fallen classmate until Mr. Beck ordered them back, I sat stiff in my chair, gripping the sides of my desk again, swallowing compulsively to fight back the scream that was scalding me from the inside out.

But Danica was still breathing. I could see her chest rising between the shoulders of two basketball players standing in the aisle. Her breathing wasn’t even labored. But the strength of the scream within me said that someone was going to die any minute. If it wasn’t Danica, who was it?

“You okay?” Emma asked, leaning close to me, eyes wide, forehead furrowed. “Is it her?”

I could only shrug. The only way I know how to check was…

I let a thin thread of the scream trail from my lips, an emaciated sound so soft no one else heard it over the steady, stunned buzz of the gathered spectators. But it was enough. With that sound calling out to the soul, I would be able to see it when it left Danica’s body. Assuming she was the one about to die.

But the insubstantial form hovering over Danica Sussman was like no soul I’d ever seen. Usually, a soul’s appearance—merely its representation in the physical world—mimicked its owner’s size, at least. But this soul was tiny. No bigger than my fist, and irregular in shape. And Danica’s breathing had not slowed.

And that’s when I understood. Danica wasn’t dying. She was losing her unborn child.

“I don’t think I can eat today.” Emma stirred a paper bowl of tomato soup with a plastic spoon. “This just isn’t in good taste.”

I cracked open my soda lid without glancing at her lunch, for fear I’d be sick at the sight. “I’m pretty sure they plan the menu months in advance.” But that was little solace after what we’d seen that morning. Somehow, even after all the death I’d both witnessed and heralded, I’d never even considered the possibility of a miscarriage triggering my instinct to wail for a yet-unborn soul. The usual helplessness, frustration and horror that accompanied any death for me were magnified almost beyond my own comprehension. This was a baby. A child who would never be. And I didn’t know how to deal with that.

“It does look pretty gory, though,” Sabine insisted from across the table, ignoring her own tray as the spring breeze blew long black hair into her face. She tucked the stray strands back, exposing a mismatched set of silver hoops in her upper ear. “So is it true that Danica Sussman hemorrhaged all over the floor in first period?”

“Both true and gruesome.” Em dropped her spoon and pushed her meal back as Nash settled onto the bench seat next to me with a cardboard tray of nachos. “I hope she’s okay.”

An ambulance had come for Danica, and though she was still unconscious, I was long past wailing for her baby by the time they wheeled her away on a stretcher. And I was the only one who knew for sure that she would live—but that a tiny, hidden part of her had already died.

“I hope so, too.” Nash slid one arm around my waist and squeezed me, then dug into his chips, and I couldn’t help wondering if we would have been able to save Danica’s baby, if we’d both been there when it happened. As a male bean sidhe, Nash didn’t wail for the souls of the dying. His gifts included Influence —the ability to compel people to do things just by speaking to them—and the capacity to guide a disembodied soul. Together, we could reinstate a person’s soul and save his or her life—but only in exchange for someone else’s. A life for a life. That’s how it worked.

But I had no idea if it would work at all on an unborn child, without a fully formed body in which to reinstate the soul. Or if it would last, even if it did work. I mean, miscarriages happen for a reason, right? Because there’s something wrong with the baby, or because the mother can’t handle the stress. Or something like that. So…really, a miscarriage is a blessing, right?

Or maybe I was just desperate to find a silver lining to go with the single darkest, most horrifying cloud of a death I’d ever witnessed.

“People are saying it was a miscarriage,” Emma said softly, and I flinched when a guy in a green-and-white senior class shirt turned around on the bench behind her, his brown eyes shiny with unshed tears, face flushed with anger. Max Kramer was Danica’s boyfriend of almost a year, and his pain and anger were so raw I felt like I was violating his privacy just by witnessing them.

“Well, people are wrong,” he snapped, and Emma froze, obviously embarrassed, then turned to face him slowly.

“I’m sorry, Max. I didn’t mean…”

Max stood without letting her finish, towering over our entire table. “They’re all wrong.” He didn’t raise his voice, but made no special effort to lower it either, so half the quad heard him when he continued. “Danica couldn’t have been pregnant. We’ve never even done it. So find someone else to talk about. Or better yet, why don’t you all just shut the hell up.”

We stared after him as he stomped off toward the cafeteria doors, and one look at Emma told me she felt just as bad for him as I did.

“Poor fool,” Sabine said, one of Nash’s cheese-covered chips halfway to her mouth. “I think he really believes that.” As a mara, Sabine could read people’s fears and feed from the nightmares she wove for them while they slept. But even beyond her mara abilities, she had an uncanny ability to read people’s expressions and body language. To my constant irritation.

“Of course he believes it.” Emma would have taken any excuse to argue with the mara—Sabine had dragged her into the Netherworld six weeks earlier and almost sold her to a hellion, body and soul. But this time her anger was obviously about more than that; Em felt guilty for passing along what she’d heard in front of Max. “Just ’cause people are saying something doesn’t make it true. My aunt had a miscarriage last year, and it looked nothing like that. There was hardly any blood. Mostly just some cramping.”

Sabine shrugged, unfazed. “I’m no doctor, but if you ask me, she was pregnant, and the baby didn’t belong to good ol’ Max. But he obviously hasn’t figured that out yet.”

“Well, no one asked you,” Emma insisted. “So mind your own business.” The mara frowned. “It’s not like I was going to tell him!”

“Sabine…” Nash half groaned.

Normally, I like it when he’s irritated with her. Sabine was my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, and she wasn’t too happy about the “ex” part.

“She’s right,” I said, as softly as I could speak and still be heard at my own table.

“How do you…?” Emma asked, and I met her gaze reluctantly.

“Because I felt the baby die.”

The silence at our table was almost heavy enough to feel. Then Emma breathed a soft, “Ohhh,” of understanding. “That’s why you needed to scream. I didn’t even think about it, after Danica fell out of her chair. I guess I thought she’d die once she got to the hospital.”

“No, she’ll be fine, as far as I know,” I said, glad to have at least that bit of good news to report. “But she definitely lost a baby, right there in first period. And Max obviously wasn’t the father.”

“I wonder who knocked her up?” Sabine bit into another of Nash’s chips, staring off into the clouds, like she could actually puzzle that one out on her own.

Nash pulled his cardboard tray away from her. “That’s none of our business.”

“Maybe it is,” Sabine insisted. “I bet it was Mr. Beck’s.”

“You are so full of shit!” Emma snapped, even angrier at having her favorite teacher’s name dragged through the mud by her least favorite person.

Sabine rolled black eyes. “It’s just a theory. And it’s not even that far-fetched. I mean, if he’s hiding his species, there’s no telling what else he’s hiding.”

My spoon slipped from my grip and plopped into my own untouched bowl of soup. “Beck isn’t human?” I demanded, as Emma’s brown eyes widened. Even Nash looked surprised.

Sabine shrugged again. “I thought you knew.”

“Hell no, we didn’t know!” Nash stared at her over the table. “Are you sure?”

“As sure as I am that Kaylee dreams about some very interesting things she’d never even consider when she’s awake.”

Nash pushed aside his lunch and leaned over the table, lowering his voice even further. “How do you know?” The mara’s focus tightened on me and her eyes darkened, like a cloud had just passed over the sun. Only the day was still bright and warm, for mid-March. “I played around in her slumbering subconscious a couple of months ago, remember? And in her dreams, Miss Prim-n-Proper doesn’t have all those stifling control issues and that pesky trust deficit.”

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