Prologue

“You kiss it.”

“No, you kiss it!”

Eight-year-old Katie Marcelli glanced from her seven-year-old twin sisters to the small green frog perched on a log in front of them. Summer sunlight shone through the trees, creating patterns on the grass and the log that made her think of fairies dancing in the breeze.

“Mommy said kissing a frog meant becoming a princess,” Francesca said, sounding doubtful. “I don’t want to be a princess that bad.”

Brenna pushed back the cardboard tiara Katie had carefully cut out, then covered with glue and glitter. “Boys are stupid and so are frogs. And princes.” She crossed her arms over her tattered lace-and-tulle dress-up costume and scowled.

Katie didn’t like boys all that much, but princes were different. Princes rode white horses and carried girls off to beautiful castles, where they got to eat ice cream any time they wanted and never had to write thank-you notes.

But Francesca had a point. Was all that really worth kissing a frog?

“How do we know it’s a magical frog?” she asked.

“In the book the frog had a little crown on its head. I don’t think this one used to be a prince at all,” Francesca told her.

Katie crouched down until she was eye level with the frog. It regarded her with big eyes, but didn’t jump away.

Francesca was right-there wasn’t any crown. No twinkling lights filled the air. But they’d never seen a frog here before-not in their special place.

She glanced around at the ring of trees and the soft, springy grass. Here she and her sisters pretended to be everything from elegant travelers taking a boat to a mysterious new land, to Cinderella, to mermaids. Sometimes their games were so elaborate they went on for days and Katie helped their Grammy M make special costumes. Today they were dressed to be fairy princesses. They’d just been deciding who was going to be kidnapped by the evil Dark Duke, when they’d spotted the frog.

“What if it’s magic and it wants to be sure we believe?” Katie asked.

Brenna rolled her eyes. “Then kiss it and find out. If it’s not magic, you’ll get warts all over your face and have to stay in your room because you’ll be so ugly.”

Not a happy outcome, Katie thought. But she really wanted to find a handsome prince and fall in love. She wanted a big wedding, with lots of lace and flowers and a sky full of stars.

“I believe you’re a prince in disguise,” she whispered to the frog. “I’m going to kiss you and then wait every night for you to come find me. You’ll be my one true love, and we’ll live happily ever after.”

She sucked in a deep breath for courage, leaned close, and pressed her lips against the frog’s small face. It croaked and hopped away.

Brenna laughed while Francesca tried to hide a smile. Katie wasn’t discouraged. When she’d kissed the frog, she felt…something. Like a tingle. Or a promise.

“You’ll see,” she told her sisters. “One day my prince is going to come for me. He’s going to want only me, and you’ll be sorry you didn’t kiss the frog, too.”

Francesca looked wistful, but Brenna shook her head. “You’ll be waiting until you’re old, because no prince is gonna show up.”

“You’re wrong. He will and I’ll be right here.”

Katie did wait. Every night for the next three years, she stood at her window and watched the sky, waiting for her prince to ride up on his white stallion and whisk her away.

In time she forgot about the frog, the kiss, and her beliefs, which was a good thing, because twenty years later there had been a lot more frogs, but not a single prince.

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