"Of course," he said, his fingers finding mine. I turned to look at him and found that he was already gazing at me. "Now, come on. Let's try this again."
He pulled me up until I was standing in the sand, facing the log lined with shells. But instead of stepping away and letting me take aim, he came up behind me and pressed his chest against my back. I felt his hand make its way up my side until it reached my shoulder and then move down the length of my arm. Finally, his hand rested on top of mine and we raised our arms together. I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent. He smelled like clean linen with the slightest hint of something spicy. It was delicious.
"Now look at the target and take aim." I did what he said, but it took everything in me not to just melt into his arms. "Relax your mind and think about what you're doing."
But all I could think about was kissing him.
He moved my hand slowly until it was pointed in the direction of the shell. I shivered as his breath tickled my neck.
"Now say the words," he breathed, barely above a whisper.
"Detonimous vastomia . . ."
I managed to get the words out just before Asher pulled me around and our lips touched. The sound of the shell shattering rang out through the night.
How can I possibly thank all the people who've changed my life forever? Well, I can't, but here's my valiant effort. First, a world of thanks to everyone at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for fighting for this series and being just as excited about it as I am. Alexandra Cooper, editor extraordinaire, for really "getting" these characters and making the revision process a truly enjoyable experience. You took this book and made it magical. Justin Chanda, for giving me a chance to make this the year of the witch. Amy Rosenbaum, for being just as punny as I am. Siena Koncsol, for sharing in my love of everything Whedonesque. And, of course, Paul Crichton, Krista Vossen, Jenica Nasworthy, Dorothy Gribbin, Chava Wolin, Bernadette Cruz, Elke Villa, Chrissy Noh, Lucille Rettino, and Anne Zafian, for working their magic on a daily basis.
Love and thanks to my phenomenal agent, Kevan Lyon, for being my guide through this crazy world of publishing, yet never telling me what to do. You're cool, smart, and such a great teacher. Taryn Fagerness, for getting my books out to the rest of the world-you were one of the first phone calls I got and you set me up with the best agenting team in the world. Brandy Rivers . . . I can't begin to describe what a dream it is to work with you! I can't wait to see this witchy world on the screen. Oh, and thank you for letting me borrow your last name for Eliza's character!
I have so much gratitude for those who've had a hand in my success (but might not know it): To everyone at Wattpad, thank you for giving me an amazing platform to tell my stories before anyone knew who I was. And for all my fans on Wattpad . . . it's because of you that my dreams are coming true. I can't underplay those who've inspired me with their ability to tell great stories: Joss Whedon, Meg Cabot, Christopher Pike, John Carpenter, Jessica Bendinger, Wes Craven, Tori Spelling, and Rob Thomas. Thank you for letting your imaginations run wild and sharing it with the rest of us. Without the incredible gluten-free muffins from Pip's Place, in NYC, I never would've made it through revisions. Thanks to Denise and the rest of the staff for keeping me happy, healthy, and full. Calvin Reid, thank you for taking this underdog and making her a top dog. You're a class act with a huge heart.
No girl can survive without her crew, so I have to give shout-outs to Amanda Healy, Tammy West, Kate Chapman, Jessica Grant, Alicia and Sue Chouinard, and Zachary Booth. You were there for me when I was just an "aspiring" writer and always indulged me in my crazy dreams. You're all rock stars in my book!
Lastly, I've been beyond lucky to have such a loving and supporting family. Mom, Dad, Jacey, and Amy, I have so much gratitude for the fact that you never set limits for what I could accomplish. I've loved being on this journey with you. To the Gielens, thanks for treating me like one of the family. And Matt . . . thank you for challenging me while being my number-one fan. I'm excited to conquer the world with you.
To the powers that be: Thank you for finding me worthy of telling your stories.