My Soul to Keep Page 81

“Wait, Kaylee, who’s Alec—?”

But I hung up without answering, then kissed my unconscious father on the cheek and summoned my wail to cross over one more time.

In the Netherworld classroom, Alec had his hands curled around clumps of dark curls on either side of his skull, as if he were about to rip them out. Tod stood in the doorway, staring down the hall in case anyone else showed up. “Okay, let’s go find Nash,” I said, and both heads whipped in my direction.

“You came back…” Alec said, relief and disbelief warring for control of his wavering voice.

“Of course I came back. You think I’d leave Nash here?” The proxy frowned, and I couldn’t help but smile. “Or you? Let’s go!”

But we’d only made it halfway down the hall when a sudden unanimous roar of triumph from outside made my blood run cold in my veins. I grabbed two thick handfuls of white satin skirt and ran into the nearest classroom and over to the row of windows set into the outside wall, which—thanks to the H-shaped footprint of the school—looked out over the broad front lawn.

I yanked on the dusty pull-cord dangling in front of my face and the aluminum blinds ratcheted up, shining the dying, anemic light from outside into the dark classroom. The crowd gathered in front of the school had nearly doubled since we’d come inside. And every single bizarre, misshapen face was turned toward the broad front porch, where three familiar figures now stood.

In the center was a tall, darkly elegant male form who could only have been Avari, the host of the night’s twisted jamboree. And on either side of him stood a glowing, white-clad female figure.

Avari had found the missing lampade, and the night’s festivities were back on schedule.

As if to punctuate that fact, Alec suddenly doubled over, arms wrapped around his middle like his guts were being twisted from within. “He’s drawing power from me. It’s too much, too fast, without a supplement from your dad.” The proxy gasped, and struggled to stand in spite of obvious pain. “He’s feeding them, and it’s going to kill me. And your boyfriend.”

“Tod, do something!” I insisted, panicked, unable to tear my gaze from the spectacle outside. “Whatever it takes to stop them from opening that doorway.”

The reaper glanced from my desperate, earnest expression to the spectacle outside, to the now-pallid proxy, then back to me. “I’m not leaving you here, Kaylee.”

“I’ll be fine. I have Alec, right?” I insisted, and the proxy nodded halfheartedly, his face now waxy with pain. “We’ll cross over as soon as I find Nash. Now go, or none of us will get that chance!”

After another moment’s hesitation, Tod nodded, then disappeared from the Netherworld just as a sudden swell of bright light from the ground drew an eerie “Ahhh…” from the crowd below, and a low groan from Alec. And while all eyes were focused on thelight shining from the front of the school, a sudden, darker movement in the opposite direction caught my gaze.

Something was moving in the crowd. Something headed steadily away from the lampades, while everyone else was easing gradually toward them.

I squinted against the painful glare of living light and finally made out Addison’s long, half-head-full of straight blond hair, the other half of which had been singed from her scarred, pink skull. And just behind her, being pulled along by her good hand, was a form I would have recognized anywhere, in any reality, even hunched over in obvious pain.


“There he is!” I cried, my voice approaching dog-whistle pitch. I pointed with one finger pressed to the cold window glass, and Alec’s pained gaze followed mine as he clutched the windowsill for balance. “See? Heading for the tree at the back of the crowd?” The one we’d huddled beneath only a quarter of an hour earlier.

Alec nodded and stifled a moan. “I see him.”

Unfortunately, while Addison was pulling him away from the Netherworld crowd and Avari’s new pets, she was also pulling him away from us, and I wasn’t sure we could get to them in time. Not without being noticed.

But we had to try.

“Come on!” I hiked up Sophie’s dirt-smudged skirt and pulled Alec out of the room and down the hall, fervently hoping he wouldn’t trip, or collapse entirely. At the top of the staircase, I paused and glanced back at him with one finger pressed to my lips in the international—and hopefully cross-reality—symbol for “shhhh.” Then I took the stairs as softly as I could in sneakers, my hand tight around his.

From the bottom step, I could see Avari and the brightly glowing lampades clearly through the glass front doors, and my pulse raced as I paused to stare for a moment, desperately hoping they couldn’t hear my heart pounding in my chest louder than a jackhammer through concrete.

“What are you doing?” Alec whispered pulling me weakly away from the front entrance. “Is there another way out of here?”

I blinked as tears filled my eyes to defend them from the bright light still forming red circles behind my eyelids. “Yeah. The gym.” One arm around his waist now, I led the way down the hall and through the double doors into the gym. I half carried him across the deserted wooden floor—absent of any basketball court makings—and paused at the closest exit while I crossed my mental fingers.

Then I pushed the door open slowly, just enough to peer outside.

The excited mass mumblings from the crowd swelled immediately, but there wasn’t a single creature in sight on this side of the building. Glancing back, I nodded at Alec, then pushed the door open far enough for us to slip through—snagging the hem of Sophie’s dress on something sharp once again. I tugged the material free and held the door open for Alec, then let it close gently.

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