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No Words: Chapter 30


LITTLE BRIDGE BOOK FESTIVAL ITINERARY FOR: JO WRIGHT

Sunday, January 5, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

– Farewell Brunch and Reading –

With Clive Dean, Jerome Jarvis, Victoria Maynard, Garrett Newcombe, Jo Wright, and Bernadette Zhang

Moderated by: Molly Hartwell Will Price

Library Auditorium

Meeeeee-OW!

“What is that ungodly noise?” Will asked as we ran up the library steps.

“My ringtone.” I’d only just remembered to turn my phone back on.

“What sort of ringtone is that? It sounds like a cat being boiled alive.”

“I will have you know that that is an official Kitty Katz ringtone made just for members of the Kitty Katz mobile fan club, and only a very select few own it.”

Will’s tone was dry. “I can see why.”

Meeeeee-OW!

“Stop being rude.” I put one hand on his broad shoulder to steady myself as I peered down at the screen of my phone and slipped my foot back into my mule, from which it had become loose, at the same time. “Twelve unread texts! Will, I think we’re in trouble.”

Will was squinting down at his own phone. “Twelve? I’ve got twenty-two. What could be happening in there?”

When we got inside the lobby, we saw that only a few people were still milling around outside the auditorium, where a brunch of coffee, tea, and “authentic Cuban breakfast foods,” like guava pastries and cheese toast, were being served from the library’s café.

“Aw,” I said. “It’s so brave of the library to allow patrons to eat inside their brand-new facility.”

“That was a bone of contention during the festival planning,” Will said. “Let me tell you—”

“Jo! There you are!”

Bernadette came clacking toward me, looking relieved. She was dressed, as usual, in the height of urban chic, this time in pleather leggings, high-heeled booties, and a hip-length cheetah-print shirt. “Why haven’t you been answering your phone? I’ve been trying to reach you for—” Then she saw Will. “Oh.”

“Sorry we’re late.” I wasn’t going to get into it with her, especially in front of Will, though I could tell from her ear-to-ear smile that she wanted me to. “Have things started already?”

“Uh, yeah.” Bernadette could not seem to stop smiling. “I mean, the author bus never came, so we all had to walk over here from the hotel, but—”

“I’m so sorry about that,” Will said. He was blushing as pink as the bougainvillea he’d put in the vase on my breakfast tray. “It’s all my fault.”

“I’ll say it is.” Bernadette, still smiling, was giving us both the once-over. “Jo, aren’t those the same clothes you were wearing last night?”

Now I was the one blushing. “Shut up, Bernadette.”

“No, I mean, you look good, but most of the people in there were at the party last night, so everyone is going to know. Plus, you have beard burn all over your neck.”

My hands flew instinctively to my throat. “You can see it?” I cried in horror.

Will began to look less embarrassed and more fascinated by our conversation. “What’s beard burn?”

“Do you have any moisturizer?” I asked Bernadette.

“I can look in my bag, but what you really need is—”

The doors to the auditorium burst open, releasing a buzz of sound—the room was clearly packed with eager audience members—as well as Frannie, who came hurrying out, dressed all in black and looking impatient, as usual.

“Any sign of them, Bernadette?” she asked. Then her gaze fell on Will and me. Her eyes widened. “Oh! There you are.”

I felt as mortified as if Frannie had been my own mother. “I’m so sorry, Frannie,” I said. “We just lost track of—”

“What did you do to her neck?” she demanded, glaring at Will while she threw a protective arm around me.

“Nothing!” Will looked defensive. “We just kissed! And, er—”

“It’s fine.” I didn’t think Will needed to get into any more detail. “Bernadette has some lotion.”

“Oh, here. That’s not going to work.” Frannie strode forward, undoing the purple scarf she was wearing around her throat. “You can cover it with this. And at least this way it won’t look so much like you’re wearing the exact same outfit as last night.” She tied the scarf, scented with her usual perfume—Chanel No. 5—around my neck, giving Will the stink eye the whole time. “Did you have to be quite so inconsiderate?”

“I still don’t understand what I did that was so wrong.” Will looked bewildered.

Frannie shook her head, disgusted. “The least you could have done was shaved. Or grown a proper beard.”

“What’s going on in there?” I asked as Frannie gave the scarf a final flourishing touch.

“Well, there’s no moderator, since Molly’s at home with her baby, and Will was so late.” Frannie gave Will one final dirty look. “So Saul took over. Bernadette read from her latest, Crown of Stars and Mist, to the delight of everyone—”

“Aw.” I smiled at Bernadette. “I’m so sorry I missed it.”

Bernadette shrugged. “I know. I was awesome.”

“And Saul just read from his latest book, Hell Hound,” Frannie went on, “to the delight of only his most devoted fans, since he chose to read from the chapter where the hellhound gnaws off his owner’s leg and eats it.”

“Can’t say I’m sorry to have missed that,” Will quipped.

“It’s too soon for you to joke, young man.” Frannie shot him a narrow-eyed stare. “You’re still in my bad graces. Let’s see, what else? Oh, yes. Jerome read one of his latest poems, which was highly moving and probably the best thing any of us is going to hear all day, and now Kellyjean is about to read from the newest installment of her Salem Prairie series, which I’m sure will be edifying for all of us, especially the children in the audience, since it will probably feature graphic sex.” Frannie looked at Will and then me and then back again. “Wolf sex. Not the kind you two have clearly been having all night.”

“All right, Fran,” Bernadette said with a laugh, as she took Frannie by the shoulder and began to steer her back toward the auditorium doors. “You’ve had your fun with them for now. Why don’t we leave them alone?”

“Because,” Frannie said, “they so deserve it.”

The minute their backs were turned, Will reached out to take my hand. “Hey,” he said, giving my fingers a squeeze. “I’m sorry about whatever it is I did to you.”

I smiled and returned the squeeze. “It’s okay. I liked it.”

Just as Bernadette was about to open the doors to the auditorium, Will called to her, “Hey. What about Garrett?”

She glanced back at us, looking bemused. “Garrett? Didn’t you hear?”

“No.” Will’s grip on my hand tightened. “What about him?”

“Garrett’s not here. He’s been banned from the island.”

Will dropped my hand. “What?”

Frannie turned around, her face alight with joy. No one loved author gossip more than Frannie Coleman. “The sheriff came to the inn at breakfast and charged Garrett with culpable negligence, then permanently banned him from Little Bridge Island! Right now Garrett is on a flight back to New York.”

“Yeah, and not only that,” Bernadette added, “but Garret has to pay restitution for the search-and-rescue mission for his body—sixty-thousand dollars!”

“Sixty-thousand dollars!” I could hardly believe my ears. I’m not certain Will believed his, either.

But he didn’t look too unhappy about the turn of events.

“Well,” he said, taking my hand again. “All’s well that ends well, I suppose.”

“Yes,” I said. “For everyone but Garrett.”

“Don’t worry,” Bernadette said. “Saul told everyone in the audience that Garrett was back from the spirit world—only he couldn’t make it here this morning, due to a family emergency. Which it’s definitely going to be when Garrett gets home, because we found out: Garrett is married.”

“He’s what?” I was flabbergasted.

“Oh, yeah.” Bernadette smirked. “Only I would guess probably not for much longer after word of all this gets out.”

Then she opened the auditorium doors and, with Frannie, slipped inside.

Will pulled on my hand as I attempted to follow them. “Hey.”

I looked up at him questioningly.

“Speaking of flights,” he said, “what time is yours?”

“Oh.” This was the conversation I’d been hoping to avoid. “Later today. We’d better go in.”

“What time later today?”

“I don’t know. I hate itineraries. Hadn’t we better go in?”

He was grinning. “I know you hate itineraries. You’ve made that pretty clear by being late to every single event I’ve organized this entire weekend, including this one.”

“Hey, I resent that! You’re the one who wanted to—”

“I know, all right? I was just wondering if you wanted to think about possibly changing your flight? Not to spend time with me.” He held up his hand in a “stop” gesture. “I swear I’m not the crazy stalker type who’s going to ask you to move in with me after one night. I mean to look at houses for your dad. It’s high season here, which means there are a lot of places for sale, and it might not be the worst idea for you to take a little time to look around. You’re here anyway.”

I bit my lip. He wasn’t wrong. “I’ll think about it,” I said.

“Good.” He opened the doors to the auditorium, and we went in—quietly, because it was dark, and everyone’s attention was focused on Kellyjean, who had taken the stage in another one of her floaty maxi dresses, this one dark blue shot through with gold thread that shimmered under the stage lights.

“Thank you for that lovely introduction, Saul, I mean, Clive,” she was saying, as Will and I hurried to take the only two empty seats left in the house, near the front, in the section reserved for the day’s speakers.

Once we were seated and I had a chance to look around, I spied Lauren in the audience with her mother and friends, and, in the aisle, Chloe with her fellow dance team members, still doing duty as ushers. She noticed my glance and waved. I waved back at her.

“Y’all, I know I’m supposed to read something from my newest book today,” Kellyjean was going on, up at the podium onstage, “but I was so moved by Jerome’s poem, I thought I would do something a little different, and read a poem of my own.”

Oh, no. I saw Jerome drop his face into his hands. I didn’t blame him. This was not going to be pretty.

Apparently Kellyjean realized what some of us were thinking, since she hurried to add, “I know, I know. I’m a fiction writer and not a poet. There is a difference, for those of you who don’t know. But I’ve just been so moved by how magical and warm my stay here on this island has been, I had to write about it, and that writing just came out in the form of a poem. Has that ever happened to any of the rest of y’all?”

She looked out over the audience, many members of whom were murmuring in assent. I couldn’t help nodding. I wasn’t sure about magical, but my stay on Little Bridge had definitely been warm. Hot, even. I pressed my shoulder against Will’s, feeling what I told myself was only a companionable burst of dopamine toward him, nothing more. He pressed back against me, grinning.

“Anyway, this is what I came up with,” Kellyjean said, unfolding a piece of paper. I recognized it as Lazy Parrot Inn stationery. “Don’t be too hard on me, now, when you hear it.”

The audience laughed gently. And then Kellyjean began to read:

The Green Flash

There we were, all of us,

The ritual had begun.

Standing there, patiently,

Our eyes upon the sun.

Some of us wished for riches,

Some of us wished for fame,

But I knew my friend had wished for love

When that green flash came.

And who of us can argue?

Who of us can blame?

Those who believed the magic

Of that emerald flame.

I believe in wishes,

I believe in love,

I believe that falling stars

Are signs from God above.

So when I saw that sunset,

As green as green can be,

I wished my friend’s wish would come true,

And that wish has come to be.

When she finished reading, Kellyjean looked right at me—frozen with my shoulder pressed against Will’s, and my eyes filled with tears—and smiled. “I wrote that poem for a friend of mine,” she said. “I’m just so happy that she’s found what it is she was looking for after all this time. Thank y’all so much for having us here to your pretty little island.”

There was a moment of silence as the audience absorbed what they’d just heard. Then they burst into thunderous applause, many jumping to their feet . . . including Will.

“You know,” he said to me enthusiastically, as he clapped, “that was really quite good. A little amateurish, but quite a hit with the audience, which is what you want in a book festival. What do you think?”

I rose to my feet as well, applauding. “I think I’ll take your advice,” I said, “and change my flight. Maybe I will stay for a few days.”

He glanced at me in surprise. “Really? To look at houses?”

“To look at houses,” I said. “And . . . maybe some other things.”

He smiled at me happily.

And I smiled back.


Six Months Later

From #1 internationally bestselling author Jo Wright comes the most highly anticipated release of the year:

Kitty Katz, Kitten-Sitter #27

SU-PURR STAR!

Kitty Katz has graduated from middle school and started high school!

Kitty Katz and Felicity Feline have been best friends furever, and have always dreamed of being Broadway stars. That dream takes a step closer to coming true when the two of them are cast in their high school’s musical production of

Hello, Doggie!

But as re-purr-sals go on, Kitty isn’t sure a life on the stage is for her, especially as she begins to have feelings for her costar, Raul Wolf. Once her rival in all things academic and extra-purr-icular, Raul has always seemed aloof and stuck up—until Kitty gets to know him better, and realizes that things—and wolves—aren’t always what they seem on the surface.

Could this be the end for Kitty and longtime beau Rex Canine? And what happens when the star of the show, Susie Spaniel, develops fleas and can’t make opening night?

Looks like it might take a SU-PURR STAR to step in and save the day!

Purr-raise for Kitty Katz: Su-purr Star

“Once again, Kitty saves the day—for all of us.” —USA Today

“The best furry tail yet from Jo Wright.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Five stars. Raul Wolf is my new book boyfriend.” —Lauren

“One star. Spoiler alert: Rex + Kitty break up. Thanks for ruining my childhood, Jo Wright!!!!!!” —Cassidy

“Purrfect.” —Reese Witherspoon

Look for Kitty Katz, Kitten Sitter #27: Su-purr Star everywhere books are sold, coming soon to a store near you!


To: [email protected]; [email protected]

Fr: [email protected]

Re: Little Bridge Island Book Festival

Dear Ms. Wright,

It’s that time of year! I’m writing in the hope that you will once again join us for Little Bridge Island’s annual book festival. You were such a huge hit at last year’s event, we couldn’t possibly hold the next festival without you!

The 2nd Annual Little Bridge Island Book Festival will begin Friday, January 8, and finish on Sunday, January 10.

We’re able to offer you first-class airfare to Little Bridge Island, a luxury suite at the Lazy Parrot Inn, and a $1,500 stipend in exchange for you being a panelist. We’d love for you to do a signing, as well as read from your new book, Kitty Katz, Kitten Sitter #27: Su-purr Star! and discuss your upcoming Netflix series, Kitty Katz: Kitten Sitter, the reboot.

Please let me know your thoughts. Once again, the festival just wouldn’t be the same without you, and I know I’m not the only one who’d miss you if you couldn’t attend!

Best,

Molly Hartwell

Children’s Librarian, Norman J. Tifton Public Library

Will Price

Little Bridge Island Book Festival Board Chair

To: [email protected]; [email protected]

Fr: [email protected]

Subject: Little Bridge Book Festival

Dear Molly and Will,

Thank you so much for the kind invitation to next year’s book festival. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Please don’t worry about a stipend for me, however. You can donate it back to the program. And I don’t need a hotel room, either. I can stay with my father at his new house in Little Bridge.

Thanks again for the invitation! Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Best,

Jo

To: [email protected]

Fr: [email protected]

Subject: Re: Re: Little Bridge Book Festival

Staying at your dad’s, are you? We’ll see about that!

To: [email protected]

Fr: [email protected]

Subject: Re: Re: Little Bridge Book Festival


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