Word Count: 67,000
16-year-old Kelsey knows kidnapping’s a crime. But helping someone escape is a whole different story.
When Kelsey’s house burns down, her family loses everything. Someone has to pay, and Kelsey’s sure it should be Jay – the boy she caught breaking into her house just days before. When he’s brought in as a suspect, Kelsey sets out to convince him to plead guilty.
But the person she finds at the juvenile detention center isn’t the hardened delinquent she expects. He’s a boy with a tragic past who insists the fire was an accident. By the time Kelsey realizes Jay may be telling the truth, he’s already been sentenced to years in juvie.
Despite her friends’ warnings about Jay, Kelsey can’t stop visiting him. She’s still shattered from a past relationship that crossed the line, and Jay’s the first person she’s known who’s more broken than her. They soon develop an unlikely relationship she keeps secret from everyone.
Then Jay asks for a favor she didn’t see coming. His younger sister is trapped in an abusive foster home, and he needs Kelsey to get her out – and him. If she goes through with the kidnapping plan, she knows it can only end one of two ways – both of which result in never seeing Jay again.
For the first time in almost a year, I feel safe. My sandals slap against the uneven sidewalk, and I wave back at the old man in a green pick-up truck. His toothless grin should scare the crap out of me, but something about this place makes it okay. I’ll even forgive its lack of a real downtown. I went in search of one of those quaint main streets with specialty coffee shops and expensive clothing stores, and all I found were a bunch of empty buildings for lease and a McDonald’s. So much for small town charm.
I turn the corner to my house and skid to a halt. The edge of my sandal catches in a crack, and I lurch forward, my palms scraping against the cement. I stare like an epic moron at the leg dangling out my bedroom window as if it’s not attached to a body. It reminds me of that cricket I caught when I was eight. I’d accidentally ripped its leg off trying to make it dance. I shudder and pick myself up, my palms burning.
I glance at the driveway. Mom and Dad’s cars aren’t there.
The person in the window struggles to squeeze his way out. Blue jeans and a ratty running shoe. Painter, maybe? Repair person? But there’s no work van in sight.
The rest of the body lowers from the window. I suck in a breath and duck behind a parked car just as he jumps.