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«Dead to Me», Anton Strout

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To the mystical and elusive Orlycorn,

a rare creature that possesses the power

to make all things possible


Nature abhors a vacuum, and apparently so does an acknowledgments page.

First and foremost, I must thank the other Dorks of the Round Table, authors Jeanine Cummins and Carolyn Turgeon, without whom I never would have written much of anything; my editor, Jessica Wade—your red pen is swift but just; copyeditor Joan Matthews, for making my words seem all the more polished; Montana Wojczuk, Daniel Schermele, and my agent, Kristine Dahl, over at ICM; author Jennifer Belle, queen bee of the “world’s worst” workshop, and the rest of my fellow workshoppers.

I may write the words, but that is only one of many integral steps. To every department at Penguin Group (USA) Inc., for every last thing you do to make a book like this happen, but especially Norman Lidofsky and the paperback sales force.

To all my friends, family, and colleagues for their support: Susan Allison, Bonnie, Dustin, and Elyse Clark, Ginjer Buchanan, Hank Cochrane, Christine Cody, Laura Corless, Sharon Gamboa, Leslie Gelbman, Michelle Kasper, Patrick Nolan, Don Redpath, Don Rieck, Lisa Pannek, Gary and Jean Strout, Jeremy Tescher, Clan Trieber, Edna and Raymond Van Valkenburg, Trish Weyenberg, Michael Yarmark, and finally Annette Fiore, Judith Murello, and artist Don Sipley, for an amazing cover that I couldn’t be happier with. If I’ve forgotten any of you, don’t worry…I need to save some thanks for the sequel anyway.

And last but not least, to you, the reader. Without your bloodshot eyes poring over these words, this book would only exist in my mind. Writing it was only half the journey; sharing it is the other.

There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?

—Woody Allen



I managed to get out a quick “Tamara, wait…” before I felt the interior doorknob of my SoHo apartment jab into the small of my back. Tamara ground against me like she was trying to make her body occupy the same space as mine—and I certainly wasn’t complaining. Our mouths locked, the sweet taste of whatever umbrellaed concoction she’d been drinking mixing with the Corona flavor of mine. It was a surprisingly good combination.

“Simon, shhh…” she whispered, pushing me even farther into the apartment. She fell toward me with a sudden “Ow!” It was dark, but I could still see her hopping about on one leg. She had been trying to strip off my brown suede coat and the GABBA GABBA HEY Ramones T-shirt I was wearing, but now she clutched her knee.

“You okay?” I asked, finding the switch from horn-dog to concerned a difficult one to make.

“Yeah,” she said, and hissed out a long, slow sigh of pain. “What did I hit?”

“Just a packing crate,” I said, reaching out and steadying her. I contemplated turning on the lights to check on her, but hesitated, debating whether or not the other two dozen packing crates around my living room might scare her off. It wasn’t that I was a slob, but given my workload at the Department of Extraordinary Affairs, my personal antiques acquisitions had become backlogged. They were spread out across my dangerously darkened living room like little landmines from the Ghost of Bruises Yet to Come.

Luckily, a little knee pain wasn’t enough to stop Tamara. We resumed our lip lock while I weaved us safely past the labyrinth of crates and down the hall to my bedroom. If she was still hurt, she hid it well. I guessed that the promise of sexual healing was helping her tough through any damage to her knee.

Thankfully the last part of the journey toward my bedroom went without incident. The edge of the bed hit the backs of my calves, bending me at the knees, and I fell back onto it as Tamara threw herself on top of me.

Ever since I’d accidentally knocked over her drink at Eccentric Circles three weeks ago, our encounters had consisted of one sexually charged (but unfulfilled) moment after another. But not tonight. Tamara straddled me, her hotness lit only by the moonlight coming in through the window. The smell of cinnamon rose off her, swirling around in my head, and under her jacket her tight little black dress—the one that every other woman in New York City seemed to own—clung to her like a second skin. I was in heaven.

Not that things stayed heavenly for long. Around me, things rarely did. As Tamara finished struggling out of her coat, she threw it to the side. Her cell phone slipped free from it, hit the mattress, and rolled to rest against my arm. No big deal for most people, but with my preternatural powers, that was all it took to ruin things.

It’s called psychometry—the ability to divine information about people or events solely by touching personal objects. As Wonder-Twin-powers cool as that might sound, it wasn’t. I tended to end up knowing more than I should about a person…or wanted to.

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