My Soul to Keep Page 83

I propped myself up on one elbow to see that the front doors had opened. And not one of the carnival-goers was disappearing into a painfully bright void. Tod had done his job. Sort of.

A sudden commotion from our left drew my attention, and I glanced up to find the reaper running toward us, fully corporeal, dragging Luci the lampade—in her human guise—across the frozen ground. Two school security guards ran several feet behind them, overweight and panting, their cheeks flushed by the cold. Tod stopped beneath the tree branches and abruptly dropped Luci’s arm, his eyes swirling with both relief and pain at having left Addy. Then he shot one worried look at Nash and blinked out of existence, hopefully having returned to the hospital to finish his aborted shift.

Assuming he had a job to return to.

“Where’d he go?” The security guard stumbled to a stop in front me. He was bent in half, wheezing with both hands propped on his knees.

I stood, brushing my hands on the ruined skirt of Sophie’s dress. “Where’d who go?” I asked, my eyes wide in innocence as the astonished lampade gaped at me.

The guard scowled, thick forehead furrowed. “The…boy. Who was pulling her…”

“There’s no one here but us,” Alec said, wiping tears of joy on his sleeve. He looked like he’d almost laughed himself to death.

“Are you okay?” the other guard asked Luci, and she could only nod, no doubt stunned by events on both sides of the gray fog, which she could see simultaneously.

“I’m f-fine,” she stuttered, her voice high and clear.

“Thank you.”

“Let us know if he shows up again,” the first guard said, then the pair waddled off toward the carnival again, shaking their heads in confusion. When they were gone, the motley members of our odd gathering could only eye one another warily, bean sidhe, former proxy, and lampade each equally stunned by our near capture.

“He’ll send us after them again,” Luci said finally, glancing briefly at Nash as if he held no interest to her at all. As if she didn’t care one way or another which world he occupied.

“Yeah, but if you take Nash and my father back to Avari—if you give him anyone else strong enough to power his little human generator—you may as well put a gun in your mouth. And your sister’s, too.”

Luci frowned, and I realized I had truly captured her attention for the first time. “What does that mean?”

“He would have killed you both,” I said as I pulled Nash closer with one arm. He came willingly, but made no move on his own. “Avari was going to bleed you both until you died powering his pedestrian bridge to nowhere. And he still will, if you give him a chance.” I held Nash tight as he began to chatter, his freezing skin leaching the warmth from my own.

Luci only blinked at me, her stunned expression edged by distrust. “You’re lying.”

I shrugged. “Fine. Believe what you want. But we both know Tod could have killed you if he’d wanted to. Twice. And I’m sure he was tempted, considering you kidnapped his brother. But he didn’t so much as bruise your arm dragging you away from certain death. What does that tell you about who means you harm and who doesn’t?”

Luci’s frown deepened, and true fear flitted across her face. But she hadn’t so much as glanced at Nash in regret, and had yet to ask about my father.

“Look, I don’t care where you go or what you do, so long as you stay away from us. And if you want to live, you should get your sister and stay away from Avari, too.”

And finally, Luci nodded. She was still nodding when Alec and I walked off with Nash wobbling between us.

“Kaylee Cavanaugh, you bitch!” A shrill voice called as I pulled open the front door of my rental car minutes later.

“That’s a six-hundred-dollar gown, and you ruined it! What the hell are you doing in my dress?” Sophie demanded, flanked by two other Snow Queen contestants in long formal gowns, while she still wore jeans and an angora sweater beneath a pink quilted down jacket.

“Saving the day,” I said, closing Nash’s door as Alec settled himself into the backseat. I crossed in front of the car and sank into my own seat, tucking the voluminous, ruined skirt in around my legs. “You’re welcome.”

Then I slammed my door and drove off, leaving Sophie and her friends to stare after us in astonishment.


MY HAND SHOOK as I turned off the car and pulled the key from the ignition. Nash’s front porch light shone through the windshield, highlighting his face, but all I could think about was how he’d kept me in the dark, fighting an evil he’d already embraced. He leaned against the passenger’s-side window, staring at his unlit house. His mother was out, and hopefully blissfully ignorant of what we’d gone through. That wouldn’t last long; we’d have to tell her everything soon, because if we didn’t, my father would.

But for the moment, this private, temporary reprieve from chaos was too valuable to waste.

For lack of any place else to take him, I’d left Alec at my house with my dad and my uncle when I’d gone in to change clothes. My dad was worried about me, furious with Nash, and understandably scared by the whole thing, though he covered it with almost believable bravado.

Uncle Brendon was relieved that everyone had survived and that Sophie hadn’t been sucked into the Netherworld. And he didn’t give a damn about the ruined pageant gown. He’d promised to work on calming down my dad while I took Nash home.

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