One moment. One foolish desire. One mistake. And Corinthe lost everything.
She fell from her tranquil life in Pyralis Terra and found herself exiled to the human world. Her punishment? To make sure people's fates unfold according to plan. Now, years later, Corinthe has one last assignment: kill Lucas Kaller. His death will be her ticket home.
But for the first time, Corinthe feels a tingle of doubt. It begins as a lump in her throat, then grows toward her heart, and suddenly she feels like she is falling all over again--this time for a boy she knows she can never have. Because it is written: one of them must live, and one of them must die. In a universe where every moment, every second, every fate has already been decided, where does love fit in?
"Different and imaginative."--Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
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Principal Sylvia Patterson pulled her office door shut, checked the lock, then hitched a stack of folders slightly higher in her left arm as she made her way down the empty halls of Mission High.
The school was silent except for the sound of her own breathing and the click of her heels on the polished gray linoleum. She passed darkened classrooms behind closed doors: the desks, tables, and chairs within were just vague, silhouetted forms beyond smudged glass panes. In each window she walked by, her reflection appeared distorted.
Even after nearly two decades in these halls, she always felt scared when the school was empty.
As she rounded a corner, Sylvia stopped. A trill of alarm passed through her: a figure stood just inside the double doors at the exit, partially hidden by shadows.
No one was allowed on school grounds after hours.
Sylvia dipped her right hand into her purse, closing her fingers around the can of Mace she always kept close by. "School's closed now," she chirped, hoping the intruder wouldn't hear the tremor in her voice.
"Sorry." The girl turned, her face now illuminated by the weak light flowing in from the parking lot outside.
Sylvia exhaled. "Oh, Corinthe. You startled me." She withdrew her hand from her purse. Silly to be so jumpy. It was only the new transfer student.
Corinthe stared at her silently. She had a careless, disheveled look, despite the fact that Sylvia had been careful to emphasize the importance of one's appearance when they'd met for the first time yesterday to fill out her transfer paperwork. Corinthe might have been a very pretty girl, with her classic, well-spaced features and her pale gray eyes. Even her clothing was neat and well put-together--at least she cared about that part of her looks. It was the hair--the wild, tangled mess of blond that hung down her back--that told a different story.
Sylvia had been a principal for ten years and had a good eye for possibility. She sensed, after knowing Corinthe barely two days, that the girl could be a real standout if she applied herself. Unfortunately, experience had taught her that the kids in her school rarely lived up to their potential. Corinthe would probably end up just another lost child who fell through the cracks. During Sylvia's "Welcome to Mission High, Keep Your Nose Clean" speech, Corinthe had simply gazed at her, almost without breathing, her gray eyes completely flat, detached.
When children had no choices left, they all looked the same.
Corinthe shifted slightly in the doorway. "My foster mom was supposed to pick me up, but she never showed. Do you think . . . ?" Her voice trailed off and she raised her eyes expectantly.
Sylvia shuffled her stack of folders from her left arm to her right so she could check her watch. It would take exactly twenty-six minutes to get home and change before Steve rang her doorbell. She couldn't be late for dinner, not after she'd practically begged him for another chance.
"Where do you live?"
Corinthe tilted her head slightly, like a curious bird. "It won't be a long drive." Corinthe spoke in a measured tone, almost like an actor reciting lines. It was a slightly strange response, Sylvia thought, but dismissed it--Corinthe was likely desperate.
"Come on, then," Sylvia said. If they didn't hit traffic, she would be okay.
They left through the main doors and Sylvia walked quickly down the sidewalk. She was tired. Too tired to make small talk. Already her mind was on Steve--what she would wear, what she would say, whether she had remembered to get her favorite blouse back from the dry cleaner's.
She turned left at the end of the block and continued toward the staff lot, Corinthe's footsteps echoing lightly behind her.
Should she wear the green blouse? Or the blue one? The green one highlighted her eyes nicely . . . but the blue one was more low-cut. . . .
"Here we are," Sylvia said cheerfully. After ten years as a teacher and ten as an administrator, she knew how to keep up appearances, even when her thoughts were a thousand miles away. She stopped next to a small black sedan parked under a flickering streetlamp. She pulled out her keys and pressed the unlock button. A quick mechanical chirp echoed in the thick spring air. She threw her things into the back and slid into the driver's seat, slightly startled by how quickly Corinthe appeared beside her.
The car growled to life and Sylvia maneuvered it onto the street. "So. Which way?" she asked.
Corinthe pointed. Sylvia eyed the girl, then turned, zigzagging the car right onto Church, left onto Dubcoe, right onto Castro Street, each time in response to a silent gesture from Corinthe. The pendant hanging from her rearview mirror swayed back and forth with each turn. Corinthe, Sylvia noticed, kept looking at it with a slightly troubled expression.
"It's St. Jude," Sylvia explained. "The patron saint of lost causes. Kind of a sad saint, when you think about it." She half laughed. "Still, everyone could use a miracle, don't you think?"
"Sure, I guess," Corinthe said neutrally, the first words she had spoken since she'd gotten into the car. After another minute, Corinthe raised her hand as Castro merged with Divisadero. "Keep straight here, all the way toward the water."
"You live near the Marina?" Sylvia wasn't surprised. "How do you like it?"
"It's okay for now." Her voice cracked just a little as the car smoothly rounded the slight curve.
Some emotion seemed to pass over Corinthe's face: Anxiety? Guilt? The expression was gone too quickly for Sylvia to decipher.
Suddenly, Sylvia wanted to reach out to Corinthe, to reassure her that things could be different if she only believed--if she tried. Sylvia knew that behind every student there was a story. That was why she kept doing this job day after day. There were moments--flashes, briefly held, like the light of a firefly--when she understood that this was the job she was meant for. If she could convince just one girl that her life was worth living, that she wasn't a lost cause . . . that there was someone who hadn't forgotten, who really saw her. . . .
"So, Corinthe," she began. "Where did you--?"
Corinthe braced her hand on the dashboard and closed her eyes. She'd already seen it happen, knew what the outcome would be, but sitting there, waiting for the car to swerve, a tiny shiver of fear had gone up her spine.
There will be no miracles today.
The car dipped into a rut and the steering wheel jerked from Sylvia's hands, spinning them into oncoming traffic. Horns blared, tires screeched, and for a split second everything froze.
Sylvia never even had a chance to finish her question.