Reaper Page 6

Standing, I squinted into the dark, looking for someone I probably wouldn’t—and shouldn’t—be able to see. I swallowed, my hands shaking from either fear or shock. “I know you’re here, reaper,” I whispered, suddenly glad no one had emerged from the nearest houses, now more than a block away. “I know you’re here somewhere, but there’s been some kind of mistake. It’s not his time. He’s too young.”

“There’s no such thing as too young to die,” a soft, oddly high-pitched voice said behind me, and I whirled around to find a small boy watching me, freckled face crowned in hair cast red by my taillights. “Trust me.” Momentary confusion gave way to both horror and hope. “You’re the reaper?” I stared down at him, heart pounding, and he nodded slowly.

“One of them, anyway.”

Because the concept of reapers isn’t creepy enough without adding dead kids to the mix.

My pulse raced with a dizzying combination of fear and anger. No good could come of arguing with a grim reaper. But I had nothing left to lose.

“Sorry about your premature death.” I paused to clear my throat, then continued, trying to project confidence I didn’t feel. “Missing out on puberty must suck. But this can’t be right.” I gestured toward Nash without taking my focus from the reaper. “Can’t you double check your list or something?” The dead child shook his head slowly, and his dark gaze never strayed from my eyes. “I died right on time. As did he.” He nodded toward my brother, still slouched in the passenger’s seat. “See for yourself.” He pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and held it out to me. My hands trembled so badly I almost tore the paper when I opened it.

It was a printout of an official looking form, with a seal I didn’t recognize. I read by the crimson glow of my own taillights. Nash Eric Hudson.


23:48 Corner of 3 and Elm.

“No. Not like this.” Determination burned within me, feeding flames of anger. I tore the paper in half, then ripped it again and dropped the scraps on the ground. “It can’t go down like this.”

“You know that doesn’t change anything, right?” The dead kid put his hands in his pockets and watched the scraps of paper blow away, then looked up at me, frowning. “You’re a bean sidhe, right? So you know how this works?”

“Yeah.” My mom had always been straight with us about death. Even when my dad died, when we were just kids. “But I also know you can change it, right? There are ways to change this…?”

The reaper raised one brow and suddenly looked much older. The difference was in his eyes—in the sudden interest I saw there.

“Please. It can’t happen like this,” I insisted, talking to us both now. “Iwasn’t paying attention, at home or on the road. This is my fault. You have to help me fix it.”

“He would have died anyway,” the reaper said, shrugging again. “If you’d kept him home, he would have choked on his dinner. If you’d left him at the party, he would have made his friend drive, and they’d have wound up exactly like this.”

“How did you know…?” I demanded, confusion trailing into the night with my aborted question.

“I watched. But my point is that you aren’t the cause of Nash’s death.

You’re merely the instrument.” He glanced at the driver of the other car, unconscious, but obviously breathing. “One of the instruments, anyway.”

“I can’t be the instrument of my brother’s death!” I snapped. “That’s beyond screwed up.”

The reaper eyed me closely, like he could see beyond my words and into the thoughts I didn’t voice. “Which is it you object to? His death, or your part in it?”

I hesitated, for just an instant, but he saw my indecision. He heard that moment of silence. “Both!” I shouted, running my hands through my hair, resisting the urge to simply close my eyes until the entire nightmare blew over.

Because it wouldn’t. “It can’t happen like this. Can’t you…give him more time?

Please? I’l do whatever you want. Just give him a few more years.” The kid shook his head, and I realized that his hair really was red—it wasn’t just reflecting the tail ights. “There are no extensions.” He squatted to catch my gaze when I sank onto my knees, as my anger began to fade into a welcome numbness. “There are only exchanges. One life—” he gestured toward Nash, palm up “—for another…” He held his other empty hand toward me, miming the act of balancing a set of scales. “How badly do you want him to live?”

The question seemed to echo al around me, and it took me a moment to realize I was hearing it in my own head.

I looked up slowly to find him watching me, his intense eyes an indeterminate color in the dark. “You mean I can…?”

“I have to leave here with a soul, but it could as easily be yours as his.

It’s your choice.”

I glanced up at Nash, unmoving, his arm hanging limp against the side of the bucket seat. The reaper was right; Nash would have died no matter what I did or said to him. But I couldn’t deal, knowing that I’d ignored him in favor of a girl, told him he had no place in my life, then driven him into the path of the car that killed him.

I couldn’t live my life, knowing the part I played in ending his.

My next breath was long and deep—I’d decided it would be one of my last.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies