Walk the Edge (Thunder Road #2)(5) by Katie McGarry

“Regardless, Breanna has a fantastic memory and a high IQ. We can supplement her education, but High Grove Academy can offer her opportunities we are not prepared or equipped to give her.”

Exactly. I sit taller with Mrs. Reed’s well-thought-out, adult-validated argument, but Mom leans into her hand propped up by her elbow on the armrest and hides her eyes, while Dad...he remains quiet.

Gray streaks I’ve never noticed have marred his dark hair and he rubs at the black circles under his eyes. His typically fit frame seems smaller in his business suit. Dad’s been under extreme stress at his job and guilt drips through me that I’m adding to his burdens.

I open my mouth, close it, then try again. “Dad, I will do everything in my power to pay for this myself.”

“It’s not the money, Bre.” Dad raises his head and it’s like he’s aged ten years from when I saw him this morning. “It’s the timing. The company lost a huge contract, and if I don’t win over this next client, the whole town’s in trouble.”

Because over half the town works for the factory. They make paint. It’s a lot of chemical reactions going on in a small, contained space, but it’s a process that requires a ton of people.

“Your mom just received a promotion at the hospital and her hours are more than we thought they’d be. Give us a few months to get our feet underneath us and then, your mom and I, we’ll do everything we can to help you with the college of your choice, but for right now, we need you at home. We need you here. This family would be impossible to run without you.”

He offers a weak upward lift of his lips and Mom’s beaming as if she thinks Dad’s monologue will persuade me. As if his words will cause me to forget how each day that passes in this town makes me feel like I’m drowning under a million gallons of water.

This should be one of those proud moments—the ones I’ve seen on television—where I hug my father and tell him how I’m overjoyed by his faith in me, but on the inside I’m a rose wilting in fast-forward on the vine.

How do I refuse my parents? How do I explain that of our family of nine, I’m the one who’s never fit in?

“I understand.” I hate it, but there’s nothing else to say. “I understand.”

RAZOR

THE WORLD ZONES out as if I’m in a long tunnel encircled by darkness. The green of the trees and sunlight surrounding me becomes too far away to reach. In a mindless movement, I shut off the engine and the stillness becomes a weight.

“I have a file,” the detective says. “In my car. I’d like you to take a look at it.”

I slip off my bike and wait for him a few inches from the bumper of his car. There’s a voice in the back of my head. One I’m familiar with. One I understand. It’s tossing out warnings—tell him to talk to Dad, tell him to speak with the club’s board, tell him to go through the hundreds of different protocols that have been shoved down my throat on how any of us should deal with someone who’s not a member of the Terror.

But as he offers me the file, the sight of my mother’s name muzzles the voice. There’s silence in my head. A crazy, fucked-up silence. The type that can drive a guy insane.

“Open it,” he says. Mom said the same thing to me once. It was Christmas. The box was bigger than the other ones and it moved. Doubt I’ll find in this file, like I did with the box Mom gave me, a puppy inside.

I do open the file, and I trudge in slow motion for the porch as my eyes take in the typed words and the handwritten notes. With a flip of a page, I slump until my ass hits the top stair. It’s a picture of my mom. A hand over my face, then I focus once again on the picture—of her, of my mother.

“Where’d you get this?” I ask. It’s of Mom smiling. A real smile. The type where her eyes crinkled. I loved it when she smiled like that. It meant her mood wasn’t fake.

“Your dad gave it to the local police force...when she went missing.”

Went missing...

That night, Dad and the club had been out for hours searching, scouring for a trace. Dad left me with my surrogate grandmother, Olivia. My three best friends stayed with me at her place. I was ten and they watched me pet my puppy over and over again.

I crack my neck to the side to bring me back to the present—back to her picture. I resemble Mom. I’m more like Dad in build and height, but I have her blond hair and blue eyes. Problem is when I peer into the mirror, I don’t see the deep warming blue of her eyes. I see ice.

“Does the club ever discuss what happened that night?” From where the detective stands, he blocks the sun, so I can look up without squinting. “About what they saw?”