And now the trolls have set their sights on me.

Darien sort of got the same blowback when he was announced to play Federation Prince Carmindor—which is how he met his girlfriend, btw—but it died off as the fandom embraced him. Now they write love letters about his inky-black eyelashes and immaculate abs while I get entire dissertations on how the small mole on the left side of my mouth has ruined the beauty of Princess Amara.

So although I don’t know what I’ll say or how I’ll say it, I know I can’t let that girl wreck my image any more.

She played you better than you do, whispers a little voice in my head. The fans like her better. Maybe she should just b—

Shut up, shut up, shut up!

A boisterous laugh stops me dead.

I’d recognize it anywhere: Calvin. The panel must be coming this way, and that means my impersonator is, too. I glance around, nowhere to go. I curse. If they find me here with my “twin,” I don’t know what the director will do.

Will I be in breach of contract? There were too many witnesses for it not to make media rounds. Oh, that cannot happen.

I can see the headlines now:

jessica stone faking it.

doppelgänger plays jessica stone better than jessica stone.

I wince as the Starfield cast comes around the corner. Calvin, Dare, her—

But no director. Amon must be doing damage control after that disastrous panel. He’ll scold me later, I just know it.

Dare is the first to see me; our eyes connect. It only takes a split second for him to slip an arm around Calvin’s and Felix’s shoulders to steer them in the opposite direction.

“You know, I think this is a shortcut,” he says smoothly.

Bless Darien Freeman. Bless his tight jeans and his curly hair and his insufferable smile. Bless everything about that Hufflepuff.

I hear Calvin ask, “But what about Jess?”

“She has that interview, remember?” Dare says quickly.

“Oh yeah…”

Meanwhile, the girl is just standing there, looking at me with my fists clenched and my arms stuck at my sides. Just seeing her makes me want to murder her again. Like, meat-grinder murder. Fargo murder.

There’s no one else in the hallway as I march up to her. The first thing I notice, in the steady flicker of the hallway halogens, is that she doesn’t have my light-blue eyes. Hers are dark gray. And no one noticed?

“Look, I’m really sorry—” she says hesitantly.

I turn her badge to read the name on it. Then I look at her through my long fake lashes and tell her, “You will never say a word about this. You will never write in your little blog about it. You will never talk about it on Instagram or even subtweet it. And if you impersonate me again, Imogen Lovelace, I will see you purged from this con—and every other con—forever. Do you understand?”

She stares at me like I’m speaking parseltongue. “You know I didn’t want to be you, right?”

“But you were.”

“What else was I supposed to do?” she bites back. “Tell everyone you weren’t there?”

A flash of anger burns in my belly. I let her badge drop, all those wretched pins clinking together. “You will never do it again. Got it?”


“Jess!” shouts a familiar masculine voice behind me. I look over my shoulder and see my assistant, Ethan Tanaka, seventeen going on forty. His expression is pinched, no-nonsense. He stops a few feet away when he realizes who I’m talking to.

His eyes dart quickly between us. “So, that actually did happen.”

“It’ll never happen again,” I clip in reply, and turn back to Imogen. “Why’re you still here? It’s VIP only, and you’re not.”

Her head jerks back as if she’s been slapped, and then she scowls and shoulders past us on her way down the hall. I don’t take my eyes off her until she’s gone, and then I sigh in relief.

Ethan begins to talk but I raise a finger. “It was a misunderstanding.”

He holds up his hands. “I was only going to say you were rather rude to her.”

“She impersonated me, Ethan! She could’ve ruined my career—”

Ethan’s gaze snaps behind me and he jerks upright. “Mr. Wilkins, it’s great to see you!”

I bite my tongue and spin to face my director. Amon saunters up like he owns the hallway—he saunters everywhere, so it’s no big deal—mirrored aviators pushing his thick blond hair over his head, a manila envelope tucked under one arm.

“Jessica! You did so great on that panel. It’s like you were a different person!”

My smile strains a little. “You know, I’m sorry for anything I might’ve said—”

He waves a hand. “Nonsense! It was perfect. Any publicity is good publicity, and you definitely got the pot stirring. That reminds me.” He hands me the manila envelope. “For you.”

Warily, I take it. It’s thick and heavy. My heart pounds against my rib cage because I know what it probably is. The contract extension that was detailed in my option clause, tying me to Princess Amara for another year, or two, or ten.

I—I feel like I’m about to vomit.

He winks and taps a finger against his lips. “Our secret, yeah?”

“But I don’t think—”

A ringtone cuts through my words and Amon holds up a wait a moment finger, pulling his phone out of his jean jacket and looking pleased. “Finally! I gotta take this call—but read it over, will you, Stone?” He heads down the hallway in the direction that Imogen Lovelace went and shoves open the exit door, almost nailing the volunteer guard in the back of the head. He doesn’t apologize, just bleeds into the crowd.

“I can’t think about this right now,” I mumble. “I can’t think about anything that’s happened in the last three hours.” He takes the package dutifully and pushes his thick black glasses up the bridge of his nose. He’s much taller than I am—five foot eleven—and lean, with short black hair gelled against his scalp, warm taupe skin, and a scar just to the left of his mouth. All of his brothers are tall, too, and every time I’ve gone over to his house, I only felt normal next to his grandmother, who is ninety-four and bent from almost a century of gravity, but she makes the best onigiri, a steamed rice ball wrapped in dried seaweed. Whenever Ethan visits home, he smuggles a few back on the plane.

“It wasn’t as horrible as you think it was,” he says. “She didn’t do that bad.”

Ignoring him, I eye his outfit: a crisp button-down shirt and slacks. “Why’re you dressed up?”

He adjusts his cuffs. “This is my first time out in the wild as your assistant, so I have to look nice.”

That makes me laugh. “Really?”

He nods seriously. “Plus it’s part of my Angus cosplay.”

“Ugh, nerd.” I punch him in the shoulder, and he grins in delight.

Ethan Tanaka and I have been best friends since he was born, two years and three days after me. We went to the same middle school and kept in touch after I left for dramatic arts high school. Even as I became famous, our friendship just seemed to stick, although we couldn’t have been more different. He wanted to go and do nerd things like write for video games, and I was, well, by then I was Jessica Stone. Then a few months ago, as I was complaining about my last assistant, who stole my expensive eyeshadow palette, Ethan—fresh out of high school and taking a year off before college—suddenly asked, “Is the pay good?”

“For what?”

“To be your assistant.”

And that was it.

Ethan’s the only person in the world who knows everything about me: that I’m deathly afraid of being forgotten; that every morning for at least three hours I comb through my Instagram profile, deleting the unsavory messages, only to have more pop up moments later; that I hate the mole on the side of my face that my agent, Diana, says is too iconic to get rid of; that I eat raw instant ramen straight out of the package when I’m stressed; that I’m not really twenty-three, but nineteen; and that I lied to a casting director to get a starring role in the indie film that got me an Oscar nod. I was fourteen at the time, but I told them I was almost eighteen.

We’d stuck with the lie ever since.

Ethan knows I’ll do anything to keep my career. Even endure the trash in Starfield.

I know everything about him, too. That his favorite color is that god-awful yellow everyone hates, and his favorite band is some obscure indie-rock group that broke up eons ago, and he always selects Kirby in Super Smash Bros., and he takes his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without the crust, thank you very much. I couldn’t ask for a better best friend. He’s like a brother to me.

It’s just a bonus he gets paid for putting up with my drama.

I keep waiting for him to figure out that he is way too smart, and way too nice, and way too talented to be my assistant.

I take a long breath. “If this is the extent of the fallout, I’m okay with it. Are you sure she was fine up there on the panel? Nothing’ll come of it?”

“I don’t know, Jess, but I didn’t think it was that awful.”


His smartwatch beeps and he checks it. “Ah, crap, you need to be at an interview in three minutes. We better hurry.”