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Dead and beyond, p.5
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       Dead and Beyond, p.5

           Jayde Scott
 
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  “Helping you out with your new charity.” He grinned and held up a sheet of paper with what looked like a logo on it. I squinted to read the medieval font.

  “Paranormal Initiation. I like it.”

  Aidan nodded. “Great. We could print out posters and bookmarks, and pass them around in bars where supernaturals hang out.”

  “You’re kidding.” I laughed. “You have bars for supernaturals?”

  “In London.” His expression turned grim. “Don’t even think about asking ‘cause I’m not taking you there.”

  I raised my brows. “Afraid I’ll do a couple of shots and dance on the bar?”

  “No, but you’re only eighteen.”

  “And you don’t want me compromised.” I clicked my tongue. “I forgot that part.”

  “And you don’t want me compromised.” I clicked my tongue. “I forgot that part.”

  Something crossed his face. I pushed all thoughts to the back of my mind and tried to tune in to his emotional undercurrents, but Aidan blocked me out.

  Whatever bothered him, he preferred to keep it to himself. I pouted, hoping he’d get the hint and spill the beans, when I thought I heard something.

  Aidan’s mansion was surrounded by tall gates with gold infused bars that were meant to keep out supernatural beings. I could hear dry leaves being crunched beneath heavy boots. A twig snapped in two, followed by a desperate plea. And then I sensed someone touching the bars, trying to squeeze through or maybe climb over. I could feel the magic seeping from the gates, enveloping the intruder and yet not really holding them back. Why wasn’t it working? Was the intruder mortal? Had one of the villagers lost their way in the woods and was hoping to find help?

  I sat up and looked at Aidan, but instead of seeing him, my vision blurred and I caught a glimpse of a mane of black hair, framing a pale face and dark eyes filled with fear. My mind recognized the girl’s face immediately. It was an old friend, Angel. And then a man dressed in a dark hood appeared behind her. Her yelp startled me and broke my concentration. When the pictures appeared again, the hooded guy had one hand clamped around the girl’s mouth to muffle her scream, the other wrapped around her waist to pull her through the thicket toward the waiting Sedan in the distance.

  A moment later, the vehicle sped off and my vision broke. My gaze focused on Aidan. His expression had changed from concern over my wellbeing to a questioning frown. I wondered whether he had the same vision, or whether he caught a glimpse of it through my mind.

  “I might be gone for a few hours,” Aidan said hastily.

  “What?” I waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t.

  “Sorry, gotta go. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Avoiding my gaze, he placed a sloppy kiss on my cheek and hurried out.

  I stared at the closed door as hundreds of thoughts raced through my mind, my vision instantly forgotten. What was going on? Right from the start I had known Aidan was protective to the extent of not wanting to bother me with whatever worried him. He was heading somewhere important, and this place was probably dangerous. I had always been the prying kind so, naturally, I was going to try to find out. I flicked my phone open and speed-dialed Kieran’s number. He picked up after the second ring.

  “Hey. It’s me. How’s it going?”

  “Amber.” He sounded flustered, as though I was interrupting something important. I squinted, wondering why the McAllister brothers were so fond of secrets.

  “I need you to do something for me.” I didn’t wait for his answer. “I want you to follow Aidan and tell me where he’s going.”

  Kieran hesitated. “Why don’t you just ask him?”

  “Because he wouldn’t tell me.”

  “Maybe for a good reason.”

  I drew a sharp breath. “Do you remember when I made a deal with the Shadows to save Aidan from Layla’s clutches, after which I was kept hostage in Shadowville? You were supposed to watch me that night, but you didn’t.” I let my voice trail off in the hope he would get the meaning.

  “Come on, Amber. That’s not fair. You know I was busy planning Aidan’s escape from the Lore court.”

  “Aidan’s been peeved for ages because he doesn’t believe you. I could help clarify the misunderstanding once and for all, but you need to follow him and tell me everything.”

  Silence fell between us. Seconds ticked by. My fingers began to drum on my thigh, waiting. Kieran resumed the conversation first. “I’m going to make sure he’s okay, but I’m not sharing where he’s headed.” And with that he hung up.

  I stared at my phone, flabbergasted. For some inexplicable reason, I honestly thought Kieran would be on my side and that he’d be easily persuaded to go against Aidan’s wishes. Obviously, Kieran was more loyal than I thought.

  Angry, I kicked the covers aside and jumped out of bed, ignoring the sudden sense of nausea in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to follow Aidan, but I was new at this teleporting thing. Basically, I had no idea how it worked. If I wanted to know where Aidan was, I had to follow now while the trail was still fresh, or so I figured. Damn, why didn’t any of the other vampires bother to teach me the 101 of teleporting? I remembered Aidan telling me he couldn’t teleport when he was too weak, but that summed up everything I knew.

  Ignoring the growing edginess inside me, I stormed out of the room and down the stairs. As always, the house seemed deserted, devoid of any sign of life. I couldn’t feel Aidan’s presence, but I stomped into the library nonetheless, just to make sure he was indeed gone. As expected, it was empty. The countless sheets of papers covering the mahogany desk stopped me in my tracks. Aidan had left the room in disarray. Whoa. I bit my lip. Something was definitely going on because I was the messy one, not Aidan. In fact, he usually cleaned up after me. It must’ve been an emergency. But what could be so important that it won the fight against his obsessive-compulsiveness?

  A pang of hunger washed over me, forcing me to bend over from the pain. Gritting my teeth, I held my breath, ready to wait it out, but it didn’t subside. My gaze blurred as though I was looking through mudded glass. I rubbed a hand over my eyes and my focus returned, only to blur again. My limbs felt so weak I could barely stand up straight, let alone call for help.

  “No.” I shook my head at the sudden urge to drink. Not coffee, tea, or the bottled water that was advertised to come from a pure mountain stream in the Alps. It couldn’t be happening. Kieran had turned me and, thanks to the Shadow ritual, he didn’t need blood to survive, so neither should I. What was wrong with me?

  My arms and neck were tingling. My clothes were drenched in sweat. I felt drained as if I had just donated half my body’s blood. I didn’t want to feed but the dizziness became unbearable until I thought I might just turn crazy.

  I needed blood. Now. But where would I get it from? And then I remembered, before the Shadows performed the ritual that turned Aidan and Kieran into the first vampires without a need for blood, Aidan used to keep a stash hidden somewhere inside this house. If I found it, I could taste just a tiny drop—okay, make that a sip. I only needed enough to get rid of this nausea and the nagging hunger because that was all I could think of.

  Like a madwoman, I dashed through the house, opening and closing cupboards, knocking on the wooden floor in the hope to find a hidden compartment, while my craving increased in intensity. By the time I reached the basement, my clothes were in a mess—my top was all creased and at least one button was missing —and I was panting like a dog. I ignored the DO NOT ENTER sign and rattled the door. It was locked.

  “Come on.” My foot kicked the door in fury. It didn’t budge. I needed blood. Right now. If I didn’t get it soon, I knew I’d do something that I might just regret later. Like teleporting to the nearest hospital for a blood infusion. Aidan might not be so keen to hear about that, so I had no other choice than to find his hidden stash. On the other hand, he hadn’t been feeding for a while, meaning he might’ve chucked it all out, but that was a risk I had to take.

  I kicked
the door again, and then once more, as hard as my waning strength and weak body would allow. Gathering all my force, I gave it one last kick, breaking the door open. I flicked the lights on and dashed down the brief flight of stairs.

  The room was tiny with whitewashed walls and a single light bulb hanging from a long wire in the ceiling. Apart from a heap of rusty chains, it was empty.

  Why would Aidan need such a strong door and lock for some chains? Frustrated, I started patting the walls in the hope I might find a hidden compartment. I knew instinctively I wouldn’t find one, though I didn’t give up until I checked every inch.

  “Crap,” I yelled, storming out again. I couldn’t take the hunger any more. If I didn’t find something soon, I might just—My paranormal senses picked up a sound: leaves stirring in the garden. Without thinking, I raced up the stairs, through the hall and the kitchen on the ground My paranormal senses picked up a sound: leaves stirring in the garden. Without thinking, I raced up the stairs, through the hall and the kitchen on the ground floor, and yanked the back door open so hard it thudded against the wall. The glass vibrated, ready to shatter, but I didn’t care as I stopped to listen and take a whiff.

  The air smelled earthy, raw. And then I felt it: a pulse beating rhythmically. So steady. So strong. My legs began to move. I tore through the bushes, landing on my knees, my gaze frantically searching through the leaves until I found what I was looking for.

  And then I pounced.

  Chapter 6

  I was vaguely aware of an ugly, slurping sound. It took me a while to realize it came from me. When I looked down, the front of my shirt was covered in blood and I was holding a tiny squirrel in my hands. The poor animal was lifeless now, its beady eyes stared up at me, wondering, fearing. Dead. What was happening to me? The scary part was that I felt normal, yet I knew I had become the monster I vowed I would never be. Would this be my fate? Stalking small animals in the forest?

  Disgusted with myself, I gently sat down the animal’s body somewhere under the thicket, vowing to get it a proper burial later, and got up to my knees, then bowled over to throw up. My body heaved several times, but all that came out of me was clear bile, as though my cells had already soaked up the red liquid. Could it be? I had no idea. In fact, I knew nothing about being a vampire because no one bothered to brief me in. After the ritual was performed and Kieran turned me, Aidan stopped talking about his former life as a bloodsucker. Actually, ‘stopped’ might just be the wrong word since it implies he ever did. Before his transformation he had been so tongue-tied, I had to fight for every morsel of information. I knew I wouldn’t get him to talk now, but I needed some answers—and fast—before this hunger inside me got out of control. Already I felt as though I was losing the battle.

  But whom could I ask?

  I trudged back to the house for a thorough shower with lots of scrubbing, and then returned to the garden and sat down on the stairs, my back turned to the kitchen. In my mind, I made a list of the supernaturals I knew.

  Cass was my best bet because she always seemed to know everything. But she was also the one who could never keep her mouth shut. If I wanted to shout it out to the world, Cass would be the one to contact. But I wanted to keep it a secret, so telling her wasn’t an option.

  I didn’t know Thrain well enough.

  Kieran and Aidan had fought against their hunger for centuries, but I couldn’t tell them because they would freak out. They did the most stupid and reckless things when they thought me in danger, like turning all Scottish and fighting people. I had no doubt they’d start blaming the Shadows in a heartbeat. Once the McAllister brothers got mad, heads would roll. While I had no idea whether it was true, I had no intention to find out.

  My brain reeled, going through every possibility over and over again. Most people I knew either weren’t familiar with the paranormal world, or I couldn’t tell them for one reason or another. But there was one person who helped me in the past. Granted, he also betrayed my trust, and I ended up a prisoner with no means of escape. If Aidan didn’t come to my rescue, who knows where I’d be right now. This time, however, I’d make sure to read the fine print before signing any contract with a Shadow.

  Getting up from the stairs, I tried to remember where I put the cell phone Devon once gave me. Not being the most organized person in the world sort of made me misplace my belongings. I climbed up the stairs to my bedroom on the first floor, and started rummaging through my possessions, tossing books and clothes aside until I had a growing heap on the carpet.

  Eventually, I found the tiny, silver device at the back of my closet, pushed behind a pair of shoes I rarely wore. I didn’t remember hiding it in there, but it certainly made sense. No one would ever go looking inside a closet, unless they didn’t mind smelling someone’s cheesy feet in the hope to find a hidden cell phone.

  The battery was dead and I didn’t have a charger—in other words, I couldn’t find it in the mess I had just caused looking for the phone. But that didn’t stop me. I removed the SIM card and inserted it into my own phone. Bless whoever invented unlocked mobiles.

  There was no reception inside the house, so I ventured out onto the driveway, balancing the cell phone on my palm as I watched the reception indicator. As soon as the phone hit two bars, I flicked it open and stared at it for a while, wondering whether I wasn’t making a huge mistake. Trusting a Shadow was as stupid as standing near a tree in the middle of a thunderstorm and hoping one wouldn’t be struck by lightning, but did I have a choice? The Shadows’ ruler, Deidre, had been the one to perform Aidan and Kieran’s ritual. Since it seemed to be malfunctioning, I figured I could just demand a recast of a faulty ritual and Aidan would never find out. Getting in touch with Devon was definitely worth a shot.

  My finger speed-dialed a moment before I even realized what I was doing. No going back now. I held my breath as I listened to the dial tone. Someone picked up almost instantly but they didn’t speak.

  “Devon?” I said into the silence. My heart hammered in my chest until it was so loud I thought I might not be able to hear anything else over the noise.

  “This can’t be who I think it is.” The male voice sounded foreign and cold.

  “Surprise.” I waited for him to make some lame vampire joke but he didn’t.

  “You’re speaking to Devon.”

  I frowned. “Yeah, I figured that much.”

  “Are you sure you got the right number?” he asked.

  I began to tap my fingers against my thigh because he made me nervous. As usual, I couldn’t read the guy and it drove me nuts. “Pretty sure since this is the number you programmed into the phone.”

  “I’m surprised you still have it. What do you want, Amber?”

  Granted, I didn’t expect a friendly welcome but his tone was downright rude and invited me to hang up on him. I swallowed down my pride as I answered.

  “I need to talk.”

  “About what? I don’t think there’s anything you and I could possibly have to say to each other.”

  I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. When I first met Devon, he was obviously looking for more than friendship. He used his charm to make me trust him. I knew I couldn’t let it happen again. But I also needed to ask a few questions. Literally. If I didn’t talk to someone with a pulse soon—I shook my head, unable to finish that thought. Let’s just say, someone had to know. And preferably someone who believed me. So I decided to spill the beans, all the while ensuring I wouldn’t reveal too much. I could bait him. My strategy: make him curious to reel him in until he had to see me, but don’t make any promises. And, most importantly, don’t offer anything in return. Now that part might just prove my downfall because I was always offering to do something for others, and usually ended up regretting it. “Something weird is happening to me. I feel different,” I whispered.

  Devon hesitated for a few seconds before replying, “You’re a bloodsucker now, what did you expect?”

  It wasn’t my fault, I felt like sayi
ng. But I didn’t. No point in arguing with him. It wouldn’t change anything. “It’s not that.” I shook my head and moistened my lips. “Listen, I need to see you. We really need to talk.”

  “I don’t know. I’d be breaking a lot of rules.”

  A dark cloud moved in front of the sun, bathing my surroundings in semi-darkness. Unpredictable changes in weather’s part of the Scottish charm, but it happened so fast, a shiver ran down my spine. I could feel something in the air; something dark and foreboding, gathering around me, talking to me even though I couldn’t hear a word, wanting me to do something.

  “Amber?” Devon’s voice jolted me out of my reverie. “Are you still there?”

  I nodded, forgetting he couldn’t see me. Or maybe he could. The Shadows had a reputation for hovering around Aidan’s property to watch their enemies.

  Even though they liked to pretend they were friends, a silent war between the Shadows and the vampires had been raging for centuries.

  Even though they liked to pretend they were friends, a silent war between the Shadows and the vampires had been raging for centuries.

  “Can I see you?” I whispered, adding, “Please. For old times’ sake.”

  Silence. Then, “Outside the gates?”

  “Yes.”

  “I’ll be there. Just be alone.”

  The dead line indicated the end of the call. I moistened my lips and scanned the surrounding woodlands with their dark green bushes and tall trees stretching over thousands of miles of land. Devon would come, I had no doubt about it. I just wished he could’ve told me when.

  The iron-wrought gates were only a few feet away. Lowering myself to the damp ground, I pushed the phone inside my pocket, prepared to wait for as long as it’d take him to get here.

  Chapter 7

 
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