My Soul to Keep Page 17

“Sophie, that’s enough. Sit down before you get suspended.”

The look she shot me could have frozen Satan’s crotch, but she slithered off her boyfriend’s lap, licking her lips like she could still taste him, while Doug, Scott, and the rest of the team watched her like she’d just danced around a pole. I shot Nash a “why the hell do you hang out with these jackholes” look, but he was unavailable to receive my withering glance. Because he was watching my cousin. But Emma was watching me, I told you so written clearly in her expression.

I frowned and elbowed Nash while Sophie reapplied her lipstick with a compact mirror. “So…” She snapped the compact closed and dropped it into her purse. “Any volunteers?”

“I’m in,” Scott said, and I understood that Sophie’s show was actually a preview of things to come. Was that how she got everything she wanted? “You guys got a couple of hours to spare this afternoon?” Scott glanced around the table for more volunteers.

Nash nodded, but Emma leaned around Doug to answer for us both. “Kaylee and I have to work.”

“Oh, well.” Sophie shrugged, and the bitch was back.

“We’ll miss you…” her mouth said, but as usual, her eyes said something entirely different.

When the bell rang, everyone got up to dump their trays, but Nash and I headed into the quad against the flow of smoke-scented traffic into the building, his cold fingers intertwined with mine. When the late bell rang eight minutes later, we sneaked around the outside of the school—the gym side, where there were no windows—and into the parking lot, ducking to run between the cars until we spotted Scott’s. Fortunately, he’d parked out of view from the building exit.

The top was up on Scott’s shiny, metallic-blue convertible, and through the rear window I saw nothing but a spotless interior; the car was so clean he probably made Sophie take off her shoes before getting in. On the back passenger’s side floorboard sat a large green duffel bag. “It’s either in there, or in the trunk,” I whispered, though there was no one else around to hear us.

Nash dug in his left pocket and pulled out Scott’s key. “Then let’s get this over with.” He slid the key into the lock—presumably to avoid the telltale thump of the automatic lock disengaging—and glanced toward the building to make sure we were alone.

With the driver’s door open, he reached through to unlock the back door, then pulled it open and gestured toward the rear seat. “Be my guest.”

Rolling my eyes, I crawled into the backseat and tugged the bag into my lap. My heart thumped as I unzipped it, and I was suddenly sure Scott had put the balloon in his trunk. But there it was, a solid black balloon, next to a football and on top of a pair of green gym shorts, whichweren’t exactly fresh. I pulled the balloon out with both hands and gasped at the chill that sank immediately through my fingers. The balloon was so cold ice should have glazed its surface, flaking off to melt on my skin.

Yet, other than the temperature and the weighted black plastic clasp holding it closed, the balloon felt just like any other latex party balloon. It was only half-inflated and I wondered how full it had been, and how much of the contents Scott had already inhaled. When I squeezed it gently, my fingers dimpled the surface and the rubber seemed to grow even colder.

“It’s cold,” I whispered, without taking my eyes off the balloon. “Freezing…”

Nash nodded. “There’s a reason they call it frost. Don’t you remember what Avari did to that office when he got pissed?”

I did remember. When the hellion had gotten mad, a lacy sheet of ice had spread across the desk beneath him and onto the floor, inching toward our feet, surging faster every time his anger peaked.

“Okay, zip the bag up and let’s g—”

“Hudson?” A booming voice called from across the parking lot, and my blood ran as cold as the balloon.

Coach Rundell, the head football coach.

Nash waved his hand downward, inches from my head, and I dropped onto the backseat, bent in half over the balloon. On the way down, I glimpsed the coach between Scott’s leather headrests. The middle-aged former jock stomped toward us from the double gym doors, his soft bulk confined by a slick green-and-white workout suit, bulging at the zipper.

“You’re not allowed in the parking lot during the school day, Hudson,” the coach barked. “You know that.” That ridiculous rule was supposed to stop kids from sneaking cigarettes or making out in backseats, and to prevent the occasional car break-in. Which we were committing, at that very moment.

Panicked now, as the cold from the balloon leached through my shirt and into my stomach, I craned my neck to see Nash digging frantically in his hip pocket. “Sorry, coach. I left my book in here this morning, and I need it for class.”

“Isn’t that Carter’s car?”

Nash shrugged. “He gave me a ride.”

Actually, Nash had ridden with me, in my new loaner. But Coach Rundell wasn’t going to question his first-string running back. Even if he didn’t believe Nash.

“Well, get what you came for and get back to class. You need a pass?”

“Yeah, thanks,” Nash said, and I rolled my eyes as he bent into the backseat behind the headrest, where the coach couldn’t see him clearly.

That figures. The football player steals a friend’s key and breaks into his car, and he winds up with a free hall pass for his trouble. I’d probably be expelled.

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