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Dead and beyond, p.2
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       Dead and Beyond, p.2

           Jayde Scott
 
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  Apart from the constant feeling of being watched, something else was wrong. In the first two weeks after my turning, I felt no hunger or thirst. However, since entering Hell and seeing Rebecca gorge on a pour soul, a strange sense of yearning had been nagging at me, making me have all sorts of weird thoughts. Like starting to like the color red a lot when I was more the black type. Or wondering whether my mortal brother’s blood might just taste as good as it smelled. I knew I should’ve told one of the other vampires about the sudden change going on inside me. But we had so much on our plate right now that I didn’t really find the right time—or the right words. My bloodlust mortified me, so I vowed I’d talk to someone right after Cass’s birthday party, which was a huge deal for her. Not only was she turning eighteen, she was finally getting her fallen angel powers, whatever those might be. And it was her last day of freedom. At the stroke of midnight, she’d be forever bound to Hell. Or until my brother married her. Knowing Dallas and his commitment phobia, I was ready to bet my meager wages on the ‘forever bound to Hell’ part.

  So, you see, that’s why being a vampire sucks. After a short period of no hunger or pain, I was slowly starting to morph into a blood-crazed lunatic, who might decide to wipe out a whole town. And if that ever happened, Aidan could just stake me in the heart because I’d never be able to live with myself knowing I had sucked dry innocent people.

  I had been inspecting myself in the mirror for the last half an hour, changing in and out of clothes to find something that would suit my new paleness. And by ‘paleness’ I’m not talking about the usual lack of tan in winter. I mean a full blown, white as a ghost look that apparently comes with being a vampire. For a girl who likes a bit of a tan, it’s kind of hard to adjust, so I applied another layer of bronzer.

  “You know what you look like, right?” my boyfriend, Aidan, said from the bed.

  I made a pirouette in my skimpy black dress that made my waist appear at least two inches smaller—or so I hoped. “A fashion model?”

  “Uh—” Aidan hesitated “—yeah, that’s exactly what I thought.”

  I rolled my eyes and slapped his arm at his unspoken comparison with a clown. Aidan didn’t like me wearing a lot of a makeup. In fact, he didn’t like me wearing anything at all. I knew because he was my bonded mate and, after a few weeks of dating, we were already so close I could sense his thoughts. The good, the bad, and the naughty.

  “You’re lucky you’re tall, dark, and handsome. Otherwise, I just might be tempted to throw you out the window with my newfound strength. I’ve been dying to test it out,” I said.

  Aidan laughed. “I’m not just dating a hot chick but a dangerous one as well. Aren’t I a lucky sod?”

  He sure knew how to make a girl feel special. I grinned and jumped into his arms, burying my heavily painted face into his neck.

  “Whoa, what are you doing?” Aidan asked, pushing me away.

  “What?”

  “I lost my very best housekeeper—” he coughed trying to hide his laughter “—recently. Remember?”

  I didn’t work for him very long, but he still poked fun at my housekeeping skills. “So?”

  “So, who’s going to wash my clothes now? That makeup stuff’s even harder to remove than blood.”

  “And how exactly do you know that?” I cocked a brow and regarded him amused. He turned a very attractive shade of red.

  “Let’s just say, feeding from a bag of Type O blood from The Red Cross can be a bit messy when you turn into a ravenous monster.”

  “I wondered what that ravenous monster used to do before he went vegetarian.”

  “Lucky for us, the Shadow spell worked and you’ll never know,” Aidan muttered.

  I fidgeted. I really hoped he was right because I never wanted to find out what drinking from a bag of blood feels like, let alone right from the living source.

  I patted his back. “I used to think someone needed a dribble bib,” I said, trying to lighten up his mood. “But don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.”

  I patted his back. “I used to think someone needed a dribble bib,” I said, trying to lighten up his mood. “But don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.”

  “What secret’s safe with you?” Kieran asked from the door. Aidan’s gaze snapped in his brother’s direction. I was still amazed how much they looked alike.

  If it weren’t for Kieran’s bulkier physique and his eyes being a slightly paler shade of blue, they could’ve been twins. Now, personality wise they couldn’t be more different. Aidan was the responsible one while Kieran couldn’t stop hitting on anything wearing a skirt—or sponging off his brother’s money. Still, I liked him a lot.

  He was fun to be around because he understood my sense of humor. Or so he pretended. You could never be sure with Kieran.

  I opened my mouth to speak when Aidan shot me a warning glare. “Don’t you dare!”

  “What?” I shrugged and walked over to Kieran, pretending to push him out of the room as I whispered, “Your brother knows a lot about makeup.”

  “You’re so mean.” Aidan’s arms wrapped around my waist and pulled me back toward the bed. I tumbled into the sheets in a fit of giggles with Aidan on top of me. His fingers reached the ticklish spot under my armpits. I burst out in laughter. Two tears rolled down my cheeks as I draped my legs around him to stop the attack.

  “Get a room!” I heard Kieran say.

  “We have one. It’s right here,” Aidan said, nibbling my ear.

  “When you come up for air, I’ll be downstairs wrapping She-devil’s birthday present. She won’t be pleased to hear you missed her big day because you couldn’t stop making out.”

  Aidan’s tongue began to swirl up and down my neck, sending shivers down my spine. “Kieran, seriously, go to hell!” I said.

  “Without you? I thought we were all going together. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Just don’t spend another hour putting on your makeup. Remember it’s going to melt off in the 120 degrees heat.”

  “Come on, bro. Get out!” Aidan growled.

  Kieran shook his head, grinning. “So much love’s just gross. I hope it’s not contagious.” And then the door slammed shut and I was alone with Aidan and his hot lips searching mine. I let him draw me into a tight embrace and surrendered to his mouth. The thought that I’d indeed need to apply my makeup all over again crossed my mind, but a canoodle with Aidan was well worth going the extra mile and risking Cass’s wrath in case we arrived late.

  *

  A half hour later we were finally ready to leave. Thrain, a demon and shape shifter we had grown close to in the last few weeks, picked us up in his SUV

  and drove us to the nearest portal through which we’d leave this world behind. We went off-road speeding over uneven terrain and into the woods with timber and rock crunching under the tires. The vehicle turned left and my head bumped into Aidan, giving me whiplash like I never experienced before. I blinked as Thrain plowed right into a shallow river. The water splashed on the windows, reminding me of a tidal wave. And I thought Kieran was a horrible driver.

  Although this wasn’t the first time I entered Hell, I still marveled at how fast one could move up through the different dimensions of the living, the dead, and the trapped. I wasn’t sure I liked how easy it was to leave the relative safety of the physical world behind.

  “You don’t know what you’re missing,” Thrain said, probably reading my thoughts.

  I slumped into Aidan’s arms, ignoring the shape shifter. Hell was ‘home, sweet home’ for him. My first experience in Cass’s world was anything but nice, what with Rebecca attacking an innocent soul and my brother dying in there.

  Eventually, the air crackled from the telltale charged particles, the earth trembled beneath the tires, and then we drove through the portal. I swear my heart skipped a beat, that is, if it was still beating since I was a vampire, meaning dead and all.

  I grabbed the birthday present decorated with an oversized bow and lots of pink r
ibbon, and exited the car. The air was too hot to breathe. Not even so much as a breeze stirred. Sweat immediately started to trickle down my back, and I realized Kieran was right. My makeup wouldn’t hold in a million years. I coughed a few times to get rid of the scratching sensation in my throat and followed Thrain past the Boulders of Hell to the huge mansion in the distance.

  With its dark red brick, tiny turrets and the living stone gargoyles guarding the perimeter, the house looked even scarier than I remembered it. One of the gargoyles turned its head and peered at me through glowing red eyes, making me flinch. They were butt-ugly demons that could bite one’s limbs off in a heartbeat with their razor sharp. I swallowed hard and grabbed Aidan’s arm for support, ready to push him in front of me in case the demon gargoyle decided to attack. Not that I didn’t love my boyfriend and wouldn’t miss him, but I figured he was older and probably had the vampire ability to grow back a limb. I had yet to learn how to do that.

  The house was filled with people I didn’t know. The previously posh interior looked like someone decided to turn it into a Barbie dollhouse with silver, handwritten happy birthday banners adorning the otherwise white walls. Red roses dipped in glitter and sparkling crystal flutes caught the light of the chandeliers.

  The worst, however, was the music blaring through the speakers: Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday on replay.

  “What’s that noise?” Aidan shouted in my ear.

  “It’s Cass singing. What did you expect?”

  I grinned and pointed at the door where Cass was just about to make her grand entrance in a shimmery, silver, floor-length gown that clashed with her red, unruly locks. As she reached us she began to sing at the top of her lungs, “And the whole day should be spent in full remembrance ‘cause tomorrow I’ll be bound to this shoe sole and forced into obedience. Happy Birthday to me. Happy Birthday.”

  I stared at her, lost for words.

  “Did she just stay she’ll be bound to a shoe sole?” Aidan asked.

  “I think it was rat hole.”

  “I said shit hole.” Cass took a deep gulp from the glass she was holding, the red liquid staining her lips. I could only hope it wasn’t wine because, technically, she was still seventeen. “See what I’m going to be stuck with for the rest of my existence? It’s like turning the clock back when I was just a kid living with my parents, except that now I’m an adult, and forced to waste my time with him.” She pointed at the handsome guy who winked at us. He wasn’t just any guy but the devil himself. It seemed Lucifer had been granted his wish and now his little daughter was running Hell.

  I grabbed her in a short hug and rubbed a hand over her back to soothe her. “Awesome party, Cass.” I meant every word of it because the music was slowly starting to draw me in, making me want to sing along and spin in a circle and laugh my head off playing stupid birthday games.

  “I see you found the electricity socket,” Kieran said, squeezing Cass’s arm.

  “What?” She pulled away from me and narrowed her gaze.

  Kieran pointed at her hair, smirking. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh because her locks did look a bit like someone gave her an electric shock, or elbow Kieran in the ribs for being an idiot and trying to ruin her day. It wasn’t the poor girl’s fault she lived in this relentless heat that would make straightening anyone’s hair impossible.

  “Did you leave your brain at the door?” Cass slapped her forehead. “Oh, wait. You couldn’t have since you don’t actually own one.”

  “That’s because it had to go in search of yours to wish it a happy birthday,” Kieran said, grinning.

  Aidan leaned in to whisper in my ear, “Are you sure she didn’t end up with the wrong guy? I could’ve sworn my brother and she are meant to be together.”

  “I know. Such a waste, huh? Imagine their weekends together.” I clicked my tongue. “Domestic bliss.”

  “I know. Such a waste, huh? Imagine their weekends together.” I clicked my tongue. “Domestic bliss.”

  “Come on, let’s mingle. Maybe we’ll find your brother. I need to talk to him.” Aidan pulled me after him into the hallway. Even though I didn’t like him telling me what to do, I gave in as I spied my friend and voodoo priestess, Sofia, in the distance. By the time we squeezed our way through the huge, crowded mansion, she had disappeared out of sight and my feet were killing me. I swear it wasn’t just my fangs that grew an inch or two.

  “I’m going to the restroom,” I said to Aidan.

  “Why? You look absolutely flawless, my love.”

  “Aren’t you the sweetest?” I rose on my toes to give him a kiss, but barely reached his chin.

  He smiled. “I don’t know why you need to mess with perfection, but just hurry. I hate being alone with all these demons. And babysitting Kieran is a full time job.”

  The last part was definitely true, however, I couldn’t help him out. If I didn’t squeeze out of my high heels soon, my feet might just explode. I had to ask a few demons aka the service personnel for directions, but reached the toilet eventually. As soon as I was inside, I locked the door and kicked my high heels off.

  You’d think as a vampire I was way past developing blisters and blotchy skin. Fat chance.

  I sat down on the toilet seat and inspected my throbbing feet. My toes were sore where the leather straps had cut in and two small blisters had already formed. Jumping on one leg, I walked over to the sink to soak a tissue in cold water, then pressed it against the wounds as I inspected my face in the mirror. In the bright light of the lamp, I realized Aidan was right. My heavy makeup did look a bit like war paint. The black eyeliner had smudged all around my eyes, and you could see every fine line, making me look way older than my eighteen years. But the light in the living room wasn’t as harsh, so it probably gave me the sultry smoky eye effect I read about in Cosmo. I peered down at my tight dress, wondering why I hadn’t bothered to put on seamless underwear, when something, like a dark shadow, moved across the mirror.

  “What the heck?” Startled, I took a step back, only to inch forward again to inspect the smooth surface. A thin layer of charcoal gray smoke seemed to seep out of the mirror and spread across the counter. I raised my hand to touch it. A warm sensation washed over me where my fingers dived in. Uneasiness settled in the pit of my stomach, but I shrugged it off. Maybe it was part of Cass’s show. Or maybe she was pissed because I didn’t check out her fabulous birthday cake the second I came in the door. As a fallen angel who loved chaos, she was unpredictable and hooked on drama and special effects.

  “Amber.” A whisper somewhere behind me. I turned my head sharply, wondering why I hadn’t noticed before that someone was in the same room with me.

  And that’s when I felt the shove, like a punch between my shoulder blades that made me lose my balance. I tumbled forward and hit the wall. Wincing, I pushed up to my feet and scanned the room. No one here. It didn’t make any sense. I knew someone had hit me. I wasn’t going bonkers. Then again, I was a vampire.

  Basically, my body was dead; maybe my brain was slowly starting to follow suit.

  The fog began to shift and take shape as it inched closer. I squinted to get a better look, and for a moment, I almost thought I caught a glimpse of a woman’s face. And then it dissipated again, only to gather around me, traveling up my body a moment later. Something cold touched my face. I let out a shriek. My heart began to pump harder. My hands reached up to protect my face, but it was too late. As the fog engulfed me, I could feel it inside my mouth and nose, like smoke from a fire travelling down my throat. The sensation of something burnt drove tears to my eye and made me cough. For a second, I could barely breathe, and then the air cleared and the scratchy sensation in my throat was gone.

  I opened my eyes, only now realizing I must’ve closed them at some point. The bathroom looked just as before. Tidy. Deserted. No sign of the fog or a fire that might’ve caused the smoke. Squeezing back into my high heels, I moistened my wrists under the cold-water faucet to steady my racing hea
rt, and left the bathroom in search of Aidan. The horrid Happy Birthday song from before had been replaced with something more modern played at a mellow volume. I found my boyfriend engrossed in conversation with voodoo priestess, Sofia.

  “Amber, are you okay?” she asked, regarding me intently. Her tight dress made her look even taller than she was. Her dark hair was tied up in a ponytail and fell over her naked shoulders.

  “Hey.” I smiled, but my face felt frozen. “So good to see you.”

  Aidan frowned and inched closer until I could feel his breath on my skin. I didn’t think his face could get any paler than it was already, but it did. “What’s wrong with your eyes?” he asked.

  My temper flared. “You don’t like my makeup. I got it loud and clear. Now, get over it.”

  “No, that’s not what I meant,” Aidan said. The sharp edge in his voice made me nervous. The way they stared at me made me feel like a freak. I opened my mouth to tell him where he was going to sleep for the rest of the week when Sofia’s voice rang in my ear, slow and hesitant. “Your eye color’s changed.”

  “What?” I flicked my compact mirror out of my handbag to regard myself, and almost choked on my breath. I had always wanted to be different. Now I certainly was, whether I liked it or not.

  Chapter 2

  I turned my head to the side to inspect myself from all angles. My left iris had changed into a dark purple shade while the right one was a very deep red. Red and purple weren’t my colors, but I had to admit my new eyes gave me an interesting flair.

  “What did you do?” Aidan asked, cautiously.

  Sighing, I snapped my compact mirror shut and tossed it back inside my handbag. “Seriously, Aidan, why do you always assume whatever happens has something to do with me?”

  He took a deep breath. His gaze never left me as he spoke very slowly. “Because you disappeared for two minutes, and when you came back—” he pointed at my face “—need I say more”

 
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