At the age of 17, Angela Joy Palladino left Scotia, West Virginia, pregnant and heartbroken. The rigors of life as a single mom have toughened AJ over the past 10 years, and her love of the outdoors has molded her into a fighter for all things environmental.
A job opportunity with attorney Zacharia Hardy has opened up back in Scotia, and AJ sees it as a chance for her son, David, to finally meet his father and his grandparents. But AJ's parents don't want anything to do with her or her child. And David's dad, handsome Cole Masterson, has been married for many years. Then there's the small complication that the Masterson family empire employs most of Scotia's men in its coal mines. AJ's father is one of those men. Her job opportunity with Zacharia Hardy? Stopping Masterson in his bid for a coal-washing facility. Awkward as it seems, AJ relishes the idea of taking on Old Man Masterson.
"As impossible as the task sounded --- after all, Hardy had been fighting Masterson for years and failed to stop him --- I felt a ripple of anticipation flood my system. It felt good to be back getting my hands dirty, fighting for something important, instead of just talking about it."
Whether she will admit it or not, a part of AJ wants to hurt the family that caused her so much pain a decade back, and a part of her wants her old flame to step up and be the father she once believed he would be. Even if it can only be on a part-time basis.
As soon as AJ steps foot in Scotia, she discovers that nothing has changed: The school bullies grew up to be adult bullies. The gossipmongers are as active as ever. And the townsfolk still seem to regard her as a troublemaker. The only thing different is that AJ's prospective employer is dead. Now what? Her parents won't talk to her, she no longer has a job, and her plans to save Scotia from environmental disaster have come to a screeching halt.