Exclusive Excerpt from Love Spell
by Mia Kerick
I put what you might call mega-supreme effort into choosing my outfit for tonight. End result: I look kinda fab—thankfully, not so much ratchet, although I am rocking mean side bangs. Torn black jeggings, an oversized baby-pink hoodie saying, “Real Men Wear Pink,” and my bubblegum-colored Chuck Taylors. I’ve applied a touch of guyliner, but I was liberal with the Cherry ChapStick.
Overall effect? I look fabulous enough to meet the Queen of England. Which just so happens to be on my bucket list.
When I get to Jazz’s place, I park the car, pinch my cheeks, and momentarily wonder if I should have gone for a more sophisticated look— silky gray button-down shirt and black pointy-toed boots, my hair thrown up in a casual man bun. But it’s too late for that now. I get out of the car and stand in front of Jazz’s apartment building.
Pop, shrug, and stare… First things first.
I climb the stairs.
Is this a date? Or is it merely two dudes hanging out?
I knock five times.
Seems like the right number of knocks.
I stop and wait.
The door swings open, and I’m presented with the tear-filled eyes of a familiar little brown-haired girl.
“Hiya… J-Jazz told me to answer the door.” She sucks in a deep wobbly breath. “C-cuz he’s cleaning up the nail polish.” Her next breath seems to cause her entire chest to swell up. And then she releases a sob.
“Hey, kid, what’s the matter?”
“I sp-spilled all of the…the Orange-Orange nail polish…o-on the living r-room rug.”
“That is a disaster, truly.” I speculate on whether she’s upset the Orange-Orange polish is now gone or that it made a mess on the rug. I make my best guess. “Do you have a lemon-yellow nail polish and a cherry-red? Cuz if you do, I can make you JoJo Takes a Chance Orange polish. I’ve done it before.”
“JoJo Takes a Chance Orange nail polish?” She examines me quite skeptically while tugging on one tiny pigtail. “Why the ‘takes a chance’ part?”
“Cuz my name is Chance, and if you give me a chance, I think I can make you a color way better than Orange-Orange. I’ll make you a color even better than my hair!” Okaaaayyyy…so my claim might be a slight exaggeration seeing as my tangerine locks totes rock, but I’ll say anything to stop her tears.
With that, JoJo takes my hand and pulls me urgently down the hall.
In the living room, Jazz is on his knees bent over a wet spot on the floor, scrubbing away with a Hello Kitty toothbrush. He looks up at me. “I told JoJo to let you in. I’m busy trying to put an end to a crisis.”
I step closer to look down at the spot he’s working to remove on the gray rug, thinking I have the very same toothbrush hanging in my bathroom at home. Okaaaaay…so maybe I don’t miss the way his biceps tighten up with his efforts. I’m not blind. “I think you got the stain up.”
Jazz nods. “Problem is, we don’t have no more…um…bunches of oranges nail polish, or whatever, and I think JoJo’s heart mighta’ been set on it.” He looks desperate. “Don’t spaz, Jo. I can paint your nails blue. You’re into the color blue, right?”
I turn to JoJo, who just so happens to be glaring at her brother. “It’s almost Halloween, Jasper! Blue won’t work!”
Time to step in and save a couple of asses. “Go get your nail polish—you have red and yellow, right?”
The girl nods at me seriously.
“And if you have any gold tones with glitter, or even shiny silver, grab them too. And a plastic cup, if you have one, and a couple of toothpicks.”
She runs off to do my bidding, and I call after her, “Bring clear polish, too! A topcoat is the secret to a lasting manicure!”
Finally Jazz stands, still looking down at the wet spot on the rug.
“Whatcha gonna do, Chance?”
“I’m gonna save the freaking day.” Jazz looks bewildered, so I add more slowly, “I’m going to give JoJo a manicure.”
For the next hour, I occupy myself with blending various polishes together in a tiny paper cup, helping JoJo stir it up with toothpicks until we have the perfect shade of orange, and finally painting her fingernails JoJo Takes a Chance Orange. Jazz sits beside us on the floor as we work at the coffee table. He’s very quiet and keeps looking back and forth from JoJo to me.
When I’m finished, JoJo stands up, spins around twice, and fans her fingers in front of her. “This color is way better than Orange-Orange! This color is…so glittery!” She prances around the very plain living room, and it looks like so much fun I’m tempted to join in. “JoJo Takes a Chance Orange is the best color in the world!”
“Try the universe, hun.” I wink at her.
Jazz appears more baffled than usual, but he still manages to instruct his sister, “Well, don’t mess it up, Jo. Sit down on the couch and stay still”—he hands her the remote—“and watch them Dalmatians ’til I fix ya supper.” He sneaks a glance at me. “You can watch 101 Dalmatians with JoJo if ya feel like it. She’s kind of obsessed by Cruella de Vil these days.”
Although I have my own private obsession with Cruella de Vil, I shake my head and follow Jazz into the kitchen.
“Was thinkin’ maybe I’d make pizza tonight.” His face turns pink, and it hits me he’s embarrassed.
“Can I help you with it?” Make-your-own-dinner-night is nothing new to me. Jazz’s face grows still brighter. Its hue now approaches an appealing fuchsia that brings to mind pink Starbursts, which everyone knows are the best ones. (Sorry, yellow Starbursts.)
“Hangin’ out here can’t be no fun for you. I bet you wish you didn’t even come over.”
I send him a baffled glance of my own, which is a first. “I was thinking pretty much the exact opposite of what you just said.”
“Chance, you got all dressed up nice, and ya smell real good, and ya came here, probably thinkin’ we’d watch a Rated R movie and get take-out Chinese, or something cool like that. But you get here and get stuck paintin’ a little girl’s nails, and then you have to eat homemade pizza and watch 101 Dalmatians.”
“I want to eat homemade pizza.”
To be candid or not to be candid, that is the question.
Don’t give it all away, Chance, you are so-o-o not an open book. But…but Jazz looks so sad.
“Jazz, usually I eat take-out food alone in my bedroom. Believe me, eating homemade pizza with you and JoJo will be a treat.”
Jazz is easy to read. He tilts his head and studies me, probs wondering why I eat my meals alone in my room. “’Kay.”