Someone knocks on my hotel room door again.

This time I glance up, and wait. Because instinctively that’s what everyone does when they hear strange sounds at night, right? Like a dumbass, they wait for it to happen again instead of calling the police. Or the front desk.

This is why I’d die in a horror movie.

It’s not Milo—I just got a text from him saying he and Bran are at a showing of Galaxy Quest.

Another three loud raps on the door. I crawl to the edge of the bed.

“Hello!” a voice calls from the other side. Female. Light, honeyed yet harsh, with the slightest Southern drawl. I know that voice. I imitated that voice.

Dread coils in my stomach like a snake.

Oh no.

“Hello!” she calls again and bangs on the door. I stumble out of bed, my legs still wrapped in the sheets. “I know you’re in there! I have your keycard!”

Holy crap, how loud can she be?

Before she has a chance to wake up the entire hallway (including my parents, and I do not want to explain to them what a starlet is doing knocking at my door at ten p.m.), I unlatch the lock and peek through the peephole, but someone has their finger blocking it. Because that isn’t murdery at all.

I’m going to die.

Maybe I can wait a few more seconds, maybe she’ll leave and—

She knocks once more and I quickly crack open the door just a hair.

There in the hallway is Jessica Stone, her winged eyeliner alarmingly crisp, her lipstick bold and blood red. She’s wearing the same black suede jacket and jeans from earlier but no beanie. Her hair is pulled up into a bun atop her head.

“I swear I didn’t tell anyone!” I loud-whisper.

She gives me a once-over before handing me the keycard. “You dropped this in the bathroom earlier,” she says, and pushes her way into my room.

“Okay, thanks?” I say uncertainly.

“I came here to set some ground rules.”

“Ground rules?” I blink, making sure I’m seeing what I’m seeing. I am seeing this, right? THE Jessica Stone actually in my hotel room.

I blink. Yep, still here. I’m blinking and she’s still here.

“Ground rules for what? I swear I didn’t tell anyone!”

“I almost believe you.”

“I didn’t! Not a soul! Not even my brother, and trust me, he’s very charismatic—”

“You,” rumbles a deep voice from the hallway.

Oh, noooooooo.

I know that voice, too.

I turn to face the guy who is now taking up the entire doorway. Impossibly tall and gangly, thick black-frame glasses, with a swoop of raven-black hair gelled back. Jessica Stone’s assistant.

And he looks about ready to kill me.

I groan. “Not you again.”

“Trust me, the feeling’s mutual.”

Jessica shrugs out of her jacket and tosses it on the bed, flopping down beside it. “Oh right. You ran into each other, so we can skip the introductions.”

I jab a finger at him. “He is possibly the worst nerfherder in the—” I say, while at the same time he says, “She’s that monster of a girl I was telling you—”

We both stop midsentence.

“I’m what?” I ask.

“Did you just call me a nerfherder?”

I draw myself up to my full height. “It was either that or Muggle, and you don’t deserve Muggle.”

His eye twitches. It actually twitches.

From the bed Jessica calls, “Be nice to my assistant. Ethan, she looks like me, right? I mean her hair’s a little loud, but we can work with that.”

The anger inside me dissolves with a fizzle, replaced by a foreboding curiosity. “Hair? And work with what? I don’t understand.”

“This is a terrible idea, Jessica,” Ethan sighs, massaging the bridge of his nose.

“It’s the only one we have,” she replies, “terrible or not.”

“What is a terrible idea?” I ask them, glancing from Jessica Stone lounged on my bed to her assistant and then back again.

Instead, her assistant—Ethan—waves his hand toward my hotel room. He sounds tired—kinda like the Twelfth Doctor. Aged and haggard, having seen way too much to be optimistic about anything. “Aren’t you going to let me in? And maybe put on some clothes?”

What? I look down.

Ohsweetbabyjesus, I’m wearing my ratty Sailor Moon T-shirt and ladybug pajama shorts and Starfield socks that come up to my knees. I look like…ugh. I am not dressed for company. Boy company. Any company at all, frankly.

I quickly cross my arms over my chest. Why’d I sling my bra onto the lampshade in the corner? Why did I think that was funny, like, two seconds ago?

“I—um—it’s not, I’m not—”

“Just let him in,” Jessica calls to me.

I open the door all the way. “Come on in. Don’t mind the mess or…”

He takes two steps inside before we both realize there’s a pair of my pink and white Superman underwear on the floor. Whether it’s clean or dirty, neither of us knows.






I grab the underpants and shove them into my suitcase, which is half-exploded over the left side of the room. “Don’t, uh, mind the mess. Don’t even notice. Just be blissfully ignorant of it all.”

And please don’t look at the lampshade.

“I think I can manage,” he replies cattily.

I find my cheeks heating up and avert my eyes to look at Jessica, who is now lackadaisically browsing through the pay-per-view channels on the hotel television. I hope she knows I have to pay for them. I begin to bite my thumb but she snaps her fingers at me.

“Nuh! No. That’s the first rule. No thumb biting. It’s gross and I never do it.”

I quickly take my thumb out of my mouth, though I don’t know why I’m listening to her. “It’s a nervous habit.”

“Pick another one. Second rule, always wear eyeliner. I’ll show you how to wing it. It’s one of my trademarks. Can’t be Jessica Stone without the trademarks.”

“But I don’t wear makeup.”

She rolls her eyes. “Are you one of those girls who thinks girls who wear makeup are vapid?”

Yes. “No.”

I can feel her disapproval.

“I don’t see the point of tricking people into thinking you have bigger lips or higher cheekbones,” I admit. “I just don’t think it’s worth the time, is all. Unless you’re cosplaying.”

She sits up on the bed and turns to face me. “Look, makeup is anything you want it to be. It can make you look like you have more defined features or more perfect skin, but to me it’s like armor. Eyeliner as lethal as daggers. Lips red like men’s heart blood. It’s more than a mask, makeup is protection in battle.”

“But what does Jessica Stone need to protect herself from?”

At that, she quickly glances away. “Rule three—”

This is too much. I can’t think straight. “STOP!” I yell, forming my arms into an X. “Pause. Back up. Why are you here, Miss…?” It feels weird calling her Miss Stone, and she scowls at the title, too.

“Call me Jess, please,” she says, turning back to me. “And I’m here because I need your help. Look, I fail at being me. Especially in this…environment. But you? You’re perfect at it, and I need to appease the masses. So. You do still want to be me, don’t you?”

This feels like a trap.

“Who doesn’t want to be Jessica Stone?” I say hesitantly.

She spreads her arms wide. “Then here’s your golden opportunity! Let’s trade lives!”

She can’t be serious. I wait a heartbeat, then another, expecting her to cave and expose this elaborate joke, after which a cameraman busts out of the closet and surprise! I’ve been punk’d!

And yet…

I don’t think she’s joking.

Everything about Jessica Stone is perfect, from her manicured nails to her artfully messy topknot. Even in an unassuming blazer she looks like a movie star. It’s weird how some people just shine.

Is it really that easy? Can I just step into her shoes and become her? I’ve seen people don cosplays all my life, becoming space princesses and starship captains and robot mercenaries and Vulcan Jedis. Assume other lives, other names…

And here is Jessica Stone offering up her name to me. Does she know what I could do with it?

I narrow my eyes. “What’s the catch?”

She falters. “Catch?”

“Yeah. Why would you let me be you? What’s so bad about being you that even you don’t want to be you anymore?” By the tightening of her lips I know I’ve struck a chord.

Why would someone like Jessica Stone want to trade places with a nobody like me?

Her blue eyes slide to her assistant, and a silent conversation passes between them, like two best friends who don’t need words to communicate. I feel my stomach drop, as if I’m watching something intimate, and avert my eyes.

Finally, Jessica replies, choosing her words slowly and carefully, like she’s stepping on slippery rocks across a river. “Because I need to be someone else for a little while, and I figured I’d ask you. It’s the chance of a lifetime, right? To be Jessica Stone.”