A Shadowlands Novel


By Kate Brian

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In Book 3 in the Shadowlands trilogy, will Rory go to hell and back to save her family?

Rory Miller didn't just fall in love with Tristan Parrish. She fell in love with the idea of forever. He was the one who told her the truth about her existence in Juniper Landing: that her mortal life is over, and she will now spend eternity on the island, helping others in limbo move on. But like Juniper Landing, a bright island with dark secrets, Tristan is too good to be true. The mysterious, heartbreakingly beautiful boy Rory thought she knew is responsible for unthinkable evil–sending good souls to the Shadowlands in order to get himself a second chance at life on Earth. He has already claimed Rory's friend Aaron and her own father, but when Tristan sends her sister, Darcy, to the Shadowlands, too, Rory decides to take matters into her own hands. She will do anything to save her family, even if it means going to hell and back.


For my family, with endless love

"Rory, stop!"

I tried to freeze, but the muddy, rocky path beneath my left foot began to slip, crumbling into the deep roadside river below. Rain pounded on my useless vinyl hood as I grasped at the air with cold, wet fingers. I was finally able to grab the slippery fabric of Joaquin Marquez's sleeve, and he hoisted me back up onto solid ground, my heart pounding in my throat at a maddening rate. The muddy pathway we were traversing had been, until recently, wide enough for at least one car, if not two, to navigate safely. But now it was half its former width and eroding by the moment. The rain had been nonstop since Saturday night. Now it was Wednesday, and half the island of Juniper Landing seemed to have turned to mush. The sand on the beaches had taken on the consistency of oatmeal in spots, and the grasses and reeds and flowers had been flattened to the ground, beaten into submission by the relentless weather.

"Are you okay?" Joaquin asked.

I nodded, clutching both his elbows for stability. His brown eyes were shaded by the brim of his own hood, and a few days' worth of dark stubble covered his sharp cheekbones and chin. This had become a habit of Joaquin's lately—saving me from serious injury. I wasn't sure how I felt about the fact that the boy my sister used to hook up with was now my protector, but I was grateful to have someone by my side. And it clearly wasn't going to be the boy I used to hook up with. He was no longer around.

Which was why we were out here in the first place—looking for Tristan Parrish. The guy I had been falling in love with, until a few days ago. The guy who had betrayed us all. According to Joaquin, there was a cave beneath the bridge where Tristan used to go to for his "big thinks"—the days he just wanted some space away from the other Lifers. Unfortunately, it was located in a part of the island Joaquin had always avoided unless he was ushering a visitor to the bridge, so we weren't entirely clear on where we were going. That, plus the relentless rain, didn't make our mission any easier.

"Is this ever going to stop?" I asked.

As if in answer, a bolt of lightning cracked overhead and the whole world trembled with the accompanying thunder. Over Joaquin's shoulder I saw a shadow illuminated by the flash—someone standing on a rock ledge not fifty yards away, raincoat billowing in the wind. My fingernails dug into Joaquin's arm.

"Is that…?"

Joaquin turned, but just like that, there was no one there. One blink, and the shadow had disappeared. The storm was playing tricks on my mind.

"What?" Joaquin asked.

"Nothing. Forget it." I didn't want to admit I was seeing things. "I just can't handle much more of this."

"Relax. Take a breather," Joaquin said. "Let me figure out where the hell we are."

As he moved off to peer into the grayness surrounding us, I tried to shake the jittery feeling that shadow had left behind and looked north toward the bridge. It was so encased in fog that I could see nothing but the pointless warning lights throbbing at the top of its four spires. The bridge had become—to me, anyway—the symbol of everything that was wrong on this island. Juniper Landing was an in-between—a place where souls came to reside between death and the afterlife, a place where they were given a chance to resolve any issues that might have plagued them during their lifetimes before moving on. Joaquin and I were both Lifers, a group of souls charged with helping others find their resolutions and ushering them to their final destinations. The bridge was the means of transport. When a soul was ready to go, we would take the person to the bridge and hand him or her a coin. As soon as he or she touched the coin, it just sort of knew whether that soul was destined for the Light or the Shadowlands, based on how good or evil the person had been in life. We would then usher that person across the bridge, where a portal would open, taking him or her to the proper place. This was a system that had been in place since the dawn of time and had always worked perfectly, maintaining the balance of the universe.

Until now. Recently the whole thing had gone haywire, with devastating consequences. We were pretty sure that the coins were somehow to blame, since Tristan had been hiding a whole bag of them—more than any Lifer had ever seen in one place at one time—and had fled the second the rest of us discovered his stash. We weren't clear on what exactly was wrong with the coins, how they had been tampered with, or where Tristan had even gotten them. All we knew was that last week, a few souls who were undeniably good had wound up in the Shadowlands. Souls like my friend Aaron and Joaquin's charge Jennifer. Souls like my father. They were good people, damned to hell, and soon after they had left, we caught Tristan with the coins.

Something lodged in my throat at the mere thought of my dad in the Shadowlands—alone, terrified, possibly tortured—and for a second, I couldn't breathe.

"I think it's this way," Joaquin said, nodding toward the bridge. "Let's keep moving."

I let him lead the way, allowing myself one glance back over my shoulder at the spot where the shadow had been. The outcropping was deserted. I breathed in and out deliberately, trying to calm the frantic beating of my heart. As we moved closer to the bridge, I could just make out two figures clad in black rain gear, their nebulous forms like dark ghosts, moving in and out of my waterlogged vision. Ever since we'd discovered the tainted coins, the Lifers had been taking turns guarding the bridge, to insure no one could cross over. I had no idea who was scheduled to be there now, and from this distance through the rain, I couldn't make out their faces. For some reason, their dark presence felt ominous instead of comforting.

It's going to be okay, I told myself. You're going to fix this. You just have to find Tristan and Nadia and make them tell you how to fix it.

Tristan. The image of him and his smiling, duplicitous face twisted my stomach into knots. I had believed in him. I had trusted him more than anyone. I had loved him. And he'd betrayed me. I had been suspected of ushering good souls to the Shadowlands, and then it was finally revealed that Tristan was the villain. Tristan, who had told me that the rules of this place couldn't be broken. That I had to trust in the system. That everything would be fine.

He'd said those things to me. He'd kissed me. He'd made me feel safe. And then he'd ushered my father straight to hell.

Joaquin and I turned up an even scrawnier, more circuitous path, leading toward the drop-off into the ocean, toward the very foot of the bridge. As a cold rivulet of water found its way under my collar and down my back, I couldn't help wondering, for the millionth time, Why? Why had Tristan done this to Aaron, to Jennifer, to my dad…to all of us? What did he stand to gain? And, most selfishly, why had he done this to me? Why suck me in and make me care? Why make me believe in him and everything this place was about, only to turn around and betray me and destroy his home?

Joaquin looked back at me and held out a hand. I grasped his fingers, half expecting them to slip away from me, but his grip was surprisingly solid. A few weeks ago I never would have believed that I would one day willingly hold Joaquin's hand. When I first met him, I had hated him. He was that guy. That guy who knew how hot he was and used that fact to toy with the heart of any girl who showed an interest in him. In this case, that girl had been my sister, Darcy.

But the more I got to know Joaquin, the more I respected him. He truly cared about his charges, about his friends, and about this place. And when things had started to go sideways, he'd basically become my personal bodyguard. And over the past few days, since we'd found out Tristan was the big bad around here, we bonded even more. No one wanted to find Tristan more than we did. Joaquin had been his best friend. I'd been Tristan's girlfriend. (Would-be-ex-girlfriend the second I saw him again.) We needed to find him. We needed to ask him that one burning question: Why?

It was what kept us going—the hope that we would one day get the answers we were looking for: why he had done what he'd done, how he could betray everyone he claimed to care about, and, most important, how to free my dad and Aaron and Jennifer and those other poor souls. What I didn't know was what we were going to do with Tristan and Nadia—another Lifer who'd disappeared with Tristan—once we'd found them. My brain didn't even want to go there.

"I think it's down there," Joaquin said, squinting downward, tiny droplets clinging to the ends of his thick eyelashes. "I noticed the pathway the other day. It's kind of like a series of steps cut into the rock."

I didn't see anything, but I shrugged. "You lead the way."

Together we started slowly and carefully down the side of the drop-off. My foot slipped on the very first step, and Joaquin's grip on me tightened. We both froze.

"You good?" Joaquin asked.

I nodded mutely.

"Okay. Stay behind me and be careful."

He didn't have to ask me twice.

We descended the steep stairway in silence, and I focused on the sound of my own breathing, the plop of raindrops on my hood, the crashing of the waves far below, and the cautious positioning of my feet. But I couldn't help thinking of the look on Tristan's face the day we'd found the bag of tainted coins in his room. The realization in his gorgeous blue eyes that he'd been caught.

I wasn't stupid. I knew what I'd seen. Tristan was guilty. I just wished my heart would catch up with my brain and start believing it.

After what seemed like a lifetime, Joaquin jumped the last couple of feet to a foot-wide stretch of broken shells and sand that ran along the foot of the rocks. I leaped down after him, lifted my head, and saw it—the wide-open mouth of a cave.

"Score," Joaquin said.

Every inch of my skin flushed with heat, making me itch beneath my vinyl jacket. Tristan was in there. Maybe with Nadia, maybe not. Either way, we were about to get some answers.

And I was going to see him again.

I narrowed my eyes and clenched my teeth. Stupid heart.

Through the fog and the rain, I noticed a pile of something white and gray near the mouth of the cave. As we edged closer, I saw the blood. The glassy eyes, the twisted necks, the torn and shredded feathers. Dead seagulls. Dozens of them. Broken, deformed, and staring. Flies buzzed around their misshapen heads, and as I watched, one of them landed hungrily on the dome of a wide, glassy eye. Within seconds a swarm of them had engulfed the seagull's skull.

Then the wind shifted and the stench hit me like a brick in the face. I turned my nose away and covered my mouth with a hand.

"Just keep walking," Joaquin said, quickening his steps.

We passed by the carcasses and into the coverage of the cave. The sand near the opening was thick and sloppy, and my sneakers let out a sucking sound every time I lifted a foot. I nudged my hood from my head, relieved to be out of the rain even as my breath quickened. I could already smell the pungent scent of a recent fire.

Joaquin and I locked eyes. He tugged his flashlight from his jacket pocket but didn't turn it on, and he raised one finger to his mouth. I nodded. Moving in sync, we tiptoed forward. Joaquin paused for a moment at a corner and peeked around it. He visibly relaxed and flicked on his light.

"They're not here."

Deflated, I stepped out into an open area of the cave, the ceiling only five inches from the crown of my head. It was a wide space, and as Joaquin flashed his light to and fro, something caught my eye against the far wall.


I grabbed his shoulder and pointed. Joaquin swung the beam back around, and it caught on something—a blue-and-white blanket. We raced for it. I got there first and dropped to my knees. The sand in this part of the cave was cold but dry. I whipped the blanket aside and stopped breathing. Underneath it was a crowbar, a first aid kit, and a hammer, with a few balled-up, bloody bandages tossed alongside. There were also two small piles of folded clothes—his and hers—several granola bars still in their wrappers, and three full bottles of water.

"So they were here," I whispered, irritated at the flash of jealousy I felt at the sight of Tristan's clothes folded next to Nadia's in such a cozy-couple way. Outside, thunder rumbled, but it was muted by the miles of rock over our heads.

"What were they doing with a crowbar?" Joaquin asked, crouching. He tentatively picked up one of the bandages by the clean end. "And whose blood is this?"

I shivered. "I don't want to know."

Joaquin dropped the scrap back into the sand and stood up, dusting off his hands. He was tense. I grabbed the light and flashed it along the floor, finding the remnants of their fire. It was still smoldering. Joaquin cursed under his breath.

"We just missed them," he said. "They were right here."

"Well, this is good, right? They can't have gotten far." I shoved myself up, the adrenaline pumping. "We can track them."

"How?" Joaquin demanded, whirling on me. "It's not like they're leaving footprints out there! The rain'll make sure of that!"

"You don't have to yell at me," I shot back. "What do you want to do? Just stand here? Let them get away?"

I turned toward the mouth of the cave, and Joaquin followed, his flashlight beam dancing ahead of us.

"You're about to go out on a wild-goose chase," Joaquin muttered. "And it's going to start getting dark."

"This whole thing is a wild-goose chase!" I cried, throwing my arms wide. "But this is the best lead we've had in three days. We can't just go home."

Joaquin grabbed my arm, turning me roughly toward him as I tried to lift my hood.

"But how are you even going to—"

His question was cut off by the distant clanging of a bell. It sounded like one of those old church bells they used to ring at the chapel near my house in Princeton whenever someone got married. Except this wasn't a merry, celebratory song. It was a frantic, uneven plea. Joaquin went white.

"What is that?" I asked.

"The bell." He turned away, facing south toward town, which wasn't visible from the foot of this cliff.

"Yes, I know it's a bell," I said. "What does it mean?"

"It means there's an emergency." He scrambled back toward the rocky stairway, past the pile of seagull carcasses, and over the broken shells.

"What kind of emergency?" I asked, sliding and slipping after him.

He paused with one foot on the third step, stretching his long legs as far as they would go, and looked back over his shoulder. I'd never seen him so terrified.

"I don't know," he said. "That bell hasn't been rung since Jessica got those innocent people damned to the Shadowlands, Rory. It hasn't been rung in a hundred years."

The rain stung my face as we sprinted toward town, my feet slipping on fallen leaves, my lungs burning from the effort. My nostrils prickled with the ominous scent of dank, billowing smoke. Over the constant thrum of the rain and whooshing of the wind, I caught an errant scream, echoed by a dozen more. Joaquin's eyes were wild as they met mine, and we ran even harder.

When we finally arrived at the point overlooking the town square and the docks below, I was so stunned by what I saw I almost skidded right over the rocky ledge. Somehow I managed to stop myself in time and doubled over next to Joaquin, heaving for breath.

The ferry that had always brought new souls to Juniper Landing was on fire and sinking—fast. The entire back of the vessel had gone up in flames. The air was torn with shouts and screams, and I could see several prone figures lined up on the bay's meager shore. Dozens of others clung to jagged shards of wood in the choppy, roiling surf or desperately swam for land, while Lifers dove in from the docks to help.

"Holy shit," Joaquin said between gasps.

We sprinted down the hill, skidding by the library and along the west side of town toward the docks. The air here was thick with smoke. We passed a few dazed Lifers in the shopping district, each of them frozen, their eyes shot through with confusion and fear as they watched the disaster unfold before them. It was an eerie sort of stillness to pass through before reaching the chaos of the docks. The long walkway was flanked on either side by slick, steep outcroppings of rocks. Bodies of the injured were laid out on the shore, while the more mobile survivors made their way to the rocky slope or up the stairs to the docks. Everywhere I looked, my friends and fellow Lifers were helping however they could.

Darcy's current boyfriend, Fisher Morton, tossed a person onto his broad shoulders and carried him to the sand before turning right back around and swimming out again. Bea McHenry was towing three people toward shore as they clung to a large chunk of the boat's prow. Farther down the dock, Krista Parrish and Lauren Caldwell helped patch up scrapes and bruises and burns, while a few strangers wandered aimlessly, shouting names or pleading for help. I yanked off my jacket and ran for the water. Joaquin was right behind me.

"Stop right there."

The sound of the mayor's commanding voice froze me in my tracks. I turned to find her standing on the rocks near the water's edge beneath a huge black umbrella, her blond hair slicked back in a low bun, her black raincoat cinched at the waist. Her ice-blue eyes flicked over me.

"They need help!" I shouted.

"Let them handle it," she said, nodding at the swimmers, who included my sister. "We need more hands out here cataloging the injuries."

Cataloging the injuries? Who the hell talked like that? But as I looked around at the wounded visitors huddled or lying on the slim stretch of sand, I saw that she was right. These people couldn't die, of course, but we had to find the ones in critical pain and separate them from those with simple bumps and bruises.

"Joaquin! Rory! I need some help over here."

Krista—Tristan's "sister" in the world of Juniper Landing, and as of the last few weeks, my friend—waved us down. She stood next to a man whose arm hung limply, the bone jutting at an unnatural angle. She had on a white raincoat over her jeans, but her blond hair was lifeless, and her skin was as pale as ice. Joaquin raced to her side just as Kevin Calandro and Officer Dorn sped up on a flatbed truck loaded with boxes, stopping in the parking lot at the top of the hill.

"We have the supplies!" Kevin shouted, swinging down from the cab. His normally shaggy black hair was slicked back from his face, and he wore a black tank top that exposed the colorful tattoo of flames that danced over his arm. His pointy chin rose in determination as he yanked open the back of the truck.

"Get us a splint!" Joaquin shouted at me. "And a sling!"

I ran to Kevin and helped him unload, tearing boxes open at random. The containers were full of first aid supplies, from ointments and creams to bandages, scissors, and stitching kits. In the third crate I found a dozen blue-and-white slings and flat plastic splints. I grabbed a set and stood.

"Here. You'll need this." Kevin tossed me a roll of medical tape, which I caught in my free hand.

"Thanks," I said, then sprinted for Joaquin and Krista, checking the chaos for Darcy along the way. Where was she? Was she okay?

"I need help. I need help," a mocking voice passing very close behind me mimicked the victims.

My shoulder muscles coiled and my blood turned cold as Ray Wagner, one of my charges, stomped by in his dirty brown coat, his wispy hair sticking up on one side, even in the relentless rain. I ignored him and jumped down to the beach, but he leaned into the dock's railing above my head and laughed, exposing his yellow teeth and a tongue that had been blackened by chewing tobacco. With the rain running freely down his face, he spat in the sand and smiled, as if settling in to watch a ball game.

"What should I do?" I asked Joaquin, who was holding a man's arm as gently as possible. The man's face was purple with pain, and the wrinkles on his forehead deepened whenever he moved. Krista had stepped back, watching the proceedings with wide blue eyes. She looked as if she was hanging on by a thread.

"Put the sling over his head, gently. And hand me the splint," Joaquin ordered.

"You'll be okay," I told the man, slipping the white band over his head. "Don't worry. We've got you."

"Don't worry. Don't worry. Blah, blah, blah," Ray mocked me, tilting his head from side to side.

I shot him a look of death, but he simply laughed.

Ray Wagner had slaughtered four people in a one-night killing spree in Richmond, Virginia, before getting shot dead in a convenience store parking lot while trying to take out his fifth victim. Normally, I would have done my best to usher him as soon as possible, but since things were all out of whack and the no-ushering policy was in place, he was still here. As were a few other unsavory characters my friends had yet to usher. Lauren had been charged with a white-collar criminal named Piper Molloy, who had swindled dozens of families out of their life savings and rendered them homeless. Bea had a woman who had stepped off the ferry two days ago looking as if she'd come right out of the Stone Age with her scraggly hair, dirty fingernails, and gnarly teeth. Her name was Tess Crowe and she'd murdered her own parents, brother, and sister before being relegated to an insane asylum. Bea currently had her locked up in the attic of the home she shared with two older Lifers. Supposedly Tess kept her hosts up at night screeching and trying to claw her way out.

There had been some talk of locking up the visitors meant for the Shadowlands in the jail beneath the police station, but it was comprised of only two tiny cells and wasn't equipped to hold them all, so for now, we were each tasked with babysitting them as best we could—making sure they didn't cause any trouble. Ray was the only one, however, whose sadistic heart had been drawn to today's devastation. Lucky me.

"Oh god! That hurts!" the man cried out as Joaquin taped his arm to the splint.

"Almost done," I said as Joaquin used his teeth to rip the tape.

Once he'd secured the arm with four tight circles of tape, we gently maneuvered it into the sling. Then I carefully helped the man sit down on one of the dock's pylons.

"Thank you," he said, slumping slightly.

"Just hang out here while we figure out where to take you," Joaquin said.

"Thanks, you guys," Krista said, stepping between us with her knees wobbling. "I had no idea what to do."

"It's okay," Joaquin said. "The question is: what next?"

We scanned the water and the beach. Nearby a woman was sobbing next to her bleeding husband. A man staggered past us and collapsed onto the sand, his chest heaving for breath. Joaquin had nailed it. Where were we supposed to start? Then I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye: my sister's dark hair as she ran for the water. She was wearing nothing but shorts and a tank top and was soaked to the bone. Clearly this was not her first time diving into the bay.

"Darcy!" I shouted. But she didn't hear me. She plunged beneath the choppy waves, reemerged, and swam straight for a little girl whose arms flailed as she went under, choking. My hands flew up to cover my mouth as Darcy plunged after her. I watched the whitecaps where they'd disappeared, scanning for any sign of them. But I could only see the spot where my sister and the girl had gone under.

Where are they? I thought, clenching my jaw.

"There!" Joaquin shouted, startling me. He pointed a good ten feet to the left of where I'd been looking, and there was Darcy, gamely swimming for shore with one arm locked around the little girl's chest. "She's okay." He gave my shoulder a quick squeeze. "They're both fine."

"Who's that?" Krista asked.

A sinewy, strong guy about our age was swimming toward the shore, holding a middle-aged woman tight around her chest, her chin tilted up toward the sky so she could breathe. He placed her on the shore, then raced right back out to the ferry to grab a man who still clung to the doomed ship's guardrail. Quickly, he pried the panicked man's fingers from the railing and brought him back to safety, then went out again, cutting through the water like it was nothing to him.

"Where did he come from?" I asked.

"I have no idea," Joaquin said.

Darcy had just gotten back to the shore and pulled the little girl to safety. I ran to her side, slipping over the rocks until I reached the sand.

"Darcy! Are you guys okay?" I asked, dropping to my knees next to her.

Darcy flung her wet dark hair over her shoulder. She was winded but otherwise seemed fine. The girl, however, was wailing.


  • "Truly frightening."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Partly delicious and partly frightening." —Kirkus Reviews
  • Praise for Shadowlands:
"Haunting and mysterious--Shadowlands kept me guessing until the very last page."—Sara Shepard, author of the New York Times #1 best-selling Pretty Little Liars series

On Sale
Jul 22, 2014
Page Count
336 pages

Kate Brian

About the Author

Kate Brian is the author of the NY Times and USA Today best-selling Private series and it's spin-off series, Privilege. She has also written many other books for teens including Sweet 16 and Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys.

Learn more about this author