IMOGEN (7:08 PM)



I better get these tacos to the hotel before Milo starts eating his own arm off. If there’s one thing about teenage boys that’s absolutely true, it’s that they are a freaking black hole of food. Like, I’ve never seen someone eat so much in my entire life.


I freeze. I know that voice. That deep, captivating timbre. A lump lodges in my throat.

This can’t be real life.

But when I turn, I realize that this is most definitely real life. He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named is standing right behind me, a curious look on his adorable face. His brown hair is long and swirled back into a man bun and there’s a little stubble on his cheeks, but it’s patchy and doesn’t quite pull off the hipster vibe I know he’s going for. But otherwise he looks exactly the same—sporting a gamer T-shirt that barely covers his biceps, and jeans, and Vans, and God why does my heart unexpectedly feel so heavy and awful?

“It is you!” he says, and his curious expression quickly morphs into a smile that looks sincere.

The barista calls another name and a Ghostbuster squeezes past. We take the cue and step to the side. He pulls me into a hug and I prickle at his touch. I don’t return the embrace, but he doesn’t seem to notice.

“Oh man, Imogen, it’s so great to see you!”


He lets go and looks me up and down. From my black jeans to my probably not-so-clean black hoodie to my black SPACE QUEEN beanie pulled over a pink pixie that definitely needs a wash.

For one inconceivable moment, I wonder if he approves—


What am I, some heroine in a nineteenth-century romance novel?

Ugh, I hate my feelings sometimes. I hate the inexplicable way my brain works. And I hate the way he chews on his bottom lip, and the sea-glass-green color of his eyes, and the way his voice is always so soft and rich and tender, even when it’s really not. I hate—

All of it.

Not in a secretly-love-him sort of way, but in a we-dated-for-nine-months-and-he-stood-me-up-at-the-ExcelsiCon-Ball-and-then-dumped-me-in-a-text-message sort of way.

I yank down my beanie, avoiding his gaze. “Hey. What do you want?”

He looks hurt. “I’m just happy to see you—I thought I’d see you this year. Your, uh, fandom thing is really something. Excited about the news that just leaked?”

I try to ask “What news?” but he just talks over me.

“You always go in with a bang, don’t you, Monster?”

Every time he calls me that I feel like my skin is on fire, and I don’t know whether it’s because I still like him or because I detest him so viciously I want to raze his crops and salt his fields.

I look down at my #SaveAmara pins. “Yeah, I’m trying to keep Amara from becoming a fridged love interest.”

“Fridged?” He grins. “But she went into the Black Nebula on her own. No one told her to go. Or forced her.”

“But the writers had her die to further Carmindor’s character arc and—”

“So every time a character dies it’s automatically fridging?”

“No, but there were plenty of other ways for the series to end. And with her plot arc and development it didn’t make sense for her to…”

He’s laughing. Really and truly laughing.

At me.

I swallow my words and sink into silence.

“I love your passion,” he says, and steps closer to me, the laughter still fresh on his lips like blood on a newly fed vampire. “I miss it.”

He misses it.

I stare at him, trying—hoping, really—that he’s just a figment of my sleep-deprived imagination. But the longer I stand here, the longer I realize that he is no figment. He’s real, and he’s doused in a very heady sandalwood cologne.

I clear my throat and look away. “Okay, so, you’ve been doing well. I mean, how many subscribers do you have now on your YouTube channel?”

His grin only widens. “Enough.”

My phone vibrates in my hand. I know it’s Milo. Has Bran Kamehameha’d the entire hotel in his hanger? I use the interruption as an excuse to exit this rotten situation. “Sorry, my brother’s waiting for me,” I say, holding up both the tray and the bag of tacos from the Magic Pumpkin food truck. “It was, um, nice seeing y—”

He takes me quickly by the arm, jostling the coffees, and says softly, “Wait, for a minute? We need to talk. I need to talk.”


“No, I got an interview with another YouTube channel in a few minutes. How about tomorrow?”

“I have to be at a booth all day.”

He frowns again. “All day?”

I nod. “Until the end of the con.”

He frowns again, and I don’t think he gets it. “Then what about after the con? Sunday, five o’clock? At the top of the escalators in the main hotel.”

“The con closes at five,” I say helplessly, as if that’ll get me out of this.

He grins. “Perfect ending to a perfect con then, don’t you think?”

Before I can say no, a guy in a backward Five Nights at Freddy’s cap calls his name. Jasper leaves with a wave, the scent of his cologne lingering on me like an extra layer of skin. How dare he! Thinking he can just walk in all suave-like and act as though nothing happened? Like he didn’t break my heart in the most cliché way?

And yet I know that on Sunday at five o’clock I’ll be at the top of the escalators. I know I will.

Because I’m that kind of predictable, and even though he broke my heart, he was the only one who saw me. With him, I wasn’t nothing. I was something.

I guess I just wasn’t enough.

Grateful that Jasper’s gone, I quickly turn to leave.

What I don’t realize is that there’s someone standing directly behind me—that is, not until I collide with the solid mass of another human. The two iced coffees on the front of my tray explode onto a tidy white T-shirt.

“Starflame!” I curse. “I am so sorry! Here, let me get some—”


I look up and am assaulted by liquid brown eyes and amazingly long eyelashes. The human is tall and angular, like a lot of the J-Pop singers Bran likes, with thick dark hair and black-rimmed glasses and…oh.

Oh no.

He is very very hot. Hot like I-want-to-be-stuck-in-an-elevator-with-you hot, not we-are-now-mortal-enemies-because-I-just-spilled-my-coffee-on-you-while-not-paying-attention hot.

He’s holding a phone in one hand and a wallet in the other, and the front of his once-pristine tee and neat black pants is absolutely drenched.

Worse yet, I recognize him at the exact same moment that he recognizes me.

“Really?” is all I can say to Jessica Stone’s assistant.

A subtle, almost vulnerable look crosses his face before his expression closes like a vault slamming shut. He scowls. “Do you even look where you’re going?”

“You snuck up on me!”

“Snuck up? I was standing here the whole time!”

“Yeah, on your phone.”

“The fact that I can stand and text and you can’t see me isn’t quite my fault,” he snaps, picking his wet shirt off his stomach.

I grab a handful of napkins to mop up the floor. People are beginning to turn and stare. A barista armed with a mop and bucket is heading in our direction.

He crinkles his nose. “Ugh, hazelnut…”

I pause. “What’s wrong with hazelnut?”

“Besides that it’s all over me?”

“Trust me, it adds character.” I stand up, tossing the sopping napkins in the trash.

We glower at each other. What an infuriating—awful—irritating—ARGH! The fury coming off us both is as thick as the Georgia humidity. You could try to cut it with a knife but it’d only cobble itself back together, like some Scooby-Doo slime monster.

And here I thought he was hot?

He opens his mouth to say something but then his phone rings. It’s a generic tone—of course it is. White T-shirt, black glasses, skinny slacks, default ringtone.

Ugh, Muggles.

He’s probably just as horrible as his boss. Like goes with like, as they say.

The barista pulls out the mop, which I take as my cue to escape. I grab my half-intact tray from the counter and beat a hasty retreat.

I don’t stop until I’m back at my hotel, where I discover that, as fate would have it, I’ve lost my keycard.

* * *

MILO OPENS THE DOOR TO OUR room and leans against the doorframe. “Lost your key, eh, sister dearest?”

I scowl and push inside and he closes the door behind me. I dump the vegan tacos on the desk, put the remaining coffees beside it, and sink down onto one of the queen beds. Bran and Milo have the other one, but I doubt they’ll be sleeping here. They’re already packing for a night out watching Demolition Man. There are entire convention rooms where they play sci-fi and fantasy movies all night long.

Bran, sitting on the edge of the other bed as he scrolls through Twitter, looks up. And blinks. “Mo, what the hell happened to your shirt?”

It’s only then that I realize I’ve got hazelnut latte trailing down my favorite hoodie. My scowl deepens into the bowels of hell. “I ran into this good-looking guy who turned out to be the spawn of Satan.”