When her friend is assaulted, Corrine Peterson can’t help reacting. But she didn’t think and now her hands are burnt, Gran is coming to look after her and, scariest of all, strange men are watching her house. Could they be terrorists? Secret agents?
It seems that Gran’s idea of a solution is to introduce Corrine to Rowan. Okay, sure, maybe eighteen year old Rowan is gorgeous – but he has his own troubles. And right now, Corrine doesn’t need complications in her life.
But in a world of surveillance and secrecy, complexity is inevitable. And as the tension mounts Corrine realizes – maybe Gran can help her, after all.
‘Don’t worry, my dear. Everything will be just fine.’ Holding her around the shoulder, Mr Patel slipped off her school bag. Deepti didn’t even try to stop him; she just stood there, letting him move her around. He passed me the bag. Automatically, my hand reached out and I took it.
‘You can leave,’ he told me, staring at Deepti. ‘Deepti and I have something to discuss now, don’t we dear?’
‘Don’t touch her!’ My voice sounded weak, afraid.
He said nothing, just turned away from me, as though I didn’t exist, as though Deepti was the only thing in the world to him, like she was his own personal private present.
I held her bag to my chest, fighting for breath. This is not happening. This is not happening.
‘Stop it!’ I could feel my anger, almost taste it on my tongue.
Mr Patel looked at me, his face mildly surprised, as though he wasn’t doing anything wrong. ‘But Miss Jalali and I have an understanding.’ He smiled at me. His skin was olive-gray and his eyes had tiny red veins in them. ‘The last time I caught her lovely hands stealing my stock, I warned her. Didn’t I, Miss Jalali? I told you I would demand payment of you.’
Deepti turned her head away. ‘No! No!’ She struggled against him like a pinned fly. ‘I didn’t. I didn’t. Please let me go!’ She was crying now, really crying.
‘Let her go!’ But my voice sounded small and weak, and he ignored me.
Oh my God. What do I do? Then, quite suddenly, I wasn’t scared – I felt angry. The walls of the grotty shop seemed to pulse in time with my heart. Who the hell did this man think he was? I heard a distant roaring, the sound of fire and heat and red-hot flames.
I shouted, ‘Leave her alone!’
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