Sweet Shadows Page 1

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CHAPTER 1

GREER

As I stare across Gretchen’s dining table at Grace, who is flipping through a binder about some ridiculously hideous monster straight out of mythology, I still can’t really fathom that there are two girls right here in this loft who look exactly like me. Same long, dark-blond hair—although mine glistens with pricey highlights—and silver-gray eyes that have always been my most unique characteristic. Not anymore.

Same height, weight, and shape. Same size. After the fight with the giant beast that was attacking Gretchen—a manticore, she called it—not even my keen fashion sense sets me apart. My clothes were positively disgusting, and the only thing keeping me from throwing them in the nearest incinerator is the designer label. Well, that and the fact that they’re kind of a badge of honor from my second real monster fight—evidence of a success more hard-won than my string of straight A’s and student government positions.

Anyway, my expensive clothes are in a trash bag by the door and I’m wearing a pair of Gretchen’s gray cargos and a white tank top. One good thing about being triplets, I suppose, is that we can share clothes. Barring extreme instances like this, however, I can’t imagine ever wanting to borrow anything from either of their closets. Eco-geek and military chick aren’t really my style.

“Look at his feet,” Grace says, sliding the open binder toward me and pointing at a drawing of a fairly normal-looking creature with backward-facing feet. It needs a good orthopedic surgeon.

“Gross,” I say, because it is and because I think it’s the kind of response she wants. Grace is thrilled to have found her sisters and can’t wait for us to become best friends. I’m not quite as enthusiastic. I already have an established life and boyfriend and circle of friends. But knowing there’s this secret side of my life is kind of exhilarating. And scary.

“You should see the panotii,” she says, her face contorting into a disgusted wince. “They have ears the size of their bodies.”

“Have you memorized all the binders?” I ask.

“No.” Her gaze drops and I can see her cheeks flush pink. She’s embarrassed by her dedication. “I’ve digitized most of them, though, and the funnier images stand out.”

She shouldn’t be ashamed to be a hard worker. She should be proud of her achievements. Instead, she seems more like the kind of girl who dismisses them. Afraid of appearing … more than others.

I’m about to tell her she should embrace her achievements, that her success should inspire others, not embarrass them. But before I can open my mouth, a violent wave of nausea assaults my stomach.

It’s so strong I lurch to my feet, certain I’m about to heave all over the shiny glass table.

As soon as I’m upright, the sensation moves, spreads to the rest of my body. I’m shocked, frozen by an overwhelming sense of dread, weighted to the floor by the most horrible fear I’ve ever felt.

From the edge of my vision I sense Gretchen walking into the room.

“What’s wrong?” Grace asks, and I can hear the worry in her voice.

“I—” I brace my hands on the table as my legs threaten to give out beneath me. “I don’t know. It’s just, all of a sudden, I got this really awful feeling.”

My sisters exchange a look.

“What kind of feeling?” Gretchen asks.

I turn to her, needing her strength in this moment. “Like something bad is about to happen.”

I’ve barely finished the sentence when Gretchen’s phone rings. She turns and runs for it and I focus on inhaling deeply, hoping that some meditative breathing will quell this incomprehensible sensation.

Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out. In—

Suddenly, Gretchen is sprinting toward us, arms wide and shouting, “Run!”

I’m still frozen, unable to process what exactly is happening, overwhelmed by the feelings assaulting me.

As Gretchen runs by, she snags my arm with one of hers. She grabs Grace with the other, pushing us toward the open door.

I feel my body take over, my feet moving to follow my sisters onto the balcony. I’m already climbing the railing when Gretchen grabs me under the arm and flings me up, over, and out.

As I fall into the water below, the debilitating feeling vanishes, and by the time I hit the freezing bay, my wits have returned. I brace myself to hit the surface.

The shock of the cold disorients me, inciting panic at being propelled under the waves, and I force myself to calm down. Swim, I tell myself. Thankfully Gretchen tossed me at such an angle that I haven’t gone down so much as out. Within seconds I’m on the surface and paddling back toward my sisters.

I see Grace’s head pop up first, just a few feet to my right. Thank goodness. Scanning the area for Gretchen, I feel my entire body flood with relief as she bursts into view.

They’re okay. We’re okay.

Treading water against the weight of wet clothes, I lean my head back as uncontrolled tears of shock and relief sting my eyes. That’s when I see the flames. Gretchen’s loft, the very space we were just standing in—joking in—is engulfed in flames and smoke.

Her home. It’s just … gone.

“This is bad,” I say.

Grace says, “Somebody tried to kill us.”

“You think?” Gretchen snaps.

Grace doesn’t deserve that, but I suppose this is a pretty extraordinary situation. Gretchen could use a lot of slack right now. We all could.

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