EXCLUSIVE: See the cover of PRETTY FIERCE by Kieran Scott!

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If Mr. and Mrs. Smith had a daughter, Kaia [last name redacted]would kick her butt. Take a peek at the cover of Kieran Scott’s Pretty Fierce!

pretty-fierce-kieran-scott

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?

“When I first saw the Pretty Fierce cover, my jaw dropped,” said Scott. “To me, it looks like a movie poster for an action-packed thriller, which is my favorite film genre. (My mom showed me Frantic, the Harrison Ford crazy-making wife-nap film when I was a kid and from there I was hooked.) And since it’s pink, it also brings in the female-empowerment angle, which Kaia totally embodies. We had been through a few different titles, and to me, this was the perfect intersection of title and image. I couldn’t be happier to show this book off and tell everyone my next book is ‘Pretty Fierce.'”

Pretty Fierce releases April 1 from Sourcebooks. Read an excerpt below + keep scrolling to enter to win a giveaway!


We went inside the shop. Kaia panned the store, like she always did whenever we entered a room. Now I knew why. She was scanning the place for enemies. Probably a habit she developed on all her “missions.” Seemingly deciding the coast was clear, she ducked down a short aisle filled with processed baked goods. She picked up a cylinder of powdered donuts and handed them to me. My favorite.

“You have your cell phone, right?” she asked.

“Yeah, why?”

I pulled it from my pocket. My prized possession. I’d worked way a lot of hours at minimum wage selling replacement windshield wiper blades and car batteries at the downtown auto parts store and body shop to buy it and pay for its monthly plan. I still got a happy feeling whenever I held the thing. Not that I’d ever tell anyone that. The job was totally worth it, and not just for the phone. Hank Fusco, the guy who owned the place, was helping me salvage parts to restore a crappy old Chevy to working order. And when we were finished, he was going to let me keep it.

We were months from being done. But at least it gave me something to look forward to. I spent hours, days, fantasizing about Kaia and me driving off into the sunset in that car.

Kaia went to the refrigerated aisle at the back of the store and took out a single-serve bottle of chocolate milk. Also my favorite.

“Call Brian. Or Hunter. Tell them to come pick you up.”

She tried to hand me the milk, but I took a step back. “Wait. Pick me up? You’re not coming?”

“Oliver, I told you five seconds ago, I can’t go back there.”

“Kaia, what are you gonna do? Stay here?”

“Yes.” Her gaze darted to the door as it swung open. The smokers were coming inside. They made their way to the far end of the store, where the slushie machine lived. “I’m going to hang out at the safe house for a few days and figure out my next move. Maybe I’ll try to track down my Uncle Marco and see if he knows what’s going on. My parents always told me that if anything ever happened to them I wasn’t supposed to contact anyone from my old life, but this seems like a worst-case scenario situation.”

“Okay then,” I said, my pulse racing. “I’ll stay with you.”

Kaia snorted. “Oliver, you can’t. You have a life. And I may have to travel. I may have to go to Marco, wherever the hell he is.”

“So I’ll go with you,” I said, though my throat was dry. The daydream was slowly fading in my mind. How could she not see the opportunity this nightmare had given us—to be alone together? To get the hell out? Besides, Kaia had never mentioned an uncle before today. Who was he? What was his deal? Was he in “the family business” too?

She crossed her arms over her chest, still holding the milk bottle in one hand. “What if those guys find me again? I don’t know if I can fight them off and keep you safe.”

“Keep me safe?” I balked. “Are you trying to crush my manhood?”

“Oliver, come on,” she said, her voice condescending. “You know what I mean. I want you to go home because I care about you. It’s the only way I’ll know you’re okay.”

The irony of that statement was so thick I could have choked on it. I was anything but okay when I was at home. At home, I was Jack’s recreational kickboxing dummy. He took out all the frustrations of his sorry ass life on me. At home, I was always one left hook away from the ICU. But Kaia didn’t know that. After my last trip to the hospital with a festering black eye, Jack got really good at keeping the bruises centralized in places I could hide them, and I got really good at hiding them. Across the room, the Panthers fans cackled.

“Oliver,” Kaia said again, mistaking my silence as stubbornness. “I’m sorry, but if you come with me, you’ll be a liability.”

I was about to tell her that she’d hit below the belt, when the door opened and her face went white. I hadn’t seen her look that pale since the morning we’d met. That morning had changed everything. I could still remember the scent of cafeteria french toast that hung in the air, how some of her thick hair was still wet from her shower even hours into the school day, the way her T-shirt had been tucked half-in, half-out of her jeans. And she thought I was going to leave her?

I turned to see two men. One was tall, sleek, and handsome in a ballroom dancer sort of way. Except he had this nasty, jagged, purple scar from the tip of his ear, down his cheek to his chin. The other man was broad-shouldered and tough looking, the kind of guy who would rather punch you in the face than argue his point. He had a wide, flat nose, a healthy black beard, and fleshy cheeks that seemed to hang down over his collar. They both wore sleek leather jackets, pressed shirts, and too much jewelry. They couldn’t have been more out of place in the forests of northern South Carolina if they’d been sporting pink wigs.

Kaia hit the floor so fast that for a second I thought she fainted. Then she grabbed my hand and dragged me down with her. My kneecap smacked the tile floor and I bit my lip to keep from cursing.

“Oh my God,” she said under her breath. “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.”

“What? What is it?” I hissed.

“We have to get out of here.” She spoke through her teeth. “We have to go. Now.”

There was an unmarked door behind her, maybe leading to a stock room or to the back lot where we’d come out of the woods. I tilted my head toward the door and she nodded. We crawled over on hands and knees, ignoring the sheen of filth on the floor. As I pushed the door open with one hand, the man with the scar spoke. He had a thick Mexican accent.

“She’s about this tall…got dark hair, blue eyes…freckles… Have you seen her?”

Outside we scrambled to our feet, just as the thug came around the corner. He must have walked out the front door half a second after he’d walked in. He startled at the sight of us, then flicked a smile. One of his front top teeth was missing.

“That was almost too easy.” He pointed a thick finger at Kaia. “You. You’re comin’ with me.”

What happened next was a blur. The guy lunged for Kaia. I spun and launched my foot at his face. A perfect spin kick. My heavy work boot collided with his jaw and there was a satisfying crack. Kaia screamed. The guy hit the asphalt, knocking his cheek against a pile of cement bricks near the door. Blood oozed everywhere.

“Sonofabitch!” he shouted.

Still on the ground, he grabbed one of the bricks and took a swing at me, catching my leg. The cut stung, but it was only a graze. I hit him with a front-kick under the chin and his head snapped back.

“Oliver!” Kaia shouted.

The thug collided with the ground, and this time and his eyes fluttered closed. He was out cold.

Huh. That, I’d never done before. At least not for real. I was so hopped up on adrenaline I almost laughed.

“Not much of a fighter, are ya, big guy?” I commented, spitting on the ground. I’d seen dozens of badasses do this in movies, but it wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be. I wiped my bottom lip with the back of my hand.

“What the hell was that?” Kaia asked, shaking as she came up beside me. “He has a gun!”

Startled, I looked down at my opponent. His jacket had fallen open and sure enough, he wore a leather holster with a pretty big weapon strapped into it.

“Well, he didn’t get to use it,” I said, my voice high and reedy.

“Oliver, where the hell did you learn to do that?”

Kaia shoved my shoulder with one hand—the hand that still held the bottle of chocolate milk. I still held the sleeve of donuts. We’d shoplifted and I didn’t even care. My chest heaved as I stared at Kaia.

“Still think I’m a liability?”


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Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at @nebrinkley or Tumblr at nebrinkley. Like her work? Leave her a tip.