When her older sister won the famous Golden Frame, 19-year-old Kendal Grant was happy for her. Until she realized the soon-to-be hotshot photographer was planning on sending her to live with one of her friends while she was gone. Annoyed but resigned, Kendal packed her bags and moved into Kris Asher's apartment.
Except her wonderful sister forgot to mention that Kris looked like a gang leader rather than an FBI agent, and his favorite form of communication was yelling until the neighbors pounded on the walls.


| 00 |
Announcement


"The rug's getting soaked, you know," I say lightly, entertained by the beam on Carmen's face. The grin itself isn't weird—knowing Carmen, it's better for her to be smiling like a maniac than quietly thinking—but I'm standing in the shower, shampoo still in my hair.

"You'll never guess who called me!" she squeals, buzzing with excitement. Hello Kitty is cradled against her chest, and it takes me a second to realize that it's her phone case, not one of her stuffed animals.

"Who'd call at one in the morning?" I wonder, wiping the shampoo out of my eyes.

"Isaac Wolfe, that's who!" she bursts, nearly tossing the Galaxy phone across the bathroom when she throws her arms out.

I blink. "Who's Isaac Wolfe?"

She lets out an exasperated sigh, as if I'm the one interrupting her shower. "Isaac Wolfe, my dense little sister, is only the best celebrity photographer in all of Hollywood," she says, "and he called me."

It takes me an embarrassingly long time to get it, but then it hits me. The reason she looks like she chugged eight Red Bulls and twelve cups of coffee; the reason she's ignoring the fact water's soaking her favorite pair of Minnie Mouse socks: she won.

"We need to celebrate!" I decide. "I'm too young to buy Champagne, though. Damn. Maybe I can use that fake I.D. Lauren gave me…"

"Let's not talk about anything illegal with the police officer here." Zeke steps into the bathroom without a care in the world, a few plastic bags in each hand. "And I've already taken care of the Champagne part."

I look at Carmen accusingly. "You told Zeke before you told me? I'm your sister!"

"Uh…" She avoids my gaze, guilty, before pointing a finger at him. "You're ignoring an important thing here!" she says, looking at Zeke. "You perv! My sister's completely naked and you just waltzed right in!"

He rolls his eyes. "As if she has anything I want," he scoffs.

"Rude." I huff, crossing my arms. "Not only is my sister keeping things from me, but now her best friend is insulting me."

"You were in the shower!" she defends. "I was trying to wait until you got out like a normal sister, but you were taking forever, and then Zeke left, and I was still super excited without anyone to share said excitement with, so I decided that, shower be damned, I was going to tell you now."

I laugh. "Guess I can forgive you then."

"Good," Zeke inserts, "because look at what I got."

He holds up a handful of plastic bags, but instead of the Wal-Mart logo I'm expecting, I see MorbidCupcake's Bakery scrolled on them in wonky letters.

"You're the greatest!" I say, jumping up and down. "What did you get me?"

"I had MC pick it out this time," he announces, proud of himself. "She said you'd like the rainbow cupcakes and threw in a few of her prototypes. Butterbeer cupcakes or something."

"Butterbeer?" My eyes widened. "That's awesome! I told her Potterheads would love something Harry Potter-ish since she already has Disney-related ones."

"Awesome." His face blanches. "Last time I had a cauldron cupcake, it was filled with thick, green ooze."

"That was just colored white chocolate," I say, shaking my head. "You're such a baby."

"Whatever," he says. "Just come in the living room when you're done."

I grin as Carmen waves and they both step out of the room, leaving me to myself.

About a month ago, Carmen entered a famous photography contest. The only thing she had to do was send her portfolio to some address in Hawaii and it would undergo some sort of evaluation by Isaac Wolfe. I had no idea who he was, but Carmen was so excited, she spent days staying up, taking pictures. I think she even took a few shots of me. Eventually, she had something she was happy with and shipped it off. I don't think she expected much, though.

When I get all of the shampoo out of my hair, I hop out, throwing my hair up in a towel. It's only Carmen and Zeke, so I don't bother getting dressed, grabbing a robe and wrapping it around me as I head down the hallway.

The living room isn't big, but it's spacious since the only thing we have in here is a giant beanbag chair. The TV is mounted to the wall (courtesy of Zeke) and the bookshelf shoved in the corner is so flat, it doesn't make much of a difference. A wooden table with three chairs is the only thing that separates the living room from the kitchen, the cupcakes and champagne Zeke got on it next to him.

I grab a butterbeer cupcake, moaning as I take a bite. "Man, MC out did herself with these."

Carmen laughs, Zeke shaking his head.

"She said you should stop by and see them when they're finished," he says. "Apparently, she's still working on how to decorate them."

"I can't wait~" I sang, taking a seat.

"Enough about cupcakes!" Carmen gushes, face lighting up. "It's great, Kendal!" she says, bouncing in her chair. "I get to move to California—all expenses paid! Including a place to stay!"

"Awesome!" I return, grinning. "What're you going to do about work?"

"I've already decided to explain everything to them and take it from there. Hopefully, they'll understand. I don't wanna cut all my ties in case this goes south."

"Good thinking," I agree. "I'll pick up extra shifts at the bakery to pay for the rent here, so you won't have to worry about this place."

Carmen stops, biting the inside of her cheek. Zeke has suddenly glued his eyes to a rainbow cupcake. "Actually… about that… I think it might be better if you stayed somewhere else."

I blink. "What d'you mean?"

"Well, your exams are coming up, and you'll need time to study. And what about those extra classes you signed up for next semester? If you're working enough to pay the rent, you won't have time for all those."

I wave her off. "I can handle it, Carmen. I'm 19, after all! It's time I did something on my own."

"There's a difference between doing something on your own and being stranded by yourself." She shakes her head. "No, it's better if you stay with someone who can help. Even if things go bad with this whole contest thing, I'll still have enough from the prize money to get us a better place."

"So what? You're making me live with Zeke?" I wonder.

"Nope," she pops. "Zeke's going on an assignment for a couple weeks and won't be home. Plus, I doubt his boyfriend wants a college student coming home after midnight from her part-time job."

"She has a point," Zeke says, "but that's only because Cordell would worry about her until she came home. We don't live in the best neighborhood."

"Then who am I invading?" I demand.

She smiles. It's the type of smile that means she's up to something. "His name's Kris Asher, and he's my favorite person in existence."

Zeke mocks an offended expresion, but neither of us pays attention to him.

I raise an eyebrow. "You mean he's your boyfriend."

"Oh God no," she snorts. "He's not my type, and God knows I'm not his either. No, silly, he's just a really good friend that I know from work."

"Oh. So he works at the Cafe?"

"Wrong again. He's a regular there."

I roll my eyes. "Okay, cut the crap, Carmen. Explain to me what's really going on."

She blinks, expression innocent. "Nothing, sis. I just think he'll look after you better than anyone else."

"Why?"

"Because he works for the FBI," she says, looking important, like it's impressive she knows someone who works for the Federal Bureau, "and he's trained in ninjaness."

I stare at her blankly. "I seriously doubt that."

"Just… do this for me, yeah? I'll feel so much better about leaving if I know you're going to be safe."

Sighing, I take another bite of my cupcake, chewing slowly. I guess it won't hurt. If Carmen likes him, he can't be too bad…

"Alright," I say, giving in. "Since you asked."

She beams, tackling me into a hug. "Thank you, Kendal! You're the best!"

I just laugh, shaking my head as I hug her back.