My Soul to Keep Page 68

A chill shot down my spine in spite of the hot coffee warming my belly. “Which is why I need you to keep your eyes and ears open while you’re with Addison,” I said. “We need to know what happened to Alec, and where they’re keeping Nash, and what kind of shape he’s in, in case Alec isn’t there to help us. We also need everything you can find out about this Liminal Celebration And even if you can manage all that, I have a feeling we’ll be walking into a very unpleasant surprise tonight.”

“Agreed.” Tod mopped up a puddle of syrup with the last bite of pancake. “But I’m not making any promises on this spy mission. It’s not like I have free rein of the Netherworld.”

I hadn’t assumed he did, but… “Don’t you do half of your job there? I mean, isn’t that where you take the souls to be recycled?”

Tod’s brows shot up, and I couldn’t tell if he was amused or horrified by that thought. “To the Netherworld? No. If I took souls there, they’d be eaten, instead of recycled. Reapers have access to the Netherworld by virtue of being dead, Kaylee. Not as an employee benefit.”

Ohhhh… I felt my face flush at my own stupidity. “So, where do you take them?”

“I can’t tell you that.” And that time, his grin looked genuine. “Company policy. And as for my business in the Netherworld, I pop into Avari’s office—the one we were in when Addy died—and he brings her in. We get an hour, most of which I spend talking to her, to keep her mind from slipping under the strain of constant torture and abuse.”

“She has a mind?” I couldn’t wrap my own mind around that one, though I couldn’t imagine why he would visit her if she didn’t. “But she’s dead.”

“So am I.” Tod set his fork on my empty, syrup-smeared plate. “You have to stop thinking of death as the end of everything. Yes, in most cases the soul is recycled, but if that doesn’t happen, there are a bunch of ways to be dead, with or without a body, a memory, and a soul. Addy has everything but her body, and I’m not even missing that, as you may have noticed.” He spread his very corporeal arms for emphasis and almost smacked some poor waitress carrying a huge tray of food.

“I know. But how does Addy have her soul if she sold it to Avari?”

“She and her soul have been reunited in the Netherworld, but he actually owns it. Thus the constant torture.”

“Oh.” I made a mental note to keep my mouth shut about things I didn’t understand. And to let Tod go invisible whenever he wanted—though I would never have believed it, he actually caused less trouble that way. “Just keep your ears open while you’re there, okay?”

Tod nodded reluctantly, and I understood his frustration. The only special skills a reaper could use in the Netherworld were his actual soul-harvesting abilityand the ability to cross back over, which made sense, now that I knew he didn’t work there. He couldn’t go invisible, or walk through walls, or project his voice to only select occupants in a room.

He’d be practically human, and he didn’t look very pleased by the thought.

“What about you? What are you going to do?” He glanced to the left, at a clock hanging over the door into the commercial kitchen. “We still have nine hours to kill. Eight, if you want to get there early.”

Which I did, for obvious reasons.

“I’m going to see if I can crash at Emma’s. It’s okay to tell her about my sleeping issues, right, since they have nothing to do with the Demon’s Breath epidemic or Nash being missing?”

But Tod shook his head slowly. “Kay, I think you should stay away from Emma for a while.”

I frowned, my nearly empty mug of heavily doctored coffee hovering in front of my mouth. “Why?” We could keep an eye on each other. Her, for the demons in my dreams, and me for the demons in her body. “I need to know if Avari possesses her again.”

Tod leaned forward with his arms crossed on the table, eyeing me intently. “I know, but the truth is that if you’re with her, that’s much more likely to happen. Emma is a very convenient direct line of communication to you. But if you’re not with her, no one can talk to you through her.”

So the best way to protect Emma was to stay away from her.

Well, crap. Looks like I’m on my own today.

Tod glanced at the table for a moment before meeting my eyes. “I’ll have a little time between visiting Addy and going to work.” And he would have to work at least a half shift, because an unemployed reaper was a dead reaper, and a dead reaper was no good to anyone. “So I’ll pop in then and you can take a nap.”

I couldn’t stifle the yawn that came at the very thought of sleep. “Thanks.” A nap sounded sooo good. Assuming I could keep myself in my own world long enough to enjoy it.


OVER THE NEXT HOUR and a half, I drank an entire pot of coffee in front of the TV and fielded phone calls from Emma and my dad, while avoiding one call each from Harmony and Sophie. Emma called in tears, and it took me nearly twenty minutes to calm her down. Thanks to his father’s position in the community and his threat to sue the hospital, Doug’s death was getting a lot of coverage on the local stations. I felt horrible about not being able to comfort her in person, but Tod’s warning kept me firmly on my own couch, telling myself over and over again that I was staying away from Emma for her own good.

My dad was just calling to check up on me, and as bad as I felt about having to lie to him, if I’d told him I was alone, he would have left work—and possibly lost his job—to come sit with me while I napped.

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