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I wasn’t supposed to be there that night, but my friend Sienna talked me into going to the party in Land’s End so she could spy on her boyfriend. While hiding out in the woods, we witnessed an unspeakable crime. And we did everything wrong afterward.

Connections run deep in our small town.

I was pressured into keeping my mouth shut, even though every part of me objected. I assumed I’d always do the right thing in any situation. I was wrong about that and a lot of other things.

I was wrecked by what I saw and how the victim was treated by kids I’d known all my life. I’ve been sick over it ever since, even as I moved on, far away from the town where I was raised.

Fourteen years later, I learn that the guy who committed that unspeakable crime is running for Congress, and something in me snaps.

I can’t bear the weight of that knowledge for another second.

Finally, I report what I saw, and all hell breaks loose for me and others who were at that long-ago party. Some of them will do whatever it takes to keep the truth from coming to light…even if they have to kill me.

In the midst of an epic battle, a new love gives me the strength to stay strong, to fight for my life and to right a terrible wrong.

Content warning: A sexual assault storyline may be upsetting to some readers.


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In the Air Tonight

Chapter 1



I’m late getting home from work and in a foul mood after another long day with my jerk of a boss, Wendall, barking orders at me that couldn’t be seen to in a month, let alone a single day. But that’s what he expects—everything right now. Six months ago, I stopped taking his calls after hours because I don’t get paid to tend to him for more than eight hours a day. That’s all he gets from me now.

He didn’t like that.

Ask me if I care. We’ve reached the point where he needs me far more than I need him, and he knows it.

My friends in the city were green with envy when I landed a job as the personal assistant to the hottest star on Broadway. They don’t know he’s a nightmare. No one knows that but me and the people he stars with in Gray Matter, the top-grossing show on the Great White Way this year. As the show becomes more successful, he’s an even bigger dick to everyone around him.

I’m giving him six more months and then moving on. Life’s too short to work for someone I can’t stand.

I’ve barely walked into my apartment when my phone rings with a call from my mother. I hesitate to take it because I’m in such a shitty mood, but she worries when I don’t answer. I press the big green button.

“Hey, Mom.” After kicking off my sneakers, I drop my bag on the sofa. It’s got my laptop and the heels I wear at the theater where I spend my days.

“I’m so glad you answered, sweetheart. I tried you yesterday but got your voicemail.”

I’ve told her—many times—I never check my voicemail and she should text me if she wants to chat, but she’s never gotten the hang of texting. My siblings and I have tried to teach her. She says she has a mental block. I say she couldn’t be bothered. “What’s going on?”

“Teagan is pregnant again.”

I’m shocked. My sister has four children under the age of seven. “Wow. Four wasn’t enough?”

“I guess not. She’s so happy. I could hear it in her voice when she called to share the news. Doug has a big new job that allows her stay home with the kids. She’s thrilled to be a full-time mom now.”

“I’m glad for her. That’s a lot to juggle with a job.”

“It was too much, and the daycare bills were sucking up most of her salary anyway.”

“I’ll text her to say congrats.”

“I know she’d love to hear from you.”

I hear the sadness in my mother’s voice. How could I not? It’s been there since the day I left home and never looked back. My family has asked over the years why I never come home, even for holidays I used to enjoy. I haven’t been able to provide an answer that satisfies them. This is what works for me. Staying away from there, from the memories, has made it possible for me to have a life of purpose without guilt swallowing me whole.

Since I left for college nearly thirteen years ago, I’ve been home once—when my father died suddenly.

I’ve always been certain that if I go back there for any length of time, my carefully constructed house of cards will come crashing down.

My mother chats on about people I barely remember, kids I grew up with who are now parents many times over, her friends’ grandchildren and other gossip from home.

“Was Ryder Elliott your year or Arlo’s?”

The bottom drops out of my world at the mention of that name.

Ryder Elliott.

“Blaise? Hello? Are you there?”

I swallow hard. “I’m here. What did you say?”

“Was Ryder your year? Or Arlo’s?”

All the spit in my mouth is gone, and I’m right back in the woods on the night that changed everything. The scent of woodsmoke is forever tied to that night as is the Steve Miller song “Jet Airliner.”

“I, uh, my year,” I somehow manage to say.

“He’s running for Congress. Can you believe that kids you went to school with are now doing things like that?”

A roar overtakes me, so loud it drowns out every thought in my head. “No.”

“What? Did you say something, honey?”

I’m screaming to myself. No, no, no, no. He’s running for Congress? Oh no. No, he is not. That cannot happen. Something about those words, he’s running for Congress, tips me over an edge I’ve hovered on for fourteen long years. I can’t stay there another second.

I remember every detail of that night as if it happened five minutes ago. It’s as vivid to me now as it was then, unlike other things that’ve faded into the ether.


“You’re scaring me, Blaise. What’s wrong?”

“I’m coming home.”

* * *



My mom made meatloaf, one of the five meals we’d all eat. Tired of fighting dinner battles with four picky kids, she rotates from one meal to the other, but meatloaf is usually my favorite. I can barely swallow a bite because I’m so nervous. While my parents, sisters and brother keep up a steady stream of chatter, I try not to puke from nerves.

I’m a month shy of my seventeenth birthday and about to do something I’ve never done before on the first night of summer vacation—directly disobey my parents. Sure, I’ve told a white lie here and there, had a few beers and even smoked pot a couple of times. But I haven’t taken the car somewhere they’ve specifically told me not to go.

My phone buzzes with a text from Sienna Lawton, my best friend. Still good to go?

We’re not supposed to text at the table, so I keep the phone in my lap when I reply with Ya.

I’m going to be sick.

“What’s wrong, Blaise?” Mom asks. “Why aren’t you eating? It’s your favorite.”

“I had a big lunch on the way home from the beach. Can I wrap it up for later?”

“Sure, honey. That’s fine.”

“It’s delicious, Mom. Thank you for dinner.”

She smiles at me. “You’re welcome.”

I’m a good kid. I work hard at school, get excellent grades and generally do what I’m told, unlike my sister Teagan, who’s three years older than me and gives them nothing but trouble. I fly under the radar and like it there. I’d never want the kind of attention Teagan gets from them, which includes a lot of yelling, door slamming and overall contention.

My brother, Arlo, a year older than me, is my hero. He manages to smoothly do whatever the hell he wants and get away with it. My parents think he’s the perfect son. However, I know where most of his skeletons are buried. I’ll take that info to my grave. He and I look out for each other. It’s not something we ever talk about, but we’ve got each other’s backs.

My little sister, Juniper—known as June or Junie—chats nonstop, which usually annoys me. Tonight, I’m thankful for the distraction she provides.

I’m taking the car to a party across the river in Land’s End, where I’m most definitely not allowed to go. My parents say the long, dark winding roads leading to Land’s End are an accident waiting for a teenager to happen. Plus, it’s well known in our town of Hope that some of the kids from Land’s End, who are bussed to our high school because they don’t have one of their own, are partiers.

My parents would lose their shit if they knew my plans for the evening.

They don’t track my phone because I’ve given them no reason to, whereas they pay extra for new technology that lets them track Teagan’s every move. She calls me the Golden Child. It’s not a compliment coming from the Merrick family’s chief agitator. Just because I’m not constantly getting in trouble doesn’t mean I don’t know how to have fun. Granted, I’m not one of the super popular girls like Teagan was in high school, but I can live with that. I have several good friends, even if none of us are considered the “cool” kids.

Sienna sort of straddles both worlds thanks to her boyfriend, Camden Elliott. He and his older brother Ryder, who are both in our class thanks to Ryder being held back a year before kindergarten, are the most popular boys in our school. They’re co-captains of the football team, as well as baseball (Camden) and track (Ryder) stars.

They’re also Arlo’s closest friends. You’d think that having a best friend and brother attached to the school’s most popular kids would elevate me, too. You’d be wrong about that.

Sienna and Cam have been a couple for as long as I can recall. I barely remember her without him. However, things have been weird between them lately, which is why we’re risking everything to go to spy on a party we weren’t invited to. Cam pretended like he didn’t know about the party, which made her suspicious and paranoid. When she couldn’t get her family’s car for the night, her paranoia became my problem.

Upstairs, I change into denim cutoff shorts and a halter top. In the long shot possibility that we’re able to talk our way into the party, I put on makeup, focusing on the blue eyes that people say are my best feature. I run a brush through the reddish-brown hair I straightened earlier. I want to change my hair color, but my mom won’t let me. Try having reddish hair when your name is Blaise. I’ve had every nickname from Fire Ant to Fireball. I especially hate that the boys call me Ablaze. Worst nickname ever.

As a finishing touch, I spray on some of the fancy perfume my grandmother gave me for Christmas. I’d never heard of the scent, but Gran said it’s best not to smell like anyone else.

I’m ready to go, but still feel like I’m going to be sick. I knock on Teagan’s door. She’s only home because she’s grounded—again.

“What?” She’s twenty and finished her second year at community college in May, getting grades that barely kept her off academic probation. She has to do another semester to get an associate degree. Last week, she was caught at a bar in Newport, even though she’s underage. My parents went ballistic and demanded she turn over her fake ID. Knowing her, she has two others hidden in her room.

“Do you have any Tums?”

She hurls the bottle at me, barely missing my head. I catch the bottle, shake out two of them and put the bottle on a desk piled high with clothes and other crap. It’s never seen a school book in all the years since Mom bought desks for us at Pottery Barn Kids.


She grunts something in reply but doesn’t look up from the phone she earned back after the latest parental altercation by doing chores around the house.

In a way, I’m kind of thankful for her. She keeps the attention off me.

In the hallway, I run into Arlo. His light brown hair is wet from the shower, and his blue eyes give me a quick once over. “What’s with you?”

“Nothing. Why?”

“You’re dressed up.” He leans in for a whiff. “Wearing perfume and makeup. Where’re you going?”

“Nowhere.” If anyone can see right through my lies, it’s him, which can be comforting and annoying—at the same time.

“I’d better not see you anywhere near Land’s End tonight, you got me?”

“Why would I go there?”

He gives me a withering look that big brothers have been giving their younger sisters since the beginning of time. “Stay. Away.”

“I have better things to do than go to your stupid party.”

“Don’t tell Mom and Dad anything about it, or I’ll murder you.”

I roll my eyes, to say ‘as if I’d start talking now’. Why would I tell them that Houston Rafferty’s parents are away, and he’s hosting a rager with booze? His party has been the talk of our town and LE for days. I’m surprised my parents haven’t picked up the scent by now.

I land downstairs feeling moderately better after taking the Tums.

My dad is doing the dishes. She cooks. He cleans up. They get along great and only butt heads over Teagan. He’s tough on her. Mom’s a softie, and that infuriates my dad, who, as he says, is trying to keep her out of jail. Mom says he exaggerates, but I tend to agree with him. He’s probably the only thing keeping her out of serious trouble.

Dad glances at me and smiles. “You ready to go?” His gaze takes in my outfit. He hates the crop tops that’re all the rage with girls my age, but thankfully, he doesn’t make an issue out of it.

I swallow the lump in my throat. “Yep.”

“And you guys are going to the movies and maybe downtown, right?”

“Yes.” I feel sick lying to him.

“Home by midnight?”

“I’ll try. If I’m running late, I’ll text you.”

He hands over the keys to his Toyota SUV and kisses my cheek.

“Thank you for being so considerate. It’s very much appreciated.”

I come this close to spilling my guts and telling him the truth. But he’ll never let me take the car to Land’s End, and Sienna is counting on me.

How many times will I wish I’d told him the truth about my plans for that night?

Every day for the rest of my life.

Marie Force/HTJB, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 

~ Calvin Coolidge

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