Once Dead, Twice Shy
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May 26, 2009
Madison Avery's full-length debut

Madison has been translated into a few different languages

Once Dead, Twice Shy, Supernatural Summer Tour pictures


Available just about everywhere, and a few places I'd never expect, but if you're having trouble:
Where To Purchase Online.


PNFHOnce Dead, Twice Shy is my foray into Young Adult, and because this is my favorite audience to write for, I have hopefully given it just as many surprising plot twists as I do in my adult work.  If you want a sneak peek, there is a novella in the anthology, Prom Nights from Hell.








OnceDead, Twice Shy
Kim Harrison


            Dappled sun shifted upon my bare shoulder as I leaned against a rough boulder bigger than my long-absent car.  Frustrated, I unclenched my teeth before I gave myself a headache.  The sound of people swimming at the nearby lake was loud, but the happy shrieks only tightened my gut.  Leave it to Barnabas to try to shift four months of practice into success in a mere twenty minutes.
            “No pressure,” I muttered, glancing across the sneaker-flattened dirt path to the reaper leaning against a pine tree with his eyes shut.  Barnabas was probably older than fire, but appearing the age of the person you’re trying to save helped light reapers blend in.  And Barnabas blended in nicely with his jeans, black T-shirt, and his lanky physique.  I couldn’t see the wings we’d flown in on, but they were there, making him an angel of death with frizzy hair, brown eyes, and in a pair of holey sneakers.  Would that make them holy holey-sneakers? I wondered, as I nervously rolled the pinecone in my hand back and forth.
            Feeling my attention on him, Barnabas opened his eyes.  “What’s so funny, Madison?” he asked, and I sighed.
            “Nothing.”  My gaze dropped to my punky sneakers.  Yellow with purple laces and sculls and crossbones on the toes.  They matched my hair, not that anyone had ever made the connection between them and the purple dyed tips of my blond bangs.  “Maybe if I wasn’t so hot I could do this.”
            His eyebrows rose as he looked at my shorts and tank top.  I wasn’t hot, but nerves had me jittery.  I hadn’t known that I was going to summer camp when I’d slipped out of the house this morning and rode my bike to school to meet Barnabas for my first scythe prevention.  I wasn’t complaining.  It felt good to get out of New Covington.  The college town my dad lived in was okay, but spending the summer with a light reaper lurking within twenty miles tended to put a damper on making friends.  Being the new girl sucked eggs.
            Barnabas frowned across the path at me.  “You need to concentrate,” he said, and I spun the prickly pinecone between my palms faster.  “Feel for your aura, and thin it.  God help you, Madison.  I’m right in front of you.  Do it, or I’m taking you home.”
            Dropping the pinecone, I scowled.  If we went home, whoever we were here to save wouldn’t have a chance.  “I’m working on it.”  The boulder behind me seemed to press harder into my back, and I reached to hold the black amulet around my neck, trying to think of a hazy mist around me thinning until my thought could break free of the envelope of “self,” trying to imagine the haze of color around Barnabas—listen for it, maybe—and then give my thoughts that same color so it could slip past his own aura and he could hear me.  It was a two-stage process.  I’d been trying for months, and Barnabas bringing me here to tempt me with the chance to help him on a scythe prevention wasn’t making me work harder, it was ticking me off.
            Irritated, I looked up at Barnabas.  Stuck babysitting me, he hadn’t been on a scythe prevention in months, and it showed in his increasingly cross expression and failing patience.  Dark reapers killed people before their allotted time when the probable future showed they were going to make decisions that went contrary to black reaper’s grand schemes of fate.  Light reapers tried to stop them to ensure humanity’s right of choice.  I was one of Barnabas’s rare failures, but I hadn’t gone gentle into that good night when a dark reaper had killed me, but whined and protested the entire way, taking an out when I found it—an out in the form of stealing the amulet of the same black reaper who had scythed me.  The stolen stone currently warming in my tight grip gave me the solid illusion of a body when my real one was somewhere over the rainbow.  Not only was I dead, but I didn’t even have a real body.
            Having flubbed up my scythe prevention—my prom night no less—Barnabas had been assigned to shadow me in case the reaper who’d killed me came back for the stone.  Watching me had put a crimp in his real job of Reconnaissance Error Acquisitions Personnel, Evaluation and Recovery, and he was losing status.  Even worse, I felt like it was my fault.  If I could just figure this thought-touching out, he could resume his regular duties with me reasonably safe back home and able to contact him if I had to.  But it wasn’t happening.
            “Barnabas,” I said, weary of it.  “Are you sure I can do this?  I’m not a reaper.”
            “Neither is Ron,” he said, pulling his toe out of the hole he had wedged in the soft earth.
            Ron, short for Chronos, was his boss—the only other human who had direct contact with the divine plane.  “I’m only seventeen, not seventeen hundred,” I complained.  “And maybe I can’t because I’m dead.  Ever think of that?”
            Silent, Barnabas looked out at the pine-rimmed lake.  The worried lift to his shoulders told me he had.  His shoulders fell in a sigh.  “Try again,” he said softly.
            I tightened my grip until the silver wires holding the stone pressed into my fingers, trying to imagine Barnabas in my thoughts, his easy grace that most high schoolers lacked, his nice figure and attractive face, his riveting smile.  Sighing I rolled my eyes at myself.  I wasn’t crushing on him, but every angel of death I’d seen had been attractive.  Especially the bad one.
            My thoughts drifted back to my prom night, and my shoulders slumped.  Being dead sucked, but I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself.  If I hadn’t been playing queen bee, I could have swallowed my pride and stayed at the prom after finding out I was Josh’s pity date.  It wasn’t like Josh was a dweeb, but if I’d ever had the chance to make it with the cool girls at a new school, being a pity date had killed it.  And when a sexy senior had offered to drive me home, I’d said yes.  Sexy senior turned into psychopath Seth, a dark reaper bent on killing me.  Which he did, using a scythe when rolling his convertible down an embankment hadn’t done it.  I’d woken up in the morgue to Barnabas arguing with another light reaper as to whose fault it was I was dead.  Even better, Seth showed up, shocking the b-juice out of everyone.  Apparently he wanted to throw my soul in front of someone to “buy his way to a higher court,” whatever that meant.  But only Barnabas and I knew that last part.
            Seth’s interest should have ended when my life had, an oddity that was overlooked when I snagged his amulet and claimed it in my effort to stay somewhat alive.  It hadn’t been a reaper’s stone I’d taken but something else.  Ron still didn’t know what it was exactly.  So far, despite all the long nights spent on my roof practicing with Barnabas, I hadn’t been able to do anything with the shimmery black stone.  I couldn’t reach Barnabas’s thoughts, couldn’t make a sword from the amulet’s energy, couldn’t even go an afternoon without a freaking babysitter.  Barnabas had been hanging around so much that my dad thought he was my boyfriend and my boss at the flower shop thought I should take out a restraining order.
            My arms crossed over my chest, and I pushed myself away from the rock.  “I’m sorry, Barnabas,” I said feeling stupid.  “You go on and do your prevention.  I’ll just sit here and wait.  I’ll be fine.”  Maybe this was why he brought me.  I’d be safer here then several hundred miles away.  I knew it was killing him not being able to do his job.
            Barnabas pressed his lips together, clearly upset.  “No.  This was a bad idea,” he said, coming forward to take my arm.  “Let’s go.  I’ll tell Ron to send someone else.”
            Affronted, I jerked out of his grip, not liking that my inability was holding him back.  “So what if you can’t hear me.  I can hear you!” I said.  “If you don’t want to leave me here, then I’ll just follow you and stay in the shadows.  Jeez, Barnabas.  It’s a summer camp.  How much trouble can I get into just watching?”
            “Plenty,” he said, his smooth, young-looking face grimacing.
            Someone was coming up the path, and I rocked back a step.  “I’ll just sit out of the way.  No one will even know I’m there,” I said, and Barnabas’s eyes crinkled in worry.  “Ron said the amulet will keep me hidden even if a reaper touched me.  What’s the problem, here!”
            His brow furrowed.  “Ron would skin me alive if something went wrong.”
            “Well it was his idea to include me on your reap preventions, wasn’t it?” I countered.
            Barnabas kicked softly at the huge rock.  “When you were properly trained.  You aren’t.”
            The people were getting closer, and I fidgeted.  “Come on, Barnabas.  Why did you fly us out here if you were just going to take me home again?  You knew I couldn’t solidify in twenty minutes what I’ve been trying to do the past four months.  You want to do this as much as I do.  I’m already dead.  What more can they do to me?”
            Lips pressed tight, he looked up the path at the noisy group.  “If you knew, you wouldn’t be arguing with me.  [. . .]

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  Revised: 08/29/2014       Copyright © 2009 by Kim Harrison.  All rights reserved.