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Dead and beyond, p.16
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       Dead and Beyond, p.16

           Jayde Scott
 
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  He looked stunned, as though the thought never crossed his mind, but he didn’t comment. “Brendan told me about your situation. I want to help.”

  “Really? Even before I deliver the lost girlfriend? I’m flattered.”

  He smiled. “I can take you to see Deidre. She could perform the ritual again and free from your bloodlust.”

  “No.”

  He raised his brows. “Why? You don’t trust her?”

  I didn’t but that wasn’t the reason. “Right after I was turned, I didn’t suffer from it. I need to find out what triggered it in the first place.”

  “Brendan thinks you were touched by something that broke our Queen’s magic.”

  Now he had my attention. I leaned against the gates and grasped the metal rods, my knuckles turning white. “Something touched me? Like a different kind of magic?”

  He hesitated. “Maybe. I don’t know what could possibly be so strong though.”

  The metal rods felt cold as ice against my skin. I pulled my hands back when it dawned on me. Aidan used magic-infused gold to keep out the Shadows. If something could ban them, then it might just be strong enough to break the spell. “What about this?” I pointed at the gate. Devon’s eyes narrowed a tiny bit. I could see his thoughts mirrored in his face: claim Aidan’s magic would never work and risk sounding defensive and petty, or keep the possibility open and risk looking weak? In the end, he decided to cock his head to the side and keep his mouth shut.

  I heaved a big sigh as something else dawned on me. Aidan was the only person I knew who owned magic-infused gates. He was also the one who knew where to get this kind of magic. Could he have done something to me to weaken my body so I wouldn’t hinder his plans regarding Rebecca? It made so much sense that it actually hurt. I took a deep breath as I focused on Devon, hoping my expression wouldn’t betray the turmoil going on inside of me. “Do you know anyone I could ask? Maybe a witch?”

  A dark shadow crossed his face and I thought I even saw a tiny flinch. “No, I don’t.” I instantly knew he was lying. He knew a witch, meaning they existed.

  And if vampires, werewolves, demons, and witches existed, then what else was out there?

  “That’s too bad, but thanks anyway.” I smiled. “Is there something I can help you with? I’m sure you didn’t just offer our assistance because I’m such a pretty face.”

  “Actually, the pretty face part was my main driving factor—” Smiling, he stopped for effect “—but there’s something I meant to ask you. Did Aidan say anything about a mirror?”

  The mirror again—probably the same one I was carrying in my back pocket. He made it sound nonchalant, like he didn’t really care. But I could feel his blood pumping hard through his veins as his heartbeat spiked. Pretending to think, I tapped a finger against my lips. “No, I don’t think so. But he’s been gone forever lately. I think he’s discovered something.”

  Devon’s expression softened a little. “Let’s hope he has.” Another lie. The guy obviously didn’t want Aidan to find that mirror. I wondered whether anyone knew about the secret painted on the shed’s walls.

  “I gotta go back,” I said. “I promised my brother to call him. He’s probably worried sick by now.”

  “That’s a funny choice of words. Why would he be worried? You’re a strong vampire and a pretty clever one at that.” The way he said ‘vampire’ made my stomach churn. For a moment, I thought I heard contempt in his tone, but it couldn’t be because Devon was smiling. It didn’t make sense.

  “Thanks.” I took a step back when I caught movement coming from the trees on my right side.

  It was a huge, familiar-looking, shapeless dark spot that seemed to shift in the air. I narrowed my gaze, wondering where I had seen it before and whether my ghostly apparition wasn’t indeed a poltergeist or demon, and that’s when I remembered the black fog on Cass’s mirror in the bathroom when I visited her birthday party. That same day, my new vampire life began to fall apart. Had there been an entity in that bathroom? Did it follow me? But how? A terrible thought crossed my mind, making me feel hot and cold. Someone might have planted it there for my benefit—or doom. Someone had possibly meant for that thing to touch me. My brain kicked into motion, going through the list of people who attended the event. Everyone was there—everyone but the Shadows.

  “If I told you a ghost was following me right now, would you believe me?” I whispered.

  “Of course, I would. You’re a necromancer.” Devon’s answer came quick, without a single doubt.

  I nodded. “Thanks. Let’s catch up later.”

  “Are you sure you don’t want Deidre to recast your spell?”

  I shook my head. “Ask me again in a week.”

  I shook my head. “Ask me again in a week.”

  Without so much as a glance back, I took off up the driveway toward the gloomy mansion to lock myself inside my room and get some alone time to think.

  Devon’s answer had been the way any normal person with knowledge of the paranormal would react. That Aidan kept pretending I didn’t see a darn thing or that it wasn’t dangerous seemed suspicious. It made countless alarm bells go off in my head, just like the fact that he seemed to have more knowledge of the various types of magic than Devon whose people actually practiced it. I couldn’t help but wonder where that knowledge came from. Maybe there was more to the three courts and their ancient war than I knew. Maybe it had turned into a raging fire that savaged everyone in its way. I could feel someone had targeted me and pushed me right in the middle of this war. If only I knew the specifics as to how and why.

  I barely reached my room on the first floor when a hunger pang washed over me, forcing me to my knees. I ground my teeth against the unnatural surge to pierce my fangs into something warm and soft. A cold shudder ran down my spine and bathed my back in sweat. My insides burned, my stomach felt as though it was on fire that spread through my body, and all I could think about was blood. I cringed and fought the urge to scream and smash my fists into the wall.

  A soft hand touched my cheek. I peered up at the dark, shapeless form of an entity hovering in mid-air inches away from my face.

  “What do you want?” I tried to whisper, but my voice barely found its way out of my throat.

  Your body.

  Your life.

  I wasn’t sure whether I indeed heard the words, or just imagined them.

  “You can’t have my life,” I whispered bitterly. “Just look at me. I’m dead. A monster. I don’t actually have one.”

  The shape began to shift in front of my eyes, turning from a shapeless heap into a female form. I glanced up the long, beautiful brocade dress to the pale, naked arms with skin smooth as alabaster. An emerald ring in a gold setting adorned her long fingers with blood red, razor sharp nails. It was a strange ring, one that I remembered spying before. But where? My eyes shifted over the smooth moss green stone to the gold setting with what looked like carved symbols. They seemed familiar too, but my mind just couldn’t put two and two together. Defying the fog of hunger pulsing through me, I raised my gaze to her face, and gasped. At the back of my mind, the knowledge had been there all along.

  Rebecca’s ghost haunted this place, which was probably one of the reasons Aidan didn’t want to acknowledge there was a ghost in the first place. Because he knew. My heart broke at the thought of the one I loved possibly loving someone else.

  How did she escape her eternal punishment of reliving her death over and over again in Hell’s second upper plane? It must’ve been the reaper’s blood—or life essence, or whatever coursed through their veins—she gorged on right before she killed my brother. It probably granted her the ability to travel through the different dimensions even though she should’ve been bound to Distros forever. But how did she trick her way out of Hell altogether?

  Her red lips curved into a sly smile. She opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out. Her forehead creased into an angry frown. Her nails tore into her flesh where she balled her h
ands into fists. As things stood, she was still just a ghost who could only communicate telepathically with the one carrying Layla’s prize. With no body, she couldn’t return to her former, bloodthirsty self, meaning she also wielded no power over the living immortals, who couldn’t see her on the physical plane. Basically, she was harmless and it maddened her.

  I ignored her as I forced my body into an upright position and, fighting the nausea settling in the pit of my stomach, made my way downstairs to the library.

  A plan slowly took shape inside my head. I couldn’t wait to get started and kick the psycho out of my life once and for all, but not before I got rid of the hunger nagging at me.

  Tearing my sleeve away from my wrist, I bore my fangs into my skin and began to suck as fast as I could, pushing the ugly, slurping sound I made to the back of my mind.

  ***

  I don’t know how long I stood there in the middle of the library, drinking my own blood, but it was disgusting. And not even pretty disgusting like you’d call a friend who just told you they had ice cream and pickles for lunch. I felt utterly revolting. Somewhere behind me, I thought I heard a woman’s crystalline laughter. Great, now the stupid ghost was having a laugh at my expense. I licked the two punctures and pulled my sleeve over the torn skin that would heal within less than an hour, then stood up from my crouching position.

  It was already afternoon. The sun spilled through the large window, bathing the library in glaring brightness. Even though I freaked out at the thought of having a ghost nearby, I was too miffed to show it. Rebecca couldn’t do anything, not without a body, so I had nothing to fear. Or did I?

  Forcing my gaze to the wooden floor, I dashed for the desk, grabbed a pen and a notebook, and then headed for the backyard to enjoy the last days of the Scottish summer. I sat down on the bare grass a few feet from the rosebushes I loved, and tucked my legs beneath me as I focused on the notebook in my hands.

  Even though I knew I couldn’t write down what went through my head, staring at the empty white paper helped me sort out my thoughts until a rough plan emerged.

  One of my priorities was to find out what kind of magic Aidan had infused into the gate and the fence surrounding his property. Then I’d look into who mastered the ability to perform such magic. Was it someone Aidan knew or maybe even Aidan himself? And finally, I would investigate the whole witch thing.

  Who were they? Where did they live and what was their connection to the vampires and Shadows? I had no doubt that the mirror had a special meaning in all of this and that Angel was at the core of events. She always claimed she had no powers, but appearances can be deceiving.

  I lay back on the grass and propped my hands under my head, squinting against the sun, pleased with myself. Slowly but steadily, I was beginning to believe that I was an even stronger trouble magnet than my brother and that was bound to say something because Dallas couldn’t stay out of trouble for longer than five minutes. In my case, maybe it wasn’t so much a compulsion than destiny. Maybe fate chose me to solve the riddle. I could only hope she didn’t plan my demise in the process.

  Chapter 21

  Aidan didn’t exaggerate when he said he’d be gone for a while. Alone, locked up in the library, I spent the late afternoon and early evening researching the various symbols I had glimpsed through the mirror, starting with the eye.

  In ancient Egypt and still to this date, the eye represented divine protection from evil influences. In the concept of Kundalini, which was formed as a part of the yogic philosophy of ancient India, it stood for heightened conscious awareness and perception above and beyond the physical plane. I didn’t know which of the two definitions applied, but I decided on a favorite right after I stumbled across a brief blog entry discussing the importance of the eye as a window to the soul and its association with the Third Eye or otherwise known as the sixth chakra. While I had no idea what a chakra was, the fact that it’s known as the center of psychic powers such as clairvoyance, channeling, telepathy, and astral travel as the bridge to the spirit fascinated me.

  I Googled each psychic ability one by one. Clairvoyance meant gaining information about an object, event or person from the past or future through visions.

  To me, that described a Seer. Cass’s aunt, Patricia, was one and she belonged to the broader term of fallen angel.

  Channeling was part of my ability of talking with the dead. Of course, since everyone called me a Necromancer, talking wasn’t the only trick I could pull with a ghost, but letting them possess me in a freaky séance wasn’t something I’d ever try out. I had been granted this ability by demi-goddess Layla when I won her stupid paranormal race that ruined my life. Was channeling something that demi-deities could do? I jotted down ‘deity’ and underlined it three times, then moved on to my next point.

  The Shadows aka Shaman warriors could astral travel to perfection, which became obvious when they entered Hell to retrieve the Book of the Dead from Cass.

  And last but not least telepathy, which instantly made me think of Aidan and his ability to get inside a mortal’s head to influence their emotions. Granted, it wasn’t exactly telepathy, but I figured it counted. As far as I knew Cass was the only supernatural with the uncanny ability to read everyone’s mind.

  My head threatened to burst from all the new information. Even though the lines were blurred, it was obvious supernaturals had various abilities that defined them. Leaving out the fallen angels, whose role wasn’t clear to me, the three main courts remained: the Shadows, the vampires, and the demi-deities ruling the Lore court. Maybe the drawings on the wall were the key to winning the war for hierarchy that had been raging for centuries. But how was it all connected with Angel who, as far as I knew, had no abilities?

  Engrossed in my thoughts, I barely noticed when the sun set over the Scottish Highlands and clouds darkened the evening sky. The temperature cooled down. I sat up and crossed my arms to keep warm although as a vampire I wasn’t feeling the cold the way a mortal would.

  “Babe?” Aidan’s voice came from the hall. He must’ve completely slipped my mind. For a moment my breath caught in my throat, and I almost forgot about his plan to find the mirror so Rebecca could return to the land of the living.

  The lights in the hall went on a second before the door opened and Aidan stepped in, wearing his bounty hunter gear. My mouth went dry at his sight. The way he reached me in two long strides and bent down to place a kiss on my lips—so confident, so natural—I thought my heart might just burst into a thousand pieces.

  “I missed you,” he whispered against my lips. His hands trailed down my shirt to my waist. I didn’t manage to utter a single word, just nodded like an idiot in love, wondering why I couldn’t just tell him I knew all about his little scheme before I slammed something over his head.

  “Did you have a good day?” he continued, playing his role of loving boyfriend perfectly. I nodded again as I found myself wrapping my arms around his neck to draw him closer.

  Don’t do that, you moron, a voice screamed in my head. Ignoring it, I lifted my lips to meet his hungry mouth in a deep but tender kiss as hundreds of butterflies fluttered inside me.

  “You’re everything I ever wanted,” Aidan whispered.

  He tasted of honey, and smelled of warm summer nights and a soft breeze caressing the blossoming rosebushes. He was home.

  I pulled back and moistened my lips, avoiding his impossibly blue gaze. He misunderstood my sudden albeit half-hearted attempt at putting some much needed distance between us. “I’m so sorry you had to spend the last few days alone. But I’m almost done now and, as promised, I have a surprise for you.”

  Last time we talked, he hadn’t mentioned a surprise. I looked up, suspicion and fear creeping back into my heart. “Maybe another time. I’m kinda busy with my project.”

  Disappointment crossed his features and the tiniest hint of a frown creased his forehead. I fought the urge to touch his cheek and kiss it all away. This stupid bond made me do things, like cav
e in when I didn’t want to.

  “It wouldn’t take long. Half an hour tops,” he said.

  Even though I knew I shouldn’t trust the guy, he looked so hopeful, I just couldn’t deny his wish. Hesitating, I nodded. “Just make it quick.”

  “Thanks.” He helped me up to my feet and accompanied me back inside the house, still holding my hand. Under normal circumstances, his touch would’ve soothed my nerves, but today it did the opposite. My eyes scanned the area, unsure what to expect, as he guided me into the hall and closed his eyes, signaling me he was about to teleport.

  I pulled my hand from his grasp and took a step back before he could drag me to some eternal dungeon from which there would be no escape. “Whoa, where are we going?”

  He opened his eyes and raised his brows. “Relax. I wasn’t going to kidnap you. I told you I have a surprise.”

  Why did he sound like the axe murderer ringing on the door in the middle of the night, asking the home-alone teenager if he could use the phone for some fake emergency?

  “Uh—” I opened my mouth to speak as I willed my brain to come up with a great excuse why I couldn’t leave the house. Expecting guests? Let’s just say, we were in the middle of nowhere so no one ever lost their way to our door, let alone visit willingly. Pretend I couldn’t miss something on TV? Wouldn’t work after the invention of TiVo. I raised my chin, proud of my absolutely idiot-proof excuse. “Aidan, I’m not going out wearing this!” I pointed down the front of my shirt and jeans.

  “What’s wrong with your clothes?” he asked.

  “Are you serious?” I rolled my eyes and walked past him up the stairs, already working on my next plan to fake the obligatory two-hour I-don’t-know-what-to-wear tantrum every woman experiences before a date. I almost reached the upper stairs, when I felt Aidan’s arm wrapping around my waist. His breath caressed my skin as he whispered, “You look gorgeous just the way you are. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if you didn’t wear anything at all.” An instant later, everything turned black, the air vibrated around us, the telltale sense of nausea settled in the pit of my stomach, and then I knew I was somewhere else.

 
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