Hello everyone and welcome at my stop of My Sister’s Reaper Book Tour!
Sixteen-year-old Zadie’s first mistake was telling the boy she liked she could bring her dead sister back to life. Her second mistake was actually doing it.
When Zadie accidentally messes with the Reaper’s Rite that should have claimed her sister Mara, things go horribly wrong. Mara isn’t the same anymore—Zadie isn’t even sure she’s completely human, and to top it off, a Reaper is determined to collect Mara’s soul no matter what. Now Zadie must figure out how to defeat her sister’s Reaper, or let Mara die … this time for good.
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“So are we going to do this, or what?” Danny asked.
“First, the preparations,” Naomi said. She swung the canvas bag over her head and crouched down on the floor to unzip it. From it, she pulled a plastic bag, a lighter, and a game box with the word Ouija on it. “Help me with the candles, Zadie.”
Pulling tea-light candles from the plastic bag, Naomi and I placed them in a large circle on the floor.
“Nice touch, right?” she whispered when our heads were close together.
Gavin picked up the lighter and brought our circle of fire to life. Naomi and I looked at each other as we sat on the floor, our knees bent toward the glow of the candlelight. Gavin sat next to me, then gestured with his head to his best friend. Danny sighed, running a hand over his short hair before joining us in the circle beside Naomi.
“Zadie,” Naomi said.
“Oh. Yeah, sure.”
“Remember,” Naomi said as she started unpacking the Ouija board, “once the spell works, you two have to take us out on a double date.”
“If it works,” Danny said.
“When,” Naomi insisted.
“Did you ever notice that Ouija is made up of two foreign words for yes?” Gavin said. “Oui which is French, and ja which is German. Isn’t that strange?”
“You know what else is strange?” Danny said, turning off his flashlight. “That people still buy these things.”
Naomi snapped a reply, but I didn’t hear the words. Suddenly, all I could think about was Mara. What would happen if the doctors couldn’t live up to their promise? What if Mara was lost to me—and Dad—forever? What if this thin excuse to spend time with Gavin was the only chance I had to save my sister?
I shook my head. I felt the others watching me, but I ignored them, staring at the candlelight as if it would give me answers. If I tried to bring Mara back and failed, I would lose hope too. But what if Mara died, and I’d never even tried to save her?
A strange feeling came over me, like a buzzing in my bones. I found myself focused on the glow of candlelight. Everything else went fuzzy, disappearing into the dark.
“We don’t need the board,” I told Naomi as she moved to place it in the middle. “Put it away.”
“I don’t need the Ouija board.”
“Ooh, you’re giving me chills,” she said. “Awesome!”
She set the board and pointer aside, and I reached out my hands to Danny and Gavin. Gavin’s hand felt warm in mine. My fingers brushed against some calluses on his palm. His touch was rough, but nice. Danny looked away from Naomi when she slid her hand into his.
I closed my eyes and thought about my sister. About how she used to let me squeeze into bed with her when I was little and couldn’t sleep. About how she held me the whole night when our mother was taken away, wiping away my tears and telling me it was going to be all right. I tightened my grip on Gavin’s hand. She had to wake up. She just had to.
A jumble of sounds suddenly tumbled from my lips—sounds from a language I didn’t recognize. The voice was mine, but the movements of my tongue and teeth were not. My fingers tingled, and the flames from the candles grew warmer. My blood felt electric. Still chanting, I slowly opened my eyes. My three companions stared at me. I stopped, my mouth falling silent.
For a moment, nothing happened. We simply looked at each other, waiting. A chill crept up my neck. In that instant, wind whipped through our circle, making the candles flicker wildly. There was a sound, like plastic scraping wood, and my eyes darted to the Ouija board Naomi had set aside. My body jerked, as if I’d been holding a huge mass of energy inside of me and it had suddenly escaped.
The buzzing and electric feeling were gone. I felt like I was going to throw up. What had I just done?
“It moved,” Naomi said.
“What did?” Danny asked.
“The pointer on the board.”
“No way,” Gavin said. “Where is it pointing?”
We all scrabbled over to look at the board, but the second we reached it, all the candles went out.
I screamed Mara’s name as I ran to the front door. I tripped up the porch steps, bursting through the door—and straight into a thick red fog that smelled of earth and spices.
I didn’t close the front door, hoping that the strange smoke cloud would escape into the open air. I waved my hand in front of my face, but it didn’t help. I had to squint to find my way to the stairs, calling out for Mara as I stumbled to her bedroom.
She wasn’t in bed. She wasn’t on the floor or in the closet, or in the other bedrooms. I slid every window open, covering my nose with my shirt to protect my lungs from the fumes. I rushed back downstairs. Mara wasn’t in the kitchen either. I threw open the back door in an attempt to create an air current that might de-fog the house. Like magic, the smoke swooshed through the door, emptying out into the backyard.
And there she was.
Mara sat in her nightgown at the edge of the woods that bordered our backyard, knees pulled up to her chest, rocking and staring at the house. I ran to her, my breath coming out in short gasps.
“Mara, what the hell?”
She continued to stare at the house, rocking to a rhythm I couldn’t understand.
I put my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. “Mara, talk to me.”
She stopped rocking. She slowly turned her head. It seemed to take forever until she found what she was looking for, and I was suddenly sorry I’d caught her attention. But Mara’s gaze didn’t land on me. She looked past me. I was hesitant to take my eyes off her to see what she was looking at, but at the same time I was afraid of what might be behind me, of whatever could cause her to act like this. I followed her gaze to a shadowy figure under the tree across the street. Who was there? I narrowed my eyes, but couldn’t make out who it might be.
“He’s coming for me.”
Her voice was flat. Empty. Terrifying.
“Who’s coming, Mara?”
She looked at me, her hazel eyes unblinking. “He won’t stop. There’s no escape.”
I looked to the tree again, but the figure was gone.
I almost didn’t see her. The room was still, and I’d turned to head up the stairs. But something by the kitchen island caught my eye. Something that shouldn’t have been there. A shoe. Mara’s leg, sticking out from behind the counter. I circled the island to find out why she was sitting on the floor and came face to face with a large knife.
Mara was in a tank top, running the serrated blade in a slow line near her shoulder. The cut ran just along the surface of her skin, blood oozing from the broken skin and staining her top. I gasped, and Mara looked up at me with a tear-streaked face.
I dropped to my knees and grabbed her hand. “Mara!”
“I have to.” She pulled away, stronger than I thought. “He wants the pain.”
“Stop it! You don’t have to do this!”
She twisted away from me, her eyes wild as she dug the knife into her shoulder. This time deeper. Lines of red ran down her arm. I grabbed her wrist and used all my might to separate the knife from her skin. She screamed, her teeth bared like some kind of untamed animal. My eyes darted around the room, searching for unusually dark shadows.
I felt desperate, my voice pleading when I said, “Mara, I’m trying to help you.”
“I need more time!”
“Just let go of the knife!”
“You don’t know what he wants from me! You have no idea!”
We ducked our heads and jogged to the hole in the fence. The rain pounded hard against the ground, kicking up mud, and the branches of the trees pitched in the wind. Naomi made a sound of disgust as she crouched in the sludge to wriggle through the small opening.
Just as I was about to follow her, I heard a whisper, the soft noise tickling the hairs on the back of my neck. I whirled around and scanned the cemetery, but it was hard to make out shapes through the heavy curtain of rain. Lightning streaked across the sky, the flash illuminating the mausoleum. A shadow moved across the wall. I blinked rapidly, trying to focus on where the shadow had been. My heart picked up speed as I waited anxiously for another flash of lightning. But it never came. The shadow was gone.
“Come on, Zadie!” Naomi yelled from the other side of the fence.
I watched the mausoleum a moment longer, telling myself it was just a trick of light. Probably leaves or smoke or something. Naomi called once more, her voice sounding miles away. On a shuddered breath, I dropped to all fours and plodded toward her, willing the notion of whispers and visions of looming shadows out of my head.
“Mara?”Her door was cracked, flickering candlelight illuminating the frame. I slowed, wondering why she had lit candles in her room. I heard a small sound, a tiny lyrical noise coming from inside her bedroom. My chest felt heavy. I eased the door open and peeked inside.
Mara was crouched in the corner, her knees pulled against her chest, surrounded by a crude semi-circle of flickering candles. She was humming, creepy and off-key. It wasn’t a tune I recognized.
I took tentative steps into the room. “Mara, what are you doing?”
The humming continued. I wondered if she even heard me.
Lilura’s words haunted me. The curse. The Reaper’s Rite. The other night, Mara had said someone was coming for her. Was there really someone—or something—after my sister? Was she sitting in the corner hiding or trying to protect herself?
I turned away from my sister and headed toward the door. Before I reached it, it slammed shut. I stared at the door, my heart thundering in my chest. Mara’s eerie song floated in the air, prompting me to turn and face her.
“Mara?” I whispered. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I had to try. “You … you don’t have to be afraid. You’re not alone. I can help you. I know what it’s like.”
She stopped humming, jerked her head up, and locked her wide eyes with mine.
“Oh, really? He’s pissed and it’s because of something you did!”
Suddenly, the flames from the candles shot up in straight lines, tickling the ceiling and casting the room in a menacing glow. Mara sat unmoving. Her shadow morphed on the wall behind her, the dark pattern swelling like a macabre shadow puppet, until I stared at the silhouette of a hooded creature carrying a spear. I knew it was impossible, but I felt the shadow turn and look at me. It swept its spear across the violet walls. No, not a spear. A scythe.
A scream stuck in my throat. I ran to the door and turned the knob, my hand slipping from it a few times as panic overtook me. I glanced over my shoulder. The flames slowly sank back to their original size. Mara’s gaze slipped to the floor, and she began to hum again. This time my grip was better, and I threw the door open and ran to my room.
I’m a Philippine-born American living in Germany with my husband and two teens.
I write young adult books that usually have some element of magic or the supernatural in them. I also like to read those kinds of books. Aside from reading, I like movies, chocolate, take-out, coffee, traveling, and having fun with my friends and family. I’ve also been known to make a pretty sweet cupcake.
I tend to sing sometimes, too, so keep me away from your Karaoke bars.
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