Authors: Rachel Vincent
What does it mean when your school is voted the most
dangerous in America?
It’s time to kick some hellion butt...
After not really surviving her junior year (does “undead”
count as survival?), Kaylee Cavanaugh has vowed to take back her school from the
hellions causing all the trouble. She’s going to find a way to turn the
incarnations of Avarice, Envy and Vanity against one another in order to protect
her friends and finish this war, once and forever.
But then she meets Wrath and understands that she’s closer to
the edge than she’s ever been. And when one more person close to her is taken,
Kaylee realizes she can’t save everyone she loves without risking everything she
Praise for the Soul Screamers series by
fans will love
“The story rocks (for teens and adults, I might
“Fans of those vampires will enjoy this new crop of
“I’m so excited about this series.”
The Eclectic Book Lover
“A must for any reading wish list.”
“A book like this is one of the reasons that I add authors to
my auto-buy list. This is definitely a keeper.”
New York Times
bestselling author Rachel Vincent
Soul Screamers: Volume One
Soul to Lose”
MY SOUL TO TAKE
MY SOUL TO SAVE
Soul Screamers: Volume Two
SOUL TO KEEP
MY SOUL TO STEAL
Soul Screamers: Volume
IF I DIE
“Never to Sleep”
BEFORE I WAKE
ALL MY SOUL
from HARLEQUIN MIRA
Ending any series is hard. Ending
series has been particularly hard for me, both creatively and
emotionally. I’ve been working with Kaylee and her friends and family since
January of 2008. We’ve been through seven novels, two anthology short stories
and several novellas together. Kaylee and the gang have lived in three different
houses with me, in three different states. I’ve spent more time in the Soul
Screamers world than in either of my adult series to date.
Saying goodbye has been bittersweet. But Kaylee has grown up,
and I’ve grown up a little bit with her, I think.
This book is dedicated to Kaylee, who’s suffered through so
much for our entertainment. She’s been a good sport—a fighter to the end—and it
has been my pleasure to finally give her the happy ending she deserves. (Don’t
peek! I promise, you’ll hate yourself for it later.…)
This book is dedicated to every reader who’s ever written to
ask me for a release date, a spoiler or a snippet of the text. My words may have
brought Kaylee to life, but your interest kept her going.
Thank you all.
I used to hate the fact that my world is built on
half-truths, held together with white lies. My life itself is an illusion
requiring constant effort to maintain. I lie better than almost anyone I’ve ever
met. But if I know the truth about anything, it’s this: when people say the
devil is in the details, they have no idea how right they are....
* * *
“It was a nice service, right?” My best friend, Emma,
smoothed the front of her simple black dress, both brows furrowed in doubt. She
shifted her weight to her right foot and her heel sank half an inch into the
soft ground. “I mean, as far as funerals go, it could have been worse. People
cried.” She shrugged, staring out at the slowly departing crowd. “This would
have been awkward if no one had cried.”
It was awkward anyway. Funerals are always awkward, especially
in my social circle, where the definition of “death” is under constant
“It was a lovely service, Em.” I watched as people fled the
open grave in slow-motion retreat, eager to be gone but reluctant to let it
show. There were teachers, shell-shocked but in control, looking out of place
without their desks and whiteboards. Parents, looking helpless and scared.
Classmates in dark dresses, black slacks, and uncomfortable shoes, most in the
same clothes they’d worn to the past few funerals.
We were all much too familiar with the routine by now.
Whispered names and details. A day off for mourning. Excused absences for the
viewing. Counselors on call for grieving students during every class period. And
finally, the funeral, where we said goodbye to yet another classmate most of us
had known for most of our lives.
I was one of those who’d cried, even though I was among the few
who knew that the star of the show—the recently deceased herself—was actually
still with us. Right next to me, in fact. A guest at her own funeral.
Sabine leaned closer, Nash’s hand clasped in her right one,
because her left was still encased in a cast. A curtain of thick, dark hair fell
over half her face, shielding her from most of the thinning crowd. “So, seeing
yourself in a coffin wasn’t awkward? ’Cause it was awkward for me, and I’m not
the one being buried today.”
“Oh, no, the viewing was totally horrible,” Em admitted, her
brown eyes wide. Those eyes were all that was left of her, other than her soul.
Everything else was Lydia’s. Thin, angular face. Petite bones and slim build,
similar to my own. Limp brown hair. Freckles. Feet that didn’t quite fit into
Em’s favorite pair of shoes, stolen from her own closet while her mother and
sisters shopped for her casket. “But the funeral itself—that was nice, don’t you
It was, as it damn well should have been. Em had left funeral
details—in her own handwriting—in an envelope on her vanity table the day we’d
picked up her shoes and a few other essentials. Once Ms. Marshall was thinking
clearly, she’d probably wonder why her seventeen-year-old daughter had given so
much thought to how she wanted to be buried, but grief had eclipsed her
skepticism at least long enough to arrange the funeral of her daughter’s—albeit
“It was beautiful, Em,” Tod whispered, and I glanced up to find
him standing next to me, where there’d been only damp grass a second before. It
took more self-control than I’d known I had to keep from throwing my arms around
him and trying to melt into him, which had recently replaced hoping for world
peace as my new favorite impossible task.
I couldn’t throw myself at him because most people couldn’t see
him. Reapers are sneaky that way.
Beyond that, I couldn’t indulge in an embrace from my
boyfriend—that word felt so inadequate—because today wasn’t about comforting me.
It was about burying Emma. Being there for her.
And planning vengeance. Justice for Em and for everyone else
Avari and his fellow hellions had possessed, tortured, or taken from us. Today
was about plotting retribution for Emma’s boyfriend. And for Lydia, and for
Sabine’s foster mother, and for Brant, Nash’s baseball teammate.
And for Alec.
My hand twitched at the thought of him, as if I still held the
dagger. I could almost smell the blood. I could still see him in my mind, one of
my few real friends, his eyes filled with pain and confusion, staring up at me
in fear. Until they’d stared at nothing.
I swallowed my anger at Avari and what he’d taken from us,
determined to avoid ruining Emma’s perfect funeral with the bellow of rage
itching to burst free from me.
Today was a new start for Em, and a new start for us all. We
could no longer afford to be victims in Avari’s quest to walk the human world.
Beginning today, we were soldiers. Warriors, battle-weary and not yet focused,
but warriors nonetheless.
Warriors, at least for the moment, in black formal funeral
attire. All except for Tod, who could wear whatever he wanted because no one
other than the five of us could see him.
I started to take his hand, hoping no one would notice such a
small motion, but then Emma made a soft, strangling sound and I looked up to see
her staring ahead, frozen like a deer in mortal danger.
Her mother was heading straight for us.
“Kaylee, thank you so much for coming.” Ms. Marshall sniffled
and reached for my hand, and her tears triggered more of my own. “Thank you
all.” She glanced at everyone but Tod, whom she couldn’t see, and when her gaze
lingered for a second on her own daughter, hidden behind a stranger’s face, Emma
burst into fresh sobs.
“We wouldn’t have missed it, Ms. Marshall,” Nash said, while I
wrapped one arm around Emma.
Sabine stared at us both. The funeral hadn’t upset her at all,
that I could see, and she obviously didn’t understand why it had bothered us,
beyond the lie we were telling the world, since Emma was still alive and mostly
“Thank you.” Ms. Marshall sniffled again, and she didn’t seem
to notice that her own heels were sinking into the soft earth. “I know Emma
would be happy if she could see you all here now.”
Em sobbed harder.
“I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met.” Ms. Marshall dabbed her
eyes with a damp tissue and held one hand out to her own daughter.
Emma cleared her throat and shook her mother’s hand. Her mouth
opened, but nothing came out.
“This is my cousin. Emily,” I said. “She’s just lost her
parents, so she’ll be staying with me and my dad.” That was the best story we
could come up with. It was heavy on coincidence, but just as heavy on
necessity—Em had to live somewhere, now that she’d lost everything she’d ever
had. Except for us.
Ms. Marshall’s expression crumbled beneath a new layer of
sympathetic grief, and her voice shook. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Emily.”
But if Em heard her, I couldn’t tell.
“She loved you so much!” Emma threw her arms around her mother
and buried her tear-streaked face in her mom’s hair. “She wouldn’t want you to
forget about her, but she doesn’t want you to worry either. Or to...” Em nearly
choked on her own tears, and we all stood there looking as helpless as Ms.
Marshall looked confused and...devastated. She was crying again, and so was I.
“Or to...you know...stop living. She wants you to live,” Em said into her
mother’s ear. “And to hug Traci and Cara a lot. And to make yourself happy.
She’s sorry she called your boyfriend an idiot. It shouldn’t matter that he’s
kind of stupid, if he makes you happy, so Emma would want you to go for it.”
She finally released her mother and stepped back, wiping tears
with her bare hands. “So you should go for it.”
Ms. Marshall’s tissue was soaked and when she blinked, more
tears fell. “I didn’t realize you knew Emma. Do you go to Eastlake?”
“She will,” I said, when I realized Em’s flood of words had
dried up, leaving her speechless and evidently mortified by her outburst. “But
she knew Emma from...before. We were all three really close.” I couldn’t tell
whether or not Ms. Marshall believed me—or whether she was even capable of
thinking my hasty explanation through at the moment—but she nodded and wiped at
her cheeks again.
“Kaylee, when you feel up to it, I hope you’ll come over and
take something from Emma’s room. To remember her by. I’m sure she’d want you to
have whatever you’d like.”
“We will,” Em said before I could speak.
Ms. Marshall frowned, then nodded again and started backing
away from us in heels crusted with mud from the recent rain. “Thank you all for
coming.” Then her two remaining daughters each put an arm around her and led her
to the long black car waiting with its engine running.
“I think I scared her,” Emma whispered, clutching my hand.
“Yup.” Sabine’s nearly black eyes were dilated and her mouth
hung open just a little. As a
Nightmare—Sabine fed on fear, but she’d been going hungry a lot lately, since
grief and anger had finally overwhelmed the nearly constant state of fear we’d
all been living in for the past few months.
“I’m pretty sure it’s rude to feed from the dead girl’s family
at a funeral,” Nash said, one arm around her waist, his fingers curled around
her narrow hip. He used to hold me like that. I used to like it. But Nash and I
were over. We’d been over before we even knew we were over, and I still wasn’t
sure he’d completely accepted that yet. But it made me feel better to see him
touch her in public.
He’d been touching her in private since the very day we broke
Sabine lifted both brows at him. “You expect me to believe that
if someone threw a pie in your face at a funeral you wouldn’t lick your
“If someone threw a pie in my face at a funeral, I’d...” Nash
frowned. “Well, that’d be really weird.”
“Weirder than seeing yourself buried?” Tod’s hand slid into my
grip, his fingers curling around mine, now that there was no one near enough to
see me holding hands with empty air. No one except Sophie, my real cousin, and
her boyfriend, Luca, who watched us from the other side of the open grave. They
knew all about Tod. In fact, my undead reaper boyfriend hardly even registered
as “strange” to Sophie anymore, considering that her own boyfriend was a
necromancer. And that Luca and Sabine were the only ones among us who’d never
Nash’s death was classified information, available on a
need-to-know basis, and so far, his mom and brother didn’t think anyone needed
to know. Including Nash.
Emma and I had both died twice, and for me, that second one
actually stuck. Now I was a “resurrected American,” better known, in colloquial
terms, as life-challenged. Or undead. Or the living dead. But I’m not a zombie.
I’m just a little less alive than your average high school junior.
“No,” Nash said, in that short-tempered voice he seemed to save
just for his brother. “Having a pie thrown in my face at a funeral would not be
weirder than seeing myself buried.”
“Then Em wins this round.” He glanced around at the last of the
mourners, including my father, who leaned on his crutch, chatting softly with
Harmony, Tod and Nash’s mom, and his own brother—my uncle Brendon. “Let’s get
out of here. I’ve had enough death for one day.”
That really means something, coming from a reaper.
* * *
“You okay?” I tossed Emma a T-shirt from my dresser, and
she pulled it over her head. We were nearly the same size, now that she was
Lydia. Which meant that the clothes we’d snuck out of her mom’s house no longer
“Yeah.” She kicked one of Styx’s rubber dog bones out of the
way and stepped into a pair of my jeans. “I don’t know what happened at the
cemetery. I mean, it’s not like I’m really dead, but as soon as my mom started
talking to you, I just lost it.”
That was true. She’d been staring at her mother and sisters for
two straight days, at the viewing the day before, the funeral today, then the
actual burial, and she hadn’t lost it once. Not until her mother was within
“Don’t worry about it. You’ve been through hell this year, Em.
I’d be worried about you if you weren’t upset.” Though actually, I
worried about her. Very worried.
Emma sat on the edge of her bed to pull on a pair of sneakers,
and if I’d reached out from the end of
could have touched her. We’d given up nearly all the floor space in my room for
the extra twin bed, and I’d had to get rid of my beanbag chair, which was a real
shame, considering we didn’t actually need a second bed. Emma could have had
mine—I hadn’t slept in it once in the nearly two weeks since my birthday/her
death-day, in part because I no longer needed sleep, though I’d discovered that
But telling my father that I was spending most of my nights at
Tod’s place, whether or not my reaper boyfriend was actually at home, would have
Well, that wouldn’t have been a pleasant conversation. Even if
my dad had his suspicions about how physical our relationship had become, I was
in no hurry to confirm them. I may have been practically grown—and technically
dead—but I would always be his little girl. He’d made that more than clear.
And I loved him for it.
More comfortable in our regular clothes, Em and I met everyone
else in the front of the house, where Sabine had helped herself to a soda
without getting one for anyone else. “All I’m saying is that Emily and Emma are
practically the same name. No offense, Em,” she added when we walked past my
father’s chair, where the
was perched on the
arm, hopelessly wrinkling the black slacks she only wore to funerals. And,
truthfully, she only wore those because Nash had insisted black jeans weren’t
“None taken.” Em headed into the kitchen and took a seat at the
bar, where she rested her forehead on her folded arms.
“At least she wasn’t named after a can of soup,” Tod said, and
Sabine shot him a scowl. Her last name—Campbell—had come from a hungry worker at
the church where she’d been abandoned as a toddler.