Chapter 20: Clean Slate

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Derek grabbed the coffee Dad just poured and went to the kitchen table. And as soon as he poured the second cup, Bailee was right there stealing it.

“Hey!” Dad shouted. “Dammit you two! I was pouring that for me.”

Derek grinned over his cup and took a sip. “Gotta be fast, Pops.”

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Chapter 19: Are You High?

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“What the hell are you doing to my room!” Derek yelled. “Where the hell is my door?”

“Gone.” Dad pulled the TV down from Derek’s wall, and stepped out with it. Derek followed him.

“Why? Why are you taking all my stuff! And my freaking door! I need privacy.”

“No, what you need is to learn that in this house, we have rules. Your stuff is now mine. And your privacy is gone until Mom and I can trust you again, Derek.” 

Dad was being unreasonable. Definitely unreasonable. This was totally bullshit. “I haven’t done anything wrong!”

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Chapter 18: Drunk and Hungover

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Derek glanced at the handout he was given by one of his classmates he didn’t know. “A Kegger?” He looked to Brandt and Kody. They had never been invited to a party. The three of them were the biggest outcasts in school, despite the fact that Kody was on the basketball team and one of the best players the school had seen in years.

“You gotta come, man. It’s going to be epic! My parents are going to be gone, and my brother scored some kegs at his work. You three in?” the kid asked.

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Chapter 17: Focus, Derek

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Derek wanted to sleep so badly. This was so fucking boring. He hated English. And worst, it was a Socratic Seminar—meaning the smart kids were just going to talk all freaking hour long.

“Okay, let’s stop there really quickly, Olivia. Just hold that question. We have fifteen more minutes, and there are still a few that do need to speak up to get credit today.”

Derek waited while Mrs. Westman named off four other students before she got to his name. “Derek, why don’t you start off by answering the question.”

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Chapter 16: Life Lessons

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“This isn’t fucking fair!” Derek shouted after tossing his phone into a box that was on his desk. Inside already sat his tablet and his laptop. Not to mention his Cube One and the few games that were there. Dad already removed the TV from Derek’s room.

“Language, Derek,” Dad warned. “And if it was fair, it wouldn’t be called a punishment.”

“But this is bullshit!” Derek shouted and kicked his desk.

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Chapter 15: Growing Up

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Eli wanted to cry. His baby girl was now five, and in Kindergarten, and was running around with the other Kindergarten kids in the park.

How did the time fly by so fast? Oh, right. Prison. He missed so much of Dakota’s life. He’d only been out a little over a year and a half, almost two, and she had grown so much even in that short time.

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Chapter 14: What’s Eating Derek Ryder

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Eli glanced around the basketball court where Derek said he’d be with his friends. He found the Lamb twins playing basketball, but no sign of their third musketeer.

“Hey Kody? Brandt? Have either of you two seen Derek?”

Kody pointed toward the alleyway that went to the next street over. “He said he wasn’t up to playing, Mr. Ryder, so he headed that way.”

“So, he just took off?”

Brandt shrugged. “He said he was going to take a walk. He might be at Stone Cold”

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Chapter 13: Cops and Robbers

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“Freeze!” Derek shouted, pointing his fingers in a gun-like gesture at Eli the moment he entered the apartment. “You’re under arrest.”

Eli put his hands up and smirked at his son. Ever since Halloween, Derek hasn’t stopped donning on his police costume and writing fake tickets to him and Sam; playing cops and robbers with his friends (and sometimes Eli); and even bugging his grandfather for more ride-along sessions.

Eli thought Derek was obsessed before, but now…now he knew there was a new ultimate level of obsession he and Sam never even thought possible. Was it healthy? Eli wasn’t sure, but he wasn’t about to stop Derek from enjoying his games and fun. Eli wanted Derek to play and be a kid for as long as possible.

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Chapter 12: Are We Good?

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Eli stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. He’d gone through his closet, not knowing what to wear tonight. His palms were sweaty. He could do this. He needed to do this.

Sam popped her head into the bathroom. “Eli, Dad wants to know if you can grab some extra charcoal on the way. He thought he had some, and went to fire up the grill, and found out he doesn’t have enough.”

“Tell him I will.” He turned to Sam. “Do I look okay?”

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