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Dead and beyond, p.6
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       Dead and Beyond, p.6

           Jayde Scott
 
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  Devon was trying to piss me off by keeping me waiting for almost an hour. Tapping my fingers on my thigh, I was slowly starting to get impatient and doubted he’d even bother to show up. He was such a moron, or otherwise known as the magnanimous Shadow. I still remembered the way he had spoken to me, looked at me, touched me. So calm. So superior. So eerie. There was a lot I didn’t yet understand about his race.

  I sighed and stood from the cold ground to stretch my legs. A cold wind had begun to blow through the trees, whirling the leaves around my feet. I inhaled the aroma of oncoming rain and damp wood, and wondered when my life had become so complicated. It seemed such a long time ago, but until a few weeks previously, I had actually followed a routine: wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, hurry over to my after-school part-time job, then maybe even meet a few friends in the evening to chat over a hot beverage. I had taken all those things for granted—even complained about the lack of excitement in my life—and now I had lost that bit of normalcy that had meant I was still a living and breathing being. I missed being normal. Being a vampire wasn’t worth it, and certainly not when I sucked cute, little squirrels dry.

  A twig snapped behind me, signaling someone’s presence. I turned slowly and peered through the metal rods at Devon’s imposing figure.

  Dark hair that seemed a tad longer than the last time I saw him. Skin as smooth as alabaster stretched over high cheekbones. And then his eyes. I blinked several times as something stirred inside me: shock, fear. Had they always looked this scary?

  His black gaze fell upon me, taking in my features. I brushed a stray strand of hair out of my face and rubbed my palm on my jeans to remove imaginary lint. But my own gaze remained glued to him, unwilling to show him how uncomfortable he made me feel.

  “You look good given—” he started.

  I cut him off, finishing for him. “That I’m a bloodsucker now. Yeah, I got that part. You look good, too, considering you’re a creepy shadow who can melt in the rain. Who does that?”

  “No. I was about to say, given the circumstances.” He raised his brows. A glint of amusement appeared in his eyes. “And we don’t melt. No idea what gave you that impression.” His deep voice trailed off. I marveled at how calm and composed he seemed. It pissed me off big time because I wasn’t anything like it.

  “You know nothing about my circumstances.” I narrowed my gaze, challenging him to disagree and be a show-off, which could only mean one thing: he knew exactly what was happening to me. But he didn’t take the bait.

  “You’re right. I don’t. To what do I owe the pleasure? You said something’s wrong with you?”

  “Yeah, I’m kinda jittery since I haven’t had a good cup of latte macchiato in ages. Thought you might bring me one.”

  His lips twitched but he didn’t smile. “That’s a gesture of affection I reserve only for friends.”

  Ouch. “I thought we were friends.”

  He cocked his head to the side. “You ditched me the second your precious Romeo turned up whom, in case you forgot, we rescued. You didn’t even have the decency to say goodbye, which stung because I thought we really shared something special.” I opened my mouth to tell him the vampires stormed in like some kind of SWAT team and tricked me into following them when Devon cut me off, “We didn’t know each other well, but there was a spark there even you can’t deny. And yet you did. So, what exactly gave you the impression we were friends?”

  I took a sharp breath, gathering my thoughts. “As far as I remember, you made me believe we were friends when you needed my powers. But the moment you had your precious book back, you deserted me. What sort of friend does that? Never mind answering that one ‘cause I’ll tell you. A shitty one. In that matter you’re probably right. We were never friends.”

  “Amber—”

  “I don’t want to hear it ‘cause I’m only getting started! You left me on a cold stone altar with a gash on my neck, bleeding to death. How could you watch me die, Devon?” I shouted. I tried not to get emotional but it kind of bothered me because I once trusted him. He made me feel special and then threw me to the wolves. That was bound to hurt more than my escape from Shadowville aka prison. Maybe I hoped he cared about me more than he actually did.

  Did I had a small crush on him and was in denial? The thought caught me by surprise. I quickly pushed it to the back of my mind and glanced at Devon. He was still staring at me. Even though his expression had softened and his eyes looked miserable, it scared the crap out of me when people kept staring like that.

  “Watching you almost die was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” he said quietly.

  “Almost?” Snorting, I crossed my arms. Talking about what happened that fateful day was difficult. I felt betrayed by all. Aidan, Kieran, Cass, but most importantly Devon, because he told me the Shadows protected mortals. He guaranteed my safety. “I hate to remind you, mate, but my life kinda ended that day. My mortal one at least.”

  “I’m sorry, Amber.” He moved and reached out, then withdrew his hand again, as though unsure how I’d react to his touch. “I should’ve been there for you when you needed me the most.”

  My gaze bore into his, and for the first time I didn’t feel intimidated by his height and muscles and everything he represented. “Damn straight. If it weren’t for Kieran, I’d be dead and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Just admit I was expendable.”

  He shook his head, his black eyes flickering with something I couldn’t place. “Don’t ever say that! I fought to get to you but—” He stared at me as though he wanted to say something but decided to keep it to himself. He looked so earnest I almost believed he cared, but my heart just wouldn’t buy it.

  “We need to talk,” I said eventually, eager to change the subject.

  “You mentioned that.” Apart from the tiny glint that vanished just as quickly as it appeared, I saw nothing else in his expression that would betray his thoughts. I hated that I couldn’t read him. “Why don’t you come out and we can sit down for a chat?”

  Opening the gate would mean leaving the safety of Aidan’s magic behind. “Do you think ‘stupid’ is my middle name? I learned my lesson the last time I was almost kidnapped by one of your kind.” I waited for him to start defending his friend, Connor. He didn’t. “What? You have no excuse up your sleeve? That’s surprising.”

  “Are you lonely, Amber? Is your boyfriend not spending enough time with you?”

  His tone was too sweet. Too—mocking. Maybe even a tad hopeful. I could take the bite and start raving about my relationship with Aidan, which would only lead to Devon thinking he was right. Or I could just use his own strategy of ignoring everything I didn’t want to elaborate on. I bit my tongue and even managed to keep my mouth shut for a whole two seconds. And then I thought, toss it. Avoiding an argument had never been my style. My gaze narrowed as I smiled sweetly. “As a matter of fact, Devon, we’re very much in love and couldn’t be happier. But, like every normal person, we do spend a few hours a day apart, you know, just to keep the fire blazing.”

  “I always had the impression you guys were cold. I guess that’s just a myth then.” His voice dripped with sarcasm. He didn’t take me seriously. I wished I had just kept my mouth shut.

  I raised my chin defiantly, deciding to let his snide remark slide past. “Did you get to witness Deidre perform Kieran’s ritual?”

  The sudden change in topic seemed to take him by surprise. He ran a hand through his dark hair, his gaze shifted to our feet for a few seconds before focusing back on me. He was being wary again.

  focusing back on me. He was being wary again.

  I rolled my eyes. “Come on. You’re not exactly giving away a state secret. If you don’t tell me, I’ll just call Kieran.” I fished out my cell phone and waved it in front of his face.

  “You’re right. It’s not a secret I was there.” His eyes sparkled as he recalled the event. I wished I could read his mind to find out what he knew.

  “Do you
remember Deidre saying something about the spell’s effect being only temporary?” I tried to make my question sound as nonchalant as possible, but I knew he’d understand the implication.

  “You mean Kieran having to fear the sun ever again?” I nodded. Devon scowled and shook his head slowly. “Not possible. Our Queen would never break her word. Is that what’s bothering you? Why you called me?”

  “It was a hypothetical question. The spell’s still working. I was asking just in case, that’s all. But what makes you so sure your Queen would never betray a vampire?”

  “Unlike vampires, we live by a strict code of honor. We don’t lie because our word means everything to us.”

  “You also don’t tell the whole truth.”

  “Look, whatever’s going on, it has nothing to do with us. I swear.”

  I nodded again, almost believing him. “Yeah, like I said. Nothing’s going on.”

  “It’s not about Kieran, is it?” Devon said. “It’s about you. You’re worried.”

  “What makes you say that?”

  My gaze searched his. His face remained expressionless as he shrugged. “You’re horrible at hiding your emotions. I can read you like an open book.”

  “You’re crazy.” I snorted.

  “It’s so obvious this isn’t about Kieran. I’ve known him for centuries. If he had a problem, he would come banging on our door rather than send his brother’s girlfriend to do the talking for him.”

  I dropped down to the ground and tucked my legs beneath me, waiting for him to do the same. He sat on the grass, our legs mere inches away, with only the metal bars between us.

  “Want to tell me about it?” Devon whispered.

  I smiled and shook my head. “I want to but—”

  “Something’s holding you back. Is it your boyfriend?”

  I opened my mouth to tell him he was wrong. Aidan couldn’t hold me back even if he wanted to. It was the fact that I actually cared about what Devon thought of me when I shouldn’t. I didn’t want him to think I had become everything he despised. “You were right about before,” I said. “I was a bit lonely and needed to see another human being, even if you’re not really one. And neither am I, as a matter of fact.”

  A smile lit up Devon’s face, and for a moment I couldn’t look away from his dark, mysterious gaze and the tiny dimple I had never noticed before.

  “Smiling suits you. You should do it more often,” I said.

  “I was about to say the same thing about you,” Devon whispered. “You and me sharing the same thoughts. Isn’t that funny?”

  “Not really.” The heat rushing to my cheeks scorched my skin. I moistened my lips, wondering what I was doing here. It wasn’t like me at all to flirt with the next best guy when my boyfriend wasn’t around. Then again, you couldn’t exactly call it flirting, more like friendly chitchat with a friend. Albeit a handsome one.

  Something washed over me, like a dark shadow, enveloping my vision, my mind.

  Amber.

  It was the same ghostly voice as before, only this time I knew it was in my head because Devon didn’t seem to hear it. I took a deep breath and curled my lips into a forced smile as my eyes scanned the area as calmly as possible.

  Nothing there.

  Kiss him.

  The demand almost made me choke on my breath. This was one cheeky and probably very horny ghost. I mean, seriously, did it somehow miss the fact that I was dating a very hot vampire? Why would I want to kiss someone else?

  A strong breeze ruffled my clothes, pushing me against the bars until the cold metal was pressed against my skin, making me shiver. I tried to pull away but I couldn’t move from the spot.

  “Why are you hugging the bars?” Devon asked.

  “They’re so pretty. I love them so much.” I smiled through gritted teeth as I tried to pry my body away. Didn’t work.

  A kiss.

  That eerie voice again. I groaned. I didn’t want to kiss the guy.

  “You look like you’re glued to the gate. Do you need any help?” Devon smiled. At least I was being an entertaining hostess in that my visitor had a good time.

  “Nah, I’m good.” I pushed one last time, realizing this was one strong apparition. In fact, maybe too strong for me. Ghosts usually hover around until they no longer feel they have unfinished business to tend to. This one probably died without ever kissing a guy. It was a strange request but not too unusual. I might never get it to leave, unless I fulfilled its last wish on earth so it could pass into the light.

  “Hey, there’s something on your face.” I waved Devon to inch closer.

  “Where?” He rubbed his hand over his forehead and mouth.

  I shook my head. “Nope, still there. Come here, let me get it for you.” He leaned forward until his face was mere inches from the metal bars. I squeezed my fingers through. “You can come closer, you know. I won’t bite.” I winked. “Unless you want me to.” I had no idea why I just said that. My mind must’ve switched off for a second. Or maybe the ghost wanted me to.

  He frowned slightly but didn’t comment as he leaned in until I could feel his breath on my skin. In one swift motion, my fingers wrapped around his neck and I pulled him against me, surprising him. My mouth moved fast, touching his cheek in a quick and sloppy kiss, then pulled back. My hands released their iron grip and I stopped to listen. The ghostly voice was gone, just like the strange breeze. Finally, I breathed out relieved and was even a bit proud of myself, not least because I had probably just warded off some major haunting attack.

  Confusion crossed Devon’s face, joined by suspicion and something else, but I didn’t want to hover around so he could start his interrogation. What could I possibly say? That a ghost made me do it? “I’ve got to go. Aidan will be back soon,” I said, jumping to my feet.

  “Sure. You wouldn’t want to keep him waiting,” Devon whispered. I was surprised he didn’t ask what the kiss was all about. Maybe he was too confused and needed time to think. I snorted to myself. Yeah, right! As if guys ever did that. Usually it was, kiss and NEXT.

  “Thanks for coming. It really means a lot.”

  “So I figured. I might’ve even been able to help if you actually told me what’s wrong. If you wanna talk—” His voice trailed off as his gaze brushed over me, and finally rested on my lips. I ignored the questions in his eyes. It was clear he was still thinking about our kiss.

  me, and finally rested on my lips. I ignored the questions in his eyes. It was clear he was still thinking about our kiss.

  “Yeah, I know where to find you. I might even take you up on the offer.”

  “You gonna be okay?” Concern mirrored in his voice. For a moment, I felt guilty because I had made him come all the way down here and now I was sending him away without telling him why I had needed to see him in the first place. Then again, he had almost guessed my reasons, so maybe I didn’t need to tell him after all.

  “I’ll be all right. Don’t worry.” I studied his features—perfect just like Aidan’s, and yet so different. I had always been a sucker for blue eyes, but there was something about Devon’s black gaze that mesmerized me. Something that beckoned to me, challenging me, daring me to look closer. I didn’t want to fall for it, but somehow I couldn’t help myself. My vision blurred slightly, as though I was looking through a window splattered with raindrops. A shiver ran down my spine. A soft whisper in my head urged me to do something. Definitely a ghost again. I groaned inwardly. Seriously, this whole necromancer business was a full-time job.

  “Will I see you again?” My voice came low, barely audible in my ears, and yet I knew he had heard me by the way he drew his breath.

  “Do you want to?”

  I nodded slowly while my brain screamed at me and my heart started to bleed. Against my better judgment I heard myself say, “Yes, I do.”

  Devon’s smile made my heart skip a beat. “In that case, I’ll see you tomorrow, same time, same place.”

  I thought I heard something like, “It
was a nice kiss”, as I walked back to the house in a daze, even floating a bit, my mind devoid of any thoughts. But I didn’t turn. The thought that I didn’t really want to kiss Devon consoled me for all of five seconds. And then the guilt came creeping up on me.

  I had no idea what came over me, or even why I let a ghost pressure me to do it. Maybe Aidan’s disappearance bothered me and I needed to take it out on him somehow. It wasn’t right, but I figured Devon wasn’t interested in me anyway, what with me being a bloodsucker and all, and bloodsuckers being their arch enemies. Besides, I would never leave the gates. And, last but not least, I wouldn’t swap Aidan for anyone in the world. He was gorgeous, loving, generous, and perfect. We shared a bond. What else could I ask for?

  Aidan wasn’t back when I climbed up the stairs to my bedroom and sat down on the bed, cradling a copy of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park in my lap, ready to lose myself in someone else’s tragedy for a change. When I finally looked up again, darkness had descended upon the Scottish Highlands, and millions of stars dotted the sky. With a sigh, I closed the book and placed it carefully on the bedside table, then went in search of Aidan. Where the hell was he? My heart thumped fast and I began to panic, even though I knew there probably was no need. He was a vampire, big and almost invincible. But only almost.

  Chapter 8

  It was almost midnight when I checked the clock on my nightstand. Aidan still hadn’t returned from his new job and my concern was slowly growing to immeasurable heights. Several times I felt compelled to call Kieran again just to have someone reassure me Aidan was a big guy who knew what he was doing. The trouble with men, however, is that their ego often exceeds their height—or abilities. Whatever Aidan’s job involved, I knew he’d jump in with both feet, probably head first, to get it done. While I liked his enthusiasm when we were alone, I wasn’t so keen on his attitude toward fulfilling his duties, especially not when taking risks was part of the job description.

  Rubbing my eyes to get rid of the throbbing sensation inside my head, I tossed the book on the already overcrowded bedside table and decided to search for another activity to kill time. Ever since coming here, I had even developed a bit of a fondness for cleaning, probably because I was mostly bored out of my mind.

 
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