Today on the site we welcome Vanessa North to share the cover of her upcoming gay romance (and first in over two years), The Reality of Us, which releases on August 10, 2021! Here’s the story:
The reality of Alden…
Arrogant. Aloof. Argumentative. Antagonistic. Angry. Alden Kaufman is many things, and none of them are nice. Trauma has left him deeply scarred and incapable of easy friendships. He doesn’t know how to let anyone past his walls, and he doesn’t think it’s worth the trouble.
The reality of Kit…
Everybody’s best friend, nobody’s boyfriend. In spite of a lifestyle that doesn’t invite attachments, Kit Taylor gets along with everyone he meets—except Alden. He can’t entice his prickly co-worker out of his shell, and has given up on trying.
The Reality of Us…
Two men at odds with themselves and each other embark on what should be a simple team-building exercise, but nothing goes as planned. Unexpected intimacy and a freak accident leave Kit and Alden dependent on each other long after they leave the mountain behind. Now they have a choice—to continue as they’ve been, or trust a shaky new reality together.
And here’s the oh-so-romantic cover, illustrated by Vic Gray/Bloodwrit!
I am so excited to be revealing this utterly delightful cover for this utterly delightful book! The One True Me and You by Remi K. England (who you might also know as M.K. England, author of The Disasters and Spellhacker) is a contemporary YA Romance releasing from Wednesday Books on March 1, 2022! Here’s the story:
One small fandom convention. One teen beauty pageant. One meet cute waiting to happen.
Up and coming fanfic author Kaylee Beaumont is internally screaming at the chance to finally meet her fandom friends in real life and spend a weekend at GreatCon. She also has a side quest for the weekend:
Try out they/them pronouns to see how it feels
Wear more masculine-presenting cosplay
Kiss a girl for the first time
It’s… a lot, and Kay mostly wants to lie face down on the hotel floor. Especially when her hometown bully, Miss North Carolina, shows up in the very same hotel. But there’s this con-sponsored publishing contest, and the chance to meet her fandom idols… and then, there’s Teagan.
Pageant queen Teagan Miller (Miss Virginia) has her eye on the much-needed prize: the $25,000 scholarship awarded to the winner of the Miss Cosmic Teen USA pageant. She also has secrets:
She loves the dresses but hates the tiaras
She’s a giant nerd for everything GreatCon
She’s gay af
If Teagan can just keep herself wrapped up tight for one more weekend, she can claim the scholarship and go off to college out and proud. If she’s caught, she could lose everything she’s worked for. If her rival, Miss North Carolina, has anything to do with it, that’s exactly how it’ll go down.
When Teagan and Kay bump into one another the first night, sparks fly. Their connection is intense—as is their shared enemy. If they’re spotted, the safe space of the con will be shattered, and all their secrets will follow them home. The risks are great… but could the reward of embracing their true selves be worth it?
And here’s the absolutely adorable cover, designed by Olga Grlic and illustrated by Katie Smith!
Remi K. England grew up on the Space Coast of Florida watching shuttle launches from the backyard. These days, they call rural Virginia home, where there are many more cows but a tragic lack of rockets. In between marathon writing sessions, Remi can be found drowning in fandom, rolling critical hits at the gaming table, digging in the garden, or feeding their video game addiction. They probably love Star Wars more than you do.
Remi is the author of THE DISASTERS (2018), SPELLHACKER (2020), THE ONE TRUE ME & YOU (2022) and other forthcoming novels. Follow them at www.mkengland.com.
Today on the site, we’re welcoming Avi Silver to reveal the cover of their second novel, YA fantasy Three Seeking Stars! This sequel to Two Dark Moonsreleases July 13th, 2021 through The Shale Project and includes an established F/NB pairing that is slowly becoming an M/F/NB polyamorous relationship, and has ace, aro, bisexual, and neurodivergent rep! Here’s the story:
Sohmeng Minhal is going to fix the world.
With her home still in jeopardy, she doesn’t have much choice. What she does have is Ahnschen, an endearing prince of the dangerous empire that is disrupting the sãoni migration route. If she can convince Hei to trust him long enough to safely return him to his people, Sohmeng might just have a chance of restoring balance to Eiji. That is, until an unexpected piece of her past emerges from the jungle and challenges everything she is trying to achieve.
Now, the future of Eiji rests in Ahn’s hands—but does he have the courage to face the harm inflicted by his people? Determined to do right by the beloved friend who died on his sword, it will take a lot of unlearning to prove to Eiji—and to Hei—that he can, in fact, be good.
In the second chapter of the Sãoni Cycle, Sohmeng, Hei, and Ahn must reconcile their places in the human and natural worlds, all while navigating their complicated feelings about one another.
And here’s the striking cover, designed by Haley Rose!
AviSilver is a speculative author (Two Dark Moons, 2019; Three Seeking Stars, 2021), editor (Augur Magazine), and poet. Find their short fiction in Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology, and their poetry forthcoming in Uncanny Magazine. In 2018, they co-founded The Shale Project, an award-winning indie arts collective, and have not stopped worldbuilding since. For more information, visit mxavisilver.com. For lizard pictures, follow them on Twitter @thescreambean.
Today on the site we’re revealing the cover of D.N. Bryn’s Once Stolen, the followup to Our Bloody Pearl, releasing July 27, 2021! Here’s the story:
Ignit rocks fuel the jungle, from the colonists’ fan boats to the livelihoods of the native swamp warriors.
Ignits also fuel the mer-snake Cacao—fuel him with an irresistible desire to filch the glowing stones.
When Cacao botches a theft from a notorious ignit cartel, his chaotic escape leaves him chained to their prisoner: a self-proclaimed hero with a hidden stash of ignits so large, Cacao would never need to steal again. He’s determined to get his hands on it, even if that means guiding her through the mist-laden swamps he’s exiled from, tracked by scheming poachers and a desperate cartel leader.
But the selfish and the self-righteous can only flee together for so long before something snaps…
Return to Our Bloody Pearl’s steampunk-inspired world of merfolk in this fun, fast-paced adventure with a hate-to-love romance, a boat-load of sass, and even more heart.
And here’s the ominous cover, designed by Laya Rose!
Want a little taste of the book? Here’s a brief excerpt!
“How do you know this stuff?” Thais asks.
With a shrug, I lie out along the deck, my tail still twisted up in the driver’s seat. I tug my ignit out of my necklace to rub it before I sign, “I like rocks.”
The gentle lap of the peaceful Murk water vibrates against the side of the boat, small animals romping through the trees around us. Thais stares at me, her expression a crinkled mess. Then her chest shudders violently.
I bolt upright, half-annoyed and—well, fully annoyed, and not the least bit worried that the poison in her veins might be giving her some kind of spasm again. “It’s true. I just like rocks, okay.”
“No—I—” She keeps quaking, and it finally hits me that the vibration might be laughter. “I think it’s funny. You say you just like rocks while wearing a rock necklace, playing with a rock, traveling through the Murk to get more rocks. Your entire life revolves around rocks. Of course you would know so much about ignits.”
“Fuck off, boat shit,” I grumble. “I can love rocks if I want to.”
“I think it’s nice, Cacao.” She brushes her wiry curls back, tucking her feet beneath her legs. “You have something that means a lot to you. Most people go their entire lives and never find a passion like that.” Her hands lower, and she raps out a rhythm against the center seating block. She repeats it three times before her words finally sink in.
“You’re the only one who feels that way.”
Thais pokes me in the shoulder. “Hey now, I never said I approved of your actions. It’s nice—good—that you love something. It’s not nice that your love hurts other people.”
I roll my eyes. “That’s called greed.”
Her cheeks puff out and she shakes her head. “Fungus brain.”
Danny Bryn is a queer, disabled, non-binary speculative fiction author of the liberal Jesus-freak variety. When not writing, they conduct infectious disease surveillance in their hometown of San Diego, where they enjoy basking in the Santa Ana winds, hiking the brush-heavy slopes, and eating too many tacos. Once Stolen is their second book in the These Treacherous Tides universe.
Brace yourself for an extreeeemely killer lineup, because that’s what you’re getting with Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, along with, you know, the the titular tales. Coming to you in October 2021 from Neon Hemlock Press, Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness is a speculative anthology edited by dave ring of queer witches, infinite darkness and the knife edge between the sacred and the profane.
Unfettered Hexes asks you to sling salt in a circle, call the corners, and breathe life into the unutterable cadences that call forth the void. Find your coven, craft new rituals and hex your enemies.
dave ring is a queer editor and writer of speculative fiction living in Washington, DC. He is the publisher and managing editor of Neon Hemlock Press, and the co-editor of Baffling Magazine. He is also a chair emeritus of the OutWrite LGBTQ Book Festival.
He is the editor of the upcoming anthology Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness (Neon Hemlock Press, 2021) as well as Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was (Mason Jar Press, 2018) and Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die (Neon Hemlock Press, 2020).
Vampires are definitely back in YA, though the rep has certainly changed up since the Bella and Edward days! Case in point: The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl, coming September 14th from Page Street! You can read more about the book and author in this conversation, but first, you must check out this blurb and cover…
Getting over Your Vampire Ex is as Easy as Killing Him and Stealing His Girlfriend
Holly Liddell has been stuck with crimped hair since 1987 when she agreed to let her boyfriend, Elton, turn her into a vampire. But when he ditches her at a gas station a few decades into their eternity together, she realizes that being young forever actually means working graveyard shifts at Taco Bell, sleeping in seedy motels, and being supernaturally compelled to follow your ex from town to town—at least until Holly meets Elton’s other exes.
It seems that Holly isn’t the only girl Elton seduced into this wretched existence. He turned Ida in 1921, then Rose in 1954, and he abandoned them both before Holly was even born. Now Rose and Ida want to kill him before he can trick another girl into eternal adolescence, and they’ll need Holly’s help to do it. And once Holly starts falling for Elton’s vulnerable new conquest, Parker, she’ll do anything to save her.
To kill Elton for good, Holly and her friends will have to dig up their pasts, rob a bank, and reconcile with the people they’ve hurt in their search for eternal love. And to win the girl, Holly will have to convince Parker that she’s more than just Elton’s crazy ex—even though she is trying to kill him.
“A fast-paced and empowering thrill ride guaranteed to get your blood pumping.” — Caleb Roehrig, author of The Fell of Dark(speaking of queer vampire YA…)
And here’s the retro-Gothic cover, illustrated by Mercedes deBellard and designed by Kylie Alexander for Page Street Publishing!
Sonia Hartl is the author of Not Your #Lovestory and Have a Little Faith in Me (Page Street), which received a starred review in BookPage and earned nominations for the Georgia Peach Book Award, YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, and ALA’s Rise: A Feminist Book Project List. She’s a member of SCBWI and the Managing Director for Pitch Wars 2020. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s enjoying pub trivia, marathoning Disney movies, or taking walks outside in the fall. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI, with her husband and two daughters. Follow her on Twitter @SoniaHartl1.
I am so excited to have today’s guest on the site, because this is seriously a project unlike any I’ve ever seen. Major Detours by Zachary Sergi is an interactive YA novel releasing from Running Press on September 7th, 2021, and today we’re not only revealing the cover, but we’re giving away three galleys with a different beautiful cover, and, because I had to know WTF it means that it’s an interactive YA novel, I asked Zach to share a little more about the process of making this happen!
But first, the book:
It’s the summer before college and four best friends—Amelia, Chase, Cleo, and Logan—are on the first leg of their road trip inspired by the unique tarot deck that Amelia inherited from her grandmother. However, their trip full of visiting occult shops, bonding, and sightseeing quickly takes a major detour when they discover that their tarot deck is more valuable—and coveted—than they could’ve ever imagined. Suddenly pursued by collectors who are after the legendary “lost” work of an infamous cult-following artist, the four friends will discover the fortunes that await those who unearth the deck’s four missing cards.
As the reader, you’ll get to make actual choices to further the friends’ road trip adventure in this first-of-its-kind interactive novel. Will you help the main characters, Amelia and Chase, learn and grow? How will you navigate Amelia’s steamy budding romances and overcome the challenges facing Chase and Logan’s queer-teen relationship? Will you uncover the mysteries of the tarot deck? The choices are yours to make!
Major Detours is more than the branching-path books from your childhood. Instead, this fresh format bridges the gap between nostalgic choose-your-own-adventure and the modern style of digital interactive fiction, with choices that always lead you forward in the story and feature four diverse, queer characters navigating relationships and self-discovery. In Major Detours, the reader can interactively engage in two queer romances (from 2 alternating POVs), between the challenges facing a teen cis-male monogomous long-term relationship and a budding discovery of pansexual and nonbinary identities.
And because I cannot keep this epic cover from you any longer:
**Art by Karl Mountford | Design by Marissa Raybuck**
And, as promised, here’s Zachary Sergi to talk about the creation and inspiration of this novel!
As with any novel, the links in the chain that led to the creation of Major Detours could take us decades back, but I’ll start us more recently: after years of writing digital interactive fiction novels for Choice of Games (Heroes Rise and Versus, which have found the most devoted and lovely readerships) and almost selling two TV pilots (one about a youth cult and another about tarot cards—sound familiar?), I decided to focus my energy on returning to my very first dream: writing and publishing a print novel.
That story spans several years (and includes writing a more straightforward YA supernatural horror novel), but this intention ultimately put me on the path to meeting my agent, Lucy Carson, and eventually my editor at Running Press Kids, Britny Brooks-Perilli. It turns out Britny had read my novels for Choice of Games and wanted to know if I was interested in adapting my unique style of interactive fiction for print.
Of course, the answer was yes. Though really, I had never set out to write interactive fiction. The first Heroes Rise came about similarly: a manager asked if I’d pitch Choice of Games as one of my first opportunities out of college (this was before iPhones had become popularized, so writing a novel that would live as an app for a brand-new publishing company was…a leap of faith, to be sure). As it turns out, like many others, I’m uniquely suited to write interactive fiction, having made up RPG games and stories my whole life (with my ever-growing action figure collection). As RuPaul often says, sometimes you have to let the dream dream you. I always dreamed of being a writer—and as the universe would have it, I’m meant to be an interactive writer.
Needless to say I was very up for the challenge of adapting the complex, coded style of modern IF for print. Britny and I then embarked on a very non-traditional process—perhaps fitting for a very non-traditional print debut. Britny (who has turned out to be my creative soulmate) pitched me a concept: road trip with a potential genre twist. I then pitched tarot cards, a subject I had spent lots of time researching and knew had hidden depths not reflected in pop culture yet. We talked style, then I drafted a full proposal, complete with a sample chapter and a totally new interactive format—one designed to feel as reader-friendly as possible.
After many months of additional drafts and conversations, Britny’s team approved the novel. After years of work, I had arrived at this dream-come-true destination—by taking lots of unexpected detours. But now I actually had to write this novel we had proposed…
Interactive fiction was born out of the interactive novels of the 80s and 90s: most think of the Choose Your Own Adventure line, but I actually grew up reading the Goosebumps: Reader Beware…You Choose The Scare line (I even tried building my own interactive slasher novel in the 3rd grade…so again, detour or destiny?) The novels written for Choice of Games, however, are all grown up: with sophisticated plots and characters, including complicated choices that are tracked by built-in coding and statistics (born out of early adventure video games). How were Britny and I going to replicate this digital/app-driven medium for print?
With lots of creativity, it turns out. The format we invented for Major Detours has three cornerstones. First: a more novelistic style. The original interactive print novels are what we call “bushy,” with lots of short story branches that end quickly and jump all over the book, then send you back to the beginning. In Major Detours, the choices always lead you forward and follow the spine of a linear plot—plus there are callbacks to choices you’ve made along the journey.
This leads us to the second cornerstone: a reading guide in the backmatter, where you can write in your choices using keywords. This unique system keeps track of your choices in a simple way, but once finished reading, you can then plug your choice-keywords into several reader personality profiles. Of course, the choices you make further the plot and branch scenes, but primarily these choices focus on shaping the interior lives of the two protagonists: defining their relationships, their struggles, and their beliefs. In doing so, you also build your own personality profile, choice by choice.
Third, the tone here is no longer middle-grade adventure; instead, we’re dealing with contemporary YA characters and their emotional, steamy, drama-filled coming-of-ages. Oh, and our teen crew is on a spooky tarot adventure, on the run from a maybe-cult of thrilling antagonists and answering deep questions about the meaning of life via the tarot. Some choice themes you will encounter: Can you predict the future or is there no such thing as destiny? Are spirits real or do we only ever haunt ourselves? How can long-term relationships survive going to college on opposite coasts? Is it better to fall for the mysterious good one or the seductive bad boy? Perhaps most importantly, these themes offer several queer romances to navigate… but saying any more about these would definitely mean spoilers for the alternate endings.
The Choices Are Yours
Interactivity, road trips, the tarot, cults, spirituality, queer joy—welcome to Major Detours, an interactive novel unlike any you’ve read before. We truly cannot wait to share it with all you readers!
How cool is that??
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.
The galleys for Major Detours actually have a different cover, though it’s every bit as striking, and the Running Press team is giving three of them away here!
To enter, just leave a comment below! Let us know what you think about the cover, tell us about a choice you made (or wish you’d made), tell us your favorite game, or just acknowledge that this is really damn cool. Giveaway is open to U.S. recipients age 18 and over, and winner will be selected on Thursday, April 1st. Void where prohibited, and please allow for shipping delays due to *gestures around at the world*.
As a huge fan of Zack Smedley’s debut, Deposing Nathan, I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of his sophomore novel, Tonight We Rule the World, which releases from Page Street on October 5th, 2021! Here’s the story:
Owen Turner is a boy of too many words. For years, they all stayed inside his head and he barely spoke—until he met Lily. Lily, the girl who gave him his voice, helped him come out as bi, and settle into his ASD diagnosis. But everything unravels when someone reports Owen’s biggest secret to the school: that he was sexually assaulted at a class event.
As officials begin interviewing students to get to the bottom of things, rumors about an assault flood the school hallways. No one knows it happened to Owen, and he’s afraid of what will happen if his name gets out. He’s afraid that his classmates will call him a word he can’t stand—“victim.” He’s afraid his father, a tough-as-nails military vet, will resort to extreme methods to hunt down the name of who did it. And he’s afraid that when Lily finds out, she’ll take their relationship to a dark, dangerous place to keep Owen quiet. Then, one day, Owen’s fears all come true. And it will take everything he’s got to escape the explosion intact.
Heartbreaking and hopeful, Tonight We Rule the World is an accessible coming-of-age story that examines identity, voice, and the indelible ways our stories are rewritten by others.
And here’s the haunting, evocative cover, designed by Julia Tyler for Page Street Publishing!
Zack Smedley was born in 1995, in an endearing Southern Maryland county almost no one has heard of. His critically acclaimed debut novel, Deposing Nathan, was a KirkusBest Books of 2019 selection, an ALARainbow List selection, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and winner of the 2019 YA Bi Book Award. Alongside writing, he has a degree in Chemical Engineering from UMBC and currently works within the field. He spends his free time building furniture, baking, programming, screenwriting, and tinkering with electronic systems.
Today on the site I’m thrilled to be helping Michael Nava reveal the cover of the newest book in his award-winning Henry Rios mystery series, Lies With Man, releasing from Bywater Books’ new Amble Press imprint, which is helmed by Nava himself! (More on that later this month!) Lies With Man releases on April 27th, and the author’s sharing more about it here:
Evangelical Christians and right-wing Republicans push a ballot initiative to forcibly quarantine people with the HIV virus in the eighth Henry Rios novel, Lies With Man, by award winning mystery writer, Michael Nava. Set in Los Angeles in 1986, Rios, a gay, Latino criminal defense lawyer, agrees to represent members of a militant gay activist group called QUEER (Queers United to End Erasure and Repression) who are fighting to defeat the ballot measure with civil disobedience. When a fundamentalist church is firebombed, killing its pastor who supported the initiative, Theo Latour, a member of QUEER is arrested for the crime. And Rios suddenly finds himself defending a client facing the death penalty.
But, in the tradition of the best noir novels, and nothing is as it first appears. As Rios delves into the case, shocking secrets emerge about the victim, Rios’s client, QUEER, the highest echelons of the Los Angeles Police Department and the young man Rios falls in love with. Although set 30 years in the past, the themes of Lies With Man – the Christian right’s assault on LGBTQ people, a community overwhelmed by an epidemic, and police misconduct – could have been taken from today’s news. Lies With Man proves again what the Los Angeles Times said about a previous Rios novel: “Nava’s mysteries are set apart by their insight, compassion, and sense of social justice.” Or, in words of The New York Times Book Review, “Nava is one of our best.”
And here’s the explosive cover, designed by Ann McMan!
Michael Nava’s Henry Rios crime novels have won seven Lambda Literary awards for gay mystery. He is also the author of The City of Palaces, a historical novel set at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. In 2001, he was awarded the Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award in LGBT literature. He currently serves as the managing editor of Amble Press, an imprint of Bywater Books. Amble Press publishes LGBTQ writers and is particularly interested in publishing queer writers of color.
I’m so excited to be revealing the cover for contemporary f/f romance I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander on the site today! It releases from Sourcebooks on August 3, 2021, and sounds cute as heck, with a cover to match! Here’s the story:
Is a happy ending finally in sight for Hollywood’s favorite scream queen?
Lilah Silver’s a young actress who dreams of climbing out of B-list stardom. She’s been cast as the “final girl” in what could be her breakout performance…but if she wants to prove herself to everyone who ever doubted her, she’s going to need major help along the way.
Noa Birnbaum may be a brilliant makeup artist and special effects whiz-kid, but cracking into the union is more difficult than she imagined. Keeping everyone happy is a full-time job, and she’s already run ragged. And yet when the beautiful star she’s been secretly crushing on admits to fears of her own, Noa vows to do everything in her power to help Lilah shine like never before.
Long hours? Exhausting work? No problem. Together they can take the world by storm…but can the connection forged over long hours in the makeup chair ever hope to survive the glare of the spotlight?
And here’s the adorable cover, designed by Dawn Adams and illustrated by Colleen Reinhart!
But wait, there’s more! We’ve also got an excerpt so you can meet Noa and Lilah ASAP!
Noa leaned in again, filling in one of Lilah’s brows with a pencil. Perched on the edge of the table, Lilah sitting below her in a lower chair, Noa didn’t notice her necklace dislodging itself from between her breasts until she felt the gentle tug on the chain and the brush of fingers against her collarbone.
Stifling a little yelp, Noa sat back, worried that she’d invaded Lilah’s space more than she should have—only it was the little six-pointed star on the delicate silver chain that Lilah balanced on her fingertips.
“Sorry,” Lilah apologized, casting her eyes up to meet Noa’s gaze through her dark-tinted lashes. “You’re Jewish? I guessed, when we were introduced, but so many people around here use stage names that I wasn’t sure if it was okay to ask.”
A faint and familiar chill prickled the back of Noa’s neck and she forced it back. There was no reason at all to be worried about what Lilah might think. There was no danger here. Noa couldn’t possibly be the first Jewish person she knew—not in a city like LA, not in an industry like theirs. Unless that was why Lilah had been cool and standoffish, and it wasn’t about Noa’s stupid runaway mouth at all…
All of those half-formed thoughts ricocheted through her head in the instant between Lilah’s question and when Noa had to answer, and when she nodded, it was a little more guarded than before. “Yeah. ‘Noa’ is a girl’s name in Hebrew.” Okay, that was fine. No recoil, only a growing smile that Noa wasn’t sure how to parse. It did give her the chance to go on the attack before Lilah could do or say anything awful. “So’s yours, for the record. It means—”
Lilah nodded. “Night. I know. I used my Hebrew name for my stage name. It was easier to pick something that was already kind of familiar.”
Which led to Noa’s next major derail of the day. Would she ever find some kind of solid ground to plant herself on around this girl? “You’re Jewish? It doesn’t say that on your IMD—” She snapped her mouth shut before she could finish the sentence.
“If you say ‘funny, you don’t look it,’ I may just kick you in the teeth,” Lilah joked, her body very still and a hint of a familiar sort of wariness threading itself through her voice now that Noa knew enough to listen for it.
“Not a chance,” Noa promised. “For some strange reason no one ever tells me that,” she added with a flash of a grin and a wink. “Polish red?”
Lilah nodded. “And Russian blond.” She was thawing all around the edges now, her wariness gone and replaced with an almost shy smile. Noa’s heart dipped down into her stomach and twirled around her chest, leaving her dizzy.
“Do you keep?”
Lilah’s cheeks flushed and she glanced away. “Sort of? Not Shabbat or anything. There weren’t any synagogues in the town where I grew up. There’s one in Petosky, but that’s like half an hour away and we didn’t really go except for big events. My family does Passover, somewhat,” Lilah offered up with a little laugh. “My dad really likes matzah as a snack, so he buys it year-round. Except for that week.”
“Only a little backwards.” There wouldn’t be any judgment coming from her—there were at least five hundred of the 613 commandments that Noa ignored on a regular basis. (Maybe more, depending on how you interpreted the one about gossip.)
Lilah ducked her head and laughed again. “Only a little! But it works for him.” The little gesture broke through the shell of perfection, but the glow of her aura never dimmed. She was very human, suddenly approachable, and when she met Noa’s eyes again, Noa felt a pull start somewhere in her midsection. Ah, crap.
Lilah turned at the sound of her name and the moment—if it had been a moment at all—was gone. “Here!”
“We’re ready for you. Time for last looks, wardrobe, and makeup, and then we’re on to scene fourteen.”
“Back to the salt mines,” Lilah joked, rising to her feet. She made a little pirouette and fluttered her eyelashes at Noa, completely unaware of the effect she was having on Noa’s blood pressure. “Do I have your approval?”
Noa swallowed hard and found her voice. “Yes, yes you do. Your makeup, I mean.” She scrambled to pull up the continuity photo as an excuse to take her eyes off Lilah and regroup. “Looks good,” she said briskly, and gave her a thumbs-up.
Lilah sketched off a salute, paused to let the wardrobe assistant tweak her shirt hem and the hairdresser to replace a bobby pin, then headed for her next mark.
Noa let out a long, slow breath and tried to force her adrenaline to stand down. Her skin still tingled where Lilah’s fingers had brushed against her, and she swore she could smell the sweet remnants of Lilah’s shampoo. Stupid Denise and her stupid reassignments. Noa would have been safe if she’d been able to keep a little bit of distance between them, but now? A few more days like this one and she was going to spontaneously combust. All they’d find of her by the end of week three would be a little pile of ashes in the shape of a girl, topped with a silver star.
Jennet Alexander has been a game designer, a teacher, a singer, a Riot Grrrl, a terrible guitar player, and an adequate crew tech and department head for both stage and screen. She grew up queer in the heart of a large Jewish community in Toronto, Canada, and now lives in a much smaller one with her partner, two kids, and two cats. Most of her wardrobe is still black. Noa and Lilah is her first rom-com.