My Soul to Keep Page 61

People were starting to openly stare, so I looked at the table and counted to ten to get my temper back under control. When I looked up, Tod was wiping both hands over his face, the muscles in his arms bunched with tension.

“I hope it’s worth it, whatever he’s giving you,” I spat as softly as I could. “I hope it’s worth the three lives you’ve ruined.” Four, if you counted Emma’s, and five if you counted mine, because there was no guarantee I’d walk away from the Netherworld alive this time. Or at all.

Tod flinched, but didn’t break eye contact. “It’s Addison,” he said, his voice so low and heavy I wasn’t sure I’d heard it at all. “I traded my service as a courier for an hour a day with Addy.”


“Tod, Addison’s dead.”

He nodded slowly. “Her body is. But her soul is alive and not so well in the Netherworld, and the only way I can help her is to give her an hour a day free from torture and humiliation. To keep her sane. It seemed like the least I could do, considering I failed to get her soul back before she died.” Tod’s jaw tightened, and he held my gaze, steadily. Unashamed. Yet I saw the flicker of pain and determination in his eyes.

I felt my heart splinter and thought for a moment that I could actually hear the cracks. How was I supposed to stay mad at him now? Tod had been ruining lives with his own postmodern, interdimensional version of chivalry.

Will all the real men please stand up?

“I swear I didn’t know what I was carrying….”

I wanted to ask if that would have mattered. If he’d known what he was really agreeing to, would he have considered five ruined lives—and potentially countless more—worth an hour of comfort a day for Addison? But I didn’t ask, because I already knew that where Addy was concerned, Tod had no limits. He’d been willing to let me die in the Netherworld to save her soul. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for her. To be with her.

Even beyond the grave.

I sighed and rubbed both hands over my face. “Okay, so how does this work? You blink into the Netherworld and he lets you see Addison for an hour, then hands you a balloon bouquet on your way out?”

Tod’s brows rose in bitter amusement. “Do I look like a party clown? It’s just a canvas duffel bag with a padlock through the zipper. I could have broken it, or cut the bag open, but honestly, considering what Addy and I have to lose, it didn’t seem smart to stick my nose into Netherworld business.”

“I hate to tell you this, Tod, but you’re already up to your eyebrows in it. And thanks to you and Nash, so are Doug, and Scott, and Emma, and me.” Not to mention whoever else Doug might have introduced to frost. I couldn’t help marveling at the irony of both Hudson brothers playing separate,secret parts in whatever Avari was up to.

He leaned back in his chair and exhaled heavily. “Avari’s going to be pissed when he finds out I’m out of the drug-trafficking business, and he’ll probably take it out on Addison. But the more immediate problem is Nash. If we don’t get him out before I refuse the next shipment, we’ll probably never have another shot.”

“Alec says our best chance is tomorrow night. They’re having some kind of big party…” And I couldn’t help wondering what there was to celebrate in the Netherworld.

The reaper nodded, pale curls bobbing. “Yeah, I’ve seen them setting up for it. Creepy.”

“…and he thinks he can get to Nash during the commotion. He’s gonna call me back in about half an hour—” I glanced at my watch “—make that twenty minutes, to make plans.” I stood, and Tod stood with me, and we headed for the hall by unspoken agreement.

“There are no cell phone towers in the Netherworld,” he whispered. “How’s Alec going to call you?”

I swallowed the horror and disgust my answer brought with it as I pushed open the double doors. “Through Emma.”

Confusion narrowed Tod’s eyes, then sudden comprehension flowed in, chased by a wave of obvious repulsion. “He’s using her as an intermediary? That’s what you meant by possession?” he hissed, without bothering to check the cold, sterile hall for humans.

I nodded. “It’s awful. She still looks like herself, but she sounds like someone else, and she doesn’t move, or sit, or laugh like Emma. She’s being worn. It’s creepy.”

“Yeah.” Tod’s scowl deepened as he walked, and I rushed to keep up with him. “I’ve only seen the show once, but it was one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen.” Which surely meant something coming from a reaper. “And it’s hard on the host, because he subconsciously fights the invasion. It can leave you exhausted for days afterward.”

“Tell me about it.” No wonder I was so tired all the time. In addition to giving up sleep to avoid waking up in the Netherworld, I’d had my body invaded by an uninvited visitor twice in the past week.

Tod stopped abruptly and his gaze narrowed on me. “What does that mean?”

I sighed and cradled my bandaged arm. “Avari’s been using me to communicate with Nash. I didn’t realize it until I saw it happen to Emma, but I’m sure that’s what’s been happening.” I shuddered at the sudden clear understanding that I’d been used, both physically and emotionally. That Avari had been in my body, without my knowledge or permission. Could there be a more horrifying, revolting violation?

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