frighteningly useless words and grasp something I could actually use. “Who?” I said at last. “Who will they bring in? Libby?”

Libitina was the dark reaper—one of the oldest in existence—who’d come to execute Addison’s death and dispose of the Demon’s Breath that had kept her alive in place of the soul she’d sold. Libby had done what she could to help us return Addy’s soul, but in the end, she’d also done her job. She’d taken Addison’s life and damned her disembodied soul to eternal torture.

I wouldn’t find leeway with Libitina.

“I don’t know,” Tod said. “If the reaper’s been chosen, I haven’t heard about it.”

But at least I wouldn’t have to worry about Tod killing me, which seemed like an odd thing to be grateful for.

“How?” I set the sweating soda can on the end table and clasped my hands in my lap to keep them from shaking. “Do you know how it’ll happen?” I asked, not sure that I really wanted to know. Knowing too much could make me paranoid—would I walk around staring up to avoid anvils falling from the sky?

But Tod shook his head. “We never know that, because the method isn’t predetermined. Sometimes there’s an obvious choice. Like, if it’s an old man with a weak heart, the reaper will just let his heart stop beating. But with young people, it’s usually an accident, or an overdose, if there’s no preexisting illness. We work with what we have. It’s easier for the family and the coroner if they have something to blame it on.”

“Wow. You make death sound so courteous.”

Tod exhaled slowly. “We both know it’s not.”

Yeah. I knew.

“So…” I stared at the floor between my feet, and I couldn’t stop my leg from jumping as I worked my way up to the question I’d been avoiding. “Do you know when? Does the list at least tell you how long I have?”

I was avoiding my father’s gaze—my own fear was hard enough to swallow at the moment—but I could see in my peripheral vision that he was watching Tod closely, waiting for the answer just as nervously as I was.

Tod cleared his throat, avoiding the question.

“Tod…?” My father’s voice was barely a whisper.

“Next Thursday,” the reaper said finally, looking right into my eyes. His irises roiled with a sudden maelstrom of pain and distress, and I was pretty sure he was watching the same storm rage in mine. “You’re going to die in six days.”


I stood so fast the room spun around me, and it felt like my head was going to explode.

Is this how I go? A stroke in my own living room, when the stress of knowing I’m going to die becomes too much? Could knowing I was going to die actually bring about my death? And if so, did that make it Levi’s fault? Or Tod’s? Or my dad’s, for letting him tell me?

But the truth was that it was no one’s fault. I’d overstayed my welcome, and death had finally caught up to me. There was no more natural, more necessary part of life than this end to the whole thing. Yet I was overwhelmed by the need to stomp my feet and pound my fists and shout it’s not fair! at the top of my fearsome bean sidhe lungs.

“Kaylee…?” Tod repeated, when I didn’t answer my dad.

Six days

I headed down the hall and into my room, where I pulled my shirt over my head without remembering to close the door. They both followed, and when my dad realized I was changing, he stepped out of the doorway and shoved a very corporeal Tod farther down the hall.

“Kaylee, say something,” he called, but I couldn’t. I barely even registered his voice. All I could hear was the raucous clamor of panic in my own head, insisting I do something—anything—to take my rapidly fracturing mind off the fact that I had less than a week to live.

No senior year.

I unbuttoned my uniform pants and let them pool around my ankles, then stepped into the pair of jeans draped over my bed.

No graduation.

I pulled open the second drawer of my dresser and pawed through the contents for my favorite blue ribbed T-shirt.

No college.

I pulled the shirt on and tugged my hair from the collar, then stepped into a pair of sneakers.

No career. No family. No anything, beyond whatever catastrophe next Thursday had waiting for me.

“Kaylee, where are you going?” my father demanded as I stomped past him and Tod on my way to the front door.

“Out.” I turned to face them as I scooped my keys from the candy dish, and the panic clear in my father’s expression could have been a reflection of my own. “I’m sorry. I have to… I can’t think about this right now, or I’m going to lose my mind. And I don’t want to spend my last week on earth in a straitjacket. I’ll be back…later. Could you feed Styx for me, please?”

Without waiting for an answer, I opened the front door and jogged out to my car. A moment later, I glanced up as I backed down the driveway to find them both standing on the front porch, staring after me.

As it turns out, you can’t outrun death. No matter how fast you drive, you can’t even outrun thoughts of death, when you know it’s coming for you. Is this how Addy felt? Like she couldn’t breathe without choking on the knowledge that she’d soon be breathing her last?

I drove for nearly forty minutes, paying little attention to the direction, blasting music on the radio in an attempt to drown out my own thoughts. But none of it worked, and by the time I’d made my way back to familiar surroundings, I’d realized that the only way to get my mind off my own problems was to focus on someone else’s.

When I glanced up, I realized the hospital was several blocks ahead, as if my subconscious had known where I was going the whole time.

I found front-row parking in the visitors’ lot, which was nearly empty because visiting hours were over. The lady at the front desk gave me Danica Sussman’s room number, but warned me that I wouldn’t be able to see her this late. I thanked her and headed back toward the parking lot—then looped around to another entrance, where I took an elevator up to the third floor.

There was only one person at the third floor nurse’s station, and it was easy to sneak past when she got up for coffee. Room 324 was around the corner and four doors down. I hesitated, loitering outside Danica’s door for a couple of minutes, trying to dial up my courage and think of an opening line that wouldn’t make me sound like a nosy gossip in search of tomorrow’s high school headline. But when shoes squeaked from around the corner, I hurriedly pulled the door open and stepped inside.

After all, what was the worst that could happen? I’d babble like an idiot and get tossed out of her room? The embarrassment could only last six days, max, and after that, nothing would matter anyway.

The hospital room smelled sterile and felt cold, and it was lit only by a horizontal strip of light over the head of the bed. Danica was asleep on her right side, facing me. She looked pale and small beneath the thin covers. Too young to have been a mother. Not that that mattered now.

I watched her sleep for several minutes, thinking about how very different our lives must be. She’d obviously done at least one thing I hadn’t, and that had led to pregnancy—another experience I would never have—and to a loss I could never personally understand.

But Danica would live. If she wanted another baby, she’d have time for that, whenever she was ready.

I would not. I wouldn’t have time for anything. No more firsts, and only one more last. My time was up.

What the hell am I doing here? I couldn’t help Danica. It was none of my business who her baby’s father was, even if he was a teacher, on the odd chance that Sabine was

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