AN UNWANTED VISITOR
If anyone had peeked through my window, they would have thought it was just a normal slumber party, a festive night that involved popcorn, manicures, and six gorgeous girls from the most exclusive clique at Holl ier High giving each other makeovers, sharing juicy gossip, and plotting their next prank for the Lying Game. My iPhone had dozens of photos of past sleepovers that looked exactly like it: a shot of my best friend, Madeline, holding up a picture of a model with fringe bangs and asking if the look would flatter her heart-shaped face; one of my other besties, Charlotte, sucking in her cheeks to apply the new shade of blush she’d bought at Sephora; one of my adoptive sister, Laurel, snickering at a D-list celeb in Us Weekly; and plenty of photos of me, Sutton Mercer, looking like the glamorous, powerful “It girl” I was.
But on this particular night, something was different …
and five out of the six girls didn’t even know it. The girl my best friends were laughing with, the girl they thought was me … wasn’t. Because I was dead. My BFFs were talking to my long-lost twin, Emma, who’d taken my place.
I’d died a month ago and was now perched somewhere between the land of the living and the great beyond, watching my life continue, but with Emma as the star. Everywhere she went, I went, like we were still sharing the same womb. Bizarre, right? I didn’t think the afterlife would be like this either.
That night, I watched as my twin sister sat among my friends. Her legs were curled beneath her on the plush friends. Her legs were curled beneath her on the plush white sofa in the exact same way I used to sit. Her heavy-lidded eyes sparkled with my favorite silver MAC shadow.
She even laughed the same way I did—loud, staccato, and a bit sarcastic. Over the past month she had perfected my mannerisms, answered to my name, and worn my clothes, all with the aim of being me until my murderer was exposed.
The worst part? I didn’t even remember who killed me.
There were whole chunks of my life that had been wiped clean from my mind, and I was left wondering who I’d been, what I’d done, and who I’d pissed off so much that they’d murdered me and then tricked my sister into assuming my identity. Every once in a while I would get a sudden flash of lucidity and a whole scene would snap into brilliant clarity, but the moments before and after it? Complete blanks. It was like getting a few random screen-grabs from a ninety-minute movie and trying to make sense of the entire plot. If I wanted to find out what had happened to me, I would have to rely on Emma … and hope that she caught my killer before my killer caught her.
There were some things Emma and I had figured out: My friends all had alibis for the night I died. As did Laurel, meaning they were all cleared. But there were so many suspects left. A particular one lingered in both our minds: Thayer Vega, Madeline’s estranged brother, who’d skipped town last spring. His name kept popping up, and rumors swirled that he and I were somehow involved.
Naturally, I couldn’t remember a thing about Thayer himself, but I could tell something had happened between us. But what?
I watched as my best friends giggled and gossiped and began to wind down. By 2:46 A.M., the lights were low, and each girl’s breathing was slow and deep. The iPhone I’d sent hundreds of texts on before I’d died suddenly chimed, and Emma’s eyes sprang open as though she were expecting the message. I watched as she checked the screen, frowned, and tiptoed out of the house and across the yard. Ethan Landry, the only person who knew Emma’s true identity—apart from my killer, of course—
stood waiting for her by the curb. And there, in the moonlit driveway, I watched as they talked, hugged, and shared their very first kiss. Even though I no longer had a body, a heart, I still ached all the same. I would never kiss anyone again.
But then footsteps crunched nearby. Emma and Ethan flew apart worriedly. I was yanked behind Emma as she rushed back inside. I glanced over my shoulder just before she slammed the door, and I saw Ethan running into the night. Then, a shadow passed across the front porch. I could hear Emma’s shallow, nervous breathing. I could tell she was scared. With another jolt, I was tugged along as she ran toward the stairs to make sure my bedroom window was locked.
When she and I reached the landing, we both caught a glimpse of the inside of my old bedroom. The window was indeed open, and standing in front of it was a familiar-looking boy. The blood drained from my sister’s face as she took in his features. I let out a scream, but it faded noiselessly into the ether.
It was Thayer Vega. He leveled a smirk at Emma that said he knew all of her secrets—including exactly who she wasn’t. And I could tell, in an instant, that whatever it was he had meant to me in life was wrapped up in mystery—and danger.
But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember what that danger was.
SHE’S SEEN HIM
“Thayer,” Emma Paxton said, staring at the teenage boy in front of her. His mussed hair looked black in the darkness of Sutton’s bedroom. His cheekbones were prominent above his full lips. His deep-set, hazel eyes narrowed sinisterly.
“Hey, Sutton,” Thayer said, drawing the name out.
A nervous chil ran down Emma’s spine. She recognized Thayer Vega from his missing person posters
—he’d vanished from Tucson, Arizona, in June. But that was long before Emma had made the trek to Tucson to reunite with her long-lost twin sister, Sutton. Long before she’d received an anonymous note saying that Sutton was dead and that Emma had to take her place, and tell no one
… or else.