On Dublin Street

Prologue

Surry County, Virginia

I was bored.

Kyle Ramsey was kicking the back of my chair to get my attention, but he’d been kicking my best friend’s, Dru, chair yesterday and I didn’t want to upset her. She had a huge crush on Kyle. Instead, I watched her as she sat beside me drawing a million tiny love hearts in the corner of her notebook as Mr. Evans scribbled another equation on the board. I really should have been paying attention because I sucked at math. Mom and dad wouldn’t be happy with me if I failed a class the first semester into freshman year.

“Mr. Ramsey, would you care to come up to the board and answer this question, or would you prefer to remain behind Jocelyn so you can kick her chair some more?”

The class tittered and Dru shot me an accusing look. I grimaced and shot Mr. Evan’s a pointed glare.

“I’ll stay here, if that’s okay, Mr. Evans,” Kyle replied with impudent swagger. I rolled my eyes, refusing to turn around even though I could feel the heat of his gaze on the back of my neck.

“That was actually a rhetorical question, Kyle. Get up here.”

A knock at the door put a halt to Kyle’s groan of acquiescence. At the sight of our principal, Ms. Shaw, the whole class grew still. What was the principal doing in our class? That could only signal trouble.

“Whoa,” Dru muttered under her breath and I looked at her, frowning. She nodded at the doorway. “Cops.”

Shocked, I turned to look back at the door as Ms. Shaw murmured something quietly to Mr. Evans, and sure enough, through the gap in the door, I could see two deputies waiting out in the hall.

“Miss Butler.” Ms. Shaw’s voice snapped my gaze back to her in surprise. She took a step towards me and I felt my heart leap into my throat. Her eyes were wary, sympathetic, and I immediately wanted to back away from her and whatever it was she was here to tell me. “Can you come with me, please? Grab your things.”

This was usually the part where the class would ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ about how much trouble I was in. But like me, they sensed that wasn’t what this was about. Whatever news was out in that hall, they weren’t going to tease me about it.

“Miss Butler?”

I was shaking now from a spike of adrenaline and I could barely hear anything over the sound of my own blood rushing in my ears. Had something happened to mom? Or dad? Or my baby sister, Beth? My parents had taken some time off work this week together to de-stress from what had been a crazy summer. They were supposed to be taking Beth out today for a picnic.

“Joss.” Dru nudged me, and as soon as her elbow touched my arm, I shot back from the table, my chair screaming across the wooden floor. Without looking at anyone, I fumbled with my bag, swiping everything off my desk and into it. The whispers had started hissing around the room like cold wind through a crack in a windowpane. Despite not wanting to know what was ahead of me, I really wanted out of that room.

Somehow remembering how to put one foot in front of the other, I followed the principal out into the hall and listened to Mr. Evan’s door snick shut behind me. I didn’t say anything. I just looked at Ms. Shaw and then at the two deputies who stared at me with a distant compassion. Standing near the wall was a woman I hadn’t noticed earlier. She