Nine years ago, Fiona was just a kid. But everything changed the night the Pit Viper came to town. Sure, he rid the quiet, idyllic suburb of Hamm of its darkest problems. But Fiona witnessed something much, much worse from Hamm's adults when they drove him away.
And now, the Pit Viper is back.
Fiona's not just a kid anymore. She can handle the darkness she sees in the Pit Viper, a DJ whose wicked tattoos, quiet anger, and hypnotic music seem to speak to every teen in town…except her. She can handle watching as each of her friends seems to be overcome, nearly possessed by the music. She can even handle her unnerving suspicion that the DJ is hell-bent on revenge.
But she's not sure she can handle falling in love with him.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||1 MB|
|Age Range:||14 Years|
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The crunch of tires on gravel grew in the distance. Oncoming headlights turned the tree line buttery yellow at its edges. They cut across the asphalt, illuminating a faded Sunkist-orange sign featuring a ruddy cluster of grapes and the cursive words
Hamm Winery Spend a beautiful day in a beautiful place.
Behind a nearby tree, Fiona Jones, nine years old, squinted and hunkered down close to her bike. She'd overheard the men correctly. They'd brought him here.
Edgar Hokes's blue pickup truck shuddered to a halt by the side of the road no more than twenty feet away from her. Her father, Robert, hopped out of the passenger seat and purposefully strode to the back of the vehicle. Edgar himself, tall and unflappable, with deep lines in his face, calmly stepped out from behind the wheel. Darren Fiddler — Caroline's dad, Fiona thought, so nice during sleepovers — was seated in the bed of the truck. She'd known these three men her whole life, but the hard looks on their faces made them unrecognizable to her.
Edgar Hokes opened the back door, and he and Robert Jones carried the boy out of the back, their arms hooked at his elbows. Fiona's stomach clenched in terror — his hands were bound with duct tape, his feet similarly so. They dumped him facedown on the grass at the foot of the road sign like a sack of garbage.
Edgar Hokes knelt behind him and pulled a deadly-looking knife from his boot. For a moment, Fiona thought her heart might explode, but then Edgar dug in with the blade and the boy's hands and feet came free.
The boy got to his knees. He removed a rag from his mouth and a blindfold from his face. His army jacket was torn and bloody; a back patch with a strange symbol on it curled up at one corner like the lid of a half-opened can. The hood of his black sweatshirt was pulled over his head, obscuring him but for a few dangling strands of stringy hair.
Fiona couldn't take her eyes off him.
"A few things you ought to know," said her father in a tone she had never heard before, cold and slimy as a stone at the bottom of Winston Pond.
"The next time I see you," said the boy, "I'm going to stand on your neck."
Edgar's knee pulled up, and in a flash, his boot struck the back of the boy's skull, smashing his forehead into the support post of the winery sign with a thunk. Fiona gasped without meaning to, tears springing to her eyes. The boy fell forward but managed to stay on his hands and knees. The sound of his blood dribbling into the grass made her head spin.
"First thing is, you stay away from here," continued her father as though nothing had happened. "I'm not just talking about our town. I mean the county, the region, the whole state. Got it?"
The boy spat.
"He asked you a question, you little shit!" yelped Darren Fiddler, a shaking leaf where there should've been a man. Fiona's dad held up a hand, and Darren quieted down.
The hooded figure coughed. "My equipment," he mumbled, "my laptop, my records — "
"Gone. Forget about them. Those are the least of your concerns," said her father. "Your laptop? Son, you're lucky we didn't take your teeth."
Tears ran down Fiona's cheeks, hot and quick. She didn't know why, but taking his music and equipment felt like they were desecrating him, ripping out his soul.
"Second. I'm sure you have plenty of friends from the city who think they're real tough. Real gangsters. But I promise you, if any of your degenerate pals roll through here, they ain't leaving. Which leads me to our third and final word of warning." He leaned in close, his voice barely audible. "If we ever see one of these kids you got rid of wandering around our streets again, we're going to take it as an attack. We will find you, and we'll hold you personally responsible. Got it?"
A pause, the night full of electricity.
And then the boy shook as a dark, throaty laugh wheezed out of him.
"Something funny?" said Hokes, flicking his thumb on the handle of his knife.
"The ... blindfold," spat the boy. "My gangster friends. You three." His chuckle became a cackle lined with a gurgle. "You think you're a bunch of hard-asses because you beat up some kid in funny clothes? Let's be honest, Mr. Jones, you couldn't payme. You made a deal with the devil, the time came to pony up, and you chumps didn't have a soul among the lot of you."
With a long inhale, the boy rose to his feet, the headlights illuminating the patch that dominated his jacket. Fiona's eyes drank in the design on it — circles within circles, old Latin words, strange figures beckoning to distant planets.
"So here's my warning to you," said the boy. "Before tonight? You were just another pathetic small town that needed an exterminator. But I promise you, I'll never forget this, or you." His one hand slapped wetly against the sign, leaving a bloody handprint. "Hamm, Ohio. A beautiful day in a beautiful place — "
Her father's fist hit the boy's kidney with an ugly thud, sending him back down to his knees. Then Edgar and Darren moved in and kicked him for what felt like hours. Fiona sobbed silently and finally threw her hands over her eyes, unable to watch.
When the sounds of boot on flesh ceased, she parted her fingers and peeked at the scene. The three enforcers stood there in the dark, panting. The strange man who used to be her father nodded, and his cohorts climbed back into the truck. "Last warning, boy," Robert Jones called over his shoulder. "Walk away."
The truck's engine coughed to life. The headlights flared, illuminating Fiona's hiding place for one heart-stopping instant — and then they were gone in a spray of gravel. The night resumed its heavy silence, cut only by the shrill cries of crickets and the bloody coughing of the boy in the dirt.
After a few minutes, Fiona wiped her face on her sleeve and rose from her cramped crouch. The boy had moved only slightly, half collapsed against the post of the sign. What little of his face she could catch in the moonlight looked swollen and shiny with blood. She watched as he wept for just a moment — wracking, full-body sobs that shook him at the waist, reminding to Fiona just how young he really was — before he swallowed hard and went silent.
Somewhere in her core, she knew he was brave. To get upagain and again, to not fold under their threats, to talk back toher father ... those weren't the actions of a coward. There was no way he was the simple villain her town feared.
He was so strange, like an alien or an angel, a creature from a place she'd never known. She wanted desperately to help him. Her hands dug into her backpack, searching around for something, anything, to show him that he wasn't alone out there.
She later considered how weird it must have looked to him — here he was, lying beaten and bloodied a good eight and a half miles from anywhere, and out of the trees comes this skinny, little girl with an overbite and a ponytail, the girl from the town council meeting, holding out an apple and a bottle of water.
It must have been frightening, surreal. But he didn't even flinch when she approached him. As she put the food down a good three feet away from him — because who knew? Maybe he was dangerous — he didn't budge. He just followed her with his eyes.
What did he see in her? she wondered. What was there to see?
"Thank you," he whispered, his eyes shining like stars. "What's your name?"
Her heart leaped, her lungs failed her, and she ran. She was on her bike in seconds, pedaling her butt off down the back paths through the woods. In one final glance over her shoulder, she saw him pushing himself up to his knees and reaching for the water.CHAPTER 2
Like all small suburban towns, Hamm, Ohio, had two faces. By the end of every evening — because there wasn't really a nightlife in Hamm, just a couple of bars that catered to locals with bad reputations and reluctantly returning college students — the town and its people were disorganized and messy. Black garbage bags were dragged out into the street; sweaty aprons and work shirts were tossed into hampers with relief. Petty arguments were whispered between couples or shouted between kids and parents. But in the morning, with the dew undisturbed on the lawns of its identical houses and the chairs resting silently on the tabletops of the cafÃ©s and restaurants downtown, Hamm was pure, as innocent as a newborn fawn getting its first footing.
One thing was certain: both faces were incredibly lame. The evening's issues were all first-world problems, and the quiet mornings were too sugared-cereal, paper-route adorable. There was nothing even slightly rock-and-roll about Hamm; it had no teeth whatsoever.
For the first time in years, Fiona Jones, eighteen years old, gave no fucks about that. All that mattered was how good his hoodie smelled.
As she coasted down South Burgundy Street on her beat- up bike, the Scorpions blasting hot sonic love through her headphones, she hoped the scent of his hoodie followed her like a cartoon vapor trail. It smelled like his hair, mostly, from what she could gather with her deep sniffs — a heady mixture of natural oils and something else, something personal. There were equal parts BO and deodorant, both of which were a little gross but familiar and comforting, and a tang of spices she couldn't identify from his parents' restaurant. There was a hint of weed, too, an odor she used to associate with huddled hippies and creepy vans, but which now just made her think of his carefree grin. They all rolled up into a smell she could only call Boy.
What did it matter that the sweatshirt was ripped along one sleeve and had no doubt spent time stuffed between couch cushions? It was black, had a giant tarantula with hypodermic needles for fangs on the back, and belonged to him. As the breeze billowed her upraised hood, she wanted everyone to see her wearing it. Behold, Hamm, you silly American relic, beholdthis hoodie, and know that Iam Spoken For. There's no wayhe left it by accident.
Hamm rolled past her, and she smiled despite herself. It was everything she dreamed of escaping, dollhouse pretty on the outside but loaded with secrets and people trying to be normal and failing miserably. Mr. Fredericks sipping coffee on his lawn in a black silk robe with Chinese dragons on it like some kind of suburban Hugh Hefner. Natalie Charrest jogging in full spandex — that she had no business wearing, dear God, woman — with her German shepherd, Genghis. The Tarters in their gaudy Italian business wear, pecking each other twice on each cheek before heading to their separate cars. They all tried too hard to pretend like everything was fine, which meant boring, dull, unrealistic, and really, just uncool.
But today, it didn't matter. Maybe things were gritty and real in places like New York and L.A. and all those big cities with cobblestones and tiny punk venues. Maybe the people there didn't lie to themselves about alcoholism and divorce and apathy. She'd get there eventually. But Hamm had Horace. Horace had her, and she had him. To hell with the rest of the world.
As the matching houses gave way to an empty country road lined with sparse woods, she sensed the vibrations of other people on the street. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Rita, dark and doe-eyed in a vintage dress and knee-high socks, biking behind her, and Caroline, lanky and glistening with sweat in her gym clothes, her ponytail bobbing up and down as she jogged alongside them.
"How long have you been creeping on me?" Fiona asked, pulling off her headphones.
"We've been calling your name for, like, three minutes," said Rita, folding her arms. How she could bike without hands, Fiona would never know.
"You know biking with your headphones in is super dangerous, right?" said Caroline, half breathless. "You're going to turn into the path of a car and get killed, and then we'll have to have a candlelight vigil and shit."
"Let me get run over," said Fiona. "I can die happy."
Her friends shared a glance, raising eyebrows.
"Someone's feeling sassy," said Caroline, speeding up and turning around to face Fiona. Hearing new gossip was more important than seeing where she was going; the world would get out of her way. "What's going on? What's behind this crazy glow you've got about you?"
"I'm fine," declared Fiona, smirking back. "It's just a beautiful day in Hamm."
"Wait a hot second," said Rita, speeding up to flank her friends. Fiona felt Rita's gaze scanning her, taking notes. Suddenly, the girl's eyes went wide, and her vintage Schwinn stopped with a sharp scrape of tire on asphalt. "You trollop! Finally!"
Fiona slowed but never stopped. She felt her cheeks burn and her grin spread wide.
"What's up?" panted Caroline, jogging in place next to Rita.
"Caroline, look at what she's wearing."
"Oh, hey, that's ..." Fiona heard Caroline gasp. "Daaamn, girl!"
Suddenly, they were at her side again, eyes bugging and mouths agape. Fiona laughed, recklessly, mischievously.
"Really!" cried Rita, looking impressed.
"Yes, really," said Fiona, almost offended. "A good friend of mine told me six months was long enough." Rita rolled her eyes and gave her neckline an exaggerated Even-White- Boys-Got-to-Shout tug.
"Tell me you washed that," said Caroline, shaking her head as she ran faster. "You're going to get sick from wearing that thing. You realize it's probably soaked in bong water and jizz."
"Even you cannot ruin my morning with your grossness," said Fiona, beaming straight ahead while Rita cackled at Caroline's remark. "It is a wonderful September day, and I am having a wonderful morning."
"Good job getting laid, weirdo," said Rita. "Took you long enough."
"It was!" Fiona proudly told the morning, the silver roadside barricade, the silhouette of their school growing in the distance. "It was a good job!"
"I swear," Caroline called over her shoulder, her ponytail still bouncing as she pulled ahead of them. "All this over Horace Palmada."
* * *
Horace Palmada. Cue the click count, the bass drop, feedback, distortion. Horace Palmada. The name sounded like the boy himself, lanky and quick, moving among people with an intense kind of glee, like the world was a beautiful joke. It spoke of him physically, too: thick lashes, that bit of hair over the ears and forehead, a perpetually guilty smile on those caramel lips. Horace Palmada, who said that it always sounded better on vinyl, that Spotify cheapened the listening experience. Who rolled around with one of those boxes for his records, the kind with a lock and a handle and slots for each LP. Who had a keyboard that he talked about turning into a keytar. Who knew how to match beats and could spin a decent set of some bomb-ass shit.
She'd made Horace Palmada wait. If she was going to open up that can of worms, she wanted to be 100 percent sure. Like with a tattoo, she'd said, and he'd laughed, but he'd waited. And given how he'd acted last night, it was damn well worth the wait.
Horace Palmada seemed to call out to her as she and her friends arrived at school — through chaining up her bike and heading to her locker, there he was, a frequency that only she could hear, drawing her to the source. Loading up on her books for American Lit II felt like an obvious precursor to seeing him, and as she walked to class with her bag clutched to her chest, Fiona could feel the distance between them shortening, step by step, until bam, there he was, loping down the stairs in front of Ms. Larimer's classroom.
They made eye contact, and her heart seized up like a fist. What if the past six months were all a lie, a game played by an extremely patient creep? What if leaving the hoodie had been an accident, a bleary-eyed mistake made by a typical boy scared of getting his ass kicked by Mr. Jones? What if he called her "bae," or "shorty," or "boo," or something else equally The Worst? What if he was with that stoner friend of his who he called "Swordfish" and tried to act cool by giving her a nod or some greasy wink? It would kill her. It would blow her to smithereens. She would physically murder him —
And then he shot her a lopsided grin, and she felt her insides turn into hot chocolate. Flashbacks of last night — his neck between her teeth, the rhythm of their pressed bodies, that same smile appearing on him as they finally caught their breath and held each other in the dark — crossed her mind as he approached, making her feel light-headed. They closed in on each other, and as they passed, he reached out and put his hands on her hips.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Frequency"
Copyright © 2018 Christopher Krovatin.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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