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A Star Tribune serialized novel by Jane Fredericksen

Chapter 24

The story so far: Kacie and the shy kid meet again.

Kacie picked up a stone, hefted it in her hand. “So,” she tried to sound casual. “What happened to Laura Binkler?”

The kid picked up another rock and shrugged. “Last I heard, she was hanging out with some jock from Washburn. Some new kid.” He skipped the rock across the lake surface. It bounced eight times before sinking. “She’s not really my type, anyway. She’s scared of you, though.”

A smile crept over Kacie. “Good.” She slung her own stone. It bounced once and sank.

“You need a nice round, flat one,” the kid said. “Like this.” He selected one, demonstrated how to hold it and handed it to her. “Now try.”

Kacie followed his lead. This time, the stone skipped six times before sinking.

The kid gave her a thumbs-up. “You learn fast.” He picked up another rock and skipped it across the turquoise water. “My people — the Anishinabe — tell lots of stories about this lake. Maybe you think that’s weird.”

Kacie shook her head. “Truth hides in stories. I’d like to hear those stories someday.”

“Maybe I’ll tell you someday.”

They continued to skip stones in silence. Then Kacie said, “I’ve got my own story to tell. About the wind and the Pirate and a terrible storm. About how I had to give up one dream to find another.”

He looked at her with eyes as deep and brown as bark on trees, as the Earth itself. “I’d like to hear that story someday.”

“Maybe I’ll tell you someday.”

Mainlander’s horn sounded in the distance. Kacie turned. “Gotta run.” She scooped up the stack of cards. “Hey, what’s your name?”

He gave a half-smile. “Micah.”

Kacie grinned. “Hey, Micah.” She offered him a card. “Wanna come to a party?”

* * *

A small pair of hands covered Kinney’s eyes. He heard a bustling and scraping of chairs, a lot of hushed warnings: “Be careful!” “It’s heavy.” “Make some room.”

He smelled smoke, and chocolate, and Kacie’s spiced coffee.

The hands pulled away from his eyes.

“Surprise!” cried Kacie. “Now you can look!”

Spontaneous applause broke out around him. He was sitting at Thea’s Place, surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd. Besides Thea and Kacie, there was Ronnie, Pete, Bernie, most of Thea’s staff, many restaurant regulars and a quiet boy that Kacie had introduced as her new friend, Micah.

Vince, however, was not in attendance.

The table before Kinney displayed a generous-sized, chocolate-iced birthday cake, sagging from the weight of 30 candles.

“How did you know?” he asked Kacie.

“I saw your birth date on the blood test. I remembered.”

Tomorrow: Chapter 24 continues.