Releasing April 12, 2024! Read chapter one of thirty and get ready for Dylan Trent and her adventures on Knock Hill with Farrow Kelly and his crew!

And with someone else she doesn’t expect…


I lock eyes on Aro, willing her not to say it.

“You’re half an hour late,” she tells me.

Yeah, duh.

I cross the parking lot, speed-walking up to her as she waits near one of our school’s rear entrances. The lights from the football stadium brighten the night sky off to my right, and an announcer’s voice booms so loudly I can’t make out what he’s saying. But the crowd cheers anyway. I swipe my hand under my chin, wiping off the mud, and tuck my keys in the pocket of my filthy motorcycle jacket.

My cousin’s girlfriend lowers her voice as I approach the door. “Your dad thinks I went to get you,” she says.

I pull out a metal nail file, Aro moving to the side as I grab the door handle and start working the lock. I need to clean up before my parents come out of the stadium. I have a change of clothes in my gym locker. If my dad sees the dirt all over me…

I glance at her. “You didn’t tell him where I was, did you?”

She hoods her brown eyes and locks her jaw, and I realize I’ve insulted her. She wouldn’t rat me out. It’s code.

“Good.” I nod and continue working. “Just don’t say anything if he asks.”

“He’s going to know,” she fires back. “If I don’t respond, it’s because I don’t want to lie, and he knows that.”

I jiggle the nail file and then twist. “Well, you can lie…”

It’s always an option, of course. He can’t ground her.

I guess he can try to force my uncle Jax—his brother—to ground her, since she and her two siblings live with him and his wife next door to us. But Jax won’t do that. Aro stopped being a child long before she should have, and Jax understands that better than most.  

I grip the tool, twisting and jiggling some more, but then I feel the heat of her stare.

I look over, meeting very different eyes this time. Darker. 

I shake my head, completely fed up with myself. She loves her life here. My dad is her boss. She lives in his brother’s house. She dates my cousin, Hawke. She goes to school with me. Her brother and sister are thriving in our community…

I’m asking her to disrespect all of that.

“That wasn’t okay.” I pause. “I’m sorry.”

Her left eyebrow arches, and she holds out for a moment more before finally giving in. “It’s fine.” She sighs. “Last year I was kicking your ass. This year, I’m the only one you tell all of your secrets.”

Kicking my ass…what?

She smiles smugly. “You’re so lucky to have me, aren’t you?”

I am. I adore her.

But she did not kick my ass…

I jam and jiggle the tool in my hand, trying to muscle it.

If we hadn’t been pulled off each other during that fight…

The thin edge of the nail file cuts into my hand as I try to pry the lock.

Nearly all of my cousins are guys. I know how to wrestle, thank you.

But then…the file snaps in two, half of it still lodged in the lock.

I dart my eyes over to Aro, a groan expelling from my lungs as my shoulders slump.

She rolls her eyes and moves in. “Seriously, get out of the way.”

I step off to the side and watch her pull out her key ring full of carefully hidden little tools from her misspent youth. Digging my broken nail file out of the lock, she inserts a small tension wrench. Holding it with one hand, she finds another little thingy and slides that into the doorknob.

I’m glad I asked her to meet me here. She’s taught me how to do this three times, but I still struggle. I should’ve just gone home to clean up, but Rivalry Week starts tonight. I need to be here. 

Her eyes flash to my hand. “You’re bleeding.”

I look down, seeing blood spread over the long bone of my index finger.

I graze my chin again and hold my hand up, seeing a few thin crimson lines. Yeah, that wasn’t mud I felt before. It’s going to be hard to hide that.  

She works the lock, and I can tell she’s biting her tongue. She knows I fell off my bike, while I was training illegally and without permission tonight, and that my face is bleeding, because I took off my helmet while I was racing. 

“What happens if you get injured and you’re all alone out there?” she asks.

I check my phone, seeing two missed calls from my dad. I tuck it back into my pocket. “You’ve faced people with guns. Alone,” I point out. “This is nothing.”

“And what happened with the first person to make me feel like I was never going to be alone again?” she asks, meaning my cousin, Hawke. “I straddled him.”

I pinch my eyebrows together. “Ugh.”

“In your old car…” she taunts, and I hear a click.

“Christ.” I growl under my breath. “Move.”

I shove her out of the way and pull out her key chain, tossing it back at her and opening the door.

Hawke is a year older than me, so he’s been alive every single moment of my life. I knew him before he noticed girls at all. Before he had muscles.

I don’t care to hear about him doing things that will give me unwelcome mental images. But as my friend, she wants to talk to me about her boyfriend sometimes, and it’s ew-y.

I enter the empty school, the hallway dark and quiet, and she follows me in, slamming the door. The music and cheers pounding from the stadium seep in, but only as a distant thrum as light from the moon and the football field spill through the overhead windows.

I start walking, Aro’s unusually calm voice falling in behind me. “And I don’t look at facing people with guns as something that was smart,” she reminds me. “I did what I had to do, you know?”

I throw her a soft smile. I know.

She came from Weston, the dark and dilapidated mill town across the river where all the area’s young criminals live, because police don’t go there. It sits less than ten miles away, but it’s another world from Shelburne Falls. Their newest building is from the turn of the century—the one before last, I mean—and you’d be lucky to find two working street lamps in a row. 

But even if she grew up with the advantages I’ve had, she still wouldn’t appreciate people telling her she can’t have what she wants.

“And I have to do this,” I explain.

I have to train, even if it’s on my own. This town thinks they know who I am, because they know who my parents are, but no one really wants me to be me. They don’t see me. They see a Trent. 

We walk, and I pull off my jacket and boots, leaving a mud trail down the hallway.

I gesture to room fifty-eight as we pass. “That’s the room where my mom cried and told my dad in front of the whole class how much she missed him…”

Aro’s heard all the stories from when me and my cousins’ parents went to school here. 

We keep going. “And that’s the lunchroom where Uncle Madoc asked her to prom,” I chirp, walking by the windows of the newly renovated cafeteria.

We arrive at the gym, and I wave my hand to the door on the right. “And that’s the locker room where my dad punched him afterward.”

And then I stop, turning and jerking my chin at the locker with the number 1622 on it, sitting in full view of everyone who passes by. “And that’s the locker where the cell phone was found.”

It sits, along with two others, in a display case with trophies, championship banners, old photos, swim ribbons, newspaper clippings of successful alumni (including, not only my parents, but Madoc, the Mayor, and Aunt Juliet, the novelist), and some vintage clothing items. The exhibit spans nearly twelve feet down the long wall.

I stare at the chipped yellow lockers, number one-six-two-two on the left.

“How do you know that’s the one?” she asks.

I don’t blink, and I don’t look at her. “Hawke hacked some old school records when I asked.”

The metal corners are rusted where the paint has worn away, and dents and scratches are scattered across every square inch from the vents to below the handle.

More than twenty years ago, my parents lifted that handle to discover my dad’s stolen cell phone that Nate Dietrich used to make my mother believe my dad had posted a video of them having sex.

That was the locker of his partner in crime, Piper Burke, and it didn’t register with the administration when they decided to install new ones last year and save a few of the old for a nostalgic showcasing of the school’s history, but it did with my step-cousin, Kade. He didn’t want this locker trashed, so he made sure it was one of the artifacts preserved in this long glass case I have to walk past several times every day.

A lot of people saw that video all those years ago, and they had kids who are here now. It hasn’t been forgotten, and while no one would dare say a word to my parents, the secret that’s not really a secret still slowly fills any space I walk into like a ship filling with water. 

I doubt Kade thought of that, though. All he cares about is that Nate and Piper had a kid, and that kid just started high school here this year. The sins of the father and all that…

And I know the video wasn’t my parents’ fault, but their shadow falls everywhere.

I glance at Aro and then walk over, pushing open the women’s locker room door. “This entire town revolves around my family, this school orbiting them the most.” I drop my jacket on a bench and kick off my boots. “My father thinks I’ll be a target as a motorbike racer. Not just because I’m a girl, but also because I’m his daughter. He doesn’t want me to be taunted like I still am at this school from time to time over my parents’ bullshit back in the day.”

Make no mistake. My dad knows and regrets the reputation he made for himself when he was my age.

But his mistake is thinking it’s my burden to bear.                     

I turn to her, whipping off my shirt and opening my jeans. “You know why my dad thinks it’s my responsibility to lay low and not invite scrutiny because I already get so much for his life?” I ask her. “Because I’m a girl.” I turn away and head for the showers in my bra and underwear, grabbing a towel off the rack. “When the time comes, he won’t tell my brother he can’t race motorcycles if he wants to.”

He’d love for James to share his interests, but I’m the one who needs to be shielded.

Whipping open the shower curtain, I step inside and start the water. I hold my hand under, checking the temperature as I hang my towel on a hook.

Aro leans in, pressing both hands on each side of the stall. “I’m going to tell you a secret.”

I cast my eyes up to her.

“Parents have far less control than you think they do, Dylan.” She smiles a little. “There’s a limit to how much and how hard they’ll fight you before they just give up. If that’s what you want.”

No. I don’t want them to give up. That’s not…

But she pulls the curtain closed and leaves me to clean up.

I tear off the rest of my clothes, hearing the locker room door echo shut as she leaves. I pull my hair out of my ponytail, wetting it under the spray.

She’s right. I know she is. I learned a long time ago that my parents would fold pretty easily on a lot of things with just a little resistance from me.

My father does not want me racing motorcycles, though. It’s the one hill he won’t descend.

I smooth my hand over the top of my head, seeing mud drip off my body, down to a pool around my feet as I quickly wash and shampoo.

However, I don’t want to go as far as Aro’s telling me I can.

Yeah, I can race, and he’ll scream or try to put me behind lock and key, but eventually I’ll find a way around him until he just gives up, both of us destroying our relationship—the respect and the trust—in all of the turmoil. I’ll tear my house apart, distress my mom and my brother… I don’t want my dad to just give in.

I want him to train me.

My head pounds, and I growl under my breath, shaking off all the noise in my brain.

I slam down the lever, shutting off the water, and grab my towel. I wrap it around me and exit the stall, finding clean clothes from the gym locker that I share with Aro.

The dull vibration of the music outside stops, but the walls are too thick to hear if an announcer is speaking or if the crowd is cheering.

I glance at the clock high to my left. Eight-nineteen.

We have to be there by nine.

I pull on the change of clothes, some clean sneakers, and my black varsity jacket that I love, because it has orange and black stripes around the cuffs and around the trim at the waist and collar. They’re our school colors and no one else has this jacket. I scored it at a thrift shop when I was ten, and I’ve saved it all this time, waiting to fit into it.

Sticking my keys in my pocket and my phone in the back of my jeans, I brush out my hair and swipe it up into a ponytail. Wrapping my muddy gear in a towel, I stuff the bundle in my locker—which Aro won’t appreciate when she opens it for gym class in the morning, but I can’t risk my dad seeing it.

I start to head out, but instead, I veer through the coach’s office, peering out her windows and down to the stadium below.

Everyone’s still there. Good. I don’t try to find my dad in the stands, I’ll just tell him I was here the whole time. He can’t prove I wasn’t.

I push up the sleeves of my jacket and gaze down at the pep rally, confetti and the remnants of the massive broken banner that the football team crashes through when they burst onto the field scattered all over the turf. The marching band twists and turns in formation behind the cheer team flashing and shaking their pom poms high above their heads.

The football players stand on a platform, dressed in their jeans and jerseys as the head coach speaks at the podium. Kade Caruthers, as always, stands in the center of the lineup, chin raised, and I can almost see the ghost of the smile that always plays on his lips.

But…his green eyes are zoned in and sharp, which I know even if I can’t see them clearly from here, because I’ve known him my whole life. And this? Being awesome and alpha and feeding a crowd? This is his fucking job.

I assume I’ve missed most of the festivities for the night, but I’ve seen it before. Every year. Always the same Sunday in October that kicks off Rivalry Week.

Which technically lasts two weeks.

The second week is the official story. Parade, pranks, football, dance… Yay, fun. Looks great on the school’s Instagram page.

But the first week is just as exciting. Like a pre-game. Something to warm our blood, so it’s nice and hot for the showdown on the field. Parties, illegal pranks, and the prisoner exchange. One of my favorite parts.

For the next two weeks, the Shelburne Falls Pirates, the St. Matthew’s Knights, and the Weston Rebels will exchange one student. House them, feed them, take them to school…

At the end of the two weeks, we release the prisoners back to their respective student bodies, usually unharmed.

Sometimes they do a lot of damage while they’re here, though.

The guy Weston sent us last year got two girls pregnant during his two weeks here, so that was interesting.

This year promises to be no less exciting, because more than a year ago, one of our own turned on us—switched schools. He’ll be standing opposite of the team he once played for on this field very soon. Kade can’t wait to face him.

It’s all he thinks about. And talks about.

I watch as the coach invites Kade up to the podium. He gives his dynamite smile that he gets from his dad, and that makes all the girls feel like their hearts are filled with bubbles, but I can’t hear what he’s saying. By the way the crowd cheers, though, I can guess.


Kill some more.

Kill everything and kill everyone.


It laces all of his words and actions, because Kade’s pride is at stake. His brother is the turncoat who enrolled at St. Matthew’s, one of our rivals.

Kade has to win.

Pulling out my phone, I scroll the same text thread I’ve reread a hundred times. 

I wish you would’ve stayed. Are you up?

He never responded.


Kade’s twin.

He made an appearance last Thanksgiving, but he mostly stayed anywhere I wasn’t. He hung out with his dad and mine for a while in the garage, then he moved to the kitchen with his mom and Addie, their former housekeeper, and then he walked outside, playing with his and Kade’s little sister, A.J., for a while. He didn’t talk much. Almost like we were all strangers to him and didn’t share a thousand memories together.

It was so uncomfortable. Our dads are stepbrothers, and they were best friends long before that. I grew up with Hunter.

But I can’t say his leaving, and transferring schools, was entirely a surprise. He and Kade had always been at odds while growing up, and one day Hunter just broke.  

But why did he leave me too? He didn’t meet my eyes once when he came for Thanksgiving.

And he didn’t stay long. Without a word, he was gone. Back to his grandfather’s house an hour away, and St. Matt’s, his new school. I scroll, seeing a picture I sent him of a movie poster.

New Fast movie tonight at eight! I’m sneaking in your favorite candy.

I hoped that maybe in a dark theater where we didn’t have to talk, he might just come and sit, and maybe we could smile and laugh a little.

He never showed. 

I ate your candy, I texted him the next day.

Months passed, and I got the hint. He didn’t want to talk.

Fine, then.

He had my number. I tried. If he wants to be friends again, he knows where I am.

But there were days that I couldn’t ignore.

Happy Birthday!!

I wrote in August on his and Kade’s eighteenth birthday, accompanied by a celebratory GIF.

He didn’t text back. He leaves the Read receipts on, though. Kade says it’s because Hunter wants us to know that he’s deliberately ignoring us. I think it’s because he wants us to know that he’s okay. If there’s no indication that communications are getting through, then we’ll come looking for him. He wants that even less than our texts. 

Kade had a pool party for his birthday and had all of his friends tag Hunter in pictures, because Kade wanted his twin to know he was living the high life without him.

That’s when Hunter deleted his social media.

Hawke and his girlfriend are going to Chicago for a concert. I’m tagging along. Wanna meet up?

I sent that a few weeks ago. Maybe on his turf, without the reminders of home, he’d want to see me? Fat chance. The only way I really see him anymore is through pictures, when his parents see him and post on their own profiles.

He was in St. Matthew’s alumni magazine last May, just a picture of current students, including him, hunched over lab tables. He was working alone. I didn’t show Kade the picture.

I look down and see the text I started to type out last week when I found out what Kade was planning for tonight.

I nee—

But I’d stopped typing, because why should I warn him? What have I gotten from Hunter or Kade Caruthers for my loyalty?

I raise my eyes, seeing Kade look up at me. My heart skips the tiniest beat. He’s looking at me. I know, because the only thing he ever notices about me anymore is my absence. That’s when I matter.

Backing away from the podium, he lets the coach finish up, and then he throws up his arms at me like “why isn’t your ass in the bleachers hanging on my every word like the rest of our family?”

I fold my arms over my chest and bring a hand up, feigning a yawn. His smile widens, and I can see his body shake with a chuckle.

“Fuck it.” I tuck my phone into my pocket again. I’ll go tonight, because I’m bored. Not because I’m curious.

Leaving the locker room, I jog back down the hallway, past the display case, the men’s locker room, and the cafeteria. If I can get out of here before the rally ends, I can get home, grab my car, and be gone again before my dad sees me. Or my muddy motorcycle.

As soon as I push through the door and step outside, though, I see my father leaning against my bike. I pause mid-step, my stomach sinking instantly.

He stands twenty-five yards away, his legs crossed at the ankles and his hands resting in the pockets of his black bomber jacket. He stares at me.

I flit my eyes left and right, hearing the thundering sound of people descending the steel bleachers as the event ends. I don’t see my mom yet.

Chin up, I walk toward him. I’ll handle it like I always do.

But as soon as I get close enough to speak, he stops me before I can get the words out.

“Give me your bike keys,” he says, holding out his hand.

I open my mouth.

“Now,” he barks.

People are spilling out of the stadium, and I know he won’t listen. Not tonight. I grab my keys out of my jacket pocket and hand them over.

“And it wasn’t Aro who told me,” he points out.

I didn’t think it was.

He stands up straight, digging in his eyebrows. “I know how to use an app, thank you.”

“You’re tracking me?”

“You leave me no choice!” he growls, heat rising in his angry eyes. “I’ll need to find your body when you break your damn neck.”

“You and Mom were racing at my age.”

“Not motorcycles.”

Right. That’s fine then. He gets to decide the amount of danger that’s acceptable.

He walks around my bike, inspecting the condition. I narrow my eyes. “You train Noah.”

His protégé from Colorado who’s only a few years older than me.

My dad doesn’t reply, simply squats down to check the tires.

“I want you to train me.” I catch myself shifting on my feet and stop. “I want on your team.”

He rises, his eyes zeroing in on me as he rounds the bike.

“Will you say no to James, too, when he gets older?” I blurt out. 

He knows I’m right. He knows he doesn’t have an argument. He won’t tell his son no. 

He stops in front of me, unblinking. “I love you,” he says. “You and me have been in sync since the day you were born.” And he holds up his two fingers, twisting them around each other, because until recently, we were that close. “But like me, you do not think. You’re reckless, irresponsible, and you do not listen. I am not going to let you fuck up like I did—getting caught up in bad scenes and bad influences and risking your life before you’ve grown up.” 

I stare at him for a split-second before I start shaking my head. Just like I told Aro. I have to make myself smaller just because I’m not a guy. It’s not fair.

“You can’t stop me.”

I say the words out loud before I can contain them, and I watch his spine go steel-rod straight. “What did you say?”

His gaze pierces my skin, and I feel like I’m sinking into the pavement.

He comes in close. “Say it again,” he tells me, leaning in. “I didn’t hear you.”

I drop my eyes, clenching my teeth.

“Say it again.”

I dart my eyes up at him. “When I graduate, I’m going to do it anyway, with or without you.” I keep my tone in check this time. “You can wish me luck and pray I survive, or you can train me and make sure I’m the best.”

I’m not trying to dare him. I’m just telling him how it is. It’s going to happen.

But to my surprise, he just smiles. “When you graduate?” he repeats. “Hell, you almost scared me. That’s seven-and-a-half months away.” He opens his jacket and makes a show of dropping my bike keys into the inside pocket. “Plenty of time for you to forget how to ride a bike at all.”

I watch him turn, images of the next seven months with no motorcycle flooding my head and making me feel like I can’t breathe.


He starts to leave, but my mother is there, and I can tell by the look she passes between my dad and me, she just heard that.

Stepping up to her, he cups her chin, brushing her jaw with his thumb. “I’ll grab James and take her bike. We’ll meet you two at home.”

She nods, and he leaves, heading back into the stadium. People stream out and cars start up as everyone goes home, but I’m not leaving. He got my keys, so it can’t get much worse for me.

I turn and lean back onto my bike as my mom rests next to me. “Let me tell you something about your dad, honey.” She folds her arms over her chest, and I glance down at her hands that are always soft despite washing them a hundred times a day at the hospital. “Jared Trent is the love of my life,” she says, “but sometimes…he needs to be handled.”

Yeah. She and my dad have been in love since they were ten. She’s also fought with him a lot more than anyone too.

I twist my lips to the side a little. “Can’t you handle him for me?”

“No.” She shakes her head, but I hear her amused tone. “This is a lesson most never learn. Some people aren’t going to believe what you can do until you do it. You’re not reckless. You’re not irresponsible. You’re you. Make him see it.”

I know she agrees with my dad to some extent. She worries about my safety.

But she also knows this is who I am, and it won’t change.

My dad loves me. My mom loves me and likes me, and some days I think that’s cooler.

“Dylan,” someone calls.

I look over my shoulder, seeing Kade with his friends Dirk and Stoli, and…Jessica. Kade’s most recent girlfriend—a senior like me. They approach his black truck.

He tips his head, gesturing to me. “Let’s go.”

The prisoner exchange.

I start to leave, but I hear my mom’s voice behind me. “Ten o’clock.”

Normally, my curfew is nine on a school night, but the next two weeks will be an exception. 

I toss her a wave and head for Kade’s truck, but I continue on, not stopping. “I’ll grab my car,” I tell him. It’s a hike to my house, but once I’m in my Mustang, I’ll probably still beat him to the prisoner exchange with the way I drive. “I’ll follow you.”

“Why?” he asks.

“Because I’m sick of your back seat.”

Drawing in a deep breath, he arches a brow and turns to Jessica, looking at her in the passenger seat through his driver’s side window. He gives her a little shrug. “Babe, please?”

I sigh. “Don’t do me any favors.”

Jesus. That’s not what I meant. Back seat was really more of a metaphor.

“I want you in the goddamn truck,” he orders me. “Now.”

And for a split-second, I feel like someone’s fisting my collar.

Lips tight, Jessica climbs over Stoli, shoves open her door, and hops down out of her seat.

I stalk over to the passenger side.

“Lucky for you,” she taunts as I swing around the door. “I love his back seat.”

I grip the door hard, but I don’t reply. Looking up, I see Stoli still sitting in the front, too, his deep brown hair expertly coiffed as he stares at his phone.  

“Out,” I tell him, so he can hear me through his earbuds.

I know I’m not more important than his girlfriend—or the one before her or the one before her—but I am more important than everyone else. I’m not Kade’s crew. I’m family, even if we’re not related by blood. 

Rolling his eyes, Stoli slides out and jumps down, both of them climbing in the back seat with Dirk. Hauling myself up into the raised cab, I slam the door and fasten my seat belt as Kade fires up the engine. Music spills out of the speakers, always too loud for anyone to speak, which is what he prefers. I turn it down, and he punches the gas, the truck speeding out of the parking lot.

No one talks, but I see light from Dirk’s phone screen glowing out of the corner of my eye, behind me. His cologne fills the cab, and I’m always grateful for it, because it covers up the scent of sweat and the slightly sweet tinge, no doubt from Kade’s fruit-flavored condoms that I found in the center console once.  

I pick at one of my fingernails. “You think Hunter will be there?”

Kade just shrugs. “Either way, we’ll get him.”

I can’t help but smile to myself. Soooo confident. Hunter hasn’t given us an inch in over a year only to be forced home tonight. He’d have to be an idiot to not anticipate Kade’s move.


I look over, seeing Kade watching me. I lose the smile and turn away. “Nothing.”

I feel the three behind us, acting like they’re not listening as two scroll through their phones and Stoli tips back his flask that I can’t see. I hear the liquid slosh, though.

“What happened to your face?” Kade asks.

Leaning back in his seat, one hand on the wheel, he takes my jaw with the other and turns my face to look at the scratches. Warmth spreads under my skin.

“It’s fine,” I murmur. 

My chin stings, but I don’t check to see if it’s still bleeding. It can’t be too bad. My parents didn’t notice.

“You’re going to get hurt,” he says.

I pull away, turning forward again. “I said it’s fine.”

“And then you’ll be in traction for six months,” he goes on, “learning how to walk again, forget about racing…”

I turn to look at him, but my tone is as calm as when I order breakfast. “Stop.”

With the number of dumb things he does, his argument has no ground with me. 

But Stoli chimes in from behind. “He’s right, Dylan. If your dad told you no, then—”

“Hey, shut up,” Kade barks, eyeing his friend in the rearview mirror. “This is family business. Don’t talk to my cousin like that.”

I scratch my eyebrow, but it doesn’t really itch. Stoli closes his mouth, and everything in the truck silences.

I used to love it when Kade got territorial like that. It made me feel like I was important. He doesn’t do it much anymore. Not since his and Hunter’s falling out last year.

I don’t even know what happened that night. In the blink of an eye, everything changed, and it wasn’t even all that dramatic. They’d always been combative. I was used to it.

But no one expected Hunter to finally leave.

Maybe we should’ve seen it coming. I missed it.

“Hey.” Kade ruffles my hair like he would a little cousin. “I’m just worried about you, okay?” He lowers his voice. “Men in those scenes won’t treat you right. I don’t want you around that shit.”

I gaze over at him, my anger softening. He said it quietly, because it was hard for him to say at all. I wish he was like that more. 

But then he notices something on his fingers and scrunches up his face, looking at where he touched my head as he wipes his hand on his jeans. “Is that mud?”

I must’ve missed a spot.

I lower my eyes to my lap, instead asking, “Do you ever watch me ride?”

I don’t know where the question came from, but it just occurred to me. 

“What?” he asks.

I look at him, his blond hair always styled like a vintage Ralph Lauren ad, and the blush across his cheeks making his skin look more golden than it actually is. He looks like that all the time now, with the weather being crisp and him outside as much as possible.

“When I used to race the Loop in my car,” I explain. “Did you watch?”

His mouth opens and closes as he faces the road, and he finally shrugs. “Yeah.” He nods. “Yeah, of course, I’ve seen you race. Why would you ask that?”

He never watches. He shows up, mingles at the track, sneaks beers behind the merch tents with his friends….

I have to watch his games. He never watches me ride.

He turns up the music, and I look out the window, trees flying past as their leaves rain down around us. 

Kade, Hawke, my father… My senior year should be incredible, but my throat feels as narrow as a straw.

Moonlight gleams across the river down below to my right, and I peer out the window, over the cliff, to the sparse lights of Weston. Silos from abandoned mills rise high in the black sky, while the occasional old lamp around a warehouse still glows. A light will pop on up on a hill or in some alley, while others will fizz out, and I smile to myself because Aro explained they’re motion activated. Security lights to keep delinquents from invading private property or deserted businesses. She brought me out here one night to watch the movement of the constant illegal invaders as they leave a trail of motion-activated lights in their wake. It was kind of funny, because not once, no matter how brightly they broadcasted their presence in places they weren’t supposed to be, I never saw one blue or red light of a cop car.

Kade stops the truck in the middle of the three-way intersection. St. Matthew’s heads toward us from the road ahead, and Weston will come over the bridge to our right. There won’t be any other cars this time of night.

Leaving the engine running and the headlights on, he opens his door. “Let’s go,” he tells us.

Players from St. Matthew’s, the wealthy suburb of Chicago and Hunter’s school for the past year, walk to meet us, while Stoli, Dirk, and I flank Kade. Jessica stays in the truck.

“Kade Caruthers.” Beck Valencourt grins, walking over with his crew. “How’s it going over in Shitburne Falls?”

Kade laughs. “You know who my grandfather is, right? They would never find your body.”

Beck flashes him a genuine smile—knowing of Kade’s retired gangster grandpa and the stories surrounding him. He’s used to Kade’s jibe. They know each other well, and they better not be giving us Beck as a prisoner, because Kade and he will be frat bros in a year. Kade won’t want to haze him, and I enjoy that part of Rivalry Week, actually. 

School-sanctioned bullying? Why not? It’s the one time everyone at your school is finally on the same side. The enemy of my enemy is my friend…

They shake, coming in for a quick hug. 

“Will we see you on the slopes this year?” Beck asks him.

“You bet.” Kade nods. “Iron Mountain.”

“Hell yeah.”

Kade glances over at the St. Matthew’s cars parked opposite ours. I look, too, searching the profiles of the people inside.  

“I can try to accommodate your request,” Beck says, holding out his hands. “You just can’t have my girlfriend.”

Kade chuckles. “Actually, I just want a football player.”

“I knew that about you.”

“Shut up,” Kade spits out.

The Weston crew, led by Farrow Kelly, approach from the right, exiting the two-lane bridge.

An entourage tails him, a guy and two girls, all about a foot shorter than he is. His blond hair is pushed back under a backward baseball cap, the short sleeves of his black T-shirt frayed. His blue eyes dance as they meet mine, and I look away.

Aro defected from them. She’s a Pirate now. He’s going to make someone pay for that.

Plus, he and his friends invaded Kade’s house on Grudge Night several weeks ago. I’m still aggravated. 

“It’s only for two weeks,” Kade continues talking to Beck. “You’ll get him back in almost the same condition.”

“Well, we want Trent.” Beck points to me. “Agree to that and we’ll give you a player.” He gives me a grin. “We want to see what she can do on our track.”

I narrow my eyes. “I don’t want to go to St. Matt’s.” I throw Beck a look. “They’re stuck up.”

He laughs.

And I’m not forcing myself on Hunter. He doesn’t want to see me.   

But Kade replies, “You can have her.”

I jerk my head right, glaring.

You can have her. Just that easy?

“Just give us Hunter,” he tells Beck. “If Hunter comes here, she can go there.”

My eyes burn. This is why he wanted me to come tonight. To pawn me off.

But Beck looks confused as he glances to the friend at his side and then back to Kade. “Hunter? Your brother?”

Kade is quiet. 

“Hunter checked out weeks ago,” Beck explains. “He’s not attending St. Matt’s this year.”

He’s not at St. Matt’s? I process for a second and then I almost smile.

I warned Kade.

Kade takes a step closer to his friend. “What do you mean?”

“Yeah,” Beck tells him. “I don’t know what to tell you. He’s a loss. Definitely. And he left us high and dry, short a tackle at the last minute too. But don’t you worry.” He smiles wide. “We’ll be ready.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Kade tenses. “Where did he go?”

“I had assumed he went home.”

I see Kade turn to me out of the corner of my eye, probably thinking I might’ve heard something from Hunter, but I haven’t. I have no doubt Hunter’s okay. Just one step ahead of us, as usual. His parents and his grandfather, Ciaran, probably let him go to Chile or Poland or somewhere else far away to study abroad for the semester. Funny they didn’t say anything, though. 

“Can we still have Trent?” Beck asks.

I hold my breath.

Kade shakes his head. “Fine, whatever.”

Seriously? Like I’m not even here….

I’m not going to St. Matthew’s.

And I’m not going to make it home by curfew, either.

I step forward, giving all my attention to Farrow Kelly, unable to believe what I’m doing. “You guys have an extra motorcycle?”

Kade jerks his head toward me.

Farrow’s mouth lifts in a smile as he looks me up and down, a Green Street tattoo etched on his neck. “Yeah, but we don’t have a track, honey. Can you handle it?”

“I can handle it,” I reply immediately.

I know where they like to race. Phelan’s Throat. A closed road full of potholes and fallen trees that makes a steep climb with an even steeper down slope. If I can show my dad that I can race it, he’ll train me.

Even if it’s just so no one else does. 

“Can I be your prisoner?” I ask. 

“Dylan,” Kade grits out.

But I ignore him. “I need to get out of here for a couple of weeks,” I tell Farrow.

Farrow chuckles, looking to Kade. “Did I really just get this lucky?” But he switches his attention back to me before Kade can answer. “Daddy gonna be okay with this, Baby Trent?”

“Do you care?”

If he’s afraid of my father, he won’t admit it in front of everyone.

But he’ll take me. I’m perfect payback for Aro.

“We don’t trade women to Weston,” Dirk states.

But Farrow is already pulling out handcuffs and binding my wrists in front of me as a dark-haired young woman with three roses inked on the back of her left hand rips off a piece of duct tape and plants it over my mouth. It’s all a part of the ceremony of being a prisoner. 

She smiles at me. “This won’t be fun, honey. Brace yourself.”

My stomach dives, and air pours in and out of my nose.

The other guy pulls me by the chain between the cuffs and leads me away.

“Dylan, goddammit,” Kade growls. “You’re going to get hurt.”

He says the same words he said five minutes ago about racing.

I resist the urge to look back at him as we cross the bridge, because he sounds almost angry enough to come and take me back.

Would I let him? I might’ve before. Kade liked to tug, and his pull was always strong.

Hunter was kind.

Kade gave his attention sparingly.

I always thought Hunter would be there.

Kade was so loud sometimes, I couldn’t hear anything else.

Hunter only took off his headphones to hear me.

But Hunter is gone, and I don’t know why Kade wants me around. The only thing that feels good anymore is racing.

Chimes pierce the air as all four Weston students flip coins over the edge of the bridge and into the water below.

Pay to pass.

An offering to the girl still locked in the car at the bottom of the river.

Legend has it, she was from Shelburne Falls too. The only other female we traded.

And Weston never gave her back. That’s why we don’t trade women anymore.

Until me. Until tonight.

They push me into an old pickup truck, Farrow driving in the front with me sandwiched between the two girls in the back. He starts the engine, and we speed off, away from the docks and the warehouses, and I try to smile behind my tape. Two weeks, on my own, doing my thing, and not at the beck and call of anyone else.

When my dad or Kade look for me, I won’t be there for once.

My phone dings with a notification, and I reach into my pocket, struggling with my cuffed hands to pull it out.

Swiping open the screen, I see a text from Hunter. My heart skips a beat. 

That…was a mistake.