“How do you know about Beck,” Nash clarified through clenched teeth, while I tried to redirect the heat in my cheeks into a death ray aimed right at Sabine.

She frowned, like the answer should have been obvious. “I read his fears. He knows this is a hotbed of Netherworld activity and he’s afraid of being caught fishing in the communal pond by something bigger and badder before he has what he came for.”

“And what’s that?” Emma asked, obviously stunned.

“How the hell should I know?” Sabine snatched another chip from Nash’s carton. “I’m a mara, not a psychic. Not that mind reading would help anyway. It’s not like people go around thinking, ‘I’m a monster from another world, hell-bent on wreaking havoc. Gee, I hope no one hears my thoughts…’”

“You could have just said, ‘I don’t know,’” I snapped.

Sabine raised one eyebrow in silent challenge. “I don’t know,” she said, managing to make her own ignorance sound smug. “But as usual, I know more than you do.”

I wasn’t surprised by her jab, and I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that Beck wasn’t human. Especially considering that in the Netherworld—a hellish reflection of our own world, from which all evil springs—our school was the new hot spot for the monster A-list.

After a four-to-eight Friday-night shift at the Cineplex, where scooping popcorn and filling soda cups couldn’t drive the image of Danica bleeding on the floor from my head, I pulled into my driveway exhausted, but ready for my second wind. Nash was coming over at nine to watch a movie, and my dad had promised to stay in his room all night. But before I could relax with my boyfriend, I wanted to shower off the scents of popcorn and butter-flavored oil. Also, I should probably tell my dad that my new math teacher wasn’t human—that’s the kind of thing he usually wanted to know.

I’d just dropped my keys into the empty candy dish on the half wall between the kitchen and living room when the sudden silence made me realize my dad had been talking when I’d come in. Until I’d come in.


“Dad?” I kicked my shoes off and dropped them on the floor of the front closet, then headed down the hall toward his room. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, hon.”

His bedroom door was ajar, so I pushed it open to see him standing in the middle of the floor, his hands in his hip pockets. I’d expected to find him on the phone—he had to be talking to someone, right?

“What’s up?” I frowned when he hedged. “Dad…?”

And suddenly Tod appeared in the room, several feet away, staring right at me.

“Okay… This is even weirder than the suspicious silence,” I said, expecting one or the other of them to laugh and spit out one of the logical explanations my father always seemed to have ready. But there was only more silence. “Okay, now you two are really starting to scare me.”

Tod generally only acknowledged my father’s existence when an opportunity arose to drive him nuts. And my dad had no use for Tod at all, unless he needed information only a rookie Grim Reaper could gain access to. So this private powwow had to be about something important.

“Guys? I can only stand here pretending you’re not scaring me for another second or two before I completely lose it. T minus five…four…”

“It’s nothing, honey,” my dad started to say, but the scowl on Tod’s face exposed the lie before my father could even finish it.

“If you don’t tell her, I will,” the reaper threatened.

“Tod, I can handle this—”

Tod turned his back on my father and met my gaze with a frighteningly honest weight. “Kaylee, the new list came out today.” By which he meant the reaper list, detailing every death scheduled in his district in the next seven days.

Oh, shit. Someone’s going to die. I took a deep breath, but couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. Please don’t be Emma. Or Nash. Or my dad. I couldn’t lose another parent.

I tried to ask—I tried to summon that much strength—but in the end, it just wasn’t there. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing someone else. Someone I loved.

So Tod answered the question I didn’t have the courage to ask.

“It’s you, Kaylee. You’re on the list.”


“Where’s Styx?” I turned my back on my father and the reaper and closed my eyes, trying not to let them see how shocked I really was. Fear would kick in soon, surely, once the reality had set in. But for the moment, I was numb and oddly chilled, like I’d jumped into the lake instead of letting my body adjust to the temperature a bit at a time.

“Kaylee?” My dad’s footsteps thumped behind me as I stepped into my room, questions whirling around in my head so fast I got dizzy, just standing still. “Did you hear Tod?”

“Of course I heard him.” Though, admittedly, that was never a guarantee. Reapers could choose who they wanted to be seen and heard by, on an individual basis, and Tod had an irritating habit of appearing to just one person in the room at a time—usually me.

“I think she’s in shock,” the reaper said as I scanned the floor, the rumpled covers, and the laundry piled in my desk chair, looking for a breathing lump of fur.

“Styx?” I called, but nothing moved. Tod materialized at the foot of the bed, studying me closely for my reaction, and I jumped, startled by his sudden appearance. “I’m not in shock. Not yet, anyway.” At a glance, he looked nothing like his brother, beyond their similar athletic builds. Tod had his mother’s blue eyes and blond curls, while Nash obviously took after his father, who’d died long before I met either of the Hudson boys.

“For the moment, I am firmly entrenched in denial, which—honestly—feels like the healthiest stage of acceptance. And I’d really appreciate it if you’d let me wallow there for a while.” I brushed past my father into the hall, headed toward the kitchen. “Styx!”

“I let her into the backyard,” my dad said at last, following me into the kitchen. “She doesn’t like Tod.”

“That’s because Tod never brings anything but death and bad advice,” I snapped, beyond caring that I was being unfair—it wasn’t the reaper’s fault that my number was up.

“That’s not true.” Tod tried to grin, and I had to respect his effort to lighten the mood. “Sometimes I bring pizza.”

Because the reaper gig—he extinguished life and reaped souls at the local hospital from midnight to noon— didn’t pay in human currency, Tod had begun delivering pizza for spending money during his free time. At my suggestion.

At first, I’d been amused by the fact that you could get both death and a large pepperoni delivered by the same person. But after Danica Sussman’s first period miscarriage and the news of my own impending demise, nothing seemed very funny at the moment.

“Styx is probably starving,” I mumbled, pulling open the fridge. My father’s warm hand landed firmly over mine on the handle and he pushed the door closed.

“Kaylee, please sit down. We need to talk about this.”

“I know.” But I was terrified that if I stopped moving for more than a second, that cloud of denial would clear and leave me staring at the ugly truth. And I’d already faced more than my share of ugly truths in the almost- seventeen years of my life.

Finally I nodded reluctantly. For all I knew, I didn’t have the luxury of avoiding the truth for very long.

I opened the fridge again and pulled out a can of Coke, then followed my dad into the living room, where Tod was already seated in my father’s recliner. For once, Dad didn’t yell at him to move. Instead, he sat on the couch with me, and I could see that he wanted to hug me, but I couldn’t let him, because that gesture of grief would

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