I loved new books. The crisp pages, the smell, and the sense of potential as I carefully broke in the spine made getting them one of the best feelings in the world. Getting one at a book launch with the actual author—an even better feeling. Getting one at a book launch with the actual author when the author is a rock star flying around the country to release the third book in her four book series and has a crowd of fans sitting outside the bookstore and waiting for hours to meet her? Electric.
“The final battle outfit. Awesome,” someone said as they passed me. I proudly looked up from my page for a second to smile at the two girls who passed me on their way to the back of the line. They were wearing homemade t-shirts scrawled with all of the best Maeve quotes and clutching fresh copies of Gilded, the third book in the Golden series.
I tugged at the corset, readjusting the fake leather so it would stop digging into my ribs. The costume might be perfect, but Trixie had built it for looks, not for waiting on line for hours at the mall. At least Maeve wore leggings when she fought. I couldn’t imagine sitting on this floor in a skirt. Semi-comfortable again, I dove back in to the book. If I read fast enough, I might get a third of the way through before the bookstore let us inside.
A pair of beat-up sneakers stopped right next to me, the Sharpie doodles of skulls and crossbones playing in my peripheral vision. “Phoebe? What are you wearing?”
I groaned when I followed those sneakers up to find Dev looking down at me. Of course he’d pick the one day I was in costume to run in to me at the mall. I wanted to melt in to the concrete wall behind me.
“I’m here for the launch party.” I followed his eyes back to the corset and puffy shirt I was wearing. “And there’s a costume contest.” Warmth crept over my cheeks and I tilted my head forward so my hair hid my face. Dressing up for a costumed dance was one thing, but I hadn’t expected anyone from school to be at the mall this early.
“You should have worn that green dress. It was pretty epic.”
A little part of me that wasn’t dying of mortification warmed at the thought that he remembered my homecoming dress. Why he hadn’t yet gone away, though, was totally beyond my understanding. “Wrong scene. I’m in Maeve’s battle outfit. You know, like on the cover?” I used my finger as a bookmark and gestured with my new book at the giant version of it on the banner above me.
“Oh. Right.” He shuffled his feet impatiently. “And you have a bow because…”
I protectively hugged my recurve with my free hand. “Because Maeve was the reason I became an archer. I want the author to sign it.” I dropped my eyes and added, “I know this all sounds incredibly stupid.”
“No, that’s actually really cool. I didn’t know you were an archer.” He poked at my bow. “I didn’t know anyone did that stuff outside of gym class.”
“Hello, it’s an international sport, you know. Not just a chance to almost shoot freshmen who run across our field during gym class.” I shrugged and added with more than a little bit of pride, “I placed second in States at my level. Coach Rentz thinks I’ll make it to Nationals next year. I wouldn’t have had that without Maeve. I really want Niamh—” at his look of confusion, I added, “the author—to know that.”
“Books are powerful things.” I tried raising one of my eyebrows, like Maeve would at a moment like this, but I had to settle for a twitch that probably made me look like I’d escaped from an insane asylum.
“I’ll take your word for it.” He started backing up and gestured with his thumb towards the escalator. “Uh, I’d love to stay and talk, but I’ve got to go take care of something.”
My heart sunk right into my knee-high boots, but I just flipped my book back open and tried not to let the disappointment show in my face. I couldn’t have expected him to wait on line with me. “Have fun.”
He stared at me a moment longer. “How long do you have to wait for this?” He wasn’t walking away.
The snarky side of me wanted to point at the poster again, but I didn’t. The girl behind me made an exasperated snorting sound and I saw her doing it for me. “It starts at one.”
His eyes grew wide. “So you’re going to sit here for two hours?”
The girl behind me was practically going into apoplectic fits. Dev and I tried our best to ignore her. “Four hours. I’ve been on line since the bookstore opened.”
“Are you kidding? Who does that?” I gestured towards the people in front of us and then the line snaking along the mall wall behind me. “Okay, stupid question. What normal person does that?”
“What normal person breaks into a Bollywood flash mob at a school dance?”
“Point taken.” He ran his hand through his hair, leaving it standing in dark spikes. “I gotta go. Maybe I’ll swing by later.”
“And buy a book? It’ll be good for you.”
He flashed me a wide grin. “Sure, Dr. Phoebe. I’ll pick up two and call you in the morning?” I laughed and watched as he disappeared into the crowd. I could see what other girls saw in him, especially with the messy hair. That smile nearly killed me.
As I turned back to my book, the girl behind me poked me with her copy of Gilded. “Boyfriend isn’t much of a brain trust, is he?”
I ignored her and turned back to my book. A little bit of Maeve and Aedan would take my mind off of the past few minutes.