Monday, March 25, 2013

The Avery Shaw Experiment Sneak Peek!

I know, lots of stuff today! Yay! (Since I've been neglecting my blog lately and all...) Anyway, here is the prologue and first chapter to my upcoming contemporary romantic comedy The Avery Shaw Experiment! This one is coming out in May, so keep your eyes open for it! Woohoo!



The following journal is a scientific study on the process of overcoming heartbreak, and is my official entry for the 2013 Utah State Science Fair.

My theory is that having your heart broken is very similar to experiencing the death of a loved one. Therefore, it stands to reason that by using the commonly accepted seven stages of grief (shock/disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance/hope) one can overcome the devastating effects of a broken heart.

In this experiment I will prove my theory by taking you through the seven stages of grief as applied to my own severely damaged heart. I hypothesize that once I have experienced all seven of these steps I will have cured my heart of all cracks and tears and will be otherwise ready to fall in love again.

As I, Avery Shaw—average sixteen-year-old junior in Spanish Fork Utah—am obviously not impartial on this topic, and will not always be able to make unbiased observations, I have recruited the help of fellow Spanish Fork High student Grayson Kennedy to be an objective outside observer throughout this study. Unlike me, the eighteen-year-old basketball star and womanizing socialite has absolutely no personal interest in the outcome of this experiment. (He’s in it for the extra credit.)

We call this project The Avery Shaw Experiment.

Chapter 1 – Shock and Disbelief


To really grasp the full extent of the shock I experienced when Aiden Kennedy broke my heart, you need to understand the unusual circumstances of our relationship up until that point.

Aiden and I had known each other since birth. Our mothers met in a prenatal yoga class and became instant best friends, bonding over the same due date and a mutual tendency to throw up during class.

 Aiden and I were born on the same cold winter day, February 11, 1997. As babies we went to all the same play dates and mommy-and-me groups. When we got a little older it became the same preschool and then the same elementary school, middle school, and high school. We have all the same friends, participate in all the same extra curricular activities, and have even celebrated every single one of our birthdays together.

I’d been desperately in love with Aiden for years, but despite my secret undying devotion we’d never been anything but the very best of friends. Knowing boys are slower to develop in the romance department, I waited patiently for Aiden to catch up to my feelings. I never had any doubt that he would one day see me for the girl I am and give me my first kiss. Then we would go to Prom together and eventually end up as Mr. and Mrs. Aiden and Avery Kennedy. Even our names fit perfectly together.

Aiden dropped the bomb that changed my life this past New Year’s Eve. My mom and I had gone—as we did every year—with the Kennedy family up to their insanely nice condo in Park City for winter break. It was nearing dinnertime and Aiden and I were watching this fascinating documentary about the effects of steroid use on the human body.

“Where in the world is your brother?” Aiden’s mom Cheryl stood in the kitchen, frowning at the pile of dishes in the sink.

Grayson Kennedy is not my brother, technically, but I didn’t think twice before answering his mom’s question. “He went downstairs to the gym about an hour ago.”

“Shirtless,” Aiden added with a snort. “I guess the new tenants down in 7 B have a good looking daughter. What was the term he used?”

“Whooty.” I laughed.

“Whooty?” Cheryl echoed.

“It was a new one for us too. We had to look it up.”

Aiden happily recited the definition we’d read on “ ‘A white girl who has a pretty face, a nice slim waist, and a voluptuously large, bountiful, beautiful booty’.”

Cheryl let out a long exasperated, sigh, yet there was a hint of amusement in her voice when she said, “Where does he come up with that stuff?”

As if he’d felt his ears burning, Grayson burst through the front door and answered his mom’s question. “Some people just have a gift.” He trounced into the kitchen—still shirtless and now drenched in sweat—scooped his mom up into a big hug and plastered a sloppy kiss in her cheek. “Love you Mom! What’s for dinner? I’m starving.”

“Gross!” Cheryl shrieked and slapped him away. “That is disgusting, Grayson! I know I’ve taught you better manners than that!”

Grayson frowned. “Since when is hugging your mom and telling her you love her bad manners?”

Cheryl sighed again, but cracked a smile. She shoved a chocolate chip cookie into her oldest son’s mouth after seeing the pout on his face.

Some people have gifts all right. Grayson Kennedy could charm the pants off of any girl he met, and frequently did if the rumors around school are to be believed. Which they are.

 “I love you too honey,” Cheryl said, “but you stink. Go shower please, and then get in here and do these dishes.”

“The dishes?” Grayson whined, heading for the fridge.

Thankfully Cheryl intercepted the milk and handed Grayson a glass before he could slobber all over the carton. “Yes. The dishes. It was your turn to do them after lunch. If they’re not done before dinner then you will be in charge of all the dinner dishes as well, and Avery will be off the hook tonight.”

“Sweet,” I called over my shoulder from the living room. “By all means, Grayson, put it off a little longer.”

Grayson finally noticed Aiden and I on the couch. “What are you two dorks doing?”

“Learning about steroids,” I said cheerfully. “You should probably know that using them can cause acne, testicular atrophy, decreased sperm count, prostate enlargement and gynecomastia.”

 Grayson looked rightfully appalled. “Gyneco-what-ia?”

“Enlarged breasts in men,” Aiden translated. “So you should lay off the juice before you have to start borrowing Avery’s bras.”

I gasped at the mention of my underwear and whacked Aiden’s shoulder hard.

Behind me, Grayson laughed. I knew he was about to deliver a comeback, but I refused to look at him. Seconds later his breath was warm on my neck. He whispered just low enough that his mother couldn’t hear what he said. “I like my bras colorful and lacey, Aves. Not sure your collection would do it for me.”

Total mortification. Grayson may be as close as family to me, but he was still one of the hottest, most popular guys in our whole school. Him discussing my bras in that low sexy voice that could stop a girl’s heart on the spot made my lungs constrict. Plus, he was right of course. My bras were all of the plain white cotton variety.

“Mom! Grayson’s picking on Avery again!”

Aiden’s shout startled me back from my panic attack. Grayson was still watching me, a wicked smile playing on his lips, so I did the only thing I could think to do. I sniffed once and then pretended to gag. “Ugh. Your mom’s right. You really reek. Please go sweat all over someone else.”

Grayson laughed his way back into the kitchen in search of more cookies.

“What is it that makes your brother a walking hormone?” I asked Aiden. “Is it all the physical activity you think? I mean with the working out, the snowboarding and the basketball he’s got to be on an endorphin high like, what, eighty five percent of the time? Do you think there’s a correlation between the two? Like the more active the athlete the bigger the sex-craved maniac?”

Aiden shrugged. “Probably. Think about the reputations of professional athletes.”

“Ha! Maybe that should be the topic of our experiment for science club this year.”

Aiden gave me a weird look. “How, exactly, would you go about testing that theory?”

I thought about the practical application that would be required for an experiment like that and promptly blushed again.

“Fine,” I relented. Though the thought of Aiden and I working up a sweat together only to then go work up another one with a hot make-out session was highly appealing. “But we need to come up with something soon. The fair is in March this year. It doesn’t give us a lot of time.”

Aiden’s entire body suddenly went stiff. I glanced at him just in time to watch his face turn a little green.

“What’s the matter with you?” I wanted to make a joke about him being strung out due to steroids or something, but he looked too freaked to tease. Something was really wrong with him, so I paused the TV, sat up straight and gave him my full attention.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Aiden gulped. “It’s just…I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”

“About what?”

He took a big breath and then let it out. “I’m not going to do the science fair this year.”

It took a minute for this news to sink in. We’d been partners at the Utah State Science Fair every year since sixth grade.


“Um… Well… You see… Miles Fuller moved over break so the debate team needs one more person or they won’t be able to compete anymore. Mindy Perez and I had public speaking together last semester. She asked me to fill Miles’s spot. She said I have charisma and a natural talent for persuasion.”

I couldn’t talk for a full sixty seconds. He was speaking English, but I still couldn’t make sense of his words. “You joined the debate team?”

He nodded.

“But they meet at the same time as science club.”

 “I know.” Aiden’s gaze dropped to his lap as if he could no longer stand to look at me. “I quit science club. I already emailed Mr. Walden about it.”

 “You quit?” My voice jumped so many octaves that it broke half way through the word quit. It had the unpleasant affect of making me sound like a mouse. “But you’re my co-president!”

“You’re better with all the science stuff than me anyway.”

“Yeah, but I’m not like, a leader. That’s why the gang voted us both. Together. I need you.”

Aiden winced and then forcefully shook his head. “You don’t.”

“Fine,” I said, even though it felt very, very not fine. “But even if you quit you could still do the science fair with me. Everyone’s already partnered up. I’ll have to do it alone.”

Aiden finally met my eyes. He looked even guiltier now. “I won’t have time. Mindy said debate gets pretty intense. Plus with all the honors courses we have this semester? The science fair is a lot of work.”

“I know! And we’ve already waited until January to get started. I won’t be able to do it by myself. I’ll have to drop out.”

“No, you won’t,” Aiden insisted. “You’re amazing Avery. You’ll find a way. You always do. And hey, without me bringing you down, you’ll probably win first place for once.”

“Shut up! I will not! I will fall apart without you!”

Aiden sighed and took my hand in his. “Aves,” he said slowly. “That’s also sort of why I said yes to Mindy. I think I need a little space for awhile.”

For just a brief moment time stopped, like a heart that skipped a beat. When it started back up, my life had been forever altered.

“Space? What do you mean?” I knew what he meant. I was just praying I was wrong because otherwise he’d just ripped my heart in two and I couldn’t deal. “Are you saying you don’t want to be my friend anymore?”

Aiden quickly shook his head. “Of course not. We’ll always be friends. You know we will. But, Aves, we spend more time together than conjoined twins. I think it would be good for us both to maybe start hanging out with other people sometimes, you know? Like, separately. And…” Another shrug, and painful swallow. “I don’t want to celebrate our birthdays together this year. I kind of want to do my own thing.”

At that last request there was a gasp and the sound of shattering glass in the kitchen. I was grateful for the distraction until I realized that Cheryl was standing there practically comatose, staring at us with a hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes. The gasp had been hers, and the glass of water she’d been holding was now on the ground around her bare feet in as many tiny pieces as my heart was.

“Mom!” Aiden jumped up and started picking up the larger pieces of glass.

I went to get a dishtowel and the broom, but my movements were robotic. My body was on autopilot because my brain was pretty much dead from shock.

I simply couldn’t understand how this had happened. Was the earth suddenly tilted off its axis? Were the boundaries of space and time blurring, causing reality to splinter off into alternate universes? Was Park City, Utah secretly the Devil’s Gate and I’d fallen into hell without knowing it?

I handed Aiden the towel and then swept up the remaining glass, but when I went to dump the dustpan I accidentally ran into a wall of solid, sweaty muscles. “Sorry,” I muttered to Grayson.

He was standing there shifting his eyes between his brother and me, with un-swallowed chocolate chip cookie bits threatening to fall out of his gaping mouth.

“Can you get out of the way? You’re blocking the trashcan.”

This made him jump into action. “Oh, right. Sorry.” He stepped aside and fled the kitchen muttering something about needing to take a shower.

I watched him go because it was easier than facing his brother.

Form behind me, Aiden’s fingers gently grabbed onto mine. “Aves.”

His soft voice made my eyes burn. He tugged lightly on my hand but I couldn’t turn around yet. I was about to cry, and there was no way I wanted him to see that.


After a nice deep breath the burning sensation subsided. I was able to face him and force a smile, but I think my injured pride was the only thing that kept the tears at bay.

“You okay?” Aiden asked.

The answer was a definite no, but I nodded anyway. “Of course. Yeah, sure, I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be? It’s just a science project. Like you said, I’ll manage. As for the other stuff, I get it, and that’s cool. If that’s what you want. I suppose it could be fun to change things up a bit.”

Lie! Complete and utter LIE!

The lie was so big it hurt me all the way to my soul, but what hurt even worse was that Aiden believed it. He let out a breath and then threw his arms around me. His whole body sagged with relief. “I am so glad you understand. I was so scared that you were going to hate me for this and never speak to me again.”

“I could never to that,” I muttered.

His grip tightened gratefully, but he may as well have been reaching inside my chest and squeezing the last of the life out of my heart instead of hugging me.

I pinched my eyes shut. I was going to lose it. The tears weren’t going to stay back forever. I had minutes, maybe seconds left before I fell apart.

“It’s fine,” I insisted again as I pulled out of Aiden’s embrace. “You know I could never hate you.”

Aiden sent me a mega-watt smile. “Thanks Aves.” He kissed my cheek and whispered, “You’re the best.”

I couldn’t speak now without giving myself away so I just nodded.

Cheryl must have recognized the truth of my emotional state because she cleared her throat and asked Aiden if he wouldn’t mind taking the garbage bag with all the broken glass out to the dumpster.

Cheryl threw her arms around me the second he was gone. “Avery I am so sorry! So, so sorry! I don’t understand…” She let her voice trail off. She was every bit as bewildered as I was.

“It’s okay, Cheryl. It’s fine. Really.” I pushed away from her and practically ran out of the room. I only made it to the upstairs hallway before I collapsed to the floor and cried.

A few minutes later the door downstairs slammed. I sucked in a deep breath, knowing I needed to at least make it to my room before Aiden rounded the corner and saw me, but it was my mother’s voice I heard, not Aiden’s.

Her jovial, “Grayson! Avery! Go help Aiden bring up the groceries!” was not repeated like it normally would have been when neither of us responded. Instead, I could hear a few hushed whispers and then one very loud, startled gasp. Cheryl had just spilled the beans to my mother and they were no doubt discussing how destroyed I was.

I scrambled to my feet when I heard my mom say “I’ll go talk to her. Maybe I’ll take her out just the two of us for New Years Eve tonight.”

No way did I want to do that. I loved my mom and all, but I wasn’t ready to face the truth yet. I was in way too much shock. Stage one of the grieving process? Currently underway.

I also didn’t need a special pity party tonight while the Kennedy family pretended like they didn’t know why mom and I ditched them.

In a panic I burst through the first door I could find and backed up against it. I’d been known to have an anxiety attack or two in my time, but I’d never experienced one quite as bad as this. My head was swimming, every part of my body hurt, I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t think straight.

I was so out of it that I’d slipped into the bathroom while Grayson was in the shower and didn’t even notice until he poked his head out from behind the curtain with a surprised look on his face. “Aves, babe, I’m a little busy here.” He cocked an eyebrow and gave me a crooked smile. “Unless you’re planning to join me…?”

Just then there was a loud knock on the door and my mother’s worried voice called out to me. I looked up at Grayson and in a moment of sheer panic didn’t think twice before jumping behind the curtain with him.

“Whoa! Avery! I was only teasing!”

I could hear Grayson, but I couldn’t really respond. I leaned my back against the cold tile wall and closed my eyes, letting the hot water rain down on me.

There was another knock, louder this time, and then the door opened. “Avery? That you in here sweetie?”

I frantically shook my head, praying that Grayson would do the right thing.

“Sorry, Kaitlin. It just me.”

“Oh. Sorry Grayson. I thought maybe you were Avery.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” he teased.

My mom laughed and then sighed heavily. “If you see her after your done, tell her I’m looking for her.”

“Will do.”

The door clicked shut and things got quiet. I stood there for so long that my head started to hurt and I got really dizzy. My knees buckled.

Grayson quickly caught me under the arms. “Avery, breathe,” he commanded.

I took a breath. As oxygen flooded my lungs I realized it was probably the first breath I’d taken in minutes. Literally.

“Aves,” a low steady voice said. I felt hands on either side of my face.

I opened my eyes and Grayson’s beautiful piercing blue ones were staring down at me from just inches away, taking up my entire field of vision. “You good now?” he asked.

I may have been breathing, but I would never be “good” again. I flung my arms around him and began to release gut-wrenching sobs into his chest.

I have no idea how long I stayed like that, holding onto Grayson for dear life while I shattered from the inside out. However long it was, Grayson never tried to stop me. He held me close and rocked me beneath the spray of the hot water, all the while whispering encouraging sentiments to me and stroking my hair.

Eventually the anxiety attack faded and I regained control of myself. Of course, that’s when I realized I was standing in the shower clinging to a very naked Grayson Kennedy, and that certain parts of him were not objecting to the situation.

I gasped and tried to wrench myself away from him, but he held me tight and chuckled. “It is what it is Aves. I’m a warm blooded guy standing naked in a shower, holding a girl whose t-shirt is drenched and clinging rather poetically to her surprisingly impressive figure.”

This time when I gasped Grayson let me go. He was still laughing long after I scrambled out of the tub. I didn’t feel bad when I stole his towel, and left him to fend for himself when he was ready to get out.

And there you have it! This one flips back and forth from Avery to Grayson's point of views. I've never done that before and I had a lot of fun telling the story from Grayson's POV! Anyway, hope you're as excited for this book to come out as I am!

Chameleon Sneak Peek!

Here's the prologue and first chapter to my upcoming paranormal romance/urban fantasy CHAMELEON. It's the first in a 4-book series. I'm excited for it to release, but June is just so far away don't you think? I also have a short excerpt that I posted a while back from a little farther into the story. You can check that out HERE.

“On the eve of that last great battle there will rise up one more powerful than the world has ever known. Without her Evil will win. Delicate, though, she is, for she carries the power of both light and dark, and could easily be swayed by those who would use her for harm. Nothing but the truest love will keep her an agent for good.” 
~ The last prophesy of the Oracle.


I am in a large, empty room—a warehouse. It is abandoned. It is dark, damp, and drafty. The air is chilly but not bitingly cold, which means this will take place soon, for autumn has already arrived, and it will not be long before the bitterness of winter hits.

In the distance I hear a door slam. I look to the sound and notice a dim flickering light casting shadows upon the wall in the far corner of the building. Whatever is creating the light is hidden behind old machinery. My feet shuffle forward automatically and when I round the corner I gasp at what I see.

A girl hangs from a cross, dying as her blood spills from her wrists onto an altar built at her feet. It is not the sacrificial offering that surprises me—I expect this kind of violence form the visions—it is the girl herself.

I am taken aback by the strength of her aura. Never before have I seen such a radiant spirit. It shines with brilliance. It is beautiful, colorful and dancing with life. It is the most powerful aura I have ever come across.

I am surprised to see such a strong aura belonging to such a tiny, fragile looking creature. I figure her to be about the age of twelve, but as I draw nearer I realize she is closer to my own age of seventeen. Younger, but perhaps only by a year or two.

Her hair is a beautiful chocolate brown, and full of so much curl that she looks almost wild. Her eyes are a few shades lighter than her hair, and pierce my soul as I look into them.

I no longer take notice of any other details in the vision. I concentrate solely on her. I cannot help it. I am drawn to her in a way that I cannot explain. It is as if her soul is calling out to me, begging me to find her, trying to close the distance between us.

It is in this moment that I know. The Creator is guiding me to her, to this girl, this angel. She is the one I have been searching for. The one who will save us all.

A feeling of conviction stirs inside me more powerful than any I have ever experienced. I vow to find her. Vow to save her from this devastating fate.

I watch the rest of the vision with a new fervor, taking in every possible detail I can. A thousand questions race across my mind but only one escapes my lips. The one I am most desperate to know. “Who are you?”

 Chapter 1


Great. I was even hearing his voice in my sleep now.

“Psst! Dani, wake up.”

Or not. I pulled myself from the deepest corner of sleep and opened my eyes. It was dark and I was disoriented, but I didn’t need light to know who was hovering above my head.

“Russ,” I groaned. “Go home right now.”

“Scooch over.”

“No. And be quiet on your way out. If my parents find you here—”

“We won’t get busted. Sit up. I have something for you.”

I glanced at the clock on my nightstand and groaned again. All I wanted was to roll on my side and throw the covers over my head until my alarm went off at seven. But Russ was in one of his moods, and I knew he’d never leave me be until he got whatever it was he came for, so I sat up.

Russ plopped down on my bed in front of me, crossing his legs Indian style to match mine. He sat close enough that our knees rubbed against each other. Even though my covers separated us, the touch seemed intimate.

I looked at him and in that moment realized, maybe for the very first time, that he was actually kind of beautiful. In the moonlight his hair looked a lot darker than the honey brown it is in daylight. And his eyes, normally crystal blue, were indistinguishably dark. His usually clean-shaven face was also covered with a light layer of stubble, accentuating his high cheekbones and square jaw line.

This was a side of Russ Devereaux I’d never seen before, and I found it very unsettling.

I also wanted to smack myself for my current train of thoughts. I swear I’m not one of those sad sacks who has spent her entire life secretly pining over her best friend. Honest. I’m not even sure how I’d feel if he ever did try to make a move. We’ve just never been like that.

Still… Over the last couple weeks I’d been getting this really strange feeling. Not sexual really. Just… like I needed to be around him. All the time. It was kind of annoying, actually.

I shook myself from my daydream to find Russ watching me with intrigue. “Mesmerized by my stunning good looks?”


“You were staring at me.”

“That was just me sleeping with my eyes open,” I snapped. “It’s three in the morning. What are you doing here?”

I hoped my irritation covered the sense of nerves I had. I’d never been nervous around Russ before, and I really didn’t want him to figure out I felt so tense now.

Instead of answering my question Russ said, “What happened to the Disney Princess nightgown you wore the last time we were in bed together? That was hot.”

I followed his gaze and to my horror realized I was wearing nothing but panties and a tight camisole. And no bra. Not that there was much there. My barely B’s almost didn’t need a bra, but I hadn’t bothered to turn on the space heater in my room and the fact that the nights were starting to get cooler was painfully obvious.

I scrambled to pull my covers up over my chest. “You’d better have a damn good reason for being here or you’re going to be very sorry.”

“Since when do I need a reason?”

I started to say something but Russ held up a hand to stop me. “Patience grasshopper,” he said. He turned his gaze to the alarm clock on my nightstand.

We sat in silence for a full two minutes. Then he said, “There. It’s three eleven in the morning on September twenty-third. You are officially sixteen.” He flashed a dashing smile and pulled a huge, beautifully wrapped box up off the floor. “Happy Birthday, Dani.”

I was speechless.

“Surprised?” Russ asked with a chuckle.

“Actually, yes. Very.”

Not that Russ would ever forget, he loved making sure everyone in the world knew it was my birthday every year, but this wasn’t some big spectacle like usual. There was no one here to impress but me, and that was surprising.

“For future reference this surprise is a lot better than most of your previous ones,” I said. “Definitely better than last year.”

Russ frowned. “You didn’t like the poem I wrote you?”

“The poem I could live with. Even though I don’t think anything that starts with, ‘Dani, Dani, she’s good for the heart. She likes crap like Shakespeare and hates when I fart,’ really counts as poetry. But the fact that you recited it during a mandatory pep rally thrown in my honor?”

“Yeah.” Russ beamed with pride. “That was a good one.”

“How did you get Principle Green to agree to it anyway?”

Russ grinned like the devil. “I’m a very persuasive guy.”

There was no use arguing that. Russ has a gift for charming over everybody he meets. It makes him very convenient to have around because the only talent I have is pissing off everyone I come in contact with.

“Now if I could only persuade you to open this gift already.”

Russ dropped the package into my lap. It was so heavy it nearly knocked the wind out of me.

I pulled the bow off the box and stuck it on his head. “Should I be scared?

Russ’s eyes were full of mischief so I quickly tore away the wrapping paper. I laughed when I saw what it was. “A ten-pound bag of jell-o?”

Russ handed me a piece of folded up paper. I accepted it suspiciously but gasped when I realized I was looking at a picture I’d drawn back in the fourth grade. It was of Russ and me swimming in a pool of red jell-o. The words at the top said “My Birthday Wish.”

“Where did you get this?”

“I’ll never tell,” Russ said. “But tonight, Miss Webber, you are getting your birthday wish.”

“No way!” I yelled almost loud enough to wake my parents.

Russ hopped up suddenly. “Get dressed,” he said. As he disappeared out my bedroom window he called back in a whisper, “Don’t forget your swimsuit.”


“You are a freaking genius!” I squealed when we broke into Brad Halloway’s back yard. Or, more specifically, his big, super nice pool.

It was genius because Brad Halloway sucks. His dad owns the plastics factory that keeps the tiny town of Carmine, Pennsylvania—the town in which I live—alive. That means he’s the only rich man in town and the boss of nearly half of our fifteen hundred residents. Somehow Brad thinks this entitles him to be a total douche bag. If anyone deserves to have their pool gelatinized it’s him.

“Okay, so maybe you’re only a genius in theory,” I told Russ once I began pouring my jell-o into the pool.

It was one of those fancy heated pools with a rock waterfall and a slide. It was massive. My ten-pound bag of jell-o didn’t seem all that impressive anymore.

“You’d need like five hundred pounds of this stuff to make this pool solid.”

Russ stuck his hand in the stream of jell-o spilling from the bag and caught a handful of powder. “Where’s the trust? This is industrial jell-o.”

“Even still. It’s barely going to be enough to turn the water red.”

“Just make sure you spread it out Doubty McDoubterson,” Russ said and gave me a shove toward the deep end.

I started pouring the jell-o all around the edge of the pool and didn’t even get half way around before I was out. “You see?” I called across the water in a whisper. “It’s not even turning red. It’s barely pink.”

“Ah, but you’re forgetting I still have this.”

Russ held up the tiny handful of powder he’d collected. He made a show of holding the jell-o up to his mouth and whispering something to it—most likely begging it not to make him look bad. Then he held is palm flat and blew the dust out over the pool. The tiny granules sprinkled across the top of the water and dissolved instantly.

“That’s it?” I was completely unimpressed. “You are such a moron.”

Russ frowned, insulted. “I can’t believe you have that little faith in me. Go get the skimmer and start stirring.”

It seemed pointless to me but I grabbed the skimmer anyway. I gasped when I started stirring and found the water already getting thicker.

“Told you so.” Russ smiled smugly.

“I don’t get it. This shouldn’t be working.”

“Maybe the jell-o knew my birthday present would be totally lame if it didn’t work.”

After a minute the pool was completely jelled so Russ stripped down to his swim trunks and sat on the edge of the pool. Slowly, he stuck his feet into the goopy mixture and frowned. “This feels pretty nasty.”

I stuck my feet over the side of the pool and wrinkled my nose. “Slimy.”

“And sticky,” Russ complained.

“At least it’s warm.”

“Yeah,” Russ said, fighting a laugh. “That’s why I picked this pool. It’s the only heated one in town.”

“How very insightful of you. I thought you picked it because Brad is a prick.”

“Happy coincidence.” Russ gave me an innocent shrug. “And I swear I don’t know anything about his big pool party on Saturday.”

We had a good laugh and then I swirled my feet around once more. “It kind of tickles.”

“It’s gross. You sure you want to go all the way in?”

“Of course!” I said. “It’s not every day your best friend magically fulfills one of your life-long wishes.”

I couldn’t understand the look I got from Russ just then, but he stared at me long enough to make me feel nervous. “What if I could?”

“Could what?”

“Magically make all your wishes come true.”

I laughed at the thought. “Yeah, that’s all I’d need. I’m spoiled enough as it is. Besides, if wishes came true every day they wouldn’t be magical anymore. Nope, once in a lifetime’s good enough for me. Now come on, I’ll race you to the other end!”


As sticky, and slimy, and even kind of, well, extremely disgusting as it was, swimming in a giant pool of jell-o was seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. But it was definitely a one-time thing, and after about fifteen minutes I was more than ready to call it quits. I climbed out of the pool and was so sticky that the thought of wrapping myself in a towel was too unappealing despite how cold it was outside.

“Let’s rinse off in the hot tub,” Russ suggested.

“Ooh, good idea.”

I didn’t wait for Russ. I practically dove into the hot tub and scrubbed my hair beneath the water. Once the slimy coating was washed off my skin I sat back and enjoyed the heat and bubbles.

I closed my eyes and sighed. “We should make spa hopping a weekly occurrence.”

Of course, I quickly changed my mind when Russ slipped into the water with me and I nearly reached out to touch him.

Seriously, what was wrong with me lately? It’s not like I was surprised by the way he looks without a shirt on. We’d spent most of the summer at the lake together. I knew he kept in shape. So why did I suddenly wish he hadn’t sat all the way across the hot tub from me? Why did I have a desire to climb in his lap and lean against his bare chest?

I felt myself starting to blush so I closed my eyes again and tried to pretend he wasn’t there. “Seriously Russ, you’ve outdone yourself this year. Thank you. Best birthday present ever.”

“Really? So then I didn’t need to get you this?”

I opened my eyes and Russ handed me another present. This one was just as beautifully wrapped but smaller and way, way lighter. “What’s this for?”

“You didn’t think I was only going to give you a bag of jell-o for your birthday did you? I’m way smoother than that.”

“You gave me a lot more than just a bag of jell-o and you know it.”

Russ shrugged like it was no big deal even though we both knew it was. “Yeah, well, now I’m giving you that so shut up and open it.”

“Yes, sir,” I teased with a mock salute and happily tore off the wrapping.

I was surprised to find a rectangular box covered in black crushed velvet. It was too big to hold a ring or a bracelet, but it was definitely a jewelry box.

“Russell Alexander Devereaux what did you do?”

I was only teasing. I fully expected to open the box and find, knowing Russ, a lock of his hair that I was supposed to treasure for eternity or something like that.

When I looked up I saw a flash of insecurity in his all too confident eyes. “Just open it,” he said. He tried to sound playful but his voice shook the slightest bit and he couldn’t fool me.

Suddenly afraid to look, I swallowed back a lump in my throat and pulled open the box. “Russ!” I gasped.

The necklace was absolutely breathtaking. It was Victorian-style—with turquoise beads sown intricately into silver chains. A large turquoise crystal cut into the shape of a teardrop dangled delicately from the center. It looked like it was hundreds of years old and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It was my mother’s,” Russ said. “My father gave it to her after they were married, and he gave it to me after she left. It’s been handed down in our family for generations.”

“Very funny.”

When I looked up there wasn’t a hint of play anywhere in Russ’s expression. It may have been the first time I’d ever seen him one hundred percent serious.

My face went white. “I can’t accept this.”

I tried to hand him the box and he pushed it back at me. “I told Dad I wanted to give it to you, and he agreed that I should.”

“But it was your mother’s. It’s an heirloom. This should stay in your family.”

“You’ve been my best friend since we were riding tricycles and making mud pies. I want you to have it.”

I looked down at the necklace again and my eyes burned. “I—I don’t know what to say. Thank you, Russ.”

As I stared at the jewelry, awestruck, Russ crossed the hot tub to sit next to me. And I mean like right next to me. His closeness made me shiver.

“Dani, there’s something I have to talk to you about.”

My head snapped up. First the private birthday celebration, then the necklace, and now the soft tone in his voice? None of this was right. None of this was like Russ.

Call me crazy, but it felt like he was about to cross a boundary he’d never dared breech before. He’d never even seemed like he’d wanted to, but right now he was all up in my personal space like nobody’s business.

Russ took my hand, and before I had any time to analyze that I was overcome with a strange sensation. The hand holding mine was warm, more warm than any hand had a right to be. It felt like it was sending fire through my body.

“Dani?” Russ asked suddenly. “Is everything okay? You look like you’re about to pass out.”

“I’m fine,” I said, though my breath was ragged. Something was definitely off, but I couldn’t tell what exactly was happening to me.

I put my hands to my head so Russ wouldn’t have the chance to be offended that I’d ripped my fingers from his. “It’s just a headache. I haven’t been feeling all that well for the last couple weeks, but I’m okay.”

“A couple weeks? Why didn’t you tell me you were sick?”

“Because it hasn’t been that bad. I’m fine, I promise. I’m already feeling better.” That wasn’t completely true, but I plastered a smile on my face anyway. “Now, what were you saying? You wanted to tell me something?”

Russ seemed to remember himself and took a deep breath. “You’re my best friend,” he said.

It sounded like the beginning of a rehearsed speech. That meant this was serious news.

“Duh…” I agreed slowly. My voice betrayed how nervous I was.

Russ shifted uneasily next to me and continued. “Because you’re my best friend, there’s something I can’t hide from you anymore. But before I tell you what it is, you have to promise you’re not going to freak out.”

I sucked in a breath. “He is!" my brain screamed at me. “He’s making a move!”

Was I ready for that? If he told me he wanted more than friendship could I give it to him? Could I kiss him and keep a straight face? Could he?

Terror seized my chest making me unable to breathe. And yet… Maybe it wasn’t fear causing my pulse to race. I couldn’t deny the things I’d been feeling lately. Still. I had no idea how to respond. “Um...”

Russ took my hand again, and I did my best to ignore the strange connection between us. I wondered if he felt it too.

“Dani, I…”

Love you…

I waited with wide eyes, holding my breath for Russ to spit it out. He looked completely terrified. Which, lets just say, is not a look you often see on Russ Devereaux.

It was surprisingly nice that he was drawing this out because the suspense was making me realize just how much I wanted to hear him say it. Maybe this was a good thing. Maybe it would be perfect. I mean he was my best friend. Who better than him to be my first boyfriend?

“You…?” I prompted.

Russ broke into a sweat. I don’t think it was from the heat of the water. He took a deep breath and blurted, “DaniI’mawarlock.”

“Huh?” I had no idea what he’d just said, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t, “Dani I’m in love with you and want to be more than just your friend from now on.”

“I’m a warlock,” he said again—very slowly this time.

Okay, definitely not, “Dani I’m in love with you and want to be more than just your friend from now on.”

Was he joking? Or did he just chicken out? Because the panic I saw in his eyes a minute ago was completely real. But, “I’m a warlock?”

Seriously, WTF?

There was literally no way I could respond to such a statement. Like none. I know because I sat there for a really long time trying to come up with a reaction and simply couldn’t. Eventually Russ just had to start talking again.

“Supernatural beings, like the kind you read about in books—witches, vampires, werewolves—they’re real. I’m one of them. I’m a warlock, Dani. I have magic. My dad too.”

Okay, so he was crazy. My best friend had snapped his cap. I remembered the fire I felt when he touched me and immediately plastered my hand to his forehead. Again I was met with an overwhelming sensation. He was definitely radiating something warm and tingly. It didn’t exactly feel like a raging fever, but it was enough explanation for me.

“We need to get you home,” I told him. “You feel way too hot. I think meningitis is supposed to make you delusional and that can kill you.”

“I’m not sick, Dani.”

Russ covered my hand with his and moved it from his forehead to the side of his face. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and shuddered. There was something in the gesture that made goose bumps form all over me—something that leaned me back toward my first theory of Russ wanting to up the stakes in our relationship.

Apparently he was just too big a wuss to say it.

“I know I sound crazy but—”

“Crazy?” I asked with an incredulous laugh. “You don’t sound crazy. You sound like a moron!”

Russ flinched when I yelled. I didn’t mean to lose my temper but I was surprisingly upset. I could have just called him out and forced him to admit he had feelings for me. Then I could have told him I was interested and ended the most romantic birthday of my life having my first make-out session in a freaking hot tub. But excuse me for having a little dignity and wanting my potential boyfriend to have the guts to make the first move.

“After everything you’ve done tonight to make this the most perfect birthday I’ve ever had, you’re really going to ruin it now?”

“I’m not trying to ruin it!” Russ snapped.

“Then stop being a coward and just say what you really want to say!”

Russ had the strangest look on his face. It was a little bit confusion and a lot frustration, but also, I swear there was disappointment mixed in as well.

We sat there in the most uncomfortable silence as he searched for something to say, and were both extremely startled when the back porch lights of Brad’s house flicked on. “Who’s out there?” Mr. Halloway shouted. “I’m calling the sheriff!”

Russ and I scrambled as silently as we could for our clothes and then bailed before Brad thought to set his dog loose on us. It looked like my birthday celebration was over. Not exactly the way I’d envisioned the night ending, but considering it was us, not that surprising either.

I just hoped that by the time I saw Russ at school in a few hours he’d have realized what a tool he was and manned up, because the minute we went our separate ways I got this really strange ache inside me. I missed him the second he was gone and knew that I didn’t just maybe want him. I really wanted him.