Praise for the novels of No.1 New York Times bestselling author
P. C. CAST
‘Move over, Stephenie Myer.’
—People on Hunted
‘intense and thoroughly entertaining.’
—Kirkus Reviews on Destined
‘P.C. Cast is a stellar talent.’
—New York Times bestselling author Karen Marie Moning
Praise for the novels of New York Times bestselling author
This one is for my man, the Rose. Thank you for
reminding me about hope. I love you.
I want to send hugs and kisses to Gena Showalter!
It is beyond awesome to be able to work on cool projects with my girlfriend. Ms Snowwater, I totally heart you!
A big thank you to my wonderful, long-time editor
Mary-Theresa Hussey. It is soooo nice to be working with you again!
THANK YOU FOR THE TU DETAILS. Now go get ready for finals. Seriously.
As always, I appreciate, respect and adore
my agent, Meredith Bernstein.
The bully’s dad caused Raef to discover his Gift. It happened twenty-five years ago, but to Raef the memory was as fresh as this morning’s coffee. You just don’t forget your first time. Not your first orgasm, your first drunk, your first kill and, not for damn sure, your first experience of being able to Track violent emotions.
The bully’s name was Brandon. He’d been a big kid; at thirteen he’d looked thirty-five—and a rough thirty-five at that. At least, that’s what he’d looked like through nine-year-old Raef’s eyes. Not that Brandon picked on Raef. He hadn’t—not especially. Brandon mostly liked to pick on girls. He didn’t hit ‘em. What he did was worse. He found out what scared them, and then he tortured them with fear.
Raef discovered why the day Brandon went after Christina Kambic with the dead bird. Christina wasn’t hot. Christina wasn’t ugly. She was just a girl who had seemed like every other teenage girl to young Raef: she had boobs and she talked a lot, two things that, even at nine, Raef had understood were part of the pleasure and the pain of females.
Brandon didn’t target Christina because of her boobs or her mouth.
He targeted her because somehow he had found out she was utterly, completely terrified of birds.
The part of the day that was burned into Raef’s memory began after school. Brandon had been walking home on the opposite side of the street from Raef and his best friend, Kevin. On Brandon’s side of the street was a group of girls. They were giggling and talking at about a zillion miles per hour. Brandon was ahead of them and, as usual, by himself. Brandon didn’t really have any friends. Raef had barely noticed him and only kinda remembered that he’d been kicking around something near the curb.
Raef and Kevin had been talking about baseball tryouts. He’d wanted to be shortstop. Kev had wanted to be the pitcher. Raef had been saying, “Yeah, you got a better arm than Tommy. No way would Coach pick—”
That’s when Christina’s bawling had started.
“No, please no, stop!” She was pleading while she cried. Two of her friends had screamed and run off down the street. Two more had stayed and were yelling at Brandon to stop.
Brandon ignored all of them. He’d backed Christina against the fence to Mr. Fulton’s front yard, taken the smashed body of what was obviously a road-killed crow and was holding it up, real close to Christina, and making stupid cawing noises while he laughed.
“Please!” Christina sobbed, her face in her hands, pressing herself against the wooden fence so hard that Raef had thought she might smash through it. “I can’t stand it! Please stop!”
Raef had thought about how big Brandon was, and how much older Brandon was, and he’d stood there across the street, ignoring Kevin and doing nothing. Then Brandon pushed the dead bird into Christina’s hair and the girl started screaming like she was being murdered.
“Hey, this isn’t your business,” Kevin had said when Raef sighed heavily and started crossing the street.
“Doesn’t have to be my business. It just has to be mean,” Raef had shot back over his shoulder at his friend.
“Bein’ a hero’s gonna get you in a lot of trouble someday,” Kevin had said.
Raef remembered silently agreeing with him. But still he kept crossing the street. He got to Brandon from behind. Quickly, like he was fielding a ball, he snatched the bird out of Christina’s hair, and threw it down the street. Way down the street.
“What the fuck is your problem, asshole?” Brandon shouted, looming over Raef like a crappy version of the Incredible Hulk.
“Nothin’. I just think making a girl cry is stupid.” Raef had looked around Brandon’s beefy body at Christina. Her feet musta been frozen because she was still standing there, bawling and shaking, and hugging herself like she was trying to keep from falling apart. “Go on home, Christina,” Raef urged. “He ain’t gonna bother you anymore.”
It was about two point five seconds later that Brandon’s fist slammed into Raef’s face, breaking his nose and knocking him right on his butt.
Raef remembered he was holding his bleeding nose and looking up at the big kid through tears of pain and he’d thought, Why the hell are you so mean?
That’s when it happened. The instant Raef had wondered about Brandon, a weird ropelike thing had appeared around the boy. It was smoky and dark, and Raef had thought it looked like it must stink. It was snaking from Brandon up, into the air.
It fascinated Raef.
He stared at it, forgetting about his nose. Forgetting about Christina and Kevin, and even Brandon. All he wanted was to know what the smoky rope was.
“Fucking look at me when I’m talking to you! It’s sickening how easy it is to kick your ass!” Brandon’s anger and disgust fed the rope. It pulsed and darkened, and with a whoosh! it exploded down and into Raef. Suddenly Raef could feel Brandon’s anger. He could feel his disgust.
Completely freaked out, Raef had closed his eyes and yelled, not at Brandon, at the creepy rope, “Go away!” Then the most bizarre thing happened. The rope-thing had gone away, but in Raef’s mind he went with it. It was like the thing had turned into a telescope and all of a sudden Raef saw Brandon’s home—inside it. Brandon was there. So were his dad and mom. His dad, an older, fatter version of Brandon, was towering over his mom, who was curled up on the couch, holding herself while she