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Dead and beyond, p.12
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       Dead and Beyond, p.12

           Jayde Scott
 
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  “So that’s why we didn’t teleport.” I smiled as his lips brushed my neck. His tongue began to trace slow circles beneath my earlobe, sending shivers of pleasure down my spine. His touch felt so good, I sighed softly and threw my head back to signal I wanted more. Aidan’s hand reached beneath my top as he pressed me gently against a tree trunk and his mouth found mine in a hungry kiss.

  In the darkness, I gave way into his embrace, letting his hand explore my skin beneath my clothes. His heart hammered against mine, harder and faster the more heated our kiss became. Slowly, a delicious fog enveloped my mind, making forming any sort of coherent thought impossible. I ran my fingers through his hair to pull him closer, and for a moment I actually hoped he’d take it as an invitation to do whatever he wanted.

  “That’s not what I had in mind,” he whispered against my lips a second before he pulled back. I opened my eyes, ready to protest, already missing his touch on my skin.

  “What did you have in mind then?” My voice came as hoarse as his, filled with yearning and disappointment. He had been trying to get me to sleep with him for ages, and now that he had the chance he wasn’t taking it. The guy’s reasoning made no sense whatsoever.

  “I just wanted a bit of intimacy. That’s all.”

  I nodded, not believing a word. No guy wanted to just cuddle. It was against their nature. My mind reached into his to search for an answer. It took me a while to sort through the mental fog and analyze the hazy pictures in his head. He was worried about me. Worried that something might happen because of some legend. I wondered what that something might be, so I dug deeper, looking for more. That’s when a barrier hit me and I was kicked out of his head.

  legend. I wondered what that something might be, so I dug deeper, looking for more. That’s when a barrier hit me and I was kicked out of his head.

  “Please, don’t do that,” Aidan said. I didn’t even bother to claim I was innocent. He’d see right through the lie. His mind was more or less open to me as much as mine was to his. It could be a helpful tool in finding out whether the other had something to hide, but unfortunately the invasion hardly ever remained undiscovered.

  Aidan’s fingers wrapped around mine and we walked hand in hand back to the house. I expected him to want to go inside and resume his work, but he lingered in the backyard, intent to watch the sun rise. We hadn’t done that together ever since the morning after the Shadow ritual and my consequent turning, which was also the morning Aidan got to see the bright rays spilling in through the window for the first time in five hundred years.

  I raised my gaze to the horizon now streaked with orange and gold. The dark rainclouds from last night had dissipated, leaving behind a clear sky. In spite of the warm rays, the rosebushes climbing up the wall to the first floor were still covered by a thick layer of frost that would thaw at its leisure. Ever since coming here, I had the strange feeling the nature in the Scottish Highlands followed its own pace, as though it had a will of its own.

  Taking a deep breath, I let the scent of damp earth and firewood invade my nostrils, then turned to look at Aidan. His dark eyelashes cast moving shadows across his cheeks, making his eyes sparkle like sapphires. The usual morning stubble had appeared on his cheeks and chin. I rose on my toes and rubbed my thumb over the delicate skin, marveling at the tingling sensation it sent down my spine. His gaze swept over me, lingering a tad too long over my lips, and then he smiled. I held my breath at the array of emotions washing over me.

  Something was going on and he was scared.

  I knew that much already. Aidan was the worrying kind anyway, but I had never seen him so absorbed and out of touch with everything that was going on in my life. I wondered whether that legend about the three forces fighting to gain supremacy had more to it than he let on the other day.

  “I wish you’d share it with me,” I whispered. His gaze hardened. A moment later, he looked away, signaling me I wasn’t going to get any answers from him. He was locking me out of his world again, and I had no idea what else to say to make him realize he could trust me. I was his mate. It was his duty to stop keeping secrets from me because he was harming our bond. Not to mention the curiosity was killing me. Okay, I might have one or two secrets of my own, but I vowed to tell him the moment my problem was solved. On another note, it wasn’t like I didn’t try to talk to him about the haunting, Angel and the strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t my fault he wouldn’t listen, which could only mean his secret was more serious than mine.

  He cupped my face with his big hands and rubbed his thumb against my cheek as his intense gaze bore into me. “You know what we have is special, right?”

  I nodded, unable to avert my gaze from his stunning blue eyes that seemed to catch the bright rays of the rising sun.

  “Good,” he whispered. “Then trust me on this one. You’re my bonded mate, Amber. We’re meant to be together forever. I won’t let anything happen to you or our bond.”

  “I love you,” I whispered, my throat choked with emotion.

  “I love you too,” he whispered back a moment before he lowered his lips to lock them with mine in a tender kiss. It was over way too soon. When he pulled back, I ran the tip of my tongue over my lips to savor the delicious sensation he left behind and prolong the moment.

  “There’s something I need to tell you,” I began. He cocked a brow but remained silent. I drew a sharp breath, wondering where to even begin. “The haunting the other day—”

  He pressed a finger against my lips to silence me. “Amber, stop freaking yourself out by constantly thinking about the prize. You’ll see, once you stop thinking about it you’ll forget it’s even there.”

  I nodded because his words made sense. Maybe I was freaking out since I couldn’t stop thinking about being able to see ghosts. However, that didn’t mean I hadn’t seen something inside his house. And then there was the other matter.

  “Something’s wrong with me. I feel different, like—” I stopped to gather my words.

  “You’re a newly turned vampire. It’s perfectly normal to feel strange because your body works differently now. You’re no longer weak or restrained by a mortal body’s needs.”

  “That’s not what I meant.” I shook my head. “You don’t understand. Something weird’s going on. Like I’m not me and I’ve no idea what to do about it.”

  He grabbed my hand and pulled me into his arms. I nestled against his broad chest and inhaled his scent, ready to dump all my worries onto his shoulders.

  “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Adjusting to being a vampire takes time,” Aidan said. “I remember the first few months after my brother’s turning. He was a walking nightmare who had absolutely no control over his urges. He basically couldn’t decide whether to make out with a girl or suck her dry. It wasn’t pretty.

  Next to him, you’re a saint.”

  The guy had no idea what he was talking about, but he always knew how to make me feel better. It was one of the many things I loved about him.

  “Do you need to get back to your job?” I asked.

  He nodded. “But not before you tell me what you were doing inside the shed.”

  “Ain’t happening. A girl’s got to keep it interesting by not revealing everything about her.”

  “Then I’ll have to kiss you until you spill out your big secret.” His fingers tensed around my waist. I shrieked with pleasure at the outlook of a hundred kisses raining down on my neck, which we liked to call a kissing attack. He raised his brows, amused. “Babe, you know I’ll find out eventually, right?”

  “Just as much as I’ll find out what you’re up to.” I smiled at the mischievous hint in his eyes, taking him up on the challenge. He had no idea what he was up against. Basically, I wasn’t known as the female version of Sherlock Holmes for nothing.

  “Come on. Let’s go back. I don’t want you to freeze to death.” He was back in his usual overprotective role. Apparently, the fact that I was a strong and immortal vampire comp
letely slipped his mind. There were times when I doubted he’d ever see more in me than the seventeen-year-old klutz of a girl who used to trip over her own shadow.

  “Old habits die hard,” I muttered under my breath.

  “Huh?”

  I shook my head. “Nothing.”

  He offered me his hand. I grabbed it and accompanied him back to the house, already planning my next move.

  Chapter 15

  As expected, we barely reached the door when Aidan announced he had to leave that instant. Slowly, his mysteriousness was beginning to tick me off because a.) as my boyfriend he was bound to his duty to spend time with me, and b.) he never ever left without making out with me. In fact, what boyfriend just disappears without using the opportunity as a great excuse for some major snogging? It definitely isn’t natural male behavior.

  My suspicion raised, I slipped into a black jacket with a high collar behind which I could hide my face if need be, and focused on our bond. He was at the Lore court—I could sense that much. Since I was in Scotland and the place was in London, I couldn’t just march over there, so I had to put my teleporting skills to use. The usual sense of nausea overwhelmed me, making my head reel and all color drain from my face, if there was any left, what with being dead and all now.

  Mind, my still latent vampire abilities were nothing to boast about, but I managed to get a blurred picture of an underground and a foul smell, which was enough for my imagination to conjure the image. I closed my eyes and prepared for the tiny impact against the barrier of time and space that always made my heart skip a beat.

  The usual vortex sucking me in told me I was no longer master of my body or mind, but a scattered presence in the endless pool of cosmic awareness. A moment later, it was over. When I opened my eyes again I found myself in a rundown courtyard surrounded by a barbwire fence and lots of litter on the dusty asphalt.

  I took a deep breath and almost choked on the exhume fumes and the scent of rotten garbage. Ah, London—the smell of my worst teenage memories.

  Before moving to Inverness to work for Aidan, I had lived in a tiny, overpriced basement room with bad lighting and security bars on the window. It had been okay because I didn’t know any better, but now, after weeks of breathing in clean air and living in a spacey mansion, I wouldn’t be caught dead visiting my old neighborhood—no pun intended.

  Aidan was somewhere around here, but I had no idea which way to go. The courtyard seemed empty as far as I could see. Coming from somewhere behind the wall to my right, the sweet scent that had been lingering on Aidan lately wafted past, which made me believe I was close to the Lore court. I wondered what the succubi looked like, but I didn’t dare waste any time. Aidan, with his perfect teleporting ability, could already be miles away, so I focused my attention back to the task at hand: spy on him.

  The narrow staircase with dark, damp walls led underground. Not exactly my favorite direction in the world. In fact, being underground, caged in by darkness, always made me feel like I was stuck in a coffin. Imagine being caught alive—or dead—in that freakishly polished wooden case with nothing but a few pillows to talk to. I shivered at the morbid thought and headed down the stairs anyway, careful not to breathe in too deeply so I wouldn’t throw up all over the place.

  Darkness became more impenetrable the deeper I descended. Even though it wasn’t a steep decline and in no way tiring, I huffed and puffed, probably to feel as though I wasn’t completely alone in this narrow space. At some point I thought I heard water dripping, but when I strained my ears to listen the sound was gone again. At least half an hour must’ve passed when I finally made out a tiny light in the distance. Turning a corner into a wide hall with marble floors, I stopped in my tracks when my glance caught movement coming from above my head. Where I expected decorations was the most frightening ceiling I had ever seen in my life.

  “What the heck?” I whispered frozen to the spot as I stared at the hideously contorted bodies with blood dripping from countless gory wounds, reaching out to me as they rubbed their naked skin against each other. A woman’s bony fingers kept prodding a man’s gashes, making him open and close his toothless mouth like a fish pulled out of the water. His hooded eyes looked hazy, and for a moment I wasn’t sure whether he was experiencing ecstasy or pain. Or maybe he was high on both. Either way, it was just sick. I couldn’t turn away from the disturbing image fast enough when a finger trailed down my neck, sending a shiver down my spine.

  “I haven’t seen you before.” The female voice was soft and melodious, filled with something I couldn’t immediately pinpoint.

  Damn. My worst nightmare was coming true. Now that someone discovered my presence, it was only a matter of time until they called Aidan. Not that I feared him, but he was very good at giving the silent treatment and making me feel guilty. I spun around with a surprised smile on my face and took in the brunette with glossy hair reaching down to her narrow waist. The nearly see-through skirt barely covering her modesty looked like it had shrunk in the wash. Her sleeveless tube top didn’t give a better impression. My gaze wandered to her full lips painted in thick red that clashed with her porcelain skin. In spite of the tart outfit, she was stunning and I couldn’t help the pang of jealousy creeping up on me. If Aidan was hanging out at this place in the company of women like this one, it was no surprise he wouldn’t want to spend time with me. Cosmo always says jealousy isn’t an attractive trait in any female, but can you blame me? Even if it weren’t for the woman’s sultry lips, the unspoken promises of pleasure mirrored in her eyes signaling she was up for anything, her outfit didn’t fail to convey the message. I couldn’t compete with that.

  “We met a while back. Just changed my hair color and lost a bit of weight. Nothing major but I still get that ‘oh-my-gosh-what-happened-to-you’ all the time.” I laughed nervously, wondering whether I had always been such a bad liar.

  “Are you looking for anyone in particular? Maybe I can help.” She raised her beautifully shaped brows meaningfully.

  My heart began to hammer in my chest. It was a hint that she knew about Aidan and wouldn’t hesitate to spill the beans on me. My brain kicked into motion as it tried to come up with various exit strategies.

  Teleport out of here? Might work but Aidan would still find out about my unexpected visit, and I wasn’t so great at denying facts. In fact, I’d probably end up confessing before he even asked.

  Pretend I had lost my way? She might just insist on accompanying me out of this weird subterranean building and probably ask lots of questions in the process. Again, my lying abilities were just as lacking as my supernatural skills.

  My best bet was to pretend I was someone else. But who wasn’t at least five foot seven and wouldn’t be around for months, if not years?

  Cass.

  By the time my brother married her and she was finally free of her curse, the whole stunt would be long forgotten, you know, water under the bridge. But could I really pull it off?

  I raised my head a notch and imagined what cocky Cass would do in such a situation. “Some guy hooked me up with the ambassador position. Thought I’d take a look at this dump before I make up my mind.” I cringed inside at how fake I sounded.

  “Then you must be Cassandra, the new ambassador. What a pleasure, Your Highness. I’m Persephone, your personal servant.” She bowed deeply until her hair brushed the marble floor.

  I smiled, getting into it, and waved my hand to signal she may rise. “Nah, I don’t need a personal servant when I have the entire Hell at my disposal.” My gaze swept over her perfect features and slightly parted lips. “But you can do something for me. I have reason to believe a vampire was here. Tall, dark hair, blue eyes.” I hoped I didn’t sound too gushy. “He isn’t my type at all, by the way.”

  Persephone inched a step closer to whisper in my ear. “I’m not usually at disposal to disclose who our visitors are, but I’m sure Layla would want me to make an exception for the Princess of Darkness. The vampire, Aidan, came to talk
with Layla, then left again. Maybe half an hour ago.”

  Damn. I must’ve arrived after he left, meaning I must’ve missed him by minutes. My teleporting abilities sucked big time.

  “Are you looking for him?” Persephone’s inquiring voice jolted me out of my thoughts. I shrugged, hoping it was something Cass would do in such a “Are you looking for him?” Persephone’s inquiring voice jolted me out of my thoughts. I shrugged, hoping it was something Cass would do in such a situation. Persephone licked her upper lip slowly as her eyes met mine. “I know where he is, and if you give me a few minutes of your time, I’ll tell you.” Her long fingers with perfectly manicured nails trailed up the sleeve of my jacket.

  My eyes grew wide as realization kicked in. Whoa, was she hitting on me? It couldn’t be and yet the way she regarded me from under half-closed lids, and kept licking her lips made it impossible not to get the message. I jumped a step back to put some much-needed distance between us. “Don’t get your hopes up. I play for the other team, mate.”

  “I can be whatever you want me to be.” Her features changed from soft femininity to hard masculinity. Her hair shortened to a fashionable bedhead that brushed her naked shoulders. Her lips remained sultry and luscious but her chin became more pronounced, conveying a sense of stubbornness and virility. Even her tiny skirt changed into tight pants that didn’t leave much to the imagination. She smiled self-assured. “Still don’t like me?”

  I cocked my head to the side, wondering why Aidan didn’t tell me beings like her existed. It would’ve made for great dinner conversation. “Can you also change into a bear or a wolf?”

  For a brief second, an irritated frown crossed Persephone’s smooth forehead. “We can only take one male and one female form. Why? Don’t you like me? I could call a few friends of mine so you can have your pick.” She took another step forward and I realized the succubus had no immediate intention to give up. As much as I was up for a chat, I had wasted a lot of time already.

 
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