When I woke, Luke was coming back into the room, a cup full of something steaming in his hand. His hair was wet and slicked back.

"What time is it?" I asked, holding back a yawn.

"Just after ten thirty. We should get ready to go."

I looked out the window and was surprised to see it was dark out. "Ten thirty at night?"

"You slept for twelve hours."

I'd actually slept soundly for the first time since this whole nightmare had begun. "Did you get any sleep?"

He took a sip from the cup. I noticed he looked tired. "Some," he answered. "Do you want to eat something before we go?"

I shook my head. I was too nervous. The very thought of the ritual made my stomach queasy.

"It's cold out. You'd better wear something warm. It'll take us about fifteen minutes to get to the cemetery."

I sat stunned at the word. Cemetery. We're doing the ritual in a cemetery.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

I forced myself to sit up and swung my legs over the bed. "Yeah, just great."

"You don't have to do this."

I raised my chin and looked him in the eyes. "We both know I do."

"Don't take too long getting ready. We need to be out the door soon."

"The ritual begins at midnight?"

"Yes, but we have to get there and then get things set up." He was watching me, his expression one I couldn't read.

I forced a smile onto my face. "I won't be long."

He nodded and headed out the door, shutting it softly behind him.

Once he left, the tears started sliding down my face. I raised trembling hands to my temples and tried to force myself to calm down. I want to do this, I told myself. I'd gone to the magic shop to be trained as a death dealer, but it terrified me that I was actually about to go through with it.

I straightened my shoulders. Doing the ritual would keep me alive and hopefully help Luke save his sister. I took one deep breath and then forced myself to take another. I could do this. I had to be brave and face it head on.

He's going to kill you. The words seared across my brain.

But he'll bring me back.

I trusted him to bring me back.

I forced myself to my feet and started to get ready.

* * *

We were in the middle of the cemetery, standing at the edge of a very old, very creepy grave. No one was around but us—and the dead. I looked at the tombstone standing beside me. Etched on its surface were the words MATHEW SMITH, 1805–1850.

It was hard to believe we'd trekked to a cemetery in the middle of nowhere in the deep of night. We'd crossed pastures and even splashed through a stream to get here.

Overhead, the moon cast long shadows over the rows of marble headstones. The cemetery looked like something right out of a horror movie. The gravesites themselves were a combination of patchy dirt and grass, and I could make out shapes above the headstones. A handful of life-size angel statues were scattered around, appearing to move with the shadows. And beyond those were a few larger monuments—aboveground tombs that were the resting places of the truly wealthy. Inside the wrought iron fence surrounding the cemetery were only a couple of planted trees. It was fall, and although the trees around the countryside had changed color and started to drop their leaves, these trees were bare, their limbs gnarled and twisted. I couldn't fight the feeling that Luke and I were being watched, and a chill ran down my back as I wrapped my arms around my body. I turned back to where Luke was working.

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