A father’s love. A family’s tragedy. A daughter’s revenge.
Honor student Emma knows more about galvanic cell diagrams than guns. College is the only way out of her gang-ridden hometown, but her parents can’t afford it.
When her unemployed dad lands a job as a census taker, things start looking up. But he’s sent deep into East Malo Verde, where gang members rule the streets and fear anyone with a badge who knocks on doors. One night, a gang member mistakes him for a cop and beats him savagely, leaving him for dead.
Her best friends, her chem lab partner, her mom, and the detective assigned to the case all try to convince her to focus on school. But school won’t prepare her for a world that ignores a crime against a good man. Emma must decide what’s more important: doing what’s expected, or doing what she feels is right . . . even if it leads her down a dark and dangerous path of revenge.
The Red Road is about a girl in turmoil, coming of age as she discovers the depths – and the limits – of friendship, first love, and the bond between parents and their children.
Dan sat next to her in AP Chemistry, but never seemed to have the requisite supplies. At the beginning of the year, she became his go-to paper provider, and he’d agreed to be her lab partner. Lucky for her, he was the most precise measurer she’d ever met, and that included her mom, who was like Attila the Hun with measuring cups.
Everything was fine until February 8, when he’d leaned over their lab table and asked if she had a hot date for Valentine’s Day. Her pencil slipped, and instead of entering “NR” for the cross of Pb with Pb(NO3)2, she blistered through the page with the tip of her Ticonderoga. “What did you say?” she asked.
His dark hair flopped over his eyebrows, almost reaching his cheekbones. “Here,” he said. “Let me do that. You’re messing it up again.” Since that moment, she’d been haunted by the implications of his question. No one had ever asked her out and she’d assumed no one ever would, not while she had baby fat and bad skin.
One day during sophomore year, class president Javier Benavides flung an arm around her after biology class. Javier’s friend said, “Hey, is this your new girl?” Javier raised both hands quicker than a cowboy in a calf-tying contest. “No way,” he’d said. “These are the ones you save for marriage.” Emma had no idea what that meant, aside from the fact that it was mortally embarrassing for Javier’s name to be linked with hers in any romantic context. She was dating kryptonite—until February 8 at 11:42 a.m., when Dan joked about her having a date on Valentine’s Day. This was no small thing.
She watched Dan and his friends walk toward her table. They were heading for the main hall, its doorway just behind her. She liked the way he walked, with slightly turned-out legs that weren’t bowed but definitely weren’t straight. He had very smooth lips, while hers were always chapped. It didn’t seem fair.
She tried to smile, in case he looked at her. The boys shuffled by, talking about the match on Saturday. He didn’t see her. He didn’t even look in her general direction. Story of my life, she thought.
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Jenni Wiltz writes fiction and creative nonfiction. She’s won national writing awards for creative nonfiction and romantic suspense, including a 2011 Romance Writers of America Kiss of Death Chapter’s Daphne du Maurier Award for her novel, The Cherbourg Jewels. She also writes thrillers, historical fiction, and paranormal romance, and you may have seen her short stories in The Portland Review, Gargoyle, and the Sacramento News & Review. After earning bachelor’s degrees in English and history and a Master’s degree in English, she worked as a web editor, a copywriter, and a USAID grant program coordinator, which gave her the opportunity to travel to Kenya. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, sewing, running, and genealogical research. She lives in Pilot Hill, California and has not yet struck gold in her backyard. Visit her online at JenniWiltz.com.
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