“It’s a long story. I’m sorry—”

“Sorry?” she interrupts with a scoff.

I wince. “I know. But trust me, we didn’t think—” But I realize that whatever excuse I have doesn’t account for how long we lied. “I’m sincerely sorry, Harper. But it’s so nice to see you in person.”

She sighs. “This is so messed up. Because I…” But then she trails off and shakes her head. “It’s just messed up.”

“So why’re you here and not Jess? Did she get bored?” Milo asks.

I sneak a look at our moms. “Can we go behind the booth for a moment?”

From the back of the booth, Bran pops his head out. “Ooh, are we about to learn some secrets?”

“You deserve the truth,” I say. “All of you.” I look at Harper, and she nods decisively.

While our moms are distracted, I corral Harper and Milo into the storage space with Bran. Milo has to hunch over to squeeze inside the small space, and we all barely fit. I take a deep breath, and then I tell them what Jess told me. About the script, and the thief, and the internet comments trolling her mercilessly.

“Why are they saying it’s her fault that Carmindor dies?” Harper asks. “That doesn’t make any sense. Amara died—ohh-hh. They’re blaming her for dying, which is why Carmindor is dying.”

“That makes about as much sense as their usernames,” Bran says. “LukeSkywanker69. Huh. Nice.”

“Babe,” Milo chides.

I take my phone out of Bran’s hands and deposit it in my back pocket. “So will you help us? Jess and I need to track down the thief who’s posting these excerpts. We think they’re going to post who the script belongs to and out Jessica during the panel in two hours.”

Bran shakes his head. “That isn’t a lot of time.”

“We think we know who it is—Vance Reigns—we just need to prove it. That’s where you come in. We were thinking, Bran, that since you’re our tech wizard genius, you could hack into the thief’s Twitter account and then hack into the phone, and when we give you the cue, make the phone light up or something and—”

“Imogen, I appreciate that you think I’m a tech wizard, but I’m not that magical,” he interrupts. “And that’s illegal.”

Well, crap.

Everyone’s quiet.

Then Harper asks, “Can you hack into the account?”

“I mean, that’s the easy part,” he replies. “Still illegal, but yes.”

“Then could you get the phone number linked to the account and call it?”

“Oh yes, I can definitely do that.”

“Harper, that’s genius,” I say and then turn to my brother. “And now for the other part of the plan…”

Milo quirks a bushy eyebrow. “There’s another part?”

“Jess needs your help to steal the Princess Amara dress from the exhibit. That’s going to be the hard part.”

My brother blinks and then leans in to me. “Excuse me, what did you just say?”

“You are going to steal the one-of-a-kind, ultra special, super important Princess Amara ballroom gown on display in the exhibit. With Jess.”

“Oh, okay. That’s what I thought you said.”

“And Harper’s going to help too,” I add, nodding to my friend, who doesn’t seem too keen on the idea. She will, won’t she? She’s been with Jess this whole time, so I’m sure she won’t mind. I put my hand in the middle of us. “Okay, who’s with me!”

Milo and Bran exchange a look—communicating in a second that this plan is about as bulletproof as Princess Amara driving a spaceship into the Black Nebula—but they put their hands over mine anyway, three-fourths to completing our friendship circle. “Harps?” I say, glancing to the last person on our team.

Her brows crease, and she sighs and shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I’ve been pulled along in this scheme long enough. I gotta get back to my booth. Good luck, Monster.”

Then she pushes herself between Milo and Bran and heads back into the showroom, and my stomach sinks. Of course. I want to run after her and stop her, but what right do I have to do that?

If we were really friends, I wouldn’t have lied.

I shouldn’t have.

I can’t think about that, I tell myself. I’ll apologize later. I’ll tell her the whole story.

That is, if she ever wants to talk to me again.

“So, Monster, tell us how to get in trouble,” Milo says. “You were always the best at that,” he adds, not unkindly.

That makes me smile despite my probably-ruined-friendship with Harps. I clear my throat and say with Princess Amara’s saccharine ruthlessness, “It is one of my most glorious qualities,” and I ask him to follow me.

MY PHONE BUZZES AS I HEAD DOWN the hallway to my hotel suite. It’s from Imogen. I actually decided to trade numbers just in case something goes wrong. I don’t think she’ll be posting mine to any lewd websites.

IMOGEN (4:47 PM)

—Harper isn’t going to help us.

—I’m sorry, Jess.

I am, too. It’s because of me that Imogen lost her friendship with Harper, and I lost…

How could I lose something I never had? We shared ramen and stars and stories, and maybe that’s all that two people are, sometimes.

We’re just satellites that fell into each other’s orbit for a breath and then traveled on.

I slip my keycard into the door and shove it open.

“Ethan, I know you’re in here!” I call as I sweep into the room. The Great British Bake-Off is blaring on the TV, and that can only mean one thing. I turn it off and call his name again.

It means he’s utterly smitten by Imogen Lovelace.

I knew it.

“Ethan!” I call. The door to the bathroom is closed, and there isn’t a single sound coming from behind it, but I know he’s in there. He has already stress-ironed all of his shirts, hung up all of my dresses—oh brother, what did Imogen do to him? “I’ll keep screaming until you come out of there! I’ll tell everyone that you wear Superman boxers and—”

There’s a clatter on the other side of the bathroom door, and he wrenches it open in nothing but his jeans and a towel around his shoulders, his face half shaved and shaving cream still sticking to one side.

“Shush!” he pleads. “And they’re Batman boxers, thank you very much.” But then he blinks and takes me in—me, Jess, his friend, is standing in her own hotel room again. His eyes go wide. “Oh no, did something else happen? Did that monster of a girl—” I hold up a hand and he quiets down. “I think you need to apologize to her.”

“Me? To her?”

“I know you, you dolt,” I remind him. “You like her.”

“Her? Why on earth would I like that—”


His shoulders sag. There are plenty of things Ethan Tanaka can do. But the one thing he can’t do is lie to me, his best friend. And I can’t lie to him. “Come here,” I mutter, and I pull him into a hug even though I only reach up to his chest. I tell him about the plan Imogen and I have come up with to get my script back—or at least to expose Vance for the thief he is—and Ethan nods quietly as I explain what he has to do, which is also very important.

“You need me to…work the lights,” he clarifies.

“Elle will distract the tech guy and you, wearing a black shirt, will just squeeze into the booth and hijack the lights.”

“But I don’t have a black shirt,” he says helplessly. He begins to scratch at the side of his face still covered with shaving cream and then stops himself.

I hurry over to my suitcase, pull out a black shirt, and hold it up to his torso. It’s a women’s medium, so it should easily fit over his scrawny shoulders. “It might be a little short, but it’ll have to do.”

“Is this punishment for being mean to Imogen?”

“Yes,” I reply happily, shoving the shirt into his chest, “it is. Now finish shaving and go change.”

THIS IS THE LAST TIME I WILL EVER BE Jessica Stone and, starflame, am I going to make it count. The panel is about to begin, and I’m pacing back and forth in the small space behind the curtains that block the audience from our waiting area, chewing on my thumbnail because, screw the rules, I have pink hair. You know, under my wig. Hidden.

It’s still pink, okay?

This is it. Our moment of glory. We’re on the edge of it. Just waiting.

On the other side of the waiting area, Vance Reigns flirts with one of the volunteers, and I restrain myself from losing the fries I ate back at the diner.

I check my phone. Three minutes before the panel. I’m trying not to hardcore freak out but honestly? It’s much harder than I thought it’d be. One, I’m playing with my new friend’s career, and two, I really hope things go according to plan.

I should’ve warned Jess that my plans usually fall spectacularly to pieces.


“Something eating you?”

I jump at the voice and look up from my phone. Darien is standing in front of me, all glorious black curls and long eyelashes and warm brown eyes. I wait for my fangirl senses to kick in and freak out but…they don’t. Ethan’s eyelashes are much longer.