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Dead and beyond, p.10
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       Dead and Beyond, p.10

           Jayde Scott
 
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  “I’m not going back in there. That’s a category number one ghost. And I was really hoping it was going to be a category two.” From his puzzled expression I figured he didn’t understand a word. “We have a poltergeist on our hands.”

  “Amber—” He hesitated. I held my hand up to stop him.

  “Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. This wasn’t a happy little spirit passing through. What I just experienced was dark and evil. And I have proof.

  Upstairs.” He drew a long breath as I continued, “Claw marks embedded into your precious floor. And not just any claw marks, but huge ones. When you see Upstairs.” He drew a long breath as I continued, “Claw marks embedded into your precious floor. And not just any claw marks, but huge ones. When you see them, you’re going to swear Wolverine from X-men was here. They’re at least fifteen inches long.”

  He crossed his arms over his chest, regarding me. The worry lines were still there. “Let’s go take a look, shall we? Tell me what happened on the way up.”

  I didn’t want to but I had to show him the house was haunted, so I let him grab my hand, dragging me after him, as I recounted every tiny detail. We reached the second floor. Aidan entered first, I followed a step behind.

  “It’s freezing in here,” he said. “Did you turn on the air conditioner full blast?”

  “It was the ghost.” I sucked in a deep breath as I peered around me, from the door to the window. There was no blood in sight. The claw marks had disappeared completely.

  I ran over to the window and knelt down, then swiped my fingers across the smooth wood, whispering, “It was right here. I swear it was.”

  “You’re safe now,” Aidan said. He scooped me up in his arms. I buried my head against his chest, wondering what the heck was going on? Was I losing my mind?

  “Out of curiosity, you said you jumped out a window. Why didn’t you use the door?”

  “I couldn’t. The ghost wouldn’t let me,” I said. “I’m telling you, it’s evil.” His expression told me he wasn’t convinced. “You believe me, don’t you?”

  Aidan tensed, hesitating. “Amber, this world’s new to you. Obviously, you’re having trouble adapting to your necromancer abilities. Give it a few more weeks, and you’ll see everything will click into place. This gift wasn’t meant to be a curse but a blessing. Many immortals would kill for it.”

  “Lucky me. Can’t you have Layla remove it...you know, since you guys are such close buddies now?”

  He shook his head. “We’ve been through this over and over again. I wish I could find someone to get rid of it, but only Layla can take it back, and she won’t do it.” I could see I was losing his attention by the way his eyes darted across the room, like his mind was already thinking of a million other things he could be doing instead of listening to my drivel.

  “Then you need to do something about this poltergeist, otherwise I’m not staying here.”

  “You’re always imaging the worst case scenario,” he said. “I’m sure it’s just a lost, harmless ghost bored out of his mind. Maybe it’s trying to get your attention.” I opened my mouth to speak when he cut me off. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re safe, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about. If an evil ghost resided here, Cass would’ve told us the last time she visited. Besides, the house is secured by magic so it’s impossible for anything powerful to enter.

  Maybe it was just an animal spirit.” The concern in his eyes disappeared and an amused glint took its place. “I think you jumped out the window for nothing.”

  For a second relief washed over me. That the spirit could be an animal didn’t cross my mind, but it made sense…for all of three seconds or as long as it took me to realize animals can’t spell.

  “How do you explain the window closing right after I jumped?”

  “You know the backdoor’s always open. The sudden draft might’ve slammed the window shut. So, laws of physics?” he suggested.

  I nodded, even though I knew better. It was a poltergeist.

  “You’re so lucky I beat you in that paranormal race, Aidan. Otherwise, ghosts would be bugging the crap out of you.”

  “They’re just passing by and need a little guidance.” He shrugged. “No big deal.”

  I smiled sweetly, unable to stop feeling resentful that my boyfriend wouldn’t believe me. “You’ve helped me so much. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

  “I’ve been a shitty boyfriend in that I haven’t spent much time with you lately, but I swear I’ll make it up to you. Just give me a few more days to get this Lore court business sorted out, and then we can go somewhere nice, just the two of us. What do you think?” His strong arms pulled me close until his breath caressed my cheek.

  “I’d love that,” I whispered.

  “Great.” He placed a sloppy kiss on my lips and pulled back. The same absentminded expression from before appeared again. “See you tonight, then?”

  I nodded, but he was already gone, leaving only the slightest hint of his cologne behind. I stared at the empty space for a while, wondering how he could be so blind and not notice that something weird was going on. The word ‘blind’ didn’t even do him justice. More like completely and utterly clueless to anything that didn’t have a big fat flashing neon light with the inscription ‘weird things happening’.

  Heaving a big sigh, I walked into the hallway and stopped to listen for any sounds from that poltergeist entity. But I knew it’d leave me alone…for the time being.

  Chapter 12

  After my encounter with the spirit and Aidan’s departure, I didn’t return to resume my work in his office. For one, I figured the ghost might still hover around. And then there was also the residue of the haunting that might trigger my abilities as a necromancer. I didn’t fear for Aidan or Kieran’s safety. They had never reported anything weird or freaky going on. Besides, I knew this thing had its sights on me. Even though I didn’t want to be in the VIP section of this ghost’s freak show, it seemed to save its performances only for me and I had no idea why.

  In spite of Aidan’s adamant reassurances that the house couldn’t possibly be haunted, I knew better so I spent the whole afternoon trying to figure out what to do about my uninvited and invisible guest. Obviously, the only way to ascertain its intentions was to actually ask the entity upfront, but that wasn’t even an option, what with me possibly fainting and all. I figured I could be more creative than that.

  Being a huge fan of lists, I grabbed a piece of paper and pen, and made notes as I recalled what happened in order to figure out what could possibly have triggered the poltergeist activity. I had been analyzing Angel’s disappearance. Maybe the ghost feared beings of light and turned all psycho when it mistook my friend’s name for an actual angel. The explanation sounded a bit farfetched, but I didn’t disregard it.

  What else did I have? The woods. The forest outside the mansion was mysterious and held onto countless secrets. A few days after my arrival in Scotland, my friend, Clare, told me the townspeople in Inverness were scared of the woods because people had disappeared in the past. Was it foul play, like murder? Had their lonely spirits wandered into the house, seeking my help? Possible but not likely since, as far as I knew, and I agree I didn’t know much, entities were usually bound to a place such as a house or the woods, but they couldn’t travel to and fro.

  Then there was the phone call during which I first heard the scratching sound coming from the window. I could feel a deeper meaning here, as though my sixth sense was telling me something, but no matter how hard my mind tried to put the puzzle pieces together, a connection wasn’t clear. Could Devon have anything to do with the haunting? Highly doubtful because the Shadows were shaman warriors who, according to Aidan, wielded no power over the Otherworld.

  But why would a ghost have such a strong reaction to a conversation? It didn’t make any sense unless…

  I took a deep breath as I tapped my pen against my lips.

  Maybe it wasn’t so
much the conversation as the person on the other end of the line? But why would Devon’s voice trigger such a response from the ghost?

  I made a few question marks next to the letter D and then put the pen aside, ready to move on to the next part of my plan: searching the house for any signs of someone dying in the past.

  Careful not to touch anything, I combed the mansion meticulously, moving from room to room, leaving the one that was always locked last. The chamber once belonged to Aidan’s ex, Rebecca. Rebecca was the one who turned him and bit me during my astral travel to the Otherworld. She fed on my soul’s power, which in effect translated into major blood loss from my physical body. It all sounded so complicated, and yet it couldn’t be more simple. At the time of my attack, she was dead, I wasn’t. My soul was still connected to my body, so by drinking my soul’s power, she inevitably took my blood, which strengthened her. And now she was looking for a way out of Hell’s only dimension reserved for paranormal beings, Distros. Already she had fed on a reaper’s blood, which allowed her to travel through the different dimensions of Hell. As much as Aidan wanted to believe Rebecca was gone forever, I knew it was only a matter of time until she twisted her way back into our lives.

  A shiver ran down my spine as I rattled the door. My blood chilled, as though a dagger were being drawn up and down my spine, settling at the nape of my neck. It was wrong of me to defy Aidan’s wishes that the door be kept locked at all times, but I couldn’t help myself.

  I still remembered the moment our eyes connected in the Otherworld. Her green gaze had been full of eternal hunger; her reddish brown hair had been caked to her scrawny shoulders where mud had dried to form dark patches. There had been something in her manner—preeminence, as though she had been born to rule and those around her were fated to obey her every command. Maybe it was a vampire thing to instill a sense of inferiority in others because I had felt the same way upon meeting Aidan.

  Even though entering the room might activate my necromancer abilities, I needed to see her deathbed one more time because an inner voice told me I was missing something and I was ready to find out what that something was. The lock snapped open at my second pull. As I walked past, the door groaned in its hinges, as though to utter a silent warning. It was superstitious of me to believe such nonsense, yet, I took it as a sign to hurry.

  The room looked just the way I remembered it: high ceiling, paneled walls, and a shiny wooden floor. To my right was a four-poster bed carved with half-moons and beautiful roses as large as my palm; to my left was a huge wardrobe, which had been once filled to the brim with marvelous silk and brocade dresses in all possible colors. Only now, after being bitten by her, could I understand Aidan’s hesitation to discard her belongings. Like him, I felt her terrible magic pulling me to her, drawing me into her world of beauty, lies, and deceit. And if the spell of her bite was so strong on me, then I didn’t even want to imagine its effect on Aidan who had been Rebecca’s slave for many years before breaking her terrible bond by killing her.

  I gingerly opened the door to her wardrobe and peered at the vacant space, wondering what happened to her clothes. Did Aidan clear out her stuff? And if so, why did he do it? Something began to throb inside me. It took me a while to realize it was disbelief. I knew I should be happy. Knowing Aidan, he probably donated all of her clothes to charity, and yet, for some inexplicable reason, I wasn’t thrilled. I felt as though it wasn’t right and he had done her injustice. A spark of anger pulsed inside me, as though in agreement. Aidan was the most reasonable person I had ever met. He never initiated a step without considering possible consequences. That he threw away her belongings after keeping them for centuries had to mean something, but I couldn’t see the logic.

  Why couldn’t I understand his motives? He was with me now; he didn’t want her back. Maybe Rebecca’s spell on me was stronger than I initially imagined because my feelings made no sense whatsoever.

  I closed the door to Rebecca’s former chamber and returned to my room to wait for Aidan.

  *

  “You disposed of her belongings,” I whispered as soon as Aidan stepped into my moonlit bedroom. He didn’t reply as he slipped out of his leather coat and tossed it over the back of a chair, then sat down on the bed, keeping a few inches between us. He kept his gaze averted from me, but I could sense he knew exactly what I was talking about.

  “It was time to leave that part of my life behind me,” Aidan said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “Make a new beginning. With you.”

  I inched closer and took a whiff of the unfamiliar smell on him. The tiniest hint of lavender and roses, of green valleys and ripe red grapes hit my nostrils. I took a deep breath and let the pleasant aroma wash over me, making me feel all sorts of emotions I had been trying to push to the back of my mind ever since meeting Aidan.

  A strong sense of longing grabbed hold of me. I had to touch him. I had to have him this instant, wrap my thighs around him and let him introduce me to what he had been eager to show me for weeks.

  He looked so handsome with his dark tousled hair and his shirt unbuttoned to reveal just a little bit of his taunt skin and burly chest. I moistened my lips and reached out to trail my fingers down his neck, stopping at the button of his shirt. With a flick of my fingers, I unfastened the first, then went on to loosen the rest of reached out to trail my fingers down his neck, stopping at the button of his shirt. With a flick of my fingers, I unfastened the first, then went on to loosen the rest of them, and slipped my hands inside his shirt to push it aside.

  Aidan’s breath caught in his throat. I moved a few inches back to marvel at his sculpted chest, gaping in delight at his strong muscles and soft skin. I could feel his heartbeat quickening beneath my exploring fingers. My chin jutted up just an inch, proud of how I could make him shiver by just running my fingers up and down his torso.

  “Amber.” His voice sounded hoarse, barely louder than a whisper.

  Smiling, I increased the pressure as I dug my nails into his skin and watched the soft red lines forming. His tongue flicked over his lower lip, leaving a wet trail behind as his gaze bore into mine, prodding, questioning. Something pulsed within me, making me want to explore every inch of his skin. Determined to have him there and then, I rose on my knees to press my mouth against his, and spread my lips just a tiny bit to welcome his tongue. His palms wandered beneath my shirt as he pulled me onto his lap. I settled against him and wrapped my legs around his waist, my hands already fighting with his jeans.

  “No.” He pulled back and turned away from me.

  I stared at him in disbelief. Did he just brush me off? “What’s wrong?”

  He shook his head, avoiding my gaze. “You’re not really ready for this, Amber.”

  “Isn’t that up to me to decide? I can assure you I feel more than ready. In fact, I want it. Now.” And boy was that true. My whole body was on fire, begging for his touch. I had never felt so much desire for anyone before. It was a sign. Aidan and I were meant to be together, so why not take our relationship to the next level?

  “No, babe, you don’t understand.” He turned around and grabbed my hand only to drop it an instant later, as though he had just been burned. “This isn’t you. It’s succubus energy lingering on me that’s making you want to jump into bed with me. I don’t expect you to understand now. You will after I’ve taken a shower and washed this stench off of me. Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

  My gaze remained glued to the door long after he closed it behind him as his words’ meaning slowly sank in. The strong longing began to dissipate, but it didn’t leave me completely.

  When he returned a few minutes later, I had gathered my composure and straightened my disheveled clothes. Or so I thought. His hair and skin, glistening with moisture, made my heart skip a beat again. He was wrong. It wasn’t just succubus energy. My feelings were the real deal and I couldn’t get enough of him.

  “Are you okay?” Aidan asked softly as he returned to his previous position at the
far end of my bed. “You’re back to your old self again?”

  I shrugged. Trust the guy to know how to make a girl feel special after she almost jumped his bones. “You make it sound like a bit of passion’s such a bad thing.”

  “Not this kind, Amber. It’s not natural.” He took a deep breath, his gaze darkening. “I dread the moment I enter the Lore court and count the seconds until I can leave again. There’s nothing normal about wanting someone so bad you’d literally kill for that instant gratification.”

  “So, when you’re there you feel that way about everyone?” I made it sound nonchalant, as though I didn’t care, but inside, my temper boiled over, waiting to find a way out like an erupting volcano.

  “Pretty much.” Aidan nodded. “But they’re succubi. It’s their nature to make you feel that way.”

  He meant, all horny and eager to peel off their clothes. I snorted. The guy was digging himself a big hole here. The last few weeks, Aidan had tried to get inside my knickers at every available opportunity. I thought that consuming passion he couldn’t control was something special, you know, the result of our bond.

  Now I was slowly starting to think he had just been pushy like every other guy out there who couldn’t keep it in his pants.

  “Is that why you’re not taking me to the Lore court? Because you think I couldn’t take the sexual heat?”

  He laughed briefly and started drawing circles in my palm. “What you just experienced was barely a fragment of what you can expect in there. I don’t want to lose you. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to protect the ones you love.” I rolled my eyes inwardly and opened my mouth to protest when Aidan cut me off. I sensed a deliberate change of subject. “So, what’ve you been up to? Any progress with your new project?” He leaned back against my cover and propped his arms behind his back, signaling the conversation was over.

 
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