Bully:A Fall Away Novel

By: Penelope Douglas

A Fall Away Novel




For the ladies . . .





There is in every true woman’s heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.

Washington Irving





ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First, to my husband for all of his patience and support. He endured countless nights and weekends alone as I locked myself in our bedroom to write this story. I promise the investment will pay off . . . eventually.

Next, to my friend Bekke for . . . well, everything! Without you, I would have been fumbling along with Word, HTML, and yes, writing in general. I have no idea where this book would be without you!

Finally, to all of the readers out there who find their escape in the realm of books. Your time and feedback are the best gifts you can give an author. Thank you for reading!





Chapter 1

One Year Ago




“No! Turn here,” K.C. shrieked in my right ear.

The tires of my dad’s Bronco screeched with the sudden, short turn onto a car-packed street.

“You know, maybe you should’ve just driven like I suggested,” I blurted out, even though I never liked anyone else to drive when I was in the car.

“And have you bury your face in your hands every time I don’t launch myself through every yellow light? Not!” K.C. responded as if reading my mind.

I smiled to myself. My best friend knew me too well. I liked to drive fast. I liked to move fast. I walked as quickly as my legs could take me, and I drove as speedily as was reasonable. I rushed to every stop sign and red light. Hurry up and wait, that was me.

But hearing the pounding rhythm of the music in the distance, I had no desire to rush any further. The lane was lined with car after car, displaying the magnitude of the party we were crashing. My hands clenched the steering wheel as I squeezed into a spot a block away from the party.

“K.C.? I don’t think this is a good idea,” I declared . . . again.

“It’ll be fine, you’ll see.” She patted my leg. “Bryan invited Liam. Liam invited me, and I’m inviting you.” Her calm, flat tone did nothing to ease the tightness in my chest.

Unfastening my seatbelt, I looked over to her. “Well, just remember . . . if I get uncomfortable, I’m gone. You catch a ride with Liam.”

We climbed out and jogged across the street. The party ruckus amplified the closer we got to the house.

“You’re not going anywhere. You leave in two days, and we’re having fun. No matter what.” Her threatening voice shook my already unsteady nerves.

As we walked up the driveway, she trailed behind me. Texting Liam, I assumed. Her boyfriend had arrived earlier, having spent most of the day with his friends at the lake while K.C. and I shopped.

Red Solo cups littered the lawn, and people filtered in and out of the house, enjoying the balmy summer night. Several guys I recognized from school lunged out of the front door, chasing each other and sloshing drinks in the process.

“Hey, K.C. How’s it going, Tate?” Tori Beckman sat inside the front door with a drink in hand, chatting with a boy I didn’t know. “Drop your keys in the bowl,” she instructed, returning her attention to her company.

Taking a moment to process her request, I realized she was making me surrender my keys.

I guess she wasn’t letting anyone drive drunk tonight.

“Well, I won’t be drinking,” I shouted over the music.

“And you might change your mind,” she challenged. “If you want in, I need your keys.”

Annoyed, I dug into my bag and dropped my set into the bowl. The thought of giving up one of my lifelines irritated the hell out of me. Not having my keys meant I wouldn’t be able to leave quickly if I wanted to. Or needed to. What if she got drunk and left her post? What if someone accidentally took my keys? I suddenly remembered my mom, who used to tell me to stop asking “what if” questions. What if Disneyland is closed for cleaning when we get there? What if every store in town ran out of gummi bears? I bit my lip to stifle a laugh, remembering how annoyed she would get with my endless questions.

“Wow,” K.C. shouted in my ear, “look at it in here!”

People, some classmates and some not, bounced to the music, laughing and living it up. The hair on my arms stood on end at the sight of all of the bustle and enthusiasm. The floors echoed the beat coming from the speakers, and I was speechless at the sight of so much activity in one space. People danced, horse-played, jumped, drank, and played football—yes, football— in the living room.