Chapter 2

It took the entire drive into Petersburg for me to calm down. Even then there was still a hot mix of anger and humiliation swirling inside me.

What the heck was wrong with him? I thought people in small towns were supposed to be nice, not act like the son of Satan.

I found Main Street with no problem, which literally seemed to be the main street. There was the Grant County Library on Mount View, and I reminded myself I needed to get a library card.

Grocery store options were limited. Foodland, which actually read FOO LAND, brought to you by the missing letter D, was where Douchebag had said it would be.

The front windows were plastered with a missing person's picture of a girl about my age with long dark hair and laughing eyes. The data below said she'd last been seen over a year ago.

There was a reward, but after she'd been missing for that long, I doubted the reward would ever be claimed. Saddened by that thought, I headed inside.

I was a speed shopper, wasting no time strolling aisles. Throwing items into the cart, I realized I'd need more than I thought since we only had the bare necessities at home. Soon, my cart was filled to the rim.


Lost in thought, I jumped at the soft female voice and dropped a carton of eggs on the floor.


"Oh! I am so sorry! I startled you. I do that a lot." Tan arms shot out and she picked up the carton and placed it back on the shelf. She grabbed another one and held it in her slender hands. "These won't be cracked." I lifted my gaze from the egg carnage slowly oozing bright yolks all over the linoleum floor and was momentarily stunned. My first impression of the girl was that she was too beautiful to be standing in a grocery store with a carton of eggs in her hand.

She stood out like a sunflower in a field of wheat.

Everyone else was a pale comparison. Her dark hair was curly and longer than mine, reaching her waist. She was tall, thin, and her almost perfect features held a certain innocence.

She reminded me of someone, especially those startling green eyes. I gritted my teeth. What were the odds?

She grinned. "I'm Daemon's sister. My name is Dee." She placed the undamaged carton of eggs in my cart. "New eggs!" She smiled.


Dee gestured at a hot-pink purse in the front of her cart. A cell phone was lying on top of it.

"You talked to him about thirty minutes ago.

You stopped by...asking for directions?" So the dickhead had a name. Daemon -

seemed fitting. And of course his sister would be as attractive as him. Why not? Welcome to West Virginia, the land of lost models. I was starting to doubt I was going to fit in here. "Sorry. I wasn't expecting anyone to call out my name." I paused. "He called you?"

"Yeah." She deftly pulled her cart out of the way of a toddler running amok through the narrow aisle. "Anyway, I saw you guys move in, and I've been meaning to stop by, and when he said you were here, well, I was so excited to meet you I ran over. He told me what you looked liked." I could only imagine that description.

Curiosity filled her face as she watched me with her intense green eyes. "Although, you don't look anything like he said, but anyway, I'd know who you were. It's hard not to know pretty much everyone's face around here." I watched a grubby little kid climb up the bread rack. "I don't think your brother likes me." Her brows furrowed. "What?"

"Your brother - I don't think he likes me." I turned back to the cart, fiddling with a package of meat. "He wasn't very...helpful."

"Oh no," she said and then laughed. I looked at her sharply. "I'm sorry. My brother is moody."

No shit. "I'm pretty sure that was more than being moody."

She shook her head. "He was having a bad day. He's worse than a girl, trust me. He doesn't hate you. We're twins. Even I want to kill him on days that end with a Y. Anyway, Daemon's kind of rough around the edges. He doesn't get along with...people." I laughed. "You think?"

"Well, I'm glad I ran into you here!" she exclaimed, changing the subject yet again. "I wasn't sure if I would've been bothering you if I popped over, with you getting settled in and all."

"No, it wouldn't have been a bother." I tried to keep up with the conversation. She went from one topic to the next like someone in bad need of Ritalin.

"You should've seen me when Daemon said you were our age. I almost ran home to hug him." She moved excitedly. "If I'd known he was going to be so rude to you, I would have been likely to punch him instead."

"I can imagine." I grinned. "I wanted to punch him, too."

"Imagine being the only girl in the neighborhood and stuck with your annoying brother most of the time." She glanced over her shoulder, delicate brows creasing.

I followed her gaze. The little boy now had a carton of milk in each hand, which reminded me that I needed milk. "Be right back." I headed over to the refrigerated section.

Finally, the mother of the child had rounded the corner, yelling, "Timothy Roberts, you put that back right now! What are you - ?" The kid stuck out his tongue. Sometimes being around children was the perfect abstinence program. Then again, not like I needed a program. I carried my milk back to where Dee waited, staring at the floor. Her fingers twisted over the handle of her cart, squeezing until her knuckles bleached.

"Timothy, get right back here this instant!" The mother grabbed his chubby arm. Strands of hair had escaped her severe bun. "What did I tell you?" she hissed. "You don't go near them." Them? I expected to see someone else. Except it was Dee Confused, I glanced at the woman. I was shocked to see her dark eyes filled with disgust. Pure revulsion, and behind that, in the way her lips pressed into a hard line and trembled, there was also fear.

And she was staring at Dee.

Then she gathered the squirmy boy into her arms and hurried off, leaving her cart in the middle of the aisle.

I turned to Dee. "What the heck was that about?"

Dee smiled, but it was brittle. "Small town.

The locals are weird around here. Don't pay any attention to them. Anyway, you must be so bored after unpacking and then grocery shopping. That's like two of the worst things ever. I mean, hell could be devised of those two things. Think of an eternity of unpacking boxes and grocery shopping?" I couldn't help grinning as I struggled to keep up with Dee's nonstop chatter while we finished loading our carts.

Normally, someone like that would wear me out in five seconds, but the excitement in her eyes and the way she kept rocking back on her heels was sort of contagious.

"Do you have more stuff to get?" she asked.

"I'm pretty much done. I really came to catch you and was sucked down the ice cream aisle. It calls to me."

I laughed and looked at my full cart. "Yeah, I hope I'm done."

"Come on then. We can check out together." As we waited in the checkout aisle, Dee rattled on, and I forgot about the weird incident in the milk aisle. Dee believed Petersburg needed another grocery store - because this one didn't carry organic food - and she wanted organic chicken for what she was making Daemon fix her for dinner. After a few minutes I got past the difficulty of keeping up with her and actually started to relax. She wasn't bubbly, just really... alive. I hoped she rubbed off on me.

The checkout line moved quicker than it did in larger cities. Once outside, she stopped next to a new Volkswagen and unlocked the trunk.

"Nice car," I commented. They had money, obviously, or Dee had a job.

"I love it." She patted the rear bumper. "It's my baby."

I shoved groceries in the back of my sedan.


"Yeah?" I twirled the keys around my finger, hoping asshat brother aside, she wanted to hang out later. There was no telling how late Mom was going to sleep.

"I should apologize for my brother.

Knowing him, I'm sure he wasn't very nice." I sort of felt sorry for her, being that she was related to such a tool. "It's not your fault." Her fingers twisted around her key ring, and her eyes drifted to mine. "He's really overprotective, so he doesn't take well to strangers."

Like a dog? I almost smiled, but her eyes were wide and she looked genuinely scared I wouldn't forgive her. Having a brother like him must suck. "It's no big deal. Maybe he was just having a bad day."

"Maybe." She smiled, but it seemed forced.

"Seriously, no worries. We're good," I said.

"Thanks! I'm totally not a stalker. I swear." She winked. "But I'd love to hang out this afternoon. Got any plans?"

"Actually, I was thinking of tackling the overgrown flower bed in the front. You wanna help?" Having company might be fun.

"Oh, that sounds great. Let me get these groceries home, and I'll head straight over," she said. "I'm really excited to garden! I've never done that."

Before I could ask what sort of childhood didn't include at least the obligatory tomato plant, she'd dashed off to her car and zoomed out of the parking lot. I pushed off my bumper and headed toward the driver's side. I opened the car door and was about to climb in when the feeling of being watched crept over me.

My eyes darted around the parking lot, but there was only a man in a black suit and dark sunglasses staring at a missing person's picture on a community corkboard. All I could think of was Men in Black.

The only thing he needed was that little memory-wiper device and a talking dog. I would've laughed, except nothing about the man was funny...Especially since he was now staring right back at me.


A little past one that afternoon, Dee knocked on the front door. When I stepped outside, I found her standing near the steps, rolling back on the heels of her wedge sandals. Not what I'd consider "gardening" attire. The sun cast a halo around her dark head and she had an impish grin on her face. In that moment, she reminded me of a fairy princess. Or maybe a cracked-out Tinker Bell, considering how hyper she was.

"Hey." I stepped out onto the porch, closing the door quietly behind me. "My mom's sleeping."

"I hope I didn't wake your mom," she mock whispered.

I shook my head. "Nah, she'd sleep through a hurricane. It's happened, actually."

Dee grinned as she sat on the swing. She looked timid, hugging her elbows. "As soon as I came home with groceries, Daemon ate half a bag of my potato chips, two of my fudge pops, and then half of the peanut butter jar." I started laughing. "Wow. How does he stay so..." Hot.


"It's amazing." She pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them. "He eats so much we usually have to run two to three trips a week to the store." She looked at me with a sly glint in her eyes. "Of course, I can eat you out of house and home too. I guess I shouldn't be talking." My envy was almost painful. I wasn't blessed with a fast metabolism. My hips and butt could attest to that. I wasn't overweight, but I really hated it when Mom referred to me as

'curvy.' "That's so not fair. I eat a bag of chips and gain five pounds."

"We're lucky." Her easy grin seemed tighter. "Anyway, you must tell me all about Florida. Never been there."

I propped myself up on the porch railing.

"Think nonstop shopping malls and parking lots.

Oh, but the beaches. Yeah, it's worth it for the beaches." I loved the heat of the sun on my skin, my toes squishing in the wet sand.

"Wow," Dee said, her gaze darting next door as if she were waiting for someone. "It's going to take a lot for you to get used to living here. Adapting can be...hard when you're out of your element." I shrugged. "I don't know. It doesn't seem that bad. Of course when I first found out, I was like, you have got to be kidding me. I didn't even know this place existed."

Dee laughed. "Yeah, a lot of people don't.

We were shocked when we came here."

"Oh, so you guys aren't from here either?" Her laugh died off as her gaze flicked away from mine. "No, we're not from here."

"Did your parents move here for work?" Although I had no idea what sort of jobs were around this place.

"Yeah, they work in the city. We don't see them a lot."

I had the distinct impression there was more to it. "That must be hard. But...a lot of freedom, I guess. My mom is rarely here either."

"I guess you understand then." A strange, sad look filled her eyes. "We kind of run our own lives."

"And you'd think our lives would be more exciting than this, right?"

She looked wistful. "Have you ever heard of, be careful what you wish for? I used to think that." She toed the swing back and forth, neither of us rushing to fill the ensuing silence. I knew exactly what she meant. I can't remember how many times I'd lain awake at night and hoped Mom would snap out of it and move on - and welcome West Virginia.

Dark clouds seemed to roll in out of nowhere, casting a shadow across the yard. Dee frowned. "Oh no! It looks like we're going to get one of our famous afternoon rainstorms.

They usually last a couple of hours."

"That's too bad. I guess we better plan to garden tomorrow instead. Are you available?"

"Sure thing." Dee shivered in the suddenly chilly air.

"Wonder where this storm came from. It seemed to come out of nowhere, didn't it?" I asked.

Dee jumped up from the swing, wiping her hands on her pants. "Looks that way. Well, I think your mom is up, and I need to wake Daemon."

"Sleeping? That's a little late."

"He's weird," Dee said. "I'll be back tomorrow, and we can head to the garden shop." Laughing, I slid off the rail. "Sounds good."

"Great!" She skipped down the steps and twirled around. "I'll tell Daemon you said hi!" I felt my cheeks turn a fiery red. "Uh, that won't be necessary."

"Trust me, it is!" She laughed and then sprinted to the house next door. Joy.

Mom was in the kitchen, coffee in hand. As she faced me, steaming brown liquid sloshed over the counter. The innocent look on her face gave it away.

Grabbing a towel, I walked over to the counter. "She lives next door, her name is Dee, and I ran into her while I was at the grocery store." I swiped the towel over the splotches of coffee. "She has a brother. His name is Daemon.

They're twins."

"Twins? Interesting." She smiled. "Is Dee nice, dear?"

I sighed. "Yes, Mom, she's very nice."

"I'm so happy. It's about time you came out of your shell."

I didn't realize I was in a shell.

Mom blew softly and then took a sip, eyeing me over the rim. "Did you make plans to hang out with her tomorrow?"

"You would know. You were listening."

"Of course." She winked. "I'm your mother.

That is what we do."

"Eavesdropping on conversations?"

"Yes. How else am I supposed to know what is going on?" she asked innocently.

I rolled my eyes and turned to go back into the living room. "Privacy, Mom."

"Honey," she called from the kitchen, "there is no such thing as privacy."