Betrayal - By Lee Nichols Page 0,2

music or—

You’ll hear music, Coby. I’ll play whatever you want.

His sad smile broke my heart. What am I supposed to do now?

I don’t know. Go see your parents? Sara and Harry miss you. I don’t know what your life will be like—

He shot me a look. My what?

Okay, wrong word. Your existence?

A short nod.

I don’t know what it’s going to be like being a ghost. I’m not even sure what it’s like to be a ghostkeeper. Sometimes I wish there were a manual. But I promise you two things. I’ll always be here for you. And I’m going to find Neos—I’m going to kill him for what he did to you.

He nodded slowly, then met my gaze. I’ll help you do it.

Oh! I smiled in relief that he didn’t hate me. I was just hoping you’d still talk to me.

It’s not like I’ve got so many other people to talk to. And you need all the help you can get.

Nah, I said, trying to reassure him. I’ve got everything under control.

Other than being trapped in my grave? Too bad you’re not a ghost—if you were, you could do this. He shot me a crooked grin, like the old Coby, and vanished.

He had a point.

Okay, so you’ve fallen into a grave. Your ghost friend abandons you, you’re cold and wet and wishing you’d worked more on your biceps. How do you get yourself out?

I wasn’t about to use the original Emma’s ring to turn into a ghost. Not only because this was so ridiculous, but because I didn’t know if there were any side effects, like that ring in Tolkien. All I needed was to start gibbering about my preciousssss.

Instead, I hurled myself at the muddy wall and clawed upward until I reached the top of the open grave and grabbed a handful of grass. My boots skidded and slipped as I got another grassy handhold and dragged myself out.

I lay on the ground, panting and aching and wondering how I’d ever get the mud out of the only coat I owned. The snow drifted down and the cold soaked into my sore fingers.

And a pair of worn lace-up boots appeared beside my head. Perfect. The groundskeeper. Probably about to call the police.

“What happened?” he asked.

I knew that voice, like I knew the taste of a hot red-eye chai on a cold morning. I looked up at him, feeling a glow of warmth despite the weather. Bennett. He wore a navy wool coat over a gray sweater and slim jeans, looking casual and gorgeous.

“Thank God it’s you,” I said.

He took my hand—very briefly—and helped me to my feet. “I thought I’d find you here. Only not looking quite so muddy.” He glanced into the grave. “Did you …?”

“I fell, okay?”

“Then clawed your way out like a bad zombie movie?”

I brushed dirt from my peacoat. “Could’ve happened to anyone.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, your first real summoning. The flash surprises everyone.”

“You might’ve warned me.”

“I would have, if I’d known you were coming so soon,” he said. “He’s not even buried yet.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

He gestured to the side of his head. “You’ve got a little something …”

I pulled a dead beetle from my hair. “Gah.”

He bit his lip, trying not to laugh.

“It’s all right.” I sighed. “I’d laugh, too, if I weren’t freezing and slug-ridden. And do I smell?”

“Maybe a little,” he admitted. “C’mon, I’ll take you home.”

He moved to put his arm around me, which was brave considering I stank like Swamp Thing. “I’m okay,” I said, stepping away from him.

Bennett reluctantly let his arm drop, then stuck both hands in the pockets of his coat. “How did it go?”

I shrugged. “He’s back.”

“Is he different?”

“A little.” We walked toward the gates of the cemetery. “His clothes don’t fit right, and I don’t know … he’s sadder and sharper. And even better looking.”

Bennett grunted.

“Not that I care,” I said. “I mean, I do care. I’m glad he’s back. But I don’t care that he’s gorgeous. That’s not the only reason I wanted him back. I mean, that’s not why I summoned him at all. Why am I even talking about this?”

Bennett nudged me with his elbow. “You’re nervous. It’s a big deal, summoning a ghost from his grave.”

“Plus, he’s the only one I knew when he was alive.”

“You’re not still blaming yourself for his death, are you?”

I huddled silently in my muddy coat and followed Bennett toward his ancient Land Rover. I climbed into the left side, because the car had come Copyright 2016 - 2022