My Soul to Keep Page 49

“You mean, like, possession?” That’s not creepy or anything…

“For lack of a better term, yes. And I’m pretty sure he’s Carter’s shadow man, too. I think you were right about his hallucinations.”

Though I hadn’t realized who Scott was actually hearing.

“You knew that, didn’t you?” I demanded, my voice actually shaking with anger. I scooted back to put distance between us. “You knew Scott was really hearing Avari, but you made me sound like an idiot in front of my dad. Why?”

“I’m sorry.” His gaze dropped like an anchor. “I was afraid that if they knew he was hearing a hellion, they’d want to know who that hellion was, and would eventually connect him to me.”

“So, you made me look crazy to cover your own tracks? How very chivalrous of you,” I spat. The Nash I’d met three months earlier had given me strength and confidence. He’d sacrificed his own safety to help protect me. But now he was lying to me, and Influencing me, and covering up information that could have helped save his best friend. Was it all because of the Demon’s Breath? Could breathing from Avari actually change him? Was it already rotting his soul?

“I’m so sorry, Kaylee…” Nash started, but I cut him off with a harsh wave of one hand. I was already tired of pointless apologies.

“Is Avari giving me nightmares, too? Are these death dreams because of him?”

Nash shrugged miserably. “I don’t think hellions can make you have premonitions if no one’s dying, but I honestly don’t know.”

I didn’t realize I’d been grinding my teeth until my jaw began to ache. How could he answer so many questions with so little information? “So, does this mean you don’t have Everett’s number, or e-mail, or anything?”

Nash shook his head again. “Avari just tells me where and when to meet him. That’s why I had to come to the party. Because I can’t get in touch with Everett on my own.” I started to interrupt, but Nash rushed on. “Neither can Fuller. I already asked him. Everett calls him and sets up a meeting, and his number shows up as Unidentified.”

Nash scowled and rubbed his hands together for warmth. I was freezing, too, in spite of his jacket, and part of me wanted to slide closer to him for heat. But I wasn’t ready to be that close to him yet.

“So, Avari feeds from the suffering he causes and Everett gets the money,” I said, scooting farther away from him for good measure. “But you’re not suffering like Doug and Scott are.” Presumably because he wasn’t human. “And you don’t have any money. So how does Avari plan to turn a profit on you?”

Nash’s gaze fell to where his hands now clenched the edge of the stone bench on either side of his thighs. And suddenly a devastating new understanding crashed over me, threatening to crush me.

“He already is, isn’t he?” My pulse roared in my ears, and I wasn’t sure Ireally wanted the answer. But I had to ask.

“How do you pay, Nash?”

He shook his head. “Kaylee, you don’t want to—”

“Service?” I interrupted, twisting on the bench to pin him with my eyes. “You’re not selling for him, are you?” I whispered, because that was all the volume I could muster.

“No!” Nash insisted, rubbing my back through his jacket.

“It’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like?” I shrugged out from under his hand, silently begging him—daring him—to tell me the truth.

“What are you paying him, Nash?”

He sighed, and his entire body seemed to deflate as his jaw tensed. “Emotions, in the past tense.”

“What?” I felt my forehead crinkle. “What does that mean? You’re giving him your emotions? So, you can’t feel anything?” The horror rising through me had no equivalent. The only thing that even came close was the black scream that built inside me when I felt Death coming.

“No, not my current emotions,” Nash insisted, trying to reassure me, but the gloom in his eyes didn’t match his tone, so the look was more frightening than comforting. “The emotions in some of my memories.”

“He’s eating your memories?” I couldn’t imagine a more personal violation. Nash was giving away the experiences that made him the person he was.

The person I loved.

I ran my hand over the smooth, cold bench, desperate for something real and sturdy to cement me in reality. In a world where food was food, and memories were invulnerable. Untouchable.

“No.” He shook his head vehemently and put one warm hand over mine on the bench. Yet somehow, he seemed to steal my waning warmth, rather than fortify it. “Just the feelings from them. When I think about things from my past, I don’t feel how I felt when they actually happened. Past emotions.” He tried to smile reassuringly, but failed. Miserably. “I don’t need those, anyway, right?”

My vision went dark and my hearing began to fade as shock and horror sank through me, cutting my ties to the world. Then my senses came roaring back, stronger than ever, the floodlight glaring in my eyes, the cold numbing my skin. “You don’t need those? You don’t need to revisit feelings from your past?” I snatched my hand from his and jumped from the bench again, and this time he was too slow to catch me.

“In most cases, it’s a mercy, Kaylee,” he insisted as I backed slowly away from him, wondering if I’d be making things better or worse if I simply walked away. Would I be giving us time to think, and to miss each other? Or time to realize we shouldn’t have been together in the first place. After all, I’d dragged him into the Netherworld where he’d been exposed to Demon’s Breath. And he’d lied to me and left me alone with Scott, who’d tried to slit my throat.

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