Once Dead Twice Shy

For Andrew and Stuart


I'd like to thank my editor, Tara Weikum, who helped me more than she might know, and my agent, Richard Curtis, who continues to surprise me by what he sees before I do.


Everyone does it. Dies, I mean. I found this out for myself on my seventeenth birthday when I was killed in a freak car accident on my prom night. But it was no accident. It was a carefully planned scything, just a small moment in the battle between light reapers and dark, heaven and hell, choice and fate. Only I didn't check out of my life like most dead people do. Thanks to a mistake, I'm stuck, dead on earth. The angel who failed to protect me and the amulet I stole from my killer are the only things keeping me from ending up where the dark reapers wanted me to be. Dead, that is.

My name is Madison Avery, and I'm here to tell you that there's more out there than you can see, hear, or touch. Because I'm seeing it, hearing it, touching it, living it.


I leaned my shoulder against a rough boulder and fumed. Dappled sunlight shifted upon my sneakers as the wind made my hair tickle my neck. The sound of kids swimming at the nearby lake was loud, but the happy shouts only tightened the knot in my gut. Leave it to Barnabas to try to turn around four months of failed practice in a mere twenty minutes.

"No pressure," I muttered, glancing across the dirt path to the reaper standing against a pine tree with his eyes shut. Barnabas was probably older than fire, but he blended in nicely, with his jeans, black T-shirt, and lanky physique. I couldn't see his wings, which we'd flown in on, but they were there. He was an angel of death with frizzy hair and brown eyes, who wore a pair of holey sneakers. Would that make them holy holey sneakers? I wondered as I nervously rolled a pinecone back and forth under my foot.

Feeling my attention on him, Barnabas opened his eyes. "Are you even trying, Madison?" he asked.

"Duh. Yes," I complained, though I knew this was a lost cause. My gaze dropped to my shoes. Yellow with purple laces, and skulls and crossbones on the toes, they matched the purple-dyed tips of my short blond hair, not that anyone else had ever made the connection. "It's too hot to concentrate," I protested.

His eyebrows rose as he looked at my shorts and tank top. I actually wasn't hot, but nerves had made me jittery. I hadn't known that I was going to summer camp when I'd slipped out of the house this morning and rode my bike to the high school to meet Barnabas. But for all my complaining, it felt good to get out of Three Rivers. The college town my dad lived in was okay, but being the new girl sucked eggs.

Barnabas frowned at me. "Temperature has nothing to do with it," he said, and I rolled the bumpy pinecone under my foot even faster. "Feel for your aura. I'm right in front of you. Do it, or I'm taking you home."

Kicking the pinecone away, I sighed. If we went home, whoever we were here to save was going to die. "I'm trying." I leaned against the boulder behind me, reaching up to hold the black stone cradled in silver wire that hung around my neck. At Barnabas's impatient throat-clearing, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a hazy mist surrounding me. We were attempting to communicate silently with our thoughts. If I could give my thoughts the same color as the haze around Barnabas, my thoughts would slip through his aura and he would hear them. Not an easy thing to do when I couldn't even see his aura. Four months of this odd student/teacher relationship, and I couldn't even get to stage one.

Barnabas was a light reaper. Dark reapers killed people when the probable future showed they were going to go contrary to the grand schemes of fate. Light reapers tried to stop them to ensure humanity's right of choice. Having been assigned to prevent my death, Barnabas must have considered me one of his more spectacular failures.

I hadn't gone gentle into that good night, however. I had whined and protested my early death, and when I stole an amulet from my killer, I'd somehow saved myself. The amulet gave me the illusion of a body. I still

readonlinefreenovel.com Copyright 2016 - 2024