Dance Away with Me Page 1


The boy held the spray can perfectly straight. Kept it close to the ribbed stainless steel. Squeezed the nozzle and watched the brilliant slipstream of red paint form the letter I.

He’d done it. He’d hit a train. Anybody could tag a wall or the roll-down security gate in front of some stupid-ass pawnshop, but only the outlaws, only the best graffiti artists, could tag a New York City subway train. And he was only ten years old.

Getting here from the Upper East Side was as dangerous as being in freaking Bosnia or Iraq or someplace like that. Walking across Central Park in the dark. Taking the 1 train north with four spray cans of Krylon in his backpack. He’d pulled his black sweatshirt hood over his head, trying to make himself invisible to the drunks and the junkies traveling with him all the way to 207th Street. Freaking Inwood, like one of the worst places in Manhattan, with everybody getting murdered and robbed and stuff.

Staying in the shadows. That was how he’d managed to slip past the security guards at the 207th Street Train Yard, ducking and weaving his way into the night jungle of rail and metal to tag his first subway car.

He sprayed some blades of orange and purple grass at the bottom of the car. He added cool demonic creatures peeking through. And now, before they spotted him, the rest of his tag. IHN4.

It wasn’t a made-up tag like everybody else used. Not for him. These were his real initials, the first three letters the same as his old man’s, his grandfather’s, his great-grandfather’s. Only the 4 was his alone.

Painting all the letters the same size was for amateurs, so he’d made the 4 big. Last year, he hadn’t known better when he’d tagged his first building, the Central Park West co-op where he lived. That had kicked up a shit storm with the co-op board. Nobody had suspected it was him.

Almost nobody.

If he didn’t get out of here soon, they’d spot him. He added black cracks across the letters, like they were falling apart. If only he had a brush and the time to do it right. But he didn’t.

Now all he had left was to take the photo. The freaking MTA had this new policy. Any car that got tagged, they’d take out of service until the graffiti was wiped clean. The only way an artist could prove he’d done the work was with a photo. If you didn’t get a photo, the tag didn’t exist.

He fumbled for his backpack and grabbed the Olympus Stylus camera their housekeeper had given him for his birthday. He stepped back from the car and aimed, getting in as much as he could. The flash might give him away, but he had to take the risk. Without the photo, he couldn’t claim the tag.

“Hold it right there!”

He pressed the shutter. The flash exploded at the same time the guard grabbed his arm, ruining the shot.


His father picked him up at the police station. His dad was a big shot in the city, and he was all nice guy, can-we-talk-about-this-in-private with the cops. But after they were out of the station, crossing the crumbling parking lot, his dad body-slammed him against the side of his new Porsche 911.

“You fucking loser!” He drew back his arm and slapped him hard. On the right side of his head. The left. A punch.

Inside the car, the diamonds in his mother’s earlobes glittered as she turned and looked the other way.

His father threw him in the tiny backseat. But as Ian wiped the blood from his nose on the sleeve of his sweatshirt, all he could think about was that he didn’t get the photo. He was used to his father’s violence. He’d live through it like he always did. But the photo . . .

The photo would have made him a god.


Chapter One

Tess danced in the rain. She danced in her underpants and an old tank top with her feet tucked into a sad pair of once-silver ballet flats. She stomped her feet on the slippery, moss-covered flagstones under the dripping hickory tree that had sheltered the mountain cabin for so many years. Today she danced to hip-hop, yesterday it was reggae, the day before that—maybe grunge, maybe not, as long as it was loud, loud enough to be an accomplice to her anger, to sanctify the grief that would never, ever go away. The kind of loud that wasn’t possible in Milwaukee, but here on Runaway Mountain, where her nearest neighbors were deer and raccoons, she could blast her music as loud as she needed.

The cold, wet wind of an East Tennessee February carried the scent of decaying leaves and skunk. This wasn’t the right weather to be outside in only a tank top and underpants, but unlike a dead husband, being wet and cold was something Tess could fix.

A broken flagstone caught the toe of her ballet flat, sending it flopping into the weeds. One shoe on, one shoe off. Sending all her emotions into her feet. A sharp stone dug at her heel, but if she stopped, her anger would burn her up. She forced her hips to move, tossed her head so that her wet, tangled hair flew. Faster and faster. Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop. Once you stop—

“Are you deaf?”

She froze as a man charged across the rickety wooden bridge that spanned Poorhouse Creek. A mountain man with shaggy dark hair, a fierce nose, and a jackhammer jaw. A bear of a man—sycamore tall and oblivious to the rain—wearing an untucked red-and-black-checked flannel shirt, paint-splattered boots, and jeans designed for hard work. She’d read about these mountain men—hermits who holed up in the wilderness with a pack of feral dogs and an arsenal of military rifles. They went without human contact for months—for years—until they forgot their origins.