Never to Sleep Page 14

In middle school, I’d watched her show obsessively, convinced I looked enough like her to play her younger sister on television. But then I’d focused my ambition on dance, and she’d left TV to release an album, and earlier this year she’d…

“You’re dead.” I shook my head, trying to wrap my brain around facts that made no sense. “I saw it on the news. How can you be here if you died?”

“I don’t know.” Addison scowled at me, like I’d hurt her feelings. “How are you here, if you died?”

“I’m not… I didn’t…” I didn’t know how to respond to nonsense.

Addison wasn’t really dead, obviously, and neither was I. Had she gotten stuck here, just like me and Luca? Had her family just assumed she was dead, when she went missing? Would my dad assume I was dead if I never made it home?

“I don’t know. That’s the problem,” I said finally. “I don’t know how we got here, and I don’t know how to get back.”

Addison shrugged, and her gaze wandered again. “Go back the way you came.”

Something scraped the ground at her side and I glanced down to see that one of the crimson creeper vines had wrapped itself around a plastic bottle of water and was pulling it slowly toward the jungle gym bars. Addison sighed and picked the bottle up, then unwrapped the vine from it with her bare fingers. “Greedy, bloodthirsty little suckers,” she mumbled. Then she handed the bottle to me. “He sent this for you. Can’t have you dying of thirst before he’s done with you.”

“Who?” I asked, untwisting the cap from the bottle. But then I realized that the bottle had no label and that the cap hadn’t cracked when I opened it. The bottle hadn’t been sealed.

“Where did you get this?” I stared through the clear bottle at the contents.

Addison shrugged but didn’t answer.

“Is this from a local source?” I asked, sniffing the opening of the bottle.

“From the fountain in the park. That’s the best water, though it tastes a little sour at first. But I can get some from the pond instead, if you’d rather forget.”

“Forget what?”

She shrugged. “Whatever it is you don’t want to remember.”

“No, thanks.” I handed the bottle back to her, but she refused to take it.

“He wants you to drink this.”

“Who? The hellion? I don’t give a damn what he wants, I’m not drinking any of your creepy-ass hell water. What will it do, anyway?” Would it shrink me, like Alice’s “drink me” bottle in Wonderland? If so, maybe I should drink it, so I’d be small enough to walk right through one of those narrow gaps in the plant life.

“Don’t worry,” Addison said. “This is the good kind. It’ll make you sleepy….” She covered a giant yawn with one hand, and I wondered ifshe’d already taken a hit.

I shoved the bottle farther away, and it fell over into the dirt. “I don’t want to forget, and I sure as hell don’t want to go to sleep.” Sleeping in the Netherworld was a very bad idea—waking up in a jungle gym prison had taught me that, if little else.

Addison shrugged again. “You’ll change your mind soon. But that’ll be too late. It always is.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

She nodded sagely. “It never does.”

I shook my head, trying to draw my own thoughts into focus, since she clearly couldn’t wrangle hers. Maybe she’d been drinking the local water. “Addison, did you see the guy that was with me?”

“The pretty boy.” Her eyes went baby-doll wide and wistful. “You should have kissed him while you had the chance.”

What did that mean? Had I lost the chance? “His name’s Luca. Do you know where he is?”

“He’s waiting for a ride.”

“A ride to what? Home? He’s going home?”

Addison nodded again, and impatience buzzed beneath my skin. Time felt like it was slipping through my fingers, leaving me grasping for something I couldn’t grab onto. How long had I been unconscious? What time was it? I couldn’t tell from the crazy-colored sky in this Nether hell.

“How do you know? Just because that hellion said he’d send Luca home? How do you know he was telling the truth?”

Addison shrugged. “Hellions can’t lie.”

“Seriously?” What kind of evil monster couldn’t lie?

She frowned, studying my face, her head tilted like she was thinking really hard, but couldn’t quite pull her thoughts into line, and suddenly she reminded me of my ex, when I’d seen him in the psychiatric hospital. “Maybe he’ll let us keep you, when he’s done with you. I used to have a sister.”

Oh, hell no. My chill bumps were the size of igloos. “I have to go with Luca. Where is he? Can you take me to him?”

For one fleeting instant, I understood how bizarre my existence had become. I was talking to a dead pop star beneath a jungle gym cage, in a world that couldn’t possibly exist. Was this my punishment for calling Kaylee crazy? Had karma bitten back to make me as crazy as she was, or was insanity contagious?

Had I lost my mind?

“You don’t need him,” she said. “You don’t need anyone.”

Anger swooped in to overwhelm some of my fear. “You don’t know what I need!”

“No, you don’t know what you need!” she shouted back, and I nearly swallowed my own tongue in surprise. No one ever shouted at me. Ever. “You don’t know who you are, and you don’t know what you have either. And you won’t until you realize you’ve lost everything and can never get any of it back.”

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