Selene is slowly dying...too bad that’s the least of her problems.
You could say that Selene Vanream has a lot of problems. First there’s the Rot that’s slowly killing her, despite everything Ilyse and Micah are doing to find a way to save her.
Then there’s Andrew, the ghost of her boss who is anchored to the living world. Selene would like to ignore him, but anchored ghosts with unsettled business turn into anchored beasties, so she can’t write him off. The government has sent a team to post up at Affairs of the Dead and keep an eye on her, which includes making sure she plays up to Andrew to keep him from turning.
On top of that, someone is using Selene’s new power to create anchored ghosts for their loved ones to keep around. Not good since the culprit doesn’t have a clue about that whole anchored beastie angle. Now Selene has a criminal to catch while trying to stay out of the hands of government goons who have stripping her reanimation power on their agenda.
When Micah and Ilyse finally find a way to save her, Selene thinks she can cross one bad thing off her list--until she learns the terrible price that must be paid to keep her alive. Full plate doesn’t cover it. Overflowing plate doesn’t cover it. Selene’s plate has damn near exploded.
CHAPTER ONEThere were a few things that made me feel like my day was not off to the best start. For starters, I had overslept by an hour and a half so I was monstrously late for work. Then there was the scent of smoke creeping into my bedroom accompanied by loud swearing, which meant my ghost roommate had made a disaster of whatever he was trying to procure for breakfast. The sky was overcast so it’d probably be a rainy day. I had a slight headache…and oh yeah, I was looking into my backyard at my Yorkie, Luna, digging furiously in the dirt. I was almost certain what she was trying to unearth wasn’t one of her toys.I stood there for a few moments more, trying to decipher what it was that Luna was pawing at, then shook my head and ran out of my bedroom. I almost collided with Ethan, who was on his way to my room with a frying pan in his gloved hand and the charred remnants of what he’d come to dub the wake-up bacon.“It’s burnt, but I figured waving it under your nose would still get you out of bed any—Hey, what’s wrong?”I brushed past Ethan and ran into the yard where I snatched up Luna, then had a good, hard look at what she’d been wrestling with. I’d been hoping that it was some oddly shaped root or five fingered toy I didn’t remember buying for her, but no, it just had to be the worst possible thing.A human hand.My stomach roiled, and I looked around my small yard, seeing nothing out of place except for the hand, which from the size had to belong to a child. That made me feel worse. What were the chances there was only a hand buried here? I looked down again and saw that the amount of dirt that had been upturned was enough to bury a small body. I took a slow breath and exhaled it just as slow.“Selene?” Ethan stood uncertainly in the doorway. “What’s going on?”I walked over and handed Luna to him. “Take her to the bathroom and wash her off, will you?” She’d gotten dirt into every crevice she possibly could. “I have to deal with the body someone buried in my yard.”Ethan balked. “What?” He looked past me and his blue eyes widened when they landed on the hand. “That’s a…it’s a…so there’s a…”I placed my hand on Ethan’s shoulder and made him look at me. “Take Luna to the bathroom,” I said as calmly as I could, because the two of us freaking out wouldn’t help. “Go.”Ethan managed to close his mouth and headed inside with Luna. That left me with the fun task of deciding what the fuck to do now. I sat down on the steps for a moment to try and gather myself. Who could possibly hope to have a good day after waking up to their dog trying to dig up a body in their backyard?I closed my eyes and dropped my head into my hands. I had a slight headache that I prayed would stay slight. Being late for work because I’d overslept wasn’t anything new, but lately it was true exhaustion and not laziness that kept me in bed longer than I should be there. And that exhaustion was due to the fact that the Rot was continuing to have a field day with my insides because Ilyse still had not come up with a way to stop it from killing me.But I didn’t have time to focus on the ticking clock on my life. That’s a true sign of a bad day, right? When you were dying, but there was something even worse going on that took focus from it? I raised my head. Should I dig up the body? Call the police? Go inside, eat some burnt bacon, and pretend this never happened? Then crawl back into bed and stay there until the Rot ate me up? So many options and yet all I did was continue to sit there.“Selene?” I turned to see Micah in the doorway. He had come over to pick me up for work since we rode in together a few days a week. Even though that made him late too. He saw the hand. “I really hoped it was some kind of weird joke when Ethan muttered something about you being in the backyard digging up a body. But I can see it’s no joke.”“Not unless you have an extremely morbid sense of humor.” I stood up and swayed a little. Micah put his hand on my elbow to steady me.“Selene…” The look in his eyes let me know just how stellar I did not look. Nothing like a slow death to wreck havoc with your appearance. I shook my head and walked back into the yard.“I’m fine, bigger problems right now.” I indicated the tiny shed off to the side. “Shovels in there.”Micah retrieved two shovels and we spent a few minutes carefully digging up whatever was attached to that hand. When we were done, I almost bent over and retched up the nothing that was in my stomach, but managed to avoid it.“Shit,” Micah said, looking away, just as I had. She couldn’t have been more than eight years old.“Who the hell would do this?” I looked around the yard again as though I’d see the guilty party lurking in a corner rubbing their hands together in evil glee.“And why?” Micah came to stand next to me as we continued to not look at the body.“I think why is clear enough. It’s no secret what my reanimation power has morphed into on account of being bound to Ethan. I can anchor ghosts to this world. Like our dear old boss Andrew who’s waiting for us to show up to work.”“So you think this girl’s parents offed her then brought her body here to bury with the hope that if her ghost rose around you they’d be able to keep it?” The skepticism in Micah’s voice grew as he spoke.“Do I think her parents killed her? No. But look at what she’s wearing.”“A hospital gown.”“My best guess is she was a terminally girl, and her parents took a chance. If they couldn’t have her alive, they’d keep her ghost around and just buy energy runes from the Underground so they’d be able to see and talk to her.”“That’s sick,” Micah said. “I can’t believe anyone would do that to their child. Why wouldn’t they want her soul to rest?”“Grief and desperation,” I said, shrugging.“So you think her ghost already rose?”“Quite possibly. The body isn’t fresh; she’s been here at least a few days, which is more than enough time for the ghost to rise, get nice and anchored, and walk off into the sunset with mommy and daddy.”“Not a bad theory.”“What do we do here, Micah?”“We can’t tell anyone, that’s for sure.”I had already come to that conclusion.“If anyone finds out you’ll take the blame, and that warrant to round you up might finally be given.”About a month had passed since Andrew’s ghost had shown up on my doorstep making his intentions for me clear, and the government was still in a stalemate over what to do with me. The judge who could grant the warrant had been loudly touted as a left wing liberal extremist by the dissenting media, so I could only thank her daily for her refusal to grant that warrant. I had been doing my part by keeping a low profile and trying to show that I was harmless, just an evolved reanimator bound to a ghost, but that hadn’t stopped the outcry from all those who feared the power I had now. There was some sympathy over the fact that I had the Rot, but not enough to stop the opposition from wanting me off the streets. Going to the grocery store was a lot more difficult these days than it should be.“We need to stay ahead of this,” Micah said. “Tracking down this girl’s family would be job one. If they successfully gleaned their daughter’s ghost then there’s a chance they’ll tell other people and you could end up with bodies all over this yard.”I shuddered at the thought of that.“Then there’d be no stopping the government from doing whatever it takes to control you,” he added.“You mean strip me,” I said. “Regardless of the consequences.” I ran my hands through my sleep tousled hair and made a sound of frustration. Then I took a deep breath that I immediately regretted.“We can’t have forensics ID her because that will lead to questions we can’t answer,” Micah said. “But we need to figure out who she is.”“That hospital ID bracelet on her wrist could help,” I said, pointing. I so badly wanted to take a hot shower and go eat whatever Ethan had cooked in whatever condition it was in.“Good eye,” Micah said, kneeling down. He checked the bracelet.“Isabelle Rye.” He stood up and dusted off his hands. “We have a place to start.”I nodded, and we buried Isabelle’s body again, every part of me feeling sick over it. Grieved parents or not, this was an extreme choice to make just to preserve some part of your child.“Like my life wasn’t hard enough,” I muttered as Micah and I put the shovels back and headed inside.