My Soul to Steal Page 47

In fact, I might never sleep again, knowing that.

“He told me I could trade myself for her. He swore he’d send her back here the minute I turned myself over to him.”

“Did he?” My heart beat so hard I could barely hear him over it. And I was afraid I already knew the answer.

“Yeah. But what he neglected to mention was that she was already dead. He used her up in one gluttonous energy binge, and when I crossed over, he sent her body back to the human world.”

Alec’s jaw tensed, and I knew without asking that if he hadn’t already had years to mourn his mother, he might have broken into tears right then. “I didn’t get to go to her funeral. I don’t know where she’s buried. I don’t even know who found her. All I know is that if I have any relatives left, I can’t go see them, because I haven’t aged since the day she died. And knowing what Avari’s been doing with my body…I can’t put the rest of my family—whatever’s left of it—in danger. You and your dad are all I have here. And if I can’t make Avari stop possessing me, I’m going to lose you, too.”

I wanted to deny it. I wanted to put my arm around him and comfort him like the brother I’d never had. Or like an uncle, considering our age difference. But I couldn’t do that, because he was right. If Avari had that much control over him, no one was safe. Least of all me and my father.

“How did he do it?” I asked. “How did he make you kill them? What are you, Alec?”

Alec looked up at me through shiny brown eyes. “I’m half hypnos.”

“What’s a hypnos?” I held my breath, waiting for his explanation, but couldn’t slow my racing pulse.

“Hypnos are minor Netherworld creatures that feed from the energy of sleeping humans through the barrier between worlds. Full-blood hypnos can’t cross into the human world, but obviously I can. I think Avari used me to suck your teachers dry in their sleep.” He closed his eyes briefly, then opened them so I could see his raging anger and guilt. “It turns out I’m even more useful to that hellion bastard here than I was in the Netherworld.”


“YOU’RE A HYPNOS?” I rubbed my hands over the cotton of my pajama pants, needing to feel something real and familiar to assure me that I was still safe in my own living room. That I hadn’t accidentally crossed into that world of nightmares—or succumbed to an actual nightmare.

“Half hypnos,” Alec corrected, scowling at the floor again.

My mind didn’t want to accept the concept, and my mouth didn’t really want to ask the next question. But I did, anyway. “Minor creature from the Netherworld… Please tell me that ‘minor creature’ isn’t a euphemism for ‘monster of titanic proportions.’ Your dad isn’t some kind of demon, is he? A hellioncousin species?”

“My father is dead.” Alec’s words were clipped short, yet no hint of emotion showed on his face. “But, no, he wasn’t any relation to hellions. Hellions deal in human souls—no other Netherworld creature does that. Hypnos are just another species of Netherworlder, most of which feed from humans in some way. Some absorb the energy that bleeds through from this world to theirs. Some drink human bodily fluids. Some eat flesh. For most species, human by-products are a delicacy—delicious, but unnecessary. Like your dad’s cupcakes. However, hypnos are one of the few species that need some human energy in their diet to survive. They feed through the barrier.”

“How did your dad die?” I asked, pushing aside the information I wasn’t ready to deal with yet—the fact that Alec was at least half psychic carnivore.

“Avari killed him when I crossed into the Netherworld, to keep him from trying to send me home.”

“I’m so sorry.”

Alec only shrugged. “I’ve had plenty of time to deal. Besides, it’s not like I ever actually met him.”

Still, I knew what it felt like to lose a parent, and he’d suffered twice my loss. That realization reminded me that Alec had a human side as well as a monster side, which tempered my fear and horror with a bit of empathy.

But what if his Hyde half was stronger than Dr. Jekyll?

“So, do you have to…feed? From humans? Like your dad?” And like Sabine?

Alec shook his head. “I didn’t even know I could until I was nearly grown. I inherited the ability to feed from human energy, but not the necessity.”

Thank goodness. But suddenly another question was poking at my conscious mind. “Alec, did you pull me into the Netherworld in my sleep, that first time I saw you?” He’d been stomping his way through a field of razor wheat, wielding a metal trash can lid like a shield.

“Yeah. Sorry.” He looked almost as ashamed about that as he was about hiding his species. “I was just trying to get in touch with you while you slept. Subconsciously. But it didn’t go exactly like I’d planned.”

Oddly enough, I wasn’t angry over his admission. At least now I wouldn’t have to worry that I’d dream of death and wake up in the Netherworld again.

“So…how does it work—Avari using you to kill people?”

Alec shrugged miserably. “I don’t know. I’m not really in here when he does it.” He tapped his skull with one long index finger. “But I can tell you one thing. The energy he’s taking from them—and it must be a lot, if it’s killing them—must be going straight through me to him, because I’m not getting any of it. I’m almost as worn out now as I was in the Netherworld.”

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