Author: Denise Jaden
Genre: YA Contemporary (with romantic suspense elements)
Publication Date: April 20th, 2018
She’s not crazy.
Kass Bateman may be a lot of things, but she swears she’s not crazy—even when she wakes up strapped to a wheelchair in a psychiatric hospital and can’t remember how she got there.
When Kass’s family members go missing one by one, she enlists the smartest guy she knows to help find them. Unfortunately for her, underneath his brains and indifference are some dark secrets and a whole lot of distracting sexy.
Can Kass keep her head together long enough to rescue her family members from their captors—the truly dangerous and crazy ones?
Gritty, steamy, and rife with secrecy, Outcast is the first book in a new upper YA/NA crossover series for fans of Gayle Forman and Rainbow Rowell.
Denise Jaden’s novels have been shortlisted or received awards through the Romance Writers of America, Inspy, and SCBWI. The first draft of her debut novel, Losing Faith, was written in 21 days during NaNoWriMo 2007 and she loves talking with writers and students alike about her Just-Get-To-The-End fast-drafting process.
Jaden’s other young adult novels include Never Enough, Foreign Exchange, A Christmas Kerril, and Avalanche. Her non-fiction books for writers include, Writing with a Heavy Heart, Fast Fiction, and Story Sparks.
In her spare time, she homeschools her son, acts with the Vancouver film industry, and dances with a Polynesian dance troupe. Find out more at denisejaden.com.
I beeline toward them, anger blurring my vision. It’s not like I even know Elijah, but I need to protect him like no one protected me.
“What are you doing here?” I say straight at Elijah, since I know Sebastian could take this little transaction somewhere where I won’t be watching. I was the one who needed to get a clue in eighth grade. Elijah’s the one who needs to get a clue now.
Elijah looks from side to side, clearly not believing I’m talking to him in this tone. He finally looks back at me blankly. Sebastian holds up his soda can and grunts something about needing a refill.
Even better. After Sebastian clears out, I wait for Elijah’s answer, but when he changes the subject, I realize he’s not going to give me one.
“You did the right thing,” he says. I think he’s talking about Sebastian, until he adds, “It’s good you talked to your mom today, even if it made Mr. Burke angry.” He has to yell the last part, because someone has turned up the music.
My mom? What is he…He motions across to where Hope has her back to us, in my mother’s coat. Right, I had thought it was my mother at school today. That seems so long ago. I have to smile a little that Elijah thinks I’d bring my mother to a party like this.
“It’s my sister,” I mumble.
But when I look back at him and realize he hasn’t answered me about why he’s here, in fact, he’s trying to give me advice, my smile fades.
As if to push me further, he says, “You need to make things right. You have to get rid of any guilt and the things you’ve never been able to say while you have the chance.”
While I have the chance? Does he know that my mother hasn’t been around in years? And how the hell would he know anything about my guilt? He’s staring off over my head, so I can’t read in his eyes exactly how much he does know about me.
“Oh yeah?” I force a mocking tone, but the more I look at Elijah, at his unfazed eyes, the more I want to get the hell away from him. Because I know in my right mind he doesn’t have any clue what Kass-The-Enigma, the girl with the dead sister, the freakshow-of-a-father, and the abandoning-secretive-mother is going through. How could he?
I reach for my most menacing tone to get us off this topic quickly. “Why are you hanging out with Sebastian Brown? I think we’ll both admit, he’s not exactly your type, Elijah.” I cross my arms.
His eyes move to the side, like I knocked a nerve. He murmurs something, but I can’t hear him over the blaring music.
“What?” I step closer and lean in with a scowl. “Spit it out!”
“Don’t call me Elijah,” he says loud and clear.
This surprises me. I could swear Mr. Burke has called him Elijah. Or maybe he calls him Mr. Barton. I start to doubt myself. “That’s your name, isn’t it?”
His face is getting harder by the second, his cheek bones tauter. And I feel myself getting softer. Which I won’t allow. I ball my fists at my sides.
“Eli,” he practically yells. He’s actually kind of cute when he’s angry. “If you could call me Eli, that would be…great.” He meets my eyes on the last word and grits it out through a smile that looks anything but happy.
“What is your problem?” I scowl at him.
“My problem right now seems to be you,” he says, not missing a beat. He turns and marches toward some trees at the far end of the property. It’s more deserted there, further from the sound system, but I’m pretty sure he’s not headed there because he wants to have a quiet conversation with me. He wants me to leave him the hell alone.
I glance back and Liz and Micah have also moved out of the din of the party. They’re arguing again, something they usually only do in private. My mother’s coat is on the lawn swing, but at least Hope’s not in the middle of their argument. I glance around the lawn, but she must have gone inside. I should probably do something about Liz and Micah, but I can’t let Eli have the last word. Not after talking to me like that.
“Don’t you dare walk away from me!” I say when I catch up.
“Look,” he swings around. “What do you want from me? Have I offended you, or something, because if I have, I seriously don’t remember it. Did you not want me to defend you to Mr. Burke today?” He takes a big drink of his beer, and this time I think it’s slipped his mind how bad the stuff tastes. His cringe is obvious.
“I don’t want anything from you.” I keep walking until I’m past him, so it feels like I’m leading this conversation instead of him. There’s a crap-load of leaves on the ground from a windstorm we had last week and I kick them out of my way with a vengeance. “I think it’s messed up that Sebastian is preying on people like you.” I turn back to face Elijah and lean against the nearest tree. “I actually thought I was helping you, you know, a favor for a favor, but don’t bother thanking me or anything.”
“Helping me how?” He steps closer, keeping his eyes trained right on mine, like he’s not afraid of me in the least. I hate to admit it, but it’s kind of turning me on. Guys don’t stand up to me, they just don’t. But this Elijah guy—Eli—he’s ready to engage in combat. I wonder where in his straight-laced, practically-ironed jeans he keeps his balls, because they seem to be good sized ones.
“I tried…” I pause for dramatic effect, “…to get you away from those low-lifes.” I’m not sure why I say “those,” except maybe I’m lumping Sebastian and Graham together for added punch.
He takes another step toward me and now we’re only inches apart. “And you’re better…” he tilts his head and raises his eyebrows, “…how?”
Did he seriously just—? I don’t even know what I’m doing, but all at once, I grab his head and pull it toward me. A splash of beer hits my other hand as he drops his cup in surprise. I plant my lips on his and kiss hard against his rigid ones. It’s a power move, I know that much. I need to get the upper hand here, and I will one way or the other. He’ll pull away and freak out—who knows if the guy has ever been kissed before.
A second later he responds, but not at all in the way I expect…