1996 (first published) 2008 (republished as omnibus edition)
Pocket Books (first edition) Simon Pulse (omnibus edition)
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Childlike, innocent Gillian Harman is trying to save a baby she hears crying in the woods when, to her own surprise, she dies! Even more surprising is her guide in the afterlife, Gary Fargeon, an “angel” with a great body and a gorgeous face.
Returned to life, Gillian listens to her dark angel in all things . . . and soon finds herself anything but childlike and innocent. But things are not what they seem, and even angels can make mistakes.
Soon Gillian is on a quest to find out just what deed Gary committed to strand him in the afterlife; and to find out the secret of where she belongs in a world she never knew existed: the Night World.
In Pennsylvania during the winter holiday season, Gillian Lennox, a petite teenager with silvery blond hair and violet eyes, is forced to walk home from school nearby a wooded area, as her best friend, Amy Nowick, had forgotten to wait for her after school. As Gillian ventures on, angered by Amy's carelessness and the coldness surrounding her, she abruptly hears faint sobs coming from the woods. Although reluctant to go into the thickly forested area alone, Gillian reasons that the person she hears might be in trouble, and decided to venture in anyway, briefly wondering if it might be a young girl who'd disappeared last year: Paula Belizer.
Gillian continues on into the forest, calling out to whoever might be crying in there. She eventually comes to a creek, and leans out over the water in case whoever was crying had fallen in. However, Gillian herself loses her balance and slips into the water. Despite finding a way out of the creek, the young girl slowly begins to freeze until, stopping against her better judgment to rest beneath a tree, Gillian succumbs to hypothermia and dies, able to calmly witness her soul departing from its body.
Gillian's soul is quickly whisked into a dark tunnel, rushing towards a "gold" colored light. Meeting the light, Gillian finds herself in a magnificent meadow, now clad in "a thin summer dress". At first jubilant, she begins to feel doubts about her whereabouts, despite the beauty of the meadow and hearing soft voices around her. However, as she begins to panic, she is met by a very handsome young man with golden hair and eyes the same violet hue as her own. Despite her awe at his features, Gillian becomes defensive of his good-naturedly calling her "kid". Undaunted, the youth tells Gillian that in truth it had not been her natural time to die, and if she wished to, she could come back to life. Noticing a passage behind him, the girl realizes that this passage is the way to the true afterlife, but is uncertain that she should go back. Ultimately, with the young man's coaxing, Gillian decides to live again, and returns to her own body. However, as night falls and she makes her way from the woods, Gillian hears the voice of the young man, guiding her from the woods. Before helping her flag down a car on the road to get home, the ethereal boy tells Gillian to call him "Angel".
To Gillian's shock, she had flagged down the car of David Blackburn, a popular boy at her school whom Gillian is in love with. Seeing her nearly frozen state, David quickly bundles Gillian into his car and drives her home. Gillian is pleased with his assessment that she is brave for trying to save someone, but her gladness turns to desperation when she realizes the person she was trying to help might still be in the woods. She insists they return, but David vehemently stops her, insisting on helping her first and calling the police instead. He brings her inside, though the two briefly pause for a moment when David strokes Gillian's hair back: he is somewhat moved by her description of dying, having had a similar experience himself in the past, and for a moment the two seem to come to an unspoken understanding. The moment is disturbed by the girl shivering, and David brings her inside.
However, at the door, Gillian becomes alarmed when David also tries to go in to help her further; realizing there are no cooking smells coming from the house, Gillian knows that her mother, an alcoholic, is currently undergoing a drinking binge again, something the teen is deeply ashamed of and keeps hidden. As the two struggle, Gillian insisting David leave, they are interrupted by Tanya Jun, David's girlfriend, a figure Gillian claims to fear, admire and hate, "in about that order". Tanya quickly sets to work stripping Gillian's icy clothing, sending David to the kitchen to make hot cocoa. Gillian quickly slips into the bathtub to get warm, but is horrified when Tanya, against Gillian's anxious shout, goes upstairs to get dry clothes, as Gillian's mother is also upstairs and might come out of her room at any moment.
Things become worse as Gillian overhears Tanya and David speaking. Upon David calling Gillian "just a kid", Tanya reveals to him that Gillian is their age and even in one of their classes. She further embarrasses Gillian by showing David her "little bear" pajamas, and telling him that Gillian's room is full of stuffed animals, lending to the idea that she is younger than she seems. As Gillian seethes with fury and humiliation, she hears a sudden loud, high "crystalline" sound. Tanya, rushing in, asks what happened, then attempts to wipe steam from the bathroom mirror. Tanya retreats back, blood visible on her hand; the bathroom mirror had mysterious shattered, which had caused the loud noise.
Turning her attention back to Gillian, David's girlfriend attempts to dress the teen, but Gillian, angrily insisting she is all right, asks them to leave. After the two depart, Gillian sorrowfully dresses and goes to her room, stopping briefly only to tell her mother, awake but drunk, that she "got wet" coming home. Once in her bed, Gillian, regretting her decision to come back to life, cries herself to sleep.
In the middle of the night, Gillian awakens to a "presence" in her room, as well as a light manifesting within. To her shock and awe, Angel appears to her, though he dims the luminescence around himself to be more bearable to the teen's vision. Unlike her preconceived notion of angels, this young man, though inhumanely beautiful, is notably humorous and witty, also revealing that he had helped Gillian recover from her hypothermia. When his presence is questioned, he tells Gillian that he is her personal guardian angel, and that he came back with her from the afterlife to help her improve her existence, affectionately giving her the nickname "Dragonfly". However, Angel requires in return that Gillian trust him absolutely, which he subsequently tests by having her cut off her hair, redoing it in a shorter style that brings out the delicate and pretty features of the girl's face. Afterwards, Gillian returns to bed, but inquires about the crying in the woods. Angel cryptically states that "is classified", but reassures Gillian that "nobody's hurt - now".
The next day, Gillian's new look shocks both Amy, who apologizes for what had happened, and her mother, who has sobered since the night before, though as a result Gillian's father has left her. Amy and Mrs. Lennox put finishing touches on Gillian's hair, but both are once more stunned when she sees Gillian's outfit for school: "black hipsters and black camisole. Over it was a sheer black shirt, worn loose. She had on flat black boots and a black watch". Amy is notably alarmed by the change, which startles Gillian, but she is soon picked up by David, who had promised to take her to school the night before. However, upon seeing Gillian, David becomes visibly smitten with her, apologizing for thinking her so young before. Pulling over, he nearly kisses her, but Gillian quickly remembers Tanya, which halts David, guilt-stricken due to having made a "promise" not to cheat on his girlfriend. Deflating, the two head to school.
Once there, Gillian, with Angel's guidance, dazzles and wins the admiration of her classmates and teachers alike; several of the most popular students try to get closer to Gillian, to her joy. However, during lunch, a rumor reaches the girl about her mother's alcohol problem, though she smoothly turns the tide with Angel and David's help, prompting the popular cliques to rally behind her disdain for spreading gossip (through Angel, she also learns that the cause behind the rumors is Tanya). However, at that moment, the glass window of the cafeteria, like the bathroom mirror of Gillian's home, shatters inexplicably. David manages to get everyone out of the way in time, but Gillian, disturbed, asks Angel about this, as well as the mirror. However, Angel, denying he had nothing to do with it, has no real reply for her.
At the end of the day, having been warned by a fellow student about rumors concerning her and David, and with Angel's prompting, Gillian confronts Tanya about the rumors, and in the process not only uncovers Tanya's instrument for spreading the rumors (another girl named Kim), but also Tanya's repeated infidelities behind David's back. When Tanya threatens Gillian in retaliation, she is halted by the presence of David, whom Gillian realizes has over heard the entire conversation. He breaks up with Tanya, and consequently asks Gillian out, to the girl's immense happiness.
Tanya and KimEdit
Gillian's popularity grows each day. The following Saturday, Gillian and David attend a party held in the girl's honor, though the two are repulsed at the presence of liquor and beer, Gillian again able to use her new-found status to end the drinking. The two retreat upstairs, where David expresses his shame at some of the things committed in his past, and reluctantly confesses to Gillian that he doesn't truly feel whole, though he believes that he can never be without Gillian. The two bask in this revelation for a time, but Angel interrupts, insisting Gillian make her way to a room and enter the closet. Through the closet wall, she overhears Tanya and Kim; David's former girlfriend accuses Kim of betraying her cheating to Gillian, although Kim denies it. Finally believing her, Tanya vows revenge on both David and Gillian. She first intends to inform the faculty of Ohio University, as well as their teacher and David's grandfather, that David had cheated on his English final by using a ghostwritten paper on Tanya's insistence. After they depart, Gillian is left fearful for David, though Angel calms her by stating that he has a plan. Before leaving the party, Angel has Gillian collect some of Tanya and Kim's hair from a brush they had used in the adjoining room.
Once home, Angel reveals a startling new truth about Gillian: according to him, her great-grandmother, Elspeth, was not human. She had in fact been born a witch, a member of the Harman family, but had been separated from her family during World War II, causing her to forget her true heritage. As such, she became a lost witch, but Elspeth's power had passed down to her descendants, which in turn also made Gillian a witch as well. He also, to Gillian's further shock, tells her that she had been the one, though unconsciously, to shatter both the bathroom mirror and the glass window of the school cafeteria. He also explains that this is the reason for her mother's drinking: Mrs. Lennox, also a lost witch, was receiving visions, but, not understanding what was happening to her, took to alcoholism to cope. Angel concludes by stating that Gillian has the power to stop Tanya and Kim through spell casting, and guides her to a shop in another town.
There, Gillian encounters Melusine, another witch who is at first wary of Gillian's knowledge of spell ingredients. However, her suspicion changes to shock when, under Angel's guidance, Gillian traces a black dahlia onto a piece of carbon paper. Melusine is intrigued by Gillian, claiming she has "the look [of a witch]", but her wonderment falls when the blond girl asks for spell ingredients identified with those used by Circle Midnight. She gains what she needs, although Gillian mistakenly tries to use the greeting "Unity" again as a farewell, which causes Melusine to look at her strangely.
Once home, Gillian uses two wax dolls and the hairs she had collected to enchant Tanya's hand (which was to be used to write to Ohio University) and Kim's throat (used to spread rumors). The next day, Gillian learns from both fellow classmates and Angel that Tanya's arm is completely bandaged, and Kim cannot speak at all. In her triumph, Gillian admits to herself that, in addition to David, she has come to love Angel as well, though on a more personal and spiritual level.
However, things begin to change when Angel reveals the existence of the Night World to her, and guides her to a nearby club. Once there, Gillian, confronted with the darker nature of the Night World denizens, becomes fearful and wants to leave, able to sense their predatory demeanor regarding her. Fortunately, she is steered out of the club by a young man with ash-blond hair and ever-changing eyes: Ash Redfern. He leads Gillian out and insists she never return, as he will not be able to save her again if she comes back. He also disbelieves her claim that she is one of the Harmans, as Ash realizes she has no idea about the blood-tie between the witch clan and the Redferns. When questioned as to why he would help her, Ash simply tells Gillian that he "met a human girl last summer". Grateful, Gillian returns to her car as Ash waves goodbye to her, in spite of Angel's angry urging to go back in. The frightened Gillian confronts Angel, but he only reassures her by claiming to be her soulmate.
Although initially somewhat soothed by Angel's words and consequent gentle demeanor, while driving out for a Christmas tree with David, Gillian learns to her horror that Tanya has been diagnosed with flesh-eating bacteria, and had to be admitted to the hospital. Guilt-stricken and terrified, Gillian confronts Angel, unwilling to listen to his attempts to distract her questions. Her terror increases as Angel's voice calms, and he reveals to her his plan to have Gillian crash the car and kill David so that Angel can take over the boy's body. Against Gillian's resistance and her claim that she would "hate [Angel] forever", Angel takes control of her body and causes her to drive her car into a tree, sending the both of them to the hospital, David comatose from the crash.
Gillian escapes the accident unharmed, but is hysterical at the thought of what had happened, at one point being sedated by the nurses. She is brought home by her mother, but the next day Gillian immediately takes the wax dolls of Tanya and Kim and daubs off the powder causing their infections, which starts to heal them. Sneaking out of her house with the dolls, she meets with Amy outside, ahving requested Amy leave school to get her. The two friends reconcile for their past behavior, and Amy allows Gillian to borrow her car to see David at the hospital.
To Gillian's immense relief, David is not only awake, but Angel has not taken over his body. Believing her claims that she had never meant to harm him, the two kiss, activating the soulmate principle and allowing Gillian to see through Angel's previous lie. Gillian then explains everything to David, even her experience dying and her encounter with Angel. Surprisingly, he believes her, revealing that he too had once died as a child from appendicitis and had been in the otherworldly meadow her spirit had seen. Gillian then departs to find Melusine, to whom she also tells her story; to stop Angel from distracting her, she sings loudly, knowing it to be a method to stop him from hearing her thoughts. When Gillian expresses doubts about being a witch, Melusine corrects her, stating that Angel had been telling her the truth in that regard: Gillian is indeed a lost Harman. Although not able to directly help Gillian, Melusine states that to send Angel on to the other side to his eternal rest, Gillian must discover what is preventing him from moving on, and that he is likely not an angel but the spirit of someone who had died in this particular area. She also urges Gillian, after this is over, to seek out Circle Daybreak for guidance.
Gillian drives to the cemetery, seeking Angel's grave, but she is halted by the beautiful spirit himself. Confronted by her, Angel leads Gillian to his resting place: a gravestone upon which the name "Gary Fargeon" is inscribed. He further states that in truth, although not soulmates, he and Gillian are connected by blood: they are cousins, as Gary is the descendant of Elspeth's twin brother, Emmeth Harman. Gary tells Gillian that, being a lost witch, he had been tracked down by members of Circle Daybreak, who revealed his true heritage. From there, Gary reveled in his newfound power and embraced the tenants of the Night World, becoming a powerful witch who scorned humans. Unfortunately, at age seventeen the previous year, Gary had gotten drunk at a party and crashed his car, instantly killing him. He also accidentally reveals that he had been the crying voice in the woods that caused Gillian's death. Gary had deliberately lured her there to die so he could alleviate his loneliness on the other side.
When pressed by Gillian to reveal his unfinished business and pass on fully, Gary threatens to unleash a fatal snowstorm and kill others. However, Gillian shouts that she doesn't believe he could ever kill anyone, as he had spared David. Although this assessment stops Gary's insidious threats, he bitterly reveals that he in fact did kill someone: the missing girl, Paula Belizer. Gary recalls that he had been practicing a fire elemental spell in the snow-covered woods, so nothing would catch fire. However, when little Paula had been out chasing her dog, the child accidentally broken the protective circle containing the elemental, which escaped and immolated the girl. Gary, in shock, intended to take her to the hospital but became "confused", and instead buried her in the snow. He then went to the fateful party where he became too drunk to drive properly, resulting in his own death. Pitying her cousin, the Harman girl gently convinces Gary to bring her to Paula's remains, which he agrees to do, despite his fears that he may never been forgiven of his crime.
Gillian and David uncover Paul's body in the woods, the two concoting a story to explain how they found her. Promising to stand by Angel, Gillian and David summon the police. Paula's father arrives at the scene and mourns his daughter, forgiving whoever had harmed her. As he says this, Gillian sees Gary, who had previously been absent, hovering over the man, himself weeping and apologizing repeatedly. After Mr. Belizer leaves, Gary also asks the forgivness of his cousin, which she readily grants, admitting she will "miss" him. He tells her that her mother will recover, as will Tanya and Kim, and advises Gillian to follow Melusine's counsel and find Circle Daybreak. He tries to admit other secrets, but Gillian stops him, insistent on getting through on her own, to which Gary replies that she'll "do all right". He briefly glances at David, who can now see him, and explains to Gillian the real reason he didn't kill David: he hadn't wanted his cousin "to hate [him] forever". Gillian's cousin and former guardian is then drawn upwards into a magnificent light, finally redeemed and able to find peace beyond the world as it begins to snow over Gillian and David.