The garden, she knew, must be the place from which Reynolds took the roses he brought to Poe’s grave. It made sense.

Still, his presence in the garden didn’t explain why Varen had felt the need to take her there.

His face winked into her thoughts, so clear and complete in every detail, close enough that she could almost feel the silken strands of his hair brushing her cheek.

I’m here. Right here. Waiting.

Isobel shut her eyes as Varen’s words resurfaced in her mind. In them, she knew she had the answer to her questions.

When she came for him, when she finally discovered a way to step physically back into the dreamworld, she knew she would need to locate the garden. He’d be there, waiting, just as he’d said. That had to be what he’d wanted her to know, what he’d needed to convey.

It still didn’t explain why Reynolds had been there. But now Isobel realized that Reynolds knew how to get there, wherever “there” happened to be. And after she followed him out of the cemetery in Baltimore, he would be able to lead her to the rose garden.

To the place where Varen was keeping his promise to wait.

The place where she would fulfill hers of finding him.

THE SMOOTH SOFTNESS BRUSHED HER arm first, the sensation faint as a sigh.

Isobel rolled onto her side.


The slight silken something returned, though, tracing the curve of her jawline.

She lifted a hand to brush whatever it was away, sending a ripple through the still pool of her slumber.

But the ghostly slip of velvet would not relent.

It passed over Isobel’s lips.

She scowled and snatched at the air in front of her face, catching something sleek and stiff within her fist.

Her eyes fluttered open. Shooting upright, she unclenched her hand and frowned down at the object that now rested in her palm.

A black feather.

Isobel jerked convulsively. With a small cry, she released the plume as though it had scalded her.

Scrambling backward, kicking off covers, she collided with the cubbyhole headboard of her bed, causing its contents to rattle.

Isobel scanned the perimeter of her room, searching the silent mesh of shadows for any sign of movement.

Her surroundings lay still, quiet—empty.

Isobel did her best to keep her breathing in check. She swallowed, forcing her panic level down while she waited for each of her senses to check in, to confirm that there really was nothing there.

But her heart refused to match the quietness or slow down.

A flicker of cool blue light drew Isobel’s attention to the hallway.

Her focus landed on Danny’s door. It stood ajar.

When the flickering came again, the icy flutter filling the stairwell, Isobel could tell that the source of the light had to be on the first floor.

She wondered if Danny could still be up, if he might have relocated his post-Christmas video-game marathon to the living room.

But then she glanced to where the feather lay amid her tangled covers, and she knew that fooling herself was no longer an option.

Next to the black quill, she caught sight of her flyer trophy half-buried in the crumpled blankets. She snatched it up.

She swung her legs over the side of her bed, and her bare feet hit the carpeted floor.

Nerves prickling, Isobel took a step toward the hall, and then another.

As she moved closer, she had to fight the urge to rush forward and slam her door shut, knowing all too well that locking herself in would block whatever it was out about as well as closing her eyes and pretending she was somewhere else.

Peering out into the hall, she glanced downward, through the banister rungs of the landing. The blue light continued to flash through the foyer; the weird flickering appeared to be emanating from the living room.

Isobel drifted down the hallway with careful steps. She paused at Danny’s door long enough to peek inside. The intermittent bursts of light illuminated his bedroom, and she saw that he lay flat on his stomach, nestled beneath a mound of blankets. He breathed heavily, one arm slung over the side of his bed, the tips of his fingers nearly brushing the clothing-strewn floor.

She pulled his door closed, keeping the knob twisted until the wood slid into the frame so that the latch wouldn’t click. Then she returned her attention to the light.

Gripping the banister with her free hand, she began to descend the stairs.

She stopped midway down, though, her eye caught by a portrait of herself hanging crooked on the wall amid the array of all the other perfectly aligned family photos. In the image, she wore her cheerleading uniform. Posed in front of a black backdrop, her arms akimbo, she smiled brightly, a blue-and-gold pom-pom resting on each hip.

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