looked down at the ground.
And without even seeing her eyes, I knew what was there. Despair. Loss. Loneliness.
Without looking at him again, she turned around and walked off.
It would’ve been easy to hit him. To toss an insult back at him. And while I despised her weakness, I understood one thing that I hadn’t before. Jared was an ass, but he was an ass who could hurt her.
She was in love with him.
Crossing my arms over my chest, I walked over to the lockers where Jared and Madoc stood staring after Tate.
Madoc spoke up behind him. “What did that mean? What’s today?”
Jared shrugged off the question. “I don’t know what she was talking about.”
“It’s April fourteenth,” I piped up over Madoc’s shoulder, causing him to spin around. “That mean anything to you, Shit-for-Brains?” I directed at Jared.
Madoc raised a dark blond eyebrow at me, a hint of a smile in his eyes. Jared twisted his head only enough so that I could see the side of his face.
“April fourteenth?” he whispered and then blinked long and hard. “Shit,” he murmured.
And Madoc reared back a hair as Jared slammed the palm of his hand into the nearest locker door.
“What the hell?” Madoc scowled.
Jared ran his hands down his face and then shook his head. “Nothing. Never mind,” he growled. “I’m going to Geometry.” Stuffing his fists into his pockets, he stalked off down the hall, leaving Madoc and me.
Between my stepbrother and his friend, I respected his friend more. They were both Grade A assholes, but at least Jared didn’t care what people thought of him. He stalked around like a weird cross between a jock and a goth. Popular and foreboding. Dark but extremely coveted.
Madoc, on the other hand, cared what everyone thought. Our parents. The principal. And most of the student body. He loved being loved, and he hated his association with me.
As sophomores they were already starting to wield power that was going to be out of control by the time they reached senior year.
“Wow, your friend is a loser,” I teased, sliding my hands into the back pockets of my jeans.
Madoc zeroed in on me with his playful half-smile and relaxed eyes. “So are your frien—” he started, then stopped. “Oh, that’s right. You don’t have any friends.”
“Don’t need ’em,” I shot back. “I travel faster on my own. I’m going places. You know that.”
“Yeah, you’re going places. Just stop at the dry cleaners on your way, Fallon. I need my shirts picked up.” He smoothed an arrogant
hand over his navy Abercrombie button-down. With his medium-wash boot-cut jeans, black Paracord bracelet, and styled dark blond hair, Madoc dressed to impress. Girls flocked to him because he looked good in clothes, could talk the ears off an elephant, and loved to play. For all intents and purposes, he was a fun guy.
And he always made me feel small.
I talked a lot of shit, but truth be told, it was more for my ears than anyone else’s. Madoc was designer. I was Target. He was Godiva. I was Snickers. And as far as he was concerned, he was entitled, and I was the freeloading daughter of the gold-digging whore who had snagged his father.
Madoc thought I was dirt under his shoe.
I gave his outfit a condescending once-over. “Your shirts—which are super stylish, let me remind you. The gay community would be proud.”
“You could get nice things, too. My dad pays your mom enough for her services, after all.”
“Nice things? Like the miniskirts you date?” I challenged. Time to educate the little shit. “Most guys, Madoc, like something different. You know why you want to see me in ‘nice,’ skimpy things? Because the more I show, the less I’m hiding. I scare you.”
He shook his head. “Nada, little sister.”
Little . . .
I was only two months younger than him. He said shit like that to piss me off.
“I’m not your little sister.” I took a step forward. “And I do have friends. And plenty of guys interested. They like how I look. I don’t subscribe to you and our snotty parents’ stand—”
“Wow, I’m bored,” he cut me off with a sigh. “Your life doesn’t interest me, Fallon. Holiday dinners and once in a while around the house. Those are the only times I want to run in to you.”
I tipped my chin up, trying not to give anything away. It didn’t
hurt. Not his words or his opinion of me. There was no ache in my throat that dropped down into my stomach and twisted the ever-present knots tighter. What he said didn’t matter. I liked who I was. No one told me how to dress, how to behave, what clubs to join . . . I made my own decisions. Madoc was a puppet. A drone.
When I said nothing, he started walking backward away from me. “The parents are out for the night. I’m having a party. Stay out of the way. Maybe hide out in the servants’ quarters where you belong.”
I watched him go, knowing I wouldn’t listen.
I would wish that I had.