She nods and it’s all the confirmation I need. I pull the door shut behind me as I leave, pleased that I somehow managed to redeem myself. As soon as I’m out of her driveway and back on the sidewalk, I pull my phone from my pocket and call Daniel.

“Hey, Hopeless,” he says when he answers.


“I said stop calling me that, Jackass.”

“Shoulda thought about that before you got the tattoo,” he quips back. “What’s up?”

“Sky Davis,” I say quickly. “Who is she, where’s she from, does she go to school here and is she dating Grayson?”

Daniel laughs. “Whoa, buddy. Slow down. First of all, I’ve never met her. Second of all, if that’s the same Sky that I claimed to have deflowered in front of Val at that party the other night, there’s no way I’m asking around about her. I’m still trying to convince Val I never really slept with the chick. Asking people about her will only make it worse for me, man.”

I groan. “Daniel, please. I need to know and you’re better with this shit than I am.”

There’s a long pause on his end. “Fine,” he says. “But on one condition.”

I knew there’d be a condition. There’s always a condition when it comes to Daniel. “What condition?”

“You come to school tomorrow. Just one day. Enroll tomorrow and try it for one day and if you absolutely hate it you can officially drop out with my blessing.”

“Deal,” I say immediately. I can do one day. Especially if Sky will be there.

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Chapter Eight-and-a-half


Holy shit, Les. HOLY. SHIT.

It feels like forever since I wrote to you but it was just this morning. So much has happened, my hands are shaking and I can barely write.

I still haven’t talked to Mom about dropping out yet, but only because I’m not so sure I want to drop out anymore. We’ll see after tomorrow.

Are you sitting down for this? Sit your ass down, Les.




But I didn’t.

Well, I’m still not so sure I didn’t, but I’m more sure that she isn’t Hope than sure that she is. Does that even make sense? I mean, the second I saw her I was positive it was her. But when I realized she didn’t recognize me, I thought maybe I was wrong or she was pretending or . . . I don’t know. I just started doubting myself. Then I acted sort of stalkerish and crazy so she showed me her ID, which was really dumb of her if you consider how stalkerish I was acting. But her ID proved she wasn’t Hope, which crushed me, but only for a couple of hours. Because when I went running I ran into her again thanks to fate or coincidence or divine intervention or maybe you had something to do with it. Whatever or whoever made it happen, she was there, standing in front of our house, looking all beautiful and shit. Jesus, she looked good, Les.

I’m sure you want to hear that, right?

Anyway, so I’m convinced now that if she really is Hope, she would have remembered me. Especially after I told her mother that my name was Dean Holder. I glanced down at Sky to see if my first name rang a bell but based on her lack of reaction, it didn’t ring a bell at all, so there’s no way she could be the same girl.

Do you want to know the strangest part, Les? The part of this entire day that has thrown me for the biggest loop?

I don’t even want her to be Hope.

If she’s Hope, all of the drama and the stress and the media attention would surround us again and I don’t want that for her. This girl seems happy and healthy and not at all how I expected our Hope to be if we ever found her. So I’m glad Sky isn’t Hope and Hope isn’t Sky.

I had Daniel do some investigating and I learned a little bit about her. She’s lived in this area for years and has been homeschooled by her mom, who seems really nice, by the way.

Daniel also said she’s not officially dating Grayson, so that’s a plus. I’m still not sure how she’s connected to him, because according to Daniel she’s definitely connected to him in some way. I’m hoping to stop that before it becomes anything significant, though.

Sorry I’m rambling. It’s just been the type of day you don’t expect at all when you wake up for it. I’ll let you know how tomorrow goes. I owe Daniel a day of school.

P.S. Sky had a black eye today. She never said what actually happened, but you know how paranoid I am about anything remotely connected to Grayson. I’ll never forget that day you came home with those bruises on your arm, Les. You begged me not to kill him because I swear to you, I would have if you hadn’t sworn that he didn’t do it.

I don’t know if you were telling the truth when you said it happened during your athletics class. I don’t know if Grayson is capable of doing something like that. But seeing Sky with that bruise under her eye had me just as worked up as when I thought Grayson had hurt you. And you aren’t here for me to protect anymore, so I feel this unrelenting need to protect Sky and I don’t even know her.

Don’t tell Daniel this, not that you could, but I would have shown up to school tomorrow whether he made it a condition or not. I need to see how Sky and Grayson interact with my own two eyes so I can determine whether I actually need to kill him this time.

Chapter Nine

I’m ten minutes early when I reach her house, so I take a seat on the curb and stretch. After leaving here yesterday, I felt like me offering to run with her might have been a little forward. It is out of my way and I don’t usually run this much in a day, but I didn’t know how else I would see her again.

I hear her walking up behind me, so I spin around and stand up. “Hey, you.”

I expect her to smile or return a greeting of some sort, but instead she eyes me up and down with an uncomfortable frown. I shrug it off, hoping she’s just not a morning person.

“You need to stretch first?” I ask her.

She shakes her head. “Already did.”

I’m curious if the solemn attitude is because she’s sore from her fall yesterday. Her black eye is still prominently displayed, but her cheek doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. I reach out and run my thumb over the scrape on her face. “Doesn’t look so bad. You sore?” She shakes her head no. “Good. You ready?”

She nods. “Yeah.”

Three words is all the conversation I get from her? She turns and we both begin running in silence. I’ve never run with a girl before but I expected there to be a little more back and forth. I can’t tell from the guarded greeting we just had in her front yard if she’s uncomfortable around me, or if the quietness is actually a sign of comfort. It could go either way.

The tension lessens once I fall into step behind her. It’s easier to get away with not speaking when I’m not running side by side with her. I just have no idea what to say. I’m not much of a talker to begin with, but being in her presence suppresses the conversational side of me even more. I guess if I really want to get anywhere with her, I need to suck it up. I speed up and step back into stride with her.

“You better try out for track,” I say. “You’ve got more stamina than most of the guys from the team last year.”

She shakes her head and continues to focus on the sidewalk in front of us. “I don’t know if I want to,” she says. “I don’t really know anyone at school. I planned on trying out, but so far most of the people at school are sort of . . . mean. I don’t really want to be subjected to them for longer periods of time under the guise of a team.”

I hate that she’s been in school for a day and she already knows how mean everyone is. I wonder what the hell they did to make her first day so bad?

“You’ve only been in public school for a day. Give it time. You can’t expect to be homeschooled your whole life, then walk in the first day with a ton of new friends.”

I feel bad telling her the exact opposite of what I really feel. If I was being completely honest, I’d tell her to go back to homeschooling, because she had it made before she entered public school. I turn to look at her but she’s not running next to me. I spin around and she is stopped several feet behind me with her hands on her hips. I rush to her.

“Are you okay? Are you dizzy?” I hold her shoulders in case she feels faint again. I’d feel like the ultimate jackass if I just let her bust the pavement like I did yesterday.

She shakes her head no, then pushes my hands off her shoulders. “I’m fine,” she says.

She’s pissed about something. I try to think of what I might have said, but nothing seemed offensive. “Did I say something wrong?”

She drops her eyes to the pavement and starts walking again, so I follow her. “A little,” she says with a miffed tone. “I was halfway joking about the stalking yesterday, but you admitted to looking me up on Facebook right after meeting me. Then you insist on running with me, even though it’s out of your way. Now you somehow know how long I’ve been in public school? And that I was homeschooled? I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little unnerving.”

Shit. What the hell is wrong with me? How do I admit that I learned most of what I know about her based on overhearing Grayson at a party and through speculative rumors from Daniel? She doesn’t need to know that. I don’t want her to know that.

I sigh and continue walking toward her house with her. “I asked around,” I say. “I’ve lived here since I was ten, so I have a lot of friends. I was curious about you.”

She focuses on me as if she’s trying to figure out how I know so much about her. I’m not about to admit the things I overheard Grayson say, because I don’t want to hurt her. But I also don’t want to admit that I begged Daniel for more information, because I don’t want to scare her off. But based on the skeptical look spread across her face, she’s already formed a good amount of distrust in me.

I take her by the elbow and she stops walking. I turn her so that she’s facing me.

“Sky. I think we got off on the wrong foot at the store yesterday. And the talk about stalking, I swear, it was a joke. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable around me. Would it make you feel better if you knew more about me? Ask me something and I’ll tell you. Anything.”

“If I ask you something, will you be honest?”

I look her hard in the eyes. “That’s all I’ll ever be,” I say. And I intend to be completely honest with her, unless I think it’ll hurt her.

“Why did you drop out of school?”

I sigh, wishing she had asked me something a little less complicated. I should have known things wouldn’t be simple with her, though.

I start walking again. “Technically, I haven’t dropped out yet.”

“Well you obviously haven’t been in over a year. I’d say that’s dropping out.”

That comment makes me curious if she’s heard the rumors about me. Of course I’ve been to school in the past year, it just wasn’t this one. But she didn’t ask about the rumored stint in juvi, so I’m not going to offer up unnecessary information.

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