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Dead and beyond, p.4
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       Dead and Beyond, p.4

           Jayde Scott
 
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  He got all the attention while I remained in the shadows to keep an eye on him. The one time I let Kieran persuade me to get out there and mingle, I met Rebecca and nearly lost my life.”

  My cheeks were on fire. I knew there was more to it; I could sense something in his thoughts and attitude. But I didn’t press the issue. If Aidan wanted to tell me, he would.

  “I’ll be there to make sure nothing happens to you,” he continued, “but don’t expect me to assist you because that’s not going to happen.”

  And then I caught something in his thoughts. It was just the briefest glimpse of a beautiful face with bronze skin and dark eyes. Blake. When Rebecca sucked Aidan’s friend dry and left him to die, Aidan turned him. They had been best friends for many centuries, until Blake betrayed Aidan’s trust. Even though Aidan never showed it, I knew he was upset that Blake once tried to kill me because he thought I was a liability to them all. The reason why Aidan didn’t want people getting too close to him was because he didn’t want to trust again. He couldn’t bear having another friend betray his trust.

  Chapter 4

  The party was a great success. In spite of her scattered mind, Cass had been the perfect hostess. Maybe because it would be her last evening among friends and that’s how it would stay for a long time. Upon leaving, I hugged her tight and promised to visit soon. For a moment, a tiny tear shimmered in her eyes, and then she just shrugged it all off the way only Cass could, as though her curse was all a big joke and it didn’t really matter.

  “What’s with the weird eyes?” my brother asked.

  “Contact lenses,” I said, infusing as much cheeriness into my voice as I could because if I told him I had no idea what was happening, Dallas might just insist on dragging me to the nearest emergency room. Aidan was bad when he worried, but my brother was even worse. I faked a laugh. “I thought it’d be fun to look like some of the demons down here. No need to tell me it was a dumb idea.”

  “You blend right in.” He let out a sigh of relief. “I’m glad they’re fake. For a moment, I really thought—”

  Eager to change the subject, I leaned in to whisper in his ear, even though I knew Cass could hear my thoughts. “You and Cass have a bond. You belong together. Don’t punish her for who she is.”

  “I’m not mad she’s a fallen angel,” Dallas said. “I just don’t appreciate her starting our relationship with a big, fat lie. Trust is earned, not a given, and even you have to admit, Cass failed at that.”

  “She didn’t mean to deceive you,” I said faintly.

  My brother’s expression became grim. “So what you’re saying is, she didn’t mean to pretend she was an ordinary human being when all along she was a fallen angel? I knew her stories were too farfetched, but I wanted to trust her so I played along. I guess I could’ve just asked her if she was a supernatural. Yet I didn’t, because the thing is: I wanted her to tell me herself, or at least trust me that I wouldn’t judge her for who or what she is. But I never had the chance because her big revelation never came. What pissed me off is the fact that all the while I was down here in Hell, she thought she could get married to me without ever revealing her identity. I’m sure in her mind none of it was deceit. So should I be mad? I dunno. You tell me.” His hazel eyes sparkled with anger.

  I shrugged, unsure whether to pursue the issue or keep my mouth shut. After all, their relationship was none of my business. Ah, toss it. Isn’t that what family are for, to get under your skin and irritate the crap out of you with their judgment?

  “I know she lied,” I said. “But everyone tells fibs every now and then. No one ever makes a big deal out of it. It’s not my place to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but you have to start seeing her point. She thought she’d lose you if she told you who she was. Now you’re being a drama queen. Just be happy you still have a girlfriend. She did save your sorry ass, you know.” Smiling, I patted his shoulder and turned away, leaving him to his own thoughts. I knew if I nagged him any longer we’d end up shouting at each like we always did. As much as I loved my brother, our conversations could get heated to the point of turning nasty.

  “Where’s Kieran?” I asked Aidan as soon as we were outside and ready to board our transportation back to the normal world.

  “Cass threatened to send Hell’s demons after him if he didn’t stop pestering Patty, which is the worst thing she could’ve done because he loves a challenge.

  Now he’s decided to accompany Patricia home.” The sharp edge in Aidan’s tone didn’t go unnoticed. I shot him a sideway glance but his face was turned away and I didn’t catch his expression. I sensed there was more to it. But I didn’t press the issue because I had more important matters on my mind.

  “Are you thinking about your new paranormal charity?” Aidan asked. I nodded. “Do you have a name yet? That’s the first thing you’ll need.”

  He was right. I remained silent as I watched Thrain start the engine and drive through the portal that would spit us out near Inverness. Even though we had been friends for a while now, I didn’t want to talk about my affairs in front of him.

  “What about Wings?” Thrain asked, glancing at me in the rearview mirror. We hit the barrier of the portal. The car jerked forward. As I looked out, I recognized the dense woods of the Scottish Highlands. The sun had set a few hours ago, giving way to complete darkness. The wet asphalt glistened from the rain.

  “I was thinking more along the lines of Fangs,” Aidan said, grinning.

  “Just because I’m a vampire doesn’t mean I want it advertised across my forehead.” But I liked the idea. It was catchy and straightforward.

  “Paranormal Initiation,” Thrain said. “Or short, PI. Because everything’s about initiation and gaining control over who you are.”

  “I like it.” It sounded right, exactly what I had been looking for. “Did you tell him?” I whispered in Aidan’s ear.

  “He didn’t need to,” Thrain said. “Half of Hell knows after you decided to have a public conversation on the porch.”

  So much for keeping my plans private for a while until I figured out which direction to take. The car stopped in front of Aidan’s gates.

  “Cheers, mate,” Aidan said, keeping the car door open for me.

  “Good luck,” Thrain said to me a moment before he sped off in the distance. At that time, I had no idea how much I’d actually need it.

  It was the early morning hours. The sun had yet to rise; the woods were as quiet as a tomb. Hand in hand, Aidan and I trailed up the path to the imposing mansion. By the time we reached it, it was drizzling again. Opening the entrance door, I kicked off my boots and took off up the stairs to the privacy of my bedroom, knowing well Aidan would follow. I stripped off my clothes and wrapped a towel around me, then went about filling the tub with steaming water and lots of lavender-scented foam. As soon as I was soaking in the water, Aidan walked in and sat down on the edge of the tub.

  “Your eyes are back to normal,” he said.

  “So it was just a temporary thing. What a shame. I kinda liked them.” I made sure my body was entirely covered in foam before peering up at him. He was regarding me intently; his sparkling blue eyes radiated warmth and something else. Longing. He wanted me badly. I smiled and lifted my leg out of the water. The oil and moisture made my skin shimmer. Aidan groaned and looked away.

  “What’s wrong?” I whispered.

  He rubbed a hand over his neck, still avoiding my gaze. “You’re doing it on purpose.”

  I batted my eyelashes. “Huh?”

  “Seducing me. Getting me all hot and worked up.”

  “And that’s a bad thing?”

  “Yes, because it takes every ounce of willpower I have to back off.”

  I ran my fingers up his arm. “Are you calling me a tease?”

  “No, but you’re driving me crazy.” His spectacular eyes bore into me, making me feel as though he could see right into my soul. I pushed up on my elbows to place a soft kiss on his lips, then ano
ther and one more until his breathing quickened.

  His mouth reached the spot above my collarbone and left a trail of kisses up and down my neckline. I sighed with pleasure and pulled him into the water on top of me. My hands moved beneath his shirt to help him out of his soaking clothes. Aidan placed a last kiss on my lips and pulled away. “You’re not ready, Amber. Let’s not do something you might feel sorry for later. Enjoy your bath. I’ll be in the library.” His voice was low and hoarse, filled with regret. I nodded because he was right. As much as I wanted to get intimate with him, I needed more time. But boy was it hard to keep saying ‘no’.

  ***

  ***

  When the water had cooled down, I stepped out of the tub and wrapped my cozy bathrobe around me to join Aidan in the library. The sun was about to rise in the distance, casting a golden hue over the backyard with its blooming rosebushes and dense shrubs. I stood near the window and peered at the stunning display of greenery stretching as far as I could see. Even though I been in Scotland for a few weeks now, I still marveled at the magical beauty of the Highlands and the clean, crisp air.

  Aidan fed the blazing fire in the fireplace and joined me, wrapping his arms around me as he pulled me close. “How will you find your young immortals in need?”

  “I don’t know,” I said. “I was hoping they would find me. Maybe I’ll run an ad on Facebook.”

  He grimaced. “Unless you want the whole world to know that you’re a vampire, that’s not happening, babe. I know a few people in the Lore court. They could help spread the word.”

  “You want to go back to the Lore court?” My heart started to pump harder in my chest. I still remembered the last time he visited that godforsaken place.

  The current ruler, demi-goddess Layla, had tried to imprison him because he had found his mate. I managed to save him by striking a deal with the Shadows: my abilities for his life, but things didn’t go according to plan. The Shadows kept me hostage and tried to mess with my mind. Layla came after me to kill me so she could have Aidan. And I ended up losing my life. I didn’t want him to go back. He couldn’t risk his safety for my new hobby.

  “You’re not going back there just to help me spread the word.”

  Hesitating, he averted his gaze but not quickly enough. I knew instantly that wasn’t the reason why he was ready to enter the Lore court again.

  “There’s something else I need to do,” he said. “My enemies will need to know you’re immortal now and that I’m ready to defend you with my life.” I could sense the emotional turmoil inside him. So many thoughts fighting against each other, drawing him in different directions. The Lore court forbade the turning of a mortal, so we had no idea where we stood. Aidan wanted to keep me away from his enemies. But he also needed to know I was safe. As a necromancer carrying the prize of traveling to the Otherworld and talking to the dead, I would never be safe from all the immortals who wanted to recover something or someone from the past. Or kill me for winning the race in the first place. Aidan wanted to show them that I was no longer the helpless eighteen-year-old mortal from London.

  They would still try to get what they wanted, but the revelation might just make them retreat to reconsider their steps, and that in turn would grant us enough time to find a way out of this mess.

  “I’m sure you know what you’re doing.” I lifted my lips to meet his and closed my eyes to hide the worry in them, not about me but about the McAllister brothers who broke the Lore rules. Even if Layla was ready to forgive and forget, which I doubted, others weren’t.

  Chapter 5

  When I finally made it to bed, it was almost midday and the sun stood high on the horizon. My whole routine of staying up all night and going to sleep when most people had lunch reminded me of my summer vacations with Dallas when we were naïve and carefree, and ignorant of the supernatural world around us. Funny how things can change in the blink of an eye.

  Aidan decided not to join me, so I pulled the curtains shut and started tossing and turning under the sheets. I must’ve been asleep for all of five minutes when I thought I heard something: a voice calling my name. Groggily, I sat up and rubbed a hand over my eyes as I strained to listen.

  “Amber.” The voice was a mere whisper, too low to discern whether it was male or female.

  I scanned the empty room as my heart thumped harder. Gosh, I hated being a necromancer. All the weird noises I kept hearing when no one else could, all the strange knocking in the middle of the night, and the creepy shapes I kept seeing, it drove me bonkers, not to mention scared the crap out of me. I didn’t sign up for this.

  “Leave me alone. I can’t help you,” I yelled and slumped back against the sheets, ready to get back to sleep, when I thought I heard the sound of dripping water. Had I left the facet on in the bathroom? Not only was it bad for the environment to waste water, the noise also drove me nuts. Something wet hit my forehead. I wiped the moisture away and glanced at the tiny dark drop on my fingers as a pungent smell—like damp earth and rotting garbage—assaulted my nostrils. Maybe it wasn’t the bathroom tap but a leak in the ceiling? I peered up at a dark stain forming above my head and pinched my nose, forcing myself to breathe through the mouth so I wouldn’t throw up as I tried to place the smell.

  “Amber.” The voice again, this time more impatient, filled with reproach. My heart began to race in my chest. That’s when it dawned on me. Aidan had an uninvited guest.

  “There’s no one here,” I chanted over and over again, willing myself to believe it, even though I knew I was kidding myself. To be on the safe side, I decided I might be better off with Aidan around me. He was a big guy with strong biceps and that frown of his could be quite unnerving, so I figured that might scare away the odd ghost or two. And light—I got to have lots of it because, based on my meager four-week experience, ghosts preferred nighttime and the dark morning hours, creepy haunted buildings, and even black clothes. I headed for the window to open the curtains when I noticed the stains on the walls, at first just a few dark droplets that multiplied quickly until they spread from the floor up to the ceiling. It was blood. I’d never mistake that reddish brown color. A droplet rolled down my face and into my mouth. I could taste the unmistakable metal tang...and it tasted delicious. My stomach churned, asking for more.

  “Oh, shoot.” I swear my heart skipped a beat or two, and I nearly fainted. “Aidan!” My shriek sounded choked. I wasn’t sure it had indeed found its way out of my throat. On shaky legs, I retreated all the way to the bed, almost knocking over a chair, my gaze still focused on the wall where the blood poured down in a steady stream. My head began to spin. I had never been particularly good at dealing with fear. Combine that with the sight of a bit of blood, and I’d collapse on the floor in a messy heap.

  I had to be hallucinating. There was only one way to find out. Determined to prove to myself that nothing of this was real, I walked up to the wall and ran my fingers across it. Blood dripped off my hands and pooled at my feet. I jumped a step back and wiped my hands across the front of my clothes, leaving a long red trail behind. The entire floor now looked like a sea of blood, soaking the wooden floor and the rug.

  A dark, shapeless entity moved in front of my eyes. My whole body began to shake at the outlook of seeing a ghost. Experiencing a bit of poltergeist activity was one thing; meeting the culprit causing it was another. I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t ready. Not yet. Why wouldn’t spirits just leave me alone?

  “Aidan!” I yelled. Where was he? We had a bond; consequently, he should feel my distress when I called him. Trust a guy to desert you when you need him the most. As the ominous entity floated toward me, all I could think of was the oldest survival strategy: get the heck out of there. And never in my life did my legs run so fast.

  Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, I reached the door. With shaking hands I turned the knob and took off down the hall, daring a last glance over my shoulder. The shape was gone, and so was the blood on the walls. What the heck? Fatigu
e washed over me a moment before my brain switched off. My legs gave way beneath me and I dropped to the floor, losing consciousness.

  ***

  Something soft brushed my cheek. Groaning, I opened my eyes too see Aidan leaning over me.

  “Wake up, sleeping beauty,” he whispered, inching closer to place a soft kiss on my lips.

  I pushed him away, irritated, and jumped up, only now realizing I was lying in bed with the covers barely covering my naked legs. “Where were you? I called you but you didn’t respond.”

  He raised a brow. “I was downstairs in the library. Are you okay?”

  “Not sure.” Last thing I remembered was fainting near the staircase. “I think I must’ve passed out. Did you carry me to the bed?”

  “No. I found you in your bed, asleep.” A hint of worry appeared in his eyes. “Did something happen?”

  I peered down at my hands. They were clean, just like my clothes and the floor. Already the whole situation felt surreal, like it never happened. Did it even take place or was my mind playing tricks on me? I wrapped my arms around him and let him pull me close. “Oh, Aidan. It was horrible. There was blood everywhere! It was on my hands, and all over the walls.”

  He glanced around the room. “Amber, sweetheart, there’s no blood anywhere. I think you had a bad dream.”

  With no signs of any apparition, his explanation sounded reasonable. I felt confused, stupid, so I took a deep breath and nodded. “You’re right. I think I had a nightmare.”

  “You haven’t come to terms with your turning,” Aidan said.

  “Maybe.” I hesitated. “What were you doing downstairs?” Mistrust gripped hold of me. Ever since my ex-boyfriend, Cameron, cheated on me, I had become suspicious of people’s intentions, always wondering whether they hid something from me. The nicer they were, the more I was inclined to believe they were only treating me well because they were trying to get rid of their guilty conscience.

 
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