Chapter Two

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Matt Maguire was already waiting for Zoe when she hurried out of her house that morning, still trying to pull on one of her shoes as she locked the door behind her. He was all slicked-back hair and casual elegance, his schoolbag slung over one shoulder and his back against the driver's-side door of his black BMW. His hands were buried deep within the pockets of his navy slacks, guarded from the morning wind tossing leaves around his feet. Like a male model in the middle of a staged photo shoot.

And she was pretty sure that she looked as bad as he did good. Zoe half wished that she'd taken her father's advice and crawled back into bed for the day, but there was no going back now. She hadn't been game enough to check herself in the mirror on the way out. She hadn't had the time for it anyway, given how long it had taken her to track down Hayden Parker on Facebook and get a message to him. Even if she'd had the time, she didn't want to know how disastrous she looked. Why ruin her minor victory?

But Matt was wearing his usual grin as she hopped towards him, still trying to pull her shoe on, so maybe she didn't look as terrible as she thought. Or maybe nine years of friendship had simply taught him not to comment on such things.

"About time you got your ass out here." Matt gave her a nudge with his elbow as he added, "A guy could freeze to death waiting on you."

Zoe made a show of rolling her eyes. "It's not that cold, loser."

"Oh, it's not? Well, if the weather is so to your liking, miss, then maybe I should make you walk to school."

Matt tugged the keys from his pocket and dangled them out of Zoe's reach. The threat wasn't real—they both knew as much—but it was one of Matt's favourite games to play in the mornings.

Another set of jingling keys made Zoe look to her right. Matt's father, Luke Maguire, had just finished locking up their two-storey red-brick and was on his way to the vibrant, red Audi parked in the driveway. His golden, shoulder-length hair was tied back in a ponytail that swung gently as he walked.

Luke waved when he caught Zoe looking his way. "Mornin', Zo. Get all your homework finished over the weekend?"

"Yes, Mum. You catch up on all your paperwork?"

"You know it, kid." He grinned at her before jerking his chin at Matt, golden eyes alight with the morning sun. "You gonna stand there and let him get away with that? Xavier and I taught you better, young lady."

"No, sir." Too tired to even bother trying to reach Matt's raised hand, Zoe jabbed him in the chest. "Unlock the car, asshole. We're gonna be late!"

Matt grinned like the maniac that he was, but did as she'd asked. The doors opened with a mechanical click.

"Drive safe, Matt," Luke called as his son dropped into the driver's seat. "I'll see you kids after school."

Matt gave him a quick wave before pulling away from the kerb.

Zoe sunk into the leather passenger seat and let her head fall against the rest. Not for the first time, she wished the ride to school was longer. This time spent with Matt was her favourite of the entire day—the time when she could just be normal Zoe, who loved the wind in her hair and a good tune on the radio. Normal Zoe, who laughed along with Matt and made plans for the future that didn't involve trying to escape the minds of people headed toward their impending deaths.

Normal Zoe had a good life—but she couldn't always escape her other selves. Especially when she was fighting off exhaustion and the lingering taste of smoke in the back of her throat.

But maybe it would all be worth it today. Maybe, if the message she'd sent that morning got through in time...

She felt Matt's eyes on her as he made the turn onto Main Street. He reached out to give her arm a flick. "Is everything all right? You're quiet this morning."

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