The Cursed (The Unearthly), p.1Laura Thalassa
Table of Contents
Best friends for life.
“Please, help me.”
The night air nipped at Ana Gabor’s skin, but she could barely feel the sting. The voice she’d woken up to called out to her, beckoning her away from her home.
“Please, find me,” the voice whispered.
She passed the row of houses she’d lived by since the day she was born and left her neighborhood. Still the voice pleaded with her, and she was no closer to finding it.
The blocks of houses thinned out as she walked to the outer edges of the city, ignoring the growing pain in her feet as sharp stones and pieces of glass nicked at them. Soon the paved road narrowed, and asphalt gave way to dirt.
Ana sighed as her feet squished into the muddy street, the pain somewhat lessening. She couldn’t remember how long she’d been walking, but the moon had already crossed the sky and dipped below the horizon.
The voice came from the woods that pressed up against the side of the street. She hesitated for a fraction of a second. Those woods had always made her skin crawl. Something unnatural lurked within them.
Yet now she placed one foot in front of the other, turning off the road and moving into the forest.
The damp underbrush crackled beneath her feet and her breath hitched. She didn’t want to be here, but she couldn’t turn away. Not when someone called out to her and begged for her help.
The trees twisted unnaturally, contorted as though they were in agony. She shivered as cold wind brushed past her, and she rubbed her arms. In the distance Ana could see the flicker of lights. Humanity—and maybe the woman in need.
The trees around her opened up into a small clearing, and the voice that had pleaded with her finally fell silent. Her steps faltered for an instant.
A dozen individuals waited for her, cloaked in scarlet robes, their faces obscured by hoods. One stepped forward holding a white garment in her arms.
“Change into this, then come back,” the voice instructed. The same voice from earlier. Only now, it didn’t plead, it ordered.
Ana glanced uneasily at the cloaked figures. Her brain was telling her to run, but her body calmly walked her a short distance away, where she changed behind the cover of a tree. Not that anyone could see her through the dark forest.
Her teeth chattered and she couldn’t stop shivering as she walked back into the clearing. Bare feet and thin fabric offered her little protection against a winter’s night in Romania.
She fingered the soft material of the gown as she faced the robed individuals.
She did so, noticing the way the group parted for her. Beyond them rested a stone altar. Vines—some dead and some living—wrapped their way up the sides. Her shivering escalated at the sight.
“Don’t be afraid,” the voice said. “Go ahead and rest your weary body.”
Ana’s footsteps dragged as her body carried her up to the stone altar. At least the cold ground had numbed the pain in her feet. She slid herself onto the stone slab, and her shivering somewhat subsided. Someone had draped a velvety cloth over the altar, so her skin wouldn’t touch the cold stone beneath. She rubbed her fingers anxiously over the material. They were the only part of her that appeared agitated.
Her breath billowed out around her as the cloaked figures clustered around the altar.
Someone fastened a noose around her neck, and she winced as it tightened, cutting off her air supply. She blinked frantically. This couldn’t be right. Hadn’t she been trying to save a woman? Had she just imagined it? Why couldn’t she think? Why couldn’t she act?
“Don’t fight it,” the voice soothed her.
Fight what? She pinched her eyes shut. So confused. The only thing Ana knew was that she couldn’t remember things she should be able to. And deep in her gut this situation felt wrong.
But even as that thought crossed her mind, black spots clouded her vision. She watched them spread. In the distance she heard chanting.
Focus. That’s what she needed to do. For a moment—just a moment—the blackness receded enough for her to see the glint of metal above her.
She had only time to recognize the blade of a dagger pointed at her heart before her vision clouded and the world fell to darkness.
“Move faster.” Andre’s voice taunted me from behind.
I ducked and dove left to avoid his hit, tucking my body in on itself as I somersaulted. This was a lethal dance, our bodies bending and twisting with each move.
Andre was on top of me in an instant, his hand going for the throat—the quickest kill. “Faster. You need to be faster. And think like a predator.”
I moved to slam my palm into his nose, but he caught it before I had a chance to land the blow. I was moving faster than the human eye could follow. Even so, Andre was still far quicker than me.
“That’s the best you got?” he growled.
Using my free hand, I punched Andre in the kidneys, once, twice, three times—until his grip loosened. He may not have used his kidneys in seven hundred years, but they could still cause pain if injured.
Andre made a move to grab my free hand, and I used the distraction to throw him off of me.
It didn’t work so well. For a split second his grip loosened, and then he placed his full weight on top of me, pressing me into the ground. I tried to ignore my body’s very non-combative response to that. It grew pliant under his.
“Damnit, Gabrielle, if your opponent is bigger than you, you cannot let them take you down,” Andre said, grabbing my wrists and holding them above my head just to further prove his point.
Unfortunately for him, it was proving another point entirely. My eyes dropped to his lips and my fangs descended.
“You are one of the only beings stronger than me,” I said.
“But the devil is another, and he is after you.” Andre said the words fiercely, even as his fingers absently stroked the skin of my hands. I wondered if he realized he did that whenever he got me into a compromising position. Like he couldn’t help but caress me.
I exhaled, staring into his eyes. “I’m not going to be able to outrun or outmaneuver the devil, Andre,” I said, resigned. My eyes moved away from him to take in Bishopcourt’s training room. Ever since Samhain, Andre had been training me in grappling, knife throwing, and sword fighting (yeah, supernaturals are majorly old school)—preparing me to hold my own when I saw the devil again. The problem was, not in a million years would I be able to go toe-to-toe with him. He’d proven that on Samhain.
Andre let go of my wrists and caught my jaw. He turned me to face him. “If you think that I’m going to just let you give up, then you don’t know me very well, soulmate.” His eyes flashed. He’d been like this since Samhain—ferocious, determined. It was kind of hot, but mostly scary. Andre was intense enough as is. I guess the prospect of having his soulmate face an eternity as Satan’s unwilling mistress really pushed his limits.
I swallowed and nodded at his words.
His eyes dipped to my lips, and his nostrils flared. A wild, spicy scent rolled off him, and my skin started to glow. His forehead creased, and I felt his whole body shudder. This was happening more and more often. We were soulmates; this was destined to happen. Fighting it was impossible. But boy did Andre try.
He made a pained sound at the back of his throat, and then he lost his internal battle. His lips met mine, and I tasted heaven on them.
His tongue parted my lips and I wrapped a leg around his and ran my fingers through his hair, reveling in him. The kiss was savage—two tortured souls desperate to become one. I’d never get over this. He was mine and I was his. Soulmates.
I clutched him closer to me. More, I needed more. My skin flared, and I broke off the kiss. Or maybe it was Andre.
We both panted. Andre’s eyes shone so brightly that I cupped his face and smiled at him. His expression was one of anguished beauty.
“Don’t have dark thoughts, Andre.” I didn’t always know where he went when he wore that expression, but it usually had something to do with me.
He looked away as he stood up. Taking me hand, Andre pulled me up alongside him and wrapped his arms around me. His lips skimmed my forehead. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Gabrielle. I’ll die first.”
I watched Leanne shove clothes into a duffle bag the following day. My lips drew down into a frown.
“Don’t be sad, Gabrielle,” Leanne said, not looking at me. “You have an exciting week ahead of you.”
“You know, you’re super creepy when you do that,” I said. My powers weren’t the only ones growing. Leanne’s had been intensifying as well, and she was quickly becoming the queen of cryptic messages.
Leanne laughed and finally glanced over at me. “Look who’s talking, my little vampy consort.”
“Point made.” I turned back to my desk and picked up a letter I received in the mail. Judging by the familiar cream stationary and the lack of a return address, I knew exactly who the sender was. Cecilia, my childhood nanny and one of three fates.
If Leanne was the queen of cryptic messages, then Cecilia was the inventor of them.
Happy birthday, tesoro, she wrote along the edge of the envelope. I blinked back my surprise; I kept forgetting that today was my real birthday. Thanks to my forged birth certificates, March instinctually felt like my birthday month, not December.
I ripped open the envelope and pulled out the card. On a cream colored sheet of paper she’d written five lines in that loopy scrawl of hers. Five lines, and nothing else.
Daughter of wheat and grain,
Betrothed to soil and stain,
Your lifeblood drips,
The scales tip,
But will it be in vain?
Goosebumps broke out along my skin. A dark riddle, that was my birthday gift, and it probably held all the vital clues to how I’d survive the future. I pocketed the poem; I’d best keep it on me. Chances were, I’d need it.
The door to my room burst open, distracting me from Cecilia’s strange letter.
“Someone’s going to get laid tonight! Someone’s going to get laid tonight!” Oliver chanted as he flittered into my room. A gift box was tucked under his arm.
He looked at me and waggled his eyebrows.
My cheeks flushed. “Stop giving me that look.”
“No way, Sabertooth. Leanne have you foreseen it? Fifty pounds says she’s a nasty freak in the bedroom.”
“Oli-ver.” The flush was creeping up my neck.
From across the room, Leanne paused in her packing. Unlike Oliver and me, she was going home for the holidays. “Oliver, I don’t spy on my friends future sex lives—something you should be thankful for.”
“I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said, touching his hair. “I am a sex god. Better than porn.”
Leanne pinched her eyes shut. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” She took a deep breath. “Anyway, even if I did see … you know …”
“Andre pillaging that virgin treasure? Stealing the booty? Deflowering our little cherub?” Oliver said, walking over to me.
I raised my eyebrows. “Thanks, Oliver. Descriptive, as always.”
“I’d still never tell you,” Leanne finished.
Oliver pouted. “You’re no fun.” He turned to me, and his pout morphed into a sinful little smile.
“Guess what I have?” He held up the gift in his hands before I could answer. “Your birthday present!” he squealed. Oliver shook the box, and I could hear the swish of material rubbing together. Not that it took heightened hearing to guess what Oliver had given me.
“A present? For moi?” I said, surprisingly touched at the thought.
Oliver handed me the box. “Open it.”
I did so, tearing away the Christmas paper Oliver had wrapped it with and lifting the lid. A dozen sexy pairs of bras and panties were nestled in tissue paper.
I tried not to laugh as I lifted one up. The netted material was fringed with lace. It looked like whoever had made it had run out of fabric.
“Wow, this is—” going into the back of my drawer, where I’ll never touch it again, “uh, really sexy.” I wasn’t going to ask how he knew my size.
Oliver smiled smugly. “It’s about time you replaced all those hideous cotton panties you have stashed away.”
And just like that, Oliver managed to spoil a good moment. Fairies.
“Needed to be burned,” Oliver said. “Lucky for you, I’ve already taken care of that situation.”
I blinked a couple of times at Oliver, trying to make sense of his words. Then I squinted suspiciously at him. My gaze darted to my dresser. I was up in an instant, pulling open my top drawer.
“All my underwear is … gone.”
“Happy birthday!” Oliver squealed. I could hear the glee in his voice.
I turned around, my fangs descending. “You are so going to—”
Leanne stepped in front of me and handed me another box, this one much smaller than Oliver’s.
I took the small package from her, still staring at Oliver. “I can’t believe you just pillaged my underwear drawer.”
“Upgraded it, sweets,” he said from behind Leanne.
“Just shut up, Oliver,” Leanne said, “or she’s going to drink you dry, and I want her to open my gift before she does that.”
She winked at me and leaned in close. “I promise you can have at him as soon as we’re done,” she whispered.
“Hey, I heard that!”
I smiled at her, and she nudged the present in my hand. Taking the hint, I ripped off the wrapping paper and opened the box hidden beneath it. Inside was a bottle of perfume.
When I reached for it, Leanne’s hand shot out and she stopped me. “Wait. Before you put it on, you should know that this is magical perfume—it repels … er, suitors.”
My eyebrows shot up. “No fucking way?” I said, reappraising the perfume bottle. Now that my powers were intensifying, the siren in me was growing, which meant that I had an increasing amount of unwanted attention. “This will scare them off?”
“Well, it won’t scare anyone off—you’ll have to flash some fang for that
I set the bottle aside and tackle hugged Leanne. “You. Are. The. Best.”
“Hey!” Oliver said, “what about me?”
I opened my arms. “You too Pixie Sticks, even if I haven’t fully forgiven your for burning my undies.”
Oliver huffed but stepped into the embrace.
“I can’t believe I had to buy my friend boy repellent,” Leanne said.
Oliver shook his head. “Sometimes life just ain’t fair.”
I rolled my eyes at them. “Where did you even find that?” I asked Leanne. “I didn’t know that sort of thing even existed.”
“Yeah, it does, but it’s sold in the ‘Hexes and Curses’ section of supernatural shops.”
There was a thoughtful pause as the three of us considered this, and then we fell into hysterical laughter.
“Why didn’t you throw in a bottle of hair loss shampoo or some aging cream while you were at it?” I asked when I finally caught my breath. “I’m offended.”
Leanne flashed me a wicked smile. “I was tempted.”
Man I was going to miss her.
That evening I exited my dorm, pulling my jacket tighter around me as soon as I walked outside. My body thrummed long before I caught the gaze of the dark being in front of me.
Andre pushed away from his car, his body seeming the gather the shadows around him. He looked for all the world like the prince of darkness he was.
He sauntered over to me, power snapping off of him. The thrum of energy built upon itself until he stood in front of me. Then the noise fell silent.
“Happy birthday, soulmate,” he said, a smile tugging at his lips as he spoke. He leaned in and kissed me gently.
Loose strands of his hair tickled my face as his mouth glided against mine. Fire simmered through my veins as the kiss escalated. Our lips parted, tongues touched, and I closed the remaining distance between us until our bodies were flush with one another.
The Cursed (The Unearthly) by Laura Thalassa / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes