Black Ice Read online
First published in Great Britain by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd, 2014
A CBS COMPANY
Originally published in the USA in 2014 by Simon & Schuster BFYR, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, New York.
Copyright (c) 2014 Becca Fitzpatrick
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Becca Fitzpatrick to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
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London WC1X 8HB
Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
HB ISBN: 978-1-47111-814-2
TPB ISBN: 978-1-47111-815-9
EBOOK ISBN: 978-1-47111-817-3
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
For Riley and Jace, who tell me stories
This book was shaped by many hands.
Thank you to my editor, Zareen Jaffery, for your wisdom and dedication. You deserve credit for some of the best parts in this book.
Christian Teeter and Heather Zundel, a writer couldn't ask for finer first readers, or finer sisters. I was never worried that you wouldn't tell me exactly what you thought of Black Ice. After all, you've been telling me what you think of my clothes, hair, boyfriends, and taste in music and movies since we were little. You're the bestest.
I can't fail to mention Jenn Martin, my assistant, whose brain works quite differently from mine: Hers is organized. Jenn, thank you for handling all the other stuff, so I can focus on writing.
To my friends at Simon & Schuster, including Jon Anderson, Justin Chanda, Anne Zafian, Julia Maguire, Lucy Ruth Cummins, Chrissy Noh, Katy Hershberger, Paul Crichton, Sooji Kim, Jenica Nasworthy, and Chava Wolin: I couldn't have handpicked a better publishing team myself. High fives and hugs all around.
Katharine Wiencke, thank you for copyediting Black Ice.
As always, I appreciate my agent Catherine Drayton's business acumen and foresight. Speaking of agents, I also happen to work with the best foreign-rights agent in the industry. Thank you, Lyndsey Blessing, for putting my books into the hands of readers around the world.
Erin Tangeman at the Nebraska Attorney General's Office deserves a shout-out for answering my law-related questions. All errors are mine.
Thanks to Jason Hale for coming up with the fly-fishing slogans for the bumper stickers on Britt's Wrangler.
I know Josh Walsh gets tired of having his name mentioned in my books, as a humble man would, but your pharmaceutical knowledge is much appreciated.
Finally, dear reader, this book is ultimately in your hands because of you. I can't thank you enough for reading my stories.
One year later
One year later
The rusted Chevy pickup truck clanked to a stop, and when Lauren Huntsman's head thumped the passenger window, it jolted her awake.
She managed a few groggy blinks. Her head felt strewn with broken memories, shattered fragments that, if she could just piece them together, would form something whole. A window back to earlier in the night. Right now, that window lay in pieces inside her throbbing head.
She remembered the cacophony of country music, raucous laughter, and NBA highlights on the overhead TVs. Dim lighting. Shelves displaying dozens of glass bottles glowing green, amber, and black.
She'd asked for a drink from that bottle, because it made her dizzy in a good way. A steady hand had poured the liquor into her glass a moment before she'd thrown it back.
"Another one," she'd rasped, plonking the empty glass down on the bar.
She remembered swaying on the cowboy's hip, slow dancing. She stole his cowboy hat; it looked better on her. A black Stetson to match her itsy-bitsy black dress, her black drink, and her foul, black mood--which, mercifully, was hard to hang on to in a tacky dive like this, a rare gem of a bar in the noses-up, la-di-da world of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she was vacationing with her family. She'd sneaked out and her parents would never find her here. The thought was a bright light on the horizon. Soon she'd be so tipsy, she wouldn't remember what they looked like. Already their judgmental frowns streaked in her memory, like wet paint running down canvas.
Paint. Color. Art. She'd tried to escape there, to a world of splattered jeans and stained fingers and soul enlightenment, but they had yanked her back, shut her down. They didn't want a free-spirited artist in the family. They wanted a daughter with a diploma from Stanford.
If they would just love her. Then she wouldn't wear tight, cheap dresses that infuriated her mother or throw her passion into causes that offended her father's egoism and stiff, aristocratic morals.
She almost wished her mother were here to see her dancing, see her slinking down the cowboy's leg. Grinding hip-to-hip. Murmuring the wickedest things she could think of into his ear. They only paused dancing when he went to the bar to get her a fresh drink. She could have sworn it tasted different from the others. Or maybe she was so drunk, she imagined the bitter taste.
He asked if she wanted to go somewhere private.
Lauren only debated a moment. If her mother would disapprove, then the answer was obvious.
The Chevy's passenger door opened and Lauren's vision stopped seesawing long enough to focus on the cowboy. For the first time, she noticed the distinct crook in the bridge of his nose, probably a trophy from a bar fight. Knowing he had a hot temper should have made her want him more, but oddly, she found herself wishing she could find a man who exercised rest