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Read The First Two Chapters Of 100 Hours

The plot of 100 Hours is like a ticking time bomb of adventure, romance, and high stakes drama.

Cousins Maddie and Genesis hail from Miami’s glamorous social scene, living lives of velvet ropes, shallow followings, and backstabbing boyfriends. Only, like any rational human (what? it gets tiring), Genesis is so over that. So even though Maddie wants family time for spring break, Genesis has other plans. They head to Colombia, where an untouched beach and colorful coastline seem to make the perfect vacation — until they find themselves dragged from their tents under the cover of dark and held for ransom deep inside the jungle.

As the hours count down, Genesis, Maddie, and their friends are forced to set aside their personal problems, get away, and figure out just why they were targeted in the first place. The fight-for-survival story in 100 Hours is non-stop, and each chapter counts down to the group’s final moments.

100 Hours goes on sale March 28, 2017, and, yes, just like the book, we’re totally counting down the hours. But why wait? You can start reading it below! And don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads shelf here!

Now

“She’s getting closer!”

I glance over my shoulder, and the movement throws me off balance. My cousin grabs my arm before I can fall, then she’s in the lead, clutching the cell phone in one hand.

Footsteps pound behind us. Silvana huffs, as if each step drives more air from her lungs. But her pace is steady. She’s strong and fast.

She’s almost caught us.

“There it is!” My cousin points at a break in the jungle trail, and ahead, I see moonlight gleaming on dark water.

The beach. The boats.

We’re almost free.

100 Hours Earlier

GENESIS

“You really came here on a private jet?”

Samuel’s mouth is so close to Neda’s that they’re practically kissing, and that obviously makes her happy. No one in this tiny Cartagena dive bar knows she’s five pounds too heavy and four inches too short to ever have anything more than her face appear in Teen Vogue, even if her father did design the latest Hermès handbag. In Cartagena, she’s just another hot American tourist. Where everyone else sees anonymity, Neda thinks she’s projecting mystery.

Neda only sees what she wants to see. Cheerful delusion is part of her charm.

The rest of her charm is money.

“There’s no other way to travel.” Her lips brush Samuel’s cheek, and he’s so into it he’s breathing hard. His hand is on her thigh. She’s high on the power she has over him—I can see it in her eyes. “Commercial is so . . . common.”

In the chair to my right, Nico stiffens. He grew up in a five-hundred-square-foot bungalow just outside my grandmother’s neighborhood with his mother and three younger sisters.

As usual, Neda has no clue, but Samuel doesn’t care what she’s saying. He’s probably not even listening. He tugs her into the middle of the bar to join three other couples dancing to the strong, fast beat and brass notes of the cumbia-reggae fusion video playing on a small television mounted over the bar. She stumbles, but steadies herself without his help. She’s okay, for now. But just in case, I finish off her margarita. I’m doing her a favor. She can’t afford the calories and she can’t handle her liquor.

“That’s a tourist drink. Try this.” Nico pushes his bottle across the table toward me. Most of the locals are drinking rum, but he likes aguardiente, an anise-flavored liquor. He thinks I’ve never had it because my dress is expensive, my nails are perfect, and I call my grandmother Nana instead of abuela. But Nico has only seen what I’ve let him see.

He was surprised when I asked him to show my friends and me something outside the touristy Cartagena party scene. But that was the point. People can’t assume they know you if you keep them guessing.

I grab Nico’s bottle and pour an inch of aguardiente into my empty glass, then throw it back in one gulp.

His brows rise. “Not your first time?”

I sweep long, dark hair over my shoulder, and I know he can’t look away. “Nana sends my dad a case every Christmas. He doesn’t count the bottles.” My dad only sees what I let him see too.

We drink half the bottle while Nico tells me about the hike he’s leading next week, to the ruins of an ancient city in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada. He moonlights as a tour guide because helping my grandmother around the house pays the bills, but it doesn’t pay for college.

“Come on.” Nico leans closer, and his eyes shine in the glow of colored lights strung over the bar. “You wanted to see the real Colombia. Let me take you to Ciudad Perdida.”

“We’re not going to be here that long.” And I am not taking a generic tour with a dozen budget-traveling tourists, even if Nico is the guide. “But maybe I’ll let you show me something special tomorrow. Something . . . secluded.”

He leans back in his chair and gives me a slow smile. Now he gets it.

I take another sip of aguardiente and glance around the bar. The local guys in the corner booth are still watching us, but that’s no surprise. People watch my friends and me everywhere we go.

What is strange is that they’re watching Maddie, in her eco-friendly dress and “vintage” sandals that actually came from Goodwill.

“Your cousin is having fun,” Nico says.

She’s dancing with one of the local guys. The pretty one with bright hazel eyes and a scruffy, square jaw.

Paola, the bartender, pours with a heavy hand, and her generosity has miraculously dislodged the stick from my cousin’s ass. Really, it’s about time. Maddie was uptight before her father died, and since then, she’s elevated the role of buzzkill from a hobby to an art.

Fortunately, I don’t have to watch out for Maddie like I do Neda, because her brother, Ryan, would never let anything happen to her.

“You’re bored,” Nico says, drawing me out of my thoughts.

I cross my arms and lean back in my chair. “Is that your best guess?”

His gaze narrows as he studies me, trying to read my mood. “Is this a game?”

“Isn’t everything?” My glass is empty, so I take a sip from his, watching him over the rim as he tries to make sense of the puzzle that is me and my friends dropping cash in his neighborhood dive bar.

He nods at the dance floor, where Maddie and Neda are now dancing in a sloppy group with three guys. “I thought your friend and your cousin didn’t get along.”

“They don’t.” I raise his glass. “This particular social discrepancy is brought to you by the miracle of tequila.”

“And that one?” His focus settles on the end of the bar, where Ryan and Holden are laughing at some story the bartender is telling them, as she refills my cousin’s glass with straight soda. Every time Paola bends over to grab a glass, they look down her shirt. My cousin is subtle. My boyfriend is not. “Is that also the tequila?”

I watch for a minute. Then I look away. That’s nothing. That’s Holden. I stand and take Nico’s hand. “That’s . . . not what I came here to see.”

MADDIE

The fast, heavy rhythm of the cumbia beat pounds through me, driving every spin and little kick, and each connection with Sebastián. His hands find my waist and I smile at the reckless thrill his touch sends through me.

The floor swells around me, then it begins to spin. I stumble. Sebastián laughs and pulls me in closer. Then we’re dancing again.

I am drunk for the second time in my life.

The first time, I almost died.

This bar isn’t the kind of place I expected Genesis to drag us to. There are no bright lights or throngs of international tourists. The bartender isn’t swamped and the local crowd doesn’t care what I’m wearing or how well I move. They just want to have a good time.

For the first time in nearly a year, I’m actually having fun. But Genesis doesn’t get credit for that.

In the pause between songs, I catch my breath, and movement from one of the tables catches my eye. My cousin tugs Nico out of his chair, her predatory gaze locked onto him like some kind of laser target.

He probably doesn’t even know he’s caught.

My phone buzzes, and I pull it from my pocket, but Genesis plucks it from my hand on her way past with Nico. “Do you really think you should be drunk-texting your mommy? I promise she’ll survive without hearing from you for a few hours.”

She drops my phone into her purse, and as the next song begins, I frown as I watch Genesis and Nico disappear into the back of the bar. But I can’t really say I’m surprised. The problem with being given everything in life is that you grow up thinking you can take whatever you want, whenever you want it. Even if your boyfriend is sitting half a room away.

Holden looks from me to Genesis’s empty table, and his jaw clenches. He slides off his stool.

It’s possible that my staring wasn’t as subtle as I thought.

“¿Qué pasa, hermosa?” Sebastián runs one warm hand up my arm.

Nada. Lo siento,” I tell him.

“¿Quieres otra copa?”

“No, gracias.” I would love another drink. But unlike my cousin, I know better than to take something just because it’s offered.

Sebastián shrugs as the music changes. This is a slower song, without the familiar cumbia moves.

I must look lost, because he smiles and dances closer. His hands find my hips, and I’m moving again. Then he kisses me, right there on the dance floor, and suddenly I’m kissing and dancing simultaneously. Even though my brother thinks I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

My head feels light. The rest of the bar has lost focus, and I don’t even care. I feel like anything could happen here, and all I have to do is let it.

GENESIS

The aguardiente has done its job, and Nico takes over where the alcohol has left off. I am drunk on him. I am drunk on the cumbia beat, and dark hallways, and calloused fingers. I am intoxicated by the way he presses me against the wall. By the way his lips trail from my mouth toward my ear, then down my neck. He’s not gentle. He is not hesitant, or apologetic, or so eager that the moment threatens brevity.

Nico is twenty. His problems are as substantial as his passions, and he knows what he wants.

He knows what I want.

“Take me somewhere tomorrow,” I whisper as his hand glides up from my waist, over my dress, and his tongue leaves a hot trail on my neck. “Show me something beautiful. Something real.”

His hand slides into my hair. “Parque Tayrona,” he suggests, his lips skimming my skin.

I frown and push him back. “It’s spring break. I’m over crowded beaches.”

“I know some secluded spots.” He leans into me again, and his breath brushes my ear. “Vistas exclusivas.

I smile and run my hands over his chest. That’s what I want. The real Colombia. Places not listed on travel websites.

I’m not supposed to be in this bar. I’m not supposed to be in this country. But “supposed to” means less to me with every passing second. This is my life. This is my spring break.

There are no limits but those I set.

Nico tugs my head back with a loose handful of my hair. Our kiss is shameless and reckless and scandalous and all those other adventurous things that taste sweeter in the shadows.

I am breathing hard. My head is barely tethered to my shoulders. Then—

Nico is suddenly gone, and his absence throws me off balance. A hand grabs my shoulder, pinning me against the wall and I open my eyes. Holden has a handful of Nico’s shirt in his right fist, while his left digs into my skin. His brown eyes burn into me. “Do your pleas for attention always have to be so pedestrian? Or is this some kind of ironic social commentary?”

Nico pulls his shirt from my boyfriend’s grip. “Jealousy is an ugly emotion, mono. ¿Cierto?

Holden’s pale face flushes. At home, insulting him is grounds for a fight. But at home, his father can make legal charges and public scandals disappear.

Holden is the right guy for Miami. There, he knows all the right people and says all the right things.

But we’re not in Miami.

“Let go, Holden.” He has no high ground to stand on. This is how we are.

He turns on me, and blond hair falls over his forehead. He’s so mad that for a second, he forgets I’m not someone he can push around. “Don’t make this worse, Gen.” He turns back to Nico.

Anger blazes up my spine and muscle memory kicks in. I grab his hand and twist, and the pressure on his wrist, elbow, and shoulder force him forward, bent at the waist. Holden clearly thought the Krav Maga black belt rolled up in my top drawer was just an accessory—another bullet point on my college applications.

Now he knows better.

Satisfaction warms me from the inside. Then I realize I can’t take it back. He won’t underestimate me anymore.

“Damn it, Genesis!” he snaps, and I let him go.

Nico laughs, and I silently curse myself for caving to such a revealing impulse. “Tu novio es un tonto.”

But he’s wrong. My boyfriend isn’t a fool. He’s just drunk.

“What did he say?” Holden demands, his cheeks still flaming. He stretches his arm to ease the pain, and I know I will have to do damage control. So I lie.

“He said you drink too much.”

Nico glances at me in surprise. “She is too hot for you, gringo.” He grins at me.

Holden’s fists clench and he looks at Nico as if he’s large game fit for nothing but sport shooting.

I tug my boyfriend toward the front of the bar. “Come remind me what I see in you.” When I look back, I see Nico watching me, grinning. He thinks we’ve gotten away with something. That I might come back for more.

He’s the fool.

Holden and I get a dark booth near the door. His hands are everywhere. He needs to be in control of this moment, so I let him think he is, and the making up is so good I almost want to pick another fight, just so we can do it all over again.

This is what I like best about him. Holden’s temper runs hot, but so does the rest of him. When I have his full attention, it’s like we’re on fire. Nico was added fuel for the flames.

“Why do you push my buttons?” Holden murmurs against my neck.

I tilt my head back to give him better access. “What are buttons for, if not to be pushed?”

Holden groans, and his mouth trails lower.

Over his shoulder I watch Ryan coax the bartender out from behind the bar.

Corazón, you don’t drink and you can’t dance!” Paola calls as she follows him, hips swaying. “What do you have to offer a woman?”

“Come find out . . .” My cousin backs onto the dance floor, his hips twitching in his best imitation of salsa dancing. I laugh. He actually has rhythm—he plays the drums—but his body doesn’t seem to know that.

Holden works his way up my neck again, and I’m breathing hard by the time he gets to my mouth. “I didn’t get a very good look at that back hall,” he murmurs against my lips as his hand slides up my leg. “Why don’t you show me what I’ve been missing?”

Before I can answer, my phone buzzes from my purse. I pull it out and glance at the text on my screen.

Why aren’t you in the Bahamas? Call me THIS INSTANT.

Holden frowns while I type. “Who’s that?”

Don’t worry. No pasa nada. Besos.

“I’ll show you my texts when you show me yours.” He doesn’t need to know it’s just my dad checking up on me.

Holden’s brows rise, as if I’ve just laid down a challenge. He reaches for my phone, but then Maddie slides into the booth across the table, saving us both from a scene I was almost looking forward to making.

“We need to get Neda out of here,” my cousin says. “She’s drunk.”

“We’re all drunk,” Holden points out.

“But the rest of us haven’t decided to parade stunning cultural ignorance and a shockingly thick wad of cash down Cartagena’s unlit back streets in the middle of the night.” Maddie’s disgusted huff hints at reemerging sobriety. “But that’s no surprise, considering Neda still thinks she’s in Cart-a-gee-na.”

I follow her pointed gaze to see Neda stagger as Samuel leads her toward the exit. She doesn’t even notice when she drips tequila on her twelve-hundred-dollar sandals.

I wave at Ryan and nod in their direction. He says a polite farewell to Paola and joins us. “I’ll take her, you take him,” I whisper as I slide across the patched and sticky booth.

“Hey, does Paola work tomorrow night?” Ryan says as we sandwich them. When Samuel turns to answer, I ease Neda from his grip with one hand and take her drink from her with the other.

“Where are we going?” she asks as Holden opens the door for us.

“Home.” I set her glass on an empty table.

Neda looks confused. “Back to Miami?”

Maddie grabs Neda’s purse and rolls her eyes. “Yes. Click your heels together and say, ‘There’s no place like my ten bedroom beachfront estate.’”

Outside, the lights are few and far between, and the street is nearly empty. There are no tourists here. No street vendors. I turn to ask Holden to call for a car, but he already has his phone pressed to his ear, giving our location to the car service. “Aquí en cinco minutos, extra de cien.” In his sad, broken Spanish, he’s offered the driver an extra hundred if he’s here in five minutes. He doesn’t like Nico’s neighborhood.

“I wanna stay.” Neda’s speech is slurred and her steps are the slushy scrape of sandals against pavement. “Samuel and I were—”

“Don’t run out on me, Neda.” Ryan slides one arm around her waist, taking most of the burden off me. “It’s not every day I get to walk with a gorgeous model on my arm, mi corazón. I’m drunk on your beauty.”

Neda giggles and I hang back to let Ryan work his charm.

As we walk toward the corner, Holden slides his arm around my shoulders. “Is the rest of spring break going to be so full of local color?”

“Why else would you come?”

“I came because you said Nassau was dull and Cancún was ‘obvious.’ And because you promised me nude beaches.”

“Admit it.” I slide my hand up his chest as we walk down the cracked sidewalk, and the heat in his eyes resurges. “You haven’t been bored for a second since we stepped off the plane.”

93 Hours Earlier

MADDIE

I wake up at dawn and find Abuelita alone in the kitchen, pouring Masarepa cornmeal into a glass mixing bowl. A canister of salt and a small bowl of melted butter sit on the counter. The scents of black coffee and fresh mango trigger memories of childhood visits. Though Uncle Hernán flies her to Miami for most holidays, I haven’t been in my grandmother’s house since I was a small child.

¡Buenos días, Madalena!” She pulls me into a hug as soon as I step into the room, the brightly colored tiles cold against my bare feet. “You’re up early for a Saturday.”

¿Arepas con huevo?” I guess.

Abuelita smiles. “Sí. Are they still your brother’s favorite?”

“¡Por supuesto!” Anything edible qualifies as Ryan’s favorite, but Abuelita’s egg-stuffed corn cakes hold a special place in his heart. And in his stomach.

¡Qué triste que tu madre never mastered the art!” She says it with a smile, but she means every word. My mom is second-generation Cuban American, and in Abuelita’s eyes, Cuban food cannot compare.

¿Van otra vez a la playa con tus amigos?” my grandmother asks as she forms small cakes from the cornmeal mixture.

“They aren’t my friends, Abuelita. Genesis and the Dior divas have appointments at some spa this morning, but they’ll probably want to party tonight. I doubt I’ll go.” Not after the fool I made of myself in the bar last night.

“Your cheeks are pink, flaquita.” My grandmother’s eyes brighten as she smiles. “Did you meet a boy?”

“Their tongues certainly met.” My brother pads into the kitchen on bare feet and slides onto the bar stool next to mine.

Yes, I kissed Sebastián on the dance floor. But Genesis went into a dark hallway with Abuelita’s handyman, right in front of her asshole boyfriend, and no one seems to think that’s worthy of public broadcast.

The double standard in my family never seems to work in my favor.

“You’re such a pretty girl.” My grandmother smiles at me over a growing collection of arepas. “A little too thin, maybe. You deserve some fun. You’ve been through so much . . .”

“I’m so sorry for your loss.” The man gives my shoulder an awkward pat, and his words play on in my head as the sentiment echoes down the receiving line. I stare at his dress shirt. There’s a stain on the underside of his belly. He shuffles to my left to shake Ryan’s hand.

My brother smells like whiskey, and our mother hasn’t even noticed.

“Maddie, please let us know if there’s anything we can do.” The woman next in line takes my hand, but I hardly feel her grip. I’ve hardly felt anything in days. I stare at her shoes until she moves on.

The coffin is closed, and if I can’t see my father’s face, I don’t want to see anyone else’s either.

“Are you taking care of yourselves?” Abuelita slides the first corn patty into the hot oil with a gentle expertise perfected by fifty years’ experience. The cornmeal sizzles, but the oil does not pop.

¡Desde luego! Which is why I can’t have many of those.” I nod at the carb-heavy fried corn cakes, which would wreak havoc on my blood sugar.

“Uncle Hernán gave her an insulin pump.” Ryan glances at my stomach, where a slight bump at my waist betrays my most obvious concession to my illness. “So she doesn’t have to mess with needles anymore.”

Abuelita nods. “Hernán has always taken care of us.”

I bite my tongue to keep my thoughts from spilling out. The truth is that every time my father came to Colombia with the nonprofit organization he worked for, he spent as much time with his mother as he could.

My uncle hasn’t set foot in Colombia since he left as a teenager. He just sends money.

When he found out our insurance wouldn’t cover my insulin pump, he threw money at the problem. Not that I’m not grateful. But I was just another issue he could resolve by writing a check. Like he did for Ryan’s rehab.

Buenos días, Nana.” Genesis strides into the room in running shorts and a sports bra, tightening the ponytail cinched high on her head. There’s a sheen of sweat on her face and her hair is damp.

“¡Buenos días!” Abuelita steps back from the stove to accept a kiss on the cheek from the oldest and least culturally aware of her granddaughters.

“My phone,” I demand.

Genesis plucks it from a hidden pocket at her waist and tosses it to me. There’s a text from my mother.

Hope you’re having fun! How are the Bahamas? Take a snorkeling class for me!

“Genesis!” My cousin’s name sounds like an expletive as it explodes from my mouth. “Why does my mother think we’re in the Bahamas?”

“Because she doesn’t know how to track your phone?” Her casual shrug makes me want to choke her. “My dad figured it out before we even landed.”

“You said you cleared the change of plans with everyone who mattered!”

“Yeah.” She gives me another careless shrug as she pours a glass of juice. “Nana and the pilot.”

“You didn’t tell me your father hadn’t agreed,” Abuelita scolds. Yet she sounds more embarrassed than angry about the lie. “He called last night, and he was very upset.”

“Do Neda’s and Holden’s parents know?” I demand. “Do they even care?”

Ryan puts one hand on my shoulder. “Maddie, calm—”

I turn on him. “She’s never the one who has to deal with the fallout from the crazy, reckless way she barrels through life.” Practically kidnapping her own cousins and dragging them to Colombia. Letting Ryan party with her friends during the height of his addiction, even when she knew he had a problem.

“You’re overreacting,” Genesis insists as she plucks a slice of mango from the tray. “Nana called me a couple of weeks ago to ask when we could come see her, and I seized the opportunity.” Meaning she bribed the pilot.

“Did you even ask your dad?”

“Of course not. He would have said no. But we’re here now, and he’ll get on board once Nana calls and asks why he’s trying to keep her grandchildren away from her.” She hugs Abuelita from behind. “He won’t say no to his mother.”

“You probably got that poor pilot fired.”

Genesis shrugs again, and I want to punch her. “He made his own choice.”

“I’m going home.” Anger burns in my chest; I feel like I’m breathing fire. “Are you going to make my mom go into debt for a last-minute ticket, or will your dad send his pilot?”

“The jet lands in an hour. But if you get on it, you’ll miss Parque Tayrona. Nico’s going to take us for a couple of days.”

Nico. Genesis takes him into the back of the bar, and suddenly he’s giving us a private tour of the most beautiful series of beaches in Colombia. Of course.

“Tayrona?” Ryan’s brows rise. Our parents spent their honeymoon hiking at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, through the famous system of natural beaches connected by patches of unblemished jungle. The parque was my father’s favorite place in the world.

Genesis knows we can’t turn down a trip to Tayrona. And if we stay in Colombia with her, then this trip isn’t just another impulsive rule-breaking binge orchestrated by a spoiled heiress. Suddenly, her reckless jaunt across international borders looks like the gift of closure to her grieving cousins, plus an overdue visit to her isolated abuela.

“I reserved a couple of cabanas, but it’s a two-hour jungle hike from the entrance to the most isolated beach at Cabo San Juan. So dress accordingly and bring a swimsuit.” Genesis eyes my pajama bottoms, as if they’re indicative of what I’d wear for a hike.

“I haven’t said I’m going,” I snap, but she dismisses my protests in favor of a fresh arepa, which wouldn’t be on her raw, whole foods diet at home.

“We’re already here.” Ryan pulls me close with one arm around my shoulder. “We may as well stay and see the sights.”

“Go, flaquita,” my grandmother urges. “Have fun on the beach for a couple of days. I’ll deal with Hernán y tu madre, and we’ll get caught up Monday night, when you get back.”

I can practically feel myself falling onto the life-sized chessboard at my cousin’s feet.

Checkmate.

92 Hours Earlier

GENESIS

Penelope Goh pulls me into a hug as she steps out of the back of the black car. “Sorry I’m late. We got stuck behind a blockade. My driver said the police found two bodies in a burned-out van last night.”

“Of course they did.” Holden shrugs. “Because why wouldn’t my girlfriend’s sense of adventure drag us into a war-torn third-world country?”

“You sound like my father.” But Colombia is a different place than it was when my dad and his widowed, pregnant mother emigrated. Nana wouldn’t have moved back, if that weren’t true. “We’re perfectly safe here,” I insist.

“Then why does it look like you’re fleeing the country?” Penelope eyes the hiking packs lined up on my grandmother’s front porch.

“Because once again, Genesis has confused danger with excitement.” Holden wraps one arm around her as the driver opens the trunk to retrieve her luggage, and his stage whisper is perfectly audible. “Maybe we should show her what real excitement looks like.”

I roll my eyes at him. Holden likes to push boundaries, but we both know what lines not to cross. “We’re going hiking in the jungle.” I link my arm through my best friend’s arm and pull her away from him. “A shopping spree was the only way to talk Neda out of her four-hour mud facial in favor of actual mud and sweat. I got you some gear.”

“You’re serious,” she says as the driver carries her luggage past us into the foyer. “Does Neda understand that there’s no Wi-Fi or filtered water in the jungle?”

“The cabanas have both, and I might have downplayed how little time we’re actually going to spend in them.”

Penelope laughs as her gaze wanders over the supplies I had packed for each of us.

“I probably shouldn’t be surprised by the 180-degree pivot from spa day to jungle hike, but . . .”

“You really shouldn’t. The car will be here in half an hour. Come say hi to Nana, then you can change clothes and stuff your swimsuit into your pack.”

“So how was the event?” Holden says as Penelope’s car pulls out of the driveway. “Actually, what was the event that made you willing to forego the private jet in favor of flying commercial?”

“Judging for the Special Olympics, jackass.” Penelope and her Olympic silver medal on the uneven bars are in high demand for appearances since she retired from competition two years ago. She reaches around me to give Holden a playful shove. “You should try giving back.”

“We’ll be there next time,” I promise. Holden grumbles, but doesn’t argue. He’ll do the right thing, even if it makes him uncomfortable. I never have to worry about him when there’s a live audience.

“Speaking of private jets, your dad offered to have his pilot drop me off in the Bahamas after my event. I had to tell him I’d already booked a flight to keep this trip on a need-to-know.”

I squeeze her arm tighter. Only a true friend will lie to your father’s face for you.

“So what’d I miss?” Pen asks as we head toward Nana’s front door, her couture sandals clicking on the colorful stone walkway.

“A true sign of the end times.” Holden holds the door open for us and we step into the foyer, where Pen’s bags are waiting and the scent of arepas con huevo still lingers. “Neda and Maddie agree about something.”

“About what?”

“That we shouldn’t have let Genesis plan this trip.”

I shrug. “Maddie’s mad because I didn’t ask her mommy if she could come.”

Pen laughs again as she grabs her makeup case and the smaller of her two suitcases. “So your preachy cousin has fresh material for a new sermon, your hot cousin doesn’t drink anymore, and Neda’s just been denied the spa treatment you said would help her drop two pounds of water weight in a day. Remind me why I came?”

“Because you love me. Because you’re my best friend. And because when we get back from Tayrona, the full-day spa package is on me.”

My phone buzzes again with another message from my dad.

Genesis, WHY aren’t you on the plane?


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