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The crowd was turning brutal, bordering on absurd. We’d just survived a near-collision with a man on a bike wearing a peacock costume when a high-pitched choking noise that sounded vaguely like oh, no erupted from behind me.

“Lina, what’s wrong?” Ren asked.

“Addie.” Lina put her hand on my back, her voice still choked. I turned to meet her wide eyes, but instead got snagged on something moving rocket-fast toward me through the crowd. Was that . . . ?

It was.

The rocket was my mother.

“Oh, no,” I choked, echoing Lina. Run, my brain advised, but even in my panicked state I knew that was a terrible idea. Running would just mean pursuit.

My mom was next to me in a matter of milliseconds. “Hello, Addison. Lina.” Her pitch had reached new and terrifying depths. “You’d better start talking. Fast.”

“How did you . . . find us?” I stammered.

The answer to my question appeared to her left. Walter. Followed swiftly by Archie, who held a massive bag of cotton candy. “Walter, you told her?” I yelled.

He held his hands up in protest. “It wasn’t me. It was Archie. He got the secret out of me, and then he told Mom.”

“Hey!” Archie tried to hit Walter in the face with his cotton candy, but my mom grabbed it midswing. “Don’t blame it on me.”

“No more talking.” Mom turned back to me, her face set in a hard stare. Not many people knew this, but back in her college days she’d been one of the top roller derby contenders in the state. It was times like this that I knew exactly why she’d skated under the name Medusa Damage.

“Addison, you are supposed to be in Italy. Italy.” While I fumbled for an answer, she turned to Lina. “Does Howard know you’re here?”

“Rowan, go warn Ian!” I whispered, taking advantage of the momentary distraction. He nodded and then sprinted into the crowd, no doubt thrilled to escape Medusa.

Lina nodded, her head bobbing one too many times. “Nice to see you, Mrs. Bennett. And yes, he does know. He booked my ticket.” She shoved Ren forward a few unwilling inches. “This is my boyfriend, Ren.”

“Hello there,” Ren managed. “Really great to meet you.”

He withered under her gaze, and I jumped to the rescue. “Mom, I can explain. This concert is really important to Ian—”

She lifted her hand angrily, silencing me. “Where is Ian?”

Now what? The last thing I wanted to do was unleash Mom on Ian. What if she didn’t let him see the concert? “Um . . . I’m not really sure.”

“Boys!” My mom snapped her fingers, and Archie and Walt jumped to attention. “You two are the tallest people in this crowd. Find him.”

Walt stood on his tiptoes, craning his neck over the crowd, and Archie ran over to a music speaker and began climbing.

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s allowed,” Lina said, just as a security guard made a beeline for him.

“Man bun in a white toga. Straight ahead,” Archie shouted as the security guard dragged him back to ground level.

“Why are you guys wearing togas anyway?” Walter asked.

Suddenly, a loud cheer erupted in the distance, followed by a jangling strain of music. My heart somersaulted. “Mom, the concert is starting. I don’t have time to explain why, but this is the most important thing that has ever happened to Ian. You have to let him see it.”

My intensity caught even me off guard. Catarina would be proud. Rule number four: Be passionate. No one can argue with passion.

My mom stepped back slightly, her perfectly shaped eyebrows lifting. “Sounds like you two are getting along again.”

I nodded. “Better than ever.”

She hesitated, then gestured to Archie and Walter. “Everyone, follow me.” Needless to say, we all complied.

Even though Rowan had provided him with a few minutes of warning, the sight of our approaching mother drained all the blood from Ian’s face. “Mom,” he choked. It was the only way either of us could seem to greet her.

“Ian,” she said coolly. “There are a lot of things I want to say to you right now, but your sister claims that this is the most important thing in the world to you. So I’m giving you tonight.” She pointed one finger at his chest. “But after the concert? You will both undergo extensive questioning and will most likely be grounded for the rest of your lives. Understood?”

“Understood. Thank you, ma’am,” Ian said, shooting me a grateful look. In our family, “ma’am” was code for I know you’re going to pummel me into a fine pulp, and I respect you for that. My mom nodded approvingly.

Rowan stepped forward, wringing his hands nervously. “Mrs. Bennett? I’m Rowan. Nice to meet you.”

She tilted her head. “Ah. The Irish tutor.”

“He’s my friend,” Ian said.

“And mine,” I added.

“So then tell me, friend Rowan, why are we standing here when Titletrack is about to perform onstage, all the way up there?” She lifted her chin toward the front of the writhing mass of bodies. “How are we going to even see?”

“That is a problem,” Rowan said. “We probably should have arrived a lot earlier. Like, yesterday.”

Ian bit his lower lip, his face clouding, and defiance rose in me. Oh, no. I had not been through everything I’d been through just to stand at the back of a concert watching my brother crumple into a ball of disappointment.

But before I could come up with a solution, my mom clapped her hands together. “All right, people. Form a chain. We’re going in.”

“Going in where?” Ian asked. “Those people look like they’ve been here all week.”

“Ian, don’t argue with me. For all you know this is your last living act, so you might as well enjoy it.” A glimmer sparkled in her eye as she surveyed the crowd, and suddenly I remembered the stash of vintage records she’d kept in the attic for as long as I could remember. The proverbial apple had not fallen far from the tree.

“Do I need to speak louder?” she asked when none of us moved. “Form a chain.”

All the non-Bennetts went wide-eyed with disbelief as we obediently grabbed one another’s hands.

“Ready?” Mom turned resolutely to the wall of people in front of her, Medusa Damage revealing herself in all her terrifying splendor. “COMING THROUGH.”

“Hey, watch it!” a guy in a blue hat yelled at her as she jammed her elbow into him.

“No, you watch it,” she snapped. “I’m about to ground these children for the rest of their underage lives because of this concert. The least they can do is enjoy it.”

“Damn,” Blue Hat’s friend said. “Carry on.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re your mother?” Rowan whispered, his hand tight in mine. “I don’t know who’s scarier, Maeve or Mother of Maeve.”

“I’m going to take that as a compliment,” I whispered back.

It took us nearly the entire opening act, but my mother and her elbows managed to get us near the front, even clearing out a small pocket of space for us to stand all together. Once she stopped assaulting them, people sealed in, cinching us tightly together.

“Mom, that was amazing,” Ian said, his face rapturous. “Thank you.”

“I’m not saying you’re welcome, because that would sound like I’m condoning this,” she snapped. But the glint was still in her eye.

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