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No Words: Chapter 4


His full name was Garrett Newcombe.

“I write and illustrate graphic novels for young adults,” he said. “Dark Magic School? You’ve probably never heard of it. Or me.”

Of course I’d heard of him. Dark Magic School was at the top of the children’s bestseller list every week. Gabriella, my super’s daughter, was bonkers for it. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t recognized Garrett from the author photo on the backs of her books.

In my own defense, however, the goatee had thrown me. It was new.

“Oh, sure,” I said, like I’d known all along who he was. “Nice to meet you.”

“Same. Oh, hold on. You’ve got a little something in your—” He reached out as if to touch my ear. I ducked instinctively since I’ve never been a fan of strange men touching me. But it was too late.

“Ah, got it.” Smiling, Garrett held up a shiny silver coin that he’d pretended to pull out of my ear.

Oh, yuck. He wrote books about magic and he was a magician? No, thank you. I may have written books about talking cats, but that didn’t mean I believed in, much less liked, magic. Cats actually can communicate. My own, Miss Kitty, tells me exactly what she wants on a regular basis, quite vocally, usually at seven in the morning.

Magic, however much we might want to believe in it, is completely made up. Miracles don’t happen. People get sick and often die, and the only thing that can stop that is science. Look at what had happened to my mom.

But since I was going to be stuck with this guy for the weekend, I forced a smile. “Ha-ha.”

“Here.” He shoved the coin at me. “You can keep it.”

“No, thanks.”

“No, really. It’s a Dark Magic School number eleven commemorative guild piece.”

“That’s okay. Save it for one of your fans.”

“Oh, I shipped two thousand ahead to the hotel to give out to the fans. Really, you can have it.”

“Great.” Reluctantly, I pocketed the “guild piece.” I could give it to Gabriella, anyway. She’d love it.

“So why are you holding that?” He pointed at the whiteboard.

“Oh, the librarian from the festival had to run to the bathroom.” I made a hand motion to illustrate a swollen belly and mouthed the word pregnant. “I said I’d fill in for her.”

“Oh, that’s so nice of you. Really great.” Garrett was gushing like I’d single-handedly saved a child from drowning. “So what’s the deal with Will Price taking off like that with that girl? Is he too good for the author bus or something?”

I shrugged. “He lives here. She came to pick him up.”

He raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t know Will Price had a girlfriend. Everyone always talks about how he’s a commitment-phobe or something. She looked kinda young.”

“Maybe she’s his sister.” Of course I didn’t believe she was his sister. Why was I coming to his defense? The man was my nemesis.

Garrett laughed. It wasn’t a very pleasant laugh. “None of my sisters ever greeted me like that at the airport. Hey, didn’t I hear about some big dustup between you two a while ago?”

“Between Will Price and me? I don’t know.” I did not want to get into what had happened between Will Price and me. Not in the middle of the world’s tiniest airport with a bestselling magician slash graphic novelist, anyway. I looked around for Molly. What was taking her so long? “Did you?”

“Yeah, I did. Wait—I remember now.” Garrett looked at me and snapped his fingers. “Somebody plagiarized the two of you. That’s it. It was all over the news.”

I took a deep breath. Great. “Yes. Nicole Woods.”

“That’s right!” Garrett actually slapped his knee, he was enjoying himself so much. “Oh my God, that was huge, a bestselling author like her caught plagiarizing? But it was also kind of hilarious, since you and Will couldn’t write more different books.”

“Hilarious. Yeah.” Hurry up, Molly!

“And didn’t Price say something about that? Something not too flattering—like if Woods was going to copy from somebody, at least she could have chosen to copy from somebody who actually writes good books?”

I cut him off before he could say it. “Yes, that’s right. Wow, you have a good memory.” What was wrong with this guy? Why was he bringing up something he had to know had been a pretty unpleasant time for me?

But that was the thing about writers—not all of them, but quite a few. They spent all their time behind computer screens, and very little engaging with actual human beings, which meant that they had no idea how to interact with them. Case in point, Justin, my ex. And now, apparently, Garrett Newcombe.

“But fortunately they destroyed all the copies of Nicole’s book,” I went on brightly. “And she got the help she needed for the addiction that she said caused her to resort to plagiarism in the first place.” Sure. Sure, Nicole. Sleeping pills. That’s why you had to steal large chunks of my hard work from me. I took sleeping pills for a while after my mom died, and I managed never to steal anything from anyone. So I’m not sure that excuse of yours holds up. “So it’s all water under the bridge now.”

“Oh.” Garrett looked disappointed that I wasn’t more upset. He’d evidently been hoping to hear some dishy author drama. “Really? And Price apologized?”

“There was no need for him to apologize. Unlike Nicole, Will didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Didn’t do anything wrong? He said your books weren’t—”

I guess Garrett was better at reading human emotion than I’d thought, since he seemed to notice my frown and abruptly reversed course. “Not that I agree with him. I think your books are great. Really great. I’ve read them all to my nieces. They can’t get enough of Kitty Katz. When’s the next one coming out, anyway?”

“I don’t have a pub date yet.”

“But even so,” Garrett went on. He never shut up, this guy. “You must have really wanted to let that guy have a piece of your mind. You know, afterward, when you heard what Price said about your books not being good enough to be worth copying. I personally can’t stand authors like that, ones who are so dismissive of children’s books and think literary novels are the only ones worth reading.”

Ha! Like Will Price’s books were literary.

“If it had been me,” he blathered on, “I’d have called the bastard out—on social media, anyway—and demanded an apology.”

I shrugged. “I didn’t think it was worth it.”

“Not worth it?”

“Isn’t it classier to shake it off? That’s what I always have Kitty do in my books. I like her to set a good example for readers by rising above the haters.”

I didn’t want to admit the real reason I’d never responded to what Will had said: that the Wright way was to seethe silently while inwardly plotting revenge.

Except now it looked as if I might actually have an opportunity to get it.

Only how? My mom had been the best at getting back at people. She was Sicilian, and in Sicily they—

Fortunately, that’s when Molly the librarian came racing back from the ladies’ room, her cheeks flushed.

“Oh, thank you! I feel so much better now.” She took the whiteboard from my hands and smiled brightly at Mr. Dark Magic. “Hi! You must be Garrett Newcombe. We’re so honored to have you.”

“I’m honored to be here.” Garrett smiled what I’d now begun to think of as his weasel-faced smile, even though there really wasn’t anything weasel-faced about him. I was just in a bad mood due to his reminding me that I’d still never gotten my revenge on Will Price. “So, is this it? Can we go to the hotel now? Because I for one am ready for my first official Florida Keys margarita.”

Molly looked crestfallen. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Garrett. Not quite yet. We have to wait for one more author. His flight should be in already, I don’t know what’s taking so long—”

I put on my most innocent expression. “Oh, do you mean Will Price?”

Molly brightened. “Yes! Do you know him?”

“Just a little.” I ignored Garrett, who was smirking. “He actually came through here while you were in the bathroom. Someone picked him up—a blond girl?”

Molly’s happy smile didn’t waver. “Oh, was it Chloe?”

I shrugged, trying to keep my own expression carefully neutral. “I don’t know. He didn’t introduce her. It could have been someone named Chloe.”

“Well, great then! He’s all set.” Molly reached for my carry-on. “Let’s go!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” I snatched my bag back. “I can carry my own luggage, Molly. And I certainly don’t let pregnant women carry it.”

Molly laughed. “This weekend isn’t about me. It’s about celebrating all of you lovely authors. Now if you’ll follow me, your carriage awaits!”

“Well, I don’t know about you,” Garrett said to me as he trailed after Molly through the terminal’s automatic doors and out into the bright sunlight of the parking lot, “but I’m ready to be celebrated.”

“Me, too.”

Before I exited, I turned to wave to Lauren and the rest of the Will Price fangirls, who were still waiting at the baggage carousel for their luggage. “See you at the festival, ladies!”

But they didn’t hear me, because they were too busy staring down at their phones, coming up with captions for their photos with their idol.


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