“Don’t I need to approve rule changes?”
“Sometimes you need a father’s approval.”
Never in a million years did she believe she’d be having this kind of conversation with Cooper Lockman.
“I’m a size six,” she said putting her left hand out in front of her.
He kissed her a little too hard and a little too long.
The athletes close by started clapping.
Claire clicked her tongue and shook her head. “Public displays of affection in front of the kids, what will they think?”
He pressed his lips to her ear. “Wear that dress to prom and we’ll really give them something to talk about.”
I feel the need to take a moment here to stress that Auburn High and Bremerton High as detailed in this book are completely fictional. I’ve placed them in Southern California in ambiguous cities I purposely didn’t name. I did so to express that human trafficking can, and likely is, happening right where you live. In my research, I was shocked to learn of the prevalence of this tragic crime.
I want to thank all the teachers, coaches, and mentors that actively work to keep their students from falling victim. Thanks to the school administrators that do in fact have undercover operations in our high schools to flush out the criminals responsible.
I also need to take a moment to say that every track coach I’ve ever encountered has been nothing but incredible to their students, and to the best of my knowledge would never put their students at risk. But alas . . . I do write fiction, and someone has to be the bad guy. And sadly, in real life, the bad guy is often the one closest to the victims.
Slavery has never gone away, it simply went underground.
Education and awareness often lead to intervention. So please, educate yourselves and your children. The life you might be saving could be closer than you think.
It might sound strange, but I need to thank a few of my characters. Neil MacBain (Fiancé by Friday). When Neil first showed up on the page, I knew I had to write his story. Little did I know he would be a character that spans three of my series.
Sasha Budanov (Say It Again) was yet another of those characters that I couldn’t let go. Which led me to Claire Kelly and the first book in this new series.
Thank you to Amazon Publishing and Montlake, Maria Gomez and the team, for allowing me creative freedom to continue writing these dynamic characters.
Thanks to my editor, Holly Ingraham, for helping me put this book into fighting shape.
To Jane Dystel, who is always the first one to read my work and champion every single book I write. Thank you.
Thank you, Jeanie Pugh, for just happening to be watching the sunset as I walked by with my plot all twisted in my head. Your suggestion to look up some of the case studies in San Diego on this subject helped me see the light. For all the kids I know you help in your position as a high school VP, thank you.
Now to the graduates I’ve dedicated this book to.
I wrote this story during the global pandemic of COVID-19. It wasn’t until I was finishing my edits that I realized I had to dedicate this work to every graduate in the class of 2020. It’s been such a crying shame to watch high school seniors miss all the things one looks for in their last year of school. No prom, no sports, no class party or events. And certainly no graduation.
I also want to acknowledge the college graduates, who may have missed out on fewer of those iconic events, but certainly didn’t get the satisfaction of walking on a stage to receive a well-deserved degree.
May your futures be filled with happiness, health, and success in all you do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Photo © 2015 Julianne Gentry
New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written twenty-eight books that have collectively sold more than 5.5 million copies and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full time and has penned the Not Quite series, the Weekday Brides series, the Most Likely To series, and the First Wives series.
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