“Kaylee…” Harmony said, and I could see the question in the slow, pain-filled swirl of pale blue in her eyes, demanding—yet dreading—to know the extent of her loss. “Where’s Tod? He’s not answering his phone.”

Tears filled my eyes again, and my dad pulled me close.

“Harmony…” he began, and I realized then that he knew. He’d either seen Tod die, or he’d figured it out. But he hadn’t told her yet. “Tod refused to reap Kaylee’s soul. I’m so sorry.”

Harmony’s hands flew to her mouth, and her eyes watered. She dropped onto the couch and squeezed her eyes shut, but the tears leaked out anyway.

“I tried…” I whispered, as my own tears fell. “I tried to get him back, but Levi said there was nothing he could do.”

“And if you’d waited another hour, that would have been true.”

I froze in my father’s arms, and if my heart had been beating, surely it would have stopped at the sound of Tod’s voice. Harmony stood, red eyes wide, and I turned slowly.

Tod stood in front of the kitchen door, his arms crossed over his chest, his lips turned up in a half smile. He spread his arms, and I ran into them, and they closed around me, and I could feel him, warm and solid, and very real.

“Levi says, ‘Surprise,’” he whispered, and I pulled away just enough to look into his eyes. “I take it I have you to thank for this?”

Tears poured down my face and I was vaguely relieved to realize that I could still cry. “He said it was too late. He said he’d already turned your soul in,” I sobbed. “I thought you were gone….” I hugged him tighter— couldn’t get close enough—and he rubbed my back.

“He didn’t want to promise something he wasn’t sure he could deliver.” Tod stepped away so he could see my face. “Thank you, Kaylee,” he said, and I laughed at the absurdity, and the irony, and the inexpressible giddiness of getting a gift—a surprise, at that—from the very agent of death who’d taken my life.

“Does this make us even, Reaper?” I asked.

In answer, Tod kissed me.

And finally, my heart began to beat.


Thanks, as always, to my critique partner Rinda Elliot, who listens (and believes me) every time I swear that this one is the BEST ONE YET!!!

Thanks to my editor, Mary-Theresa Hussey, for unwavering enthusiasm for the Soul Screamers series, and for never even flinching at what I’ve put Kaylee and her friends through.

Thanks to Natashya Wilson, for input and encouragement.

Thanks to everyone behind the scenes at Harlequin Teen. You’ve made this possible. Kaylee and I thank you.

And, of course, thanks to #1, who puts up with me and with the multitude of fictional characters who take up most of my time and attention. Someday, more of both will be yours. I swear.

Netherworld Survial Guide

A collection of entries salvaged from Alec’s personal journey during his twenty-six year captivity in the Nether…


Note: Flora in the Netherworld is eighty-eight percent carnivorous, ten percent omnivorous and less than two percent docile. So keep in mind that if you see a plant, it probably wants to eat you.

Razor Wheat

Location–Rural areas with little foot traffic.

Description–Fields full of dense vegetation similar to wheat in structure, ranging in color from deep red stalks to olive-hued seed clusters. Over six feet tall at mature height.

Dangers–Razor wheat stalk shatters upon contact, raining tiny, sharp shards of plant that can slice through clothing and shred bare flesh.

Best Precaution–Complete avoidance.

Second-Best Precaution–Long sleeves, full-length rubber waders and fishing boots, metal trash-can lid wielded like a shield.

Crimson Creeper

Location–Anywhere it can get a foothold. Creeper can take root in as little as a quarter- inch-wide crack in concrete and will grow to split the pavement open. It grows quickly and spreads voraciously, climbing walls, towers, trees and anything else that can be made to hold still.

Description–A deep green vine growing up to four inches in diameter, bearing alternating leaves bleeding to crimson or bloodred on variegated edges. Vines also sport needle-thin thorns between the leaves.

Dangers–Though anchored by strong, deep roots, which have hallucinogenic properties when consumed, Creeper vines slither autonomously and will actually wind around prey, injecting predigestive venom through its thorns. The vine will then coil around its meal and wait until the creature is slowly dissolved into liquid fertilizer from the inside out.

Best Precaution–Complete avoidance.

Second-Best Precaution–Crimson Creeper blooms can be made into a tea which acts as one of two known antidotes to the Creeper venom; however, the vine blooms only once every three years. Blooms can be dried and preserved for up to two decades.


Note: Whether it intends to consume your mind, body or soul, fauna in the Netherworld is ninety-nine percent carnivorous, in one form or another. So keep in mind that if you see a creature, it probably wants to eat you.


Location–Everywhere. Anywhere. Never close your eyes.

Description–Hellions can look like anything they want. They can be any size, shape or color. Their only physical limitation is that they cannot exactly duplicate any other creature living or dead.

Dangers–Hellions feed from chaos in general, and individual emotions in particular. But what they really want is your soul—a never-ending buffet. Since souls cannot be stolen from the living, a hellion will try to bargain for or con you out of it. If you refuse—and even sometimes if you don’t—the hellion will either kill you for your soul or torture you, then kill you for your soul.

Best Precaution–Complete avoidance.

Second-Best Precaution–Pray.


Location–Found in large numbers near thin spots in the barrier between worlds, but

Вы читаете If I Die
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату