Today I have an excerpt from Cecilia Robert’s newest YA Urban Fantasy REAPER’S NOVICE.
About Reaper’s Novice:
17- year- old Ana Maria Tei’s life has always been perfect: loving parents, good grades, and a future so bright it outshone the sun. But now words like “separation” and “divorce” are sending her world plummeting to hell. Determined to keep her family intact, Ana plans a family-bonding trip from Vienna to Tuscany. Except fate has other plans. Ana’s parents and siblings are killed in a car accident on their way to pick Ana up from school.
Enter Grim, aka Ernest. He promises to relinquish the four souls if Ana agrees to trade her soul for theirs and serve a lifetime as his novice. In order for Ana to graduate from her Reaper’s Novice station to a Soul Collector graduate, Grim puts her to test. To her horror, she finds out becoming a Reaper’s Novice didn’t happen by chance. It was preordained, and she is forced to make a choice: save her family’s souls or come to terms with who she really is and complete the task set for her.
“You two go ahead. I need to use the bathroom.” I push Lucy’s small hand in Rolf’s.
He stares at me, eyes dark and searching. A thousand chest-splitting heartbeats later, he nods. “Come on, Lu. I’m hungry as a bear.” Lucy giggles and skips as they head out to the garden through the back door.
Once their footsteps and voices fade, I dart downstairs. Could he really sense Zig? Crazy. That’s what Zig gets for coming to my house. I’m going to strangle him.
“Lover boy’s turning out to be the interesting sort.” I jump at the voice in my ear.
“Jesus, Zig. I told you not to creep up on me.”
“You really need to stop being jumpy. Otherwise your survival chances in the Afterworld are zero. Well, technically, you won’t die. You can’t die. But you’ll be traumatized for life. Not a good thing.” I ignore him, grab his trench sleeve, and pull him around the corner, towards the bathroom on the ground floor. “Oh, forceful, I like.” I wheel around and get blasted by his wide, bright smile.
“Cut it out, Zig. What are you doing here?”
“I’m on a break.”
I blink. “So you thought to spend it stalking me?”
He leans on the wall. “I invited myself over. See, it’s hot out and that walnut tree is just too inviting.” His smile widens. I narrow my eyes. “Come on, lovely Ana. I wanted…” He drags a hand through his hair and looks away. “Is it so bad for me to be here? I just wanted to… feel.” His shoulders slump forwards.
“Feel what? What if your concealment slips and someone sees you? I can’t handle this. Please, don’t do this to me.” I lean around him to look if anyone came in while I was scolding him. I’d look insane if anyone found me talking to myself. Voices drift in from the open windows and door.
“No one can see me.” He pauses, leans with one booted foot propped on the wall, and crosses his arms over his chest. Mom would kill him for that. “The first time Grim told me about you, about what you did for your family, I couldn’t understand why. Why you’d trade your soul for theirs, contract your soul for eternity as a Soul Collector.” He drops his leg from the wall, strolls soundlessly to the kitchen, and glances out the kitchen window. “I now understand why.” He turns to face me, and my breath stills. His eyes are etched with lines at the corners.
“I couldn’t let go of my family,” I say. “I’m selfish.”
Zig shifts his gaze to me. “You didn’t know what you were getting yourself into, yet you agreed to trade your soul without hesitation. I call that brave. Stupid but brave.”
I glare at him. “You had to go and spoil that sentence, didn’t you?”
He laughs, then stares out the window, absorbing the life happening outside. Everyone will start wondering where I am. I open my mouth, but he beats me to it. “Something’s not right with lover boy.”
My pulse races madly. “What do you mean?”
“Something’s off. I don’t know exactly what, but something is.”
The scene in my room flashes through my mind. His frequent errands. “What do you think is wrong with him?”
Zig shakes his head and frowns. “Not sure. Something about him is familiar, yet not. I hadn’t noticed this before, but now…” He breathes out.
I bite my lower lip. “Why did Ernest choose me, Zig?”
Zig blinks twice and tugs his right earlobe. “Who knows why Ernest does things?” He shifts on his feet, staring at his shiny black boots. “You’ve seen so much death. More than your average seventeen-year-old. Maybe that could be a reason?”
Liar. “You two have been housemates for years, Zig. Did you find anything about Ernest’s meetings?”
Zig rubs his forehead, sighing. “Yesterday, I swung by his library and just like every other time, I couldn’t hear anything. It’s like whatever they talk about inside there is top secret, given the heavy spell surrounding the door. Gods, this is so frustrating!”
I swallow my disappointment. His eyes glaze over and then focus once again. “Just received collections instructions. You and I begin concealment and shifting tomorrow. I’ll hop by school. I will try to get information about what is going on.” And then he shifts. I blink at the empty space, fists clenched. Zig is the most exhausting person I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing.
Cecilia Robert lives in Vienna with her two children, has an incurable obsession with books, anything romantic, TV and medieval architecture. When not working in her full time job, catching up with her two children, writing or reading, she can be found, knitting or crocheting, taking photos of old buildings.