Reaper Page 1

“Okay, I’m heading out…” Mom slid her purse over one shoulder on her way through the living room. “There’s leftover lasagna in the fridge. And there’s some bagged salad.”

I nodded absently and flipped the channel to VH1 concert footage from one of the kids’ networks— where I was not trying to catch a glimpse of my ex-girlfriend Addison, who’d dumped me for a chance at stardom when she was cast in a pilot.

“Tod.” Mom sat on the coffee table, right in front of the television. “Did you hear me?”

“Yeah.” I leaned to the left and she mimicked my movement. “Lasagna. Salad. Got it.”

“I’m serious. Eat something green, okay?” She snatched the remote and aimed it over her shoulder, and a second later the screen went dark. I started to complain, but then I noticed how tired she looked—the beginnings of lines on a face that would look thirty years old for the next half a century—and came up with a grin instead.

“Do Skittles count?”

Mom rolled her eyes. She never could resist my smile. “Only if you save me the purple ones.” She handed me the remote, but wouldn’t let go when I tried to take it. “You’re staying home tonight, right?”

“What am I, a leper? It’s Friday night. I have plans.” She sighed. “Change them. Please.”


“I need you to keep an eye on Nash.”

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” I tried another grin, but this time she wasn’t buying it.

“Tonight, you’re his warden. It doesn’t do me any good to ground him if I can’t keep him at home.”

“Then why bother grounding him?”

She leaned closer and lowered her voice, bright blue irises swirling slowly in dread and frustration, and the fact that she let me read her eyes was my first clue how serious she was. Humans wouldn’t have been able to see it—only a fellow bean sidhe—banshee, to the uninformed—would be able to read her emotions in her eyes, but she usually hid them from us too.

“Because he snuck out in the middle of the night and drove to Holser House on a license still warm from the lamination! And an ineffective consequence is better than no consequence at al . At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.” She raked one hand through her hair, then met my gaze with a worried one of her own. “He’s not like you, Tod. Aside from a couple of notable exceptions, you tend to think things through, but Nash is ruled by his heart—”

I nearly choked on laughter. “I think the organ he’s ruled by is a little farther south, Mom.”

She frowned. “My point is that he’s not taking this separation from Sabine very well. I thought some time apart would help…cool things down between them.But it seems to be doing the opposite.” She let go of the remote and gave me a wistful smile. “You and your brother could not be more different.”

“Because he thinks he’s in love, and I don’t believe in faerie tales?”

“Love isn’t a faerie tale, Tod. But it isn’t child’s play either, and it makes me nervous how intense they are together.”

“You just don’t want to be a grandmother,” I teased, trying to lighten the mood.

“That’s definitely part of it,” she admitted. “My future grandchildren deserve better than teenage parents could give them. But beyond that, it isn’t healthy, how wrapped up they are in each other. Relationships like that burn bright, but when they burn out, they leave everyone blistered. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“You’re condoning my playboy lifestyle, right? Because I’m your favorite.”

Mom laughed out loud. “At least Nash doesn’t get bored a month into a relationship. You, my hedonistic firstborn, are an entirely different kind of problem.”

“Hedonistic is another word for favorite, right? So that’s a compliment?” She stood, still smiling. “Eat something green. And read something without pictures. Those are not suggestions.” I turned the TV back on as she headed for the door. “I’ll take them both under advisement.”

“Nash!” Mom cal ed, one hand already on the front doorknob. “I’m leaving!”

A door squealed open down the hall, and a minute later my little brother stood in the doorway, dark hair standing up all over like he’d just woken up. “And this is noteworthy because…?”

“Because this is your official reminder that your grounding does not expire with daylight. Do not leave this house while I’m at work.” Nash gave her a crooked grin—possibly the only feature my brother and I had in common. “What if the house catches fire?”

“Roast marshmallows. And if it floods, you’ll go down with the ship. If there’s a tornado, I’ll meet both you and this house in Oz, after my shift. Got it?”

I chuckled and Nash glared at me before turning back to our mother.

“Total house arrest. I got it.”

“Good. I’ll see you both in the morning. Don’t stay up too late.” Then the door closed behind her. A moment later an engine started and her car backed down the driveway.

“Mom told me to watch you. She thinks you’re up to something,” I said, when Nash just stared at me, leaning against the doorway into the hal .

“She’s right.” He crossed the room and sat on the coffee table, where she’d sat minutes earlier. “I need a favor.”

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