Published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 4th 2017
Kaia has been on the run her whole life. The daughter of professional assassins, she knows true danger—and she’ll do anything to survive. After her parents vanished during a job gone bad, Kaia’s spent the last year in hiding, trying to blend in as an ordinary teenager, and there’s no one who makes her feel more normal or more special than her boyfriend, Oliver.
But when she’s jumped by a hit man, and Oliver catches her fighting back, Kaia’s secret is exposed. In a split-second decision, she flees the small town, taking Oliver with her. With professional killers stalking their every move, can Oliver and Kaia protect each other long enough to uncover the mysteries of her past?
An action-packed, edge-of-your-seat novel about a teen who, when backed into a corner, fights back, from the author of What Waits in the Woods
Kaia has been on the run her whole life. The daughter of professional assassins, she knows danger—and she’ll do anything to survive. After her parents vanished during a job gone bad, Kaia’s spent the last year in hiding, trying to blend in as an ordinary teenager, and there’s no one who makes her feel more normal, more special, than her boyfriend, Oliver.
But when she’s attacked by someone from her mother’s past and Oliver catches her fighting back, Kaia’s secret is exposed. In a split-second decision, she flees the small town, taking Oliver with her. Stalked at every turn, Oliver and Kaia must protect each other…or die trying.
KIERAN SCOTT is the author of several acclaimed young adult novels, including the Non-Blonde Cheerleader trilogy, the He’s So/She’s So trilogy, and Geek Magnet. She also wrote the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Private and Privilege series under the pen name Kate Brian. She is a senior editor at Disney/Hyperion and resides in New Jersey with her family. Visit kieranscott.net.
One of my favorite things about writing PRETTY FIERCE was trying to figure out what Kaia would do next. I don’t consider myself to be particularly brave—except for the fact that I don’t mind public speaking which is one of those things that keeps people awake at night. But I imagine that if I were ever in a situation like Kaia is in—being pursued by bad guys, hunted down at every turn, forced to try to protect the man I loved—I’d probably end up a ball of blubbering mush in a corner. So when I was writing her, I would try to imagine the exact opposite of what I would do in a given situation, and then write that. More often than not, it ended up being the thing that I wish I would have the guts to do, but really just couldn’t imagine myself doing. And that’s what I think makes a great kick-butt heroine—someone who allows us to see the possibilities of what we could do—what we could be—if we could find that deep well of courage within ourselves.
Here is one of my favorite kick-butt heroines:
Cassie Hobbs, The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Cassie has an innate ability to understand what other people are thinking and why they do what they do. Cassie’s mother was murdered when she was very young and it’s haunted her ever since, so when Cassie is given the opportunity to join an elite squad of teens with natural sleuthing abilities at the FBI, she takes it—and then finds a way to work the system to discover the truth about what happened. Her love for her mother is unwavering, as is her determination to understand what happened to her and why, plus she’s constantly using her brain to get her out of crazy situations, which makes her one of my favorite cerebral kick-butt heroines.
It sounded like two freight trains colliding, even from a good quarter mile away. The truck hurtled into the air, flipped over, and landed upside down. Then, with a wail, it tilted sideways and slid down the embankment at the side of the road, before ever so slowly flipping again and landing back on its wheels. The Hummer that had hit them sat there, blocking both lanes. There wasn’t another car on the road.
“Kaia!” I screamed.
I took off, running down the center of the scalding blacktop in my bare feet. I was a few yards away when a man with the build of a WWE wrestler got out of the Hummer—which barely looked dinged—and slid down the slope toward Marco’s truck.
Who the hell was this now? Some other enemy of Kaia’s parents? How did they keep finding us? Not that it mattered if Kaia was already dead.
The man yanked open the driver’s side door. I ran down the hill and went to the passenger door. All I could think about was getting Kaia out of there before this guy grabbed her.
The wrestler’s glanced me. He looked confused. Then he clutched Marco by the front of his shirt with both hands and dragged him out of the car.
“Kaia!” I shouted again.
She blinked a few times before her eyes finally focused. There was a gash across her hairline, leaking blood down her forehead and nose.
“What happened?” she asked.
“You were in an accident,” I said, trying to be calm. “Can you move?”
She nodded and slumped toward the door, then cried out in pain.
“What?” I blurted. “What is it?”
“My ankle! I can’t turn my ankle!”
At that moment, Marco came careening toward us, his head slamming against the side of the truck as he fell to the ground.
Kaia yelped in surprise. “Marco!”
The wrestler dude wasn’t done with him yet. He picked up Marco, propped him against the side of the truck like a rag doll and pulled back a fist.
“Leave him alone!” Kaia shouted. “He didn’t do anything to you!”
The wrestler looked inside the cab and laughed.
“Darlin’, you got no clue what you’re talking about.”
Then he slammed his boulder-sized fist into Marco’s jaw. Blood spurted everywhere. I opened Kaia’s door. Her ankle was wedged underneath a jumble of broken dashboard plastic and metal.
“We have to get you out of here.”
“Oliver, no. You have to run,” Kaia whimpered. “This has nothing to do with you.”
“See, that’s your main problem,” I said, as the whole truck shook with Marco hitting its side again. “You’ve yet to figure out anything to do with you, has everything to do with me.”
She managed a smile as a drop of blood dripped off the end of her nose. I bent into the truck and pulled at the plastic casing closest to her ankle, prying it away half an inch. Kaia jimmied her ankle free, then winced.
“Is it broken?” I asked.
“I don’t think so. But it hurts. A lot.”
I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her out of the truck. She hopped away from the door on her good foot and together, we made our way around the front. Blood from Kaia’s forehead splattered my white T-shirt.
“Stop!” Kaia shouted, when she saw the man cocking his fist again. Marco’s face looked like hamburger meat. Rotten hamburger meat. “If you want to take me back to Hector T. or whoever it is you’re working for, I’ll go! Marco has nothing to do with it!”
“Girl, I got no idea who Hector T. is, or who you are for that matter.” The wrestler let Marco side to the ground in a heap. “What I do know is that Marco here owes me ten large, and it’s way past due.”
Kaia glared down at her sputtering uncle. “Is this your bookie?”
“I thought you were giving me another week,” Marco said, trying to push himself up by gripping the front tire.
“That was two weeks ago!” the man shouted.
“This is unbelievable.” Kaia extricated herself from my arms and tried to walk back to her side of the truck, but fell sideways against the grill. “Shit.”
“What do you need?” I asked her.
“My backpack.” She turned so her back was against the car and ran her arm over her forehead, smearing the blood into her hair. She kept her right knee bent, holding her foot off the grass. “Get my backpack. Please.”
I reached inside the open cab and pulled out the gray backpack. Kaia ripped it open.
“You want ten grand? Here.” She fumbled a stack of bills from the bag and slammed it against the man’s sizable chest. Guess there’d been another stash of cash in the Batcave. “Here’s ten grand. Plus interest!”
The bookie’s eyes widened. He sized up the backpack covetously, realizing that there had to be more money inside. On impulse, I reached into the bag and slipped out Kaia’s gun, aiming it at the man’s chest in what I hoped was a convincing way.
“Oliver!” Kaia cried.
“Whatever you’re thinking, don’t,” I said through gritted teeth. “You got what you came for, and my guess is someone on this street has already called the cops thanks to the mess you made. I’d quit while you’re ahead.”
The bookie raised his hands. “You make a good point, kid.”
Then he turned tail and ran for his tank-like vehicle. I lowered the gun and shoved it back in the bag.
“Wow,” Kaia said. “That was pretty intense, Oliver.”
The look of admiration in her eyes pissed me off. Five minutes ago she was walking away like she didn’t need me. Well, look where we were now.
“I’ll be right back,” I said, starting up the embankment.
“Where’re you going?” Kaia asked.
“To get your dad’s car,” I said without pausing. “Not like I can single-handedly carry both of you back to the house. At least not before the cops get here.”
I tried not to think about my bare feet or the bloodstained pajamas I was wearing as I stormed indignantly up the road.