Auralie woke up with a strange taste in her mouth, a throb lurking somewhere in her skull, and a woozy, disoriented feeling. It took her a while before she could manage to fully open her eyes and clear away the sleepy haze from her vision.

She was on . . . a boat?

Yes—it was definitely a boat. She could feel the movement of the waves underneath her, rocking the sea vehicle almost tenderly. She was under the deck, in a cozy little space with a few threadbare amenities and a port window to view the expanse of sea in the distance. She swore she could hear, somewhere above her, the call of restless seagulls.

All of it would’ve been nice and pleasant, had it not been for two distinctly not-nice and unpleasant things: The first was that she could not remember how she got on the boat (how much did I drink?), and the second was that she was laying on the floor, feeling quite uncomfortable.

I’ve gotta get up, she thought. It took a few moments for the thought to reach the rest of her body, but when it did, she wearily began to drag herself up off the ground.

It was then that she realized the third not-nice and decidedly unpleasant thing: her leg was chained.

For a while, she just stared, as if willing the long, heavy chain to suddenly break and free her. No such luck, of course. It remained stubbornly stuck around her leg, connected to an odd pole thing. She yanked on it first with her hand, then strained against it by extending her leg as far as she could—but, no dice. She was trapped.

The panic and the fear sunk in slowly, like—pardon the metaphor—the sea lapping at a patch of sand. But more and more, that water rose to shore, and she began to lose her shit.

“What the fuck,” she hissed, her voice a dry, croaky whisper. She cleared her throat; the sour taste remained. Pathetically, the first person she thought about was not a much-loved family member or best friend, but rather her publicist. What will Drew think of this? Thinking of Drew made her then think of her cell phone—the two were forever linked in her mind—and she reached around for her purse in a desperate bid to locate it.

“If you’re looking for your phone,” a voice called, making her blood run cold and her frantic hands go still, “you won’t find it.”

She turned her head toward the voice as slowly as possible. And she found, now standing mere feet away from her, a man. He was gangly and unattractive, the kind of man who always wanted to take a picture with her, the kind she wouldn’t have given the time of day in high school.

He was staring.

“Who are you?” she asked. It was such a clichéd thing to say, dialogue that would’ve made her roll her eyes if it had been uttered in a movie, but that’s what first found its way to her lips.

The man smiled. He had a sly, serpent-like smile, and icy eyes that peered at her from behind a pair of glasses. “Just a fan,” he replied vaguely. A chill crept up her spine; she was getting Misery flashbacks, and the chain around her leg suddenly felt so tight and restrictive, so dangerous.

She swallowed a lump in her throat. “Please let me go.” It was a breathy little whisper. She’d used the same one on the movie The Four-Cat Tango, when she’d said the line, “I only ever told you the truth, Eric. You know that.” The memory seemed strange now, like a clip from someone else’s life, someone else’s career. She wondered if this stranger had seen that movie. Maybe he wanted to reenact it.

“You’re shorter in person.” He cocked his head to one side. “Thinner, too. Still beautiful, though.” He had a weird, toothy smile that seemed too big for his face. His eyes drank her in, top to bottom, and she felt a wave of nausea.

“I’ll pay you, if you let me go,” she said. “I have a lot of money, you know. Five blockbusters and two Oscar-nominated dramas offer quite a paycheck.” It was an attempt at humor, of familiarity, a bit of a normal half-joke to make things seem okay. But her voice quivered as she delivered it, and the man—her captor—didn’t seem amused.

“I don’t want your money.” He sounded almost hurt by the suggestion. “I want more than that, Auralie. You know I do.”

He sat down beside her, curling his long legs underneath him. He scooted closer to her, till they were sitting beside each other. She fought the urge to crawl away from him, afraid she’d offend him and get herself killed.

He kept staring at her, a deranged, frightening look on his face. Then he extended his hand and oh-so gently ran his fingertips along her leg, up from where it was chained all the way to her thigh. She shivered. He stopped a little ways past her knee, staring intently at his own fingers as if challenging them to continue. Eventually, he pulled his hand away, curling the fingers into a fist and glaring at it. “No, no, no,” he said, shaking his head. “Self-control, Mitch! Self-control!”

Mitch. She filed the name away for later, hoping it would be a helpful clue to give police when and if she made it out of there, as the manhunt for her captor began. She could picture the crawl on the nightly news: Celebrity It Girl and wild child Auralie Young kidnapped by deranged fan; police seeking a gangly dweeb named Mitch.

“I’m sorry,” Mitch said, shrugging his shoulders. “Sometimes I can’t help but touch. Won’t happen again.”

“It won’t?”

That weird smile was back. “No, it won’t. Don’t worry, Aura—can I call you Aura? I don’t want to hurt you or anything. It’s just, well—my girlfriend and I have a plan. You’ll see. It’s a good one.”

“Your girlfriend?”

He nodded. “Her name’s April. You’d like her. Anyway, we’re both big fans of yours—that movie you did, where you played the high-schooler tormented by that bitchy cheerleader and the jock? A Day for My Diary? It came out six years ago—“

“Yes, I remember.”

 “That’s our favorite movie. It got me through high school.” He was staring at her meaningfully, passionately, one romantic song away from kissing her. She stifled the urge to recoil. “We love your work, Aura. We love you.” He tapped her nose on the word “you.” She just stared, wide-eyed and startled.

“What—what am I doing here?” Her voice trembled again. Goddamn. She wanted to at least preserve the illusion she was unafraid.

“You’ll see,” Mitch said again. Then he stood up—she breathed a small exhale of relief—and started walking away, toward a set of stairs leading to the deck.

Her relief turned to panic. “You’re leaving me here?” she called.

“Temporarily!” he called back—cheerfully, like they were old pals. She watched as he disappeared up the stairs, and she was alone, trapped and helpless.

She pulled frantically at the chain. Again, no dice. She couldn’t break it—she wasn’t strong enough and it made her leg howl in pain every time she tried. “Shit,” she said, mumbling the word. She let out a long breath—which turned into a dark, low chuckle. This was really happening. She was trapped on a boat with a kidnapping dweeb called Mitch. He liked her movie—that dumb fucking high school movie, too, not even one of the good ones. This was her life. This was real life, not a movie or a Hollywood party or awards show or any other bullshit. This was real. Too real.

She screamed.


“Can I get your autograph?”

Kip Cabot glanced toward the squeaky voice. It belonged, not surprisingly, to a young girl with black thick-frame glasses and frizzy red hair. She was scrawny, dressed in an oversized T-shirt and jeans. Her smile was desperate. He could see the awestruck wonder in her eyes, hear it in her voice. He smiled back at her, because that’s what he had to do, but secretly it made him sick. “Sure you can.”

She shoved a little booklet and pencil toward him. He wrote his name in slanted, barely-legible scrawl, hasty to get it over with. “I bet no one ever asks for an autograph, huh?” she asked. That godawful squawky voice echoed in his ears. “Everyone wants pictures these days! But I like autographs. Much more personal.” She was grinning. She had buck teeth.

“Here you go,” he said, handing the booklet and pencil back. She stared down at it, frowning. “Something wrong?” he asked—and regretted the question as soon as he said it.

“Well, it’s just . . .” She sighed. “I hate to ask—absolutely hate it—but could you do it again? A bit clearer? And, um, maybe personalize it?” She smiled up at him. There was a yellow film over a few of her front teeth.

“Sure,” he said, but there was an edge creeping into his tone. Fuck. If he said the wrong thing—or, hell, even if he said the right thing in the wrong tone of voice—then the buck-toothed bitch would be squawking about it on Twitter within the hour, and before the end of the day, he’d face a horde of shitty articles opining on what a douche he was. He did not need that. His manager certainly didn’t need it, either. Artie was one Kip-is-a-douche incident away from a stroke.

So Kip smiled, took the autograph booklet and tried again. “Who should I address it to?”

“April.” That shit-eating grin stared up at him as he wrote. It was distracting. “Could you write, ‘I’ve never not loved you’?”

He glanced up at her. “Huh?”

“You know, the line from the movie.”

He squinted.

“Oh, don’t tell me you don’t remember!”

“I’ve said a lot of lines in a lot of movies—”

A Day for My Diary,” she interrupted. “Let me set the scene: Your character, Alix, and the protagonist, Opal—played by the incomparable Auralie Young, my all-time favorite actress—meet eyes across the auditorium in the midst of prom. The theme: a mid-winter’s night dream. There’s fake snow, blue lights, the works. And Opal looks stunning. All through the movie, she’s been gawky, awkward—but, I mean, you could tell she was pretty underneath it all, and not just because of her inner beauty, though she had that in spades. But now, right here, during prom . . . she’s incandescent. Radiant. And you, well, you looked pretty good yourself.” She winked. He fought the urge to cringe. “But anyway, you go up to her, and she goes to you. She says, ‘I just want you to love me. All I’ve ever wanted, all I would ever ask, is that you love me. And I know maybe that’s a lot, because we’re only in high school, and maybe it won’t last—but I love you. And I want, need, for you to love me.’ She has bared her soul to you in that moment. You know it. And you look at her, and you say, ‘I’ve never not loved you.’” There were tears in the girl’s eyes. “It’s just so beautiful. I love that scene. I love that movie.” She giggled like a toddler.

“Wow” was all Kip could say. He started looking around, searching for a quick escape route. They were on a random street corner in Williamsburg. Ordinarily, nobody ever fucked with him in Williamsburg—the hipsters were too cool to watch his lame, mass-marketed movies, and far too cool to ever ask for an autograph or selfie—but there was usually one exception to the rule. Just usually not an exception so far off the deep-end.

“You mean to tell me you don’t have people constantly quoting that film to you?” the girl—April, wasn’t it?—asked.

“Well, no, not really. It’s not my most popular.”

“Ha! I find that hard to believe.” She tapped the booklet in his hand. “So you going to sign it, then?”

“Right. What did you want me to say?”

“The line,” she huffed, quickly losing her patience. “The best line of the whole film! ‘I’ve never not loved you.’”

He looked down at the booklet. It was flimsy, pocket-sized, and the page was blank except for his earlier, rejected signature. He did not want to write down the line—it was a stupid line from a stupid movie he had tried his best to forget even existed, and it seemed like a far too familiar thing to write in a stranger’s autograph book. But he also wanted to be done with the buck-toothed nerd and her terrible voice, so he wrote the line, signed his name and handed the pencil and notepad back with such haste, an outside observer may’ve thought it was contaminated. “Here you go. Have a good one.” He walked away. He could breathe easier once he was away from her. He could always breathe easier when there weren’t any rabid fans or celebrity obsessives around.

He passed some Hasidic Jews, an artisanal yogurt shop and a park bench. It was an overcast day, drizzling slightly, and the area wasn’t crowded. That was nice. Sometimes he needed the space. Needed to clear his head, needed to—

“Hey! Wait up!”

That voice. It was her.

He slowed his pace, considering his options. He could turn around and tell her to fuck off—but no, that’d end up on TMZ and he’d come across as the asshole. He could pretend he didn’t hear—but no, he’d already started slowing down and done a brief, knee-jerk glance over his shoulder that she surely would’ve noticed. He could turn around and listen to whatever bullshit request she next came up with—but no, he was done with her, done with all pesty fans who felt entitled to their favorite stars’ time and attention. What did that leave?

He felt sure he had only one option left: run.

He broke out in a sprint down the street, trying to lose her. He could hear her behind him, though—she was wearing flip-flops that smacked against the pavement as she gave chase. She was gaining on him. Shit! He’d had to gain weight for his most recent project—some dumbass movie about a bunch of frat guys who accidentally murder a stripper in Vegas—and as a result, he wasn’t running as fast as usual. The extra heft felt strange: it was like his legs hadn’t adjusted to the rapid weight gain, so he physically couldn’t run as he normally would, at least not yet. That put him at a distinct disadvantage. The frizzy-haired fuck was right behind him. He had to think fast.

“Hey!” she called again. “Hey, Kip! Kip! Just talk to me, will you? Talk to me!”

He ignored her. His eyes darted around, searching every storefront, searching for some way to ditch her. Then he saw it: an alleyway, up ahead. Maybe, if he played it right, if he turned down it at the very last second . . . maybe then, he could lose her. Or at least get far enough ahead that she couldn’t keep up. It was worth a try—not like he had many other choices.

“Kip!” she screamed. Her voice was even worse when she was shouting. “Kip, stop this right now!” Under different circumstances, he might’ve found it amusing how she was speaking to him. It was like she was genuinely disappointed in his actions, like she was scolding him in a voice reserved only for his mother or some authority figure. At the moment, he did not have much time to register the comedic value. What a fruitcake was all he could think.

The alleyway approached. He waited till the last possible second, then abruptly swerved to the right, turning down it. He didn’t slow his pace, he kept running as fast as he could—

—all the way to a dead end.

“Fuck!” he said in between pants. He spun around. She was already there, a few steps away, breathing hard and looking at him with wide, shocked eyes. Like how he imagined a deer would look right before taking a bullet.

“You ran away from me.” Her lower lip trembled. “You ran away from me.

“I’m sorry, okay?” He was still panting. “I just . . . I really didn’t want to talk. But I’m here now, so what do you want?”

“I want to give you something.”

Oh shit. His mind flashed on all the awful things she could have for him: a love letter; a portrait she painted of him; a pair of her underwear; or, perhaps worst of all, her screenplay. He shuddered at the thought. “What is it?” he asked—slowly, his reluctance obvious.

She stepped forward. Her chest was rising and falling rapidly, and her hair—which had been frizzy to begin with—was flying up all over the place. Her glasses were slightly ajar. She reached into the pocket of her jeans, dug around and extracted something—he couldn’t see what, in the darkness of the alley. It was clenched firmly, protectively, in her hand.

“What is th—” He didn’t get to finish. Before he could, she snapped her hand suddenly to his arm and stuck something in him. He looked down. It was a fucking needle, a syringe—his eyes bulged.

Then everything disappeared.


Auralie felt like she’d been on the boat for days. In truth, she’d only been awake for a few hours, but the isolation and the constant rocking motion was getting to her. She was crippled with nausea—an intense, rolling kind of nausea. Her normally glowing, perfect skin had taken on a green undertone. She was at the point where she was actually looking forward to vomiting, hopeful that it would mean the end of her seasickness.

No such luck, of course. The nausea remained and no vomit came.

Boats are the worst, she decided. They were Satan’s transportation vehicle of choice. Designed to make you feel terrible and strand you in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of sharks or God knows what type of sea creatures lurking just underfoot. She’d never understood why people liked the ocean. Or the beach. Or anything related to a large body of water. She swore to herself she’d never go near the sea again, once she got through this.

If she got through this.

Her stomach lurched. She felt her stomach contents come up, briefly, then sink back down again. Like the waves crashing and subsiding against the shore. “Fuck this,” she muttered. Yeah, she was talking to herself. Why not? She felt damn near delirious, anyway. May as well act the part.

HELLO?” she screamed, at the top of her lungs. “Is anyone there?!”

No response. Of course.

It was sometime later—twenty minutes, though she had no way of knowing that at the time—that she finally heard a sound, up above. It was the noise of something heavy being dropped on the deck. First the drop, then another sound—a dragging noise. Whatever it was, the thing was heavy, and was now being dragged across the deck and over to the stairs. The stairs leading down to Auralie.

“Hello? Who’s there?” she called. She strained against the chain once again, to no avail.

There were grunts. The heavy thing was being picked up by someone—no, not someone, two people. She could hear their voices. They lifted up the thing and, with several groans, started carrying it down to the lower deck.

As they came into view, Aurelie recognized Mitch as one of the carriers. The other was a girl with frizzy hair and glasses. They were lugging a burlap sack containing—

Auralie gasped. “Holy shit. Is that a body?”

“Yeah,” Mitch said.

She gasped again, then started to cry.

“An alive body!” he hastily clarified.

“Nice going, Mitch,” the frizzy-haired girl said. “You made Auralie Young cry!”

“I’m sorry! I didn’t realize how that would sound . . .”

Auralie couldn’t stop crying, despite the clarification. It was like the floodgates had opened and there was no stopping it now. She sobbed and sobbed and, through her tears, squeaked out a series of pitiful requests: “Please let me go! Please don’t hurt me! Please let me get through this, please!”

“Oh, Auralie!” The girl—April, she imagined—came running over. “Don’t cry! We love you! We’d never hurt you. You’re our favorite girl.” She was smiling. It was a vaguely demented smile—not comforting in the slightest.

Auralie continued to sob.

Mitch laid the unconscious body on the floor, then started to remove the burlap sack covering it. “This should cheer you up,” he called to Auralie. “A nice, familiar face to help you get through things.”

“What?” she asked, struggling to catch her breath. “What a-are you ta-talking about?”

He threw off the burlap sack. The body—belonging to a man—was a ways away from her and lying flat, so she had to squint to try to identify him. “Who is that?”

“What, you can’t see him?”

She shook her head.

Mitch grabbed the man by his arms and started dragging him over. He brought him right next to Auralie—close enough that she instinctively recoiled, putting a bit of distance between the two.

She looked down at his face . . .

. . . and gasped again. “Kip?!”

“Yep!” Mitch said, rather proudly.

“He’s sure gotten fat, huh?” April giggled. “Though, don’t get me wrong: I’d still totally do him.”

“This is insane,” Auralie said. She looked up, studying the faces of both April and Mitch. “You are insane. Both of you.”

“You don’t mean that,” April said.

“She’s just upset right now, babe,” Mitch assured. “Don’t take it personally. She’ll change her mind.”

“I know. I won’t hold it against her.” April grinned, staring directly into Auralie’s eyes. “I’d never hold anything against you. You could go to prison tomorrow for murdering your entire family, and I’d be there. I’d be in charge of all your appeals. I’d be petitioning the judge to reconsider. I’d be paying you visits. I’d never abandon you, Auralie.”

Auralie felt another lurch in her stomach. This one was worse than any of the others—such a strong, sudden wave of nausea that it made her crumple in half. “Oh God,” she said. And with that, she finally puked.


“Well,” April said, fifteen minutes later, after the last of the vomit had been scrubbed away, “that was unfortunate.”

“Do you have anything for me to drink?” Auralie asked. Her voice was hoarse. “I need to get this taste out of my mouth.”

“Sure! Be right back.” April ran back up the stairs, leaving Auralie in the sole presence of Mitch. Well, both Mitch and Kip, technically, not that the latter was much use, being passed out as he was. Auralie’s eyes drifted toward his sleeping form, drinking in his extra chub, his stubble-brushed face, his slightly-parted lips. He looked peaceful, actually—like a sleeping baby. She envied him. Being unconscious in this situation seemed like the best possible option.

Then again, she thought, noticing Mitch leering at her from a distance, maybe it’s good to be on alert.

Mitch, once he was finally able to pull his eyes away from Auralie, closed the gap between he and Kip and bent to one knee at Kip’s side. He then lightly slapped Kip’s cheek, the way you would to rouse a drunken friend. “Wakey wakey,” he chirped, all smiles. “Don’t you want to be reunited with your true love?”

Auralie felt another lurch in her stomach. “What did you say?” She hoped to God she’d misheard him.

Mitch turned to her with a big ol’ grin, strips of hair hanging in his eyes. “Oh, don’t play coy with me. I read the gossip, I know what’s going on. You two had a fling.” Something about how he said it—like a little boy who just learned about sex, teasing his older sister with shitty innuendo—made Auralie cringe. “April and I, we read all about it. We just about freaked when we heard. Hearing you and Kippie had a fling during the making of our favorite movie?! Wow, just wow. I’ll admit, April and I ship it. We ship you two. No shame.” The grin grew wider. “The chemistry in the movie, between the both of you? It just crackles. Of course it was real. You can’t fake chemistry like that. Sexual tension. Animal magnetism.”

Auralie’s mouth dropped open. For a moment, she said nothing. Then: “What?” He started to reply, but she interrupted, rushing to correct him as her brain finally caught up with everything he’d just said. “Kip and I never had a fling! That was a stupid rumor, nothing more. It was used to promote the film. We—we were coworkers, that’s it.”

A shadow of something—doubt, maybe disappointment—briefly crossed Mitch’s face. But it didn’t last. Soon he was back to that smug, know-it-all expression. “Oh, I get it. Trying to make me think there’s nothing between you so that I let you go. Is that it? Well, nice try, Aura. Like I said: you can’t fake chemistry.”

“No, I’m serious! You don’t understand—”

“Knock it off,” he snapped, his tone changing to something sharper, more fiery. His grin faded into a deep frown. “I don’t want to listen to lies.”

She wasn’t lying, of course, but it seemed little use telling him that. Besides, he seemed suddenly serious—all business and barely-contained rage—and she didn’t want to piss him off further. So she slunk down against the pole she was chained to, her shoulders slumping, and grew quiet.

Mitch, meanwhile, turned his attention to his other prisoner. He grabbed Kip under his arms, pulling him toward—

Oh, shit. It was another pole, Auralie realized. With another chain.

Helplessly, she sat and watched as Kip was attached to the pole by his ankle. Just like her. “Twinsies!” April declared as she trotted down the stairs, carrying a tray of glasses with her. Like Mitch, she had a maniacal grin on her face. They’re a match made in hell, Auralie thought. “I brought lemonade for all of us. It’s fresh-squeezed.” Still grinning, she strolled over to Auralie and handed her a glass. Auralie stared into it, wondering if it was poisoned. She knew it wasn’t wise to eat or drink anything a crazy kidnapper gave her, but in that moment, she didn’t care. She was feeling reckless and struggling to think of a reason why she cared to live in the first place. If they were going to kill her, better to get it over with through poisoning than holding her hostage for days or weeks or—God forbid—months on end, only to unceremoniously throw her overboard. Plus, she was thirsty.

She took a swig. It was sour.

“Good, huh?” April asked.

She nodded. Critiquing the crazy bitch’s lemonade recipe seemed like pushing her luck.

“Mitch, you want some?”

“You know it!” Mitch yanked on Kip’s foot to test the chain. It pulled but didn’t break. Satisfied, he stood up. “Well, done with that. Easier than I thought it’d be.”

“Right? We’re ahead of schedule!” April handed him a glass and he took a long sip. She watched him, all wide-eyed and rapt, like she was observing an opera and not her dweeby boyfriend having a drink.

Afterwards, he paused dramatically, glanced between Auralie and Kip, then asked, “What now?”

April jutted out her hip and loudly proclaimed, “Hmm . . .” She tapped on her chin as she pondered the question. Like a fucking cartoon character, Auralie thought. “Well, we should probably wake up Kip, don’t you think? He’s been out for a while. The drugs should be wearing off about now.”

Mitch nodded his approval and April set down her tray and dropped to the floor. She started pinching Kip’s cheeks like he was a baby. “Sweetums, wake up! You’re safe now. You’re with friends.” She blew on his closed eyes.

“Maybe you should give him mouth-to-mouth,” Mitch suggested.

April looked up at him, fluttering her eyelashes and giggling. “You’re such a scamp.” Glancing over her shoulder at Auralie, she called, “Any suggestions, Aura? After all, you know him much more intimately than we do.”

“No, I don’t,” Auralie answered. She couldn’t help herself.

“We already know,” April said. “About you and Kip. You don’t need to pretend. Let me set the scene: you and Kip, late one night after a long shoot, sharing a bottle of wine. One thing leads to another, and boom, you’re going at it. A fling that lasted through the entire production! You may’ve broken it off once the movie was finished, but you’ve never forgotten. You cherish those memories. You thought it was only a friends-with-benefits, no-strings-attached kind of deal . . . but it was more than that. To both of you. And that’s why neither of you have been in a serious relationship since. You’re both hung up on each other!” When she finished her diatribe, Mitch applauded.

Auralie felt the same way she had when she’d discovered erotic fan fiction about herself floating around online. “You can’t be serious,” she said. “None of that happened!”

“We know it did. I mean, okay, maybe I’m speculating about the last part—but the evidence supports my theory.” She stood up and crossed her arms over her chest, defiant. “Just fess up. We won’t judge you! Either of you. We love you.”

“No, you don’t,” Auralie insisted, spitting out the words. “You don’t even know me. Or him.”

As if on cue, Kip groaned. He sounded groggy as hell, but alive, at least, and just barely awake.

“Babe!” April cried, collapsing to the floor. “Finally!” She shook his shoulders and he gave a short, grumpy-sounding moan. “Hi, Kip! It’s me, it’s April.”

“Who?” he asked, the word almost intelligible.

“April,” she said again. Like the name should mean something.

He rubbed his eyes, struggling to come to. “Did I sleep with you?” he slurred.

Now she was indignant. “No. You most certainly did not.”

He tried to raise himself up onto his elbows but failed, falling back against the floor. He forced his eyes opened and blinked up at the ceiling. “What the hell,” he said, and though he meant it as a question, his tone was flat, sounding more like a sleepy statement. “Where . . . where are we, April . . .”

Shhh. Don’t worry about it.” She put a finger to his lips, shushing him. “I’m here with you. You’ll be just fine, babe.”

Auralie turned away, wincing. April, she decided, was even creepier than Mitch.

“’Babe’?” Mitch questioned. “I thought I was babe.”

“There can be more than one ‘babe,’ babe,” April asserted.

“So if I start calling Auralie ‘honey,’ will you be okay with that?”

Mitch,” she said, turning to glare at him. “Drop the jealous boyfriend act. We have company, for Pete’s sake! You’re embarrassing us in front of our cool new friends!”

“Cool new hostages,” Auralie corrected underneath her breath.

“And besides that,” April continued, rising to her feet, “I don’t want to fight on our wedding day.”

Auralie’s ears perked up on that. She turned back toward the duo and asked incredulously, “Today’s your wedding day?”

“Yep!” April said. “So exciting, right?”

“This one’s always wanted a spring wedding,” Mitch said, gesturing with his thumb in April’s direction. “I just had to make her dream come true.”

“Originally, we thought we’d do something big and splashy—themed to your movie, in fact! A whole Day for My Diary wedding. Very unique, very Pinterest—”

“—but then we decided to go a different route,” Mitch concluded. “Something more intimate and special.” He put his arm around April as if to emphasis their closeness.

“Okay,” Auralie said—slowly, stretching the word out with obvious confusion. “That’s great and all, but where exactly do we fit into this?”

“Well, that’s the thing.” April giggled. It was a loathsome giggle. “Kip’s going to be our officiator!”

“Kip?” Auralie eyed the man in question. He was still sprawled out on the ground and seemed to have fallen back asleep. In that moment, he more closely resembled a sack of potatoes than a human man.

“We saw on his Instagram that he got ordained so he could officiate his sister’s wedding. Isn’t that so cute?” April was practically swooning.

“And that’s not all.” Mitch grinned at his fiancée. “Do you want to tell her the rest, or should I?”

“You do it, babe,” April said, snuggling into him. Looking up at him adoringly, she added, “It’s my wedding gift to you.”

Refocusing his attention on Auralie, he said (still with that wide, haunting grin on his face), “Auralie Young, today’s not only our wedding day—it’s yours, too! You and Kip are getting married!”


Auralie’s blood ran cold. She kept staring at Kip, hoping for something—some help, a sign of life, someone to exchange “aren’t they crazy?” looks with. Just anyone to commiserate with, anyone with a friendly face. But, with him dead to the world, she was on her own.

April and Mitch were staring. They wanted a reaction, and she refused to give it to them. Though on the inside she was screaming and terrified and felt utterly alone, on the outside, she remained her composure. I’m an actress, she repeated like a mantra, and a damn good one. I can do this.

“Well, that is . . . something.” She paused. “One thing, though. Who’s going to officiate? I mean, it’s not like Kip could officiate his own—”

“I am!” April interrupted. “I got ordained online for just such an occasion.”

Huh. Auralie, admittedly, had not expected them to be that prepared. “I seriously doubt this is legally binding,” she then tried. “Marriage license—you’d need a marriage license, for one thing.”

April waved Auralie’s concerns away. “Don’t worry. Pretty soon, we’re going to be on our joint honeymoon and silly legal matters will be the last thing on your mind.”

Joint honeymoon?” There was that now-familiar lurch in her stomach again. “Oh, God . . .” They were being taken away from the US, weren’t they? Into international waters, to evade capture. This was bad. This was terrible. How had this happened? Auralie wracked her brain trying to come up with how she’d ended up here, but the last thing she could remember was the previous morning. Everything after that was shrouded in a dark cloud. There’d been a party, hadn’t there? She’d drank too much, probably. She had a habit of that. Maybe she’d stumbled out of a crowd and that creep, that fucking Mitch, had gotten to her somehow . . . maybe he’d given her whatever drugs they’d given Kip, and she’d been drunk enough and stupid enough to take them . . . or maybe she’d been forced . . .

Was anyone looking for her? Surely someone was. She was famous. Famous people don’t just disappear. Her agent, at the very least, would be wondering where she was. People would want to know why she wasn’t answering her texts. There was probably already a search party out there, scouring every metropolitan city and interviewing witnesses and doing all those things that they do on cop shows. Yes! They’d find her.


“. . . gonna be so much fun!” April was saying.

Auralie looked up, meeting the crazy girl’s gaze. What had she just said? She’d missed it. She’d been off in Fantasyland dreaming of rescuers instead of paying attention to what her keeper was jabbering on about so she could think up an escape plan. Rookie mistake. “What?” she asked.

“You weren’t listening?” April heaved an exaggerated sigh. “I was talking about our joint honeymoon! We’re setting sail and we’re going somewhere tropical. It’s going to be the most fun you’ve ever had.”

“Oh God,” Auralie said, running a hand through her hair. “This can’t be happening. Fuck.” She started rocking back and forth on the floor, curled over into a ball, her arms around her legs. The chain rattled. Her eyes stared into space, glassy, not really seeing. Think, Auralie, think! She’d seen this movie before. She was sure of it. Some psycho kidnappers, some chained-up girl—there was a way out. The girl always got free. Well, usually got free. She could get free.

“Where the fuck am I?” It was Kip. He was awake again. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and glanced around. First his eyes took in April and Mitch, hovering over him, and then he turned and spotted Auralie, still rhythmically rocking back and forth. “Auralie? What are . . . where are we?” he asked again.

“You’re home,” April enthused.

He looked up at her, scratching his chin. “Do I know you?”

She and Mitch shared a look. “He’s kind of stupid in person,” Mitch observed.

“Well, maybe once the last of the drugs wear off—”

Kip’s eyes went wide. “Drugs? What drugs? What did I take?”

“Strong ones,” April replied vaguely, flashing a toothy smile. “It’s okay. You’re in good hands, I swear.”

“No, you’re trapped,” Auralie corrected. She’d stopped rocking and was staring at the far wall. Her voice had a dark edge. “Just look at your fucking leg.”

For the first time, Kip did. The chain greeted him, in all its jangly, restrictive glory. “What the fuck?” He started aggressively pulling at it, shaking his limbs and crawling as far as the chain would allow in a pointless attempt at breaking it.

April and Mitch, in turn, jumped back as his hands came dangerously close to grabbing their feet. “I think we should give him some space,” April mused, cocking her head to one side. “Just so he’ll have time to process things.”

“Good idea.” The two of them started heading for the stairs. Mitch waved goodbye over his shoulder.

“Wait!” Kip screamed. “Don’t leave me! You have to let me out of this thing! I won’t even press charges, just . . . just let me go!”

The stairs creaked and groan with their steps. Eventually, they disappeared, leaving Auralie and Kip—former costars, rumored lovers, virtual strangers—by themselves.

He was the first to speak: “So we’re really trapped down here?”

“Yes, genius,” she muttered. For emphasis, she lifted her leg slightly and made the chain jangle.

He sat up, leaning his back against the pole he was attached to. “Who were those people?”

“Fucking fans. They’re obsessed with us. And that dumb-shit movie we did.”

A Day for My Diary?” He winced. “Really?”

“Well, it’s not as if batshit crazy people are known for having good taste.”

He started pulling at the chain with his hands, using all his force to try to get it to snap or give a little.

“You’re not the Hulk,” Auralie reminded him. “You’ll never break it.”

“Won’t know until I try.” He made a face as his body contorted with the effort. Finally, he exhaled sharply and released the chain, throwing up his hands. “You’re right. We’re trapped.” He looked at her sideways. “How long have you been down here?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been conscious for . . . I guess a few hours. No idea how they got me here.”

“Same.” He rubbed his head as if searching for a wound. “That girl with the buck teeth looked familiar, though. I feel like I may’ve met her before.”

“Do you think people are looking for us?” Auralie asked. “Has anyone even noticed yet? That we’re gone?”

“Of course. I mean, they had to have.”

“I don’t know.” She picked up the slack of the chain and ran the tips of her fingers along it as she spoke. “I don’t . . . I don’t have that many people in my life. No family. A handful of self-absorbed friends who probably wouldn’t even realize I’m gone until—God, I don’t even know. My best hope’s my agent.” She chuckled. “How sad is that?”

For a long time, Kip was quiet. He stared down at his hands in his lap, trying—and failing—to come up with anyone who would care that he was gone. My fans would, he thought, and that brought him some moderate comfort until he remembered that two of his fans were the reason he was here in the first place. My manager would definitely care—but, he knew, that kind of caring was different than being honestly concerned for his well-being and having sincere love for him as a person.

He thought about telling Auralie he was in the same boat (pun unintended), but he couldn’t find the nerve. It was just too pathetic. Instead, he told her, “Look, us going missing is way different than Joe Schmoe from Idaho going missing. People know our names, our faces—we have hordes of fans. As soon as they realize we’re gone, everyone’s going to be looking for us.”

She nodded. “Yeah, that’s true. Perks of fame, I guess.” She paused, then added, “Though I guess being famous is what got us here to begin with.”

“Why are we here, anyway? What do they want with us?”

“Because they want us to get married.”


Later, long after Kip had been briefed on exactly what April and Mitch’s deal was, April returned bearing clothing.

“A tux for you,” she said, handing off a cheap tuxedo to Kip, “and a dress for you!” The emphasis she put on “dress” made it clear she found that far more exciting.

The dress given to Auralie also looked cheap, at least in comparison to what she was used to. It was one of those non-traditional, nouvelle wedding gown: short, ending around the knee, with a frilly hem, a pale pink built-in belt around the waist, capped sleeves and a rounded neckline framed by old-lady lace. Despite its obvious break from tradition, one classic trademark remained: it was white—signifying something that would, based on all of Auralie’s well-documented flings, seem like quite a stretch.

Holding the dress in her hands (and feeling the uncomfortable texture with some dismay), she grimaced up at April. “I really have to wear this?”

“Yes,” April insisted, sounding somewhat offended. “Of course you do. It’s your wedding day! And mine.” Now, cheerful again, she looked between Auralie and Kip and asked, “I probably should leave it a surprise, but what the heck—would you two like to see my gown?”

Auralie was silent. After a brief, two-second pause, Kip uncertainly answered, “Sure?”

“Okay! Let me go get it.” She ran up the stairs so fast, she was practically tripping over herself.

“What’d you say that for me?” Auralie hissed. “Who cares about the stupid wedding dress of our stupid kidnapper?”

“What else was I supposed to say? Clearly she wanted a yes, and who knows what she would’ve done to us if she hadn’t gotten it?”

Auralie snorted. “They’re pussies. They wouldn’t have done anything. They want us to get married and honeymoon with them. That’s their endgame. What are they going to do, yell at you till you cry?” She paused. “I wonder, do they even have any guns? I feel like they would’ve shown us one by now if they did. You know, to keep us in check.”

“Yeah, but they must’ve used something to get us here in the first place,” Kip pointed out.

“They did. You heard April say that thing about drugs. I saw you before you woke up, and you were just about dead to the world. They drugged us. That might be their only weapon. Kip, we can probably get out of here.”

April’s footfalls sounded on the steps as she plodded back down. When she reached the bottom, she dramatically pulled her wedding gown from its dress cover, then held it up and walked from Kip to Auralie so they could get a nice, long look. “Pretty wonderful, isn’t it?” she asked. The dress was fishtail-style, tight-fitting, and longer than Auralie’s—ending right around the floor. It was also white, and more closely resembling a cocktail dress than a wedding gown, but whatever. “It’s great,” Kip halfheartedly remarked.

Auralie was quiet and, after a moment, defiantly glanced away.

“What?” April asked her. “You don’t like it?”

“Go fuck yourself,” Auralie replied. Kip audibly gasped.

April clutched at her chest and stumbled back a step as if she’d been hit. “Wow! Wow, Auralie. I expected better from you, I really did. I’m very disappointed.” She shook her head and tsk-tsk’d. “So immature—and on your wedding day, too. A sacred day. Well, you know what? That was a mean-spirited outburst, but I forgive you for it. I know it’s a lot of pressure to be a bride, and—”

“I’m not a fucking bride!” she shouted. “I’m only twenty-eight! There’s no way in hell I’m getting married, at least not for a long time, and probably not ever. And definitely not to that guy!” She pointed at Kip, her words laced with disdain. She felt a bit bad about it—not like it was his fault they were trapped; they were in this together, and equal victims—but still. Kip Cabot was totally not her type.

“Sweetie, pre-wedding jitters are completely normal,” April said.

Auralie glared at her. “These. Are. Not. Fucking. Pre-wedding. Jitters.”

“Okay,” April said, in a voice that made it clear she didn’t really believe her but was just, graciously, humoring her. “Well, anyway, I should be going. I’m glad you guys like the dress.” She spun on her heel and flounced back up the stairs.

Once alone, Auralie let out a bitter little laugh and said, “See? I told you. Pretty much nothing we could ever do would make them strike back. They’re fans—no, fanatics. They’ll justify all our bad behavior to themselves and keep loving us no matter what. You know that type and I do, too.”

“Damn,” he said. “That used to be my favorite type of fan.”

“Mine too.” Auralie sighed. “So much for that.”

“Well, that was still pretty risky what you did,” he observed. “Telling her to fuck off like that? Coulda gone a whole other way.”

“I was willing to risk it. You should be, too. If we’re going to get out of here, we have to try some terrifying, risky things.”

He made a face. “Can’t we just, you know . . . wait to be rescued? Surely it won’t be long now.”

“We don’t know that—and we don’t know where they’re taking us. We have to get free.”

“Oh yeah? And how do you suppose we do that?”

“The way I see it,” she began, “we have two options: we either wait until they unchain us, then make a break for it and jump overboard—”

“Not liking that idea.”

“—or,” she concluded, “we wait until the right moment . . . then push them overboard.”


“We’re going to take off your chains,” April said a bit later, “so that you can put on your wedding attire.”

“But don’t get any ideas,” Mitch cautioned. “While I take them off, April will guard the door. Then, once you’re free, I’ll join her up at the top of the stairs. If either of you make a run for it, we’ll just leave, shut the door and lock it from the outside before you reach us. So don’t try it.” He gave them both a serious look. Kip nodded; Auralie just stared.

April then skipped up the steps, taking her place at the top. Mitch started with Auralie, extracting a key from his back pocket to undo the cuff around her ankle. The chain fell to the ground with a satisfying jangle. She eyed him closely, wondering if trying something would be worth it, but decided against it. He was much taller than her and, though skinny himself, bigger too. She could never take him.

Mitch then went to Kip and repeated the process. Stupidly, Kip said “thank you” right after being unchained. “You’re welcome!” Mitch chirped, seemingly touched by the show of gratitude. Auralie wanted to vomit.

Mitch joined April at the top of the stairs. “Okay, it’s presto-change-o time!” April called.

Auralie’s eyes widened. “You want us to change in full view of you? And each other?” She glanced warily at Kip.

“Well, yes, that’s the idea,” April replied. “Don’t go looking so creeped out. It’s purely practical, not sexual. We can’t leave you or else you might try something. And as for you two seeing each other . . .” She laughed. “Let’s be real: you’ve seen each other naked loads of time before!”

“No, we—” Auralie started.

April cut her off: “This’ll be nothing new. And being actors, you guys should be used to changing in front of people.”

Yeah, people, but not kidnappers, Auralie thought. She grit her teeth.

“Come on now, chop chop,” April called.

Kip was the first to take the plunge. He pulled his V-neck over his head and threw it to the floor, then aggressively yanked off his jeans. Auralie averted her eyes as he undressed, hoping to God he’d do the same. In case he didn’t, she turned around so her back faced both him and the stairs, then begrudgingly pulled off her T-shirt. She left on both her bra and pants as she pulled on the dumb dress—which, remarkably, fit perfectly. Did they guess my size, she wondered, or did they go to one of those creepy sites that lists a celebrity’s height, weight, measurements and exact birthdate? She figured the latter.

Once the dress was on, she shimmied out of her pants. Turning back around, now fully clothed for her “wedding,” she saw Kip struggling to tie his tie. Idiot. He kept at it for a good five minutes before finally getting it right, at which point he smiled triumphantly to himself.

“Okay then,” Mitch said, coming back down the stairs, “time to re-chain.” He did as he said, and while going about the task, he informed them of the next steps: “So now we’re going to get some things ready up above and get dressed ourselves, and then we’ll come back down for you guys and bring you up-deck. That’s where the ceremony is going to be. Kip, you’ll officiate us while Auralie serves as our witness. Then, after that, you guys’ll be up at bat! With the amazing April officiating, of course.”

“It’s going to be so romantic,” April called from the stairs, clasping her hands together under her chin.

Once they were re-chained, Mitch and April left again—and Auralie quickly turned to plotting. “This is our chance,” she told Kip. “Once we’re up there, as you officiate, all you need to do is grab Mitch and throw him overboard. He’s physically the more intimidating of the two—we have to get rid of him first. Then we do the same with April.”

“Why do I have to be the one to do it?” Kip whined.

“Because in order to make it in our dumb fucking industry, I had to diet down to a size zero,” Auralie replied. “I have no muscle mass. Zero. You’re the heavy, quite literally. You can take Mitch. I can’t.”

He sighed, but couldn’t argue with the logic. “Okay.”

“So you’re in?”

“I’m in.”


Sometime later, April dramatically flung open the door and cried, “It’s time!” Her voice was a singsong.

Mitch was the one to come down the stairs though, since April’s dress—that tight-fitting fishtail—didn’t allow her to walk very easily. Hell, it barely allowed her to walk at all, forcing her to take pathetic baby steps. The heels she was wearing underneath didn’t help. She obviously wasn’t accustomed to heels, as she wobbled every step she took.

This time, before unchaining the kidnapped pair, Mitch handcuffed both of them. Shit, Auralie thought when he first brought the cuffs out. She hadn’t anticipated that. But then, thank God, he cuffed both her hands and Kip’s hands in front rather than behind their backs. A rookie mistake. The plan could still work, she’d just have to explain it to Kip. The big dumb idiot probably wouldn’t be able to figure it out on his own.

Up above, they were greeted by a cold, harsh day. The sky was gray and the sea was angry, thrashing back and forth with choppy waves. The boat rocked continuously. The wind was misery on April’s hair and the bite in the air made Auralie keep shivering in her dumb, short dress.

The ceremony, it was explained, was to take place by the front of the boat, with all of them huddled together not too far from the railing. Perfect, Auralie thought. She still had to communicate her message to Kip, though.

The opportunity came when April went to grab the rings. “So, Mitch,” Auralie said, “have you been sailing for a while now?”

“Oh yeah,” he answered. “April and I love the sea. We both sail.”

“Tell me all about it.”

“Really?” He wasted no time in launching into stories of their seafaring days. As he blabbered, Auralie elbowed Kip. He glanced at her. She subtly nodded toward Mitch, then opened her hands and crossed them, making the chain of the handcuffs get tight. “Around his neck,” she whispered, miming the gesture again.

Kip’s eyes got wide and he shook his head. She nodded, insistent. You have to, she wanted to say.

April returned with the rings as Mitch was midway through some zany story. “You can tell them the rest later,” she said. Then, with a grin, she added, “We’ve got a double wedding to perform.”


Kip was a decent officiator, given the circumstances. The part that really dragged were the vows Mitch and April had written for each other, which they tearily delivered as the wind whipped their hair in all different directions and the lurching waves made them sway side to side.

“I just want you to love me. All I’ve ever wanted, all I would ever ask, is that you love me. I want, need, for you to love me,” April said in hers, all quotes from A Day for My Diary.

Mitch’s, of course, delivered the signature line of the film: “I’ve never not loved you.” When he said those words, April sobbed.

Throughout their ceremony, Auralie’s eyes remained fixed on Kip, willing him to act. She waited, and waited, but the ceremony went off without a hitch. She never even saw a moment where he almost tried something. He just stood there and did exactly as told like a robot. Which also describes his acting style, Auralie thought.

As they reached the end, her eyes finally drifted away from him, over to a bench where a poorly-frosted, cellophaned wedding cake waited for them. She felt nauseous again. And angry. Fucking Kip. He’d blown it. If anyone was going to save the day now, it would have to be her. But how? There was no way she could take Mitch. April, maybe. She could do as she’d instructed Kip: put her hands around April’s neck and choke her with the chain of the handcuffs. Maybe she could use her as a bargaining chip to get Mitch to let them go. Hold her hostage—there was something poetic in that. But, realistically, she doubted it would work. The handcuff hold would be difficult to pull off for a long stretch of time, and Mitch could easily knock Auralie to the ground with one push.

When April and Mitch’s ceremony concluded, they demanded a round of applause—which Kip and Auralie delivered, the jangling chains of their cuffs adding extra noise—and then moved right into Kip and Auralie’s nuptials. April took her position between them as the officiator, while Mitch, acting as both the witness and the best man, hovered beside Kip.

April got right to it: “Do you, Kip Cabot, take Auralie Young to snuggle up with, to melt into, to kiss and to laugh with, for as long as you both live?”

Kip, wincing slightly, mumbled, “Yeah, I do.”

April turned to Auralie—who was standing beside Kip and occasionally jabbing her elbow into him or stepping on his foot in silent reprimand—and repeated the same gooey lines. But, right before she got to the “as long as you both live” part, something amazing happened.

Kip did it.

He spun toward Mitch and put his hands behind Mitch’s neck, then brought them together as close as the handcuffs would allow, forcing Mitch to bend to keep the chain from cutting into his neck. “Mitch!” April cried.

Kip and Mitch struggled, with Kip forcing him closer and closer to the railing. April, in a panic, headed toward the bench where the wedding cake was located. “Hold on!” she told Mitch. Due to her dress and heels, she was walking at a glacial pace, those same pitiful baby steps Auralie had earlier noticed. But where is she going? Auralie decided to go after her instead of help Kip. She zipped over, catching up easily, and only then noticed what it was that April was after: a sharp, big-ass knife they’d likely been planning to cut the cake with. Auralie, in her short and unobstructive dress, easily reached the knife first.

“No!” April shouted. “Give it to me!”

“As if!” Auralie pointed it at her like a sword. “Back the fuck up unless you want me to plunge this into your neck.”

April’s mouth dropped open. “Aura, please, it doesn’t have to be this way—we love you!”

“I said, back up!”

Just then, a loud splash sounded. April glanced over her shoulder toward where Kip and Mitch had scuffled, and Auralie looked as well. Kip was peering over the edge as Mitch splashed around helplessly in the water. “April!” he screamed, the sound shrill. The rough water was pulling him away from the boat quickly. “Help me!”

“I’m coming, baby!” She ran over to the railing, reaching a hand out as if he could possibly grab it. “Swim closer, Mitch!”

“I can’t!”

Auralie, seeing her opening, walked over and gave one quick, hard shove. April went flying, her wedding dress splitting up the side as she attempted to flail her legs. She hit the surface of the water with a smack. She went under but surfaced quickly, spitting water. “Mitch!” she screamed. As if on cue, the water washed her over in his direction. They were drifted farther and farther away from the boat, their voices getting smaller.

Auralie walked over to Kip and stood beside him. “Nice work,” she said. “That was easier than I thought it’d be.”

“Easy . . . for you . . . maybe,” he said between pants, a picture of exhaustion.

“Well, if, by some miracle, they make it back on the boat, at least we’ve got this.” She held up the knife with a grin. “Doubt they’ll be messing with us now.”

“They won’t make it back,” he said when he caught his breath. “The water’s too strong. Look how far out they already are.”

“And they just keep being pulled farther,” Auralie observed.

“You know, they could die out there.”

She thought this over a moment, then shrugged. “I’m okay with that.”

“Yeah. Me too.” He paused. “So you know how to pilot a boat?”

She looked at him. “You don’t?”

“I’ve never.”


“Why would you assume I knew how?”

“Well, because most successful male actors I know have, like, sixteen boats apiece.”

“I’m more of a car guy.”

“Oh.” There was a long silence. In the distance, Auralie could hear birds and the faint cries of April and Mitch. “Well, this sucks.”