By: Jamie Magee

For Steffini...


Fucking traitor, Declan Rawlings thought, as his gray gaze shifted to the ominous dark clouds.

One rumble of thunder—one flash of light. That’s all I need, he thought.

He’d been cussing Mother Nature since the moment he flicked his eyes open, bright and early at four thirty in the morning, nearly twelve hours earlier.

Declan had cussed. He’d negotiated. He’d done everything but bust out into some hippy rain dance.

He didn’t want to be there. At. All.

It was more than his pride saying so. It was him knowing his limits and knowing that now, with only days left before he was gone from this hellhole, he had to keep his nose clean which would be next to impossible when his piss poor luck kept putting him in the same fucked situations.

Don’t kick his ass. Don’t look that way. Fuck ‘em all... he chanted on in his mind.

The baseball field was twenty yards from him. The last game of the season was underway, and Murdock Souter, the reason Declan was serving time in detention, was being warmed up to pitch.

In one week, Declan would walk the line. Grab a stupid piece of paper that said he sat through thirteen years of education and memorized what some asshole decades before decided people needed to know to get through life.

X equals fuck you in Declan Rawling’s book.

Since before he could remember he had been plotting his way out of Bradyville, Georgia. A nowhere town that bordered South Carolina nestled against the Savannah River.

He knew his way out. The Marines. His grandfather was one. His father was one. Each of his uncles was one—yeah, it was a given.

With his father at his side, he’d signed up the day he turned seventeen and had been given a predetermined date he’d counted down to. Now he was months past the age of eighteen, and would have a diploma. Done. Over. Out. Oorah...

Today he was serving detention for fighting, which would be cool if he actually threw the punch, or hell if the fight had no merit, but he didn’t, and it did.

His brother Nolan threw the punch. And he threw it because Murdock Souter got in his face—over what, Declan never understood. But more than likely it had to do with Justice Rose, the pretty girl with dark, golden locks falling down her back and blue eyes that had been known to steal a boy’s breath, who happened to be sitting on the bleachers across the way.

There never really needed to be much of a reason to fight when it came to the Rawlings’ boys and the Souters. Both families were huge and had always loathed each other. Some say the fight began with their grandfathers in Africa, of all places, but no one knew for sure.

In Bradyville, opposites didn’t attract—they fought. The Rawlings were primarily a military family, cut hard—men of few words and strong actions. The Souters, for the most part, were the men in the suits. There wasn’t much money in Bradyville, but what there was, they had. What they didn’t own they sought to destroy in any way they could. The youngest generation of Souters was comprised of spoiled jocks who were all talk and no walk—the least promising crop of assholes thus far from that lot.

Declan was serving his brother’s time in detention for more than one reason.

One, of course he would have hit the Souter, too, without reason. Especially Murdock Souter. Never—not even when they were kids—had he liked Murdock. His God-given Rawlings instinct, the one they all counted on to keep them straight and safe, always told him the fucker was bad news.

Two, he owed Nolan. He’d picked up all his shifts last week at their grandpa’s garage so Declan could cram and make sure he passed his finals.

And third, he knew Nolan needed the day to make some cash. He’d been picking up shifts at the garage and side construction jobs a town over for well over two years, hiding the cash earned for his master plan to escape and see the world.

Nolan didn’t want to sign a contract to do so. He was taking off on his own. Their dad and brothers didn’t know he was—at least if they did, they acted like they didn’t. Nolan never actually came out and said he was enlisted. He’d been forging letters and IDs since he was fifteen for various reasons. His talent in doing so, and knowing exactly what kind of paperwork to leave around the house, gave his family every reason to believe he’d be at Declan’s side. Only Nolan could pull off some crap like that. Declan was a straightforward son of a bitch and proud of it. In the long run, Declan knew he’d catch hell for the cover-up, and he was ready for it.

Nolan was leaving on his adventure—no matter what anyone said. Declan wanted to know exactly what Nolan was up to—ratting Nolan out would only leave Declan in the dark on the master escape plan Nolan had. To say the least, Declan was not a fan of this off the grid scheme Nolan had, at all. Declan would explain as much to their father when he figured this all out and railed at Declan for not speaking up.