Read Reaper's Novice (Soul Collector #1) Online

Authors: Cecilia Robert

Tags: #love, #Romance, #death, #loss, #young adult, #Reaper, #souls, #friendship, #urban fantasy

Reaper's Novice (Soul Collector #1)

BOOK: Reaper's Novice (Soul Collector #1)
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Text copyright © 2012

Cecilia Robert

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any print or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation to the author’s rights. Purchase only authorised editions.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status of the following word marks mentioned in this work of fiction:  Playstation, UNO, McDonalds Happy Meal & Drive-thru,  Monster High, High Hills, Hotel Sacher Confectionery, Starbucks, Wii & nunchuk, Barbie, Opel, Reebok, Romantic Times.

 

Cover Art: Ravven -
www.ravven.com

Images: bigstockphoto.com

Formatting by: D. Robert Pease -
www.walkingstickbooks.com

 

For Charlyne, my twin in all things Gemini.

 

I
T TAKES ALL OF TEN MINUTES
before tonight’s dinner spirals into hell. It’s not a surprise, though. My life has been stumbling down that road for the last two years. Lately, Dad and Mom’s fights stray from their bedroom to enhance the quality of our family dinners.

I clutch my chest to ease the needles stabbing my heart. My other hand grips my fork, poking at my dinner, long gone cold. Lifting my head, I glance at Mom, then Dad. They’re still glaring at each other to the point that the air snaps with tiny sparks of anger.

I should take my brother and sister, go upstairs, lock the door, and shut out their voices. My eyes zoom in on the cutlery, glinting slyly under the four-bulb dining room chandelier, inviting and lethal. The thought of leaving the room flees my mind. Not when they look like two fighters in a ring about to charge at each other.

Anton is sitting across from me, his shoulders hunched as if to ward off the words cracking the air like a whip. Lucy’s shoulders tremble as she lifts a small, slender hand and wipes her nose.

The family therapist was wrong. Mom and Dad’s relationship isn’t on the mend. It’s rushing downhill with the speed of a truck heading for a collision. Good thing my family-bonding plan is already in motion. Hopefully, they’ll recover the love they seem to have forgotten between getting married and having three children.

“You should’ve told me.” Mom’s words burst from her lips like bullets in a quiet forest, jerking my attention back to her and Dad. “You didn’t bother because you don’t respect my decisions.”

Dad runs a hand down his face, squeezes his eyes shut, and exhales. His eyes snap open and narrow at Mom. “Katya, discussing anything with you is like pulling teeth.” His hand is clenched so tight the knuckles look pale against his brown skin.

Mom pushes her honey-blond hair off her face, her lips quivering. She looks like she’s fighting the urge to leap from the seat. “Now I’m to blame? Come on, Peter. Really?” She faces me and sighs. “Ana, take your brother and sister upstairs.”

Before I can move, a chair scrapes the wooden floor. Anton dashes past me and runs upstairs. Seconds later, his bedroom door bangs shut. Lucy, pretty little Lucy, hops down from her seat, scrambles onto my lap, and buries her curly head in my shoulder, sucking her thumb.

Mom rounds the table, holding her arms out for Lucy. Lucy burrows her face deeper into my neck. Mom drops her hand and blinks fast before turning away. Heartbroken.

I hate this. I hate this place where the fate of my family hangs by a thread pulled taut, waiting, holding its breath. Watching my family fall apart right before my eyes brings everything into high definition.

The thing is, I don’t understand what went wrong. Even
they
don’t seem to know what went wrong. A while back I asked Mom. She told me sometimes love fizzles out.

How does love
fizzle
out? Can’t they try to work things out?

Close your eyes, Ana. Breathe.

Squeezing my eyes shut to stop the tears, I wrap my arms tightly around my little sister and put my hands on her ears. When I open my eyes, they focus on the vase holding the roses which Mom brought home from her flower shop. Instead of softening the atmosphere, they made it heavier. I shift my gaze to our family portrait mounted on the lime-green living room wall above the red sofa. Smiling faces, happy eyes and intertwined fingers. I’m sure we could go back to being that happy. Mom and Dad just have to try. I turn my head and open my mouth to speak.

Mom cuts me off with a glare. “Silvana Maria Tei, I asked you to leave.” Her gaze shifts to Lucy’s curled head with a look of longing, then back at me, pleading, insistent.

Forcing myself to think of tomorrow, I stand and swing Lucy on my back. Her slender seven-year-old arms tighten around my neck, trembling. Once I clear the table of anything that would work as potential weapons, I plod upstairs to Anton’s room to check if he’s okay. I close the door, shutting our parents’ voices out. My chest deflates as I exhale, glad and anxious at the same time. We crawl into Anton’s bed and huddle together. Like every other night after one of our parents’ fights, we don’t talk. Just cuddle. There’s so much to say, yet nothing to say. I wish my body was large enough to encompass them both, to keep them safe from everything.

“Everything’s going to be all right,” I whisper, placing a kiss on each of their foreheads. “I promise.”

I stay awake long after my sister and brother have fallen asleep. For seventeen years, my parents have always been there. What will it be like living as a broken family? Will my siblings survive it? Will they have to choose which parent to live with, therefore hurting the other?

Angry footfalls sweep past Anton’s bedroom. Moments later, the door down the hall slams shut. I brush a hand over my eyes and take a deep breath, releasing it. But the pain is still there, devouring me inside and out.

Whoever said “time mends all wounds” was wrong. It never does.

Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow will mark the beginning of my attempt to glue my family back together. If my plan works.

***

Today, things look much brighter. It’s the day my family and I leave for Tuscany for our bonding trip. Tomorrow is
Christi Himmelfahrt
—Ascension Day. Schools are closed until Monday. After insisting Mom and Dad free up their schedule for these four days, they’d grudgingly agreed. Mom closed her flower shop, but Dad left his assistant in charge of his bio foods company. Hopefully when we return to Vienna, things will be better between them.

My stomach flutters, and my pulse races, eager to put my plan in motion.

With my chin propped on my hands, I shift my weight on the seat. My eyes bounce to the clock perched above our classroom door. Five minutes to midday. Five minutes before this excruciating biology lesson comes to an end and saves our teacher, Herr Schuster, from a class bursting with a shifty, restless bunch of energetic teens. Five minutes and I’ll be sitting in our Opel with my family.

My gaze swoops to Herr Schuster, shifting from one Reebok foot to the other. Using his index finger, he pushes his spectacles up the bridge of his nose. For the fifth time in a row, he tries to explain the evolution of a creature on the board that closely resembles a dinosaur to a class full of yawning mouths and wandering eyes. I’m no great artist, but whoever drew
that
needs some serious sketching lessons.

A warm mid-May breeze blows through the gaping windows. Herr Schuster pauses, lips pressed into a thin, straight line, his gangly body surprisingly erect for a man his age. He brushes the back of his hand over his sweating face, his green eyes roving around the class. His shoulders slump as he takes a deep breath, probably thinking we’re a lost cause. He appears way past retirement. Why he keeps coming back year after year, I’ll never understand.

The bell rings, cutting off whatever Schuster wanted to say. We shoot from our seats as if our behinds are on fire, the scrapping of desks and chairs drowning out his warning about finals.

I shove my books inside my rucksack. After twisting my curly hair into a knot, I swing my rucksack over my shoulder and grab my violin from under the desk. My best friend, Lea, steps beside me, slinging her arm over my shoulder.

“I can’t believe you won’t be around for four days, Ana. Four whole days.” She holds up four fingers, her full lips pulled down in displeasure.

I roll my eyes. “It’s not like we’re leaving for Iceland to enrol as Vikings or something. Vienna and Tuscany aren’t so far. You could visit your grandparents in Florence. We could meet up then.”

She exhales, the air lifting the bangs on her forehead. “I wish. Mom has to work at the hospital, and Dad said he’d lose customers if he closed the restaurant for even one day. So I have to babysit Gia. And I want to make up for the time Rein and I won’t see each other in the summer. Oh, and you’d make a great Viking woman.” She roars in what I’m sure a Viking battle cry would sound like. I laugh.

Just as Lea and I are about to step out the door, Herr Schuster motions to me with his hand. Lea excuses herself and strolls out of class, hovering by the door. I force my feet a few steps towards him. I know what he’s going to ask me. The same thing he’s been asking me for the last year.

He pushes his spectacles up the bridge of his nose and squints at me. “How is everything going, Frau Tei? You seemed more distracted today.”

Herr Schuster has a tendency to inquire about every student’s wellbeing. He is the most perceptive person I’ve ever met, other than my other best friend, Reiner.

As usual, I nod and smile, displaying a vast amount of teeth in what I hope is a friendly manner. “Never been better. Thank you for asking, sir.” If only you knew.

He studies me, his eyebrows pulled downward. Three tiny scars on his right cheek deepen on his skin. I shift from one foot to the other, itching to avoid his gaze.

He opens his mouth as if to say something, snaps it shut, and nods. “If you say so.”

I lift my free hand to brush hair off my forehead. His eyes follow the movement, but remain trained on my hand as I lower it to my side. I hate when people look at my hands. It’s the reason I got the henna tattoos in the first place. To hide the ugliness marring my skin. As though he realises I’m uncomfortable, he looks at me, lips pursed.

“Beauty comes in many forms, Frau Tei. Even scars are a sign of beauty. Some might even say achievement. A welcome source of pride.”

Source of pride?
Is he serious? Who’d want to strut around with tiny scars that raise questions and odd looks?

I shudder, as images of me at fourteen flood my mind. The marks were like a chain around my neck, strangling me with every look and whisper. As usual people tend to ignore the truth; assumptions are much juicier. No one believed me when I told them what happened. An innocent skin rash. After several tests, the cause was inconclusive. One month after its appearance, the rash vanished and left the skin on the back of my fingers and wrist scarred. Tiny, ugly slashes. Mom searched for a henna tattooist. She figured it’d be better than me going to therapy for depression after rumours spread that I was trying to end my life, which was far from the truth. Every two to three weeks, depending on how fast they faded, I’d visit Zaynab, my tattooist, for a touch-up, which was sometimes messy since the patterns below hadn’t completely faded. If it weren’t for Lea and Rein standing by me in middle school…

BOOK: Reaper's Novice (Soul Collector #1)
5.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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