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?
One of my favorite things about writing PRETTY FIERCE was trying to figure out what Kaia would do next. I don’t consider myself to be particularly brave—except for the fact that I don’t mind public speaking which is one of those things that keeps people awake at night. But I imagine that if I were ever in a situation like Kaia is in—being pursued by bad guys, hunted down at every turn, forced to try to protect the man I loved—I’d probably end up a ball of blubbering mush in a corner. So when I was writing her, I would try to imagine the exact opposite of what I would do in a given situation, and then write that. More often than not, it ended up being the thing that I wish I would have the guts to do, but really just couldn’t imagine myself doing. And that’s what I think makes a great kick-butt heroine—someone who allows us to see the possibilities of what we could do—what we could be—if we could find that deep well of courage within ourselves.
Here is one of my favorite kick-butt heroines:
Buffy Summers — Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I was obsessed with Buffy from the day it premiered on the good old WB network. The humor, the angst, the crushes, the fashion and the action. Seeing a petite, popular girly girl dust vampires, slay demons and basically not give a crap what everyone thinks about her very much spoke to the fierce girl trapped within me, just needing one of Willow’s spells to let her out.
“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?”