Dead and Beyond, p.8Jayde Scott
My blood rushed through my veins, sending shivers of pleasure down my spine. Swirling my tongue, I licked the two punctures on my wrist and opened my eyes. The sun hid behind dark rain clouds bathing the kitchen in semi-darkness. As a vampire, my vision was already sharper than any mortal’s, but it seemed different now. The air particles seemed to have taken on a glowing hue; the edges of the kitchen counters appeared more pronounced. I could almost see their depth, as though they had another dimension to them. Tilting my head, I focused my gaze on an empty glass of water, and then dropped it to the floor, only to catch it in mid air before it could shatter into thousands of pieces. I tried the trick once more, marveling at my heightened reflexes. Did Aidan really prefer to renounce his abilities than drink blood? I scoffed. Who in their right mind would do that? When he first revealed his true nature, I had been appalled and disgusted. And now here I was, unable to control my thoughts that told me he was stupid for making such a sacrifice. When did I change? When had I become this monster?
I only now felt the weight of what I just did: attack myself so I wouldn’t attack an innocent. What was wrong with me? Why was this happening to me, and not to Aidan or Kieran? It didn’t make any sense. And yet my brain knew the answer. Aidan and Kieran had experienced the Shadow ritual first hand. To me, the spell was passed on through Kieran’s blood. There was my answer, which inevitably led to yet another question: how could I get rid of this all-consuming hunger and get back to normal?
Maybe I could persuade Devon to perform another ritual before Aidan found out I was no longer the vegetarian he thought me to be. As much as I wanted honesty between us, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see the disappointment in Aidan’s eyes. He’d probably stand by me no matter what, but he might lose interest along the way, which would destroy our relationship. I couldn’t bear the idea of losing him, but I didn’t want to lie to him either.
My head was spinning. Not only did I not know whether to tell Aidan about my predicament, I also had the problem of Angel’s disappearance. In my vision I witnessed her kidnapping as she pounded on the outside gates crying out for help, but it could also be just a figment of my imagination because I’d never had a vision before. I mean, dead people always seemed to reach out to me, but not living ones—and Angel was definitely alive, wasn’t she? She had to be because if she weren’t Brendan, as her mate, would’ve felt her passing and told me. I heaved a big sigh as I brushed a hand over my face, realizing I had so little to go on, I had no idea where to even begin.
“Amber? Are you here?”
Aidan’s voice cut through the silence, startling me. I had been so engrossed in my thoughts I didn’t hear his soft footsteps in the hall just outside the kitchen.
Pulling my sleeve over my wrist to hide the now fading punctures, I cleared my throat and plastered a fake smile on my lips, then opened the door and almost bumped into him. He wrapped his arm around my waist to steady me, a lazy grin playing on his gorgeous lips. “Whoa, are you okay?”
“Yeah.” My breath caught in my throat as I peered at his black hair still damp from a shower and the way his white shirt stretched over his broad chest, accentuating his ripped torso. The guy belonged on the cover of a magazine, right below the title ‘Smoldering hot, and just as dangerous’.
“I missed you.” His mouth pressed against mine in a heated kiss. I parted my lips and caved into his embrace, my body melting into his. His tongue found his way into my mouth, pushing slightly, swirling, and then pulling back. A soft moan escaped my throat as my legs gave way beneath me. Thankfully, he was there to hold me. Our kiss ended too quickly. Disappointed, I peered into his blue eyes sparkling with the usual hungry flicker, questioning me, begging me to take the next step. I couldn’t blame him. He had waited for weeks, mostly patiently, but there was no doubt he’d jump at the opportunity to bed me.
“You’ve been gone for a while,” I said, pulling him into the library and closing the door behind us.
Aidan slumped on the couch with a sigh and pulled me onto his lap. I nestled against his chest and raised my lips to his neck to caress the soft spot below his ear, right where the blood pumped the hardest.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it’d take this long. Hope you got some rest.”
I snorted. “Fat chance.”
“You look glowing.” His fingers trailed up my arm to cup my face. “In fact, you’ve never looked more refreshed.”
That’s because my diet took a drastic change. Maybe I should get a membership at the local blood bank. It might be expensive but better than munching on the wildlife...or myself. Now, that was eternal embarrassment.
“Thanks.” I smiled as another pang of guilt surged through me. Now was the time to share my predicament with him and let him take charge. But I couldn’t spoil the moment. In a house full of vampires with fallen angels, demons and what else not popping in whenever it suited them, moments alone with my boyfriend were rare. I felt our circumstances were slowly taking their toll on us, so we really needed the few occasions of bonding time.
Okay, I admit I was a chicken, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. Not when he smelled so good.
Aidan moaned against my temple. “Can you do that again?”
My lips moved down his neck to his collarbone and then up, leaving a wet trail behind. I felt him shiver beneath me, and smiled as my mouth searched his again. He relaxed in my arms, so I figured it was time to start the interrogation.
“Where were you?” I whispered as I inhaled the strange scent wafting from him. It wasn’t unpleasant, just…different, scary but also sexy. Like nothing I had ever smelled before.
“I told you a new job came up.” He tensed but didn’t pull away.
“I can smell something on you. Five layers of shower gel won’t get rid of it.”
He got up and reached the window in a few long strides. His broad back was turned on me, but I could sense his frown and that he fought with himself. He considered lying his way out of this, then decided against it. Due to our bond, I could read his emotions. That he hadn’t noticed the changes in me told me he had a lot on his plate.
I joined him at the window and wrapped my arms around his waist, resting my chin against his back. He felt so strong, so…home. I breathed in his manly scent and knew I wanted him more than I had ever wanted any other guy. No other man would ever measure up to him. No one else would ever make me feel this way, all fluffy clouds and pretty butterflies.
“You forget I’m almost as powerful as you are now, so there’s no need to protect me. Whatever this job entails, share it with me, Aidan. I’m so ready to join your life,” I whispered.
He drew a sharp breath. His muscles tensed against my chin. I ran a hand down his back, mesmerized by how smooth and strong he felt. My mouth went dry at the thought of kissing him while my hands explored his body, something I hadn’t done yet. I had delayed it because I couldn’t cope with becoming a vampire, thinking that was about the worst that could happen to me. Well, I had just experienced first hand that things can always take another turn downhill. Call me superstitious, but I could feel the figurative Damocles sword dangling over my head. Time to take our intimacy to the next level before I completely spiraled out of control and it was too late.
“Layla summoned me,” Aidan said eventually.
I blinked. “Layla? The crazy goddess chick that tried to kill me because she couldn’t take the competition? Why would you agree to see her?”
“Because—” He cleared his throat and turned to face me, his hands resting on my shoulders. “I want to have a normal life with you. I want you to be safe and do all the things you want to do without anything to fear.”
and do all the things you want to do without anything to fear.”
“So, what is it that you’re supposed to do for her? Hand over your first born child?” I tried to keep my voice nonchalant, as though it wasn’t a big deal, but it was. A pang of jealousy hit me and bile rose in my throat. Layl
“She wants me to find someone,” Aidan said.
“Do you know what’s kept me alive all these centuries?”
“I can only begin to guess,” I said sarcastically.
“Trust. In the immortal world my word means everything. It could mean the difference between life and death.” Aidan’s eyes shimmered with pride. I figured it was yet another Scottish thing.
“So, you’re saying it’d be unprofessional to tell me?”
Aidan nodded. “That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”
‘Confidential’ wasn’t usually a word that featured in my relationship vocabulary. I squinted at him, ready to invade his mind and search for an answer, then decided to give him one last chance to spill the beans, after which I’d do what every jealous girlfriend with a bit of a backbone would do: start Operation Spying On The Guy.
“What she doesn’t know—you fill in the blanks.” My lips curled into a mischievous smile. He hesitated; his gaze swept across the carpet as though the answer might just magically appear. When he lifted his head again, I could see I had lost the battle.
“I’m sorry, babe. It’d be unprofessional.”
I wanted to scream at him that Layla had been unprofessional as well when she sent her most poisonous snakes after me. The bites would’ve killed me if Aidan didn’t suck out the venom. I still had a snake phobia and couldn’t even watch those slimy creatures on TV without experiencing a full-blown panic attack that left me unable to sleep for days. I didn’t want her to spend time with him. Not when I knew she’d be all over him whenever the chance presented itself, and knowing Layla, she always found an opportunity to get all touchy-feely. Besides, I had a right to know what we were up against. How could I protect myself when I had no idea what was going on?
“Did you get any work done?” Aidan said, changing the subject. He always did that. It had worked in the past because I couldn’t be bothered to pursue the matter, but he wouldn’t get away with it today. Tossing my hair over my shoulder, I shot him a venomous look and marched out of the library, ignoring his surprised expression.
I almost reached the stairs when his hand clasped my upper arm, forcing me to stop in my stride. “Go away,” I hissed.
“Amber, you’ve been in this world for less than a few weeks. There are things you don’t understand—”
I turned to face him, my eyes throwing daggers. “Yeah, because you won’t tell me! You keep me in the dark like some delicate flower. And I’m not. I died for you. I gave up everything—my life, my friends, my parents, my career.” I knew I was putting on the guilt, but I had no idea how else to get him to stop being so overprotective. “Can a delicate flower enter the Otherworld, obtain an ancient book, and live? No, it’d wither and die. But I came out stronger because I’m made of harder stuff than you think. Heck, I’d even describe myself as a survivor.”
“You’re pissed and I understand.” He took a deep breath, signaling me he didn’t understand a word I said. “But you’re going to have to trust me.”
“Why? Because you’ve got hundreds of years of experience with your supernatural world?” I snorted. “Yeah, right!”
“Yes, Amber. That’s exactly why. You have so much to learn.”
“Then teach me, Aidan.” I inched forward and jammed my finger into his hard chest. He didn’t even flinch. “It’s like you keep me in this ivory tower trying to protect me. After everything I’ve been through I can handle whatever you have to say because I’m a vampire. There, I said it. I am what you are so I have every right to know about this world.”
“Please, Amber,” Aidan said softly. I shook my head as I watched his resolve crumble. He sighed and the hall fell silent. I could hear the grandfather clock ticking in the library, and started counting. I barely reached ten when Aidan resumed the conversation. “You’re a big part of my life and I don’t want to hide anything from you. Lying can destroy a relationship and that’s why I think I need to tell you what’s going on.” I cringed at his choice of words, feeling bad. I wasn’t lying to him, just keeping a few secrets I shouldn’t keep. But the thought didn’t help get rid of my guilty conscience. “For your safety, you need to promise me not to tell anyone,” Aidan continued.
“Who would I tell? Just look around you.” I pointed down the empty hall.
“Sit down first. This could take a while.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me back into the library, then closed the door behind us. I sat down on the sofa and waited for him to join me, but he preferred to stand.
“You know Layla’s a goddess, right?” Aidan began. I nodded, so he continued, “Her mother, Dara, was one of the best Lore Court rulers the paranormal world ever had. She was kind, strong, and caring. But she also had a few skeletons hiding in her closet.”
“Who doesn’t have a few of those?” I shot him a look. Yeah, Aidan had lots of skeletons in his closet. He didn’t even have room to talk. And neither did I.
He ignored my comment. “It seems Dara had a few vices, and one of those was her inability to resist the advances of men. Layla always knew she would inherit her mother’s throne as the Queen of the Lore court—until she found out her mother had strayed, bearing several children with different fathers.”
“So she has a few half-siblings, what’s the big deal?” I rolled my eyes. “Is she scared of not being the center of attention any more? That everyone might just stop talking about her for a moment at the yearly Christmas dinner?”
Aidan smiled. “Not quite, babe. Layla was scared she might lose the throne, so she got rid of her half-siblings, but she didn’t move fast enough. Dara saved one son, Seth, and managed to hide his identity until it was too late. Seth’s now a frequent visitor of the Lore court and Layla’s most dangerous competitor for the throne. Under her mother’s protection, he was untouchable. Since Dara’s weak and retired, he’s no longer invincible.”
“Neither’s Layla,” I said dryly.
“Exactly. Layla thinks her half-brother has been planning her demise for ages with the difference that he kept a close eye on her for years and knows her every weakness.”
“She wants you to find him so she can kill him. I don’t like that, Aidan.”
Something sparkled in his blue eyes. “You’re way off track. And good thing too. Do you know how hard it is to kill a demi-deity? She wants him to sign a pact because she fears for her safety and throne. You see, Seth’s father was a Shadow.”
“Sounds like a pact with the devil. I’d run as far away from her as possible.” I raised my brows, not really understanding where he was heading with this.
“So what does all of this mean?”
Aidan inched closer to whisper in my ear, “The supernatural world is split into three courts: the vampires, the Shadows and the Lore court, which is ruled by a deity. A Shadow is granted his power rather than be born with it. Seth is already a deity, and now he’s looking for a way to trigger his Shadow powers. The moment that happens, he’ll tip the scales and one court will rule the world.”
Didn’t sound that bad to me. “Call me ignorant, but since you guys have been at war with each other for centuries, wouldn’t that mean peace?”
Didn’t sound that bad to me. “Call me ignorant, but since you guys have been at war with each other for centuries, wouldn’t that mean peace?”
“Yeah, but at what cost?” His gaze bore into mine and pictures began to flood my mind.
Limp bodies drained of blood; cut off heads with gaping mouths that revealed holes where there once used to be fangs; gaunt creatures clad in rags, with eyes as dead as a corpse’s; and then lots of fire burning down everything in its wake.
I shook my head to get rid of the disturbing images. “I don’t understand.” My mouth felt dry, my tongue stuck to the back of my throat.
Aidan moistened his lips, hesitating. “Legend is, a famous Lore Court Seer once predicted the war between the Shadows, the vampires and the Lore court would escalate into the most brutal bloodbath the world has ever witnessed. This war will see many innocent victims. Two courts from three will perish. I don’t know who will win, but I know it won’t be the vampires, at least not us.”
“And Layla wants to save the supernatural world?” I asked, not quite buying it. The woman loved blood and suffering. I couldn’t see her as the savior she pretended to be.
“No, she’s trying to save her ass,” Aidan said. “Just as much as I’m trying to save ours. If it takes working with that vicious snake, then so be it.”
In other words, we’d stuck with a power driven demi-goddess, who’d never warm up to the idea of me being Aidan’s girlfriend. Sooner or later she’d try to get rid off me. “What’s the plan?”
“I don’t know.” Aidan moistened his lips. I wrapped my arms around him, drawing him close, not really seeing the magnitude of what he was saying. I mean, it was just a legend, and legends are nothing but the figment of one’s imagination. Okay, more often than not, there’s a tiny grain of truth to them, but everyone knows that grain is completely blown out of proportion. So what if that guy, Seth, carried the ancestry of two courts? It didn’t mean anything. He had no powers, and even if he did, he had no idea how to use them. Someone would have to teach him. He had no connection to the Shadows and Layla’s mother had left the Lore court, so there would be no one to show him the ways of a deity.
Seriously, both Aidan and Layla were being paranoid, and I harbored no interest in letting their unfounded paranoia grab hold of me as well.
Dead and Beyond by Jayde Scott / Mystery & Detective / Romance & Love / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes