Besides, swimming in a pool disguises crying fairly well.

Not that I’m crying.

Because I’m not.

On my third lap, I hear someone calling my name, and I think it’s the security guard asking me to kindly get out of the pool. I pop my head up from the deep end and see that it’s—


Standing there at the other end with his arms folded over his chest, one eyebrow so archedly raised it would make my mother Minerva so freaking proud. My heart leaps into my throat before I realize that him being here can’t be anything good.

Crap, what does he want? What did I do wrong now? I sink down to my nose and bob there, as if I’m hoping he’ll just go away. I’m glad my makeup is mostly waterproof, and that I stopped crying two laps ago. I hope my eyes are mostly dry by now and not red-rimmed and gross.

“What on earth are you doing?” he asks in a hushed and very exhausted tone.

I pop my head out of the water long enough to say, “Swimming,” before I half-submerge my face again.

He sighs. “I can see that. You weren’t in the room, so I thought…Anyway, I saw you swimming down here and came to inform you that the pool’s closed. I’m going back up to the room. To bed.”

“What about Jess?” I say, and instantly kick myself for asking.

Surprised, he tilts his head. “I suppose she’s with your friend Harper. Why?”

“I’m surprised you two aren’t hanging out.” Ugh, why am I being so petty? It’s like my mouth can’t stop it. “I mean, unless you two already were.”

“The panel ran over and I stopped to get dinner. There’s Chinese takeout in the minifridge if you want any.”

He doesn’t seem to be lying. I swim halfway across the pool until my tiptoes can touch the bottom. The pool area is dark. The only light comes from dim lamps in the corners of the deck and the bright fluorescents in the sides of the pool, turning everything a whimsical, unearthly blue. Like being underneath an ocean.

His expression is curious. “You know Jess and I aren’t…we don’t like each other like that. If that’s what you’re insinuating.”

I roll my eyes. “Right. Like anyone can resist the pull of the beautiful Jessica Stone.”

“You’re also beautiful,” he says. But before I can ask whether that’s in response to my statement or it’s a compliment, he adds, “when you’re not being an absolute pain in my ass. What if someone checks the security cameras? Sees you swimming out here?”

“I took off the wig outside the camera’s view,” I reply.

He scowls and pivots to leave, and I realize that I don’t want him to go. Mostly because I’ve been alone all night, and I guess even his company is better than none. “How did you meet, then?”



He hesitates, but then he turns around and sits at the edge of the pool. “Honestly? She’s my godsister. Our mothers met way back in college.” As he says this, he rolls up his trousers to just below his knees, takes off his shoes, and sticks his feet into the water. “I’ve known her my entire life. We’ve done everything together.”

“Wait, so you’re like twenty-something? Really?”

He blanches. “Do I look that old? I’ll be eighteen in December. I just finished high school. I’m taking a gap year, and Jess needed an assistant, so here I am.”

“But you wore a suit today!” I reply, flabbergasted. “And you’re always on this high horse of ‘oh look at me I’m so superior to you.’”

“I do not sound like that.”

“Oh you so do. You called me a rapscallion.”

“I will never live that down,” he mumbles, more to himself than to me, and rubs his hand over his face.

“So.” I slowly migrate toward his side of the pool, doing the numbers in my head from what I know about Jess and now what I know about Ethan. “You two are like five years apart? Jess is twenty-three, isn’t she?”



“She’s nineteen.”

“Nineteen,” I echo. “But the internet says she’s definitely older.”

“The internet’s wrong, surprisingly. She lied when she was fourteen to get the part in Huntress Rising. She told the director she was almost eighteen. After that she just never corrected anyone.” He shrugs. “She’ll do just about anything to make sure she succeeds. She needs to. It’s like there’s this dial in her head that’s constantly turned up to eleven. She’s intense. She’s always thinking one step ahead—or three.”

He talks about her in such a tender tone, like he really does admire her. He might say he doesn’t love her, but maybe he just doesn’t realize it yet.

“Sounds like she means a lot to you,” I say.

“She does—she’s like a sister to me.”

“Well, she’s doing better than me. I’m no one,” I reply. “I mean—Jess is smart, and she’s gorgeous, and she’s talented. She made a fantastic Amara. She’s amazing, and I…I guess I can do cool voices?”

Ethan studies me with those dark, dark eyes, and I feel myself shifting uncomfortably. “Imogen,” he starts—and the way he says my name, like it’s somewhere between a lullaby and an exasperated sigh, makes my stomach flip all the same. “Why did you want to trade places with Jess?”

The question takes me by surprise. I turn my eyes toward the water, watching my dress float and ripple around me. The reflection of my pink hair creates a rosy halo around me. “Don’t you already know? You sleuthed me out, Detective. I want to save Amara.”

“But you could’ve done that a myriad of other ways—you are doing that, it seems, at least by your online presence.”

“As if that’s enough,” I sigh, resting my hand just above the ripples of the water, watching the lights from the pool dance across my skin. “You know, I really love Amara. I relate to her. She was able to make mistakes and still come back from them—she wasn’t ruined because of them. She learned, and she grew, and she became stronger.” Because Amara is the type of character who always screwed up—like me, trying to do the right thing but never doing it the right way. Like the online petitions, the Twitter hashtag, the movement itself—it’s all fine and good, but it wasn’t the right way because…“I’m no one, Ethan. I haven’t done anything. So I guess that’s why I wanted to be Jess, so I could be someone. So my voice would matter.”

“Imogen, that’s not—”

“Oh, it’s true,” I interrupt. “My brother’s a year younger than me and he’s vice president of his class, and he’ll probably even be quarterback. He’s just so talented at everything, I feel like…like I’m letting everyone down because I’m not good at anything. And it’s not because I don’t try,” I add before he can suggest it, because people always suggest it. “I’ve tried out for the debate team, but when I had to debate a guy over women’s reproduction he told me that women are too fragile to have control over their own bodies. I got kicked out of the club for kneeing him in the nads—”

“Whoa, really?”

“—and I tried to join the track team but I’m about as good at running as I am at algebra, so I couldn’t join the math club, either.”

“Imogen,” he tries to stop me, but I’m just getting started on the Great Failings of Imogen Lovelace.

“I suck at grammar, even though I love books,” I tell him, beginning to count my shortcomings on my fingers. “I’m in the book club, and the anime club, and I started a sci-fi club for the sole reason of getting after-school credit for watching reruns of Starfield. I’m still very proud of that.”


I begin to pace from one side of the pool to the other, half floating, half moon-walking. “But it’s not like the sci-fi club will turns heads on a college application. I don’t even know where I want to go, or what I want to do, and I’m a senior now. Milo’s basically already accepted to any school he sets his sights on and I—”

I don’t realize that he’s slid into the water until he catches me by the shoulders with his large hands and turns me around. He didn’t take his clothes off, either, abandoning only his glasses on the edge of the pool, and dampness is slowly bleeding up his starched button-down shirt. He sinks down and looks me level in the eyes. Starflame, is he handsome. Long eyelashes and warm brown eyes and expressive brows that crinkle together a little as he says my name for what feels like the millionth time, and I’m still not tired of it.

“Imogen. You started an online movement that has over fifty thousand signatures to try to save a character from a television show you are fiercely passionate about.”

I quickly look away. “Yeah, but anyone can do that.”

“I think you’re wrong—and I certainly don’t think just anyone can step into Jess’s shoes as well as you have.”