Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sneak Peek at Spy Your Heart Out

It's launch week, and I'm thrilled with how it's going so far. Have you bought your copy of Spy Your Heart Out yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

I'm loving hearing from readers as they finish it! So get reading!

***

Royal is still pissed at me for crashing the team's mission in St. Petersburg, but if he thinks I'm going to stand down while he takes my crew, my haphazard family, to Palermo to rescue my sister, he's lost his touch. Nothing can stop me from getting Clarity back, not even having to work uncomfortably close to Starling. Not even the growing attraction I feel to him, that usurper. Not even the fear that Clarity has finally found something I can't give her--roots.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Spy Your Heart Out is Out Today!

It's launch day!

If I had a trumpet, I'd be playing it. Spy Your Heart Out is my sixth book, but I'm just as excited as if it were my first (maybe more so, because I get to share it with you!) I truly loved writing this book, and I can't wait to hear from you once you're done reading it! Send me an email. Find me on Facebook. Strike up a conversation in Instagram. I don't care the method you use; I just want to chat with you about it. I try to respond to every single message, so don't hesitate. :)

In the mean time, I'll be celebrating by eating yummy food and dancing around the house like a meerkat in a hula outfit (they're so cute!)

Lastly, I'd like to thank each and every one of you, because without your presence and support, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun to be an author. All of my readers make this absolutely worth it. You rock!



Sunday, March 3, 2019

Spy Your Heart Out Comes Out TOMORROW!!


I can't believe this baby drops tomorrow.

I am itching to release it so all of you fantastic people can read it. There are so many questions! What's happened to Clarity? Will Loveday and Starling finally become friends? How many more secrets is Royal keeping? Hehe. I get excited just thinking about talking it through with you guys.

In the intervening hours (HOURS! Eek!) I wanted to give you another sneak peek.
***
“I could totally sneak into a party,” I say, voice casual. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
Royal levies his gaze at me. “I know you’re capable, Loveday, but I’d still rather have a valid reason for being there. The last thing I want is for you to be caught crashing a party at a mobster’s house.”
“Who says I would get caught? I haven’t yet,” I fire back.
“I could go with her,” Lotus says. “Keep an eye on her.”
“Says the guy whose been locked in an arts and crafts closet!” I say, deadpan.
Julep snickers at this. “I love that story.”
“It was one time!” Lotus says, laughing. “Can’t a guy live down his only mistake?”
“Not a chance,” I say, grinning.
Starling leans into me. “I need to hear about this closet.”
I smile up at him, bobbing my head. “We—”
“Focus, everyone,” Royal says, his voice raised to be heard over the rest of us.
“Sorry,” I mutter to Starling. “I’ll tell you later.”




Thursday, February 28, 2019

Book Three of the Ivory Tower Spies Series Comes Out in Just Four Days!

Good afternoon!

Can you believe that today is the last day of February? I'm amazed that 2019 is going by so quickly. We're already staring down the barrel of March. Is time flying for you, too?

As I mentioned last time, my parents are visiting this week. They usually bring lots of yummy treats and desserts with them to share with us, but this time they brought something better: gourmet breakfast meats. My dad and a friend went to a famous butcher's shop before he and my mom came to visit, and purchased some delicious bacon and sausage. I'm in heaven. I bet Lotus would be dying of contentment, too, being the foodie that he is.

Spy Your Heart Out comes out in four days! I can't believe that either. I'm hard at work on book four. It's full of action and close calls. Our spy crew get into quite an adventure. :D

In the mean time, here's another sneak peek from Spy Your Heart Out. Enjoy!

***

     Royal’s head dips. His eyes skim the ground before rising to meet mine. “It’s been a long time since I was a teenager, but I still remember wanting to be close to someone. I know you must feel that—”
     “Dad! It’s not about that. It was just a kiss. Nothing more.”
     His expression softens, and my heart warms. “I’m trying to protect you,” he says, his voice soft. “Sometimes I forget that you’re still so young. That all of this, it’s not normal for people your age.” His voice hitches in his throat. “Do you even want this life? Because you can get out. Go to college. Get a regular job. Do normal adult things.”
     I shake my head, smiling. “You’re forgetting that I’m the one who forced you to let me in. Remember? Two eleven-year-olds scooping your bump and grab from right under your nose?”
     He smiles at this. “I was so proud of both of you, I couldn’t see straight.”
     It’s been a long while since I’ve heard those words from him. “Thanks, Dad.”
     He puts an arm around me and squeezes gently. “Let’s go back, shall we?”
     “Yeah.”
     We turn and meander in the direction we came.
     I lean into him. “Dad?”
     “Yes?”
     “We’re getting Clarity back from those brainless toads.”
     A half-smile cracks his serious features. “Yes, we are.”






Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Spy Your Heart Out Releases in Just Six Days!


My parents are here visiting this week, and it's so nice! My girls love their Gran and Grandpa, and my hubby and I tend to get lots of household tasks done when they're here. They're super handy, so we learn a lot!

I'm also making the final touches on book three of Loveday's story, which comes out soon. I can't believe it. I had to pinch myself just now to make sure this is really happening. If someone had told me five years ago that I would write a five book series about teenage spies, I wouldn't have believed them. I've loved spies since I saw Harriet the Spy in elementary school, so writing a series about them is way too much fun.

I'm really proud of book three, and I hope you'll love it too!



***


Completing this mission will push her to the limits.
Loveday is on thin ice with the team after crashing their operation. But when her sister is kidnapped, Loveday insists on being included in the rescue. Finding the balance between being a good sister and a good spy has never been harder.
The situation becomes even more complicated when Loveday is paired with Starling for an undercover job that pulls them closer than ever. Sparks fly, leaving Loveday torn between letting her mind rule, and giving in to her heart.
Loveday will do whatever is required to get her sister back, but she may lose her heart in the process.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

It's Giveaway Time - Win an Ebook Copy of Julie Moffett's White Knights

Good morning!

It's been quite a while since I did a giveaway, so I figured it was time. I like to keep you lovely people happy. :)

Enter here to win a copy of the first book in Julie Moffett's White Knights series:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/1fd029471632578d


Thursday, January 10, 2019

LivePortraits of the Ivory Tower Spies, Loveday, Clarity, Julep, Lotus, Vale, Starling, and Haru

An author friend of mine (Ginna Moran) told me about the LivePortrait app, so of course I stayed up way too late making portraits for most of the Ivory Tower Spies. I haven't done Royal or Darnay yet, but here are the rest of the team members. :)
Brash, fearless, Loveday
Disguise whizz and gentle soul, Clarity
Driving expert and jokester, Lotus

Comms expert and budding field agent, Vale

Sassy and bold, Julep

Confident, cool, Starling

Perky hacker, Haru


**Don't forget: if you buy the book between now and January 14th, send the receipt to ivorytowerspies@gmail.com and get bonus launch goodies, including confidential CIA files for each of the Ivory Tower Spies, and the very first scene I ever wrote for the series. It's not included in the books, so you can't get it anywhere else!

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Eyes of Spies is Out Today - Get Your Copy on Amazon!

The Eyes of Spies is out in the world!

Book two of the Ivory Tower Spies series is ready to be read! One of my early reviewers sent me this message, and it sure made me grin:

"Finished your book last night. It was really good! More of a cliffhanger this time, and now I have to wait for book 3. :( "

She's right! There is a cliffhanger at the end of book two, but the story is so gripping I know you won't mind. Plus, I've included the first two chapters of book three as a sneak peek at the end of book two, which will help the time go faster until you can read book three.


Why should you buy book two now? Because if you do, I'll send you the bonus launch goodies I've been talking about. What are they again? Exclusive, confidential case files on Loveday and her crew, including a psych eval, strengths, weaknesses, and more. Plus, you'll get a bonus that isn't included in the books: the very first scene I ever wrote in the Ivory Tower Spies world. All you have to do to get these launch goodies is purchase the book on Amazon and send me the receipt at ivorytowerspies@gmail.com between now and January 14th. I'll make sure you get your extras!

Happy reading!

- Emily

Thursday, January 3, 2019

For Your Ears Only Sale (Limited Time!) and Book Two Launch Goodies!

Hi friends!

When I got my editor's notes on The Eyes of Spies, I was thrilled. Why? Because she said it was EVEN BETTER than the first book. Those words were music to my ears. I was absolutely ecstatic!

And last night I got the first review on book two from an Advance reader, and here's what he said:


I was so excited I may have danced won my hallway! (Ask my husband. It's the truth.)

I'm celebrating launching book two (in four days!) by putting book one, For Your Ears Only, on sale for only 99 pennies for this week only. If you haven't gotten a copy yet, now is the time to do it.


Okay, and now for the bonus goodies! For next week only, from January 7 to January 14, if you send me a receipt for The Eyes of Spies, I'll send you confidential personnel files for Royal, Loveday, and the rest of their team. You'll find insights into each character, strengths, weaknesses, and more. I'll also send you an exclusive look at the very first scene I wrote for the Ivory Tower Spies series (and let me tell you, there are spoilers in there!)

All you have to do is forward your receipt to ivorytowerspies@gmail.com, and I'll make sure you get your bonus goodies.

Four more days to wait, readers, and then you can jump back into Loveday's story!

Happy reading,

- Emily

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Eyes of Spies Cover Reveal

It's cover reveal time!





In two weeks, you'll be able to start reading!
I'm am so excited to tell you that book two in the Ivory Tower Spies series is being released on January 7th, 2019. It's perfect for fans of Ally Carter's Heist Society series, Karen M. McManus's novel One of Us is Lying, or Brittany Cavallaro's Charlotte Holmes series.

What's the book about, you ask? Here's the synopsis:

Spying just got more complicated.

After her first mission ends in a spectacular disaster, Loveday finds herself reassigned to a mundane hotel job outside the Ivory Tower. She and Royal are so frustrated with each other they're barely speaking. AS if that wasn't punishment enough, her boss adds a new member to the team--Starling, an attractive, highly-trained operative whose skills might just make Loveday obsolete.

When classified government software is stolen by a dangerous hacker, Loveday and Starling must work together to stop the program from falling into the wrong hands. But in the world of intrigue, nothing is as it seems--and not all ghosts of her past stay dead.


Friends, I loved writing this book, and I know you're going to love reading it!

Stay tuned. In a couple of days I'll email you with details of a special launch-week sale I'm doing, as well as how you can get behind-the-scenes goodies.

Happy reading,

- Emily

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Coming Cyber Monday - The Walk-in Agent

Coming out Cyber Monday, November 26th!

Hi Ivory Tower spies fans! I've heard from quite a few readers who love Julep, and I have great news. The Walk-in Agent, a short story told from Julep's point of view, comes out this Monday. It'll tide you over until book two in the Ivory Tower Spies series drops on January 7, 2019.

And as a special treat, I'm including the first scene below.

Caution: If you haven't finished reading For Your Ears Only, do not read this sneak peek. There are spoilers here!


***

Royal’s voice is ragged when I answer my phone. “Loveday isn’t here. Did she tell you where she was going?”
     My brow furrows in surprise. “What? No, I haven’t heard from her.” Granted, I’ve only been back in London for a few hours, which is hardly enough time for Loveday to miss me and reach out.
A soft curse carries through the phone line. Then, Royal continues. “She disappeared during our layover in Hong Kong. I hoped she’d gone back to England to see you, but if she’s not there…”
     “Can’t you use the GPS function in her watch to track her?”
     “She’s turned it off.”
     This admission doesn’t surprise me. Loveday seems like a young woman who, if the desire struck to get off the grid for a few days would know exactly how to do it.
     I look out the window of my hotel room, down onto the square, and my eyes linger over the bright green grass. “I know where she is.” The confidence in my tone surprises me, but I know the words are true the instant they leave my mouth.
     Guilt and anguish. I had seen them in Loveday the moment she came into the hotel lobby, that last day in Malaysia. In my experience, they’re two sides of one coin—the unfathomable pain of losing someone in the line of duty. Only Loveday wore it differently than I had. When Sean died, the pain filled me up, like a rising water line during a torrential downpour, and I let it wash me away. But Loveday, instead of allowing the pain to fill her with despair, chose to get angry. The steely gaze she gave Royal that day had sent a shiver through me. She wasn’t someone to be messed with; she made that abundantly clear when she got out her wireless headphones and put them in her ears, a move which effectively smothered any response Royal may have given her.
     My voice is sure when I say, “She’s in Alabama.”

Monday, October 29, 2018

For Your Ears Only is Out Today!


If you love strong, independent women, sibling relationships, found families, close-knit friend groups, lots of food, car chases, close calls, and a bit of snark, you'll love this book.

Start Reading!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Declassified Profile: Character Profile on Julep

(Sanaa Lathan)

Codename: Julep


Birth Year/Age: 2009, 23 years old

Description: 5’6”, medium brown skin with hair in long box braids, has a penchant for brightly colored skirt suits and high heels, under which she conceals her weapons

Temperament: Julep appears to be demure and business-like when you first meet her, but once she warms up to you she is warm and loud. She is confident in her looks and often uses her pretty exterior as a way of tricking her opponents into underestimating her.


Declassified: Character Profile of Royal

(Viggo Mortensen)
Codename: Royal

Birth Year/Age: 1982, 50 years old

Description: 5’10”, lightly tanned skin, worry lines on forehead, mid-length brown hair that’s graying at the temples, piercing blue eyes

Temperament: Royal has a solemn but not unpleasant demeanor. He enjoys being around the teenagers he considers his children, but often feels the need to remind them of the seriousness of their job. The weight of what they do bothers him, so he spends most of his down time alone in his office. Royal doesn’t talk more than necessary, and almost never loses control of his emotions. Sometimes, he regrets getting his daughters, and later Lotus and Vale, involved in spy work because of how dangerous it can be.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Declassified: Character Profile on Vale, and His Aesthetic

(Thomas Beaudoin)

Codename: Vale


Birth Year/Age: 2014, 18 years old

Description: 6', dark brunette hair worn long, green eyes, cleft chin

Temperament: Asset is grounded and practical. He has grown and thrived in his role as the team's communications officer, keeping tabs on all agents in the field during missions. However, his goal is to complete training to become a field agent. To that end, he still lacks training it several key areas. Vale is not good at keeping secrets, and instead tends to sulk when he is forced to keep something from a team member. It is doubtful that Vale would be successful at undercover work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Declassified: Character Profile on Clarity, and Her Aesthetic

(Sophia Loren)

Codename: Clarity


Birth year/Age: 2015, 17 years old

Description: 5'8", olive skin, chin length wavy brunette hair, thick build but flat chested, large, wide-set brown eyes, long nose, thick, dark eyebrows, full lips

Temperament: Asset is graceful, nurturing, and not to be underestimated. While Loveday's strength is overt, Clarity's flows underneath the surface. She often provides a supportive foundation for her team leader, Loveday to stand on, whether that be through a steadying hand or a calm demeanor. 



Monday, October 22, 2018

Declassified: Character Profile of Loveday, and Her Aesthetic




Codename: Loveday


Birth Year/Age: 2015, 17 years old

Description: 5'2", fair skin with freckles, bleached blonde pixie cut, built like a gymnast

Temperament: Asset is strong, independent, and likes to be in control. She prefers to call the shots at all times, and bucks when things don't go her way. She is a natural leader, improved by the training provided by her handler, Royal. Asset loves her family deeply and will do anything for them. This may become a liability.




Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sneak Peek and Preorder Link for For Your Ears Only

Hi lovely readers!

I can't believe it, but For Your Ears Only goes live in only eight days, on October 29th. I started writing it in May, took a break to write something else, but then came back to it because the story was bursting to come out. I've spent hours and hours with these characters, writing their words and actions and getting to know them. Finally, (finally!) it's time to share them with you: Loveday, Clarity, Lotus, Vale, Royal, and Julep.

During this week leading up to the launch on October 29th, I'll be sharing a little bit about each character and an aesthetic of images that reminds me of each character. Come back tomorrow for a profile on the main character in the Ivory Tower Spies series, Loveday.

But for now, enjoy this sneak peek!

***

My pulse quickens as I eye the lack of space around the Lexus. “Guys, I don’t know if I can get into the car.” My eyes study the available space. There’s no way I can get in through any of the car’s doors, but there is a three foot gap between the vehicle’s roof and the ceiling of the shipping container. “Wait. I think I have a way in.” I hop onto the hood of the car and climb onto the roof. I curse under my breath. The sunroof is shut tight.“Loveday?” Royal asks.
“Give me a second.” I take my laser glass cutter out of my belt and start etching the glass in a wide circle, big enough that I can fit through.
“We’ve got company,” Lotus says, his voice sounding stressed. “They’re coming out of the office.”
“How much time do I have?” I ask, still working the glass cutter.
“Maybe a minute.”
I close the circle I’ve etched in the glass, shove the cutter back in my utility belt, and swivel around so my feet are above the glass. I stomp down once, twice, and the glass gives way.
“Loveday, get out of there.” Lotus’s voice is urgent.
I’m on my stomach now, lowering myself into the cabin of the car. “I’m almost there.”
“There’s not enough time. Get out of there. Now!” He’s speaking louder now.
If he doesn’t quiet down, they’ll hear him.
“Loveday!”
“Give me a second.” I take my laser glass cutter out of my belt and start etching the glass in a wide circle, big enough that I can fit through.“We’ve got company,” Lotus says, his voice sounding stressed. “They’re coming out of the office.”“How much time do I have?” I ask, still working the glass cutter.“Maybe a minute.”I close the circle I’ve etched in the glass, shove the cutter back in my utility belt, and swivel around so my feet are above the glass. I stomp down once, twice, and the glass gives way.“Loveday, get out of there.” Lotus’s voice is urgent.I’m on my stomach now, lowering myself into the cabin of the car. “I’m almost there.”“There’s not enough time. Get out of there. Now!” He’s speaking louder now.If he doesn’t quiet down, they’ll hear him.“Loveday!”


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Giveaway for a Signed Advance Reader Copy of For Your Ears Only


Hi everyone! 
My upcoming novel, For Your Ears Only, releases in just 19 days,
so I decided to do a giveaway. Enter to win a signed ARC copy. 

Details:
- Open internationally
- Must be 13+
- Giveaway ends 10/17/2018 and winner will be picked at Noon.

Here's the link:



May the odds be ever in your favor!


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

For Your Ears Only Cover Reveal and Request for ARC Readers

Hi everyone!

I've been hard at work on a new book, called For Your Ears Only. It'll be the first in a series about teen spies, and I'm having a blast writing it!

***


***

Keep your clients close, and your teammates closer.

Loveday’s an international teenager of mystery, or at least she’s about to be. When a private citizen tasks her team with their first international espionage mission, Loveday is thrilled. Her crew is ready. Well, mostly ready.

But when their mission fizzles, Loveday starts tracking another lead: the origins of her adopted sister’s biological family. What they find in Palermo stops them short: one of her teammates has done something they never suspected.

But the real kicker comes when Loveday discovers that he’s not the only one who’s lying, and this time, it puts the lives of her entire team at risk.

Fans of Ally Carter and Pretty Little Liars will love this series!



*Seriously, I will love you forever if you add this book on Goodreads. It's one of the absolute best ways you can help an indie author like me!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Get the First Four Chapters of All-American Liars for Free on Instafreebie

Hi everyone! I hope you've picked up a copy of All-American Liars and are loving it. If not, you can read the first four chapters for free by following this link. Let me know what you think!



Friday, May 4, 2018

Chatting with Katie Polen About All-American Liars

Hi everyone! I had the pleasure recently of chatting with a fellow author about All-American Liars, and I'd love for you to check it out. Here's a snippet:

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel/novella/short story?

Oh yes. My first novel, Malignant, took me YEARS to write, but mostly because I kept choosing to do other things instead of writing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

How to Write an Unreliable Narrator

In the last couple of weeks, I've been mulling over an idea: how do I create a narrator who is a flat out liar, but still relatable somehow (yes, Blogger, relatable is a word!)? I want to try to write a story in which the narrator contradicts him or herself constantly, leaving the reader guessing as to the truth of what is happening. Has anyone written or read something like that recently?

Obviously, I turned to Google and came up with some great articles on the subject:

What is an Unreliable Narrator? 1) Why are they unreliable? 2) Why is it important to the story? 3) How noticeable is it?

Seven Types of Unreliable Narrators: Is your narrator lying out of self-preservation? Is he or she a psychopath? Is he or she simply heavily biased in some way? This is a great starting point.

Using an Unreliable Narrator:  The narrator must provide information, but it doesn't necessarily have to be correct. Dun dun dun!

8 Tips to Writing Unreliable Narrators: Use secondary characters to hint at or highlight the narrator's unreliability.

Truth and Lies in Fiction: Flesh out your character. And remember not to cheat the reader.

There are a million more articles on this topic, but these ones are the ones that stood out to me. They've each got different tips for writing such a narrator, so I'm saving them here for later. :)

Monday, April 23, 2018

All-American Liars is Out Today!

The day has finally arrived! All-American Liars is available for purchase as an ebook, paperback, or hardback. Yay! I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and encouragement. It's going to be a great Monday. :D



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Meet the Characters of My Newest Book, All-American Liars

Good morning! All-American Liars comes out in two days and I'm so excited. I've worked really hard on it and I hope all of you lovely readers enjoy it! It's got drama, romance, secrets, reveals, female friendship, sibling relationships, and more!

Meet Annie: Brave. Intelligent. A little bit terrified.
 Meet Tristan: Honest. Charming. Scrambling for answers.
Meet Wren: Snarky. Curious. Increasingly suspicious.
Meet Rich: Hard working. Schemer. Hopeless in the romance department.

Aren't these illustrations fabulous? Evan at Ecstatic Images did them for me, and I'm so happy with them. :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Get an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of All-American Liars

Can't wait until April 23? Me either! So...



This weekend I'll send out ARC copies to readers. I hope you love reading it as much as I did writing it!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Cover Reveal for Upcoming YA Novel, All-American Liars

Hi everyone! I'm so excited to share this cover with you. It's gorgeous. Mariah Sinclair did a fantastic job on it. Don't you think?

P.S. Will you pretty please add the book on Goodreads? It would help me immensely to get the word out to other great readers just like you! :)


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sneak Peek at All-American Liars Chapter 2

Hi there lovely readers,

I'm working away at All American Liars with the goal of publishing it in late April. I'm pretty excited and it's hard to wait, so I'm sharing Chapter 2 with you today. :)

If you missed Chapter 1, read it here.

Keep in mind, this hasn't gone through the final proofread, so there may be mistakes in it.

***

Chapter 2


Tristan’s parents were standing in the doorway of Principal Hastings’s office watching him, and neither one looked happy. Tristan’s dad’s face was a blank slate and his mom’s was set with a frown. The police officer who had come to the gym earlier with the principal stood behind Tristan’s parents with arms crossed.
Tristan’s mouth went dry.
Annie put a hand on his arm. “Want me to wait outside?” She glanced toward the door to the hallway, fidgeting as she did so.
Tristan simply looked at her for a moment before shaking his head. “No, it’s okay. Go on home.” He pulled her toward him with his hand still grasping hers and gave her a quick hug. “Call you later.”
Annie gave him a small smile as she backed away. Then she pulled the faux fur-lined hood of her anorak over her head and almost ran down the hall.
Tristan took a deep breath and strode toward Principal Hastings’s office, but his courage failed him and he paused in the doorway. His parents sat in the two wingback chairs opposite Principal Hastings, who leaned against the edge of his desk facing them. The officer moved to stand in the corner of the room behind the desk. He watched with a stoic face as Tristan entered.
The principal stood as Tristan came in. “Have a seat, Tristan.” He motioned toward his desk chair, which sat to the side of the desk rather than behind it.
“I’m fine,” Tristan said as he stood still in the doorway. He’d rather be standing when his parents heard whatever Principal Hastings was about to tell them. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good news.
“Go ahead and close the door.” He gestured toward the office door, which hung wide open to Tristan’s right.
Tristan sighed. “All right.” He closed the door quietly before turning back toward the four adults in the room.
“So, Patrick, what’s this about?” Tristan’s dad asked as he leaned forward. “Why is there an officer here?”
“Yes, what’s going on?” Tristan’s mom asked as she fidgeted with the zipper on her purse. She glanced toward the officer before looking at Tristan. “Surely this officer isn’t here for our Tristan. He’d never do anything illegal.”
Principal Hastings started to speak, but his voice was hoarse. He cleared his throat and tried again, measuring his words as he spoke. “Officer Vaughn is here as a part of our school’s zero tolerance policy. He and another officer inspected the school, using their dogs, in search of illegal substances.” He paused and made eye contact with Tristan, frowning. His face had a gray tinge that made Tristan look away. It was the pall of disappointment. But what could he be disappointed about? Tristan hadn’t ever done any drugs, and he certainly didn’t have any in his car or locker. What in the hell was going on? Tristan’s stomach curled in on itself.
“What are you getting at, Patrick?” Tristan’s mom asked, her hands now clutching her handbag.
“Laura, I don’t know how to tell you… I’m so disappointed myself…” Principal Hastings spoke slowly as he turned from Tristan to look at Tristan’s parents. “They found steroids in Tristan’s truck.” He leaned toward the cop, who handed him a small plastic bag with a travel-size Rolaids bottle inside, surrounded by a few large white capsules.
Tristan jumped as if he’d been shocked. “What?” exploded out of his mouth. “No way. That’s impossible. I’d never…”
Tristan’s dad jumped out of his seat. “Are you serious? Steroids?” he barked. His body stilled, tense as he turned back to Officer Vaughn. “Am I to assume you got a warrant for my son’s truck?”
Officer Vaughn produced it and showed it to Tristan’s dad. “Judge Collins had a slow day,” he deadpanned.
Color built in Tristan’s dad’s face as he read the page. He let out a “hmph!” before moving to stand directly in front of Tristan. “Son, be honest now. Have you been doping?”
Tristan’s face grew hot. He must be the same shade of red as a cardinal’s feathers. “No. No way. I’d never do that. No way.” He was stunned. How… how could this happen? He had never even laid eyes on steroids, much less taken any. He’d heard whispers about other players using, but not Tristan. How in the hell would there be steroids in his truck? The color drained from Tristan’s face as it dawned on him that someone had to have put the drugs in there. “Someone must have planted them,” he blurted out. “They aren’t mine,” he finished, realizing how lame he sounded.
His dad’s eyebrows shot up as he leaned in close to Tristan’s face. “That’s… hard to believe. Who on earth would put steroids in your truck?”
Tristan couldn’t hold his dad’s gaze. He looked at his mom, who remained seated in the crisp wingback chair.
She was starting to cry. “I never in my wildest dreams imagined that you would take drugs, Tristan. You’re so talented. You don’t need them. I can’t believe it.” She took a tissue out of her purse and dabbed at her eyes.
“I didn’t take them,” Tristan insisted. “I wouldn’t do that. I’m telling you guys. Someone planted them in my truck. It has to be.”
“STOP IT,” Tristan’s dad raised his voice as he glared at him. “If you’re going to make a huge mistake like this, at least own up to it. We’ve raised you better than that.”
Tristan clenched his hands as he stepped toward his dad. “I swear. They aren’t mine. I don’t know how they got in there. You have to believe me.”
His dad put his hand up to silence him. “Have a seat,” he said as he glared at the wall over Tristan’s shoulder, refusing to meet Tristan’s eyes.
Tristan slumped into the chair. His heart was beating too fast, and he felt his chest tightening. Tears slipped down his cheeks and he cried quietly. He was so confused and embarrassed, but he couldn’t stop them from coming.
“What happens now?” his mom asked quietly. She reached out and took Tristan’s hand. She sat straighter and met Principal Hastings’s gaze. “What can we do?”
The principal looked at the floor and back up. “I wish that was all I had to tell you, Laura,” he said.
Tristan’s mom paled. “There’s more?” She looked at Tristan, who shrank back into the wingback chair.
“Tristan?” she asked. “What is it?”
“Do you want to tell them?” Principal Hastings lowered his chin and stared at Tristan.
Tristan, thunderstruck by the whole exchange, couldn’t look at his mom. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. He fixed his eyes on the muddy brown carpet.
“No?” Principal Hastings said with a drawn out sigh. “Okay then. Laura, Eric, there was also a bottle of vodka in the floor of the truck.” He reached behind his desk and pulled out an empty bottle of raspberry vodka.
“What?” Tristan’s mom squeaked as she gripped Tristan’s hand so tightly his fingertips turned deep, purple-red.
“I can’t believe this,” Mr. Adams spat out. “Steroids and alcohol? Have you lost your mind? And ten days before final selection for the All American teams?” He was fuming. His ears were bright red and his eyes were scrunched into the bridge of his nose.
Tristan whispered. “None of it was mine.”
Tristan’s dad narrowed his eyes. “Do you expect us to believe that someone planted that stuff in there? Come on.” He shook his head as he turned to look at Principal Hastings. “What now?” he asked. He stood ramrod straight as he crossed his arms roughly over his chest.
The principal shook his head. “I have to suspend him for ten days. And he’s no longer eligible to play sports. We’ve got a zero tolerance policy here and I can’t get around it, or I would.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
Tristan jumped out of his chair. “What? I can’t play basketball? That’s insane. I’m telling you, that shit isn’t mine!” He looked at them with wild eyes, willing them to believe him.
“Language,” Tristan’s mom hissed.
“Sit down,” his dad growled at him.
Tristan flung himself into the chair and pulled his sweatshirt hoodie over his head. His life was over.
His dad closed his eyes tightly and pressed the back of his hand over his mouth. He nodded slowly without looking up.
Tristan’s mom squeezed Tristan’s hand tighter and began to cry. “My boy… my boy,” she blubbered.
“Ahem,” Principal Hastings cleared his throat again. “Officer Vaughn is here to explain Tristan’s legal situation.” He gestured toward Vaughn. “Mike, please fill us in on what happens now.”
Officer Vaughn uncrossed his arms and stepped forward. “Possession of steroids and alcohol is a misdemeanor in our state, and each item is a unit. Because Tristan is a first time offender, he probably won’t serve any time in a juvenile detention center, but he will have at least a year of probation, a $1,000 fine, and his driver’s license will be revoked for twelve months. In addition, he’ll be ordered to attend alcohol awareness and substance abuse meetings.”
Tristan’s dad huffed loudly. “Fine. We’ll handle it. Patrick, thank you for letting us know.” He nodded to Officer Vaughn before turning to his wife. “Let’s go home.”
She unclenched Tristan’s hand and stood, still clutching her purse in her other hand.
Tristan wiped his eyes on his sleeve before meeting his dad’s eyes. His chest was constricted, but his heart had slowed. His life was over. Maybe he’d die of it. It’d be better than being on the receiving end of the daggers in his dad’s eyes.
“Go to the car,” Tristan’s dad said to him.
Tristan swallowed and trudged out of the school to the empty parking lot. The weak winter rays hit the white truck, making it gleam in the light.
“Keys!” Tristan’s dad barked.
Tristan looked at his dad. He had tears in his eyes too.
Tristan dug through his backpack, found the keys to the truck, and handed them to his dad, who strode away from him across the asphalt toward the shining white truck.
“It’s open,” Tristan called after him with a garbled voice.
“Let’s go,” his mom said quietly.
“Mom,” Tristan whispered, “I’m sorry.”
She frowned slightly before unlocking her car and sliding into the driver’s seat. Her feet hit the floor inches away from the pedals, so she pulled a lever at the side to move the seat forward.
Tristan hung his head as he shuffled around the back of the car to the passenger side and folded himself up so he could get into the front seat. He stared out the window, not focusing on anything, on the short ride home.
* * *
Tristan was sprawled on his back on his bed in the dark, scrolling through his Instagram feed when his phone vibrated. It was a notification from WhatsApp. Arlo was messaging him.

Arlo Ramirez: What the hell man? Steroids?
Tristan Adams 04: What? How did u hear that?
Tristan Adams 04: Hell no. I don’t dope.
Arlo Ramirez: Crap. Some nozzle posted on here saying the cops found ‘roids and vodka in your truck.
Tristan Adams 04: Yeah. But that stuff is NOT mine. Someone’s framing me.
Arlo Ramirez: Insane. Who?
Tristan Adams 04: ?
Arlo Ramirez: So, is it true your expelled?
Tristan Adams 04: No. suspended for 10 days.
Arlo Ramirez: That sucks.
Tristan Adams 04: Yep.

Tristan navigated to his home page and clicked on the group he’d named Muskrats Unite! He scrolled through his friends’ posts. Everyone was talking about him, and most of it was bad.

Howie Cline II: Can’t believe it.
Arlo Ramirez: It probs ain’t true.
Howie Cline II: Right…

Howie had posted a GIF of Beyonce throwing shade while drinking coffee.
Tristan scrolled up further, scanning the group messages for whoever had posted about it first. His eyes hit on a mention of his full name, and he stopped to read the message.

Muskrat123: You guys… just heard Tristan Adams got busted for having vodka and ‘roids in his truck!
La(WREN)ce Williams: No way. How’d you hear that? Can you give me any more details?
Muskrat123: No. That’s all I know.

And from there the messages had spiraled quickly. Nobody cared about the vodka. But everyone was mad about the steroids.
One of the players on the freshman team had posted:

Trev Le Beouf: Not surprised. Nobody’s that good.

Tristan’s blood boiled. He had spent hundreds of hours working out and practicing and it was all for nothing. Aside from Arlo, everyone assumed he had doped. Tristan swiped to open the keyboard on his phone and typed.

Tristan Adams 04: Fork you all! I’ve never done drugs in my life. It’s called hard work.
MuskratCheerleader: So how did that stuff get in your truck then?
Trev Le Beouf: You expect us to believe that? *eye roll*
RatBoii: Your pants are flaming.
Tristan Adams 04: I don’t know. Somebody put them in there.
Tristan Adams 04: I’m not a liar.
Rich Ryan: If he says he didn’t take them, he didn’t.
Tristan Adams 04: Thanks.
Rich Ryan: *thumbs up*

But even Tristan realised how ridiculous it sounded. Didn’t every teen caught with drugs or alcohol say something to the effect of, “It’s not mine?” He bit his tongue to keep from crying as he closed his phone. He was off the basketball team. Nothing else mattered. Tristan threw his phone on the bed, flopped over onto his stomach, and shoved his pillow over his head.