Seventeen-year-old Tinley Hall takes a fall down the steep staircase in her family’s restored Victorian home. When she becomes aware of her surroundings, she realizes she might be dead and she’s not alone as her spirit haunts the old mansion that once was her home.
After meeting a handsome stranger, Tinley is forced to question if he’s really a ghost and if she’s really dead, but she knows something more complicated must be happening.
Will Tinley be able to pull herself through death’s door, back into the land of the living? Or, will she even want to?
As feelings for her companion grow into an otherworldly love affair, Tinley must decide if she’s actually found her soulmate or if she just imagined the whole thing. Either way, she’s about to face the most difficult choice of her life … and of her death.
Tania Hagan was born in Illinois, but moved to Southern California as a young teen. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a degree in Social Science and Psychology.
She began her writing career shortly after school, when she wrote for a major business magazine. She also read the nightly business report for the company’s TV news. At the same time, she produced, and reported for a weekly TV news magazine program.
After she was married, Tania and her husband moved back to the Chicago area, where she worked briefly as a stringer for a local newspaper. She also became a successful Realtor, and continued to write for online, as well as for print publications.
They have one beautiful daughter. Her dream of dreams is to eventually adopt many more children. Out of everything she’s ever accomplished, she is most proud of being a mom.
I didn’t die easily. For me, death was pretty much like everything had been in my life—complicated and ambiguous.
The day was dragging out like any other day. My little sister had been whining to my mother about summer camp since the night before, so I did my best to avoid them. My best friend was planning to spend the night, and she and her brother had been hanging out in our pool most of the afternoon.
“I really hate him being here.” Ally rolled her eyes as she laid on her beach towel beside me. She nodded vaguely in her brother’s direction.
I looked across the pool at the boy who had just pulled his long, lean body out of the water on the deep end. He shook his head for a second, sending splashes of water everywhere. As he ran his hand through his damp, dark brown hair, I had the slightest urge to go rake my fingers through it too.
I batted away my thoughts. AJ Stockwell was the last boy I wanted to get mixed up with. Although he was undeniably gorgeous, he had run through a string of four girls during the last school year alone. When he wasn’t loving and leaving his girlfriends, he holed up in his room, building and painting ridiculous model boats. Besides all that, he was my best friend’s brother, so he was sort of off-limits from the get go.
“It’s fine, Al.” I rolled over on my stomach and straightened the back of my swimsuit bottoms. “He just cut the grass, so my dad invited him to take a swim. No big deal.”
“Ugh. It’s a big deal to me,” Ally complained. “I mean, I can’t talk about anything with him around.”
“Relax. He’ll be out of here soon, I’m sure.” I craned my neck, looking at AJ again. “Besides, he’s not bad to look at.”
“Oh, give me a break, Tinley.” Ally turned over on her belly as well. She leaned her shoulder against mine and brought her voice to a whisper. “Didn’t I tell you he just broke up with Amanda? After he dumped Natalie, and Sarah, and—”
“Yeah. I get it. You’ve warned me a thousand times about how much of a creep he is to girls. One cheerleader after another. I would never get involved with someone like him, even if he wasn’t related to you.”
“He’s like a psychopath or something. I swear. He dates these girls for, like, a minute, and then he dumps them. It’s like he’s test driving them or something.”
“Well, he’s pretty hot, so I guess he has that option.”
“Or, maybe, these girls get one look at his toy boat collection and run for the hills screaming.” Ally laughed and moved onto her knees. She stuffed her sunglasses and sunblock into her bag. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of this sun, and enough of you drooling over my disgusting brother. Let’s go up to your room. I want to check out my Instagram anyway.”
“Drooling? That’s extreme.” I flopped over onto my back again and sat up just as AJ walked by. “Oh. Hey.” I squinted up at him.
“You know I can hear every word you say, Ally? Your voice isn’t exactly the most discreet sound in the neighborhood.” AJ wrapped a towel around his waist as he stood there. “I have my reasons for everything I do, and spreading rumors about me only makes you look like an idiot.”
“It takes one to know one.” Ally jumped to her feet, spewing probably the oldest and dumbest comeback known to man.
“That’s just about the most juvenile thing I’ve heard you say, like, ever, Al.” AJ pulled on a tight gray t-shirt before he sat in a nearby deck chair. He nodded to me. “Hey, Tinley.”
Did he just blush? No, Tinley, that’s a sunburn.
“Hi.” I quickly threw on my cover-up before I stood up. “Um, thanks for doing the lawn.”
“No problem.” AJ shot me a gorgeous smile. The dimples on his cheeks seemed to ripple as he talked. “I know your dad’s been busy with that new book of his.”
“True.” I nodded. “I hate mowing, so it was either you or call the gardeners back.”
My parents had fired our weekly gardeners at the beginning of the summer. They were constantly leaving the back gate open, letting our Golden Retriever run free in the neighborhood.
My parents thought my twelve-year-old sister was too young to handle the lawn mower, and my dad had been busy lately writing his latest novel. Plus, my mom swore she had never mown a lawn in her life. So it was up to AJ or me. I always talked them into opting for AJ.
“Come on, Tinley.” Ally grabbed my hand and started tugging me away from the pool.
“I’ll see you around then.” AJ winked in my direction as we were leaving.
Ally dramatically rolled her eyes in response.
“If she sees you first, even from a mile away, I promise you won’t see her around,” she teased her brother.
“Again with the brilliant one-liners, Al.” AJ wadded up his towel and threw it under his arm. He touched my arm as he stood up. “Tell your folks I said thanks for letting me hang out by your pool.”
“I will.” I stood still, despite Ally yanking on my arm.
“Later.” AJ nodded to me one more time before he hopped our six-foot gate on his way out of our yard.
Ally and I tossed on our flip flops before we went through the back door. My mom was really fussy about not getting marks on the floors, especially from pool water. My dad had just restored the original hardwood throughout our Victorian-era, five-bedroom house the previous year. Homes like ours dotted the Chicago suburb of Waybridge, and my parents claimed ours was one of the most authentic restorations in the area.
I couldn’t have cared less about things like that. To me, the old home always felt drafty, and our heating and air never seemed to work as efficiently as the systems inside the modern subdivision houses. I always envied the homes where some of my friends lived on the outskirts of town. But, my parents were in love with ours, and my vote didn’t count much…