Dead and Beyond, p.7Jayde Scott
Gathering the laundry, I climbed down the staircase to the basement when I realized I had completely forgotten about the kicked-in door. Leaving it hanging off its hinges wasn’t an option because Aidan was bound to find out and ask questions. But I knew nothing about DIY work. I briefly considered calling Kieran to ask for help, then decided against it since I figured he was probably even more clueless than I was.
I tapped my fingers against the doorframe, begging my immortal mind to come up with a brilliant plan, when I felt a sense of urgency a moment before the unnerving sound of someone rattling the gates echoed in my ears. It sounded as though someone was trying to get in, but this time I knew it wasn’t just in my head.
My temper flared. Seriously, not again. I was so sick and tired of the spirit’s mind games.
“Go away,” I hissed.
The sound continued and pictures began to flood my mind. A dark shape hovering outside the gates, his hood covering his face so I couldn’t make out his features. I realized this wasn’t an apparition but a vision, just like the one I had about Angel.
Whoever was out there probably knew Aidan wasn’t home and wanted to take advantage of the situation. Well, that wasn’t happening. Adrenaline began to rush through my veins, making me excited to go out there and defend my home, my territory, and one of my BFFs. Forgetting all about the door, I dashed up the stairs and out the front door with supernatural speed, almost as fast as the other vampires traveled, and reached the gates in less than two seconds. My lips curled into a snarl, my fangs lengthened, ready to defend the house by shredding the intruder into smithereens.
The telltale scent of a Shadow hit my nostrils. They all smelled similar, a bit of fire and dry earth washed away by an angry summer storm, tough different in nuances. I had met my fair share of them, but I couldn’t remember this guy. His body was hidden beneath a black cape, his face obscured by a hood, but I didn’t fail to register his broad shoulders and strong hands clasping the bars. Red, sore wounds, like deep blisters, had formed where he touched the magic infused metal. It looked painful, but he didn’t seem to mind.
“Piss off, mate, or I swear I’ll kill you,” I hissed. My voice sounded resolute, menacing. Inside, however, I prayed I wouldn’t have to carry out my threat because I figured, vampire or not, I was more civilized than that. Killing was Aidan and Blake’s thing. Kieran and I preferred to step back and sort out our differences at the local pub, musing over a pint, rather than kick someone’s face in.
“My name’s Brendan. I’m sorry to bother you. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t need your help.” He had an air of regency about him, as though he wasn’t just any Shadow, but it was the guy’s voice that surprised me. Not only was he extremely polite for a Shadow, he also sounded much younger than I anticipated. Maybe twenty or twenty-five. But since they all seemed so young, I figured he might as well be two hundred plus.
“My help?” I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, heard that one before. Didn’t turn out so well for me.”
“Please, just listen,” he said, throwing his hood back to reveal his face. I stared at his youthful features and the black eyes that were so common among Shadows, trying to remember whether I had seen him before. His face was smooth as marble with perfect skin a tad darker than Devon’s, but prominent cheekbones and a strong jaw. For a moment, the usual Shadow pride shined in his eyes, giving way to worry and fear. I couldn’t remember having ever met him, but something must’ve happened, or why else would he be here? I cleared my throat.
“Did Devon send you?”
Brendan shook his head. “No, my blood brother doesn’t know I’m here and I’d rather it stayed that way.”
“Because he’s already worried enough as things stand. I wouldn’t want to burden him with—” He stopped abruptly, his gaze swept away from me as he scanned the fallen leaves scattered across the ground beneath our feet.
I raised my brows. “You wouldn’t want to burden him with what?”
“Never mind. It’s not important.”
I nodded, not quite comprehending his words because my mind still circled around his casually dropped statement. “You said he’s your brother?” What did it matter whether he was? I knew I wouldn’t be trying to impress Devon’s family any time soon, and yet my heartbeat picked up in speed.
“Blood brothers,” Brendan explained. “He saved my life once.”
“Right.” I waited for him to elaborate on his strange connection to Devon or why he was here, but he kept quiet. The way his eyes moved back and forth told me he had come in haste and hadn’t prepared his speech. I gathered I could wait for him to start speaking and maybe end up wasting my whole day, or I could do what came naturally to me anyway. Interrogate.
With a big sigh, I curled my lips into a fake smile. “Okay, Brendan. You’re obviously in some sort of trouble, so you’ve decided to ask a vampire for help.
And not a strong and experienced vampire either, but a newbie who is fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out this whole supernatural world for the very first time. That’s rather strange. Don’t you think?”
“I know but you’re my last resort.”
“Whatever’s going on, your vote of confidence in me is overwhelming,” I said with a smirk. “We get to play friends while you need me. Once my deed’s done we get to go back to your race despising the very ground I walk on.”
His black eyes sparkled with passion. “The Shadows have every right to hate the vampires. You’ve yet to know what they’ve done to us in the past. Maybe you should read up.”
“Yeah.” I nodded. “I’d love to. Have any supernatural history books handy?”
“They’re out there, Amber. Ask around. Better yet, check out your boyfriend’s library. It’d shed some light on my point of view.”
Why was everyone so hell bent on holding a grudge for centuries? What happened to solving one’s issues over a good cuppa and parting ways with a good ole’ handshake? “I think I can fill in the blanks,” I muttered. “They did some terrible things to you and you’ll never forgive them. But I’m sure you weren’t the victims here. I can only imagine the unspeakable things you did to them to make them retaliate in that manner.”
“I was never part of that.”
“Really? Because you’re different?”
“As a matter of fact, I am. I don’t hate my enemies.” The flicker in his black eyes told a different story though. Ever since my turning we were foes.
Anything else was just pretense.
Anything else was just pretense.
I crossed my arms over my chest and regarded him coolly. I know I should’ve asked what made him different, but this meeting was bizarre enough already.
A Shadow’s visit was the last thing I expected. Time to cut to the chase. “Just tell me why you’re here, Brendan. We haven’t got all day.”
A headache began to throb at the back of my head and a sense of imminent sickness weighed me down. It was only a matter of time until I’d turn all blood crazed again. The slightest pangs of hunger were already stabbing me, reminding me I hadn’t fed on the real thing. And the real thing was standing right in front of me, with deliciously sweet blood running through his veins. If he didn’t spill the beans soon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a roast chicken standing there instead of him, or whatever vampires fantasized about.
Brendan’s gaze focused on me as he took a long breath. “I know you met Angel during your stay with us.” He said the last part like I had a choice. Truth be told, I had been sort of tricked into entering Shadowland, upon which Aidan had to get me outta there, otherwise I would’ve ended up with twenty to life. Almost freezing to death in a secluded mountain with a creepy child queen aka The Exorcist Kid, trapped between life and death, spinning her dark magic on me wasn’t my idea of a ‘stay’. I bit my tongue hard to keep back a remark, and nodded to let him know I remembered Angel, the raven-haired girl who, at that time, was the only other mortal to ever enter Shadow territ
“I’m here because, in a way, she told me to come if something happened,” Brendan continued.
“I don’t understand. Does she need help? Why didn’t she just get in touch with me?”
“Maybe she tried but couldn’t reach you?”
“No.” I shook my head, confused. “Unless—” I sucked in my breath as realization struck me. “The bars.” I pointed at the gate, where his hands touched the gold-infused bars that were supposed to keep away intruders.
“She’s in big trouble,” Brendan said.
And then it all came back to me. “I thought I had a vision of her rattling the gates a few days ago. I didn’t pay it any attention because I never had a vision before and she was being chased right before somebody dragged her into a black Sedan. What are the odds of that?” I tried to laugh it all off but the sound remained trapped in my throat.
His eyes grew wide. “Did you get a look at her attacker?”
I shook my head as I tried to remember. “No, it happened so fast. It was like a blur. I even came out and checked the gates but there was no sign of her so I thought I’d imagined the entire thing.”
“Did you get the license registration number?” Excitement flickered in his eyes only to die down when he caught the expression on my face.
“It was just a silly fabrication of my mind, Brendan. I’m a newbie, so you can’t rely on me for information.”
“Obviously you know more than we do. We’ve no idea where she could be,” he said.
“Maybe she had enough of you creeps, packed her bags and took the nearest exit. You can’t blame her. What seventeen-year-old would rather spend her days trapped in a mountain than partying with her friends, or shopping? Last time we talked she kinda missed that.”
He shook his head. “No, you don’t understand! Something must’ve happened to her. She’d never leave without me because I’m her bonded mate.”
I let out a sigh, realizing the magnitude of his words. The fact that they shared a bond explained his worry. Bonds were spun by Fate, eternal. They changed everything. I regarded Brendan intently, only now noticing that his dark eyes were blood shot, as though he hadn’t slept in days. His hands were still clasped around the metal bars, and painful blisters had formed on his skin. It was as if he tried to wear a mask to disguise the pain, but I could see right through it into his raw grief. I actually felt bad for him because I couldn’t imagine living without Aidan. I thought I lost him once when Layla imprisoned him, which turned me into a total train wreck. So I understood what Brendan was going through. And I liked Angel. Usually, I wouldn’t spill out a friend’s secrets, but I believed Brendan and I figured my words might just trigger some repressed memory or knowledge in him that could help find her.
“I remember something about a boyfriend and that she hated him.” I tapped a finger against my lips as I tried to recall my three meetings with Angel and her exact words. “Maybe it wasn’t so much hate as—”
“Contempt?” He snorted. “Sounds about right. I got that a lot from her.”
“Why? Shouldn’t she be in love with you since you have a bond and all?” It was the way the bond worked with Aidan and me, with my brother and Cass, and so forth.
“That’s right,” Brendan said. “She was very careful with her emotions. I sensed she was hiding something from me but I couldn’t get it out of her. But none of that matters now. The only thing I care about is finding her and bringing her home safe. You’ve got to help me. I can’t do it on my own.”
I peered at him intently, searching his features for any signs that he was lying. Granted, the Shadows didn’t have Thrain’s tracking skills, nor were they kickass bounty hunters like Aidan, but why couldn’t they track down a girl’s whereabouts? They sure had no problem following me around when I was still mortal.
“Why’s that? Do your sniffer dogs have a blocked nose?”
“We can’t find her because she’s half Shadow, and we don’t sense our own people,” Brendan said coolly.
I stared at him blankly. “What did you just say?”
“Angel’s half Shadow?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.” I slapped my forehead. “She thought she was mortal. You know what, you people are unbelievable. How could you hide something like that from her?”
“We don’t have time to discuss her lineage right now,” Brendan said.
My mind was still processing the previous piece of information. Angel was half Shadow. Made sense. I clicked my tongue, thinking, and pulled my sweater tighter around me, but not because of the cold. I could sense an opportunity here. Join their search for Angel, and in return have them look into why the spell on Kieran’s blood was starting to lose its effect on me. It was a simple bargain, and I was ready to dive right in. Again. Only, this time I’d make sure to read the fine print before signing the dotted line.
But even if he refused the deal, I’d still help because Angel was my friend. Besides, I knew what it felt like to be kidnapped and torn away from everything you know and love. I’d bring her home, hell or high water, because that’s what friends do. Yeah, I’d show Devon that I could help a Shadow in need, even though I was the archenemy. No one was going to label me a ‘shitty’ friend. That title was reserved strictly for him.
“Okay, I’ll do it, but I want something in return,” I said.
Brendan nodded slowly as he regarded me through those black, bottomless eyes. “I’ll get Devon to find out what the deal is with your sudden thirst. Is that good enough?”
“How do you know about it?” Suspicion crawled into my voice. He couldn’t possibly know about my situation unless it was all planned right from the beginning.
“I saw you.” He averted his gaze, muttering under his breath, “With that squirrel.”
My cheeks burned. Oh, gosh, somebody had witnessed one of my most embarrassing moments ever: killing off the wildlife on the property. I was the lunatic who whacked a poor, helpless, little animal. No wonder he ran the other way instead of talking to me. I wouldn’t have wanted to meet me either. Hopefully, lunatic who whacked a poor, helpless, little animal. No wonder he ran the other way instead of talking to me. I wouldn’t have wanted to meet me either. Hopefully, he didn’t record the entire episode on his phone and post it on YouTube.
“Yeah, that wasn’t my most glorious moment, was it?” My laughter sounded forced. Choked.
“So, we have a deal?” Brendan held out his hand as though to squeeze it through the metal bars. I peered at the raw blisters, but didn’t touch his skin in case he put some spell on me. Granted, I sounded a bit superstitious but I knew next to nothing about the Shadows and their abilities. Better be safe than sorry.
Brendan pulled back, unfazed.
“I’ll need details,” I said. “Where did you last see her? What was she wearing? Did she behave suspiciously before walking out on you?”
“I told you she didn’t walk out on me,” he said through clenched teeth. A menacing glint appeared in his eyes. Whoa, I could sense a short temper there.
“The night before she disappeared, she was wearing jeans and a black shirt. We were still together at sunset. She watched me—” he hesitated, choosing his words carefully “—trot off into the forest under the light of a full moon to run some errands.”
I raised my brows. “At night?”
“I’m not at liberty to discuss my duties with you. Let’s just say, she likes to spend a bit of time outside before returning to the safety of our fortress, so no one grew suspicious when she didn’t return immediately. After ten minutes, the guard became nervous and left his post to get her, but she was already gone and we couldn’t find any trace of her.”
Foul play. I could smell it from a mile. No one disappeared without a trace, unless magic was involved—or a portal to another world was opened. As far as I knew, Cass was the only person who could do that. But she was eighteen now, and stuck in Hell with
“That’s all you’ve got for me?” I drew a long breath and let it out slowly. “You know, I might be able to get more clues from Google.”
“Figured that much.” He pushed his hand into his pocket to retrieve a torn out paper with frayed edges, and dropped it through the bars. I caught it in mid-air before the wind blew it away. “This is my number. If you find anything, call me. And one more thing.”
I raised my brows. “A surprise hint?”
“I told you everything I knew. I’m just as lost as you are.” He held my gaze for a moment as he leaned forward to whisper, “Devon doesn’t need to know.”
“Right.” Did I need to know why not? My curiosity was killing me, but I figured I’d ask next time because the hunger inside me had grown to unbearable heights. Getting rid of it before Aidan arrived back home was my top priority now. “We good?” I smiled at Brendan.
“Yes.” He returned the smile, and for a moment a glint appeared in his eyes again, though this time it was warm and friendly and—Blood. I blinked as I stared at the red liquid pouring down on us in huge drops, bathing his black hair and soft skin in a red hue. I swallowed hard to get rid of the bile rising in my throat.
“Are you okay?” Brendan asked, frowning. The red liquid seeped into his mouth and trickled over his pearl white teeth. I could see it gathering at the corners of his lips; I could taste its salty tang on my tongue.
“I’ve got to go.” Turning my back on him, I ran up the alley to the house and slammed the door behind me. Only when I reached the kitchen did I stop in my tracks and raised my wrist to my mouth. Not really knowing what I was doing, I bore my fangs into my fragile skin and began to draw blood, at first tiny droplets that soon became a steady stream. It wasn’t right, but I couldn’t help it. If I didn’t feed from myself, I might end up picking someone who wouldn’t survive the deadly attack of a newly turned vampire.
Dead and Beyond by Jayde Scott / Mystery & Detective / Romance & Love / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes