Even if he had heard her, he wouldn’t really believe she’d meant any of it, would he?

But then . . . there had been the kiss in the locker room, too.

Isobel gripped the cuffs of her sleeves as a swift breeze stung her cheeks and caused the sign above her to rock and creak.

She channeled her focus to the front door of Nobit’s Nook and the flip sign inside that read OPEN.

Though she knew she would not have the answers to all her questions until she came face-to-face with Varen, she also knew that the answer to at least one of them could be found inside this store.

Isobel’s thoughts returned to the first time she’d ever dreamed of Reynolds.

That night he’d entered her room like a phantom, warning her about the danger behind Varen’s actions while also returning the volume of Poe’s complete works she’d discarded earlier that afternoon. And though Reynolds had assured her from the start that she was dreaming, Isobel still found the book the next morning, a solid testament to the realness of the encounter.

But did that mean she would find what she feared she would here, upstairs, in the attic?

The only way she had avoided falling into the sinkhole of doubt until this moment had been to hold on to the possibility that when she finally arrived at the bookstore, she would discover no evidence to prove that what she had witnessed in her dream had truly taken place.

After all, how could she trust what she’d seen when she had been tricked by false images before?

Gwen had said that demons could twist minds.


But it was hard to tell whose mind Lilith was trying to turn with lies. Isobel’s or Varen’s?

Though both the car and the hanging sign matched up with her dream, it all brought to mind something Mr. Swanson had once said back at the beginning of the year when they’d been studying Othello. He’d explained to the class that what made the villain, Iago, such a convincing liar was his ability to make things appear a certain way to his enemy.

Perception had been his weapon.

With that thought, Isobel gained the courage to move. She hurried up the short flight of stairs, twisted the knob, and pulled open the door. As she slipped inside, the stiff scent of aged paper, dust, and stale air greeted her. She turned to face the door as it closed, careful not to allow its hanging belt of Christmas bells to jangle too harshly.

She kept her back to the shop interior, listening and waiting to see if anyone had noticed her come in. With her head down, her face partially hidden by the hood of her parka, she risked a glance over one shoulder. Seeing no one, she took a quick inventory of her surroundings.

Tall wooden bookcases stood in close proximity to one another. Their shelves, once stuffed to the point of bowing, now seemed to hold a much lighter burden. There were even a few barren spots in between clusters of worn-looking volumes and stacked tomes.

The high-reaching shelves stretched long across the floor, halfway blocking the copper-colored light that struggled to illuminate the tight aisles in between.

Isobel heard rustling and, glancing the other way, spotted a round middle-aged woman in a navy-blue raincoat. She stood over a bin of old magazines with a handwritten sign on the side indicating that they’d been marked down to twenty-five cents an issue. The woman looked up, offering Isobel a distracted smile before going back to leafing through the magazines.

Other than the woman, the store appeared to be empty of customers.

Careful to keep her steps as quiet as possible, Isobel slunk between two of the tallest shelves. She placed one foot directly in front of the other as though walking a tightrope and trailed close to the shelf at her right.

Her ears strained for the sound of Bruce’s haggard cough, though she heard nothing.

A few more steps took her to the end of the bookcase, and peeking around its edge, she found him.

The bookstore owner sat behind the glass display case that served as the front counter, half his face obscured by the ancient push-button register.

His single visible eye, its center dark as black coffee, stared directly at her.

Isobel gasped. She darted behind the bookcase again. Whipping her head around to peer back toward the front of the shop, she had to fight the urge to make a run for the door. Instead she held her breath, squeezed her eyes shut, and waited, but the yelling she had anticipated never came. When she didn’t hear coughing, either, she suddenly remembered what had happened the first time she’d ever walked into the store. The old man had stared at her then, too, but she’d discovered a moment later that apparently that was the way he slept—with one of his eyes (the one that just so happened to be glass) wide open.

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