Alice shakes her head impatiently. “C’mon Brad, let’s get wet.” She and the football-player type march off toward the pool.

Jase introduces me to Andy, who turns anxious hazel eyes on me. “Can you help? No one should have to have a first date in a bathing suit. It’s unfair.”

“You’re right,” I say. “Show me what you’ve got.”

Andy spreads the bathing suits out on the ground. “Three one pieces, two bikinis. Mom says the bikinis are out. What do you think, Jase?”

“No bikinis on a first date.” He nods. “I’m sure that’s a rule. Or should be. For my sisters anyway.”

“What’s he like?” I ask, surveying the other suits.

“Kyle? Oh, well, you know. Perfect?” She waves her hands.

“You need to be more specific, Ands,” Jase says dryly.

“Funny. Sporty. Popular. Cute but doesn’t act like he knows it? The kind who makes everybody laugh without trying too hard.”

“That one.” I point to the red Speedo.

“Thank you. What about after we swim? Do I change into a dress? Do I put on makeup? How do I even talk to him? Why did I agree to do this? I hate clams!”

“Get a hot dog,” Jase advises. “They’re cheaper. He’ll appreciate it.”

“No makeup. You don’t need it,” I add. “Especially after the beach. Throw some conditioner in your hair so it keeps the wet look. A dress is good. Ask lots of questions about him.”

“You have saved my very life. I shall be indebted to you for all eternity,” Andy says fervently, and streaks back into the house.

“I’m fascinated,” Jase observes in an undertone. “How did you decide which suit?”

“She said sporty,” I respond. The skin at the back of my neck gives this little twitch at the sound of his voice so close to my ear. “Plus her dark hair and tan skin with red. I’m probably jealous. My mom says blondes can’t wear red.”

“Here I thought Sailor Supergirl could do anything.” Jase opens the door to the kitchen, motioning me in.

“Sadly, my powers are limited.”

“Can you make sure this Kyle Comstock is a good guy? That would be a useful power.”

“You’re telling me,” I say. “I could use that one with my mom’s boyfriend. But no.”

Without saying anything further Jase heads for the stairs, and, snake-charmed again, I follow him up toward his room, to be met in the hallway by a very wide-eyed Duff. He has the family chestnut hair, slightly long, and round green eyes. He’s huskier than Jase, and a lot shorter.

“Voldemort has escaped,” he announces.

“Hell.” Jase sounds upset, which, considering that info about Harry Potter is old news, seems odd. “Did you take him out of his cage?” Jase is at the door of his room in two strides.

“Just for a minute. To see if he was gonna shed his skin soon.”

“Duff, you know better.” Jase is on his knees, peering under the bed and the bureau.

“Voldemort is—?” I ask Duff.

“Jase’s corn snake. I named him.”

It takes all my self-control not to leap onto the bureau. Jase is rummaging in the closet now. “He likes shoes,” he explains over his shoulder.

Voldemort the corn snake with the shoe fetish. Wonderful.

“Should I get Mom?” Duff is poised in the doorway.

“Nope. Got him.” Jase emerges from the closet with the orange, white, and black snake twined around his arm. I back up several paces.

“He’s very shy, Samantha. Don’t worry. Completely harmless. Right, Duff?”

“It’s true.” Duff regards me seriously. “Corn snakes are really underrated as pets. They’re actually very gentle and intelligent. They just have a bad reputation. Like rats and wolves.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” I mutter, watching Jase uncoil the snake and slip it into its cage, where it lies curled like a big, deadly-looking bracelet.

“I can print out something on it from the Internet, if you like,” Duff assures me. “The one thing you have to be careful with about corn snakes is that sometimes they defecate when they are stressed.”

“Duff. Please. Go,” Jase says.

Duff, face downcast, leaves. Then Joel stalks into the room, wearing a tight black T-shirt, tighter black jeans, and an irritated expression.

“I thought you got it working. I have to pick up Giselle in ten minutes.”

“It was working,” Jase says.

“Not now, bro. Take a look.”

Jase looks at me apologetically. “The motorcycle. Come with me while I check it.”

Once again, it takes only a few minutes of Jase jiggling something and unscrewing and rescrewing something else for the motorcycle to purr to life. Joel hops on, says something that might be thanks but is impossible to hear over the motor, and speeds off.

“How did you get so good at everything?” I ask Jase as he wipes his greasy hands on a rag from his tool kit.

“At everything,” he repeats thoughtfully.

“Fixing things—” I gesture at the motorcycle, then at my house, implying the vacuum cleaner.

“My dad runs a hardware store. It gives me an unfair advantage.”

“He’s Joel’s dad too,” I point out. “But you’re the one fixing the motorcycle. And taking care of all those pets.”

Jase’s green eyes meet mine, then his lashes lower. “I guess I like things that take time and attention. More worthwhile that way.”

I don’t know what it is about this that makes me blush, but something does.

Just then Harry comes charging up, saying, “Now you’ll teach me to back dive, right, Sailor Supergirl? Right now. Right?”

“Harry, Samantha doesn’t have to—”

“I don’t mind,” I say quickly, happy to have something to do besides melt into a puddle on the driveway. “I’ll get my suit.”

Harry’s an enthusiastic student, although his front dives are still at the making-a-steeple-of-his-hands-and-belly-flopping-into-the-water stage. He keeps insisting I show him and show him again and again how to back dive, while Mrs. Garrett splashes in the shallow end with George and Patsy. Jase swims a few laps, then treads water, watching us. Alice and her Brad have evidently gone elsewhere.