Abandon Read online





  Title Page

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four



  About the Author



  Through every city shall he hunt her down,

  Until he shall have driven her back to Hell,

  There from whence envy first did let her loose.

  DANTE ALIGHIERI, Inferno, Canto I

  Anything can happen in the blink of an eye. Anything at all.





  A girl is laughing with her friends.

  Suddenly, a crater splits apart the earth. Through it bursts a man in an ink black chariot forged in the deepest pits of hell, drawn by stallions with hooves of steel and eyes of flame.

  Before anyone can shout a warning, before the girl can turn and run, those thundering hooves are upon her.

  The girl isn’t laughing anymore. Instead, she’s screaming.

  It’s too late. The man has leaned out of his ink black chariot to seize her by the waist and pull her back down into that crater with him.

  Life as she once knew it will never be the same.

  You don’t have to worry about that girl, though. She’s just a character from a book. Her name was Persephone, and her being kidnapped by Hades, the god of the dead, and taken to live with him in the Underworld was how the Greeks explained the changing of the seasons. It’s what’s known as an origin myth.

  What happened to me? That’s no myth.

  A few days ago, if you’d told me some story about a girl who had to go live with a guy in his underground palace for six months out of the year, I’d just have laughed. You think that girl has problems? I’ll tell you who has problems: me. Way bigger ones than Persephone.

  Especially now, after what happened the other night in the cemetery. What really happened, I mean.

  The police think they know, of course. So does everyone at school. Everyone on the whole island, it seems, has a theory.

  That’s the difference between them and me. They all have theories.

  I know.

  So who cares what happened to Persephone? Compared to what happened to me, that’s nothing.

  Persephone was lucky, actually. Because her mom showed up to bail her out.

  No one’s coming to rescue me.

  So take my advice: whatever you do?

  Don’t blink.

  As in the autumn-time the leaves fall off,

  First one and then another, till the branch

  Unto the earth surrenders all its spoils.


  Once, I died.

  No one is really sure how long I was gone. I was flatline for over an hour.

  But I was also hypothermic. Which is why — once they warmed me up — the defibrillators, along with a massive dose of epinephrine, brought me back.

  That’s what the doctors say, anyway. I have a different opinion about why I’m still among the living.

  But it’s one I’ve learned not to share with people.

  Did you see a light?

  That’s the first thing everyone wants to know when they find out I died and came back. It’s the first thing my seventeen-year-old cousin Alex asked me tonight at Mom’s party.

  “Did you see a light?”

  No sooner were the words out of Alex’s mouth than his dad, my uncle Chris, slapped him on the back of the head.

  “Ow,” Alex said, reaching up to rub his scalp. “What’s wrong with asking if she saw a light?”

  “It’s rude,” Uncle Chris said tersely. “You don’t ask people who died that.”

  I took a drink from the soda I was holding. Mom hadn’t asked if I wanted a huge Welcome to Isla Huesos, Pierce party. But what was I going to say? She was so excited about it. She’d apparently invited everyone she knew back in the old days, including her entire family, none of whom had ever moved — except Mom and her younger brother, Chris — from the two-mile-by-four-mile island off the coast of South Florida on which they’d been born.

  Except that Uncle Chris hadn’t exactly left Isla Huesos to go to college, get married, and have a kid, the way Mom had.

  “But the accident was almost two years ago,” Alex said. “She can’t still be sensitive about it.” He looked at me. “Pierce,” he said, his voice sarcastic, “are you still sensitive about the fact that you died and then came back to life nearly two years ago?”

  I tried to smile. “I’m fine with it,” I lied.

  “Told you,” Alex said to his dad. To me, he said, “So did you or did you not see a light?”

  I took a deep breath and quoted something I’d read on the Internet. “Virtually all NDEs will tell you that when they died, they saw something, often some kind of light.”

  “What’s an NDE?” Uncle Chris asked, scratching his head beneath his Isla Huesos Bait and Tackle baseball cap.

  “Someone who’s had a near-death experience,” I explained. I wished I could scratch beneath the white sundress Mom had bought me to wear for the evening. It was too tight in the chest. But I didn’t think that would be polite, even if Uncle Chris and Alex were family.

  “Oh,” Uncle Chris said. “NDE. I get it.”

  NDEs, I’d read, could suffer from profound personality changes and difficulties readjusting to life after…well, death. Pentecostal preachers who’d come back from the dead had ended up joining biker clubs. Leather-clad bikers had gotten up and gone straight to the nearest church to be born again.

  I thought I’d done pretty well for myself, all things considered.

  Although when I’d glanced through the files my old school had sent over after it was suggested that my parents find an “alternative educational solution” for me — which was their polite way of saying I’d been expelled after “the incident” last spring — I saw that the Westport Academy for Girls may not necessarily have agreed:

  Pierce has a tendency to disengage. Sometimes she just drifts off. And when she does choose to pay attention, she tends to hyperfocus, but not generally on the point of the lesson. Wechsler and TOVA testing suggested.

  But that particular report had been written during the semester directly following the accident — more than a year before “the incident” — when I’d had a few more important things to worry about than homework. Those jerks even kicked me out of the school play — Snow White — in which I’d been cast as the lead.

  How had my drama teacher put it? Oh, yeah: I seemed to be identifying a little too much with poor, undead Snow White.

  I don’t see how I could have helped it at the time, really. Because in addition to having died, I’d also been born as rich as a princess, thanks to Dad — he’s CEO of one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the oil, gas, and military industries (everyone’s heard of his company. It’s been in the news a lot, especially lately) — and I also happened to have been born looking like one, thanks