Today's Reading

"Tomorrow, we talk about the spin-off digital series, okay?" Stephanie says and I groan. She ignores me and loads our tea stuff back on the tray. "Tamara Weatherbee is pressing Phil about this. He's not a fan of our new EP but he has to play nice with her. At least until he either takes her job or lands an executive producer job at another production company. Tell me what you want, Dakota, and I'll see if we can get The Network to give a little more with their take."

I don't know what to ask for in return for doing their YouTube-wannabe show. Thanks to my generous contract with HGTV, I can buy anything I want...

Okay, there are two things my money can't buy: a car and my way out of Leo's Friend Zone. At least, the first one I can solve after I pass Drivers Ed at school and receive a full driver's license issued by the State of Arizona.

* * *

Dad slides his safety glasses up when we come through the door a minute later. His salt-and-pepper hair sticks up at a bunch of weird angles.

Dad throws his hands out wide. "Tah-dah!"

"They're just fancy cookies, Dad."

"I was referring to the state of the newly refurbished and installed banister behind me." Dad pats the banister proudly. "But, I am equally excited that you brought me a snack."

"Patrick said the beat-up refrigerator we found down in Tucson was mid-1930s like I thought." Mom pats some of Dad's silver horns down. "I'm going to research it a bit more before we film on Tuesday. Let's pull out the icebox versus high-tech—at least by 1930s standards—refrigerator angle in the next episode. It's unique, plus it will give Patrick's business a bump. He and Phoebe are expecting their third grandchild in the spring, so they could use the extra cash."

"Well, now I feel old." Dad double fists the cookies.

"Whoa, slow down there, Santa," I say, and Dad winces at his latest internet nickname.

"Hey, Santa is fine." Mom plants a kiss on Dad's cheek above his now fully white beard. "Santa is a positive thing."

"So, you're saying that I can now refer to you as Mrs. Claus?" Dad says.

"Absolutely not." Mom pats at her hair. "Why? Are my roots showing?"

People routinely think my parents, who are both sixty-two, are my grandparents. Nope. Go back to Season 4, Episode 12: "A Christmas Miracle." It's the episode that Mom revealed that at forty-six, she was going to be a first-time mom. She had planned on being quiet about it. After the tabloids kept mistaking Mom's horrible morning sickness—which made her look gaunt and pale on-screen—as cancer, they decided to put the rumors to rest.

Producers couldn't have scripted a more emotionally charged plot arc than Mom collapsing at a book signing and going into premature labor. Me being born eight hours later and spending an overly complicated three months in the NICU was ratings gold. As fans helped pay for my outrageous medical bills—by continuing to watch our show—my parents still feel an obligation to put more of themselves out there for their True Fans than most people would. That's why they agreed for me to be on TV with them. So I could play the role of the Miracle Baby. Then the Miracle Child. Then the Awkward Adolescent. And thanks to last year about this time, the Angsty Teenager.

Now I'm ready for this role to be over. I want to be Just Dakota. I don't know who she is or what she wants though.

This excerpt ends on page 10 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller.

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