Walk the Edge (Thunder Road #2)(3) by Katie McGarry

Kyle grins. It’s all teeth, and until this moment, I used to adore his smile. He has black hair like me, but he’s much taller than I am and, thanks to his lifelong dedication to the game of football, he resembles a brick wall.

He’s handsome. Always has been, but he’s never been the kind who notices me. For a few seconds, I had delusions of grandeur that the reason he called my name was because he appreciated my change in appearance and, in theory, my change in attitude.

I have never been so wrong in my life.

“What do you say? Will you do it?” Kyle shoves his hands into the front pockets of his Dockers as if he’s the one who’s nervous.

Like my younger brother wore for his junior orientation yesterday, Kyle sports a white shirt, nice pants and a tie. The football coach required his entire team to dress up on the day of their orientation. I think it makes them stick out, but my younger brother claims it shows solidarity.

School starts in a few days and tonight is senior orientation. My parents are currently in a meeting with my guidance counselor while I’m being propositioned.

Propositioned. My lips tilt up sarcastically.

My goal for this evening was to be noticed. Guess I succeeded. I was noticed, but not for my new choices in clothing, hairstyle, or because I dumped my glasses for contacts. Nope, I was hunted for my brain. All exciting and swoon-worthy romance novels start off this way, right?

Kyle misreads my body language and his dark eyes brighten. “So you’ll write my English papers for the year?”

Fifty dollars per paper—that’s his offer. Standing in my sister’s second-generation hand-me-downs of a sleeveless blue blouse, shorter-than-I’ve-ever-worn jean skirt and platform sandals causes me to consider his proposal if only for the course of a heartbeat. I’m the middle of nine children and, I’ll admit, new and shiny gains my attention, but this...this is wrong.

“Do you know this is the first time you’ve spoken to me?” I say.

He laughs like I told a joke, but I’m not kidding. Snowflake, Kentucky, is a small town and everyone tends to know everyone else, but just because we breathe the same air doesn’t mean we communicate, or act like everyone else exists.

“That’s not true,” he retorts. “We sat at the same table in fourth grade.”

I incline my head to the side in a mock why-didn’t-I-remember-that-bonding-moment? “My, how time flies.”

He chuckles, then scratches the back of his head, causing his styled hair to curl out to the side. “You’re funny. I didn’t know that. Look, it’s not my fault you’re quiet.”

Kyle’s right. It isn’t his fault I became socially withdrawn. That blame falls solely on me. It’s a decision I made in seventh grade when I was publicly crucified.

Blending into paint for the past couple of years has kept me safe, but it creates the sensation of suffocation. Everyone says the same thing: Breanna’s smart, she’s quiet. On the inside, I’m not at all quiet. Most of the time, I’m screaming. “I’m not writing your papers.”

Kyle’s smile that had suggested he had a done deal morphs into a frown and acid sloshes in my stomach. Denying Kyle isn’t what bothers me as much as it worries me what he’ll mention to his friends. They’re the reason why I went voluntarily mute in seventh grade.

Heat races up my neck as the repercussions of refusing sets in, but I don’t even consider agreeing. Cheating is not my style.

Kyle surveys the hallway, and if it’s privacy he’s searching for, he’ll be sorely disappointed. He slides closer and a strange edginess causes me to step back, but Kyle follows. “Fine. One hundred dollars per paper.”

“No.”

“You don’t understand. My grades have to improve.” Easygoing Kyle disappears and desperation is hardly attractive.

I steal a peek into the school’s main office, hoping my guidance counselor will beckon me in. Half of me hopes she’ll have life-altering news for me, the other half hopes to end this insane conversation. “What you’re asking for is crazy.”

“No, it’s not.”

In an answer to the one million prayers being chanted in my head, my guidance counselor opens her door. “Breanna.”

Kyle leans into me. “This conversation isn’t over.”

“Yes, it is.” But he ignores my reply as he jogs up the nearest stairwell. Great. So far my senior year is starting out as the antithesis of my wishes—back at this tiny, strangling school with a group of people who think I’m beneficial for only one thing: as a homework hotline.