Reunion Read online





  In memory of J.V.C.


  The lifeguard sat up straight…



  “Now this,” Gina said, “is the life.”


  Yeah, all right. So I can see and talk to the dead.


  “Ah,” Father Dominic said. “The RLS Angels.”


  When I got back to world civ, Kelly Prescott, my…


  “Girl,” Gina said. “That is so you.”


  “Well,” Jesse said when I told him about it later…


  Not that Michael didn’t try.


  Okay, I don’t know if any of you have ever lost…


  Carefully, I tried to pull my hand out from under…


  I flung myself into my seat just as everybody else


  “So what is it, exactly,” I said as I swung the flashlight…


  I guess I was in kind of a bad mood because of Jesse…


  Everyone—from Father Dom to Carrie Whitman—blinked…


  The only problem was that the mediators couldn’t…


  Here’s the thing about killers. If you know one,…


  “They killed my car.”


  Gina was in my room when I came back from my…


  Was it what I intended to happen all along?


  “This,” Gina said, “is so not how I pictured…

  Excerpt: The Darkest Hour

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  The lifeguard sat up straight and suddenly lifted his binoculars to his face.

  I, however, did not need binoculars to see what I saw next. And that was Michael finally breaking the surface after having been down nearly a minute. Only no sooner had he come up than he was pulled down again, and not by an undertow or riptide.

  No, this I saw quite clearly: Michael was pulled down by a rope of seaweed that had somehow twined itself around his neck….

  And then I saw there was no “somehow” about it. The seaweed was being held there by a pair of hands.

  A pair of hands belonging to someone in the water beneath him.

  Someone who had no need to surface for air. Because that someone was already dead.



  “Now this,” Gina said, “is the life.”

  I was forced to agree with her. The two of us were stretched out in our bikinis, taking in the rays and balmy seventy-five-degree weather on Carmel Beach. It was March, but you wouldn’t have known it by the way the sun was pouring down on us.

  Well, this was California, after all.

  “I mean it,” Gina said. “I don’t know how you do it every day.”

  I had my eyes closed. Visions of tall, icy Diet Cokes were dancing in my head. If only they had waiter service on the beach. It was the one thing missing, really. We’d already finished all of the sodas in our cooler, and it was a really long walk up the stairs from the beach to Jimmy’s Quick Mart.

  “Do what?” I murmured.

  “Go to school,” Gina said, “when you’ve got this fabulous beach just a mile or so away.”

  “It is hard,” I admitted, my eyes still closed. “But graduating from high school continues to be considered one of life’s important achievements. I mean, I’ve heard that without a high school diploma, one doesn’t have a hope of acquiring one of those high-powered service positions at Starbucks that I know I’ll be angling for upon graduation.”

  “Seriously, Suze,” Gina said. I felt her stir next to me, and opened my eyes. Gina had leaned up on her elbows, and was scanning the beach through her Ray-Bans. “How can you stand it?”

  How, indeed? It was gorgeous. The Pacific stretched out as far as the eye could see, turquoise blue darkening to navy the closer it got to the horizon. The waves were huge, crashing up against the yellow sand, tossing surfers and boogie boarders into the air as if they were pieces of driftwood. To our far right rose the green cliffs of Pebble Beach. To our left, the huge, seal-strewn boulders that were the stepping stones for what eventually turned into Big Sur, a particularly rugged section of the Pacific coastline.

  And everywhere, the sun beat down, burning away the fog that earlier that day had threatened to ruin our plans. It was perfection. It was paradise.

  If only I could have gotten someone to bring me a drink.

  “Oh my God.” Gina tilted her Ray-Bans and peered over the rims. “Check this out.”

  I followed her gaze through the tortoiseshell lenses of my Donna Karans. The lifeguard, who’d been sitting in his white tower a few yards away from our towels, suddenly leaped from his chair, his orange flotation device clutched in one hand. He landed with catlike grace in the sand, then suddenly took off toward the waves, his muscles rippling beneath his darkly tanned skin, his long blond hair flowing behind him.

  Tourists fumbled for their cameras while sun-bathers sat up for a better look. Gulls took off in startled flight, and beachcombers hurried to move out of the lifeguard’s way. Then, with his lean, muscular body making a perfect arc in the air, he dove into the waves, only to come up yards away, swimming hard and fast for a kid who was caught in an undertow.

  To my amusement, I saw that the kid was none other than Dopey, one of my stepbrothers, who’d accompanied us to the beach that afternoon. I recognized his voice instantly—once the lifeguard had pulled him back to the surface—as he vehemently cursed at his rescuer for attempting to save his life, and embarrassing him in front of his peers.

  The lifeguard, to my delight, cursed right back at him.

  Gina, who’d watched the drama unfold with rapt attention, said, lazily, “What a spaz.”

  Clearly, she had not recognized the victim. Gina had, much to my astonishment, informed me that I was incredibly lucky, because all my stepbrothers were so “cool.” Even, apparently, Dopey.

  Gina had never been particularly discriminating where boys were concerned.

  Now she sighed, and leaned back against her towel.

  “That,” she said, shoving her sunglasses back into place, “was extremely disturbing. Except for the part when the hot lifeguard ran past us. That I enjoyed.”

  A few minutes later, the lifeguard came trudging back in our direction, looking no less handsome in wet hair than he had in dry. He swung himself up to his tower, spoke briefly into his radio—probably putting out a B.O.L.O. on Dopey: Be On the Look Out for an extremely stupid wrestler in a wetsuit, showing off for his stepsister’s best friend from out of town—then returned to scanning the waves for other potential drowning victims.

  “That’s it,” Gina declared suddenly. “I am in love. That lifeguard is the man I am going to marry.”

  See what I mean? Total lack of discrimination.

  “You,” I said disgustedly, “would marry any guy in a swimsuit.”

  “That’s not true,” Gina said. She pointed at a particularly hairy-backed tourist sitting in a Speedo a few yards away with his sunburned wife. “I do not, for instance, wish to marry him.”

  “Of course not. He’s taken.”

  Gina rolled her eyes. “You’re so weird. Come on, let’s go get something to drink.”

  We climb