His words feel like a Kamehameha wave come to incinerate me, stinging deep below the makeup and the pretty designer dress. Tears pool at the edges of my eyes, burning.

“Is that what I am to you?” I ask quietly.

His eyebrows furrow and he looks like he might say something, but he never does. The silence is all the answer I need. I duck around him and head for the door. “I’m going to my room. Have a good night.”

I slam the door behind me, leaving like a companion from the Tardis, because the doors close exactly the same, abandoning me in the universe.




* * *

* * *

“You were warned about me, ah’blen.”

—Princess Amara, Episode 54, “Nox and Forever”

I PULL MY—WELL, IMOGEN’S—BADGE OVER my head as I hop on the escalator and head up to ExcelsiCon. The showroom floor doesn’t open for another ten minutes, so that means I have time to grab coffee from the hotel café and find Harper’s—and my? Imogen’s?—booth. My cheekbone is still a little sore, but concealer has covered up most of the gross bruising. My face should hurt more and I should feel much sleepier than I do, but honestly bliss is the best pain reliever.

The last few hours feel like a waltz across the stars. I never want to come back down.

Harper and I stargazed until just after midnight, when she had to go check on the Stellar Party, and I ended up falling asleep in her bed before she returned. This morning, I woke up to her in bed with me, looking at me from where she lay on her pillow, the distance between us like one star to the next—lightyears traveled in a single breath. She smiled and I burrowed my head into the covers and tried to stop my heart from beating so fast.

Harper’s room was not quite as stocked as my suite—they didn’t even have coffee filters—and so she tasked me with a coffee run while she began setting up the booth.

That gave me time to hurry up to my suite in the other hotel and grab an extra pair of clothes; I didn’t want to wear Imogen’s again. I found Ethan asleep on the couch, his phone on the floor. I picked it up and put it on the coffee table and covered him up with a blanket.

Imogen probably stayed in her room for the night. If I’d been in her shoes, I would’ve too.

Without waking Ethan, I took a quick shower and slipped into a pair of jeans and a black hoodie I’d reserved for the plane ride home; I put on a pair of comfortable flats and tucked my hair into my SPACE QUEEN beanie. As I quietly left the suite, I slid Ethan’s glasses back on, the feeling of anonymity settling over me like a soothing balm. No one looked twice at me in the lobby; the morning was cool, the convention halls empty.

Maybe I don’t hate ExcelsiCon as much as I thought.

I decide to take a shortcut across the showroom to the café, thinking that I haven’t even gotten a call from Ethan yet, which is glorious. The Twitter leaker hasn’t posted again either. Everything is so calm.

And I am so, so happy.

Not even the towering Nox King on the corner of the aisle can ruin my mood.


My feet slow to a stop. It’s a voice I don’t recognize—not Bran or Milo or any of the people I met last night. I glance behind me.

Approaching me is woman with long black hair, dressed in a lacy black evening gown with butterfly sleeves and thigh-high boots. Her nails are like cat claws, her eyes dark with thick makeup. And then those dark eyes widen. “Oh, I’m sorry, you’re someone else.”

I blink at the woman and then, remembering the warning, I look to the Nox King statue. Then back at her.

This must be one of Imogen’s mothers.

Cursing, I quickly angle my face away and fold my arms over my chest to hide my badge. “Um, it’s fine.”

When I begin to leave she adds, “Your aura is very troubled. Come to Figurine It Out and we can—”

“That’s great, goodbye!” I hastily escape the aisle, grateful that she doesn’t follow, and breathe a sigh of relief. That was much too close. Harper said that Imogen’s parents were fun, but that was just bizarre.

I shake off the encounter and grab our coffees, arriving back at Artists’ Alley right before the floodgates open and con attendees rush inside. I slip behind the table just as people emerge from the escalators, on their way to panels and signing lines and meet-and-greets. I sit with a relieved sigh and hand Harper her coffee.

“The nectar of the goddesses,” she says, and sighs happily. “You know, there’s something lovely about coffee in the morning when you’re running on four hours of sleep.”

“Four hours? You should’ve gotten at least six.”

“Well someone kept kicking me out of bed.”

“Well there was an entirely other bed that your roommates didn’t use last night.”

“It was cold in the room. We needed to sleep together for warmth,” she points out slyly.

“Save Amara!” I cry, thrusting a pin to a passing Caine Wise, who takes it and goes on his way. The convention is slowly filling again with people, browsing across the showroom floor and into Artists’ Alley. I push my glasses farther up my nose, hoping Harper will change the subject because, despite how much I truly and deeply want to flirt with her, I am walking a tightrope of time.

The thief hasn’t posted another part of the script since last night, and I’m beginning to wonder why they’ve been silent for so long. Any one of these people could be the culprit—any of the costumed heroes and antiheroes and secondary characters that pass by the booth. They might’ve even taken a Save Amara pin, for all I know.

And I hate to think—I’m dreading to dwell on—the realization that I’m not really looking forward to the next tweet. Because that means I’ll be one step closer either to finding the thief or to the thief outing me, and either way that is another step farther along the tightrope away from Harper.

There have been so many chances to tell her the truth and yet…

“Save Amara!” I call to a passing Spider-Man, and he takes the pin with a nod.

Harper finishes setting up her side of the booth, various art prints and stickers and enamel pins laid out across the table, and then opens her sketchbook to work on commissions. We sit in comfortable silence as she draws and I hand out pins, asking people to sign the petition, even though it goes against everything I want in my career.

I’m doing it to keep in character, I convince myself as I clip a pin onto a small Amara and watch her toddle away with her mother.

“Your brother’s trying out for quarterback, right?” Harper asks as she sketches the face of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Space Daddy (the commissioner’s request, not my words).

“Um…yeah.” I think she’s talking about Milo. Imogen doesn’t have another brother, does she?

“Has he heard anything yet?”

“Um, I don’t think so.”

She nods, looking up from her sketch, and her eyebrows furrow in uncertainty. “Um, Imogen?”


My name is Jess, I should say.

“Would you…would you want to go to the ExcelsiCon Ball with me tonight?”

My breath catches and I swallow hard to keep the answer from rising up out of my throat. I hesitate because I’m not Imogen, and I am standing on the edge, and this is very, very bad—

“Or not,” she adds when I don’t say anything. “I mean, dances are stupid anyway.”

“No, Harper, that’s not—”

A familiar ringtone breaks out from my back pocket. At first I think I imagine it—but no, it’s definitely the Pokémon theme song.

Only one person is assigned that ringtone.

“Excuse me,” I apologize, and slip out of the booth. I retreat to the outer corner of Artists’ Alley, near where the pretzel man set up shop. It’s a little quieter here, and it gives me space to shrug out of Imogen’s character without anyone noticing. I check my phone.

I have a missed call and a text from Ethan.


—Jess, another tweet is up.


—I think you need to call Darien.

I click on the link, even though I already know I don’t want to read it. The dreamy haze that has danced in my head all morning crystalizes with a cold burst of dread.

CARMINDOR DIES, the tweet reads.

It feels like a rubber band that has been wound and wound and wound around me pops. I sink to the carpet, staring at the excerpt. There are no clues this time who this person is or where they are—just the barest edge of a leather sofa. But I’m not sure if I really care all that much who is leaking the script.

I don’t know what I thought I wanted to find in the sequel.

I don’t know how I expected to feel.

But it isn’t…this.

I pull up Dare’s number, but I hesitate to call. It’s noon, and the cast has a panel at noon.

The news broke during the panel, I realize, and my stomach twists into knots. I hope Imogen doesn’t do anything stupid.

Ethan won’t let her. Will he?

A PHONE DINGS IN THE AUDIENCE—Starfield’s communication tone—and then another ding in the front row. Then a hundred dings in succession.

My smartphone vibrates on the table.