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Dead and beyond, p.20
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       Dead and Beyond, p.20

           Jayde Scott
 
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  I closed my eyes to teleport, but without blood my body was too weak to obey my brain’s command. I spun around as I scanned the perimeter. No ghost around. Everything remained as quiet as a tomb. In the distance, I could make out a path. Was it the one that led to the shed? I didn’t know so I decided to go back the way I came from when the sound of approaching footsteps got my attention. Ready to fight for my life, I turned around to peer into Brendan’s face. I sighed, the way I came from when the sound of approaching footsteps got my attention. Ready to fight for my life, I turned around to peer into Brendan’s face. I sighed, relieved to see him, knowing he’d help me.

  “Something’s wrong. We need to get away from here.” My voice barely found its way out of my throat.

  He just stared down at me, his face expressionless.

  “Brendan?” I frowned, a sense of uneasiness washing over me. What was wrong with him? Then I saw his hand and the red mark on his palm. His cut was healing.

  “I’m sorry,” he said through gritted teeth. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and rolled down his temples. He knelt down on the ground and tossed his head back. I peered in horror at the way his muscles and bones seemed to shift beneath his skin. A painful howl rippled through his chest, making me flinch.

  “Are you okay?” I inched closer, reaching out without touching him. He clearly was in great pain, but I didn’t realize what was going on until black hair began to grow from his skin. I took a few steps back, mortified. My breath caught in my throat. Brendan wasn’t a Shadow, like he pretended. He was a werewolf, and probably the one that tried to have me for dinner at the shed.

  Without so much as a glance back, I dashed through the trees toward the path, twigs and leaves crunching beneath my feet. My arms pushed through the bushes; my legs fought to run as fast as they could. For a whole minute, I even thought I’d make it to the shed, until I heard a growl behind me.

  “Brendan! Don’t kill her. We need her alive…for now,” a female voice called out. My head reeled, my ears were ringing so loudly I wasn’t sure whether the woman’s voice had spoken the words out loud, or whether it was all in my head. But of one thing I was sure: the haunting hadn’t been a coincidence. Whoever my pursuers were, I was probably part of a bigger plan.

  I had been all along.

  Marked for death.

  Chapter 26

  The freezing night air burned a hole in my lungs as I sprinted through the trees and dense bushes, ignoring the fear threatening to choke me. When I asked Devon whether he thought stupid was my middle name, someone should’ve told me that it actually was. My mother just forgot to add it on my birth certificate.

  How could I have fallen for such a cheap trick as a bit of blood was beyond me.

  A ghost couldn’t harm me. I could fight whatever was out there, but not a frigging werewolf that probably could snap my neck in half with those fangs. I had witnessed his unnatural speed and agility, and knew I didn’t stand a chance. Not when I was weakened by my need for blood, making me unable to teleport far away from the howling beast chasing me.

  My pursuers were nearby; I could hear their immortal breath in my ears. I could feel it on my skin. Inside my head. That breath of death had been lingering on me for days, touching me, testing my sanity. Aidan claimed the house wasn’t haunted, that the scratches on the floor and the blood on the walls weren’t signs.

  That the haunting wasn’t as scary as I made it out to be.

  But I wasn’t crazy.

  The poltergeist hadn’t been a figment of my imagination.

  It had been Rebecca all along. Maybe she found me with the help of the witch’s ring. Maybe her ghost clung onto me when I left Hell after Cass’s birthday party, possessing me, messing with my head and making me do things I didn’t want to. Like distrusting Aidan, kissing Devon, and drinking blood. She wanted me to find the mirror, or why else would I keep returning to the shed based on a ‘voice’ that told me Angel was there?

  The puzzle pieces were slowly beginning to fit. But I had no time for thinking.

  Panting, I pushed through the shrubs, daring a look back. The moon hid behind black clouds that promised a heavy shower in an hour or two. Unlike my pursuers, I was an inexperienced hunter on unknown terrain. Maybe once it started to rain, the water would wash away my trail and help me escape before I was lost and wouldn’t find my way to safety.

  I dared another glance back. The ominous shadows were closing in on me. In the darkness, I couldn’t tell how many because my vision was slightly blurred, but I counted at least two.

  I could make it.

  Who was I kidding? Even if I outrun the werewolf, that crazy, dead Rebecca with her ring would find me wherever I hid. Even if I managed to escape this time, Rebecca was no natural ghost. She was a vampire who’d keep coming back until she fulfilled her mission.

  In the unnatural silence, I could hear the rushing sound of water which only meant one thing...I was close. My breath came in ragged heaps as I pushed forward, harder, faster, the adrenaline in my veins keeping me going, until I reached the tiny waterfall hidden deep in the Highlands. The falls were nearly swallowed up by a thick layer of swirling fog, but the entire cliff face was illuminated by moonlight. From here, I knew it couldn’t be more than a half hour trek, and I would finally arrive at the one place that would be my safe haven.

  Aidan’s mansion.

  A twig snapped behind me, making me jump. I turned to look at my pursuers when I realized there weren’t two but three: Rebecca’s ghost floating next to the crouching werewolf reaching up to her chest, her pale hand wrapped in his fur as though she could really touch him; the third was a hooded person, tall with broad shoulders and a hood covering his face. Instinctively, I crouched and bared my fangs, ready to fight. The hooded guy lunged for me and held out his arm. My attention was captured by the object he was holding in his hand—a mirror shining unnaturally in the darkness. I had seen that mirror before in the Otherworld when I retrieved the Shadows’ Book of the Dead.

  As I stared at my reflection, unable to avert my gaze, I barely recognized myself. Mud and blood caked my pale skin. My once hazel eyes, now red and purple from hunger and pain, stared back at me. Dirty strands of hair hung limp over my gaunt face and hollow cheeks.

  I jammed my fists into the ground as I fought to escape my own reflection, but I couldn’t move. The air began to tremble. My heart filled with fear at the sudden darkness descending over me. I snapped my head to the side, trying in vain to avert my gaze from the mirror that seemed to suck me in. My mouth opened to scream, but the sound remained trapped in my throat.

  From the corner of my eye, I noticed Rebecca’s ghost inching closer. Something cold brushed my cheek a moment before a tremor shook my body. I could feel my soul trying to clutch to my mortal body as she entered me, pushing me aside, trying to possess me. Merge with me forever. My vision blurred, my will weakened. Strong waves of pain washed over me, cutting off my air supply. Eventually, a scream rippled through the air, and it took me a while to realize it was my own.

  “Get away from the mirror. It’s a trap!” a male voice shouted. I knew that much, and yet my body wouldn’t obey my brain’s command.

  From the periphery of my mind, I was aware of my body straightening and marching forward to greet my hooded pursuer. His hand reached out to touch my cheek; his smooth voice whispered something that I didn’t understand.

  Praise for a job well done.

  A tear slicked my cheek.

  Aidan, I’m so sorry.

  It all happened so fast. The hooded figure raised the mirror and held it in front of my face. Something began to suck me in, stronger, faster than before. My vision blurred until the woods gave way to white nothingness. In that nothingness I spied Angel, shivering in her jeans and shirt, dangling from chains. The icy air around her vibrated as something strong and invisible seeped out of her. Kundalini energy—I remembered the drawings on the wall and the eye watching the pyre and the people gathered around it, w
atching, waiting. Angel was trapped inside the mirror, and something was stealing her life energy.

  Angel’s eyes fluttered open, and for a moment I thought I saw recognition in them. And then they closed again and she winced visibly, as though in great pain.

  Someone shoved me hard and I stumbled forward, landing on my knees. A shout cut through the night, followed by a growl. A moment later, a strong suction pulled me from the white nothingness back into the woods. Whatever happened broke the mirror’s spell. Disoriented, I opened my eyes and realized the hooded guy had dropped the mirror to the ground. I peered around me at another man—my rescuer—standing a few feet away, drops of blood trickling from his wrist as he spoke in an ancient language. The earth seemed to tremble where his powerful blood touched the ground. The very air around him seemed to sizzle. But all I could think of was his—Blood.

  Not again. My mouth went instantly dry; my tongue stuck to the back of my throat. The sudden hunger savaged me, urged me to feed, but my legs couldn’t move from the spot.

  Rebecca’s ghost disappeared, and so did the hooded figure previously holding the mirror. The werewolf circled us once more before he took off through the trees. But I knew he’d linger nearby just in case.

  My rescuer inched closer and pushed his wrist to my mouth, his hand guiding the back of my head as he whispered, “Here, drink.”

  My rescuer inched closer and pushed his wrist to my mouth, his hand guiding the back of my head as he whispered, “Here, drink.”

  I protested. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. Not now, not ever and definitely not from a human. I tried to get away from him but his iron grip held me close.

  “You need to drink. It will be okay.” He pressed his wrist against my parted lips. I could feel my self-control waning.

  My mouth pressed against the open wound, sucking greedily. His blood tasted like nothing I ever tasted before: so sweet, so wrong. And yet I couldn’t stop.

  Eventually, he pulled away and lifted my chin to face him. In the darkness, I recognized the golden skin stretched over high cheekbones, the tiny scar over his brow, and the dark, burning eyes I once trusted.

  “Blake,” I whispered. “I thought you wanted me dead.” Like everyone else, it seemed.

  He shook his head. “I’m sorry for what I did to you and Aidan. It was wrong of me to assume your death would stop the Prophecy of Morganefaire.”

  Although I still felt weak, his blood running through my veins made me feel connected to him. I could feel his turmoil, his desperation, his wish to right his wrong. His heart beat against mine as he covered my back with his cloak and scooped me up.

  “It’s okay.” I smiled weakly. “I feel guilty for breaking up your friendship with Aidan.”

  “It was all my fault. I wasn’t ready to welcome you in our midst. I wish I could make it right.”

  “You did. You just saved my life.”

  He shook his head. “Not yet.” His gaze bore into mine, holding it. “Listen, Amber. The war has already begun and you’re in great peril. You and Aidan need to return to Morganefaire as soon as possible. Tell him the prophecy is right and that his brethren are ready. I will be waiting there, counting on you. Do you understand?”

  “I do,” I said, even though I had no idea what he was talking about.

  “Come on. Time to get you home before Aidan starts combing through the whole forest, looking for you.”

  With a last glance back to ensure we weren’t being followed, he teleported us to Aidan’s mansion. The air crackled. My stomach turned. A moment later, he sat me down on the ground next to the gates.

  “You need to tell Aidan about the bloodlust. From now on only trust him and no one else. And don’t worry about it. He’ll help you learn to control it.

  Kieran was way worse than you when Rebecca turned him. We had to keep him caged up for a year.” He laughed softly at his memories and I couldn’t help but smile with him. Before I showed up they were family. They still were. I just had to bring them all back together.

  “Thank you.” I squeezed his arm.

  “Be careful,” Blake whispered before he disappeared.

  I barely had time to take a deep breath when Aidan’s voice rang through the night. “Amber?” Thudding footsteps raced toward me and strong arms grabbed me in a tight embrace. His scent tickled my nose, and I smiled because I was finally home again.

  “Are you okay? I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” His face inched closer to mine; his worried gaze swept over my dirty clothes and scratched face and hands. “Tell me what happened.”

  “Morganefaire,” I whispered. “We need to leave now.”

  My eyes closed as I leaned my head against his chest and let him carry me into the safety of his fortress. For the first time in my life I knew that no matter how dark the road ahead might be, in a world of danger, deceit and magic, sharing everything with your soul mate is the one thing that might just keep you alive.

  The End...for now.

  FOREVER AND BEYOND, the continuation to Dead And Beyond and the fifth book of the Ancient Legends series, will be released in July2012.

  Visit jayde-scott.blogspot.com for news and giveaways.

  Acknowledgments

  As always, thanks goes out first to my spouse…for both being my soul mate and best friend, my brainstorming partner, and a constant encouragement. I thank God every day for bringing us together.

  Thank you to my kitties, who gift me with tons of laughter and smiles each and every day.

  A huge thank you goes out to my editor, Shannon, for believing in this story and the characters, and for always laughing at the right moments.

  Thanks to my dear friends and fellow authors, Trish and Christine—your valuable advice and insight have helped shape this book and my writing in general.

  Thank you to each and every one of my readers and fans. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

  Ways to get in touch with Jayde:

  Email: [email protected]

  Website: http://jayde-scott.blogspot.com/

  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Official-Jayde-Scott-Fanpage/184687468220935

 


 

  Jayde Scott, Dead and Beyond

 


 

 
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