Mirrors and Blue Smoke ebook now available!

My latest book, Mirrors and Blue Smoke, which was released as a paperback in June, is now also available as an ebook!

You can find it on Smashwords, Nook, and several other sites. If you buy through Smashwords, there are various file types available for download. Whether you plan to read on your phone, tablet, or computer, the PDF download should work for anyone! If you want to read on Google Play Books, download the .epub file to your device, and it will work in Play Books. If you have Kindle, download the .mobi version. If you have any questions about which file type is best, feel free to comment here or DM me on Twitter (daisyjordan06) or Insta (authordaisyjordan).

And, if you haven’t read the first two books in the Not Like Paradise trilogy, you can also get those as ebooks:

Urban Legends

Pandora’s Box

Below is a description of the series. ENJOY!!! 😀

Cocktails in penthouses and bars. Soccer in Central Park. Sex. A few lines of coke. A few tablets of E. Just an average day for Jansen Montgomery, Jason Auerbach, Corbin Hershey, and Clint Everly, four best friends growing up on Manhattan’s über-wealthy Upper East Side. With loads of money, parents who are rarely around but would do anything to protect their family names, limitless access to alcohol and drugs, and houses in the Village, the Vineyard, and the Hamptons, there is almost nothing out of these friends’ reach.

As Jansen, Jason, Hersh, and Clint spin in a tornado of first loves, harsh breakups, and sky-high expectations, a chilling mystery begins to unravel, exposing devastating and mind-blowing secrets from their families’ pasts. It will lead the four of them on a chase from the single-sex private schools of the Upper East Side to a backwater South Carolina town, from a forgotten summer house in Vermont to a tiny apartment in Paris, from a nameless dance studio housed in a former Bowery flophouse to the secret rooms of New York City’s underground clubs and, finally, to the scene of the most stunning—and the most dangerous—deception and illusion they’ve ever concocted.

real-life NYC locations from Not Like Paradise!

My trilogy Not Like Paradise takes place in my favorite city in the world, New York! While the characters and events of the books are fictional, I wanted to share some of the real-life locations featured in the series so you can imagine Jansen, Jason, Hersh, and Clint’s life a little more clearly! Hope you enjoy! Be sure to scroll all the way to the end…I saved the best for last. 🙂

Upper East Side

Jansen’s parents’ building at 71st and Lex:

The Auerbachs’ building at 78th and Park:

The Guggenheim, the site of Jansen’s 8th grade graduation:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), where Jansen and her school friends smoke on the steps:

Lenox Hill Hospital, across Park Av from the Auerbachs’, where Jason, Hersh, and Clint carry Jansen after her OD:

Along 5th Av on the edge of Central Park, where Jansen and the boys walk every day between school, the park, and home:

The Museum of Moderm Art, or MoMA (not technically on the Upper East Side, but only 6 blocks south of it), where Corinne holds her birthday party in Pandora’s Box. The Sculpture Garden at the MoMA (2nd pic) is also the site of Corinne and Jacob’s 20th anniversary Adam and Eve party:

The Plaza Hotel, where Jansen and Summer sometimes go for drinks, and also the site of the Plaza prom, which takes place in the Terrace Room (2nd pic). The 2nd pic was taken from the balcony above the Terrace Room, where Corinne and Robert are standing in the photo Jansen and Jason find in Robert’s Paris apartment in Mirrors and Blue Smoke:

Central Park

Most of these pictures are random shots I’ve taken over the years. But the picture with all the people is of Sheep Meadow, where Jansen’s school friends always hang out. The picture with the path going under the bridge is on the west side of the park, near where Jansen and Jason’s special place is, away from Sheep Meadow and anyone they would know. 🙂

Hotel Thirty Thirty

At 30th and Madison, where Jansen and Jason always go on Jansen’s birthday. This hotel has since changed names, but I was lucky enough to get to stay there while it was still the Thirty Thirty:

Delacorte Theater

In Central Park, where Jansen and Jason go on New Year’s morning in Pandora’s Box:

NYU Arch

Jansen and Jason run under this arch after leaving Red Sulfur on Jansen’s 15th birthday, shortly before they are chased by a cab. Legend says anyone who runs under the arch will never graduate from NYU:

The Bowery

Home of Katalina and the infamous flophouse…

The Hamptons

Where Jansen, Summer, Tierney, and Taylan’s families have their summer houses:

Subway stations and trains

Jansen and Jason love the subway, especially a totally empty car going around a track into an abandoned station… 😉

East Village

Red Sulfur is fictional, but this is the stretch of Saint Marks Place just east of 3rd Av where it is described to be:

South Street Seaport

Pier 17, home of the fictional Opera on the Pier!

Broadway in SoHo

Where Hersh bought Jansen’s ring:

Townsend Building

At the northwest corner of 78th and Park, where the Circles meets (the building is real, but the name is fictional):

Roosevelt Island

Site of the Mirrors and Blue Smoke party 😀

View of Roosevelt Island and the East River from the Queensboro Bridge:

View of Queensboro Bridge with Manhattan in the background from Roosevelt Island:

Roosevelt Island tram along the Queensboro Bridge, the best way to get there from Manhattan if you aren’t taking cabs or hired cars like Jansen and her friends:

Although the East River Hospital for the Insane is fictional, Roosevelt Island did house an insane asylum for many decades, back when it was called Blackwell’s Island. These shot glasses can be purchased at the Roosevelt Island Visitor’s Center:

Le Château

As you may know from the books, Le Château is the name of the Auerbachs’ summer house in Vermont. One day I was walking around in NYC and randomly saw this! So even though this pic was taken in NYC, not Vermont, I had to include it! So cool when things like this happen 😀

Circles of 8

This picture is the absolute craziest, coolest thing that has happened in relation to Not Like Paradise. When writing the books, I randomly picked a location for the building where the Circles meets (the Townsend Building). I picked the northwest corner of 78th and Park. Later, after I had written drafts of all 3 books in the trilogy, I walked down Park Av to take pics of the buildings that would be the Townsend Building and the one across 78th Street where the Auerbachs live. And to my total shock, THIS WAS THE ADDRESS of the building where the Circles meets! 888 PARK AVENUE. What?!?!?!?! Best surprise EVER!!! 😀 😀 😀

Mirrors and Blue Smoke officially released! :D

My latest book, Mirrors and Blue Smoke, the conclusion to the Not Like Paradise trilogy, is officially released and available to order on Amazon! 😀

If you haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy, you can start with Urban Legends instead. Below is a description of the series, or you can check out my previous blog posts to learn more about the Not Like Paradise trilogy. 🙂

This trilogy has been one of my FAVORITES to write! I have had so much fun with it and with the characters. I hope you enjoy it! Stay tuned for blog posts featuring photos from real-life locations mentioned in the books!

Description of Not Like Paradise:

Cocktails in penthouses and bars. Cigarettes on the steps of the Met. Soccer in Central Park. Sex. A few lines of coke. A couple tablets of E. A secret society meeting. Just an average day for Jansen Montgomery, Jason Auerbach, Corbin Hershey, and Clint Everly, four best friends growing up on Manhattan’s über-wealthy Upper East Side. With loads of money, parents who are rarely around but would do anything to protect their family names, limitless access to alcohol and drugs, and houses in the Village, the Vineyard, and the Hamptons, there is almost nothing out of these four friends’ reach and even less they wouldn’t do to get what is. 

As Jansen, Jason, Hersh, and Clint spin in a tornado of first loves, harsh breakups, sky-high expectations, and the dangerous need for a high that requires more and more stimulation to attain, a chilling mystery begins to unravel, exposing devastating and mind-blowing secrets from their families’ pasts, as well as the past of the Circles of Eight, the secret society to which they belong.

Their need for answers will lead the four of them on a chase from the single-sex private schools of the Upper East Side to books on witchcraft hidden in a backwater South Carolina town, from a forgotten summer house in Vermont to a tiny apartment in Paris, from a nameless dance studio housed in a former Bowery flophouse to the secret lairs of New York City’s exclusive and elusive underground clubs and, finally, to the scene of the most stunning—and the most dangerous—deception and illusion they’ve ever concocted, one involving spells, ghosts, and smoke and mirrors.

Mirrors and Blue Smoke website is live!

The Mirrors and Blue Smoke website is officially launched! Visit it for teasers and hints, but don’t worry, NO spoilers! And if you haven’t read the first two books in Not Like Paradise, you can visit the Urban Legends website instead (that’s the first book in the trilogy).

One of my favorite parts of making my website for each book is always the character pages. I love sharing fun facts about the characters that readers may or may not know from the books (such as where everyone’s summer house is, because what’s more important on the Upper East Side?! [eye roll emoji…haha]), and giving some insight into each character’s life in his/her own words! Below are some screenshots from parts of a few characters’ pages…you can read the rest on the site! Note: If you haven’t read Urban Legends and Pandora’s Box, the pictures below may give some spoilers for those two books.

I had a blast creating these, so I hope you enjoy looking at them and learning more about the characters from Mirrors and Blue Smoke! 🙂

And just try to figure out who Hester is…or what happened to her. 😉

official cover for Mirrors and Blue Smoke! :D

The front and back covers for Mirrors and Blue Smoke look AWESOME, thanks to my incredible cover designer j bentz photography! 😀

Mirrors and Blue Smoke front cover
Mirrors and Blue Smoke back cover

Back cover text, so you don’t have to zoom in on the photo:

Only four other people (besides Robert) know of the existence of what I took from the Mistress Suite that day, and three of them are dead.

“…doesn’t know about Anabelle.”

“It is coming true.”

Words. Some written in a diary in 1973, others tidbits of whispered conversations. They’re the final puzzle pieces in the deeply hidden, never-recorded-in-the-Magic-8-Ball history of the Circles of Eight, a secret society whose current members may practically claw each other’s eyes out in their battle to reign as Master and Mistress, but whose past is built on witchcraft, betrayal, and murder. And those words are the only clues Jansen and Jason have.

Warned away from the Vermont house but issued a challenge involving the biggest deception and illusion to ever hit the Circles, Jansen and Jason embark on a chase for answers and inspiration. From a tiny apartment in Paris to a nameless dance studio housed in a former Bowery flophouse, from the secret rooms of some of New York’s oldest buildings to the city’s exclusive and elusive underground club scene, and, finally, from a long-abandoned subway station to a deserted insane asylum, they, along with Hersh, Clint, Kella, and Taylan, attempt to rewrite the past, present, and future of the Circles…using spells, ghosts, and the Circles’ founders…mysterious twins Jonathan and Anabelle Townsend, thought dead for decades.

In the aftermath, Jansen, Jason, and the others must come to terms with a new reality, test the boundaries of their friendships, and decide what the future holds. And Jansen and Jason must answer what could be the most defining question of their lives…what will Paradise look like now?


Coming in the next couple days…the Mirrors and Blue Smoke website launch! Stay tuned! 😀

Urban Legends 5-star review! :)

I have submitted a few of my books for reviews at Readers’ Favorite, and I have always had a good experience with this website and their reviewers! I was so excited to find out that the most recent book I submitted for review, Urban Legends, the first in the Not Like Paradise trilogy and the one that comes right before my most recent release, Pandora’s Box, received 5 stars! Here is an excerpt from the review:

“Urban Legends by Daisy Jordan was far more intense and dramatic than I had anticipated. Jansen and Jason were my favorites out of the four main characters. They were smart, they took their time, they paced themselves and allowed themselves to evaluate the situation before delving into it. I enjoyed how shrewd and calculating they were because this is what helped everyone in the end. The story itself is strong enough to make me want to know more, crave more, and just hope that the author has more in store for us to enjoy. The element of mystery was very well handled. Daisy Jordan masterfully allowed it to bloom and become almost an entity in the story. Entertaining and action-packed. Needless to say, I loved it!”

If you haven’t checked out Urban Legends yet, you can get it on Amazon at the link below, or look for me at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 22 to buy a signed copy! 🙂

Urban Legends on Amazon

ALSO, I just realized I never posted the link to buy Pandora’s Box, the 2nd book in the Not Like Paradise trilogy following Urban Legends! (What was I thinking?!) So, here it is! Please enjoy, and write a review to let me know what you think! 🙂

Pandora’s Box on Amazon

And don’t forget to shop on Amazon Smile so you can support your favorite charity – mine is Best Friends Animal Society!

Happy reading! 🙂

Pandora’s Box cover and website!!

Pandora’s Box will be available on Amazon in a matter of DAYS!!! In the meantime, check out the cover and the website! On the website you can meet the characters, remind yourself what happened in Urban Legends, the first book in the Not Like Paradise trilogy, and get a few small clues about Pandora’s Box (no spoilers, though, promise)! If you read the individual character webpages, that is where you will find the best review of what happened in Urban Legends, because each page is told from that character’s own perspective. Have fun exploring, and check back, because I’ll update both the blog and the website when the book is available!!

Pandora’s Box website

pandora's box front cover

Pandora’s box cover

pandora's box back cover

Pandora’s box back cover

So you don’t have to try zooming in on the text, here is what the back cover says about the book:

Jansen has long resented her conceited parents, their money-and-social-standing-mean-everything attitudes, and the pretentious tennis-club and Hamptons-parties lifestyle they push on her. But after learning her mom, Scarlett, tried to murder Clint’s mom, Cindy, Jansen’s resentment turns to a hatred she has no idea how she’ll conceal.

As she, Clint, Jason, and Hersh reel in the wake of their discovery, everything feels surreal to Jansen. The inane love lives of her school friends, nights out at Red Sulfur, the dangerous need for a high that continuously requires more and more stimulation to attain, and even the sordid past of the Circles of Eight. It is only with the boys she feels like her true self, especially in the world she and Jason have created when it’s just the two of them, a mystical yet very real Paradise, their “best ever.”

But when a long-awaited revelation hits Jansen out of the blue, she snaps out of her foggy reverie and, along with Jason, throws herself deeper into uncovering the mysteries of the Circles of Eight. The trail leads away from her mom’s murder attempt fifteen years ago and takes Jansen and Jason back ten years earlier, to the childhood of Jason’s mom, Corinne.

Despite warnings they are opening a treacherous Pandora’s box, Jansen and Jason set out to connect the clues littered across Corinne’s and the Circles’ intertwining pasts. An old diary hidden in a bookshelf, a boy named Robert, a letter that can’t be found, an unknown object of dire importance, a forgotten summer house in Vermont. And, ultimately, questions Corinne seems determined to leave unanswered.

pandora's box author pic

Pandora’s box author pic

The above picture is me on the 1 train at South Ferry Terminal in NYC (along with the awesome @gypsythetravelingcatpurse). Watch for the scene in the book where Jansen and Jason ride the subway to this stop…it’s a good one. 😉

Stay tuned for several more pictures from NYC that will show you real places Jansen, Jason, Hersh, Clint, and others go in Urban Legends and Pandora’s Box!

Pandora’s Box excerpt!

Last summer I published Urban Legends, the first novel in the Not Like Paradise trilogy. The second novel, Pandora’s Box, will be coming in June! As promised, below is an excerpt. If you’ve read Urban Legends, it ended with Jansen and Jason leaving Cindy’s house in South Carolina and heading to the airport, not knowing where they would fly. Here’s a peek at what comes next… 😉

(If you haven’t read Urban Legends yet, check it out here.)

Pandora’s Box Sneak Peek!

Jansen and Jason flew to Paris.

It had long been Jansen’s favorite city besides New York. It was high fashion, dirty streets, astonishingly beautiful architecture, pretentious food, cafés on every corner, some of the best art in the world, centuries of tragic and triumphant history, and a haze of cigarette smoke. It was mysterious, intriguing, and impersonal…a bold, careless, beautiful face turned to the world, completely content with its identity and uninterested in the opinions of anyone. It was exactly where Jansen wanted to be…

***

…They got ready, left the hotel holding hands, and walked to the closest Métro station. They rode to the 4th arrondissement and walked along the old streets of Le Marais until they found a bookstore. They wandered in and browsed the titles, looking for anything that struck them as interesting or romantic or tragic or intrinsically Parisian…a book that captured some essence of this city they both loved.

Jason stopped to pull a book off a shelf, and Jansen let go of his hand and continued walking slowly down the aisle.

Regarde ça,” Jason said, his voice quiet.

Jansen heard the piqued interest in it. She turned.

Jason held a book out to her.

Jansen took one look at it and felt her heart race a little. “Oui. Ça y est.

Le Paradis Souterrain.

Paradise Underground, or The Underground Paradise, depending how you translated it. The picture was of an underground passageway littered with bones.

She and Jason shared a small grin, then hurried to the front, excited to get to a café and dive into their find…

***

…They had both heard vaguely of the Paris Catacombs before, but it wasn’t a place either of them had visited, and they knew little about it or its history. Jansen wondered if maybe people went there to worship the dead or something creepy, and that was how those dead had now become “revered.” It sounded really cool though…a tunnel under the city lined with remains of people who had been dead for centuries. It would be fun to go.

They turned the page to the next chapter, and that’s when they realized the first chapter had really been nothing more than a surface story, a necessary histoire before they got to the real content of the book…

The “underground paradise” named in the title had nothing to do with the remains of dead people found in the Ossuary…the couple kilometers of tunnel making up the Ossuary was literally only a fraction of the former quarries, or what Parisians considered les catacombes. The tunnels stretched for an estimated three hundred miles under Paris in an intricate maze. Many of the passageways contained nothing of interest, and some were flooded with water or blocked by cave-ins. The tunnels were described as illegal and dangerous, because you were as likely to encounter escaped criminals, who supposedly entered the tunnels from a secret passageway under La Santé Prison in the 14th arrondissement, as you were a member of the special division of Paris police who were responsible solely for patrolling the tunnels with their dogs.

But the tunnels were also described as alluring and irresistibly tempting, because tucked in the deepest recesses of the maze, if you knew where to look, were rumored meeting places of secret societies such as the Illuminati, former wartime hideouts, squatter villages with electricity and untraceable phone lines, and amphitheatres carved into the rock where people called cataphiles—those who frequented this underground otherworld—came to throw highly illegal and insanely outrageous multiple-day parties.

This was the Paradise. It had nothing to do with dead people at all, and everything to do with taking a risk to obtain an unparalleled reward. Sneaking away to give in to your fantasies or simply to escape to another realm where the laws of society didn’t exist.

The last few chapters claimed that while police were constantly blocking off newly discovered entrances into the Catacombs, secret access points existed all over Paris. They were ladders inside manholes or drain shafts, abandoned tunnels underneath Métro stations. You had to stumble across one, or you had to find somebody willing to take you. The author told of several specific ones he had heard of and tried, but every single one had been sealed…blocked off by police if it had ever been a way in.

The very last chapter, entitled “Une boîte de Pandore,” warned again about the dangers of going, including cave-ins, floods, drug dealers and addicts, escaped prisoners, and the possibility of getting lost or arrested, but said if one was going to try, the absolute essentials were boots, flashlights, and a map.

Jansen and Jason turned another page and found an estimated map, one that mirrored the streets of Old Paris, as it was rumored the streets had been aligned directly over the quarries and that street signs could even be found in the tunnels, labeling the city streets above. Based on all the research the author had done, his map even included the locations of some supposed secret rooms, but he was very clear that it was just an inference and shouldn’t be used as an actual guide.

Jansen closed the book and looked at Jason.

“There must be some kickass parties down there on New Year’s Eve,” Jason said with a wicked grin.

Jansen grinned back. “I’m not afraid of a little Pandora’s box.”

“Me either.”

“All we need is a map and a way in.”

***

…They had walked only a little way when Jansen spotted something down a cross tunnel they were passing.

“Oh my gosh, look,” she said, shining her flashlight to the right. She stepped into the passageway, her mouth falling open.

All over its walls were paintings of a woman with long reddish-brown hair. Jansen quickly realized the walls were a mural of Paris, with the woman at all the different landmarks. The Tuileries Gardens, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, a sidewalk café, a boat on the Seine, a street market, L’Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde. In each scene the lady was disproportionately large compared to the buildings and the other regular-sized people who interacted around her.

“Look,” Jason said from back in the entryway. He was looking at something above his head.

Jansen went back to see what it was, and she realized there was actually a small arch formed in the entrance.

Le paradis de Pandore,” she read aloud. Her heart skipped a beat. “Pandora’s Paradise?!”

Jason had moved inside. “Look,” he said again. “All the people in the pictures are fighting.”

Jansen looked closer, and it was immediately apparent. Their faces were angry, their arms raised or crossed as they yelled at one another, their mouths open in frozen shouts whose words would never be heard. At Place de la Concorde, a man was bent over the guillotine, its blade raised and ready to strike.

But one face wasn’t angry. In every depiction of Pandora, she was smiling…a small, delighted curl of her lips.

“It’s her Paradise because she set all the bad things free,” Jansen said. “Hate, and anger, and vengeance.” It was just like the myth, in which Pandora had opened the jar that released everything bad and evil into the world.

“I wonder who painted this,” Jason said. “And if the author of that book knew about it. The first one we read, in Le Marais? He didn’t mention it, but the title had the word paradise in it, and he called that one chapter ‘Pandora’s Box.’ ”

“He implied that to come down here would be to open a Pandora’s box.” Jansen looked at Jason. “And that’s why it’s her Paradise. People get lost, or arrested, or run into prisoners or floods or…whatever.”

Jason nodded. “Exactly.”

Jansen looked around at the painting again, slightly horrified and immensely more intrigued.

“She looks like you,” Jason said.

“What?”

“All these pictures of Pandora. She has your hair color, and she’s young. And beautiful.”

Jansen looked at Jason, but he wasn’t even looking at her. He hadn’t been trying to be sweet; he’d just said it matter-of-factly. Her heart melted, and she smiled in his direction.

Then she looked back to the nearest painting of Pandora. “She looks like my mom too.” Jansen wrinkled her nose. “How fucking ironic, ‘cause my mom’s like the modern-day Pandora. Everything evil in the world is here because of her.”

“Except you,” Jason said, finally looking at her.

“What?”

“You’re here ‘cause of her. And you’re not evil. No matter what all your mom’s done, I’m still glad she was born, and that she moved to New York and married your dad. ‘Cause otherwise I wouldn’t have you.”

Jansen’s heart melted again, and she felt tears well up in the corners of her eyes. She ran to Jason and threw her arms around his neck.

He hugged her back tightly. “It’s just the truth,” he said.

“I’m so glad I have you too. You’re my Paradise. I really am happiest when we’re together. I really am only truly happy when we’re together.”

They kissed.

“I’m really glad we came here,” Jason said.

“To Paris, or the Catacombs?”

“Both.”

“Me too.” Suddenly something else on the wall caught Jansen’s eye, and she stepped out of Jason’s arms and walked over to it. It was cursive writing etched through the middle of the mural.

La plus belle femme du monde dans la plus belle ville du monde,” she read aloud. “The most beautiful woman in the world in the most beautiful city in the world.”

“Pandora was supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the world?” Jason asked. He had come up beside her to read the writing too.

“Yeah.” Jansen looked back at her picture. “And she is a lot like Paris. She’s considered the most beautiful, but she doesn’t care what people think of her. She’s bold and her reputation speaks for itself, but not a lot of people know the real her. She’s…devious. She has secrets.”

“That’s kinda like you too,” Jason said.

Jansen looked at him in surprise. “Yeah, I guess it is.” She smiled. “And it’s everything I love about Paris too.”

“Well,” Jason said, “the most beautiful girl and the most beautiful city should have a few things in common, don’t you think?” He looked away, shrugging and making his face aloof. “I think they should.”

Jansen laughed and hit him in the shoulder. “Yeah,” she said. “I guess they should.”

website launch for urban legends!!

Before you read my new book, Urban Legends, the first in the Not Like Paradise trilogy, check out the website and MEET THE CHARACTERS!! There’s a description of the book on the home page, then you can go to the character page, where you can click on each character’s name to learn about him or her! On the home page, you can also read about the photo featured on the book’s cover! Have fun!! 😀

Urban Legends website

urban legends front cover

Urban Legends front cover

 

 

urban legends sneak peek!

Below is the first scene from my new book, Urban Legends, the first in the Not Like Paradise trilogy! Urban Legends will be available on Amazon and other online booksellers early next week (July 10), and I will have copies to sell by July 17! I will post links to online buying options when they are live. This is my first mystery (but of course still contains the usual relationship drama too)! I’m so excited! See below for the sneak peek! 😀

urban legends front cover

Urban Legends front cover

First scene from Urban Legends:

Jansen Montgomery first got into a bar on her fourteenth birthday.

It was a dive bar in the East Village called Red Sulfur. She and her friends hadn’t planned on going to a bar. They had been wandering aimlessly away from the West Village, looking for anything to do that sparked their interest in the moment. The East Village appealed to them because it lacked glamour and had a reputation as a more dangerous area.

It was almost completely dark when Jansen, Hersh, Jason, and Clint looked across the street and saw the black awning with the words RED SULFUR shining through in an orangish-red print similar to the color of blood. It reminded Jansen of someplace out of a low-budget horror movie.

“Hey, I bet we can get in that place,” Clint said. The four of them exchanged excited, mischievous grins and knew they had to try.

The doorman, an old, friendly man whose work shirt bore a cursive inscription reading Claudio, gave them only a brief look-over before letting them in.

Jansen held hands with Hersh, whose real name was Corbin Hershey but whom all his friends had called Hersh since they could talk, flashed a flirtatious smile at Claudio, and walked down eight steps into the smoke-filled room. She briefly raised her right hand, the one not in Hersh’s, and grinned at the huge sapphire-look-alike ring on her middle finger.

A forty-something female bartender with short red and purple hair came to their table as soon as they sat down. “Whadda y’all want?” she asked with a bright smile.

Jansen liked her immediately. She embodied everything Jansen loved about the East Village. She seemed rebellious, and she was a far cry from anybody Jansen’s parents would hang out with, even though she was probably about their age.

“It’s her birthday,” Hersh said, locking his arm around Jansen.

“I won’t ask how old you are,” the bartender said. “So whaddaya want?”

Jansen, Jason, and Clint darted looks at each other, but Hersh totally kept his cool.

“We’ll have shots of Patrón,” he said. “And then Jack to wash it down.”

“Coming up,” the bartender said and spun away.

Jansen looked around. Even though the air was potent with smoke, there weren’t really that many people. Only four other booths were occupied. The room was long and narrow. The booths lined the wall opposite the bar, and there were a few tables in back. The floor was a dark shade of wood and uneven in places. The walls were also a dark wood, and the whole room was lit only by two dim bulbs hanging from the ceiling at either end of the bar. Jansen somehow felt protected and safe here, even though it was so grungy. She wasn’t sure why, but she thought it had something to do with how they’d come down steps right inside the door, and now they were underground.

“Happy birthday, honey,” the bartender said when she brought their drinks. She plunked the round tray in the middle of the table. There were limes to go with the tequila. “What’s your name?”

“Jansen.”

“I’m Hersh,” Hersh added, reaching out his hand to shake the bartender’s.

She shook his hand and looked to Jason and Clint.

“Oh, I’m Jason.”

“Clint.”

“I’m Lydia,” the bartender said as she turned to go. “Let me know if y’all need anything else.”

“Sure thing,” Hersh said as he lifted his shot of Patrón from the tray.

They hit their shot glasses together and tipped their heads back. Jansen made a slight face as hers went down. She grabbed her lime to suck on. “This isn’t what we had at your birthday party,” she said to Jason. That had been in his parents’ Park Avenue penthouse last fall, the first time she’d tried tequila.

“No,” Jason said, shaking his head and making a face too.

They smoked and drank their whiskeys and ordered more. When they were on their third, Hersh said to Jason and Clint, “So I have coke.”

“No fuckin’ way!” Clint cried. “I’ve been wanting to try that for so long!”

Jansen laughed a little. She thought Clint tried too hard to act like Hersh sometimes. She figured it would suck to have your best friend mature physically and athletically a lot sooner than you though. And Clint hadn’t had a girlfriend yet either.

“Dude, cool,” Jason said.

Jansen smiled again, studying Jason while he waited for Hersh to get out the coke. Jason had medium brown hair, which he wore kind of long, almost to his eyes, and tousled. Her favorite part about him was his eyes. They were really dark blue-green and really unique. He was the only person she’d ever seen with that eye color. Her favorite non-physical thing about him was how he never tried to be anything or anyone but himself. He didn’t feel a need to please other people or try to impress them. He was the most real person she knew. Hersh was real too, but sometimes Jansen thought he tried pretty hard to look cool to the older guys at his school. He cared more about his reputation than Jason did.

Hersh looked around to see if any workers were close, then pulled the bag out of his pocket. Lydia had left the drink tray on the table, and he emptied a little onto it, dividing it into four lines with a broken, hollowed-out piece of a pen. Then he put the bag away, looked around again, and offered the pen in the direction of Jason and Clint.

Jason took it. He leaned forward with total confidence, put his head down, balanced the pen between the tray and his nose, and snorted one of the lines. He sniffed as he raised his head, then grinned at them. “That was badass.” He held the pen out to Jansen questioningly.

“I just did some. In the park. I can still feel it. I did some at Hersh’s after school too.” Jansen smiled to herself, thinking back to Hersh’s bedroom in his West Village townhouse a few hours ago. He had done a line first, demonstrating for Jansen, and then she had done one. She’d liked the way her nose felt afterward, and she’d liked the immediate rush. The aftertaste in the back of her throat had been unpleasant but overlookable.

“Oh,” Jason said, raising his eyebrows, excited for her. He handed Clint the pen.

Jansen thought Clint looked nervous, but he did it without hesitation.

“Yeah, that was awesome,” he agreed, nodding.

“I can feel it already,” Jason said.

Hersh grinned at both of them, then leaned down to do a line himself. After he did, he looked up at Jansen. “You sure?” he asked, motioning to the one he’d prepared for her.

“I’m sure,” Jansen said. She felt wide awake and excited, like she had since her first line at Hersh’s.

“Have you done it before tonight?” Jason asked her.

“No. Hersh surprised me for my birthday.”

“So you like your present?” Hersh asked her now.

“Oh yeah.” Jansen felt the ring between her fingers. “I like it a lot. Hey, will you put some more in my ring?” She held out her hand.

“Why, you gonna do some later by yourself?” Hersh asked.

“It goes in your ring?” Jason asked, leaning forward curiously.

“Yeah, look, the top twists off!” Jansen spun the dark blue stone off and held out her hand to Jason to show him. “See? Hersh got me this too.”

“Sweet ass,” Jason said.

“Jewelry?” Clint asked sarcastically. “What are you guys, like engaged?”

“I saw it in a shop on Broadway like a month ago and said I liked it,” Jansen snapped defensively. “He remembered and went back and got it for me.”

Hersh took her hand and funneled some more coke from the bag into the ring. “There you go, baby.”

“Thanks.” Jansen spun the blue stone back on, then squeezed her fingers around the band again as she put her hand under the table. She didn’t even know if she would use the coke in the ring, but she liked having it there. It made her feel daring and reckless.

“Are you guys bored?” Hersh asked.

Jansen looked at him in surprise.

“No, I’m having fun,” Jason said.

“No,” Hersh said. “I mean like, in life. I feel like we need to shake things up. We just do the same stuff all the time.”

Jansen frowned. They were doing something new right now. A couple new things, actually. This night was huge for her, in a really good way. Hersh’s comment made her uneasy. What else could he possibly want?

“Shake things up how?” Jason asked.

“I don’t know. Like something to fuck with our school friends. A practical joke or something.”

Now Jansen smiled as relief washed over her. “Oooohh, I like that.”

“What kind of joke?” Clint asked.

“Something they’d never see coming.”

“You could pretend you and Jansen broke up and she was back with Jason,” Clint said.

Jansen glared at him. He was so annoying sometimes.

Hersh quickly shook his head, blowing off the idea. “No. Something better than that. Not just like, a joke that’ll blow over in a day. Like, a project.”

“I love it,” Jansen said, picturing the four of them spending hours here at Red Sulfur, leaning together across the table, laughing hysterically as they schemed up something genius to blow the minds of all their school friends. It was her idea of heaven.

“I have an idea,” Jason said, and all eyes turned to him.

“What?” Hersh asked after a moment of dead silence.

“A secret society.”