The Dolls
holding me, her expression serene and happy, but what shocks me is the sandy-haired man beside her, his arm slung around her shoulders, staring down at me lovingly.
    It’s my father—the father Aunt Bea always told me left before I was born and never returned.
    “That’s impossible,” I say aloud. But the image is unmistakable. I turn the photo over after a moment and am even more surprised to see a note scribbled on the back.
                     I’ll watch over Eveny always.
                     —Love eternal, Matthias
    Not only had my father come back to see my mother and me, but he’d made her a promise that he’d always watch over me.
    The image from the cemetery, the one that hit me so vividly as we entered Carrefour last week, flashes through my mind again as clear as day. They’re coming for you , my father said. You have to be ready.
    So was the cemetery recollection a dream, or had he really been watching over me like he promised? And does Aunt Bea know he’d come back at least once? I’m still staring at the back of the photo in confusion when something outside catches my eye.
    I blink into the darkness beyond the back window. For a moment, I think I’m imagining things, but then I see it: three faint beams of light bobbing through the gloom of the cemetery beyond the garden wall.
    I jump to my feet and press my nose against the glass as I peer out into the blackness. There’s no mistaking it: three shadowy figures are making their way through the maze of tombs beyond our back wall. Suddenly, I have the crazy sense that whatever’s going on out there is connected to the dreams I’m having and the weird mystery of my own house.
    Before I can question my own sanity—and let’s face it, I’m pretty sure I’m losing it anyhow—I grab my flashlight and stuff my bare feet into an old pair of Aunt Bea’s ballet flats I find lying in the laundry room. I’m careful to open and close the back door as quietly as possible, and I keep the flashlight off. The moon overhead provides just enough light to see.
    It’s only once I’ve landed in the mud on the cemetery side of the wall that I realize exactly what I’ve done. I’ve dashed out of my house without leaving a note, climbed into a creepy cemetery in the middle of the night, and am pursuing a group of people sneaking around in the darkness—all because of a completely baseless theory.
    “Brilliant, Eveny,” I mutter. I’m just about to turn back when I hear it: a faint, female voice in the distance, singing words I’m beginning to know well.
                     For each ray of light, there’s a stroke of dark.
                     For each possibility, one has gone.
                     For each action, a reaction.
                     Ever in balance, the world spins on.
    Just like in my dream and on the hallway wall.
    Now I’m desperate to know what’s happening. My heart hammers faster as I make my way deeper into the cemetery, the light of the half moon vanishing above the thick canopy of trees. I can clearly see the three beams of light now, bouncing toward a small clearing up ahead. I flatten myself against a tomb and pray that no one is looking in my direction. Carefully, I peer around the edge.
    I notice three things at once in the pale light of the moon.
    First, there are at least two dozen candles flickering on the ground, laid out in a circle.
    Second, the three people standing in the middle of the circle, eyes closed, hands raised to the sky, are Peregrine, Chloe, and Pascal.
    And finally, Audowido is winding his way slowly down one of Peregrine’s outstretched arms, his scaly body reflecting the moonlight as he hisses into the silence of the night.

UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE
    HarperCollins Publishers
    ..................................................................
10
    I watch in shock as Audowido slithers to the ground and Peregrine

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