My Soul to Steal Page 15

I opened my mouth to ask who he could possibly have hired as a Netherworld ferry, but he continued before I could.

“Don’t ask. There are places you can go. People—kind of—who will do it for the right price.”

Fresh chill bumps crawled over my skin, followed by a bitter wash of revulsion. I hated it that he even knew things like that.

“But my point,” Nash continued, “is that I was trying to talk myself out of it when she showed up on my porch. And we just talked. I swear that’s all that happened, but it was enough. She gave me something to think about, other than how badly I wanted a hit, or an hour alone with you.”

“So she’s a substitute for me?” Suddenly my throat felt thick and hot. Bruised by the words I made myself swallow. How was I supposed to trust the two of them alone together, knowing that? “That’s not fair, Nash. I can’t…”

“I know. You’re not ready to be alone with me, and I understand that. I deserve it. But I need someone, Kaylee. I need a friend. And in case you haven’t noticed, no one else is exactly beating down the door to talk to me right now.” His wide-armed gesture took in the entire table, still empty except for us.

“They just don’t know what to say,” I insisted. “People never know what to say when someone close to you dies, and it’s even worse this time, thanks to the rumors about Scott.” Half the student body thought he and I were cheating on Nash and my cousin, Sophie, and that we’d been caught the day of Scott’s infamous breakdown.

“I know, but that doesn’t change anything. I’ve been alone and sick from withdrawal for two weeks, and when I get back to school, people just stare at me and whisper.”

“I get it.” How could I not? But I had Emma and Alec to help distract me from Nash’s absence. And even Tod had been coming around more lately… “What about Tod?” I asked, as the thought occurred to me. “Why can’t you just hang out with your brother?”

“Because he won’t talk to me. I haven’t even seen him since that night. After the Winter Carnival.” When he’d punched Nash for letting Avari possess me over and over. “Since he can’t do anything else for Addy, he’s decided that he’s your white knight, and I don’t think he’s going to forgive me until you do.”

Wow. “I had no idea.”

Nash leaned forward and crossed his arms over the table, staring directly into my eyes. “I’m not making a play for your sympathy. I know I got myself into this. But I need someone to talk to—someone to just hang out with—and I know you’re not ready to play that role for me yet. But Sabine is. And she needs me for the same reason. She’s new here, and she doesn’t know anyone else, and she’s trying to pull herselftogether. Just like I am.”

I held his gaze, my next question stalled on my tongue, where I wanted it to wither and die. But I had to know. “Did you love her, Nash?”

His pause was barely noticeable. But I noticed. “Yeah. We were only fifteen, but yeah, I loved her.” He blinked, then met my gaze again, letting me see the truth swirling in his. “But that was years ago. She’s just a friend now, Kaylee.”

My leg bounced under the table, uncontrollably. “Have you told her that?”

“Yeah. And eventually, it’ll actually sink in. Look, I know she makes you uncomfortable, and I’m sorry about that. And if it’s going to mean losing my second chance with you, I’ll tell her to go away. But I’m asking you not to make me do that.”

I bristled. “I can’t make you do anything, Nash.” Though the same could not be said for him and his Influence.

He frowned. “You know what I mean.”

“You want my blessing to strike up a friendship with your ex-girlfriend. The first girl you ever slept with, who’s still in love with you and doesn’t even deny it. Does that sum it up?”

Another long exhale. “Yeah. I think that covers it.”

If I said yes, I’d be giving him permission to spend time with his hot, willing ex. If I said no, I’d be denying him what he needs to work through his addiction.

How did I even get into this mess?

He’d left me no real choice, unless I was ready to let him go. Or willing to pretend that the past six weeks of my life had never happened. And I couldn’t do that, even if I wanted to. Not yet.

“Fine. Hang out with Sabine. But if this thing goes beyond friendship and support—”

I’ll what? Leave him to find solace in her arms? Or her bed? That’s exactly what she wanted, and in spite of Nash’s good intentions, it wouldn’t take him long to get over me, considering the kind of comfort she’d offer. I had no doubt of that.

“It won’t,” Nash insisted, saving me from grasping for a viable threat, and I hated the sudden surge of relief in his eyes. How could he not see what she was really like?

“Whatever. But don’t expect me to spend time with the two of you.” Though maybe Tod would, if I asked him. He couldn’t watch them every second, but surely he’d see enough to report back on the true nature of their relationship….

Great, now I’m spying on Nash. I should have been ashamed. Instead, I was just…scared. Scared of losing him—even though I’d pushed him away—because now she was there to catch him.

“Just…be careful, okay? You may be looking for some kind of Netherworldly AA sponsor, but she’s looking for trouble. I saw it in her eyes.”

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