Kidnapped from her front yard in Oklahoma eleven years ago, seventeen-year old Eve Anderson lives a wretched existence in Bell Meade, Minnesota with her abductor, “Papa,” his common-law wife “Mama,” and Honey, Eve’s four-year-old daughter with Papa. Papa keeps the family hidden behind locked doors, boarded-up windows, and an eight-foot tall fence that surrounds their backyard.
Emma Love, also seventeen, recently moved to Bell Meade with her Aunt Vi to take care of her big sister Noelle, who’s in a vegetative state after being savagely beaten by her boyfriend, Jack Armstrong. He is charged with grievous bodily harm, but Emma worries that the popularity and influence of the Armstrong family will keep Noelle from getting the justice she deserves.
When Eve and Emma start talking through the fence that adjoins their backyards, they soon form a connection. Emma finds it comforting to talk to Eve about Noelle, and Eve sees parallels between Noelle’s situation and her own. She acts as Emma’s confidant, but does not reveal her own secrets, for fear of Papa’s wrath if he finds out.
But when Papa decides to marry Eve and move the family to an isolated farmhouse, Eve must risk everything to save herself and Honey. Will she have the courage to escape from Papa before it’s too late? And will Emma have the strength to help her new friend, even as she struggles to save her own sister?
The first time I ever saw the man I would come to call Papa, I thought he must be a movie star. Or maybe even Prince Charming. He was standing under a streetlight across the road from the house where I lived. His hair was jet black and kind of oiled back, his face was tanned, and he was taller than anyone I had ever seen before, even taller than my Uncle Jimmy, who was six foot four in his stocking feet. He was wearing a black leather jacket, black pants, and boots with silver spurs.
When I saw him, I was bringing my bike in from the front yard. I had just gotten it for my birthday. When my parents gave it to me, they told me the color was purple passion. I had no idea what that meant, but purple was my favorite color in the whole world. It was almost dark, and I had to get my bike in before dinner or I’d be in big trouble.
The man waved to me and called out, “Have you seen my dog? He’s run off.”
I set my bike against the garage door and walked down the driveway. I stopped before I got to the street because I had just learned all about stranger danger in school.
“We have a dog, Sassy,” I said. “She’s a Jack Russell Terrier. She barks at everything. So if your dog had been around here, she sure would have let us know it.”
“I’ve been looking all over,” he said in kind of a panicky voice. “I’m afraid he might have been hit by a car.”
“What does he look like?” I asked.
“I have a picture,” he said. “Hold on.”
He fished around in the pocket of his jacket as he walked toward me. He got close, but not close enough that I felt scared or anything. And that’s why I was so surprised by what happened next. He pulled something shiny out of his pocket and pointed it at me.
“This is a gun,” he said. “If you scream or run, I will kill you. And then I’ll walk into your house and kill your family.”
“Wh-what?” I didn’t understand what was happening. I kept thinking about his dog. Was he going to kill me because I didn’t know where his dog was?
“Move,” he said, pointing to a blue van parked on the curb. I hadn’t even noticed it.
I looked back at my house, at the warmth of the lamplight reflected behind the curtains. When I came outside to put away my bike, Mom was in the kitchen making dinner—baked ziti tonight. Dad was feeding baby Joey and watching the news, and Brittany was in her room texting with her best friend Georgia. It’s what they did every night. Why couldn’t they look out the window just this once? And where was Sassy? I prayed that she would come to the window and bark so that Mom and Dad would know I needed help.
“Let’s go, girl.” The man’s face twisted in an insane smile. I didn’t know how I ever could have thought he was Prince Charming.
I took one last look back at the house, then stumbled over to his van. He opened the back door and pushed me inside. The floor of the van was covered with rough carpet. As we drove away, warm pee ran down my leg.
I was six years old.