Please let Amara stay dead, I think as I bring his phone to my ear. “Diana?”

“Do you still have the script?” she asks tightly.

What script? “Yes.” I lie.

“Oh, thank God.” She lets out a breath. “Because it’s leaked, and as long as we know it isn’t you, that’s all we care about.”

Dread slithers down my spine. The tweets. Are they real?

My heart is beating loud and ferocious. Please let Amara be dead. Please let Amara be dead. Please let— “So we know for sure? Am I in it? Am I free—”

“Jessica,” Diana interrupts calmly, “the execs are thinking you leaked the script, but as long as you didn’t then we’re fine.”

“Why would it be me?”

“Exactly. You’re the most recent person to be given a physical copy, no one else in the cast has been given one yet. But if it wasn’t lost in transit or anything, it must have been leaked from the studio—one of the interns, maybe, who got a hold of it when they shouldn’t have. Anyway, I’ll go ahead and tell the studio that it didn’t come from our end. Just hang tight and sandbag every question about the sequel, do you understand?”

Oh no. I swallow the lump in my throat and nod numbly. “I understand.”

“Good. Talk to you later with more details.” She hangs up to call whoever and tell them that I am, in fact, not the villain in this story.

I exhale hard and hand Ethan his phone.

He quirks an eyebrow. “You don’t actually have the script, do you?”

“Of course I don’t. Why would I—oh.” My eyes widen, and he must realize it at the exact same time. “Oh no.”


Oh no—oh no no no no no—

“The package. The one from Amon. The one I was supposed to open.” My voice breaks and I can feel myself shaking.

Oh my God. I actually threw away a copy of the script for the Starfield sequel. And someone must’ve taken it out of the trash. And started tweeting it. This is my fault.

“Jessica!” Ethan looks more freaked out than I am. “You threw it away?”

“In the garbage, where it’s supposed to be!”

“You don’t mean that,” he says.

“Of course I don’t! I’m angry!” I bolt off the bed and dart out of the hotel room, Ethan instantly behind me.

Two minutes later, the elevator doors open into the lobby. I all but sprint to the trash can where I tossed the envelope, peering down into the dark crevice now filled with Starbucks cups and used napkins and candy wrappers. I have to dig through that? I reach in but Ethan grabs my wrist and motions for a clerk, who looks more than a little grossed out about someone trash picking in a five-star hotel.

Which is definitely not something Jessica Stone would do. But right now, I am definitely not Jessica Stone. I am a ball of anxious wet cats.

Ethan points to the trash and says to the hotelier, “I think my friend dropped her phone in here. Can we take this outside and dump it out?”

“Oh! Of course.” She looks relieved. “You can go into the back hallway, Miss Stone,” she adds.

I grimace.

Half the people in the lobby—the half who recognize my name—turn to look. Begin pulling out their phones. Clicking on their cameras at my arm elbow-deep in trash. I grab the lid with one hand and push Ethan toward the emergency exit with the other and we escape into an EMPLOYEES ONLY hallway that connects to a few offices and the laundry service.

“I hate this,” I mutter as Ethan takes off the ornate golden lid and drags out the clear plastic bag. “It’s at the bottom, isn’t it? Isn’t that it?”

He twists the bag and holds it up with one arm. “I think that’s a fast-food container.”

It is.

“Maybe it’s more toward the middle?” he reasons, but I shake my head.

“No, I remember the clunk as it hit the bottom.” I step back and press my palms against my eyelids. “Someone found it. Someone saw me chuck the envelope and then went after it.”

I feel myself spiraling just as inevitably as a spiral galaxy.

Breathe. Think. Breathe.

I press myself against the wall and slide down until I’m sitting because I can no longer stand upright. I can’t feel my knees.

“I am in so much trouble,” I whisper.

Ethan puts the bag back in the garbage can and digs into his pocket, bringing out a small bottle of hand sanitizer. He squats next to me, squirts some into my palm, lathers his own, and stuffs it back into his pocket.

I take out my phone to look at the Twitter handle that leaked the scene. A faceless gray icon. Whoever it is posted a photo of the script. In it, the page is surrounded by retro green carpet. I know I’ve seen it before, but the longer I wrack my brain the less familiar it looks.

Ethan glances down at my phone and makes a face. “Looks like the hideous showroom floor. Well, I guess there’s no accounting for taste.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, I guess there’s no accounting—”

“About the background in the photo. This is the con carpet?” I point to the art-deco pattern behind the script. “This carpet?”

Realization hits him. “That carpet.”

All the color drains from his face—and probably mine, too. That confirms my worst fear. I tossed the script Amon gave me, I leaked it, and the worst of it is: this anonymous trash panda knows the future of my career before I do.

Never mind whether Amara is dead—

“I am so dead,” I say. My voice is barely a whisper but steadily gets louder the more I panic.

“Someone must have known what you threw away,” Ethan says. He presses the back of his head against the wall, looking up at the popcorn ceiling, but his brown eyes have a distant look. He’s thinking. “And that same person must have known you had it to begin with—maybe the hotel clerk?”

The peppy girl who had looked utterly disgusted by my impromptu Dumpster dive comes to mind. I shake my head. “I think she’s the same one from earlier,” I tell him, “so she couldn’t have taken that photo.”

“Crap,” he grouses.

Stay calm, I want to yell at myself. Jessica Stone doesn’t panic. She’s cool and controlled and—and—

Everything I am not at this moment. I clench my fists and force myself to suck in a lungful of air and breathe it out slowly.

Get my mind back on track. Think of what to do. First things first.

“I have to find that script,” I say aloud, trying to keep my voice level. “Whoever took it is still here somewhere. I just have to remember who was in that lobby and…find them? Scour the con floor? When they post the next leak, try to figure out where they are and get there in time?”

“You’re seriously going to do that?”

“I have to. The execs already think I leaked the script, and if they find out I threw it away? I’ll be blacklisted for life. No one’ll work with me after this.”

Ethan pushes his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose. “Jess, you can’t be in two places at once. You can’t be snooping out the culprit and be on panels and at signings and photo ops and….”

His voice trails off as he looks down at his coffee-stained T-shirt, and then back up at me, and the idea strikes us at the exact same time. It already worked once, hadn’t it? And no one noticed. No one even batted an eye.

“What if,” I say, “I could be in two places at once?”

He groans. “Jess, no.”

“Oh, Jess, yes.”

SOMEONE POUNDS ON MY hotel room door.

I barely glance up from my phone. I’m in the Marriott—the con’s official hotel—so it’s probably some drunk Spider-Man or Goku or Overwatch cosplayer mistaking my room for someone else’s. During the day, ExcelsiCon is pretty amazing, but at night, when the showroom floor closes, it gets wild. Already I’ve heard a conga-line dance party, led by Beetlejuice, sashay down the hallway to the Banana Boat Song and the last echoes of a flash-dance down in the lobby of the hotel almost a dozen floors below me.

So I decide to ignore the poor lost soul at my door and I roll over onto my stomach, scrolling through Twitter. So many people I follow were at the panel today, tweeting about Jessica Stone (me), saying that they supported her (ME!), and how they wished she would’ve spoken out sooner (definitely her). I try not to think about what could happen to my #SaveAmara campaign if Jessica Stone backed it. I got a taste up there on the panel, and I can’t get the sweetness out of my mouth. Starflame, it was intoxicating.

People actually listened to me—to her. To us.

Imagine what I could do with a little more time.

I pause on a tweet by Darien Freeman, posting a pic of him kissing his girlfriend’s cheek, him in his geeky Starfield T-shirt and her in what I assume is her costume for this year’s cosplay contest—Princess Amara with a Cinderella twist. His caption reads Ah’blena.

It’s a term of endearment in the Starfield universe. The closest translation is my heart or my other half, and for a moment I sort of wish I had someone to call me ah’blena.

“You don’t have time for romance,” I mutter to myself, and scroll on to the next tweet. Besides, I have a princess to save. I don’t need some hunk-a hunk-a burnin’ love clouding my head—