Chapter One

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"Matty, it's a bad time."

This particular staircase was one I knew well. I didn't have to watch the steps as I went down and I didn't have to count how many I had left. Nope. I had been going up and down these stairs for years and could now navigate them exclusively by muscle memory. Nothing about them surprised me anymore.

I could not say the same for the two boys standing in the foyer below.

"Don't do this to me, Scout. Not again. Not this time."

I couldn't see much more than their silhouettes, so I knew that they were hiding. Hiding from the wide-open room next door. Hiding from the sounds of cards and celebration and Aunt Abby after too many drinks. Hiding from the smells of fresh beef and some form of roasted potatoes.

Hiding from family. When it came to Scout and Matt, they were always hiding from family. "Your year is up and she's here," said my brother's shadow. "You're out of excuses, Scout."

"I didn't think—that's your whole family in there."

And he wasn't wrong. The Goode family extended far beyond the name. We had Morgans and Townsends and Baxters. McHenry and Woods and a whole three Andersons. That dining room table was surrounded by people who were, in some way, Goode, even if they really weren't.

"It'll be easier," Matt said, his shadow moving closer to Scout's. Scout back away, far too aware of the covert minds sitting just three yards away. "Get it all done in one go—and trust me. Once one of them knows something, they all know it. Take it from the guy who got spaghetti stuck in his nose when he was twelve."


"This was the deal," Matt said, taking another step forward. When Scout tried to move away again, there was a wall at his back, and I wondered how Scout Jasons had allowed himself to be cornered. "Either we do this today or—or this is the end, Scout."

This seemed to send a shift between the two of them. Listening in, I thought that maybe it was a threat, but upon further inspection, I knew that I was wrong. People with threats don't look at their targets in the same way Matt was looking at Scout. People who are threatened don't lock onto the breath of those threatening them. This was more than that. This was a plea.

"And I would... really hate for this to be the end," Matt sighed.

There wasn't much light in that foyer—just the last traces of sunshine as it set behind the surrounding forest and slithered its way in through the slim windows of the front door. Even so, my brother was looking up at Scout like he didn't need the light to see him and Scout was looking back at Matt, wishing he could say the same. "One more day," he begged. "Just one more day, Matty."

"That's what you said yesterday," Matt reminded him.

"I mean it this time," said Scout.

"That's also what you said yesterday."



And apparently, there were still some things about that particular set of stairs that could surprise me, because I shifted, and the step beneath me creaked, and the two spies below snapped their attention to the sound.


Except, not really, because being busted implied some level of danger or trouble or, at the very least, a very stern lecture from a red-faced father. I hadn't been busted. I had been found.

Matt's smile shone bright even in the dimness, but Scout had him beat. I didn't know why they always did that—smile when they saw me—but they did, and it had to be one of my favorite sights. "Maggie!" Scout said. "Happy birthday."

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