Authors: Ellie James
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For Holly, for everything
Writing a book is a solitary experience, but creating one is not. Exploring Trinity's world has been a fascinating experience, one of adventure, research, travel, and possibility. I've learned things I never anticipated learning, crossed lines I never planned to cross, and dreamed increasingly fascinating dreams. I walked the streets of New Orleans, both among the living and the dead. I slipped between darkness and shadows and light. And in the process, I've spent countless hours with friends both old and new. Without them, the Midnight Dragonfly series would not be what it is today.
A special thanks to my wonderful editor, Holly Blanck, for sharing my love of the unexplained, never being afraid of dark places, and loving Trinity as much as I do. For your vision, your patience, and letting me make you cry. For being you.
My wonderful agent, Roberta Brown, for your continued wisdom, belief, and energyâ
My amazing and talented soul-sisters Catherine Spangler and Linda Castillo, for the friendship, the support, the ruthless red pens, and the hours on the phone. I really worked you hard with this one!
Faye, for all things New Orleans.
Wendy, for not being afraid to go on an adventure with me.
Luisa and Jamie, for the early reads.
The Afternoon Gang, for smiling kindly when I talked about another world.
My AWESOME Facebook community, especially Terri, for patiently answering questions, and sharing my excitement.
And as always, my husband and children, for letting me play in Trinity's world, and not taking it personally when I forget to wash the clothes. Or fix dinner. Or about that school project or what day of the week it isÂ â¦
You have my deepest, sincerest thanks.
I will love the light for it shows me the way,
yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.
Darkness bled from all directions. Nothing moved. There was no sound, not even the breath of the night.
“Where are you?”
I shouted, or maybe it was a whisper. I didn't know, it didn't matter.
“Why can't I find you?”
Around me the stillness deepened, the echo of my own heartbeat blasting against the silence.
I had to find him. That's all I could think. He couldn't be gone.
Faster now, I ripped through the nothingness, knowingâ
I went down without warning, sprawling against something hot and warm and sticky. I tried to scramble up, but a sudden, rhythmic thudding stopped me. Footsteps. In the distance. Behind me?
I twisted aroundâ
I pushed to my feet, but no longer knew which direction I'd come from, or in which direction I should run. A dark vacuum swirled around me, closer. I took off anyway, stumbling as the sound of my name ripped into the stillness.
I stopped as the night stirred, and a sudden gust tore through the trees. Stars exploded against the inky sky, glimmering together, until there was only white, a white so bright and pure I had to look away. I swung around, but then the white was dripping, huge globs sliding against the horizon to reveal the silhouette in the background, dark and curved and intricate.â¦
I came alive hard and fast, jerking upright to the steady glow against the shadowsâthe unblinking yellow of Delphi's eyes, and the green numerals of my bedside clock. 5:21.
And I knew he was gone.
I hung there tangled in the sheets, trying to breathe, to understand, but the slippery images receded like silent waves into the cold, dark ether of the unseen.
“Come back,” I whispered.
“I need you.”
But that's not the way it worked.
I had no memory of falling asleep, only of sitting in my bed reading my mother's journal. Now the notebook lay on top of the bright pink T-shirt on the floor, hiding the single word rhinestoned across the front:
I reached down, but instead of soft cotton, something cool and smooth slipped beneath my fingers.
I froze. There in the soft glow of the nightlight, the iridescent dragonflyâthe one that belonged on the trunk across the roomâshimmered, its glued wing lifted, the other resting against the card I'd thrown away the night before.
It was the third time I'd found the blown glass on the floor since coming home from the hospital.
A few inches away my mother's journal lay open to the last page I remembered reading:
The danger does not come through hearing the shadows, and it cannot be avoided by ignoring them. That would be like pretending your heart doesn't beat or trying to stop it. The silent whispers come to me for a reason, crying out through the gossamer bands of time and space, warning me to pay attention. To open my eyes and see what no one else does. What's not there yet, in this world, this life.
But will be.
Sometimes I am meant to intervene. Sometimes I'm not. I never know beforehand. I never know when it's about the journey, or when it's about the destination.
When it's about me, or a stranger.
When the two are the same.
Once I didn't want to know. Once I wished the shadows would go away, and take the previews with them. That I didn't have to know, to see, to live things over and over.
Wish that I didn't have to feel, to hurt.
But then my wish came true, and I realized how fragile darkness can be.
The old house glowed in the moonlight.
With Spanish moss whipping against my face, I slipped from the flagstone path to the shadow of the huge oaks, and lifted a hand to my throat.
I told myself.
It was March. Spring Break had started with the afternoon bell several hours before. Mardi Gras was in full, crazy swing. Two hours earlier I'd stood among thousands in the rain of doubloons and beads from the Krewe of Morpheus parade. Another six would roll tomorrow, all building to Fat Tuesday in four days.
And yet it was impossible to walk through the old Greek Revival without remembering the night last fall, when the first breath of evil whispered against my soul.
But a respected family lived in this house, a professor at Tulane and an antiques dealer, their five sons ranging in age from twenty-seven to sixteen. Thousands of twinkling lights turned the big white columns into candy canes of green and purple. Light shone from every window. Music blasted. Almost everyone I knew was inside. A nightmare was not about to unfold, only a party. My first since the rhythmic beep of hospital machines had gone quiet.
I needed to go back inside. Victoria or Deuce would notice I was gone, and they'd come looking for me.
After a quick check of the porch, I looked up through the swaying branches toward the sprawl of the sky. There the moon hung like a glowing crescent ornament against a glittering panorama of inky velvet.
Twenty-six days. Sometimes it seemed like only the blink of an eye since that final kiss in the shadow of the roller coaster. Other times it was like the whole world stood still, each moment, each breath, carved in its own eternity. I kept waiting to wake up, to pull myself from the nightmare and find everything as it had been before: my aunt dancing around the kitchen and Chase waiting by the fountain at school, Grace reading palms at her table in Jackson Square and Dylanâ
That was where the rewrite stopped, the second his name drifted into the illusion.
“Trying to count the stars, Mile High?”
Turning, I found Deuce slipping between the big old trees, as if his body moved to a hip-hop rhythm only he heard.
“I always like nights like this,” he said, and with his voice the memory returned to the shadows. “When the sky's so clear it's like a window to another world.”
At a little over six feet, Deuce had the well-muscled body of a lightweight boxer. He wore his black jeans tight and his button-downs slim-fitting. Tonight's shirt had a tribal pattern. His ebony hair was closely cropped. Long, thin sideburns angled down into a chinstrap. A thin scar streaked above his upper lip and another through his right eyebrow. On first glance, no one would guess that his soul was that of a poet, and that with only a few notes of his sax, he could stir emotions you didn't know you had.
Only a few minutes before he'd stood on the steps, surrounded by girls in micro-dresses and knee-high boots.
“Escaped your fan club?” I asked.
He grinned. “They're recruiting new members.”
My own grin just kind of happened. Deuce had that way about him. In those first few days after waking up in the hospital, riding waves of numbness and grief, I'd never imagined I could smile again. Then he showed up one night with a carton of ice cream. I told him I wasn't hungry, but he said it didn't matter.
Ten minutes later we were both covered in multicolored sprinkles and chocolate syrup, while my cat licked anything she could find, and I smiled.
Then I cried.
And there on the hard, cold wood of the kitchen floor, Deuce drew me into his arms and started to sing.
I have no memory of the words, only the feeling of being safe.
A long time passed before he let go.
“I know this great spot south of town,” he said as the back door fell open and music throbbed into the night. Laughing, a group of girls in baby-doll dresses climbed onto the porch rail and started to dance.
The Friday before Mardi Gras, the annual Greenwood bash was revving crazier by the minute.
“It's down by the river,” he said. “What do you say we get out of here andâ”
I realized where this whole conversation was going. “Deuce, no. You've got a gig.”
“And you're standing out here by yourself, while everyone you know is inside.”
I hadn't meant for anyone to see me.
“I saw, Mile High,” he said. “I looked up and saw you out here in the shadows, like you wished they'd swallow you, staring at your phone. You can't tell me you really want to be here.”
It should have been an easy word. Seven months ago, when I first came to New Orleans, the city where I'd been born but didn't remember, it was. I wanted to meet people and make friends, go out and be like everyone else. I wanted an awesome pair of low-rise jeans and a new phone. I wanted my lab partner toâ