My Soul to Keep Page 15

What if we’d discovered the problem too late? What if Doug’s dealer had already been peddling his product all over central Texas, or worse, all over the state? Or the entire south? After all, what were the chances that we happened to go to school with the only human in the area who huffed Demon’s Breath?

No, my inner logic insisted. If people were dropping dead or being admitted to mental hospitals in record numbers, we’d have heard about it. This was just starting, which meant it was still fixable. It had to be.

I took a deep breath, then another drink from my can. “I think the real question is, what is Everett? If he’s human, where’s he getting his supply? And if he’s not, what is he doing here?”

Nash shrugged. “Evil, would be my guess. That’s kind of a Netherworld specialty.”

“Okay, but as far as diabolical Netherworld schemes go, getting a bunch of human teenagers high, hooked, then dead is kind of lame.” I looked at my pizza, but couldn’t bring myself to actually eat it. “I mean, how good can the repeat business be if the customers are all gonna die?”

Nash chewed some more, apparently giving the idea some serious thought. “Nobody’s dead yet.”

But we both knew that was only a matter of time.

Or was it?

I dropped my uneaten slice into the box and grabbed the remote, poking the pause button until the image on the screen froze. “Maybe no one’s going to die from this. You can’t die if it’s not your time, right? If you’re not on the list?” The reaper’s list, which contained the names of everyone whose soul was scheduled to be collected on a given day. Tod talked about the list like it was scribbled by the hand of Fate herself, thus could not be changed.

Of course, being driven insane wasn’t much better than death. But at least I wouldn’t have to scream for those hauled away in straitjackets.

But Nash didn’t look very relieved.

“Kay, it doesn’t work like that. Demon’s Breath is a Netherworld element. It trumps the list, just like actually crossing into the Netherworld.”

My heart hurt like it was being twisted within my chest, and my throat felt almost too thick to breathe through. “So, even if we got in touch with Tod and he got his hands on the master list, he couldn’t tell us who’s most at risk from this. Or how far it’s going to spread.”

Nash shook his head slowly. “There’s no way to track this, and no way to know who’s going to die from it. Not until…”

He didn’t have to say it. I knew.

“Not until I start screaming.”


“WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU two today?” Emma speared a cherry tomato in her salad. Which was really just a mountain of iceberg lettuce dotted with croutons and smothered in cheese, ham, and ranch dressing. Emma didn’t do health food, and I’d alwaysrespected that about her. “You look like you’re waiting for a bomb to go off.”

Not a bomb. A football player. We’d seen Scott Carter in the hall before first period, and his eyes had a familiar fevered look, yet his breath was too-sweet and cold, like he’d been chewing ice. He was high. On frost. At school.

Maybe having him bring it with him wasn’t such a good idea, after all….

Before I could come up with an answer, Emma’s gaze strayed over Nash’s shoulder and her eyes flashed with something like desire or anticipation, only stronger. More fervent. I twisted on the bench to see Doug pushing his way through a huddle of freshmen in front of the pizza line.

Emma smiled at him, and I wanted to break my own skull open on the white brick wall behind her.

Around us, the cafeteria buzzed with conversation, individual words and voices muted by the steady swell of sound. Our school was a closed campus for the entire first semester, thanks to a fender bender in the parking lot the second week of school, so nearly a third of the student body was crammed into four rows of indoor picnic-style tables. For most of the year, Em and I ate outside in the quad, but in December, even Texas was too cold for all but the truly hardy—and those in desperate need of a secret smoke—to brave the winter chill.

“So, I take it last night went well?” I dipped a corn chip into my cheese sauce, but couldn’t bring myself to eat it as I watched her closely for some sign that her attraction to Doug went beyond the usual hormonal tidal wave. But I saw nothing but the hair tosses and challenging eye contact she usually saved for guys old enough to drink. Or at least date her college-age sisters.

“Does she really like this ass-wipe?” Tod said, appearing suddenly on the bench beside me.

The corn chip in my hand shattered, but for once I managed not to jump and look like an idiot in front of Nash and Em, who clearly couldn’t see the reaper this time. Wasn’t he supposed to be a virtual prisoner at Arlington Memorial for another day or so?

But I couldn’t ask without looking crazy in front of half the varsity football team sitting at the other end of the table.

“So well.” Emma’s voice went deep and throaty, and I glanced briefly at Tod with one raised brow, silently asking if that answered his question.

He scowled, then blinked out, and I wiped cheese sauce from my fingers with a paper napkin. I knew what I had against Doug, but why did Tod care who Emma liked? I’d assumed he’d let go of his crush on her when Addison had stepped back into—then quickly out of—his life a month ago.

Evidently, I was wrong, and the implications of that settled into my gut like a brick in a bucket of water. How would a grim reaper—someone no longer bound by the limitations of mortal existence—deal with the potential competition Doug Fuller represented?

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