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Dead and beyond, p.14
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       Dead and Beyond, p.14

           Jayde Scott
 
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  A carriage hurried past, the sound of the horse’s hooves carrying through the silence of the night. Devon dressed in black from head to toe, his black hair swaying in the wind, his jaw set as he regarded a motionless bundle on the floor. He poked the bundle with the tip of his boot, and then tossed the coarse, gray blanket aside to reveal the bloodless body beneath. And in that instant I knew the killing had been my doing.

  I shook my head. Not my doing. The murderer had to be someone else because I wasn’t even born yet. A soft laughter echoed in my ear and the pictures returned.

  A woman with red curls that reached down to her waist was watching him from the high tower of a church. Her hands were drenched in blood, just like the front of her blue corsage dress. She pressed a perfumed handkerchief against her mouth to get rid of the stench wafting from the streets below and took a step back, disappearing in the shadows. For a moment, my vision shifted and I thought I saw the world through her eyes: running through the busy streets of Victorian disappearing in the shadows. For a moment, my vision shifted and I thought I saw the world through her eyes: running through the busy streets of Victorian London. Killing an innocent just to see his blood staining the dirty cobblestones, all the while thinking of Devon and how sweet his blood would taste.

  My stomach clenched, jerking me back to reality. A strong shiver ran down my spine. I knew that woman. It was Aidan’s ex, Rebecca. She had known Devon, followed him even, but why? She could’ve easily attacked him if she only sought his blood. But she wanted more. Did she have a crush on him?

  And why would I think I was her?

  I had to clear my throat several times before I found my voice again. “I told you what I know. Now it’s time to keep your part of the bargain.”

  “My pleasure.” Even though I couldn’t read his expression because his mouth still lingered an inch from my ear, I knew he was smiling, as though he expected me to dump Aidan after I discovered his secret. I instantly prepared myself for the worst. “Aidan’s been frequenting the Lore court for a while, but not as much as he has in the last few days since he accepted a job for Layla.” That much I knew already. While I didn’t like the bitch hitting on him, I couldn’t ask him to give up his job. I nodded so Devon would continue. “Layla fears someone’s about to take over her throne and Aidan’s supposed to find the person. Trouble is he hasn’t been able to locate him yet.”

  When he stopped I peered up at him, relieved but also a bit disappointed. “Is that your big revelation? Boy, you just dropped a bomb. I don’t even know where to start picking up the pieces.”

  Devon smiled. “Not quite, Amber. Don’t you want to know what she offered him in return for his services?” Did I want to know that? Not really, but I nodded anyway. “The whereabouts of a mirror that can fuse any soul with a mortal body. Does the name Rebecca ring any bells?”

  A mirror.

  I had found one at the shed a few minutes before Aidan arrived. He never told me what he came for, just took me home with the pretense to come back later. All blood drained from my face. I felt so faint I thought I might just drop to the ground and die there and then. Rebecca, the crazy ex who turned him into a vampire. Granted, she was pretty with red hair, gorgeous eyes and skin as smooth as alabaster. But what the heck? She was a bitch. Had he lost his marbles? Got the crazies? What guy in his right mind wanted to date a psycho killer? Was the blood bond between Aidan and her so strong he simply couldn’t let her go? Or did his feelings go deeper than he claimed?

  It certainly explained why he took Layla’s job and wouldn’t tell me anything about it. I knew all along he had something to gain, now I also knew what.

  I took a deep breath as I tried to push the array of questions to the back of my mind. There’d be enough time to think about them later after I kicked his ass into next week. Good that I hadn’t slept with the cheater yet.

  “Did you know Aidan’s house is haunted?” I laughed at his perplexed expression. “Yeah, me neither until a few days ago when blood started to spill down the walls and scratches began to appear on the floor.”

  “Are you sure?”

  “As sure as any necromancer could be.” I regarded him intently. “Why? You don’t believe me?”

  “Of course I believe you. Are you okay?” Judging from his tone, he was telling the truth.

  “Oh, you bet I am. It’s just a ghost.” I waved my hand in the air. “All it can do is walk through some walls and wail in its nightgown, right?”

  Devon nodded, seemingly unconvinced. “If you need anything—” His voice trailed off.

  “Nah, unless you can find me a coffin, and preferably one Aidan won’t be able to pry open because I intend to send him on a very long date with a ghost.” I smiled sweetly. “Thanks for an interesting day. I had fun.”

  “So did I.” His face inched closer. The air crackled. Time seemed to stand still. I held my breath, almost expecting—fearing—he might kiss me. Even though I was pissed at Aidan, I didn’t feel like kissing another guy. To my relief, Devon leaned in to plant a soft peck on my cheek, lingering just a tiny bit but long enough to allow me to take a whiff of his aftershave. I breathed in, surprised how much I liked it.

  “I’ll call you.” My voice came lower than planned, full with promises I had no intention to keep.

  “I hope so,” Devon said before he began walking down the street.

  His departure came so sudden, I stared after him until he disappeared in the mass of people, towering at least a head over them. Only when I could no longer see his dark hair and broad shoulders did I teleport back to Scotland, more furious than I had ever been in my entire life.

  Chapter 17

  I materialized in the backyard next to the wilted rosebushes. I was able to let my anger roam free for all of three seconds, or as long as it took to kick the garden bench, sending it flying through the air a few feet, after which I regained my composure. I even managed a tiny smile even though I probably looked like a psycho, but who cared? I was an enraged woman on a mission.

  So here’s what I did when I arrived home. Even though every single cell inside my body screamed to toss one vase after another over Aidan’s head, I didn’t enter the mansion straight away because I was an adult in a grownup relationship so, consequently, I was going to defy my nature and actually talk things over. He deserved a chance to explain himself.

  I tapped a finger against my lips, thinking.

  Maybe talking wasn’t such a bright idea. The guy would just end up denying everything and we’ll live happily ever after…until he managed to raise his crazy ex.

  So a trap it was.

  But how would I go about things? Obviously, checking his emails and wiring his phone calls wouldn’t work, what with her being dead and probably not having cell phone reception in Hell, where she belonged. I could also scratch the other obvious things like GPS logger, going through his browser history, or the girl trap—Aidan wasn’t so stupid as to fall for the ‘hot chick chatting him up in a bar’ technique that was about as old as humanity.

  A voice-activated recorder would record everything he said on his cell phone while driving because, in the case of an affair, a working vehicle’s a necessary tool in his deceptions. In my case, I could use it record any monologues if he talked into thin air, thinking his dead beloved was listening. Trouble might be figuring out where to hide it so he wouldn’t find out. A teddy bear concealing the nanny cam might just be too obvious with an overly careful guy like Aidan.

  The excitement of having come up with a plan wore off pretty soon. The recorder idea wasn’t bad but, all in all, my options were slim and not exactly reliable. Let’s be honest, except for the few tidbits I picked up reading Cosmo, I had no real-life experience with catching cheaters. I began to chew my nails as I realized I needed to talk to a pro. Preferably someone who was a master at disguising the truth, and who might be a better choice than Cass? After her stunt with Dallas during which she made him believe he was about to die and the only way to enter Hea
ven was to marry her, I had yet to decide whether to be shocked or amused. The girl had a great deal of imagination, I had to give her that. But she also couldn’t keep her mouth shut if her life depended on it.

  Call her or not call her?

  I had nothing to lose so I fished my phone out of my pocket and dialed her number. She picked up on the second ring.

  “It took you a week to call. Do you realize how long that is in Hell-years?” Cass yelled.

  I smiled. “I missed you too. It’s so lovely to find you in such a good mood.” Slowly counting to ten, I pushed the phone away from my ears as Cass fell into a long tirade of whining in self-pity.

  “—and then Dad—” she was talking about Lucifer “—had the cheek to offer Dallas a job. Do you know what that means? Even if he married me, which by the look of it he never will, we’d be stuck down here because Dallas is too scared to tell Dad to shove his job where the sun don’t shine.”

  “Maybe Dallas wants the job. He seemed to get along with your dad just fine.”

  Cass snorted. “Like a house on fire. Last week Dad showed him the dungeons and forgot to bring him back. It took me four hours to find him.”

  I sighed, ready to change the subject before she started recalling more of those incidents that only made me feel bad for both Dallas and my parents. I mean, I should’ve protected my brother rather than let him get involved in this mess. Our poor parents believed we were having a quiet summer in Scotland and that we’d be home by Christmas. How would I explain that not only was I a vampire now, but Dallas was stuck in Hell after a voodoo priestess returned his soul to his dead body? Talk about perfect dinner conversation. I could picture it all in my head: Dad: Amber, how was your day?

  Me: Great.

  Dad, leaning over the table, interested: What did you do?

  Me: I went to class and then stopped to grab a bite.

  Dad: Sounds fantastic. What did you have?

  Me (kicking Dallas’ leg under the table so he wouldn’t burst out in laughter): Judging from the accent, I think I had something French.

  Dad, pointing at my plate: That certainly explains the pecking at your food.

  “Hey, are you still there?” Cass yelled in my ear, jerking me out of my thoughts.

  “Sure.” Cass’s inability to stay focused was slowly rubbing off on me. “I meant to ask you about your new abilities.”

  “They’re cool. Wouldn’t be bad if I actually were in the real world where I’d have a proper use for them.” I nodded even though she couldn’t see me. “So, why did you call?”

  Her question took me by surprise. “To see how you’re doing.”

  “Of course. What else?” She clicked her tongue. “This pretty face ain’t stupid, mate. If you had been interested in my wellbeing, you wouldn’t have waited a whole week to inquire about it. Just spill.”

  “I would’ve called but so much came up.” Even though it was the truth, I cringed at how horribly fake my excuse sounded. “One day we’ll sit down and I’ll explain everything.”

  “You bet your ass we will. In fact, I’m free this weekend. You could pop over, maybe even stay the night, you know, girls’ night in.” Cass only ever invited me twice: to impress Dallas and for her birthday party so I could persuade Dallas to marry her. The girl was clearly in desperate need of any contact with the outside world.

  “I’d like that,” I said, hoping she’d forget about the invitation before the week was over. As much as I loved Cass, I couldn’t take the heat down there.

  Literally. “I meant to ask you something. Let’s say this friend of mine suspects her boyfriend might still be hung up on the ex. How would you go about trapping him to find out?”

  “Oh!” Tiny pause followed by a giggle, then, “You’re talking about this friend of yours called Amber?”

  “No,” I said slowly. “I’m talking about the other friend called ‘it’s none of your business, got it?’ Now, can we get back to the trapping part, please? What do you suggest?”

  “Pretty obvious. Plan a trip out of town, but you’re not actually going anywhere, just make him think that you are. This is where you set your trap. If he thinks you’re going to be away, then there’s a good chance he might use this as an opportunity to meet up with the other chick.”

  I regarded the leaves on the ground as I took in her advice. Not bad at all…if I didn’t leave out one tiny detail. “What if the chick’s whacked?”

  “You mean like in ‘dead’? Doesn’t matter. In fact, getting in touch with a corpse is kinda time-consuming and requires a lot of preparation so I’m pretty sure he won’t let the opportunity go to waste.”

  She made it sound as though my boyfriend was indeed cheating on me. “It’s not definite. He might not really be cheating on my friend.”

  She made it sound as though my boyfriend was indeed cheating on me. “It’s not definite. He might not really be cheating on my friend.”

  “Yeah,” Cass said unconvinced. “You know, I should send over one of my most trusted advisors. His name is Kinky and he knows a thing or two about guys.”

  Kinky? The tiny devil that used to sit on Cass’s shoulder to teach her proper Hell etiquette? “Ah, yeah, no!” I laughed. “Unless I wanted a divorce!”

  “You mean your friend wanted a divorce.”

  Damn it. I was the worst liar ever. I couldn’t keep my stories straight if they were written across my forehead. “That’s what I said.”

  “I bet you did.”

  Time to change the subject again. “Cass, do you think kissing another guy on the cheek is cheating?”

  “Did you use tongue?” I could hear the amusement in her voice. Eww, what would I use that for? I shook my head as she continued, “It depends on whether the boyfriend in question is Scottish. ‘Cause if he is then, according to the Scottish laws of dating, it’s second degree cheating. And if the other guy is hot, then it’s automatically moving up to first degree.”

  I didn’t know whether to take her seriously or not, but it sure made me feel bad. “Really?”

  “Of course not. It was just a peck…unless you harbored lots of naughty thoughts afterwards. Did you?”

  “No!” Why did I sound as though I was lying even when I was telling the truth?

  “Shame,” Cass said. “Wait, you sound guilty.”

  “I’m not.” My answer came out all squeaky and loud.

  “Maybe you should since you cheated on him according to Scottish standards. I’ll send over Pinky who can help you develop a guilty conscience.”

  Pinky was the opposite of Kinky, instructed by Cass’s seraph mother to teach Cass proper Heaven etiquette. Knowing Cass, that job didn’t turn out so well.

  “No, thanks. I’ll call you to let you know how my friend’s trap turned out.”

  “You gotta go already?” She sounded whiny. “Don’t forget to call.” I felt bad at the disappointment in her voice. I could only imagine how lonely it must be down there in the deep pits of Hell with only a handful of demons as company.

  “I won’t,” I said. “Thanks, Cass. You’re the best.” I meant every word of it. A minute later, I hung up and took a deep breath before I headed for Aidan’s mansion, a plan already forming in my head.

  Chapter 18

  I entered the house through the backdoor and crossed the marvelous yet unused kitchen in a few long strides. Everything was deserted as usual, which didn’t surprise me. I took a shower in my own bathroom to wash off the scent of Devon, the succubus, exhaust fumes, and crowded streets, and put on a pair of jeans and a long sweater, then sat down in the library to wait for Aidan.

  My fingers started drumming on my thigh as I counted the seconds until Aidan arrived. The sun set outside in a multitude of colors, bathing the sky in copper and red. Under normal circumstances, nothing could’ve kept me from enjoying the breathtakingly beautiful view, but I couldn’t focus on it tonight. Not when my boyfriend was probably plotting to raise his ex this instant.

  It wasn’t l
ong before he stormed in and stopped in his tracks, as though he was surprised to see me. His cheeks flushed, giving his skin a pink hue. “You’re home.”

  I cocked a brow. “Isn’t that where you told me to be?”

  “I did. I was just—” He waved a hand in the air, searching for words.

  “Surprised to see I listened?”

  He laughed nervously. “There’s something I need to finish. I’ll be in my study.”

  “Sure. Take your time.” I narrowed my gaze as he walked out. Talk about acting all weird. If he thought I wouldn’t try to find out what he was up to, he was in for a big surprise.

  After five minutes of tapping my fingers against my thigh to kill time, I tiptoed up the stairs and crept to his office, avoiding the creaking floorboards and the heavy furniture Aidan called ‘antiques’ while I liked to call them ‘dust magnets’.

  The door was closed, but my vampire senses were heightened enough to make out muffled sounds. I pressed my ear against the keyhole and held my breath to listen. Aidan was walking up and down the room, the sound of his boots was almost swallowed up by the thick carpet, which suited me just fine because it didn’t distract from his conversation.

  “No! I want you to stay there until I’ve sorted out this mess,” he whispered. I could tell he was mad but struggling to keep his voice done the way only Aidan could. “Look, there’s nothing you can help with. You’d only overcomplicate things and I don’t need the distraction right now. Just stay put and I’ll get you when it’s done so we can commence the gathering. And one more thing, Amber’s been very suspicious lately. She doesn’t need to know so don’t talk to her.”

  I took a deep breath, hundreds of thoughts racing through my mind. As I figured before, Aidan was keeping a secret from me. Again. But now I was pretty sure this one involved his ex, Rebecca, and he didn’t want her ghost to talk to me. I knew all along the guy was too good to be true. Must be running in the family.

 
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