“What is it?” Janine asks.

“That guy right there. Don’t you see him?”

“Which guy?”

“The one in the blue. Something’s going on with him,” I say. His eyes aren’t looking down, but are fixed in the distance. Both hands are gripping the railing so hard his knuckles are white, and one foot is poised on the bottom rung. “I think he’s going to jump,” I whisper.

“Then you need to go make contact with him,” she says quietly, her eyes focused on his back.

I can feel panic rising in my chest. “How? Do I just go ask him if he’s about to kill himself?”

Janine nudges me forward. “You’ll think of something.” She glances at me. “Anything’s better than the alternative.”

I take a few steps closer, with no idea how I’m going to do this. In order to read him, I need to touch him, to make contact with him in a way that won’t startle him. I’m within a couple of feet when I pretend to trip, going down on one knee, grabbing at the man’s arm as I fall.

I’m hyperalert as my hand makes contact, and in a flash I feel overwhelming despair and sadness wash over me. It’s as if death is already too close. “I’m so sorry!” I say, putting both hands on the sidewalk to steady myself both from the fall and from the strength of his emotions.

“Are you okay?” he asks, looking startled. He reaches down to help me up.

“I think so,” I say. I look into his eyes behind thick black glasses, wondering what happened in his life that brought him to this place. “Are you?”

He tilts his head and releases my arm. Instantly, the emotions vanish. “Sure,” he says, a puzzled expression on his face. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“I just saw you standing here. And you looked a little sad.”

He shakes his head and gives me a slight smile. “I was just admiring the view,” he says with a shrug, his voice betraying no emotion at all. “Not every day you get to stand on a bridge and look at such a beautiful city.”

I begin to feel unsure of myself. Either he’s a really good liar or he really wasn’t planning to jump. “Right. Of course. It’s just that I—”

“What’s going on, honey?” A thin woman with a camera around her neck walks up and slips her arm through his. She has on a purple knit hat that doesn’t look out of place up here, even though it’s June. I’m startled to see that he’s not alone. Why would he bring her here if he was going to jump?

“Nothing,” he says, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “This young lady tripped, and I was just helping her up.”

I look back at the sidewalk at the imaginary crack that caused my fall. “He was.” I nod to the man. “Thanks. They should really fix that. Someone could get hurt.”

“That’s terrible,” the woman says with a frown, squinting down at the sidewalk. She smiles up at the man. It’s obvious she adores him. “I’m glad he could help.”

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay now, miss?” the man asks.

I have no idea what just happened here. He seems so stable now. Did I read him wrong? “I’m sure,” I say, giving him a wide smile that I don’t feel. “I’ll be fine.”

“Great,” he says. He pounds his fist twice on the railing and then turns to walk back toward the San Francisco side, arm in arm with the woman.

Janine squeezes my shoulder as they walk away. “Great job,” she whispers. “How did it feel?”

“It wasn’t great,” I say, frustration clouding any satisfaction I might have. “I don’t think I read him right at all. At first all I could feel was an overwhelming sadness, but then he just acted so normal.”

“Maybe you were right,” Janine said. “And maybe by talking to him at the crucial moment, it passed. Sometimes people don’t want their problems solved. They just want to be seen.”

I glance back at the couple. “Or maybe he’s just a tourist admiring the view.”

“You have a nice day,” the woman shouts over her shoulder, giving a little wave. As the sleeve of her jacket falls back, I see a clear plastic bracelet around her too-thin wrist. I look at the hat covering her head and see that there’s no hair peeking out from the bottom of it. It’s then that I understand—she’s the one who’s dying, not him.

“You too,” I shout back. Sometimes it sucks to be right.


“What time is Griffon picking Owen up at the airport?” Rayne asks as we dodge the crowds on Haight Street.

“About an hour ago,” I say, digging around in my bag for my bus pass. We’ve spent the day hanging around my house, but now I have to go teach cello at the studio. I complain about having a job, but I’m secretly glad to have somewhere to go during the week. A whole summer with nothing to do would make me antsy. “Kat wanted to go with him, but I talked her out of it. Griffon is his best friend, and the ride from the airport is probably the only time she won’t be hanging off Owen this whole trip.”

Rayne wrinkles her nose. “Is it going to be weird hanging out with your sister so much?”

I stare at her. “Um, yeah. Which is why you have to promise not to leave us alone with them. Kat is already talking about all the parties we’re going to while he’s here; you and Peter need to come along to break up the ick factor.”

She laughs. “We’ll try.”

The sidewalk is thick with tourists, but the strange hand on my arm is still startling, and my blood runs cold when I turn to see who grabbed me. For a second I can barely breathe. I knew this moment was going to come sooner or later; she’s been sanctioned by the Sekhem for what she did to us, but there was not much more they could do. I’ve rehearsed this over and over in my head, all of the things I want to say to her, how I need to stand up to her once and for all, but I’m caught so off guard that I take two steps backward.

“Cole!” Veronique says, as if our meeting on the street is some kind of happy coincidence.

“What do you want?” I’m glad that my tone is as flat and lifeless as I mean it to be.

Veronique smiles and shakes her head. “Nothing. I just saw you and your friend across the street and wanted to say hello. Because it’s been so long.” She looks physically like the Veronique I first met last year—her dark hair shiny and not a strand out of place, but there’s something in her eyes that reminds me of the frantic woman up on the roof with a gun aimed at Griffon’s head. It’s been almost two months since that horrible day, but I can see right away that not much has changed.

“Not long enough,” I say. I glance at Rayne, who’s standing to the side. After all that happened between us, I forget she’s never actually met Veronique, never come face-to-face with the one who almost took it all away. Not like I’m going to introduce them now.

“Oh, come on,” Veronique says, as if we just had some small argument that can be washed away with a few words. “All’s well that ends well, right? Everything turned out okay.”

Okay?” I repeat, my voice louder than I intend it to be. I look around to make sure nobody is close enough to overhear. “The last time I saw you, you were trying to kill Griffon.” The scar on his cheek and the one on my arm are evidence that she did in fact mean to hurt us both; nothing that happened was an accident.

Veronique glances at Rayne, obviously not knowing how much to say in front of her.

“Rayne knows all about us,” I say. “All about what you did.”

“Right,” Veronique says, smoothing back her hair. “That’s why I wanted to talk to you.” There’s a pause as Veronique hesitates, staring at her hands. “Look, I was wrong, and I wanted to say that I’m sorry.” She looks straight into my eyes. “For everything.”

I wait, but Veronique doesn’t offer any more explanation. “Sorry?” I repeat, my voice again too loud. I concentrate on lowering it. “For which part? Sorry for stalking me? For permanently destroying my left hand as well as my career? For almost killing Griffon? Which part are you most sorry for?”

Rayne puts one hand on my trembling arm, as I vent the anger I wasn’t aware I’d hidden inside. I can’t look at Veronique right now. Every time I remember the sharp blast of the gun followed by the image of Griffon going over the edge of the building, I feel sick inside.

“It’s okay,” Rayne says, in an attempt to be reassuring.

“It is definitely not okay.” I’ve gone over and over it for the past couple of months, but Veronique hasn’t been here to answer for any of it. Now is my chance. “You don’t even understand what you’ve done.” I lean forward, my breath coming hard and fast as my heart pounds. “The scar Griffon’s going to carry for the rest of his life.” I pull up my sleeve and hold my arm out for her inspection. “My scar that hides the real damage inside. I can’t play anymore; I’ll probably never play in front of an audience again. And for what? I had nothing to do with Alessandra’s death in that lifetime.” At this point, I don’t care who hears me.

Veronique waits quietly until I’m done. “You’re right. I deserve all of that and more. I take full responsibility for everything I’ve done. I was stupid and stubborn. All I could see was an opportunity for revenge, to silence the anguish that’s followed me from one lifetime to the next.” Her eyes tear up. “I was blinded by my love for Alessandra, and it’s prevented me from moving on in this life. From being able to form relationships, to pursue my passions. And it was love that made me do things I can’t take back. I just thank God that everything ended up as well as it did.”

“Not all of us are so thrilled,” I say quietly, not wanting to let her wrap everything up in a neat little package.

“I’m seeing a therapist.” Veronique nods at Rayne. “She’s Khem, but someone who understands what it means to be Akhet.”

Rayne’s looking at me for clarification. “Khem is someone who’s not Akhet,” I explain, just as Janine did for me. I stare down Veronique. “But most Akhet don’t use it. It’s like slang, a derogatory term for someone who doesn’t know, who’s ignorant.”

Veronique holds her hands up in front of her. “I didn’t mean anything by it. In fact, she’s been really helpful in sorting some things out.” She looks at me. “Giacomo has gone back to Italy. Alone.” She laughs. “Or maybe not so alone by now, who knows?”

I have to admit I’m surprised that her boyfriend left her. Giacomo stood by her even though she loved a ghost. He was ready to kill for her. “I’m so sorry to hear that.” I make sure that she hears my tone.

She shrugs, either not getting my sarcasm or choosing to ignore it. “It’s better this way. Even he couldn’t compete with my memories. That’s what I’m trying to learn to deal with. I may never find the essence of Alessandra again, and I have to come to terms with that. All I ask is your forgiveness.”

“Why in hell should I forgive you?” I say. “I trusted you, and you completely betrayed me. Why should I waste any more time listening to you?”

“You don’t have to,” Veronique says quietly, her eyes fixed on the sidewalk.

The expression of resignation on her face is pathetic and only makes me more angry. “Good to hear,” I say.

I turn to go, but Veronique grabs my hand. “Come on.” Her voice is almost desperate. “Don’t leave like this.”

I push her back as hard as I can, knowing that people are starting to look at us, but not caring at all. “Get your hands off me!”

Rayne jumps between us, one hand on each of our shoulders. “Stop!” If I wasn’t watching carefully, I would have missed it. As soon as Rayne touches her, Veronique flinches slightly and something unreadable crosses her face.

“Oh my God,” she whispers, putting a hand to her mouth. Two red spots appear on her cheeks, and I can see her hands trembling. Rayne isn’t Akhet, I know that, so I have no idea what’s causing this reaction.

“You’re insane.” I turn my back on Veronique, hopefully for the last time. I have nothing else I want to say to her. Ever. “Come on, Rayne, I’ve heard enough. Let’s get out of here.”

I pull the cello out of its case and lean it against my shoulder, the familiar weight letting me exhale for the first time in what seems like days. Music is something I don’t have to think about; it’s something I absorb without trying, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to lose myself in it.