Forever and beyond, p.1
FOREVER AND BEYOND
The right of Jayde Scott to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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.
Books of the Ancient Legends series:
A Job From Hell
Dead And Beyond
Forever And Beyond
Other titles by Jayde Scott
The Divorce Club
Black Wood (A Witch Rising Trilogy)
Born to Spy
First and foremost my gratitude goes out to my spouse for the immense support, endless love and for being my soul mate even during a writer’s dark and not so proud moments. I appreciate each and every second we get to spend together and hope our love will last for eternity.
Thank you to my kitties, who gift me with tons of laughter each and every day.
A huge thank you to my editor, Shannon, for all her input and long hours. Thank you also to my critique partners and fellow authors, and in particular Christine Peebles.
And, last but not least, a huge thanks to all my wonderful readers. This book wouldn’t exist without your encouragement and Facebook messages.
Table of Contents
Ancient Legends series
As courage imperils life, fear protects it — Leonardo Da Vinci
The Swiss Alps - 5 a.m.
In the snowy mountains of Switzerland there is a tiny village called Winterheim. Not many tourists find their way here because thick blankets of snow and blizzard-like winds make an ascent almost impossible, which suits the villagers just fine. They are private people, even hostile to visitors, if you will—protective of a secret Winterheim has been hiding for years: a tiny bakery named Magic Cupcakes.
Legend says the bakery is the home of the most powerful Seer that shall ever be born, the one that will decide over the fate of the world. The coming bloodshed will claim many lives. It will be a war of destruction and reorder, of domination and submission, and hunting humans will become a sport if the wrong court wins. And so the Seer must be protected at all costs. But how do you protect someone who was never meant to be born?
Even though dawn had yet to shoo away the impenetrable darkness of the mountains, inside Magic Cupcakes, eighteen-year-old Patricia had been awake for at least an hour, doing what she always did day in, day out: bake another tray of delicious hot buns, muffins, and cookies. She pushed a stray strand of her red, curly hair out of her tired eyes and sprinkled powder sugar on top of the strawberry tarts that always sold out within a few minutes after opening shop for the day, then hurried to get the cinnamon bread out of the oven before it turned dry.
Something prickled the nape of her neck. Irritated, she stepped aside, thinking it was her cat, Prince Rasputin. He was always up to no good when it came to snatching a bit of food, but Patricia had no time for the Hell demon’s shenanigans. The tingling sensation returned, followed by something hot pressing against her skin and sending shivers of pleasure down her spine. Now, that she couldn’t attribute to a mischievous cat. She smiled and turned to meet Kieran’s experienced lips. He wrapped his arms around her chubby waist and pulled her into his strong arms, their mouths connecting in a long and deep kiss. Eventually, she pulled away, breathless, and trailed her fingers through his shaggy, dark hair as she heaved a long sigh.
“You gotta go already?”
He nodded, gravely. The golden glow of the flames burning inside the stoves caught in his impossibly blue gaze. “I do, pumpkin. But I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“When are you going to tell them?” She snuggled against his broad chest, her soft body melting into his, and inhaled deeply, as though to etch his scent forever in her mind.
“As soon as everything’s sorted out in Morganefaire,” Kieran said. “Until then you stay here, safe.”
“Be careful,” she said, marveling at how strong he seemed and how much she loved being near him.
“I will.” As he turned away from her, ready to leave her world, a sense of urgency grabbed hold of her heart. As a Seer, she could foretell the future, just not her own and that of her soul mate. That bothered her more than the curse dangling like a Damocles sword over her head.
City of Morganefaire - 3 a.m.
The church bell rang three times, signaling a full hour. Maya Mallory drew a long breath as she hurried her pace past the closed windowpanes to the high gates stretching against the canvass of the night. The travellers would be arriving soon and she wanted to be ready to greet them, show them to their quarters, and fetch them whatever they needed. Where she came from, being late wasn’t an option.
The cold night air whipped her dark, straight hair against her skin; her charcoal gray dress clung to her thin body as she pushed her way forward against the biting wind. Eventually, she reached the south gate—an imposing structure made of stone and enforced by magic—and peered through the tiny opening into the darkness extending beyond the city. The unpaved street with tall trees to both sides seemed deserted, the dust settled. Then again, the group of vampires surely wouldn’t arrive by foot. According to various ancient legends, they could shift from one location to another in the blink of an eye. At twenty-two summers old, Maya was too young to have seen it with her own eyes or even meet a vampire in person, but she believed the stories. In fact, she had been looking forward to this moment ever since she entered the Academy of Witchcraft. The fact that her hard work had paid off and she was entrusted with the honor to finally meet a creature of the night filled her with both anticipation and terror. Were they as beautiful yet terrible as legend said? She sure hoped so.
With a soft groan, she grabbed hold of the heavy iron bolt latch and opened the gate half a foot to peer into the night. The flickering torch barely reached the impenetrable darkness stretching over the nearby bushes and past the tall trees and high mountains surrounding Morganefaire. Maya swallowed hard to stifle the sudden sense of uneasiness settling in the pit of her stomach. It wasn’t like a witch to fear the darkness, and yet she couldn’t help herself. Her hand wandered to the dagger bound to her waist, her strong fingers clasping the hard leather tight as she peered up to the moon
A chilly wind ruffled the nearby bushes, jerking Maya out of her thoughts. She rubbed her palms together to keep her fingers warm, and focused on her surroundings again. Nothing stirred. No sign of any approaching visitor. Aidan was known for his punctuality. Her nerves unsettled her. She took a hesitant step forward and scanned the area for the umpteenth time.
Still nothing stirred.
She heaved a big sigh and stepped back when movement to her right caught her attention. Startled, she unconsciously pressed a hand against her racing heart and called out as her gaze tried to see beyond the dark veil of the night. “Hello?” She listened for any sign of life. The night remained as silent as a tomb.
It wasn’t natural. Usually, you could at least hear the buzzing sound of fireflies or the wind’s howling through the trees.
Maya held her breath until her lungs hurt from the lack of oxygen. A minute passed. Then another. When nothing happened, Maya breathed out, realizing her jumpiness was unfounded. She knew there was nothing to worry about. Morganefaire was safer than any other place in the world…or as safe as it could be for a witch.
A sudden movement in the bushes startled Maya. She turned her head sharply as something hard swung at her, hitting her hard in the back, knocking the oxygen out of her lungs. Gasping for air, she tumbled forward as she turned to look at her attacker. In the few seconds she had left, she realized it was a tall figure with a long cape and a black hood covering most of his face. Someone shorter and of a more delicate frame—probably female—stood a step behind him, next to a third hooded person.
She had been told to look out for three visitors: two male, one female. For a moment Maya’s brain harboured the thought that maybe the guests didn’t recognize her as a witch and mistook her for an intruder. Or why else would they attack her? She opened her mouth to explain when the hooded man lifted his hand and she looked into the dark reflection of a mirror. She felt the pull instantly and her soul began to shift within the confinement of her mortal body. Her first impulse was to scream, to run away and warn the others. She had heard the stories of a mirror that was once shattered into four fragments, each able to entrap a powerful soul. No one knew who the four powerful souls were but, as a witch, Maya always thought they’d be immortals—vampires, fallen angels, demons, maybe even Shadows, or deities with abilities reaching far beyond her imagination. She certainly never figured someone might ever try to entrap her soul.
Her brain commanded her legs to move but she didn’t budge from the spot. A long scream remained trapped in her throat. She clung to her consciousness as she frantically tried to push the mirror away from her, but somehow she couldn’t grab hold of it and her fingers kept slicing through the air.
Her powers began to wane, her will weakened. Fear surged through her veins. Mesmerized, as if under hypnosis, she inched closer to the hooded figure. Her fingers finally touched the cold surface of the mirror as her gaze remained glued to it. One of the three attackers whispered something and a freezing sensation crept under her skin and into her bones. For a moment, it hurt so badly she thought she’d die on the spot, but then the pain subsided and gave way to a new sensation: a sweet, delicious tiredness that drew her in and made her want to close her eyes and let it envelop her until she could no longer feel the world around her.
At the periphery of her mind she was aware of a girl’s presence. Maya turned her head to the side and caught a glimpse of eyes as blue as the ocean and hair as black as the night. The girl was dangling from silver ropes, her skin covered in a sheet of frost that branched in all directions. Her lips shimmered bluish, making it impossible to tell whether she was just a beautiful marble statue, or alive and forever captured in the shard of the mirror.
And then another jolt sent Maya stumbling forward and the girl disappeared.
“We got the wrong witch,” a deep male voice said.
“It doesn’t matter,” another male voice said, this one younger. “We’ll keep looking until we find the right. What are we to do with this one?”
“Kill her,” a woman said. “She looks like she’ll talk.”
“That’s a bad idea, unless you want the whole city on guard,” the younger male voice said.
A pause before the first male voice answered, “Let her live. I might just have the fitting mission for her. While we continue our search, she’ll help us get back what is ours.”
Maya shook her head vehemently and began to tug at the invisible chains holding her prisoner in her own body. The Council had instructed her to greet the visitors and attend to them in the guest quarters until further notice. Maya was determined to do as she was told, and nothing else. She didn’t want to be part of anyone’s mission.
“Stop struggling, or I might just have to hurt you,” the female voice hissed in her ear.
She felt the woman’s cold touch, how her fingers seemed to send electric impulses through her body, making her shake uncontrollably. At first, Maya thought she was on the verge of blackening out from fear, until she noticed that with each jolt, she was pushed nearer and nearer to a bottomless pit and the darkness around her deepened. But it wasn’t the darkness that scared her. It was the feeling of being shoved and kicked when she couldn’t move from the spot.
And then she understood what was happening. The woman was forcing her way inside Maya’s body. Slowly, she could feel the woman’s presence all around her—her thoughts, her feelings—pushing Maya’s soul aside to make room for herself. A moment later, Maya lost all control over her body.
Somewhere in the distance footsteps approached and someone rattled at the gates. Too late. She could feel a smile tugging at her lips, even though she didn’t want to smile. Her legs began to move slowly, clumsily, as though she was a child learning to take her first steps. But it wasn’t Maya walking towards the visitors. It was the other one living inside Maya’s body that greeted them at the gates.
Maya opened her mouth to scream for help but the sound remained trapped in her throat, and she knew she had lost the battle.
The very first vacation with your boyfriend is a trial for any new relationship. Whether you want it or not, it’s bound to cause you a few wrinkles. In my case, I was quite lucky because, as a newly turned vampire, I wouldn’t have to worry about the appearance of my skin for the next five hundred years or so. Unfortunately, my new immortal status didn’t protect me from my boyfriend’s sarcasm and my consequent stubbornness caused by his unwillingness to understand a woman’s needs.
Prior to our departure, Aidan had been pacing up and down our bedroom, shooting me annoyed glances from the corner of his stunning sapphire blue eyes. I knew he wanted me to hurry up and finish packing, but I wouldn’t let a man haste me. So the more annoyed he became, the less inclined I felt to hurry up.
Eventually, he heaved a sigh and slumped down on the bed, propping his hands behind his head as he mumbled, “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you it’s not a vacation, Amber. We’re going to Morganefaire on a job duty, basically to save our race. So, please, babe, for the sake of humanity, hurry up.” His words were slow and emphasized, thick with a Scottish accent I had grown to love. His voice was low and imploring, but there was an edge to it I wouldn’t mistake in a million years: Aidan was nervous. Coming from the guy who never lost his cool, I knew there was a lot at stake. Times were changing. The races were preparing for war and would stop at nothing in their quest to win the upper hand. Aidan was right to worry, and yet I couldn’t help myself. I just couldn’t decide what to pack. Light for sunny weather or thick for the Scottish Highlands and their unpredictable winds and sudden rainfalls?
“Where in England is Morganefaire located?” I asked, unfazed.
Aidan rubbed his forehead, avoiding my gaze. “Somewhere in the south. No one knows the exact location.”
Yet more rain then, interspersed with the odd sunny day. With autumn approaching fast, the nights would cool down noticeably. While my body couldn’t freeze to death, I just didn’t like that tingly sensation in my limbs, so I rummaged through my cupboard and tossed a few thick sweaters and knitwear into my overstuffed suitcase, then jumped on top of it to close it while trying to shovel inside everything that spilled over the edges.
“You know we’re not moving there, right? It’s only for a couple of days. If you need anything we can just buy it or teleport back to get it.”
I nodded, ignoring him, because the guy didn’t get it. You don’t pack what you need; you pack what you think you will probably need, taking into account each and every possibility, and then add some more stuff…just in case.
“Need help?” Aidan asked, smirking.
“Nah. I’m good,” I grunted, wishing my pride wouldn’t stop me from admitting I needed help indeed. Five minutes and a few more grunts later, I finally managed to zip up the darn thing and looked up at Aidan. “I think I’m ready.”
A tiny flicker of hope sparkled in his eyes. “Really? I mean, are you sure? We’re only a few hours late.”