By: Brigid Kemmerer

For Michael:

Not every girl is lucky enough to marry her best friend.


I originally wrote about these four brothers when I was in high school, and I’m in my thirties now, so thanking everyone along the way would be impossible.

That said, I’m going to try.

My mother has been a constant guide and inspiration in my life, and this book would never have been written without her unconditional love and support every step of the way—even if she hasn’t read the whole thing. (Yet.) There’s a good chance she still thinks it’s about vampires.

Bobbie Goettler has been along for the ride since the beginning, since the Merrick brothers actually were vampires, since before I had kids and needed her advice practically every day, since before I knew what an amazing friend she would turn out to be. Bobbie, I never would have made it this far without you, and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me along the way.

Alison Kemper sent me a few chapters of her book for critique once, and I knew she had something special. We’ve been critique partners and friends ever since. She’s read every word of this novel at least three times, and this book wouldn’t be half as good without her input. Or her text messages.

Sarah J. Maas is my agency sister and friend, and it’s been amazing going on this publication journey with you. I’ll never forget holding my breath for days while I waited for you to get back to me on whether I could actually pull off writing a Young Adult novel.

Tamar Rydzinski is my brilliant agent. She’s amazing and savvy and fabulous, and having her input during the development of this novel made all the difference in the world.

Alicia Condon and the entire team at K Teen have been wonderful since day one. I knew Alicia and I would get along right from the start, but she clinched the deal when we were supposed to be coming up with title ideas and we could only think of dirty ones. Thank you for everything.

Special thanks to Officer James Kalinosky of the Baltimore County Police Department for letting me know how much teenagers could get away with. If I bent the rules too far, it’s my fault, not his.

Special thanks to Andrew McKay for helping me with trash talk when my husband turned out to be too nice a guy. (Oh, and for letting me borrow your name.)

Many, many people read this book and offered advice along the line. Special thanks to Kathy Fusto, Susan Gilmore, Thomas Berry, Jonathan Kemmerer, Sarah Fine, Gordon McKinney, Katrina Goettel, and Hannah Dwan. I know I’m leaving someone out, and if that person is you, thank you.

I never would have gotten this far without the unending support from my family. My husband, Michael, is my best friend, my support system, my confidant, and my inspiration. You’ve given me everything I’ve ever asked for and more, especially Jonathan, the best stepson in the whole entire world, and our two beautiful sons, Nicholas and Sam.

Extra special thanks to my sisters-in-law, Jenny Franklin and Tina Kasten, for reading everything I’ve written and offering support and suggestions.

And finally, many thanks to my in-laws, John and Dolly Kemmerer, for their love and support, especially for being willing to babysit at the drop of a hat.


The self-defense class had been a waste of sixty bucks.

Becca hadn’t felt like a victim going in, but she sure did now. When she’d seen the flyers around school advertising a three-hour session with a “women’s defense specialist,” she’d been eager to sign up. But the instructor—really just some college kid named Paul—had been texting half the time, happy enough to pocket their cash in exchange for halfhearted instructions about body blocks and eye gouges. She’d lose another Saturday scrubbing kennels to make this money back.

She’d left her cell phone in her locker, so after class she went to get it. Her best friend had left fourteen texts about some drama with her mom, so Becca stood in the shadowed corridor to write back. Quinn wasn’t exactly patient.

The night air bit at her flushed skin when she slid out the side door, making her wish she’d brought a heavier jacket—but at least the promised rain had held off. Darkness cloaked the now empty parking lot, and her car sat alone near the security lamp in the middle of the cracked concrete.

This was exactly the kind of situation Paul had warned them about: secluded and solitary, offering little visibility. But Becca welcomed the darkness, the silence. She almost wished she smoked, so she could lie on the car’s hood, flick a lighter, and make up names for the constellations while nicotine burned her lungs.

You should be so cool.

Her key found the lock, but the door handle to her aged Honda refused to release. She muttered the obligatory prayer, but nothing happened. Sometimes it took a curse.