In the eighth installment of the popular Dead Is series, paranormal warrior Jessica must find out who or what is causing Nightshade residents to die in their sleep with horrified looks on their faces. Can she keep Nightshade from turning into a nightmare?
The people of Nightshade, California, are dying in their sleep, and fifteen-year-old paranormal warrior Jessica Walsh is determined to find the killer . . . or killers. Justice isn’t the only thing on Jessica’s mind, however. Some days she’s not sure which is worse—having a creepy clown lurking outside her window or having her rock star boyfriend’s hot ex-girlfriend drop by for a surprise visit. Could the ex be behind the dastardly doings in town? Or could the disturbing works of a strange painter somehow at the heart of the mystery? Jessica is losing sleep—but she’s got to figure out what's going on before the night terrors strike again.
Chapter 1It got chilly on the beach at night. Cold sand between my toes made me shiver. I got up and threw another log on the fire.
“I can’t believe summer is almost over,” Eva said. She snuggled closer to her boyfriend, Evan.
“The sooner, the better,” said Andy. She flipped her curly blond hair in her haughty way. “We’ve gotten soft during the summer.”
“Flo was on her honeymoon part of the time,” I pointed out. Flo was our trainer and head virago—woman warrior—which meant she was pretty much our boss.
“We still should have worked out every day,” Andy said sternly. “Instead of spending all our time at the beach.”
“We played volleyball and ran on the sand,” Raven said. “That’s still working out.” Raven was petite with dark hair. She’d grown it out this summer, and it hung down her back in a long braid. She didn’t look anything like her brother, Dominic, who was tall and blond. He resembled his aunt Katrina and his mom, but I knew from photos that Raven looked like her dad.
Dominic stared at the fire. “I can’t believe it’s my senior year.”
I had to bite my lip to keep from blurting out that I didn’t want to talk about it. Senior year and then what? He’d go off to college or move to LA to make it in the music business or something and we’d be over.
He glanced at my face and seemed to read some of what I was feeling, because he added, “I don’t want to think about tomorrow. I just want to enjoy tonight.”
He ran a hand through his hair, which had become even blonder over the summer.
“Not me,” Andy said. “I can’t wait for senior year to start. The sooner it starts, the sooner it’s done and I can get to the good stuff.”
The “good stuff” for Andy usually involved kicking someone’s or something’s butt. The town of Nightshade had been surprisingly quiet lately, so she was spoiling for a fight.
“School doesn’t start until Monday,” Raven said. “We have the whole weekend. And look at that moon!”
I craned my neck to look, and leaned back into Domi
nic, who put his arms around me. The crescent moon was obscured by a heavy fog.
“Jessica, do you hear that?” Andy asked. “Hear what?”
“That thumping noise.”
“Sounds like something running,” Raven said.
The “something” came into view. A ghostly white horse raced along the sand, hooves thundering as it went. Its eyes glowed red as it let out an ear-splitting whinny, and I was immobilized by a sickly dread. The whirlwind tattoo on my arm that alerted me of danger didn’t just tingle. It burned.
A second later, the horse vanished.
“That was awesome,” Eva breathed. “Reminds me of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow—except without the Headless Horseman.” My best friend was a big horror movie fan and budding filmmaker.
Dominic shivered and said, “I always wondered what paralyzing fear felt like. Now I know.”
I nudged him. “I thought you never got scared.”
“I do now,” he said. “That was freaky.” He picked up his guitar and strummed it shakily. A familiar blank look passed over his face, and then the first lyrics of “Wild Horses” came out of his mouth.
When the song ended, everyone stared at him. “Is that a new one?” Andy asked.
Raven rolled her eyes. “It was a Rolling Stones song, from like when your grandparents were kids.”
“I’ve never played that before in my life,” Dominic said.
My boyfriend was a seer who made predictions through song. They were usually warnings or clues to mysteries we needed to solve. Something was definitely up.
Andy’s dad came to check on us. “How’s it going?” he asked. “Ready to head up to the house?” Andy and her dad lived in a cute place overlooking the beach.
“Al-almost,” Andy said.
“You look like you’ve all seen a ghost,” her dad said. He quickly realized he might have sounded tactless, and tried backtracking. “Sorry. I can’t believe I just said that after what happened.”
What had happened was that a few months ago, we’d found a dead body in the cave on the beach. The cave had been barricaded shortly thereafter.
Since then, we had to beg our parents, repeatedly, to let us have a bonfire on the beach. They’d only let us because we’d agreed to chaperones—plural. My parents were taking a walk down the beach, but my guess was they’d be back in a minute or two.
“We were telling ghost stories,” I finally said. I wasn’t going to mention that we’d just seen a ghostly horse. They’d lock us in our rooms and throw away the keys, even though half of our little group were viragoes.
Dominic kissed me on my forehead. “It’s almost time to go anyway,” he said. “How about if I give you a ride home? I want to play you my new song.”
“What about me?” Raven said kiddingly.
“I thought you were spending the night here,” Andy said, then realized that Raven was just messing with her brother.
“Let me check with my parents,” I said to Dominic. “They’ve been protective lately.” I couldn’t really blame them. My parents were usually pretty laid back, because they had a lot of kids to keep track of. Eight, to be exact. I had one older brother and six younger sisters.
Mom and Dad walked back to the bonfire holding hands. “It’s such a gorgeous night,” Mom said.
They obviously hadn’t seen the red-eyed demon horse or she wouldn’t be saying that.
“Mrs. Walsh, is it okay if Jessica comes over to my house for an hour or two?” Dominic asked.
She gave him a long, considering look that moms always seem to have in their arsenal.
“My mom will be there,” he added quickly.
“Is Lydia staying in Nightshade long?” Dad asked.
It was doubtful. Dominic’s mom was a virago, like me, only she didn’t protect just one town. Lydia Gray was a freelance virago, on call wherever she was needed most, which meant she spent a lot of time away from her family. Dominic and Raven lived with their aunt.
Dominic shrugged. “I think her plans are uncertain right now. She travels a lot for business.”
“And what business is that?” Mom asked. I shot her a stop-being-nosy look, but she ignored me. My parents, along with most of Nightshade, were unaware of the existence of viragoes protecting the town from danger.
“We’d better get going,” I said.
Dominic grabbed our guitars and we walked toward his car.
Praise for the DEAD IS series
"Drama, sweet romance, and murder—what more could young teens want in a breezy read?" —Booklist Online
"[Perez] delivers a wise-cracking, boy-lusting, determined sleuth of a high school protagonist. . . . This quick, lighter-than-air spoof of the undead, cheerleaders and popularity is pure pleasure." —Publishers Weekly
"A fun ride from start to finish. Perez's smart and sassy style soars." —Mary E. Pearson, author of the Jenna Fox Chronicles
"[A] quick, lively romp. . . . Teens looking for a breezy read will find plenty to like here." —Booklist
"This super supernatural murder mystery is sassy, romantic, and spooky-fun!" —Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize
"Light romance and a paranormal plot are more tongue-in-cheek than scary, making this series a good introduction to the genre for younger readers." —Booklist
"Breezy style and comic-book plot. . . . Fun." —Kirkus
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