My Soul to Steal Page 46

Finally he sucked in a shaky breath and looked up. “I think I killed your teachers, Kaylee. I think Avari used me to kill them. And I don’t know how to make him stop.”

My living room suddenly seemed a little darker. I couldn’t think. I could barely even breathe. Too many thoughts were flying through my head—too many questions—and I couldn’t focus on any one in particular.

“Alec…” I stared at the floor, willing both the carpet and my thoughts to come into focus. “Why… What…” I stopped, took another deep breath, then started over. “How is that even possible? They all died in their sleep, from what we can tell. Tod said there were no marks on them.”

When Alec just stared at his feet, I continued, desperate for some concrete information to keep from imagining things were worse than they really were. If that was even possible. “Are you saying Avari can… I don’t know. Are you saying he can use his own abilities through you, when he’s in your body?”

I couldn’t think of a more frightening possibility. Knowing a hellion had been in control of my body was terrifying. But if he could make me kill people, using powers I shouldn’t even possess…

There were no words to describe the depth of the horror weighing me down in that moment.

“No,” Alec said at last, dragging his gaze up to meet mine. But my relief was fleeting. “He can’t use his abilities outside of the Netherworld, even when he possesses me. But he can sure as hell use my abilities.”

“What?” My stomach tried to hurl itself up through my chest and out my mouth. “What abilities?”

I’d suspected Alec wasn’t human when he’d first contacted me—by possessing Emma from the Netherworld—but so far, he’d shown no nonhuman traits. Nor had he mentioned any.

I stood and backed away from Alec slowly, giving in to the single most logical moment of self-preservation in my entire life. “Please tell me you’re human, Alec. I need you to tell me you’re human right now. Tell me you haven’t been hiding something that big from me and my dad for two weeks.”

And please make me believe it…

Alec remained seated; I think he understood that if he stood, I’d lose what little control I was still clinging to. And that I’d shout for my dad. “I couldn’t tell you, Kaylee. I didn’t want you to be afraid of me.”

“It’s a little late for that now, so why don’t you just lay it out for me?” I backed around the coffee table and across the room. “What are you?”

Alec sighed and glanced at the couch pillow, like he’d like to rip it to shreds, or maybe clutch it to his chest. “It’s a long story.”

“It’s not like I’m going back to sleep.”I sat in the chair again and picked up my soda just to have something to hold.

“My mom’s human,” he began finally. “Avari caught her half a century ago and used her as a proxy for several years. While she was there, she fell in love. Not with him…” Alec said, anticipating my disgust before I could even ask the question now burning on the end of my tongue. “With someone else. With my father. He helped her sneak away from Avari for short periods of time, usually by distracting him with some plaything newer and shinier than my mom.”

My stomach churned harder. “Your dad gave Avari other people to…eat? Or whatever?”

“Not always people. Hellions’ interests are very broad and…” But he stopped when he read the horror surely clear on my face. “He did it for my mom. To spare her. To be with her.”

And I realized with a start that I could understand that, even if I couldn’t excuse it. Tod had done something very similar to be with Addison, after she’d died with her soul in Avari’s possession, dooming herself to eternal torment for the hellion’s pleasure.

I nodded for Alec to go on.

“Anyway, when she got pregnant, they both realized that my mom had to get out of the Netherworld, and that Avari could never know about me. If he got his hands on a half-breed—a potential proxy who could feed him much more and much longer than a human ever could—he’d be too powerful to fight, and my mom would never get out. So my dad arranged for someone who owed him a favor to ferry her back to the human world. They never saw each other again, and I was raised here, like a human.”

“She didn’t tell you?” A pang of sympathy rang through me at that thought. I’d been raised the same way, in total ignorance of who and what I really was, and of what my differences truly meant. Of what I could really do.

“Not until I was nearly grown and my differences began to manifest. She told me then because I needed to know how to control myself. How to keep from hurting anyone accidentally. Her big mistake was contacting my father for advice. She sent him messages through the friend who’d gotten her out of the Netherworld, but that put her on Avari’s radar again. He got to the messenger before my dad did that last time, and…well, I don’t know if he threatened him or paid him or what. But somehow he convinced the messenger to bring my mother to him, instead of delivering her message. And once Avari had her, it didn’t take him long to find out about me.”

“How did he get you?” I asked, my voice so low I could barely hear it. Avari had done the same thing to Nash, and to my dad, and it terrified me to know that he had the resources to take anyone he wanted from our world into the Netherworld, any time he wanted.

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