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Dead and beyond, p.15
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       Dead and Beyond, p.15

           Jayde Scott
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  Just look at Kieran and his tendency to whisper sweet nothings to every woman crossing his path to make them fall in love with him. Once they did, he moved on to the next.

  “You’re so busted, Mister,” I mumbled under my breath as I tiptoed back down the stairs, considering my next step. Of course I could just follow Cass’s advice and plant a trap, but there was no need for it any longer. I had all the proof I needed. Obviously, I wouldn’t hang around until his psycho ex made her grand appearance. The plan was to help find Angel, and then get the hell out of there. My heart was about to burst from the pain of Aidan’s betrayal. A voice inside my head screamed to kick him where it hurt the most. And maybe I would, one day, but right now I needed to focus my mind on my friends who really mattered.

  Even though I had already checked the shed in the woods and found nothing but a mirror, I had the strange feeling I missed something. I dashed out the door into the backyard, ready to teleport, when I felt a hand on my back, startling me.

  “Whoa,” Aidan said. “It’s just me. Talk about being engrossed in your thoughts. I hope I was in them.”

  I smiled weakly as I averted my gaze, ignoring his unspoken question. “Do you need to leave again?”

  “You caught me.”

  Yeah, that wasn’t the only thing I caught. “The whole night?” I asked. He ran a hand through his hair as I regarded him. I took that as an affirmative. “It’s fine, Aidan. Don’t sweat it. I’m busy anyway.”

  “Thanks, I won’t be long. You’re the coolest girlfriend ever. I swear I’ll make it up to you. What do you say we spend tomorrow evening together? Just the two of us.”

  I nodded because deep in my heart I couldn’t imagine anything that would give me more pleasure. But playing happy couple wasn’t the way things would roll from now on.

  Aidan kissed me quickly, then dissolved into thin air as I patted my tingling lips. They felt naked, empty, as though Aidan had taken a part of me with him.

  It was probably this eternal bond we shared that made me love him more than he loved me. Maybe he was immune to it, or his love for Rebecca was stronger. I wanted to fight for him, but was there even a point when Rebecca and he had a history no one would ever be able to erase? Whatever he chose, I only wished him happiness, so I vowed I wouldn’t get involved.

  Five long minutes later, I closed my eyes and imagined the shed. A tremor shook my body, making my stomach turn. When I opened my eyes again, I was standing on the narrow path leading up to the shed.

  The rising moon bathed the trees and leaves in a dark silver, tranquil hue. A strong breeze stirred the fallen leaves on the ground. I took a deep breath of the cool night air and started up the snaking path at a fast pace. I barely reached the shed when my hearing picked up something in the distance. Like the long wail of a —wolf?

  I frowned. No, it had to be a dog because, as far as I knew, there were no wolves in Scotland. Maybe someone lost their pet in the wilderness and the poor animal was scared to death. A pang of hunger hit me full force. I groaned. Not again! There was no time to deal with this right now. With a flick of my wrist, I yanked open the door to the shed and entered, ready to give it a more thorough examination than before.

  A few minutes later, I still found nothing and the first crumbles of doubt began to nag at me. Maybe my intuition was wrong and Angel wasn’t here. Maybe this wasn’t the right shed and I was wasting my time when I should’ve been searching the parameter. Leaving was the reasonable thing to do, yet my legs wouldn’t budge. I had never really been the superstitious kind, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling there was more to this shed than met the eye. I just couldn’t pinpoint what it was or where this knowledge was actually coming from.

  I sat down on the ground to think when something stirred outside. Branches scraped the glass of the window and a dark shadow appeared, blocking the moonlight. Holding my breath, I crawled to the far left corner in the hope that whoever was outside wouldn’t come in. If they did, I’d teleport my way out of here before anyone noticed my presence. I waited for the door to open, but it didn’t. Instead, I recognized Devon’s voice.

  “I told you he’s not here. If the bounty hunter couldn’t sense him, then he must’ve taken her somewhere else.”

  My brain kicked into motion, putting two and two together. By bounty hunter, Devon probably meant Aidan, which surprised me. I always assumed the Shadows referred to us as bloodsuckers. Devon thought Aidan was looking for someone, which could only mean Aidan hadn’t found Seth. A soft wail jerked me out of my thoughts.

  “I don’t think the vampire knows more than we do.” Devon’s voice trailed off, as though he meant to say more but decided against it. A second later, my “I don’t think the vampire knows more than we do.” Devon’s voice trailed off, as though he meant to say more but decided against it. A second later, my phone vibrated in my pocket, the sound cutting through the silence like a knife.

  “Crap,” I muttered. The same moment, the door burst open and a black wolf charged in, blocking the moonlight. My heart almost stopped in my chest as a whimper escaped my mouth. Wolf was probably the wrong expression because that thing stood on his hind limbs and, with its huge head and shimmering eyes oozing with intelligence, it looked way more human than I cared to acknowledge. And then I remembered one of my early conversations with Aidan when I asked him whether he ever dated one of those things and he replied he wouldn’t because they smelled. I groaned inwardly, still staring at the large creature sniffing the air.

  “A werewolf? You’ve got to be kidding me!” What was it with me and my inability to keep away from creatures of the night that shouldn’t exist?

  It all happened too quickly and yet it felt as though a year must’ve passed. The werewolf raised his head and darted in my direction, flying through the air and jumping horizontally against the wall like some sort of circus acrobat. My mouth went instantly dry. My brain screamed to get the hell out of here, but as usual my feet were glued to the spot, unwilling to listen to my brain’s command. Behind the werewolf, someone shouted, “Don’t hurt her!” Only then did I realize, my gosh, I probably had ‘dinner’ written all over me. But I didn’t want to be dinner; my limbs weren’t doggy snacks. My arm went up to protect my face as I closed my eyes and focused on the first place that came to mind an instant before a gust of bad breath hit me in the face.

  I was going to die. This thing was going to shred me to pieces.

  My stomach turned, leaving me with a strong need to bend over and spill out my guts. I held my breath so I wouldn’t puke all over the place. Seconds ticked by. Nothing happened. Or maybe it all happened so fast I didn’t even feel the pain. When I finally dared to open my eyes again, I was surrounded by darkness and a faint musky scent. Something soft brushed my cheek. I swiped my fingers across the floor to feel my way around. My foot bumped against something hard.

  Clothes and books—and lots of them.

  I was sitting inside my cupboard.

  That was the one safe place I could come up with? Let’s just say that was one secret I’d take to my grave—in the figurative sense since, technically, I was already dead.

  Breathing out, I pushed up from my cowering position and, stepping over all my clutter, which I liked to stack underneath my clothes hanging from padded clothes hangers, I exited my cupboard.

  The room was bathed in darkness with the only source of light coming from the moon outside the window. I switched on the light to get rid of the ominous shadows cast by the furniture and sat down on my bed as I allowed myself to freak out. But for some inexplicable reason I wasn’t as scared as I thought I should be.

  Maybe the shock had to wear off first.

  A werewolf.

  I laughed uneasily. Would it be coming for me now that it got hold of my scent? I hoped not because, now that Aidan was about to dump me for his ex, I no longer had the privilege of gold-infused gates to protect me. Come to think of it, I didn’t need a guy to take care of me. Even before I was turned into a
vampire, the supernaturals had needed me to retrieve the Shadows’ famous Book of the Dead. But just to make sure, I went down to the library, switched on the computer and typed ‘vampire vs. werewolf fight winner’ into the Google search browser.

  The machine whirred for zero point twenty-three seconds before it came up with some four million results. Obviously, I wasn’t the only nutter interested in this stuff. I clicked on the first link and groaned. Over sixty per cent thought a werewolf would kick a vamp’s ass any time. Dammit! I tried another page and then another until I had to admit my chances were pretty slim. Better refresh my werewolf knowledge then. I was about to start my research when a faint scratch echoed from the window.

  Begging my body not to faint, I turned my gaze to the closed window, almost expecting an oversized, extremely hairy head to appear. All I could see was the shimmering moon…and then something else. I nearly lost my breath when I glimpsed a translucent woman floating midair with sunken, glazed eyes, pale skin, thin,...and dead. Definitely dead. My heart hammered harder.

  A flicker, and then the ghost appeared again.

  I was ready to faint right there on the spot. Get a grip, I told myself as the image dissipated, but my heart continued to race. Would the ghost come back? I didn’t know but I was ready and prepared—to dash out of this pretty yet obviously haunted house.

  Thank goodness I didn’t scream like a little princess, or else one of the others might’ve heard me, raced to my rescue and I’d end up the laughing stock for a whole month. How could I blame them? Most of the inhabitants of the paranormal world were dead anyway, so they obviously didn’t fear the totally dead as in those lacking an actual physical body.

  First the werewolf, now the ghost. If I didn’t do something about what was going on, I might just end up losing my marbles. I sighed and pushed the image of an old lady living in a big, creepy house, surrounded by countless cats, to the back of my mind. If Aidan really dumped me, I knew I had a few good points working for me, like my big, brown eyes and my clear skin. Heck, I could be funny too—or so my friends claimed. But maybe they were just trying to be nice.

  Ah, who was I kidding? Being a dead and blood craving chick might just not score me any brownie points in the dating world. Not when I was a vampire slash necromancer on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

  Chapter 19

  The first time I checked the shed, Aidan turned up. My second attempt at looking into Angel’s whereabouts didn’t turn out as planned either. As I recalled my encounters with Angel and everything that happened so far, I could increasingly feel that the shed was at the heart of the mystery. Slowly I was starting to think that shed was better guarded than Hell, or why else would people keep turning up or follow me so I wouldn’t get a chance to investigate for longer than a few minutes? People were trying to keep me away from that place. They thought I was a threat, that I might just unravel their well-kept secrets. Yeah, I really liked that idea. A supernatural tangled web of lies, and I, Amber Reed, was about to dig up the dirt and expose the culprits.

  Whatever was coming after me—think hungry werewolf and freaky ghost—I was determined to not give up. Now that I knew about my opponents, I vowed to be more careful and only investigate in the safety of daylight. So I spent the night in front of the computer with the lights switched on, my eyes darting across the room every now and then, so I’d be warned of any signs of a ghostly apparition. My ghost didn’t return, and neither did the werewolf, but I knew they would be coming eventually. I was way too close to discovering the truth.

  The hours from dusk till dawn couldn’t pass fast enough. By sunrise I was fully clothed and clutching a bag that contained my usual emergency kit including a compass, pacing up and down the room, ready to go again. As soon as the first rays of sun seeped through the window, I resumed Mission Investigate Mysterious Shed and teleported to the shed, materializing somewhere at the foot of the hill. My teleporting was slowly getting better but it still felt nauseating and I almost never landed where I was supposed to.

  I took a good look at my surroundings before darting up the path leading to the shed, then stopped to listen for any signs of a pursuer. No one was around.

  Goody. I pushed the door open and entered, making sure to close it behind me.

  In the warm morning light, the room looked just like any deserted garden hut with off-white walls and a creaking door. With a quick glance I scanned the small room for any changes. Apart from the large hole in the ground, still filled with mud, there was a thick blanket of dust covering the floor, which I swear wasn’t there only a few hours ago when I searched the place.

  Kneeling down, I swiped a finger through the dust, then lifted it to my nose to take a sniff. During my time as Aidan’s housekeeper, he had spared no effort to help me get accustomed with his antique furniture that was the worst dust magnet ever. He had expected me to polish and scrub and then polish some more, so I definitely knew what dust smelled like. In fact, even the thought of it still haunted me in my nightmares. The dust on the floor smelled of nothing, which only raised my suspicion. This wasn’t real dust—someone had planted it here so they’d know whether I’d pop over to investigate. Clever, but not clever enough!

  I closed my eyes and teleported to the far back of the room, right on top of the chair so as not to leave footprints behind. Granted, standing on a chair in an empty room looked stupid. But who cared? I was a girl on a mission and looking good wasn’t my priority. The height gave me an advantage as my gaze scanned the floor. To my chagrin, I found nothing. Not even a single hook hinting at a hidden trapdoor. I was at my wit’s end. It was either go home or let people know that I had been here by dabbing into one of my worst fears. Heaving a big sigh, I jumped down from the chair and started swiping my hands across the floor, and even though I knew the dust wasn’t real, the knowledge didn’t stave off the obligatory sneeze or two.

  Half an hour later, I gave up. “Useless,” I whispered, fishing the tiny mirror I found in the shed and completely forgot about out of my pocket to regard my unruly hair. Dark smudges stained my face where I had pushed loose strands out of my eyes. I looked tired and defeated, but I was nowhere near giving up.

  The rays of sun caught in the mirror and reflected like the beam of a flashlight. In the mirror, I thought I caught a faint mark on the other side of the wall. I turned to look but there was nothing there, so I raised the mirror again and played around until I had the right angle. In its reflection, the signs on the other side of the wall were clearly visible.

  Circles and pentagrams. Drawings of what looked like people gathered around an eye that seemed to guard a pyre.

  My heart started to race. Raising the tiny mirror higher over my shoulder, I slowly moved backward, my gaze still focused on the creepy writings. It reminded me of a—“Witch-hunt.” My whisper barely made its way out of my throat. I swallowed hard as I tried to memorize the drawings so I could look them up later. The bushes outside stirred. It could either be an animal or someone following me. I pushed the mirror shard inside my back pocket and prepared to leave when an idea struck me. I opened my emergency bag and retrieved my compact mirror. Fidgeting with it, I realized the drawings weren’t there in its reflection. The shard I had found wasn’t an ordinary mirror. Smiling, I closed my eyes and teleported back to Aidan’s mansion.

  Chapter 20

  In the face of a new discovery, excitement often exceeds the actual importance and magnitude of said discovery, which was the case in my situation. Back at the shed, I thought I cracked the case wide open. At home though, I realized I wasn’t really anywhere near finding Angel. In fact, the mysterious drawings had ended up complicating my project even more because now I wasn’t just dealing with the case of a possible kidnapping. I also had a possible witch-hunt on my plate.

  But this wasn’t the Middle Ages. As far as I remembered from history class, they were just ordinary women that did no more than brew a few tea leaves—nothing wrong about that if you ask me— marked as witches and
burned alive. I wondered whether in this other world I was recently introduced to, where the impossible became possible, finding circles and pentagrams might indicate there was another group of supernaturals out there I didn’t yet know about. First vampires, then Shadows, reapers, demons, angels, werewolves, and now witches and maybe…witch hunters? I shuddered at the possibility of my theory being true.

  Who, in this century, would hunt down a witch? After the troubles I went through when I became a necromancer, I figured in the paranormal world the correct answer to the question could be ‘pretty much everybody except me’. Come to think of it, I might just be about to join the hunt.

  I didn’t have time to ponder over my new discovery because my phone vibrated almost as soon as I materialized. I peered at the caller ID. It was the same one calling me at the shed when the phone vibrated, attracting the werewolf’s attention. I groaned before I answered.

  “What’s up, Devon? Miss me already?”

  “What did I do this time?” Devon asked.

  The shed. The werewolf. Devon telling that killer machine I was friend not foe. I bit my tongue for a second so I wouldn’t blurt it all out. No point in letting on I knew it was he walking his pet dog in the middle of the night. “Nothing. It was just a phrase I picked up on TV. I liked the sound of it so I thought—” I trailed off.

  “Right. Care to join me outside? We need to talk.”

  “Sure.” I cut off the line and slipped into my coat out of habit as I darted through the front door, down the driveway to the gates in the distance. He was already there, a big frown creasing his forehead. The dark circles beneath his eyes made him look tired, less composed than usual.

  “Is Aidan around?” Devon asked.

  I shook my head. “Do you really think I’d agree to meet you if he was?”

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