Nevermore (Nevermore #1)(8)


by Kelly Creagh

Isobel glanced down at her hand, at the pale purple lines that had somehow, very faintly, remained. “Sounds like some foul disease.”

“Your face is a foul disease. Now shut up so I can concentrate.”

Isobel rolled her eyes. She leaned her head against her hand, her elbow resting on the arm of the sofa, and eyed her metallic pink cell phone, which she’d set on the end table next to the TV remote. It sat there silent and still beneath the glow of the beige, fat-bellied lamp. She’d brought it down from her room after letting it charge just in case Nikki, the traitor, sent her a text.

Or in case Brad called.

She couldn’t get it out of her mind, though. The way Varen had looked at her in the hall. He probably thought she’d told Brad everything, just to get back at him. He must have thought she’d run right to him and told him what happened, showed him her hand and said, “Go get him!”

Absently Isobel ran her fingers across the back of her hand, over the place he’d written on her. If she concentrated, she could still feel the sensation of the pen, the weight of his hand, the sharpness of the ballpoint.

Hunkering down into the couch cushions, she hooked a thumb in her T-shirt, biting the collar, unnerved all over again by the memory.

Were they even still on for the project?

Her eyes fell to her phone and lingered there.

Finally she stood. “Don’t burn down the house,” she snapped at Danny, grabbing her cell.

She flipped open the phone as she wandered into the kitchen and scrutinized the digits on her hand—or rather, what remained of them. Was that last one a zero or a nine? She decided to guess, pressing the corresponding keys.

The phone rang on the other end. And rang . . . and rang.

“Hello?” a woman’s light, sweet voice answered. This must be his mom, Isobel thought, admitting to herself that she’d half expected a gravelly tone and a chain smoker’s cough.

“Uh, yes. May I speak to—” She glanced up, catching sight of the digital clock on the stove. Nine thirty. She gasped.

“Hello?” the voice asked.

“Oh, I—Sorry.” Isobel sputtered, remembering what he’d said about calling after nine.

Automatically her thumb jabbed the end button. The phone went dead. For a moment she held the cell limp in her hand, staring at it. It was kind of a strange thing to say, now that she thought about it: Don’t call after nine. What did he mean, Don’t call after nine? What happened at nine? Was that when he retired to his tomb? Was it some bogus rule of his parents or his own thing? Why was he so weird?

Isobel wandered back into the living room, only to find Danny right where she’d left him, the TV screen flashing in bold biohazard orange while a high-pitched voice cackled evil victory in the background.

“Man!” He moaned, and threw the controller against the entertainment center.

“Hey!” Isobel shouted. “Watch it!”

He ignored her, collecting the controller again, like he wanted to make up with it. Isobel settled back onto the couch and watched as he restarted the game.

“Can’t we watch TV or something?” she said with a sigh.

“Nooooo!” He groaned.

“Danny, you’ve been playing that thing nonstop.” She reached for the TV remote.

“Don’t!” He swung around and lunged at her, grasping for the remote. Isobel dropped her phone to grapple with both hands.

“For real, Danny, don’t you have homework or friends or something?” She grunted, pulling the remote.

“Don’t you?” he snarled, yanking it back.

Her phone rang. Danny let go of the remote and snatched up her cell. “Hello?”

Isobel grabbed for her phone, but Danny, with faster reflexes than she’d thought him capable of, slid out of her reach.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, “hold on.” Smiling, he waggled the phone. “It’s your boyfriend!”

Isobel clambered off the couch and charged her brother, ready for battle. No one messed with her phone calls.

“Trade,” he said, skittering back, holding the phone out behind him.

“Ugh. You’re such a fungus!” She threw the remote down on the carpet. He tossed the phone at her and dove for the remote. The phone bounced between her hands before she caught it, and the video game music started up again.

She pressed the cell to her ear, blocking her other ear with one finger.

“Brad?”

“Not likely,” said the cool voice on the other end.

A thunder started in her chest.

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