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Powerless: Prologue

Sloane, age ten

My car door is open before my parents have put the Bentley in park. My feet hit the gravel driveway before they’ve even managed to get out of the car. In a whoosh of breath, my arms wrap around my cousin Violet. We almost bowl each other over onto the dirt driveway with the force of our hug.

She smells like green grass, horses, and sweet summer freedom.

“I missed you!” I squeal as Violet pulls away and grins mischievously at me.

“I missed you too.”

I catch my mom staring at us, happy and sad all at once. I look like my mom, and Violet looks like hers. Except Violet’s mom died, and my mom lost her sister. I always think she likes bringing me out here because she feels close to her sister when she’s on the ranch.

It also makes it more convenient for my parents to travel to their favorite spots in Europe. My dad said something about it being good for me to “see how the other half lives.” I’m not totally sure what that means, but I saw my mom’s lips clamp down on each other when he said it.

Either way, I never complain because a full month at Wishing Well Ranch with the Eaton family means I get to hang out and have fun with my cousins. The rules are lax. The curfews don’t exist. And I get to run wild for four full weeks every summer.

“Robert, Cordelia.” Uncle Harvey reaches forward to shake my dad’s hand before giving my mom a tight squeeze that leaves her blinking a little too quickly as she peers out over the flat farm fields and jagged mountains behind them. “Nice to see you both.”

They start talking about boring adult stuff, but I don’t hear them because my other cousins walk out of the big ranch house. Cade, Beau, and Rhett jog down the front stairs, joking and shoving and roaming like a pack.

And then they’re followed by one more boy. One I don’t recognize. One who immediately has my attention. One with long, lanky limbs, caramel-colored hair, and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

The saddest eyes I’ve ever seen.

When that boy slides his gaze over to me, there’s nothing but curiosity on his face. I jerk my head away all the same, feeling hot splotches pop up on my cheeks.

My mom moves beside me, patting me on the head. “Sloane, you need to remember your sunscreen. You already look too hot, and you spend so much time in the dance studio, your skin isn’t used to this exposure.”

Her fussing only makes me blush harder. I’m almost eleven and she’s making me seem like a baby in front of everyone.

I give my eyes a petulant roll and mumble, “I know. I will,” before taking Violet’s hand and storming off.

We go inside and up to my guest room, searching for some privacy while everyone else stands around outside and makes small talk.

Violet flops on the mattress and announces, “Tell me everything.”

I giggle and push my hair behind my ears, drawn to the window that overlooks the driveway. “About what?”

“School? The city? What do you wanna do this summer? Just . . . everything. I’m so happy there’s a girl here. This place stinks like boys all the time.

Out the window, I see the mystery boy shaking hands with my parents. I note the distaste on my father’s face. The pity on my mother’s.

“Who’s the other guy?” I ask, unable to look away.

“Oh.” Violet’s voice gets a little quiet. “That’s Jasper. He’s one of us now.”

I turn to her, eyebrow quirked, hands on my hips, trying to play it cool, like I’m not too interested, but not really knowing how to achieve that either. “What do you mean?”

She rolls up to sit cross-legged on the bed and shrugs. “He needed a family so we took him in. I don’t know all the details. There was an accident. Beau brought him here one day last fall. I like to think of him as one more stinky brother. You can just think of him like a new cousin.”

My head cants as my heart battles with my brain.

My heart wants to stare out the window again because Jasper is so cute and staring at him makes it do this weird little skipping thing in my chest.

My brain knows it’s stupid, because if he’s friends with Beau, he must be at least fifteen.

But I can’t stop myself.

I look anyway.

What I don’t realize is that I’ll be fighting the urge to stare at Jasper Gervais for years to come.


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