My Soul to Keep Page 42

Make that both worlds.

EMMA’S AFTERNOON SHIFT at the Cinemark didn’t end until seven, so she couldn’t make it to the party until eight. Nash and I stopped for cheap tacos and still got there by seven-thirty.

Mr. Fuller had taken Doug’s twenty-eight-year-old stepmother with him to some professional conference in New York, leaving Doug alone in a house big enough to sleep the whole football team.

Or host the entire senior class.

We parked at the end of the street again, and I felt marginally more confident in the safety of my car this time, because it wasn’t really mine and because Doug wouldn’t be driving. He was already home.

The party was in full swing long before we got there—music blasting, drinks flowing, people dancing, and couples ducking out the back door or up the stairs. In the den, a dozen upperclassmen had gathered around two guys with video game controllers, engrossed in some virtual tournament. One room over, two half-dressed couples had found an alternate use for Mr. Fuller’s pool table, and in the kitchen, one of the football team’s managers was manning a keg someone’s big brother had bought.

I waved to Brant Williams across the living room and he smiled back, dark, friendly eyes shining at me over the heads of most of our classmates. As Nash pulled me through the crowd, I spared a moment to hope Brant miraculously decided he needed to be somewhere else before Everett showed up.

People everywhere shouted greetings to Nash, and more than a few of them looked surprised to find me with him. Evidently seeing us together discredited the worst of the rumors about me and Scott. Several guys asked Nash how Scott was doing, and he told them all he hadn’t heard anything since yesterday.

He’d called the hospital that afternoon, but they would only release information to family members. We were hoping Tod could give us an update, but neither of us had seen him since he’d disappeared from my living room the afternoon before.

Sophie was a no-show at the party. While I was glad she was staying out of trouble—and out of my way—I was starting to wonder if she’d even show up for the carnival she’d helped organize. I considered calling her, but she wouldn’t answer her phone if it showed my number, so I decided to check in with her dad in the morning. Uncle Brendon knew what was going on—much more than Sophie knew, anyway—and had no doubt taken the Netherworld element into consideration when he let her skip school.

I almost felt sorry for her.

We found Doug near the back of the living room, pouring something stronger than beer into a clear plastic cup of soda. “Hey, man, is Em with you?” He handed Nash a can of Coke from a cooler sitting on a thick rug thrown over the hardwood floor.

“She’ll be here around eight,” I said as Doug rooted through the cooler again. He came up with a Diet Coke and a regular, holding them both up for me to choose from. I pointed to the regular, and he grinned as hedropped the diet back into the cooler.

“Atta girl. Want somethin’ extra?” He held up the small bottle of Absolut he’d poured into his own cup.

“No thanks.” There was no way I’d handicap my logic or coordination with Everett the Netherworld crack dealer scheduled to make an appearance.

“She has control issues,” Nash said, and I could have kicked him into the next time zone.

Doug raised one brow at me, then shot Nash a sympathetic look. “Lucky you.”

“I’m driving,” I insisted, but the damage was already done.

“Whatever,” Doug said, then something behind me caught his attention and he grinned.

“Hey, guys!” Emma threw her arm around my waist. She smelled like vanilla and looked like sex poured into a skirt. Her sister’s skirt, if I had to guess.

“I thought you had to work,” I said as she let Doug pull her close.

“I got off early.” She stood on her toes to kiss Doug as his hand wandered down from her waist, and I had a moment to hope he hadn’t yet unsealed a fresh balloon before she grinned at me like she’d been huffing goofy gas. But this high was natural. I could tell because, as I watched, Doug’s hand twitched around her hip.

He hadn’t had his fix yet. Which meant we hadn’t missed our chance.

“I didn’t think you’d come after yesterday,” Emma said, her smile fading with the memory of what little I’d told her about Scott and his knife.

Nash popped open his Coke. “She needed a little fun.”

Emma grinned. “Me, too.”

“Well, then, start with this.” Doug handed Emma the cup he’d spiked for himself, and she drained half of it in one gulp.

“Hey, Em, can I crash with you tonight?” I asked, popping the top on my own can.

“Sure. Your dad being a pain?”

I shrugged, letting her draw her own conclusions.

“Hey, Fuller, is your friend here yet?” Nash asked, his hand tightening almost imperceptibly around mine.

But Doug shook his head. “I wish he’d hurry up.”

“What friend?” Emma asked, but instead of answering, Doug pushed her cup toward her mouth until she emptied it, then pulled her into the crowd of writhing bodies, already moving to the heavy beat.

With nothing else to do until Everett showed up, Nash and I joined them on the dance floor and I was just starting to relax when a dark smudge on the edge of my vision seemed to freeze my blood in my veins.

I went still while all around me bodies moved in time to the song, oblivious to the danger now walking among them. I couldn’t see the door through the crowd, but I couldn’t miss the dark shape hovering near the ceiling—a huge black balloon bouquet, like the centerpiece of an over-the-hill birthday party.

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