Secret

By: Brigid Kemmerer

For my mother,

who has always been there for me.

Always.





ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


If you’ve read my books for any length of time, you know I always thank my mother first. This time is no different. She’s my constant inspiration. You wouldn’t be holding this book in your hands if not for her support and influence in my life. Thank you, Mom, for everything.





My husband, Michael, is my sounding board, my confidant, and my best friend. I can’t imagine spending a day without him. (Unfortunately, he spends many days without me, while I’m eating cake pops with the Starbucks baristas, *ahem* I mean, when I’m writing.) Thank you, honey, for always being there. And for suggesting Adam’s name. And for supporting me even when you weren’t sure about the topic of this book. It means so, so much. I hope you know that.





I have a close circle of critique partners. Bobbie Goettler and Alison Kemper Beard, you’ve been with me every step of the way, and I can’t thank you enough for your guidance, support, and friendship. I seriously could not do this without you guys. Could. Not.





My fearless agent, Mandy Hubbard, is beyond compare. Thank you for your support in this book and in my career. And thanks for not minding when I fling the F word into our e-mail correspondence. My editor at Kensington, Alicia Condon, is amazing to work with, and she had no idea that Nick Merrick was interested in boys until I sent her Breathless, Nick’s novella. It was a risk, and I’m lucky she and Mandy have supported me every step of the way.





Eternal gratitude to the wonderful people at Kensington books who work so hard to make my book a success, especially Vida Engstrand, Alex Nicolajsen, and Mel Saccone. Many, many thanks to the fine people at Allen & Unwin, my publisher in Australia, especially Jodie Webster and Lara Wallace. I’m so lucky and excited to work with all of you.





This book took a lot of research, in many forms. I am deeply indebted to Danny Rome, Jason Deem, Jim Hilderbrandt, H. Duncan Moseley III, Tradd Sanderson, and Wes Parker for sharing their life experiences and helping me to build well-rounded characters. Many thanks to Jim Kalinosky of the Baltimore County Police Department for being a continued resource about the world of law enforcement. Huge thanks to the brilliant Jonah Kanner for teaching me more than I ever thought I wanted to know about air pressure and physics. Many thanks to Sebastian Serra of the Orlando Ballet as well as Dena Stoll for their insight into the world of dance. Finally, special thanks and big hugs to my sister-in-law, Tina Kasten, and her talented daughters, Jenna and Lexi, for letting me shadow them at dance competitions and workshops so I could get an insider’s view. If I got anything wrong, it’s entirely my fault.





If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to write a book. Many, many people read early drafts or offered thoughts and insights or just kept me going while this book was in process. Extra special thanks to Jim Hilderbrandt, Sarah Gonder, Brenda Freeman, Joy Hensley George, Nicole Kalinosky, Becky Hutchinson, David James, Erin Kanner, Sarah Fine, and Nicole Choiniere-Kroeker. Additional thanks to Wendy Darling of The Midnight Garden and the many fine bloggers who participated in the Spirit Blog Tour in April. You guys are amazing.





This might sound ridiculous, but I owe many thanks to the fine people of Starbucks in Severna Park, Maryland. You put up with me for twelve-hour writing sprints, even though you have no idea who I am or what I’m doing there. Keep those cake pops coming.





Finally, the biggest thanks go to you guys, my readers. You all make this possible, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Thank you. For everything. I’ll try to sneak more pics of hot guys at Starbucks, ’kay?





PROLOGUE


Gareth Brody sat in a chipped plastic chair in the prison waiting room, listening for the guard to call his name. He drummed his fingers on his briefcase, casting a dark look at the guard booth every so often, playing the role of an impatient young attorney.

In truth, the cinder block walls and barred doorways left him feeling claustrophobic. The air felt stale, the lighting artificial and too bright. Outdoors, the prison yard was barely more than a lengthy stretch of concrete, broken only by steel poles supporting basketball nets, all enclosed by chain-link fencing and barbed wire.

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