Chapter One

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Of course my car would decide to die on my first day of work post-Thanksgiving. How fitting. Maybe it thinks I wasn't quite thankful enough for it, what with all the complaining.

The day certainly could have gotten off to a better start.

I turn the key in the ignition and pump the gas pedal. Still nothing. Dead battery?

I step out into the freezing air and open the garage door. After a few minutes of searching I still can't find the other set of jumper cables, or a spare battery. Honestly, I don't even know if we keep spare batteries around. The cables I usually keep in my car are in Mom's, since hers disappeared back in the summer and we kept forgetting to buy another set.

I could ask one of the neighbors, I suppose. But I don't really want to. Some are still sleeping in or already at work. And there's no way I'm walking all the way to Conley. Not even when the weather's nice, which it certainly isn't today.

The garage door rattles and squeaks back into place, loud enough to wake anyone who might have been sleeping in.

An engine shuts off behind me.

"Need some help?"

I swivel in time to see Merritt Kingston hop out of his old pickup, the same one he fixed up the summer before he graduated high school. I think the original color was blue, but it's mostly rusty-brown and sun-faded now.

"I think the battery's dead."

He pulls his red knit cap down over his ears; tufts of blond hair peek out from underneath it.

"You wouldn't happen to have any jumper cables, would you?"

He steps around to the side of the truck bed and looks inside. "Apparently not. I can see if I can find the ones at the house."

He lives six houses down, so it's not that far. But in the time it'd take to make it to his house, look for the cables, and come back here, he'd already be running behind for work.

"I wouldn't want you to be late for work."

"It'll just take a minute." And without another word, he rounds his truck and sets out down the street.

I wait in my car, watching the little clouds forming in front of me when I breathe. About five minutes later, Merritt returns, parking his truck beside my car and bringing the cables around to the open hood.

Unfortunately, our attempts to bring my car back to life are fruitless. It refuses to start.

"Sorry," he says with a shrug as he puts the cables in the back of his truck and closes the hoods of both cars.

"Thanks anyway."

"There's an empty seat in the truck? I could take you to work if you like."

Conley is a little bit out of his way. But if he's offering...

"What about Nash?"

"He's already at school. He took the bus this morning."

"Are you sure you don't mind? I don't want you to be late."

"It's fine."

I grab my purse from my floorboard and climb into the truck's passenger side. The door creaks as I close it, but it's an operational vehicle which is more than I can say for mine at the moment. And the interior smells like vanilla, thanks to the air freshener in one of the vents.

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