My Soul to Keep Page 19

Simultaneous waves of anger and humiliation surged through me, and for just a minute, I considered letting her take a hit from her boyfriend’s balloon. Why was I trying so hard to save someone who would rather see me dead than return the favor?

“Don’t look now, Sophie, but your insecurity’s showing like the roots on a bad bleach job.” Emma smiled sweetly, then glanced pointedly at Sophie’s hairline. Then she turned on one wedge-heeled foot and headed down the hall toward the parking lot exit. Laughing, Doug jogged to catch up with her.

Nash and I trailed them while Sophie stood speechless. “You know, she loves it when you let her piss you off.”

“Gee, thanks, Dad,” I snapped, bending beneath the weight of my own sarcasm. “You think if I just ignore her, she’ll go away?”

“No.” Nash’s hand tightened around mine and I glanced up to find him eyeing me steadily. “I think she’s going to be a bitch no matter what you do. But you don’t have to make it so easy for her. Make her work for it.”

“Yeah.” But that was a lot easier for him to suggest than for me to do. “It kills me that she has no idea that we saved her life. Or that she’d be just like me, if not for winning the genetic lottery.” Sophie’s father—my dad’s younger brother—was a bean sidhe, and because her mother was human, Sophie could have been born like either of her parents. Fate, or luck, or whatever unfair advantage ruled her privileged life, had given her the normal, human genetic sequence, and a snottier-than-thou disposition that seemed to grow more toxic by the day.

“There’s nothing you can do about that, Kaylee.” Nash pushed open the door into the parking lot and a cold gust of wind blew my hair back as I stepped outside. “And anyway, considering that her mother died and her boyfriend’s spending a small fortune to get high off someone else’s bad breath, I’d say Sophie’s next in line for therapy. At least you know who and what you are,” he pointed out with an infuriating rationality. “Sophie knows there’s something we’re not telling her. Something about her family, and how her own mom died. And she may never find out the truth.”

Because Uncle Brendon didn’t want her to know that her mother had stolen five innocent lives and souls—including Sophie’s, by accident—in exchange for eternal youth.

Nash shrugged. “For me, knowing that I actually feel sorry for her makes it a little easier to put up with the shit she’s shoveling.”

A warm satisfaction filtered through me at the realization that it did help to think of her as an object of pity: a prospect that would horrify my pampered cousin to no end.

“And Kaylee, I’m sorry about last night. I can wait. You know that, right?”

“I know.” He was calmer and happier now. Lessintense than he’d been the night before. He’d obviously gotten plenty of sleep and backed off the caffeine.

“Thank you.” I stood on my toes for a mint-flavored kiss—a better kiss than what he usually got on school grounds—and only pulled back when shouting from the other end of the parking lot caught our attention.

Scott had just discovered his frost was missing.

“Come on…” Nash took off and I held my backpack strap in place while I raced after him. My boots clomped on the concrete as we tore past my loaner, Doug’s loaner, and dozens of other cars still parked in the lot. We had to be there to look surprised by Scott’s loss.

Doug and Emma were huddled together in the empty space to the left of Scott’s car, hands stuffed into their jacket pockets against the cold. Doug scowled, almost as angry as Scott over the loss. Next to him stood Brant Williams, who’d obviously been promised a sample, too. Other students watched all over the lot, curious but uninvolved.

And suddenly I was really glad we’d taken the balloon, in spite of the risk. This crowd was too big. How were we supposed to protect the entire school?

“Are you sure you brought it?” Doug tugged his duffel higher on his shoulder and his hand twitched around the strap.

“Hell, yes, I’m sure.” Scott punched the back of his front seat, which he’d folded forward for more room in the backseat. “I took a hit this morning before I got out of the car, then stuffed it in my gym bag. And now it’s gone.”

“What happened?” Nash asked as I wandered to the edge of the small crowd to stand with Emma. She tucked a long blond strand of hair behind one pierced ear, then shrugged to say she had no idea what was going on.

“Somebody broke into my car and stole my shit,” Scott snapped, and I wasn’t the only one surprised by the sharp edge of fury in his voice. Not just anger, or frustration, or disbelief. Scott’s words dripped with rage, laced with some dark, desperate need no one else seemed to understand. Not even Doug. But as his hand convulsed around the edge of the open car door, I understood.

Scott was going into withdrawal. For real. He wasn’t just itching for another hit—he was physically, psychologically, maybe even soulfully, addicted. He couldn’t function without frost now.

But that couldn’t be right. He’d only had one balloon, and it was still half-full. How could this happen so fast?

With that thought, a new fear twisted in my stomach. Had we made everything worse by taking the balloon? Harmony had said withdrawal could be just as deadly as Demon’s Breath itself….

But what were we supposed to do, give the balloon back, with our blessings? Let him sink into insanity and brain damage, and possibly drag Sophie along for the ride?

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