My Soul to Keep Page 43

Everett had arrived. And he’d brought enough frost to bake the entire senior class.


“LOOK!” I SHOUTED into Nash’s ear, to be heard over the thumping, blaring music. I clutched his arm, unable to tear my horrified gaze from the balloons floating a couple of feet below Fuller’s twelve-foot ceiling. Before Nash had a chance to focus on the problem, I tugged him toward the edge of the crowd, hoping the noise would abate so we could hear each other.

And maybe see more than three feet into the crowd.

Near the edge of the room I let Nash go and nodded toward the foyer, where the bouquet still hovered over the room like a poisonous cloud. What kind of dealer walks right in the front door? But then, I guess it’s hard to be discreet carrying that many balloons.

“That’s Everett, right?” We couldn’t see him, but who else would bring three dozen black balloons to a high school party?

Nash looked up. Blood drained from his face so quickly I wasn’t sure how he remained conscious. He nodded slowly and began making his way through the crowd, still clutching my hand. I tried not to step on too many feet or bump into anyone with my bandaged arm as my heart raced fast enough to leave me light-headed. Everett was here. And we still had no plan.

Nash stopped when we got to the front window and had a clear view into the entryway, and his hand clenched tighter around mine. I followed his swirling gaze to see that the guy holding the balloons wasn’t much older than the crowd—twenty, at the outside—and that he was flanked by two of the most beautiful, eerily flawless girls I’d ever seen.

Between them, Everett, who looked human, was tall and too thin, his slight build only exaggerated by an oversize T-shirt and jeans that barely hung from the points of his hips. I couldn’t help wondering if he would let go of the balloons to pull his pants up if they fell off, which was a definite possibility. Based on the hazy look in his eyes and his death grip on the collection of strings, I would have bet my life the answer was no.

Everett wasn’t just selling; he was using. Though I couldn’t imagine how he stayed sane enough to run his business.

“It’s about time!” Doug called across the room, and I looked up to see him shoving his way through the crowd, dragging Emma behind him. “I have a room set up for you in the back.” Doug’s gaze jumped from the balloons to Everett’s face, his hand twitching at his side. He was hurting—bad—and surely we weren’t the only ones who could see that.

Emma raised both perfectly arched brows as she wandered toward me. “Who’s that?”

“Everett,” I said, desperately wishing I’d been able to keep her away from the party. “Doug’s supplier.”

“Yeah, I puzzled that out on my own. Who are they?” She nodded toward the foyer again and I realized she meant the girls. So Itook a closer look and finally realized what was bothering me about them. It wasn’t their surreal beauty—though, for the record, nothing so perfect should ever really exist.

Nor was it the fact that they were identical—not like twins, but like two copies of the same person. The exact same person. Same long, straight, white-blond hair parted on the left, with exactly the same crook halfway down the part. The same black eyes shining like they were lit from within. They had the same brilliant white teeth and exactly the same pale skin with the barest brush of pink on unfreckled cheekbones. And they stood at exactly the same height, with their right legs bent at the knee.

The whole carbon-copy aspect was definitely creepy, but it wasn’t what nagged at the back of my mind, like a skeletal finger tapping my shoulder. What bothered me was their stance. The girls flanked Everett not like arm candy, but like bodyguards.

But I had to be imagining that. Right? What could two slim, unarmed girls in identical white-lace minidresses do in defense of a man six inches taller, with feet the size of small boats?

The crowd parted for Doug and his strange entourage, and they passed through the living room and out of sight in seconds.

“I need another drink,” I said for Emma’s benefit, already moving back into the crowd. Em had figured out who Everett was, but not what he was really selling, and I didn’t want her involved in…whatever was about to go down.

“Let’s go!” I whispered, tugging on Nash’s arm when he made no move to follow me.

Emma shrugged and held up her empty cup. “I could use a refill, too.”

I groaned inwardly, trying to catch Nash’s eye. He finally met my gaze and nodded. He had a plan. But instead of clueing me in, he walked off toward the kitchen, apparently expecting us to follow.

Irritated, I smiled at Emma and wound my way through the crowd after Nash. Several feet from the kitchen, he turned to walk backward, facing us with a glance at Emma’s empty cup. “What are you drink—?”

Nash tripped over his own foot and grabbed the arm of the girl next to him for balance. She squealed and overcompensated, dumping her beer all over Emma’s shirt.

Em screeched and pulled the cold, wet material away from her skin.

“I’m so sorry, Emma!” Nash ducked into the kitchen and grabbed a towel from the counter, then tossed it to her as his eyes met mine, swirling with mischief.

“What if that hadn’t worked?” I whispered, reaching around him to pull a strip of paper towels from a wooden rack.

“Then the keg would have had a malfunction.” He turned back to Emma, faking a concerned expression that made me want to laugh. Until I heard his next words. “Kaylee, your overnight bag’s in the car, right? You have a shirt she can borrow?”

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