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Dead and beyond, p.9
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       Dead and Beyond, p.9

           Jayde Scott
 
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  “Maybe the Seer was wrong. Just look at Nostradamus. The guy couldn’t predict a thing if his life depended on it,” I said. Aidan shook his head. I slapped his arm playfully. “Look, I don’t get why you’re so worried. The legend’s been around for centuries, and chances are it won’t happen any time soon, maybe never.

  For your peace of mind, I suggest consulting Kieran’s new love interest.”

  “Patricia?” Aidan’s brows shot up.

  “She’s a Seer, right?”

  An amused glint appeared in his blue gaze. “Yeah, but she’s also Cass’s aunt and a fallen angel. That’s not a trustworthy combination.”

  I shrugged. “I was just trying to give you an option. I’ll help you find Seth, and then you’ll see all those worry lines you got were for nothing.” My finger trailed over his smooth forehead, lingering at this temple. His lips searched mine; his tongue explored my mouth as his hand wandered to my neck, sending shivers down my spine. We fell into a chair and I climbed on top of him, giving into his embrace, ready to help him forget his sorrows for a while. But as much as I knew we had nothing to worry about, a speck of doubt settled at the back of my mind, and no matter how hard I tried to push it away, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

  Chapter 10

  It was late afternoon when Aidan announced he had to leave again, which suited me just fine. As much as I liked spending the day with him making out on the sofa, relationships don’t usually work that way. One has to keep it mysterious, you know, be available for a time, and then pull back so the chase can start all over again. If Aidan wanted to hang out at the Lore Court without me, I wouldn’t play the clingy girlfriend because it just wasn’t my style. I was perfectly capable of entertaining myself in his absence. In fact so much that I planned to completely forget about him and really get into my new project, Paranormal Initiation.

  Finding Angel would be my first assignment.

  I programmed Brendan’s phone number into my cell and tossed the paper away. Then I slipped into my favorite pair of jeans and a tight shirt, pulled my hair up in a messy ponytail, and took my place at Aidan’s shiny mahogany desk that smelled a tad too much of wood polish. Brendan needed my help or, better said, we both needed each other’s help because I harbored no false hope of never seeking blood again. I sat there for a long time, recalling the few conversations I ever had with Angel and jotting everything down. By the time I finished, I thought I’d have a few scribbled pages and plenty of hints. And then I looked down and groaned inwardly because I had just wasted an hour on three bullet points.

  First, Angel told me the Shadows took her in when she was just a little girl with no family and no hope of a future. Basically, she had spent seventeen years trapped in a mountain, watched by a bunch of creepy-eyed weirdos, like Kieran called them. As much as I would’ve wanted to disagree, they were kinda weird and I didn’t fail to point that out when I first met Angel, probably helping her realize that her circumstances weren’t exactly common among teens.

  Second, she missed seeing the outside world, but she wasn’t unhappy, or so she claimed. And, last but not least, right before Aidan freed me from Shadowland, I gave Angel the option to leave with me, but she wouldn’t. Her exact words were that she’d die if she ever tried to escape. She never talked about Brendan, but she was curious about the bond I shared with Aidan, as though she was trying to find out more about it. I figured, at her age there’s always a guy involved. She might’ve even been in love with him. Whether it was indeed Brendan, I couldn’t tell.

  I tapped my pen against my lips, putting two and two together. I doubted Angel was kidnapped because Shadowland was better fortified than Buckingham Palace or the White House. Thrain, Clare and Aidan’s ex-BFF Blake managed to get in, but only because Thrain was a shape shifter and impersonated Devon so the guards would open the gates. Angel’s disappearance had to be her own choice, meaning she knew what she was doing and she certainly knew how to get out of that place since she practically grew up there. However, if her fears of breaking out of the joint were founded, her actions could only mean one thing: sure death.

  Had Angel become so desperate to get away that she decided to risk her life? The thought sat in the pit of my stomach like a rock. I swallowed hard, forcing myself to remain calm rather than let my emotions overwhelm me. Wanting to get away wasn’t a strong enough motive. She could’ve easily left when I offered to help her escape. Something else must’ve triggered her sudden departure. Someone came after her with such a vengeance, making—maybe even threatening—her to leave, that Angel had no choice but to risk her life and leave her bonded mate behind. It was a farfetched explanation based on nothing but my own reasoning.

  However, it was my only trail right now.

  I was no Sherlock Holmes, but I was sure Scotland Yard would be proud of my brilliant detective skills and determination to seek out every clue and leave no stone unturned. I scribbled ‘foul play’ and ‘possible suspect might be someone she trusted’ on my notepad. In the event someone was hiding or even helping her, I also jotted down ‘possible hiding places’. Then I pulled out a map of the Scottish Highlands and a compass to mark a thirty mile radius because that’s how far I thought she’d get on foot before she had to stop, exhausted and hungry, maybe even doubting the sanity of her idea. I peered at the map with vast patches of green and brown indicating woods and mountains. Thirty square miles was a huge distance to cross but not impossible, and certainly not for a vampire who could move as fast as I could. Trouble was Aidan instructed me to stay within the safety of his fortress. Leaning against the chair, I considered my options: defy Aidan’s wishes and leave the house, which might put both of us at risk because I knew if something happened to me he’d come running. Or call Brendan and share my meager findings with him, and let him take it from here.

  With an exasperated sigh, I flicked my cell phone open and speed-dialed the first number saved as a shortcut.

  “Brendan? It’s Amber,” I whispered even though I didn’t need to lower my voice because there was no one around. For a moment, my heartbeat drowned out the silence on the other end of the line, and then someone’s sharp tone made my heart skip a beat.

  “How do you know Brendan?”

  I flinched at Devon’s voice. For a moment I considered faking a Chinese accent while claiming I had dialed the wrong number. Then I realized that might not work out so well after revealing my name. Damn, I had to stop doing that when I called people. But luckily for me, I had been friends with the whacky Cass long enough to adopt her ways of playing dumb, so my brain came up with a second plan. “Hey you.” I smiled even though he couldn’t see me. “What’s up?”

  “You tell me.”

  “How would I know when you called me?”

  “How could I have when my phone rang?” Devon said, dryly.

  That was Devon’s number? Why would Brendan pretend to give me a number with the invitation to call him when it belonged to his blood brother or whatever sort of relatives they were? I tapped my fingers on the table, a bit irritated with both Devon for picking up and Brendan for giving me the wrong phone number in the first place. And then I realized I speed-dialed one instead of two; one was Devon’s number, two belonged to Brendan. Due to my own stupidity I rang the wrong Shadow. “Right. Listen, I’d love to help but I’m kinda busy. Would you mind passing your phone over to Brendan?”

  “He’s not around.” A pause on the other end of the line, then, “Where did you say you know him from?”

  As far as I remembered I didn’t, and that’s exactly how I wanted it to stay. I was about to tell Devon to mind his own affairs—well, not in those words, think more along the lines of, piss off, mate—when I heard something across the room. I pushed the phone away from my ear and inclined my head as I strained to listen. There it was again, the softest scratching on wood coming from the window, slow and deliberate, reminding me of a rodent digging something up. And then it stopped.

  “Amber? Are you still th
ere?” Devon said. I couldn’t deal with him right now. Not with a voice at the back of my mind, warning me to run as fast as I could. Running’s always a good option, but first I had to find out what I was running from.

  “Listen, I’d love to chat but I think I have a mouse problem,” I whispered, my gaze still focused on the window.

  “Mice?”

  “Yeah, you know, they’re furry animals with big eyes and long whiskers.”

  “Want me to call an exterminator?”

  “What? And kill the little guy? I’d never hurt an animal...not even a spider!” Memories of me sucking a poor squirrel dry rushed through my mind. I shook my head. Basically, I was a huge hypocrite.

  The scratching sound snapped me out of my thoughts.

  “Gotta go,” I whispered. Hanging up before Devon could resume his chatter, I tiptoed around the desk and toward the window. I knew I was being silly, and yet I couldn’t control my racing heart, which I wasn’t even sure was normal for a vampire.

  I reached the window in a few short strides and peered out onto the beautiful backyard with its meticulously trimmed lawn and wilted rosebushes. Pressing a I reached the window in a few short strides and peered out onto the beautiful backyard with its meticulously trimmed lawn and wilted rosebushes. Pressing a hand against my chest, I scanned the area. Nothing there. The sun was setting over the horizon in an array of colors, casting a soft, orange glow across the sky and over the hills. Smiling weakly at my own paranoia, I took a deep breath and turned away when the scratching began again, but this time it didn’t stop.

  I swear I could hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet scampering up and down the wall, gnawing and more clawing. Great. Now we had mice living inside the walls, which freaked me out big time. Maybe Aidan could buy some catch and release traps because, despite my past indiscretion and my phobia of anything with sharp teeth, I really didn’t want to see an animal hurt or killed.

  The clawing became more frantic. The temperature dropped a few degrees. It was so cold, my breath fogged up the glass. I wrapped my arms around my waist to keep from shivering as my supernatural senses went into full alert. Alarm sirens went off at the back of my head, warning me of something that was about to take place. But I had never been the brightest star at interpreting big, flashing neon lights, and particularly not the ones that indicate signs and omens.

  Frozen to the spot, my gaze fell upon the wooden floor right under my feet and the three fifteen inch scratches embedded deep into the cherry wood that I swear weren’t there half an hour ago. It had to be some sort of prank, one part of my mind argued, just like the incident with the different eye colors at Cass’s birthday party. But who would play a prank on me? There was no one around to do it…unless they were invisible. Like a—Ghost.

  Chapter 11

  My eyes widened when the word registered in my brain. I groaned. Please, not again. I was a medium bestowed with the ability to see and talk with dead people, but, like Aidan liked to put it, I was a chicken scared of my own shadow. My poor brain quickly retrieved all the information on ghosts I had gathered in my eighteen years of life.

  They were creepy and scared the hell out of any normal person, and some did it for no apparent reason, think a typical poltergeist haunting.

  More often than not, they were confused and needed assistance in order to leave the physical plane.

  And some couldn’t rest unless they concluded their business, which was left unfinished upon their unexpected departure from our world.

  I could only hope my ghost fell into category number two, because anything else would have me packing my bags in no time. When all that blood started pouring down the walls and dripping inside Brendan’s mouth, I thought I was just hallucinating from hunger. I mean, you don’t usually see walls or people drenched in blood unless it’s in the movies, but this wasn’t Hollywood, so it couldn’t be remotely true. The scratches, however, sounded like a sure-thing spirit haunting sign if I had ever heard of one. I was having an Exorcist moment, and that freaked me out big time. Spiritual love bond or not, I wouldn’t be living under the same roof with a creepy ghost. Aidan had two options, either call in an exorcist to banish this thing forever, or we’d move, and preferably a long distance away from here.

  An icy breeze blew across my cheeks. In spite of the cold, sweat poured down my back, soaking my clothes. Swallowing hard, I staggered back away from the eerie scratches and the window and turned to make a quick dash out the door when it slammed shut in my face. I was pretty sure it wasn’t the wind, especially when the knob started to turn.

  “Who’s there?” I shouted. No one answered. The door started to shake in its hinges. A few droplets of blood roll down the wood ever so slowly, as though to mock me. Okay, I wasn’t going to stick around for Act Two of ‘Bloody Walls’. I had to get the heck out of here by any means possible.

  I had two options: either jump out the window or dash through the haunted, blood-spattered door, which was only a few feet away but might not open. The ground below the window might just take a bit longer to reach, but it sure was the more inviting option. Only, I wasn’t keen on finding out whether my vampire body could take the fall without a sprained ankle. Okay, I was being a drama queen because Aidan’s workplace was situated on the second floor and I had yet to hear of anyone dying from this height, but inflicting any sort of pain on myself deliberately wasn’t my thing.

  Damn Aidan for not briefing me in if my new body could jump out a window without hurting myself. Or whether being immortal also included the perks of not feeling any pain.

  The squeal of sharp nails dragging along wood made me jump. Glancing across the room, I could see more scratch marks appearing before my eyes, as though something were pulling itself toward me, grinding its claws into the boards as it inched closer. I dug my nails into the soft flesh of my arms and weighed the pros and cons of jumping vs. door.

  Ah, toss it. There was no way I was going to hover around and have a confrontation with this undead thing. I dashed for the door and turned the knob, but it wouldn’t open. I pulled and kicked at it with every bit of my immortal strength I possessed, and still, it wouldn’t budge an inch. Crap! The only option left was...

  Opening the window, I climbed on the windowsill and pinching my nose—no idea why I did that—I jumped into the depth of the backyard, landing ungracefully on my butt with a loud thud. It didn’t hurt, which I attributed to my genes and their tendency to store fat in all the wrong places. Thanks, Mom, for that.

  I got up and brushed my clothes, peering up at the open window. The stiff, wine-colored brocade curtains barely moved in the strong breeze preceding the usual Scottish rainfall, but somehow I could sense something up there. A faceless entity, if you will. I was a necromancer, for crying out loud. Why couldn’t I see it? Maybe my ability was latent. Or maybe it was just the negative residue of a long-lost ghost that had already passed into the light or gone straight to Hell.

  Who was I kidding? I obviously had a full-blown poltergeist haunting on my hands. Call it intuition, but I had the strange feeling I’d be jumping out of more windows in the near future.

  From the corner of my eye, I thought I caught movement behind the curtain. Holding my breath, I stared up at the empty space and listened for any sound.

  Seconds ticked by. And then the curtain moved again. My heart skipped a beat. I wanted to run but my legs were frozen to the spot; my eyes were compelled to watch.

  Wisps of inky mist swirled in front of the window a moment before invisible hands closed it...ever so slowly, and then slammed it shut, making me jump. I pinched myself. Hard. Yeah, I was definitely awake. The window fogged over and a sketch appeared. I squinted to recognize the words: GET OUT!

  Basically, the ghost was kicking me out. I felt faint, even though my heart was beating a million miles an hour. My hands were ice cold, and my legs threatened to give way under me. Forcing my gaze away from the window, I retrieved my phone from my pocket and, with shaking hands, speed-dialed Aid
an’s number. The line rang twice before going to voicemail, so I left an urgent message to get back to the house and that it was a matter of life and death. I barely got to flick my phone shut when the air sizzled and he appeared, looking gloomy yet very yummy in his jeans and unbuttoned black leather coat.

  “Aidan?” I asked, inching away from him, because I couldn’t be sure it was he indeed. In my panic, I thought the ghost might be playing a trick on me so I’d fall into a trap.

  “What’s wrong?” His brows were furrowed, fear mirrored in his expression. And then I noticed what looked like a burning whip in his hand. I had seen that thing before.

  “Is that—” My throat constricted at the memory of a stranger chasing me in the woods, holding the exact same thing in his hand. I remembered the whip cutting through the air like a knife, hitting a tree only a few inches away from me, and leaving a burning trail in its wake. It could’ve killed me, yet for weeks Aidan claimed it was nothing and refused to show me what it really looked like.

  “Why are you outside? Anything happen?” Aidan hurried to hide the whip inside his coat and grabbed me in a tight embrace.

  I peered into his blue gaze filled with worry, wondering whether I should make a scene because of the whip and the fact that he obviously still had no intention to open up about his bounty hunter past, or make a scene because of the ghost. I figured the apparition was the greater urgency. I’d get to the whip later.

  “There’s a ghost inside. I had to jump out the window. Look at my favorite jeans. They’re ruined.” I paused for effect as I showed him the big brown mud stain on my backside. Focusing on the jeans helped me avoid a full-blown panic attack. Aidan peered from my butt to the closed windows and raised a brow but didn’t comment. I pointed up. “You don’t believe me. Just look at the writing.”

  “What writing?”

  I glanced up. The letters had vanished together with any sign of my poltergeist. “The house’s haunted, Aidan.” I sounded whiny but I couldn’t help myself.

 
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