Dead and beyond, p.1
DEAD AND BEYOND
©Copyright 2012 Jayde Scott.
All rights reserved.
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the author, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance between the characters and persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Ancient Legends series:
A Job From Hell
Dead And Beyond
Other titles by Jayde Scott:
The Divorce Club
Born To Spy
A full-blown confrontation wasn’t Gael’s style. In fact, he prided himself on his talent for stakeouts; lurking in the corner, invisible to the mortal eye, stalking his victims to learn everything about them, until he could finally strike. This particular victim, however, was better protected than a queen. Certainly not his usual, easy stalk, but Gael liked a challenge. It gave winning more meaning. And Gael was a winner all the way.
He blew a gust of hot breath into his hands to keep them warm, his eyes all the while focused on the hidden entrance in the rock formation. The place was concealed by twisting pines and towering ferns, so no human would ever stumble upon it. Gael watched the thick branches stirred by the howling wind. Not only was it well hidden, it was creepy too, just like the freaky child queen herself. He let the word roll on his tongue, testing the sound of it. Shadowland—a hidden civilization that had been untouched by the outside world for thousands of years. It was the place where he belonged. He knew it because he had been dreaming about it for as long as he could remember. Queen Deidre resided in the mausoleum, probably feeding from her own people’s life essence that very instant. He had once offered his help to save her soul from her dying body, but she had brushed him off like an annoying fly. Disrespected him. He consoled himself that he would have the last laugh eventually. Once their most precious possession was gone, so was Queen Deidre, and he would be owner of both thrones: the Shadows’ and the Lore court’s.
Glancing up at the inscription carved deep into the granite, he recognized the words immediately—it was an ancient language and Queen Deidre’s trademark warning. Immortals knew not to cross into her territory, unless they wished to face her wrath. Well, he wasn’t any immortal, and soon everyone would find out.
The full moon cast a glowing light on the tall trees. The cool September breeze seeped under his dark cloak and turned his skin into goose bumps. He hated how vulnerable his mortal body was and how much the Scottish weather got to him. Irritated, he wrapped his cloak tighter around him and scanned the familiar darkness for the umpteenth time, even though he knew the girl and boy wouldn’t arrive for another minute or two when the turning would finally begin. He had watched the entire procedure for days now. It always followed the same routine.
Eventually, a soft crack carried through the air and the opening in the mountain widened. The boy emerged first, followed by the girl. She was wearing the same jeans, gray top and black, hip-long jacket as the night before. Her long, jet-black hair was tied up in a ponytail, bouncing slightly as she took a tentative step forward. The soft light of the moon revealed the hesitation on her face and in her dark blue eyes.
“Angel,” the boy said softly, his palm reaching out to cup her face.
She jumped a step back, as though his touch seared her skin. “No, Brendan. Nothing’s changed, so don’t you dare touch me.”
The boy remained silent as he regarded her. A moment later, the moon broke from behind the clouds, illuminating his dark clothes and shiny hair that brushed the collar of his long coat. It was the way the Shadows dressed, the way Gael liked to dress to pretend he was one of them. The soft rays of light gave Brendan’s perfect skin a bronze hue. For a moment, the boy looked like a statue, so graceful, so terribly cold. And then the changing began.
The ground shook slightly as Brendan’s skin grew pallid and clammy, and a growl rose in his throat. His pupils slowly dilated before his eyelids shut. The wind began to blow harder, swaying the summer leaves in the trees. Angel flinched but didn’t retreat. Brendan’s face remained expressionless as he dropped to his knees and threw back his head, bursting through his clothes. His arms and legs shortened, his muscles bulged as dark fur began to sprout from his human skin. A long and painful howl rippled through his chest the same moment his face morphed into that of a large wolf with black eyes that seemed to absorb the light.
Whimpering, the wolf moved closer to Angel and buried his snout into her palm, as though to smell her even though no Shadow could smell or sense another.
Angel pulled away whispering, “Go away, Brendan.” With a last glance back, the wolf took off through the trees and disappeared into the night. She didn’t leave straight away. She never did. It was her only chance of being alone, without the Shadows’ supervision. This was his cue. He had been working on his plan for weeks; it wasn’t perfect but Gael was determined to make the best of it. He had met with her for almost a week; same time, same place, never long enough to answer her questions. He had earned her trust, awakened her curiosity, and now he was about to bring his mission to a fruitful climax. One that would shake the Shadows’ world.
Carefully, he straightened from his crouching position and began to move toward her. “Angel.” His voice came low and soothing, supposed to instill trust and confidence in her. It was the same voice he used when talking to a child.
Angel didn’t flinch when she turned to face him, which was a good sign. The girl thought herself safe. They all did. He stopped a few feet away from her to give her space. It was yet another one of his strategies to make her believe his words.
“You’re back,” Angel whispered. In the light of the moon, she looked younger than seventeen, and certainly not strong enough to fulfill the purpose the Shadows had in store for her.
Gael smiled even though he wasn’t sure she could see his face in the darkness. “I told you I’d come to get you.”
Her big eyes sparkled with curiosity. “Right. But I’m not going. Not until you answer my questions.” She strained to peer beneath his hood to make out his features, but he kept his head slightly bowed so the moon wouldn’t reveal his identity. That part would come later.
He heaved an exaggerated sigh. “Angel, you have to trust me because I’m one of you. Or how else could I have crossed the perimeter?” His answer seemed to please her, and her stance relaxed a little.
“I don’t understand this secrecy.”
“Is Brendan gone?” Gael asked, ignoring her unspoken question.
She nodded. “He’ll be back at sunrise.”
“We need to talk,” Gael said.
“You keep saying that, but you never tell me about what.” Her voice still didn’t convey any sort of mistrust. She most certainly thought he was one of them.
He liked that.
“There’s something Deidre never told you. I think it’s time you knew the truth. Come, walk with me.” In a bold moment of sheer folly, he reached out his hand, not really expecting her to grab it. But she did. Her fingers touched his, sending a familiar jolt of electricity down his back. His powers began to tingle beneath his skin, so exquisite, so close, and yet so far away.
“Rules are meant to be broken. I promise nothing will happen to you.”
She hesitated but eventually let him lead her away from the entrance. His hand clasped hers as he guided her through the trees. The clouds parted and the moon illuminated their way. He could still spy the entrance in the distance when Angel halted, and he knew that was about as far as she’d go.
“Okay,” she said, pulling her hand free. “Tell me.”
“It’s a secret, Angel. You mustn’t reveal it to anyone.”
“Is that why you’re not showing your face?” she asked.
“You want to see my face?” She nodded. He smiled at her childlike enthusiasm at the outlook of mystery and excitement. It probably was a welcome diversion in her otherwise dreary existence. “Promise me you won’t tell anyone.”
diversion in her otherwise dreary existence. “Promise me you won’t tell anyone.”
“I promise,” she whispered.
Slowly, he pulled his hood back to reveal his face. She had never seen him before, but he knew she couldn’t miss the resemblance, unless she didn’t own a mirror.
A tiny gasp escaped her throat. Her eyes widened as she regarded his face with the same straight nose, high cheekbones and full lips. Even the eyes were alike, dark and deep, full of secrets and a past that was long erased from her memory.
“I’m your brother,” he said in the most tender voice he could muster. Seconds passed by. The wind blew her hair away from her face, revealing surprise, fear, shock, and uncertainty as she tried to process the little information he just gave her.
“I thought my family was dead.” Angel’s voice sounded chocked. He grabbed her hands, unsure how she’d react if he hugged her. He decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
“That’s just one of many lies Queen Deidre told you.”
She shook her head. “But why would she do that? The Shadows have been nothing but kind to me.”
“It’s a ploy to get your cooperation, Angel. Deidre feeds on her people’s life essence. Soon, she will start to feed on yours because you’re strong. Your life essence will help her body heal so she can become what she once was.” He drew a deep breath, preparing himself for the most important part. “Listen, I came to get you because you’re not safe here. You’re not safe anywhere, unless you come with me.”
She didn’t argue. Maybe someone had told her about Queen Deidre before. Or maybe she had found out on her own. Either way, Angel’s knowledge aided his plea. Her brows drew to a frown. “How do I know you’re telling me the truth about who you are?”
He had sensed she’d ask this question, so he had known to prepare. “We both carry a mark in the shape of a half moon a few inches below the right collarbone.”
“Someone could’ve told you that.”
The girl was clever, he had to admit that. “Of course. But there’s something no one else knows, something you never dared to tell anyone. You have a certain reaction to touch that isn’t normal. That’s why you don’t want your boyfriend to touch you, even though you’re his bonded mate. You’re scared of what you could do to him.”
“How did you know that about me and Brendan?” she whispered.
“I’m your brother, remember? I’m a part of you. But you needn’t worry. I’ll take this secret to my grave because blood runs thicker than water.”
That seemed to please her. Her lips curved into a hesitant smile only to disappear an instant later. “Why has Deidre never told me I have family?”
“Because she wants you to think you’re alone. She wants you to trust them,” Gael said.
She moistened her lips, her voice quivering with emotion as she tried to understand the magnitude of her situation. “I’ve been thinking about your words. If you’re my brother, why didn’t we grow up together? And how did you find me?”
“I told you, I’ve been searching for you my entire life. Several times I lost hope, but I never gave up. When I found out you were here, captured by the Shadows, and that your life was at stake, I had to come to your rescue. That’s why I’m here, but you have to leave before it’s too late.”
A tear slid down her cheek. “How could they lie to me that I have no family when they knew I so desperately wished for one?”
“I know you have a lot of questions, and I promise I’ll answer them all later,” Gael said. “But right now we’re in great danger,” Gael said, slowly losing his patience. He knew the girl would start asking questions. He just never figured she wouldn’t know when to stop.
Angel shook her head. “Of course. I understand. I want to learn more about my past, but I can’t leave. If I leave, I’ll die.
“That’s another lie. You’ve been fed their crap long enough.” He grabbed her hands and forced her to look at him. “I won’t let anything happen to you, but you’ve got to trust me. You don’t know the Shadows like I do. They’re capable of anything.” He could see her resolve slowly crumbling, her little mind sucking in every word of familial love and bonding that came out of his mouth. She had been abandoned at birth; it was only natural that she craved what she never had. It made her trusting, putty in his hands. “You’re not dying without them. It’s just a spell they put on you, making you feel faint and weak when you’re away. Once the spell’s broken, so are their powers over you.”
Angel took a deep breath. “And you know how to break the spell?”
“Yes.” This part wasn’t even a lie. He had researched his kind. No Shadow spell could keep someone like Angel imprisoned for life. But their mind games could. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow night after Brendan’s turning. Twenty-four hours should give me enough time to come up with a plan to get you out of here.”
He could see a flicker of hope in her young eyes, as though her life had just received new meaning. She bobbed her head in agreement, and smiled. He smiled back as he whispered, “Promise me you won’t tell anyone, otherwise we’re both dead.”
“I promise,” she said, touching her index finger against her lips, as though to seal her words.
“I’m Gael, by the way,” he said, pulling his hood deep over his face. “Come on. We’ve got to get you back before anyone starts missing you.”
“Gael,” she repeated quietly, and he knew in that instant he was about to change her life.
Three days later
Okay, so here’s the deal. When I was turned into a vampire—imagine a ritual and me, half-dying Amber Reed, dressed in my best jeans so I’d look skinny even in death; a hot vampire aka my boyfriend of a few weeks, Aidan, drinking my blood so my soul could travel to the Otherworld to find an ancient, meaning horribly old and smelly, spell book—I had no idea how much being a vampire would suck.
I won’t sugar coat it. My dreadful turning probably set the foundation for my entire existence as a bloodsucker and my complete disregard of it. Of course I wished it happened on a drunken night out with the usual stranger following me home, his long coat swaying in the wind, his East European accent making me wonder whether he said ‘my pretty’ or maybe ‘such a pity’ a moment before his fangs pierced my fragile skin. And then imagine the feast—his, not mine—so graceful, so noble, so out-of-a-Dracula-movie, of which I’ve always been a fan. Now, that would’ve taught me a bit more respect of what I was because I wouldn’t have heard Aidan’s growling and slurping like that of a wild, starving animal. I didn’t mind that he turn into an animal, in the figurative sense, when we made out.
But when my life’s on the line? Uh, not so much. Aidan didn’t turn me; it was his brother, but it still took me a while to push that darn slurping sound out of my head when he kissed me.
So here’s how I envisioned my new life as a vampire:
I turn from okayish in the looks department to stunningly beautiful like my best friend, Clare. Think porcelain skin, glossy hair, sparkling eyes, you know, the whole shebang.
Miraculously, maybe even over night, I shed ten pound
My brain starts to use up its entire capacity rather than a meager ten percent so I can finally beat my brother at Trivial Pursuit. Given that he’s actually an idiot and the moron who pushed me into this situation, that I still can’t beat him isn’t exactly confidence boosting.
My body finally develops some much needed gracefulness and my feet stop tripping over imaginary obstacles.
My four points weren’t really too much to ask for. Sadly, I was still the same chubby klutz Amber, albeit a klutz with the ability to punch a hole into a tree.
Aidan said I’d get a few more abilities as I grew stronger, but I couldn’t be sure he wasn’t just saying that to make me feel better.
An initial lack of supernatural talents isn’t the only reason why becoming a vampire shouldn’t be advertised as being all candy and fluffy, white clouds. It had been weeks since Aidan’s ex, vampire Rebecca, bit me in a lunatic revenge attack and almost drained me to death. I survived Rebecca’s attack, but she marked me, binding me to her in the process. I could feel her presence around me when I paid attention to it. At times, it almost felt as though she was standing next to me, watching me, waiting for something to happen. But what? Initially, I thought she was spying on me to see how my relationship with Aidan was turning out. Now I wasn’t so sure since I felt her presence strongest in Aidan’s absence. I would’ve given almost anything to find out what that was all about. Knowing could’ve helped me prepare for the events that were about to unfold because I was sick and tired of bad surprises. I might have an advantage over Rebecca in that I didn’t need blood to survive, but she was the stronger one. The maker was always the most powerful in a group with her blood gradually weakening as it was passed on from generation to generation. Rebecca had turned my boyfriend’s brother, Kieran, and Kieran had turned me. I didn’t harbor the delusion I’d win a battle, but maybe I could outsmart her. At least I could give it a try.