My Soul to Keep Page 23

The stalks bent in my direction again. I screamed harder. Razor wheat shattered. My pulse raced. My throat ached. My stomach was leading a revolt of my entire body. Then, finally, a familiar gray fog swept in to overlay my vision, heralding my return to my own world.

Just in time.

And as my bedroom began to reform around me—pale walls and furniture oddly overlaid across the still-real olive-tinted field—the crashing creature penetrated the wall of wheat at my side, bursting into view.

I almost laughed out loud.

It wasn’t some weird, Netherworld monster, eager to eat me. It was an ordinary trash-can lid. An old-fashioned metal disk, wielded by the handle on the topside. The suburban knight had used his shield to break the stalks ahead of him, to avoid being sliced to bits by the literal blades of grass.

It was brilliant, really. I wished I’d thought of it.

The improvised shield began to lower, and with the last breath I took in the Netherworld, my gaze landed on a pair of bright brown eyes set into a dark face not much older than my own, crowned by a nest of tight curls and the slightest shadow of a beard.

Then I was back in my room, those eyes fading slowly from the image burned into the backs of my eyelids.

“Well, then, get dressed! Harmony, you have to come right now!” my father yelled. Terror echoed in his voice like a shout from a lost cave.

My feet shifted on something soft and springy, and my eyes popped open. I stood in the middle of my bed. My bare toes curled around a fold in my comforter, still smudged with gray Netherworld dirt and dotted with tiny spots of blood from splinters of razor wheat. My father stood at the foot of my bed with his back to me, the home phone pressed to his ear.

“She’s crossed over, and I can’t get into the Netherworld without you!” he yelled.


He whirled toward me, eyes going wide even as the line of his jaw softened with relief.

“Never mind, she’s back,” he whispered into the phone. Then he hung it up and dropped the receiver on the blankets at my feet. “Kaylee, are you okay?”

“Fine.” I whispered, then followed his gaze to the thin shards of razor wheat still protruding from my bloodstained left thigh. “Just scratches,” I said, reaching down to pluck the needle-sharp splinters from my skin. I collected them loosely in my other palm, and breathed a sigh of relief that razor wheat—while painful—wasn’t poisonous.

“Where the hell did you go?” He stomped around the foot-board and lifted me from the mattress like a naughty toddler caught jumping on the bed. “I heard you wailing, but by the time I got here you’d crossed over. What were you doing?”

“It was an accident,” I muttered, my mouth pressed into his shoulder as he hugged me so tight I couldn’t catch my breath. The scruff on his chin scratched my neck, and I felt his heart racing through my nightshirt. “I dreamed someone died, and woke up in theNetherworld.”

“What?” He shook his head slowly. “That’s not possible.” My dad held me at arm’s length, searching my eyes for any sign of a lie, but he must have found none, because he didn’t get mad. Instead, he got scared. Obviously and truly frightened—a terrifying expression to find on a man who should represent all things strong and safe. “You crossed over in your sleep?”

“Yeah.” I set the shards on my nightstand, then sank onto the edge of my bed, holding my dirty feet away from the mattress. “Please tell me that’s never going to happen again. Only say it better than Harmony did, because she said we couldn’t cross over accidentally, and she was wrong.”

He sank wearily into my desk chair, the golds and browns in his eyes churning fiercely in fear. “I wish I could, Kay, but I’ve never heard of anything like this. How did this happen? Who were you dreaming about?”

I shrugged, reaching for the clear plastic bottle on my nightstand, wincing as the movement tugged at the fresh cuts on my leg. “I don’t know. I’m not sure I even knew in the dream.” I gulped lukewarm water, watching my father as he watched me. “What if it happens again?” My voice came out soft with fear, and hoarse because of my raw throat.

“We’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t.” My father’s sigh was carried on a breath of determination. “How ’bout some hot chocolate?”

I glanced at my alarm clock, frustrated to see that it was only a quarter to four on Wednesday morning. “Make it coffee, and I’m in.” Because I wouldn’t be sleeping any more that night. Or any other night until I figured out how to keep from waking up in the Netherworld.

“You drink coffee?” My father frowned as he picked up the phone and followed me into the hall.

“Not if I can help it.”

The phone rang in his hand, and he glanced at the display, then handed it to me as we turned into the small galley-style kitchen. “It’s Harmony. Tell her you’re okay before she and Nash show up with the cavalry.”

I answered the phone and assured Harmony—and Nash, by extension—that I was fine, in spite of having crossed over in my sleep. She sounded almost as horrified as I felt, and she promised to see what she could find out about preventing a repeat performance. Then she put Nash on the phone so we could say good-night—or rather, good-morning—and by the time we hung up, the smell of fresh coffee—always better than the taste, in my opinion—was wafting into the kitchen.

Over heavily creamed and sweetened coffee, I told my dad about the field of razor wheat in the Netherworld version of our property and about the trash-can-lid-wielding boy stomping through it. And when we’d exhausted our theories about both the mystery boy and my unscheduled trip, he refilled both of our mugs and started a second pot.

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