My Soul to Steal Page 14

“No!” He leaned forward and lowered his pitch when the cafeteria door opened behind me and new voices came into the quad. “Kaylee, you’re making this into a much bigger deal than it really is. Some asshole from our school in Fort Worth tried to make her do something she didn’t want to do. If she’d told me about it, I’d have taken care of him.”

The flash of pure fury in Nash’s eyes told me how badly he wished he’d had that chance.

“But she’s stubborn—like someone else I know—and she wanted to handle it herself. So she pounded on his car with his own bat. She got probation for that, but a few months later she missed curfew and was picked up for violating her parole. While she was in the detention center, waiting to see the judge, some idiot picked a fight with her in the cafeteria. Sabine broke her jaw with a lunch tray.”

Words utterly deserted me. Concepts were even a bit iffy for a minute there. Then, suddenly, I couldn’t speak fast enough.

“She broke someone’s jaw with a lunch tray.” I leaned forward, whispering fiercely. “She hates me, Nash—I can see it when she looks at me—and in case you haven’t noticed, we all share a lunch period. Where there happens to be an abundance of lunch trays.”

“She’s not…” Nash stopped, closed his eyes, then started over. “She doesn’t hate you, Kaylee. She’s jealous of you. But she’s not gonna hit you. Even if she wanted to, she wouldn’t, because she knows that’d piss me off.”

“Exactly what part of that is supposed to make me feel better?” Though, honestly, hearing that she was jealous of me did make me feel a teeny, tiny bit better.

He shrugged, but still looked pale and miserable. “I’m just answering your questions. What more do you want?”

What did I want? I wanted Nash. The old Nash, who’d loved me and wanted to protect me, and had risked both his life and his soul to help me. But I didn’t know—couldn’t believe—he’d had time to truly get himself back together. I wanted Sabine to transfer back to wherever she’d come from. I wanted to turn back time and make things right again.

“This isn’t about what I want,” I said at last. When in doubt, change the subject. “This is about what she wants. She wants you, Nash. You know that, right? Or is there some kind of testosterone-powered mind shield that prevents you from seeing her for what she is?”

Nash frowned and let a moment pass in tense silence before he answered. “I know what she wants, Kaylee. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to get it.”

I should have been relieved. I should have been dancing on the table in joy. But something in his eyes said my celebration would have been premature. “She will if you keep letting her hang out in your room till two in the morning.” Please, please correct me. Say she wasn’t there that late.

But no correction came.

“You’re not going to stop hanging out with her, are you?” My voice held a numbing combination of anger and disbelief.

For a moment, he watched me, studying my expression. “Are you asking me to?”

Damn it, why is this conversation so hard? I didn’t have any right to tell him who not to hang out with! How pissed would I be if he told me to stop hanging out with Emma or Alec?

The answers were there, and they were clear, but I didn’t like them.

“Nash, I just… I can’t see any way for this to play out without one of the three of us—or maybe all three of us—getting hurt.” And possibly actually injured.

Nash exhaled heavily and stared at the table for several seconds before finally dragging his gaze up to meet mine. “Kaylee, I still love you, and I still want you back. I miss you like you wouldn’t believe, and I swear that not seeing you for the past couple of weeks—not even hearing your voice—hurt worse than the nausea and headaches combined. It kills me to sit here knowing I no longer have the right to lean over this table and kiss you. I want to be the first person you call the next time something goes wrong. I want to know that you’re eventually going to be able to forgive me. And I’m not gonna do anything to jeopardize that possibility.” He took a deep breath and held my gaze. “But Sabine needs me…”

“No…” I shook my head, but he spoke over me, refusing to be interrupted.

“Yes, she does. You may not like it or understand it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. And right now, I need her, too.”

“You need her?” My nightmare came roaring back like a train about to run me over, and suddenly I wondered if it was more premonition than dream. I summoned anger to disguise the deep ache in my chest. “In what way do you need her exactly, and do not tell me she scratches the right itch, or I swear I will walk away right now, and this time I won’t look back, Nash.”

He exhaled again and his features suddenly looked heavy, like he couldn’t have formed a smile if he’d wanted to. “I’m not sleeping with her, Kaylee. I swear on my soul.”

I would have been relieved by his admission—and the confirmation I saw in his slowly swirling eyes—but I was too confused to process much of anything in that moment. “Then why would you possibly need her?”

Nash closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Then he met my gaze over our forgotten lunches. “I’m two weeks clean, and every single day feels like starting all over. It never gets any easier, but yesterday truly sucked for me. Seeing you and not being able to touch you—hardly getting to talk to you… That made everything harder. Including willpower. Last night, I was one breath away from paying someone to cross me into the Netherworld.”

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