One Kick (Kick Lannigan Series #1)

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From the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers: The first in a nail-biting new series featuring Kick Lannigan, a young woman whose complicated past has given her a very special skill set.

Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will ...

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One Kick (Kick Lannigan Series #1)

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From the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers: The first in a nail-biting new series featuring Kick Lannigan, a young woman whose complicated past has given her a very special skill set.

Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.

Trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker by her abductor, Kick could not return to the life of the average young girl after her release. So, in lieu of therapy, she mastered martial arts, boxing, and knife throwing; learned how to escape from the trunk of a car, jimmy a pair of handcuffs, and walk without making a sound—all before she was thirteen.

Kick has trained herself to be safe. But then two children go missing in three weeks, and an enigmatic and wealthy former weapons dealer approaches her with a proposition. John Bishop uses his fortune and contacts to track down missing children. Not only is he convinced Kick can help recover the two children—he won’t take no for an answer.

With lives hanging in the balance, Kick is set to be the crusader she has always imagined herself. Little does she know that the answers she and Bishop seek are hidden in one of the few places she doesn’t want to navigate—the dark corners of her own mind.

A heart-stopping, entertaining, thrill ride, One Kick announces the arrival of a blistering new series by a stunning talent in the thriller realm.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Kidnapped at six; rescued five years later; Kit "Kick" Lannigan would make a fine candidate for mass media swooning. Instead, this wounded pedophilia survivor has become a tightly-wound master of self-defense. All the rewards of her martial arts recovery risk being lost, though, when two children disappear not far from her Portland, Oregon haunts. Drafted somewhat against her will, she pursues the culprit, not yet knowing that a frightening sense of déjà vu is just around the corner. An intense, suspenseful series launch.

Library Journal - Audio
In a break from her established series featuring serial killer Gretchen Lowell and Det. Archie Sheridan, Cain here launches a new thriller endeavor. Kick Lannigan is a recovering victim of childhood abduction and pornographic exploitation and acts with determination and a unique physical and emotional skill set to rescue other abducted children. Cain explores the emotional storms of the captive/captor relationship without delving too deeply into the dark details of child sexploitation. Actress Heather Lind brings a believable voice to the sometimes-strong/sometimes-vulnerable Kick. VERDICT Recommended for mystery and thriller collections, especially where Cain's other series is popular. ["Fans of psychological suspense and flawed characters will enjoy getting to know Kick," read the review of the S. & S. hc, LJ 5/1/14.]—Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA
The New York Times Book Review - Adam LeBor
There are echoes of Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson's steely heroine, in Kick Lannigan, the protagonist of Chelsea Cain's unsettling new thriller…But [Kick Lannigan's] a far more human and likable protagonist than Lisbeth Salander could ever be…One Kick is well engineered and fast-paced, and its troubling subject matter is suggested rather than spelled out, avoiding gratuitous horror. But in the dark world it explores, everyday objects can acquire chilling aspects.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Ms. Cain's new book…is the auspicious start of another series that intermingles victimization and romance…In Heartsick, Gretchen asked: "Do you know what's more intimate than sex? Violence." And that book went on to prove her point. One Kick has a similar way of mixing brutality and eroticism, though it is very, very careful not to exploit the pedophilia angle.
Publishers Weekly
★ 06/09/2014
Bestseller Cain (Let Me Go) introduces a truly compelling new heroine, Kit “Kick” Lannigan, in this stellar first in a new thriller series. Kick made national headlines when she was kidnapped at age six and again when the FBI rescued her five years later. But being in captivity, even with a relatively benevolent kidnapper, took its emotional toll, and the now 21-year-old Kick, who lives in Portland, Ore., is obsessed with child abductions. In particular, the disappearance of Adam Rice and Mia Turner piques her interest—and triggers her guilt for the role she once played in ensuring the anonymity of a vast ring of child pornographers. When the mysterious John Bishop, a former arms dealer turned private security man, asks her to help find Adam and Mia, Kick knows she can’t say no. Kick has little to go on, except her ability to see the situation through the eyes of the children. Readers will want to see a lot more of the feisty Kick. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“Chelsea Cain has staked her claim to new territory with One Kick which heralds an exciting new series. Fresh, original, engaging and tension-filled, this is a perfect introduction to Kick Lannigan, whose quest for justice you’ll champion.”

– Sue Grafton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of W is for Wasted

“Author Cain has done it again. One Kick is superb! From its breathtaking opening sequence, through scenes of wrenching evil and heart-clutching emotion to its roller coaster finale, this novel will stay with you for a long time. And what a heroine . . . Here's hoping for more Kick Lannigan soon!” —Jeffery Deaver, author of The Skin Collector

“This is an edge-of-the-chair thriller, and Cain negotiates the twists and turns with finesse while keeping her foot firmly on the gas pedal. Excruciating yet always compelling.”
Booklist, starred review

"Chelsea Cain's One Kick has all the bones of a great thriller—a high-octane story that will never let you catch your breath, non-stop action, and twists galore. But it's Kick Lannigan that really gives this stellar read its heart and soul. Kick is a total badass, armed and dangerous. But you'll cheer for her, worry about her—and you'll pray that, if you ever meet anyone like her, she'll be on your side. Chelsea Cain has outdone herself — and that's no small feat."—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of In the Blood

“Prepare to read One Kick with your heart in your throat. Chelsea Cain has created a world that’s both utterly exhilarating and emotionally rich. With Kick Lannigan as our protagonist—resilient yet broken, conflicted yet righteous—we find ourselves willing to go anywhere, even to the darkest places, knowing she’ll protect us, surprise us, move us.” —Megan Abbott, author of Fever and Dare Me

"Kick Lannigan is my kind of heroine, brave and honorable, with a big gun and a sharp tongue. Chelsea Cain is at the top of her game here with crisp prose, rich characters, and breakneck pacing. Read the first chapter, and you'll be hooked." —Alafair Burke, author of All Day and a Night and If You Were Here

"In her Heartsick series Cain might cut your heart out. With One Kick she breaks it. If you're not crying by page 188 and terrified by page 290, you're not reading the right book." —Chuck Palahniuk, New York Times bestselling author of Fight Club

“Avenging angel Kick Lannigan is a compelling, original heroine who takes readers on a hair-raising quest for justice and redemption. Alternately terrifying and moving, this blistering thriller kept me riveted right up to its powerful conclusion.”—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise and Origin

“Chelsea Cain is the queen of the can't-put-it down-book and in One Kick she's entirely outdone herself. Deeply intelligent and grippingly suspenseful, One Kick is a wickedly brilliant masterpiece by a thrillingly talented master of the form.”
—Cheryl Strayed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wild

“Chelsea Cain has done it again! One Kick is a fast & furious thrill ride full of new exciting characters and major twists & turns. A must read!”
—Jackie Collins, New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of a Wild Child and Chances

"An unsettling, near-perfect effort by Cain that leaves you eagerly awaiting the next installment."
Kirkus, starred review

Library Journal
Cain, best known for her compelling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers (Heartsick; Let Me Go), turns her hand to a new series and a new protagonist. After years of being held prisoner by a pedophile, Kick Lannigan spends her time researching cases of missing children and obsessively practicing martial arts. She is recruited, somewhat against her will, in a daring plot to locate and rescue a kidnapped child. Kick's knowledge might be the only thing that can save the missing boy. VERDICT Kick is a gutsy kick-ass heroine doing her best to build a life for herself, while understandably haunted by her tragic past. She makes plenty of mistakes and isn't always likable, which makes her come across as very real. This book is nearly as dark as Cain's other titles, although not quite as graphic. Fans of psychological suspense and flawed characters will enjoy getting to know Kick. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14.]—Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-07-20
Abducted by a child pornography ring when she was 6 and held captive for five years, Kick Lannigan, 21, has turned herself into a lean, mean fighting machine. When a boy named Adam is reported missing, she springs into action to save him. The first book in a new series by Cain captures the age of the Amber Alert with hard-edged insight. All these years removed from her ordeal, Kick is the most viewed subject on porn sites. Still struggling with psychological baggage, she's dedicated herself to martial arts and marksmanship (she packs a Glock). She also is working at perfecting skills her abductor taught her, including picking locks. When the mysterious John Bishop, a wealthy former gun dealer working with the FBI, drops into Kick's life and demands that she go with him to the site of the latest abduction, she fiercely resists. But she slowly learns to trust him. Except for her tech-geek friend James, with whom she was held captive, she doesn't care about anyone else. Her mother, who wrote a best-seller about her daughter's abduction, is still milking the story as an expert on TV. With Bishop, a taciturn stud with his own painful secrets (and a private plane and helicopter at his disposal), Kick returns to places she was held as "Beth." Her unnerving confrontation with her abductor exposes a horribly complicated relationship. Distinguished by a wealth of details about how child porn rings operate, this is a gripping thriller in which Kick must apply everything she's learned, and things she's forgotten, to survive again.An unsettling, near-perfect effort by Cain (Let Me Go, 2013, etc.) that leaves you eagerly awaiting the next installment.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442370012
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 8/19/2014
  • Series: Kick Lannigan Series , #1
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 8
  • Sales rank: 311,096
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Chelsea Cain

Chelsea Cain is the author of the New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers Heartsick, Sweetheart, Evil at Heart, The Night Season, Kill You Twice, and Let Me Go. Her Portland-based thrillers have been published in twenty-four languages, recommended on the Today show, appeared in episodes of HBO’s True Blood and ABC’s Castle, and included in NPR’s list of the top 100 thrillers ever written. According to Booklist, “Popular entertainment just doesn’t get much better than this.” Visit her online at

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Read an Excerpt

One Kick

  • THEY HAD TOLD HER what to do if the police ever came. They had run drills—first thing in the morning; in the middle of the night; halfway through a meal—until she could get to the trapdoor in the closet from anywhere in the house in under a minute. She was an agile kid, and fast, and she practiced. When her father clicked the stopwatch and gave her a proud nod, she felt a heat of happiness burn in her chest.

She knew that he did it all for her. She saw the toll the stress took, the creases at the corners of his eyes, the gray strands in his gold hair; the pink of his scalp showed through where his hair was thinning on top. He was still strong. She could still count on him to protect her. Their property was in a rural county, miles from the nearest house, and he said he could hear a car coming as soon as it turned onto the gravel lane. This is where he had taught her to shoot. How to plant her feet so the .22 would feel steadier in her hands. He told her that if the police ever came, and he wasn’t home, that she should shoot anyone who tried to keep her from getting to the trapdoor. He had walked her around the house, showing her where every gun was stashed, making her say the location of each out loud so she would remember. “Under the kitchen sink.” “Dining room buffet drawer.” “Behind the books on the bookshelf.” She wasn’t scared. Her father was always home. If anyone needed shooting, he’d do it for her.

Rain battered the fragile farmhouse windows, but she felt safe, already dressed for bed in her cotton nightgown with the giraffes on it, a quilt wrapped around her shoulders. The smell of jar spaghetti sauce and meatballs—her favorite meal—still hung in the air, along with the burning wood crackling in the fireplace. The dining room table had been cleared. Her mother had disappeared into the kitchen. The Scrabble board was set up and she and her father studied their tiles. They played every night after dinner. It was part of her homeschooling. The fireplace in the living room flickered with a warm, orange glow, but they played at the dining room table. Her father said it was better for her posture. He picked up a wooden Scrabble tile and moved it onto the board. C. He grinned at her, and she knew that look, knew he had a good one. He put another tile down. A. He was putting the next tile down when the sound of someone pounding at the front door echoed through the house. She could see the fear on his face, the way his eyelids twitched. He dropped the tile. K.

Her mother materialized in the kitchen doorway, a yellow dishrag still in her wet hands. Everything went still. Like the moment when a photograph is taken—that pause when the whole world waits, trying not to blink.

“It’s Johnson,” a familiar voice shouted from outside. “Storm put a tree down on my power lines. Phone’s down. Everything. Can I use yours to call the sheriff?”

Her parents exchanged a tense glance and then her father tightened his fists on the table and leaned over them, not even noticing as he knocked over his Scrabble rack and all his tiles skidded across the tablecloth. Her mother had embroidered that tablecloth with bluebells and lupins. The K tile from her father’s rack sat right there, on a bluebell, right in front of her. That tile alone was worth five points.

“I want you to go to the side window by the piano,” her father told her. He said it in the serious whisper voice he used when she was to follow his instructions and not ask questions. His eyes darted toward her mother and then he put his hands through his fine fuzz of hair, so different from her own thick dark mop of tangles. “You should be able to see the Johnson place down the hill just past the lake,” he told her. “Tell me if you see any lights on.”

This was different from the drills. She could see it in the way her parents looked at each other. She wondered if she should be frightened, but when she inventoried her body for signs of fear, she found none. Her father had taught her the importance of preparation.

She calmly pushed her chair away from the table, stood, let the quilt fall onto the floor, and made her way barefoot from the dining room into the living room. The fireplace cut an orange circle out of the darkness. She tiptoed alongside her mother’s piano and tucked herself between it and the wall. Then she turned her gaze outside the water-streaked window into the blackness beyond. The cold air seeping in from outside made her forget about the fire. She peered in the direction her father had indicated. But there were no lights—only her own faint reflection flickering like a dying ember. She craned her head back toward the dining room. “I don’t see any lights,” Kick reported. “It’s dark down there.”

Her mother said her father’s name, a little sound followed by a gulp, like she was swallowing it. Her father cleared his throat. “I’ll be right with you!” he hollered toward the door.

She heard the grate of the chair legs as he got up from the table, and watched as he made his way to the dining room cabinet and withdrew the Colt from the drawer next to the good silverware. He tucked the gun in the back of the Wranglers her mother had bought him at Walmart.

She saw her mother back slowly into the kitchen.

It was cold by the window. The rain tapped like fingers against the glass. The man was still pounding on the door. She felt something in her hand, a hard square inch of wood, and was startled to see the K tile clutched between her fingers. She didn’t remember grabbing it.

Her father scooped her quilt up off the floor and carried it over to her. He draped it around her shoulders, and to her immediate shame she hid the Scrabble tile in her fist, not wanting him to be disappointed in her thievery. He fixed his eyes on hers and put his face so close that she could smell the spaghetti sauce on his breath, the cooked ground beef. “Stay where you are for now,” he whispered, his voice cracking. A glint of flame reflected off his eyeballs in the dark. She tightened her fist around the Scrabble tile, its corners digging into her flesh.

As her father crossed the living room toward the door, she saw him touch the butt of the gun at the small of his spine, like he was making sure it was still there. He was wearing the beaded moccasins that he had bought the summer they lived in Oklahoma, the ones made by real Comanche. The soles were animal hide, soft and soundless.

He didn’t look back at her as he went through the door to the front hall, but he left the door open a crack. She heard the front door open and the slap and squeak of the aluminum screen slam shut. She heard her father’s voice, fake-friendly, and she heard the stomp of Johnson’s boots on the welcome mat as he apologized again for being a bother.

Her body relaxed, and she let her grip on the quilt around her shoulders loosen.

She did not have to run.

Their neighbor would use the phone. They would finish their Scrabble game. She leaned against the wall, fingering the Scrabble tile, wondering how long she was supposed to stay there while the men stood around talking about the storm. The flicker of her own reflection caught her attention. She studied it in the wavy farmhouse glass. Her dark hair disappeared until she was just a face in the window, a glint of eyes and teeth. She got closer until her nose was so close to the glass she could feel the air get colder. This close, she could make out her eyes in detail. Every eyelash. Until the images reflecting back at her began to merge together and overlap.

That’s when she saw the light.

She stepped back, startled, and blinked hard. But when she opened her eyes, she still saw it. This wasn’t firelight. It wasn’t a reflection. She stared at the single blurry dot of brightness down the hill, across the lake, trying to puzzle it out even as her heart fluttered. A light. They had a few lights like that on their property, affixed to the top corners of outbuildings. Those lights had motion detectors that sometimes got set off by passing cats or raccoons. Her father had taken the bulb out of one on their property, because it kept coming on outside her window and waking her up at night.

Their neighbor was lying. He still had electricity.

She needed to tell someone. But her father had told her to stay where she was. She looked back at the kitchen door, but there was no sign of her mother. The men’s voices still boomed from the front hall—her father laughing a little too loudly.

She could hear the screen door banging in the wind. Johnson hadn’t pulled it closed all the way. The screen would rip in the storm. She felt like a knot that someone was pulling tight, her whole self contracting, the air squeezing out of her lungs.

The screen door banged.

The sound was like an openhanded slap. Her lungs expanded, taking in air, lifting her to the balls of her feet. The Scrabble tile dropped from her hand onto the floor.

And she ran. She scurried across the dark living room, the quilt flapping behind her like a cape, and wrenched open the door to the front hall. Her father looked at her, eyebrows lifted, mouth open. He was so tall—he could lift her up to touch the ceiling. Mr. Johnson’s back was to her, just a normal-size man. His wet boots sat neatly together just inside the door. His wet raincoat was on the coat tree. He was standing on the rug, drying himself off with the towel her father kept by the door.

“I saw a light,” she said, out of breath.

Her father went gray.

The screen door banged again, and the front door burst open like a thunderclap. Her father stumbled back as the men forced their way into the house. They didn’t bother to take off their boots or dark jackets. Water flew off of them, spattering her. They were shouting, barking orders at her father, who cowered in front of them. Someone was trying to pull her backward, away from him. She yelled to be let go and saw her father reach for his gun. But the men had guns, too, and they saw him and yelled “Gun!” and their guns were at eye height, so that everywhere she looked she saw the barrel of one pointed at where her father shrank at the base of the stairs, his Colt trembling in his hand. His eyes were frantic, glistening with tears. She’d never seen him cry before.

It was loud and quiet at the same time, everyone still, the crackle and honk of walkie-talkies, the adults breathing heavily, the rain, the front door.

One of the men stepped in front of her. He was the first one who moved, which meant he was in charge. They were FBI. The letters were printed in white across the backs of their jackets. Federal Bureau of Investigation. State police, local police, DHS, DEA, Interpol, ATF. Her father had taught her to identify them, and which ones to fear most. The FBI, he’d said, was the scariest of all of them. She had imagined them having eyes like goats and angry faces.

But this FBI agent didn’t look like that. He was younger and shorter than her father, with a freckled face, reddish beard, and shaggy hair. His wire-rimmed glasses were beaded with water. He didn’t look mean, but he didn’t look nice either. He was speaking sternly to her father in a voice that she’d never heard anyone use with him before. His words sliced through the air. “FBI.” “Search warrant.” “Arrest.” “Probation violation.”

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” her father sputtered, and the redheaded agent inched toward him, blocking her view, so that all she could see now were those three letters on his back, FBI, and one of her father’s moccasins.

“Easy, Mel,” the redheaded agent said. “You don’t want the little girl to get hurt.”

Her toes curled, gripping the hardwood.

“Put your hands behind your head,” the redheaded agent said, and then he stepped to the side, and she was surprised to see her father lifting his elbows and threading his fingers behind his head like he’d done it before. Her father’s Colt was in the redheaded agent’s hand. She saw the agent give it to one of the other men. She didn’t understand. Her father needed to stand up, to show these men how strong he was.

The redheaded agent cleared his throat. “I’ve got a warrant to search your property,” he said to her father.

Her father didn’t respond. His hunched frame quivered.

“How many people are in the house?” the agent demanded.

She willed her father to look up, to give her some instruction, but his eyes were darting around so fast, it was like his focus couldn’t alight on anything long enough.

One of the other agents lifted her father roughly to his feet and handcuffed his hands behind his back. “You better start talking, Mel,” he said to her father. “You know what they do to people like you in prison.” He grinned when he said it, like it was something worth looking forward to.

“Not in front of the girl,” the redheaded agent said.

Tiny dots of red and black peppered the floor, beads from her father’s moccasins. Her skin felt like it was shimmering, like she was flickering on and off, a dying lightbulb.

Another man was leading her father toward the kitchen. “Let’s find someplace to talk,” he said, giving her father a shove.

She tried to speak, to call out to her father, but her body couldn’t remember how to make words. He was shuffling away from her, moccasins scuffing against the floor, beads trailing him.

“Find the wife,” someone said.

Mother. The word stuck in her throat. She couldn’t choke it up. Inside her head, she was screaming, but outside, she was motionless, feet rooted to the floor. She watched as the three other men with guns followed his instructions, moving into the house with the guns raised.

The redheaded agent was talking into a walkie-talkie. “We’re on the scene,” he said. “Things went down early. Still waiting for backup.” He stole another worried glance at her and mopped his brow with a freckled hand. “We’ve got a kid here,” he added.

She made herself swallow. Mr. Johnson cowered just inside the door, eyeing her warily, still in his socks. Her parents had been careful about letting the neighbors see her. If a neighbor stopped by for some reason, she hid. Strangers were never allowed in the house. She pressed the back of her skull into the wall behind her, listening for her father’s voice. But the noise of the storm and the static from the walkie-talkie drowned everything out. The harder she listened, the more she couldn’t tell one noise from the other. She wondered if her mother had made it out the back door.

The redheaded agent’s gun was holstered under his shoulder. He bent his knees and lowered himself to her height. “I’m a police officer,” he said. “But you can call me Frank.”

Her father was right. Adults lied. “You’re an FBI agent,” she corrected him.

His eyes flickered with surprise. “O-kay,” he said. “You know something about law enforcement. That’s good. Good. You can help me.” He looked her in the eye. “I need you to tell me your name.”

“I told you there was a kid here,” Mr. Johnson said.

This was all because of her. He’d seen her. The back of her head hurt. She missed her parents. She moved her hand out of the quilt and up the leg of the hallway cabinet next to her.

The agent named Frank reached out like he wanted to put his hand on her shoulder, but dragged it through his wet hair instead. “Are there any other kids here?” he asked.

She wasn’t supposed to answer questions like that. He was trying to trick her, to get her in trouble.

“You’re safe now,” Frank said.

She found the metal drawer pull with her fingers. Top left.

Then she let the quilt drop. Both Frank’s and Mr. Johnson’s eyes followed it as it puddled to the floor. The gun was in her hands by the time they looked up.

“Holy hell,” she heard Mr. Johnson say.

She planted her feet apart the way her father had taught her and aimed the gun at Frank.

There was a stillness to him, but he didn’t look afraid.

“You’re safe now,” he said again.

She was breathing hard. It made it difficult to keep the gun steady. But the gun gave her courage. She pulled words from her throat. “I want my parents,” she said.

“We’re going to take you to them,” Frank said.

She shook her head back and forth. He didn’t understand. “I want my mother and father.”

Frank’s gun was still holstered. He made a small gesture with his head in the direction of Mr. Johnson. “Step outside, sir,” he said.

Mr. Johnson didn’t move. She could feel his fear filling up the room, taking up all the oxygen. “Go,” she told him. He wasn’t supposed to be in the house anyway. Mr. Johnson nodded and then pulled on his boots and went out the front door without his raincoat.

Even for the .22, her hands were small, and she had to use a special grip, and two fingers around the trigger.

“What’s your name, honey?” Frank asked her.

“Beth Riley,” she said. She could hear footsteps overhead as the agents stomped around her parents’ bedroom upstairs.

“What’s your real name?” he asked.

Her skin prickled. “Beth Riley,” she said again.

A sudden sound made her jump, a crack like the screen door slamming, only louder. A sudden bolt of terror stiffened her spine. She knew that sound from target shooting with her father. It was a gunshot.

It sounded like it had come from behind the house.

“Mother,” she said.

Frank lifted the walkie-talkie to his mouth, and she didn’t protest, didn’t tell him not to move.

“I need a report on that gunshot now,” he said into the walkie-talkie.

“The mother just blew her brains out,” a voice responded through static.

The storm rattled the windows and the whole house shuddered.

She felt something begin to uncoil inside her and flood her insides with feelings. But the emotions were mixed-up, out of order. She tried to push them all away, but they screamed and twisted to get out.

Frank was looking at her. She wanted him to stop looking at her.

She thought the windows might break. The wind was so loud, she could hear it whistling through the walls. Thunder boomed above them. But this wasn’t like other thunder. It was rhythmic. It was getting louder and closer. The hall light fixture trembled.

“Those are helicopters,” Frank said above the noise. “The guys from the main office like to make an entrance. Can I have the gun now?”

She was splitting in two. She wanted to give the man named Frank the gun. She wanted to let go.

Then the living room door opened and her father appeared. All her muddy emotions evaporated at the sight of him. He had come to rescue her. He would be so proud of her, remembering where to find the gun. She would shoot Frank for him. She would do exactly what he wanted. She had always done exactly what he wanted. All she needed was a nod and she would pull the trigger and kill Frank and her father would take her away from this.

Frank had his hands in the air. She glanced at her father, waiting for his signal to kill, but her father’s eyes were downcast. Then she saw the FBI agent over her father’s shoulder. The agent went an angry pink when he saw her gun pointed at his friend. He elbowed her father hard in the back and he fell to the ground.

Terror snaked in her belly. “Daddy?” she said. But he didn’t answer.

The agent leveled his gun at her, the black barrel pointing at her. He was yelling, calling out to the others, the men upstairs. Her father was on his stomach, his cheek on the floor, his face turned away from her.

“Lower your weapon, Agent,” the agent named Frank growled.

Her eyes darted to her father, but the .22 didn’t waver. The helicopters were so loud now, she couldn’t think. They sounded like they were landing all around the house.

She could hear the other men coming down the stairs. Everyone was inching closer to her.

“She’s just a kid,” Frank said. “I’ve got this.”

She had to shoot. She had to shoot them all.

“Daddy?” she asked desperately.

This time her father lifted his chin. His face was sweaty and red, and his wrists were still handcuffed behind his back. But his eyes were sharp and dangerous. “They killed your mother, Beth!” he hollered over the noise. “Autonuke! Now!”

It was like a switch being thrown. All those drills they had practiced. She let her body take over. She flew down the hall, toward the back of the house, slipped into the closet under the stairs, went through the secret wall panel, pulled up the trapdoor on the floor, and scampered down the ladder one-handed, the gun still clutched in the other. She could feel the vibrations of the men chasing her, their boots pounding on the floor, as she descended into darkness. She jumped from the fifth rung, her bare feet landing on the carpet, and spun around to the desk where the computer screen’s aquarium screen saver was the only light in the room. She sat down with the gun in her lap and felt around the desk drawer for the thumb drive. A lionfish swam by. She inserted the thumb drive into the computer like her father had shown her. Then she hit the space bar on the keyboard. In a blink all the fish were gone and a blue window appeared on the screen. She had never seen the blue box before, but she knew what to do. A white cursor blinked at the bottom of it. She typed in one word: “autonuke.”

Then she sat back in the desk chair, brought her knees to her chest, and waited.

She could hear the FBI agents arguing above her and she knew that they would come down the ladder soon and lock her up forever, but she didn’t care. She had done what she was supposed to do.

Finally, the trapdoor opened, and she glanced up to see Frank peering down at her. She put her hand on the gun.

“Can I come down, Beth?” he called.

She saw other faces behind his, crowding into the rectangle of light, looking at her. New people. The people from the helicopters.

“I still have the gun,” she called up.

“I just want to talk to you,” Frank said. He said something to one of the new people and then swung his body over the edge and started down the ladder.

She turned to the blue computer screen. “It’s done,” she said. “You can’t stop it.”

Frank’s feet landed with a thud. She hoped his shoes weren’t too muddy. Her mother didn’t like the carpet to get dirty. Frank stepped beside her and peered at the computer screen, his hands on his hips. She saw the words “autonuke complete” reflected in his glasses.

“You deleted the files?” Frank asked. She could tell he was trying not to sound angry.

She made herself small in the chair. The white of her nightgown looked blue in the light from the computer, and the giraffes were faded. It hadn’t fit for years. She stretched the hem over her knees.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?” Frank muttered. He moved so suddenly she thought he might hit her, but he was just reaching for the light switch.

Their basement movie studio lit up. Four sets: a princess bedroom, a classroom, a doctor’s office, and a scary dungeon. Beth’s father took each set apart into pieces and packed it every time they moved. She wasn’t allowed to touch the cameras. She had to be careful not to trip on all the black cords that snaked across the floor.

Frank spun slowly back to her. Her father had said that people would look at her differently if they knew. He said that it would make grown-ups angry. But Frank didn’t look mad. He looked a little scared, like she was a bomb that might explode if he didn’t figure out which wire to cut.

“Agent Moony?” a man hollered from above them. “You okay down there?”

Frank took a moment to answer. He probably hadn’t seen movie sets before.

“Frank?” hollered the man.

“We’ll be up in a minute,” Frank called. His eyes moved from one set to the next. “Then you’ll want to see this,” he added.

The basement air tasted like mildew. The basements always tasted like that.

Frank wasn’t saying anything anymore. He was just rubbing the back of his neck.

“Is my mother alive?” she asked.

He took his glasses off and cleaned them on his shirt. “I don’t know who your mother is,” he said gently.

“Linda,” she reminded him. She twisted the hem of her nightgown around her fingers. “She shot herself.” She knew about caliber size. The faster and heavier a bullet was, the more damage it caused. Some people survived gunshots to the head. “I’ll know if you’re lying,” she said.

Frank hooked his glasses back over his ears and stared at her for another moment. His eyes were wide. His red eyebrows and beard were streaked with blond, like he’d spent time in the sun. Even his ears had freckles. “She’s dead, Beth.”

She pulled at the nightgown, stretching the giraffes. “Oh,” she said. Hot snot filled her nose, and her eyes burned, but she didn’t cry. “She was nice. She couldn’t have kids, you know.”

“Is that what they told you?” Frank said.

“They took care of me,” she said.

Frank knelt beside her chair so that they were eye to eye. “I need to know: Were there any other kids?”

His glasses were octagons, not ovals. His shaggy curls were still wet from the storm; his beard sprouted wildly in all directions. Men were supposed to shave every day. It was a sign of discipline. “I want to stay with him,” she said.

Frank looked pained. “I’m sure that your family has never stopped looking for you,” he said.

She wondered if that was true.

Frank hadn’t done a very good job cleaning his glasses. She could see his fingerprints on the lenses. But his eyes seemed nice enough.

A dog was barking outside. Not theirs. They didn’t have any dogs. She wasn’t allowed.

“How old are you now, Beth?” Frank asked her.

“Ten.” She hesitated. Her chest hurt. It felt like someone was squeezing it. “But . . .”

He raised his sun-bleached eyebrows at her.

She could still hear the barking. Or maybe it was just the screen door banging. She didn’t know. Her skin felt hot.

“I had a dog once,” she said, remembering.

Frank was motionless. “What was its name?” he asked.

“Monster.” She felt warm tears slide down her cheeks. She was shaking. The memories were coming up her throat. She had worked so hard for so long to swallow them down. It was a relief. “My old birthday was in April,” she added, wiping her nose with her hand. “Mel changed it. So I guess I’m actually eleven.”

Frank squinted at her and tilted his head. He was close, but not too close. “How long have you lived with Mel?”

She thought for a moment, trying to piece the details together. “Monster used to run away. I was in the front yard looking for him, and Mel said he could help me find him. He said he’d drive me around the neighborhood. I was in first grade.”

“What’s your name?” Frank asked, and she heard the crack in his voice.

Her name. She knew it. She could feel it under her collarbone. It was like having a word at the tip of your tongue, when you can see it, the shape of it, but you can’t quite remember what it is. She concentrated. “Kick?” she guessed.

He tilted his head more and leaned forward a little. “What did you say it was?”

“Kick?” she tried again. But that wasn’t it. Something close to that . . .

“Kit?” Frank said. “Do you mean Kit Lannigan?”

It was like she had touched an electric fence, that feeling of all your cells crying out at once. She scrambled backward in the chair. “We’re not supposed to say that name,” she whispered.

Frank’s eyes ran over her features. “It is you,” he said.

She was seeing faces, images, flashes of color. She couldn’t breathe. Everything was unraveling. “I didn’t mean to let Monster out,” she said quickly, the words tumbling out. “I opened the door to get something off the porch and he just slid out before I could stop him.” She swallowed a wet hiccup and put her hand over her mouth. “It’s my fault,” she said between her fingers.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Frank said. He looked like he wanted to pat her hand but he didn’t. “Easy,” he said. “It’s over. It’s over now. No one’s mad at you about the dog, I promise you. You’re not in trouble.” He dug something out of his pocket. “Here,” he said, extending his hand, palm up. “I think you dropped this.” Her father’s Scrabble tile lay in his palm. Kick reached tentatively for it.

“It’s okay,” Frank said. “Take it.”

She plucked the tile from his hand and squeezed it in her fist until her hand hurt.

Frank rocked back on his heels. “Kit Lannigan,” he said. “Holy shit.” He was blinking at her, mouth open. “You’ve been away a long time.”

Behind Frank, she could see the canopy princess bed, pink and frilly. She was shaking. She couldn’t stop. “It’s over?” she asked.

Frank nodded. “The worst part is, kiddo.” And he smiled at her, and she knew she was supposed to smile back, to be happy, but she couldn’t find the right feelings inside.

It was like dying. That’s what Mel had said. Kit is dead, he’d told her. Now you are Beth. But now Beth was dead too. And if Kit was dead, and Beth was dead, then she was someone new, someone who didn’t even have a name.

“So what happens now?” she asked numbly.

“Now I take you home,” Frank said.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 37 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 19, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Exciting start to a new series! I received an advance reader ed

    Exciting start to a new series!

    I received an advance reader edition of this book from Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

    4 Stars!

    When I saw the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book, I was more than a little excited. I have read all of the books in the Gretchen Lowell series (some more than once actually) so I knew that I enjoy Chelsea Cain's writing. This book did not disappoint! Chelsea Cain is a master at writing characters that are deeply troubled. She puts that skill to use in this book.

    One note of warning for some readers: This book is focused on crimes against children including, child pornography. Any readers who wish to avoid these subjects will want to avoid this book.

    Kick was abducted by a stranger when she was 6 years old. She learned to survive in that environment until she was rescued 6 years later. As an adult, she finds herself dealing with the emotional scars directly connected to that time. Anytime an Amber alert is issued, she searches hoping to save that child from what she has been through.

    Bishop approaches Kick and asks for her help in finding two children that have recently been kidnapped. Kick's knowledge may be the key to finding these children. Bishop and Kick work together in some very dangerous situations trying to find the victim in time.

    This book was filled with troubled characters dealing with issues from their past. All of these characters came together to tell a story that was hard to put down. I would definitely recommend this book to others. I look forward to reading future books in the series.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    First and foremost, I want to assure readers that, while this no

    First and foremost, I want to assure readers that, while this novel does deal with child abduction and pornography, there are no descriptions. This is not a graphic story—allusions are made, but readers never learn what Kick herself experienced, and there are no descriptions of the photos or pornography sites the characters reference. This, for me, was a godsend. I was interested in the story, but I knew going in that I couldn’t stomach any graphic imagery at all, and as this is a very sensitive subject, I was very happy that Cain tread lightly here. However, I must admit that I still didn’t really enjoy the story. Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed in the main character, Kick. Said to be the new Lisbeth Salander by the editor in the introduction of the novel, I was expecting great things, but Kick falls bit too flat for me. There is what I consider a lack of action in this novel—with all the hype surround Kick, such as her ability to kill a man 571 ways with just her left hand, I expected to actually see her fight. She rarely does, and, in most instances that she does, she’s actually bested by her opponent. For all the time and training she put in to the arts, self-defense, knife throwing, and the like, I was really looking forward to seeing her skills. But they were not noteworthy, and for me, that’s somewhat of the opposite of what I expect when a character is compared to another kick-butt character, such as Lisbeth Salander.

    Kick is still in a fragile state of mind, though she tries to put on a tough front. Abducted and used in child porn for five years of her young life, this is expected. She does have a good handle on herself in most situations, and I admire her perseverance; I find her realistic, though she wasn't essentially deep or fleshed out in the story. Perhaps one of the reasons Kick is bested time and time again as she hunts for the missing children from Portland is because of her background; freezing up in situations when action is key and she must push herself to survive. Thank goodness she has Bishop there to help her when the going gets tough.

    Then again, Bishop is a jerk. The main reason that Kick continually freezes is because Bishop has thrust her back into the world of abducted children. Kick seems to function relatively well in the real world, but once Bishop comes charging in, her entire world shifts, and Bishop is none to kind in his treatment of Kick. In fact, he doesn’t do anything within the novel that redeems him in my eyes. So while the mystery aspect of the novel was indeed intriguing, I did not connect with any of the characters and I wasn't spurred on to read the novel as much as I'd hoped I'd be, based on the hype surrounding this story.

    The first chapter is indeed an attention grabber, but as the novel unfolds, much of the intensity tapered off for me. Overall, I’d say it’s an okay read for me, but it’s really just not my speed.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2015

    more from this reviewer

    Having loved this author¿s earlier series featuring Det. Archie

    Having loved this author’s earlier series featuring Det. Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell, I couldn’t wait to read this book, the first in a new series, and I have to say it did not disappoint. Much as those earlier books, this one is not for the faint of heart, I must add. But it is terrific.

    The protagonist is Kit (“Kick”) Lannigan, a victim of child abduction/pedophilia, rescued ten years earlier when she was eleven years old in a slam-bang opening. She now obsesses over the rescue of other abducted children. A recent and mysterious ally in this quest is John Bishop, who appears in her life without much explanation other than that he was a former weapons dealer, and knows people in high and influential places. Kick, however, soon comes to think of him as “clearly some sort of unreliable psychopath.”

    Obviously still suffering from PTSD, among other things Kick keeps a list of self-destructive behavior she needed to work out, which she keeps in a “worry book” that is always with her. She has nothing but contempt for those, like her biological mother, who feed off her situation, having already written a book and made several TV appearances

    The author, inspired by the horrific real-life tales of women like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, this fictionalized story of the horrors inflicted on such children induces true schadenfreude, where one is afraid to read further, but at the same time cannot turn the pages quickly enough. The one word used most often in the reviews of this novel is “compelling,” and I cannot disagree.

    Kick is truly lethal, trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker, has mastered martial arts, boxing and knife throwing. She prides herself in knowing four ways to kill someone with a jacket and “knew 573 ways to take someone to the ground with her left hand alone.” When two youngsters are abducted in the same Washington State area within a three-week period, Kick, with Bishop’s assistance, vows to find and rescue them before they are sold or killed, two of the likelier outcomes. The title derives from a Bruce Lee quote: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Highly recommended.

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  • Posted February 14, 2015

    I Also Recommend:


    Well, this and the Gretchen series are dark. And yet, I can't stop reading. While waiting for the next Gretchen book, I found there's a new series. And this book was well, interesting. Fast paced and can't put it down kind of book. The writing was also good. Bishop still not sure about, I mean it is book 1, so I wonder what the next one will be like.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2015


    PLEASE, WILL SOMEONE EXPLAIN THE ENDING OF THIS BOOK? I am an avid reader and loved the book but was left dumbfounded by the in Duh/what???? I would have rated this a five star except for the fact that I did not understand the e4nding.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2014

    excellent book!

    Glad she has started another series. Her last one with gretchen was awesome this one is gonna be another awesome set.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2014

    Loved it.

    Great adventure, very fast paced

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2014


    Ive read the Archie series and enjoyed it. This i am not sure about

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  • Posted October 20, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    After turning the final page of the sixth Gretchen Lowell/Archie

    After turning the final page of the sixth Gretchen Lowell/Archie Sheridan thriller (Let Me Go), I wondered if there could be anything in the future for these characters. For me, this series seemed to have run its course.

    Well, Chelsea Cain has unleashed a new character on readers. Her new book, One Kick is the first in a new series featuring Kick Lannigan. What a great character name eh?

    Kick was kidnapped as a six year old and famously rescued when she was eleven. The years spent in captivity shaped her path - and her personality. She's tough as nails, but vulnerable, fearsome, yet fearful. And she has a goal - to prey on those that prey on children. A wealthy man named John Bishop, approaches Kick to help him find two local missing kids. There's a chance they could still be alive - and Bishop believes Kick has the key to finding them locked in her past. But who is Bishop really? And what is his agenda?

    Cain writes great kick *** characters. Lannigan is definitely one of those, but with a wounded side that makes us fear for her as she wades into danger. One Kick introduces us to Lannigan, lets us get to know her and sets the tone and the background for the next in the series. One Kick has a resolution, but the last few pages are a kicker (sorry, couldn't resist) that will leave readers with the same questions Lannigan has. I 'll be watching for the next book.

    Cain's books are not for the faint of heart. There are disturbing themes, descriptions and language. Those looking for a dark thriller will absolutely find it in One Kick.

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  • Posted October 11, 2014

    Page turner!

    Very good start to a new series! A quick read that I enjoyed very much. I truly like Chelsea Cain's way of hooking you into a story by giving you just enough of the gory details without being gratuitous or grotesque.

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  • Posted September 29, 2014

    New series from one of my favorite authors

    I love Chelsea Cain's Archie Sheridan series, so I was thrilled when I heard she came out with a new one. This was a quick read and quite a bit less intense than her other series, but exciting nonetheless. I look forward to the next book in this series.

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  • Posted September 26, 2014

    She's Done It Again!

    After reading and loving the whole Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series, I wasn't sure Chelsea could top those characters but she has another winner with Kick Lannigan. Her characters are always flawed in some way but you come to love them for who they are. I loved this book and could hardly put it down. Kick's story is incredible and I look forward to more books about her.

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  • Posted September 26, 2014

    One of those rate can't put it down books

    Well written, not overly gory. Intriguing plot and interesting characters. Could do with a few less swears, but they seemed to be used to help define the character more than anything else. Looking forward to the next one in the series and have given my copy over to a friend to read. Worth the time and the story sticks with you long after you've finished reading it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2014

    LOVED IT!!!

    What a great start to a new series! Ms. Cain is an amazing author, and she has started something great here! Have read all of the Gretchen Lowell series, so I was very excited with this book coming out. I was not disappointed. Ms. Cain has a way of creating heroes that are cracked but not quite broken. I loved Archie Sheridan, and I think I love Kick just as much. She is a wonderfully brave character and I cannot wait to watch her grow in this series!

    I must give warning that the subject matter in this book is more than a little dark. Child abductions, child abuse, and child pornography are not easy subjects to read about. That being said, Ms. Cain approaches this topic delicately. There are no overly graphic details. Kick's memories will have you almost in tears, not from what is said, but from what is left out. You just know. There are heartbreaking moments when you just wonder how Kick can feel some things she does, but when you remember what she went through, your heart breaks more because you DO understand.

    An excellent read that had me turning pages not just to find out if it all turns out great in the end, but to learn more about ALL of the characters. James, Bishop, Paula Devlin, and even Mel. I can't wait to read more on all of these characters.

    Bravo Chelsea Cain! Thank you for another sleepless night! Don't make us wait too long!

    -- SPeeD

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  • Posted September 16, 2014

    Good start to an entertaining series. Interesting and different

    Good start to an entertaining series. Interesting and different characters although I do did miss Archie and Susan, and I hope they return soon. Kick and Bishop see to have potential but we'll have to see where they are going. A lot of loose ends.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 14, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    One Kick - Strong Characters and Thrilling Read!! For a more in

    One Kick - Strong Characters and Thrilling Read!!

    For a more in depth review, please visit my blog, Chorley Chronicals!!

    Heartsick was one of the very first books that I read when I really started on this reading journey, so obviously that was my first Chelsea Cain book! It was part of the reason I became so obsessed with reading and mystery books!!! I quickly devoured the entire Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell series, rating every single book a 5 star read, with the exception of The Night Season, to which I rated a 3 star read! So when I heard that Chelsea Cain was writing a new series, to say that I was stoked is to put it mildly! I did whatever I could to get my hands on a copy as quickly as I could so when I was given a copy for my Kindle by Edelweiss and also an audio copy by Audiobook Jukebox, I was thrilled!

    I tried really hard to go into this book without expectations and tried to totally erase Archie and Gretchen from my mind, to give this book the fairest shot I could, and I feel like I was totally successful at that! Kick Lannigan is an awesome character, that I feel with go very far, just like Cain's other series! I really can't wait to see what Cain has in store for Kick in the future! I do still hope we will see more Archie & Gretchen though...just a side note!

    Cain has such wonderful writing abilities! She is a writer like none other! There has been a lot of bad press surrounding her lately, and I really just tried to put that all aside and read and listen to the book for what IT was, not what was going on around the author right now! I did really enjoy One Kick and gave it a solid 4 stars! It was action packed and full of surprises, with great character development and solid writing!

    The narrator did a great job of reading One Kick and I was surprise that when I looked her up that I did not find more to her credit! She sounded like a seasoned narrator with impressive skills for reading a Chelsea Cain book! I hope to hear her in the future in the Kick Lannigan series!

    Overall, I did really enjoy the book, however, I did find a few parts a bit hard to follow to where I had to rewind and listen again, but it wasn't so much that it totally distracted from the book. I've always felt like Chelsea Cain was a go-to author for me, and since I found her a few years ago, have jumped at any new release she has had, and bad press aside, I'm sure I will find myself continuing to do that in the future, because with the ending of One Kick, I know Kick will be up to something, and I just have to know what that's going to be!

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  • Posted September 12, 2014

    Interesting new character....waiting to see where she takes her

    Her past series was so strong it is difficult to derive full appreciation for this new series

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2014


    The book was fantastic.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2014

    Love kick...

    Cant wait for more

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2014



    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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