To my father, Yean Kai, and my mother, Susan, and to Ruth and Eugenia, with love.

And if I die before I learn to speak Can money pay for all the days I lived awake But half asleep?

Chapter 1

I’m alone in the infinite darkness, the endless vacuum of space. There’s nothing to give form to the place I occupy — no up, no down, no sense of distance — nothing except the bright, white light coming off my skin.

I am weightless. My feet don’t touch the ground. There is no ground. Just a breathless, waiting void.

Then, as I watch, I see another light — like me? — wink into being. And another, and another, until all around there are hundreds of lights — no, upwards of a thousand — scattered across the abyss. Like fireflies, like diamonds. All waiting.

And then a giant breath sweeps through us, past us, lifting my hair, ruffling the edges of my drifting garments.

Be, it seems to say. Live. And, as I watch, planets, stars, suns, moons explode into being, in every colour, in every shade, as if rendered by a painter’s hand. Greater and lesser bodies fly by; comets, black holes, supernovae, strange fissures in time and space, twist and curl overhead like a painted, yet living, ever-changing dome.

And I know where I am, and my shining form seems to grow brighter, as do all the others like me out there. Our hearts swelling.

We’re home.


It must be over, over at last.

No more fear, no more uncertainty.

I’m free.

And my sudden joy is so fierce that it seems more than I can contain. I lift my hands to my face in awe, in praise, and feel tears spring to my eyes, feel them course freely down my cheeks.

And that’s when I realise that something is wrong.

Because I cannot cry. Was not formed to cry tears.

Only humans cry tears, and I’m not human, am I?

This is a dream.

Instantly, everything vanishes and it’s dark again, bitterly dark. But I’m not alone this time.

‘Hello, my love,’ he says, the two of us soaring towards each other, ghostly, in the void.


My beloved.

The most beautiful being in creation. Golden- skinned, golden-haired, broad-shouldered, snake- hipped, long and lean. With eyes as pale as living ice, like broken water. He’s heart-stopping.

Even now, in my dream, when I look at him and then look at me, I can’t understand how we were together, what he saw in me in the first place.

Luc places his hands around my waist and turns me about in the weightless dark, the better to see me, to see my face.

As I cry, ‘Where have you been? Why won’t you save me? I’ve been so lost,’ I am disgusted at myself for saying the words, for acting like a clingy girlfriend when I never was before.

In answer, he laughs and pulls me close and rests his chin atop my hair, the gesture so familiar, so longed for, that I close my eyes and let the tears fall and keep falling.

‘Don’t do this to me,’ I sob. ‘Don’t show me the things I can’t have. I want to go home. I want things to be the way they used to be.’

‘I can’t save you,’ he answers gently, cupping my face with his hands. ‘Only you can do that. And I can’t restart the clock — that time is over and everything has changed and cannot be remade. But I can help you. This time I know I can help you. But you have to do one thing for me.’

I’m instantly still in his arms, listening.

His voice is low and urgent, as if he fears being overheard. ‘The Eight have made it impossible for me to find you. They shift you again and again, into an unbroken chain of strangers — geography, culture, language, all of it random, without pattern. Many times I’ve almost caught up with you but then They’ve cast you into some new form amongst the billions that teem upon the earth — and so the chase begins again. It’s why I am only ever able to reach you in your sleep, in your dreams — where I beg for you to find me. But you never have.’

He laughs, but I feel his towering frustration.

‘It’s not your fault,’ he says. ‘I don’t blame you. They’ve corrupted you, made you less than you are. But now you need to try to remember something — do you think you can do that?’

His arms tighten around me and it feels as if I am touching eternity, touching absolute power. Though what is truly at the heart of Luc is walled off from me, as it ever was. He’s beautiful, yes. Dearer to me than life itself, undoubtedly. But he’s always been unknowable. A mystery.

He puts a finger to my lips before I can say anything.

‘I almost caught up with you the last time, did you know that? When you were Carmen Zappacosta.’

When he says the name, the blank void around us lights up for an instant with a blinding flash — brighter than magnesium when it burns, than lightning come down to earth — and I cringe.

Then the dark surrounds us once more and he whispers, ‘I was so close that I almost placed my hands on you through that girl’s skin. We were almost together again. In the same place. After all this time.’

I shiver at the implication.

‘I don’t remember being . . . her,’ I whisper, fearful of the heavens bursting into flame around us again if I utter the girl’s name.

‘They won’t want you to remember,’ he replies, tightening his arms around me. ‘That’s why I’m here. Before They shifted you out of her body, I saw a way for us to be together again. I saw the boy’s eyes when he looked at Carmen — it was love for you in them. He knows you and loves you for yourself, and that is something we may use to our advantage. I have found a way to free you at last, for us to be together again.’

I stare at Luc, confusion on my face. Someone else loves . . . me?

‘Remember this,’ Luc urges. ‘Just this thought. When you wake, I want you to find Ryan Daley and return to Paradise, the place where he lives, and wait for me there. Do you think you can do that?’

‘Ryan Daley?’ I repeat, relieved when the universe does not burn at the mention of the name.

Luc nods. ‘I may be prevented from finding you, but you’re strong, you’re resourceful — you’ve survived this long without losing your mind. Find the boy, escape the Eight and return to the godforsaken place he calls home. There we shall be reunited at last. When you are under my protection once more, the Eight shall never touch you again.’

I stare up at Luc’s incomparable profile, wondering why he is asking me to find some human boy that I can’t even remember.

‘Who is he?’ I ask. ‘How will I know him?’

Something flares in Luc’s pale eyes for a split second as he gazes at me, his fingers tightening on my waist like talons. For a moment, I’m almost afraid. When he looks like that, he’s capable of . . . anything.

Then he laughs and this time there’s genuine amusement there. ‘As to who he is? I will leave it up to you to find out. You’re a smart girl, you’ll manage it. As to what he looks like . . .’

Luc propels himself away from me, up into the airless void, turning and turning with his arms outstretched until he is a shining blur, then a pinpoint of light that suddenly vanishes from view. And before me stands his human double, wearing a beat-up leather jacket, faded navy tee, blue jeans and scuffed boots. Physically he’s everything Luc is: tall, lean, beautiful, strong. But dark-haired, dark-eyed, fair- skinned, as night is to day. And

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