Except: Harbinger, by Ellen Grant

With Grayson waiting in line, Dani made her way to the corner table and  didn't stop until she could lean completely over it, hands flat against  the tabletop on either side of Madison's book. Her ponytail slid over her shoulder and smacked into it, but to Dani's dismay and annoyance,  the other girl didn't bother to look up; she reached to her side absently, brought her drink to her mouth, and sipped.


"Madison?"  Dani asked harshly, and was satisfied when she inhaled sharply, gaze snapping up in surprise. "Daniela. Nice to meet you. How did you know  Walter?"


Slowly, Madison lowered her mug back to the table, her brows knitting over her glasses. She seemed to take a moment to gather her thoughts, and then gestured to the chair. "Have a seat. Your friend  probably wants to know the same thing, and I'd rather not repeat  myself."


Though she didn't want to give away the upper ground, Dani also didn't relish drawing more attention to their conversation than she had to, so she begrudgingly sat down, crossing her arms tightly  over her chest. Madison went back to reading her book, only glancing up every few minutes to find Dani still staring at her intently, until Grayson slid into the seat between them.


"Here," he said, passing her a drink and then curling his hands around his own. "This is Dani,"  he added, gesturing toward her with a tip of his head.


"We've  met," Dani said promptly, and Grayson watched a brief, amused smile  flicker over Madison's face. "But what I want to know is how she knew  Walter, and why she wants to talk to us."


Beneath the table, Grayson kicked softly at Dani's sneaker. She kicked back, less softly.


"First  of all, I should probably actually introduce myself." Madison slid her book across the table, and then offered a gloved hand to Dani. "Maddie. Believe it or not, I'm actually really glad you came, too. It's going to  make my job a lot easier."


Instinctively, Dani shook her hand, though her frown deepened. "Job?"


Maddie  took a deep breath, and then glanced between the two of them, gaze  solemn. "Yeah, job. I'm not a Counselor or even a standard guide, and  I'm not exactly good at this part, so I need you guys to just hear me out. I met Walter for the first time yesterday, and as of right now,  he's as comfortable as we can make him."


A stunned silence  stretched between them for a few beats, before Dani stood up, chair scraping the floor behind her. "Is this some kind of sick joke?"


Grayson  snagged her arm, pulling her back down into her seat, though his eyes never left Maddie's face. She looked so serious, so carefully neutral,  that he didn't know if he wanted to be completely enraged or just - walk  away.


"Walter died two weeks ago," he said slowly, barely  hearing his own voice over the rush in his ears. Dani was still saying  something, he knew, but he couldn't quite make the words out. He was  watching Maddie too closely, gazes locked, as she nodded.


"I  know. But I need you to calm down and listen to me. Nobody else can see  me right now but you two, because I'm a Reaper, and I'll explain the  best that I can, but you have to listen.”