My Soul to Steal Page 48

That was a mixed blessing, for sure. The thought of Alec—my new friend and confidant—devouring my teachers’ life force made me sick to my stomach. But knowing it was strengthening Avari instead was no better.

“Why teachers?” I asked, and Alec’s frown only deepened.

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything about this, Kaylee. I’ve never even been to your school—at least, not while I’m in control of my own body.”

I frowned at a vague glimmer of light on the dark horizon. “So then…are you sure this is what’s happening? ’Cause I’d be perfectly happy to continue pinning this on Sabine.” And I was only partly joking.

“I know you want her to be guilty, and I’m not exactly eager to take the blame for something I had no control over. But for the past two nights in a row, I’ve gone to sleep on the couch, then woken up standing in the middle of the kitchen, fully clothed, with no idea how I got there. Avari’s using me to kill people, and I have to make it stop.”

“You will. We will. I’ll help you.” But I wasn’t sure how to even begin, other than making sure no one fell asleep at school. Ever.

I stood to take my empty can into the kitchen, and his voice followed me. “Thanks, but I don’t think there’s anything you can do. I’m not sure there’s much either of us can do.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what Avari thought last time, and look how that turned out.” I tossed the can into the recycle bin and pulled a fresh one from the fridge. “We got you, Nash, and my dad out of the Netherworld and kept Avari from forcibly emigrating the entire population of Eastlake High.”

Alec huffed, a harsh sound of skepticism. “Unfortunately, that silver lining is overshadowed by one hell of a gray cloud. You and Nash took a wrong turn on the road to happily ever after, and Avari’s practically got on-demand access to my body and my feeding abilities.”

“Avari doesn’t get credit for driving a wedge between me and Nash,” I insisted. “Nash did that himself, and he’s only letting Sabine drive that wedge deeper.” I popped the tab on my soda as I crossed the living room again, then sank into my dad’s recliner. “And as for you… At least now that we know what he’s doing, we have a shot at stopping him.”

But the truth was that our shot was a long shot at best. The only thing keeping Avari in check before was the fact that he couldn’t cross into the human world. And now that he’d found a way—not to mention a very powerful weapon to wield—he was virtually unstoppable. The hellion was playing by new rules, and we’d have to adapt to them quickly to have any hope of stopping him.

“Kaylee…?” Alec’s voice was oddly soft and tentative, drawing me from grim thoughts.


“What are you gonna do? I mean… Are yougoing to tell…people?”

He meant my dad. My father had bent over backward to help Alec, out of gratitude. But if he found out that Alec was being used as Avari’s murder weapon—and that he’d kept his species and abilities a secret—my dad would kick him out without a second thought. At the very least. He wouldn’t let anyone or anything risk my safety, even if that meant turning his back on a friend.

“I don’t have anywhere else to go, Kay.” Alec met my gaze frankly. “I spent the past quarter of a century groveling for whatever crumbs of mercy fell from Avari’s table, and the pickings were very, very slim. When I got back to the human world, I swore things would be different. Here, I have freedom and self-respect. And friends. But one word from you could take all that away. So I’m begging you, Kaylee.”

Alec’s eyes watered, and I could see how much it cost him to beg for mercy, when he should have been way past such bruising necessities.

“And I swear, it’ll never happen again. I won’t let it. I spent two and a half decades trying to get free from Avari, and I am not going to let him use me here like he used me there. But I need your help. I need you to keep this quiet while I figure out how to keep him out of my body. And I swear on my life that I’ll never let him use me to kill again.”

I wanted so badly to believe him. He looked sincere, and he sounded sincere, and both my heart and my gut believed the agony and determination clear on his face. But what if I was wrong, and he was lying? What if he’d known all along what Avari was doing, and they were working together?

Or what if, in spite of his best efforts, he couldn’t stop Avari from using him? What if he knew this was the only thing keeping Avari from calling in every favor owed to him to get his former proxy back? What if Alec was willing to pay this price—to let innocent people die—for his freedom from the Netherworld, and now he was playing me for a fool to keep me quiet?

The soul-searing truth was that I no longer knew who I could trust—my own track record made that painfully clear.

I’d trusted Nash, and he’d lied to me. I’d trusted Tod, and he’d withheld the truth about what could happen to me in the Netherworld. I’d trusted my family, and they had all lied to me about who and what I am, for almost my entire life.

The only person in the whole world—either world—that I was sure had never lied to me was Emma, and unfortunately, the reverse could not be said. I’d lied to her countless times, trying to keep her safe from Netherworld elements.

My life was a tower of lies, and I could feel that tower leaning. One day it would fall and crush me, and everyone around me. But until then, all I could do was slap on some more mortar and cling to the framework of trust in humanity that held me upright. Even if I was contributing to my own eventual downfall.

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