Chapter Two

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"Way to announce yourself," I hiss at Noah.

He only smiles, raising his head up from the newspaper that's scattered across the kitchen table. He's wearing the same clothes he always does, the brown pinstripe suit and fedora that make him look like he walked straight out of the 1930s and into my house.

Noah is my advisor, assigned to watch over me while I'm here in this life. He was the one to greet me after I died and found myself in The Life-After. My name was Anna Merrick then, and I was a TV star, one of those young Hollywood actresses the tabloids called an "up-and-comer" and "one to watch." People recognized me on the street and everything. Dying at eighteen wasn't part of my big career plan. Stuff happens sometimes.

"You didn't see the feather I left by the front door?" Noah asks. He takes off his fedora and sets it on the table.

He means an indigo feather, I know. He always leaves one for me to find when he's about to show up out of nowhere. I must have missed it this time. He calls the feathers a courtesy notice that he's around, and I call them warnings of visits from my warden. He doesn't think that's funny.

"You're a little late for the housewarming. I've already been here for a week." I lean against the kitchen island, watching him. "You brought gifts, right?"

"I think you found your gift tonight."

"Riley?" I ask. His mouth quirks up into a smile, and I guess that's my answer. "Thanks for assigning me some guy I wanted to kick at first sight."

"It will be good for you," he replies. Right.

"Broccoli is good for me, but that doesn't mean I have to like it." He gives me a warning look. "What? I'm a second-timer, not an angel."

He frowns but doesn't say anything, and that's probably because he knows I'm right. If I were an angel, I'd be in The Life-After and free to come and go. I sure wouldn't be stuck here for a second time. I turn my back to him and walk over to the fridge, catching sight of my reflection in a mirrored magnet that's stuck to the door. There's no mistaking the irritation in my sea-blue eyes.

"Want grilled cheese?" I call over my shoulder.

"Only if you're not cooking." He chuckles at his own joke.

"Funny." I open the fridge door and grab cheese slices and a stick of butter from one of the shelves. "Anything you're here for, other than slinging insults?"

"I just popped in to see how you are. It's part of the job, you know."

"It must have slipped my mind." I walk over to the stove.

He watches me spread butter onto a slice of bread. I know he can hear what's on my mind, but he's waiting for me to say it. The guy just never makes it easy.

"Why didn't I know that was Riley tonight?" I ask.

"You know it now." A typical Noah answer. Why I bother asking him questions is beyond me.

"It's a little late now, don't you think? He was already gone by the time I figured it out, or did you miss that part?"

"You'll find him again." He sounds so calm. It must be nice.

"You realize I have less than two months to do that?" You'd think he would get that we're cutting it way too close for me to feel good about this, but he just shrugs. Awesome.

"You'll find him," he repeats. "Just watch for the signs."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I reach for a frying pan that's hanging on a rack beside the stove. When Noah doesn't answer, I put the pan down and turn around to look at him. He's not sitting at the table anymore, and he isn't anywhere else in the kitchen. I already know he's on his way back to The Life-After.

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