Read Surrender Online

Authors: Lee Nichols

Surrender (28 page)

I turned to Coby. He wasn't standing beside Harry, he was stretched out on his own grave, still wearing the dark gray suit he'd worn to Homecoming.

Poor Harry
, he said.

What are you doing down there?
I asked.

He grinned.

I couldn't help smiling at his macabre attitude.
And how does it feel?

Cold and hard

You can always change your mind
, I said hopefully.

He stood.
No, I'm ready

Are you sure?

You gave me a gift
, Coby said.
Being able to say a long good-bye like this—but it's time. Only, will you touch me again, so they can see me?

You don't need my help
. I remembered the Rake showing himself to Mr. Stern.
Just focus, and they'll see you. Do you want me to say anything to them?

You can tell Sara I like the dress. Otherwise
… He shook his head.
They know

He concentrated, and a point of light started in his chest and expanded into a glowing aura. He stepped in front of Harry and Sara, and he was right—he didn't need words.

“You gorgeous bastard,” Harry said. “I'll never forget you.”

Sara didn't say anything, she just began to weep. My heart ached for them. It was like he was dying a second time.

I did something I hadn't planned. I stepped close to him and stood on my tiptoes and kissed him. A sweet, simple good-bye kiss on the lips that made my mouth tingle from ghostbite.

Then I said,
I could've loved you, Coby

Yeah, Emma
. He smiled at me.
Maybe next lifetime

I'll see you then
, I said, and dispelled him, turning him to dust.

The wind blew drifts of snow around, and the few dead
leaves still clinging to the trees fluttered and shook. Coby's ashes mingled with it all. But spring would come. Somewhere beneath the cold earth, life bided its time. And maybe Coby and I would see each other again one day.

“He's gone,” Sara said. “I can feel it. This time for good.”

Natalie hugged her, and she started to sob. Then Harry shattered the silence with a pained yell, hurling his thermos into the woods. With tears in his eyes, he said, “I want a drink.”

I hugged him fiercely. “It'll have to be one of my special chais, Harry. Have I made you a dirty one yet?”

“I want mine filthy,” he said.

We trudged back to the museum together, and toasted Coby with dirty vanilla chai lattes.

That evening, I slipped into black leggings and my long gray sweater and went to find the Rake. I took a rapier from Mr. Stern's study, and expected the Rake to appear in the ballroom the moment I stepped through the doors, but the room remained quiet.

Until Bennett spoke from the doorway. “Do you remember that night we flashed back?”

I turned and smiled. “Only every single detail.”

He crossed toward me, a grin curving his mouth—then he stopped. “Should I get the other blade?”

I looked at the sword in my hand. “I'm waiting for the Rake.”

He raised a brow. “The

Oh, right, we'd never talked about him. “He's a ghost. Your ancestor. The Bennett you're named after.”

“What?” Bennett laughed in surprise. “Here? When did he show up?”

“Um … a couple days after you brought me here from San Francisco.”

“Why didn't you tell me?”

“He's private. And you're both Bennetts. It'd be like … I don't know. Traveling back in time and meeting yourself.”

“And you call him ‘the Rake'?”

“Well, he's all swagger and devilish charm,” I explained.

“In that case, how can you tell us apart?”

I pressed closer to him. “Actually, now that you say that … he's also incredibly loyal and tough and loved Emma.” I told him the Rake's story, finishing with, “… and so he killed her, to save her. And he's never left.”

“I wouldn't leave, either,” Bennett said. “Wait, that reminds me—everything's been so crazy, I forgot to give you this.” He reached into his pocket and gave me Emma's ring. “I grabbed it after you dispelled Neos.”

I ran my finger along the curve of the ring. “It's weird, but it kind of doesn't feel like it's mine anymore.”

Perhaps it is not
, the Rake said, materializing near the piano.

I spun, smiling in happy surprise.
There you are!

“Is he here?” Bennett asked.

“Yeah, he just came.”

The Rake swept me with one of his arrogant looks.
Why don't you let me speak to him myself?

He can't even see you, not anymore
. I still wasn't sure how we were going to deal with this.

, he said,
Bennett gave you his power. Including his ability to take power—or grant it

“Omigod,” I said, realizing.

“What?” Bennett asked. “You know, I never realized how annoying it is when ghostkeepers talk to people you can't see!”

“Well,” I smiled, “don't get used to it.”

I took his hand and pushed power into him. There was some resistance, but I felt a trickle of ghostkeeping energy swirl between us, and he said, “Whoa! I can see him. I—I can barely feel the energy, and it's … different.”

It will take some time
, the Rake told him.
And you will never be the same as you were

Holy sh—I can hear you!
Bennett said.
I can communicate.

You have Emma's powers—just less so
. The Rake considered him closely, his eyes hooded.
I heard what happened. That you forced Emma to take your powers

It was the only way to save her
, Bennett said, apparently willing to confide in this previous version of himself.
Would you not have done the same?

The Rake smiled suddenly.
I think this is what I've been waiting for. I loved my Emma, but you—did better. Now I can go. And perhaps even

Be with her?
I asked.

, the Rake said.
May I have the ring?

I opened my palm, and his ghostly fingers plucked the ring away. He looked at me for a long moment, then Bennett. Then his hand shimmered and glowed, as power from the ring started to spread through him—not quite a dispelling, but close.

I expected some final words from him, but instead he addressed Bennett.
I don't think it's easy for them to love us. On the other hand

Then the Rake bowed to me one final time and disappeared forever.

Too much. First Coby, then this. I broke into tears again, and only after he'd comforted me did I ask Bennett, “On the other hand?”


“The Rake said it's not easy for us to love you—which isn't true, by the way—but on the other hand … what?”

“Ah.” Bennett kissed me until I forgot everything but the shape of his mouth and the taste of his lips. Then he drew back and said, “On the other hand, we love you forever.”


I am ever grateful to the wonderful Nancy Coffey, Joanna Volpe, and Kathleen Ortiz. My excellent editor, Caroline Abbey, always seemed to know the books better than I did, and my publicists, Deb Shapiro and Kate Lied, have been the best. I also had incredibly supportive writer friends, Melissa Senate and Lisa and Laura Roecker. Thank you, one and all.


While blazing

You look beautiful.

A Note on the Author

Lee Nichols
is the author of the Haunting Emma trilogy. She was raised in Santa Barbara, California—the setting of her adult novels
Tales of a Drama Queen, Hand-Me-Down
, and
True Lies of a Drama Queen
. She attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she studied history and psychology. She now lives in Maine and is married to novelist Joel Naftali.

Copyright © 2011 by Lee Nichols

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Electronic edition published in November 2011

First published in the United States of America in December 2011
by Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to
Permissions, Bloomsbury BFYR, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Nichols, Lee.
Surrender / by Lee Nichols. —1st U.S. ed.
p. cm.
Summary: Ghostkeeper Emma's mysterious visions are realized when she comes face to face with
Neos, the ancient, repulsive old ghost that has haunted her, torn her family apart, turned her friends
against her, and ruined minds and lives.
ISBN 9781599906874
[1. Ghosts—Fiction. 2. Supernatural—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.N5412Sur 2011         [Fic]—dc22           2011006231

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