Cursed, p.1
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       Cursed, p.1

         Part #1 of The Devils Roses series by Tara Brown
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Cursed
Page 1

  Portland, Oregon - 2012

  The heels of her boots clicked with every strike against the cold, soaked cement. The dank, night air crept in through her thin sweater. She wrapped her arms around herself and tried to keep up with his pace. She rounded the corner, staying across the street from him. She tried not to let him get too far ahead of her. His outdated pleather jacket made it easy to keep him in her sights. No one but an immortal would be wearing pleather. She never would have noticed it before, but diversions were a necessity and fashion seemed like a reasonable one.

  He turned down a dark alley. She grimaced and wondered if perhaps he looked for his next victim. He never looked behind himself. He was overconfident. They always were. His kind always believed they were the strongest animals in the urban jungle. His instincts lied to him and allowed for a false sense of security. He just didn't know it yet.

  She fingered the platinum ring on her right middle finger with her thumb. The small band had a thin red line running through the middle of it. On the under side of the ring, sat a red rose. The ring was her mark. It was her badge. It permitted her to follow the man. It made her brand of deadly force acceptable.

  She winked her right eye, flashing in front of him.

  She lifted him into the air, before he had a chance to change into a worthy adversary. She gasped when her bare hands made contact with the warm, fleshy meat of his throat and the spark started to fill her. The touch of his skin made every moment magnify, as her senses heightened from the feast. He choked and fought, but it was useless.

  His eyes shot to the ring on her finger, and recognition and fear spread across his face.

  "You're a Rose. "

  His last words.

  Eager for her meal, she shivered in anticipation. The satisfaction filled her like a rich chocolate bar, melting into her taste buds. It sent chills through her arms, where the fire soothed her hunger.

  “Stop!” A man's voice echoed through the alley.

  The spark of the fire died, taking her meal with it.

  She dropped the dead man to the cold ground and the tingle stopped. She didn’t like ending her meal that way. She licked her lips, wondering if her eyes still glowed like molten steel from her feast. She looked down the alley to where a policeman stood with his gun drawn. She observed the way his hands shook with the sizable gun in them. She smirked, knowing it was from lack of confidence. He was clearly new to the force. She knew the feeling.

  “Stay where you are. ” His voice never wavered, but she could sense the fear coming off him. It was a scent that rode on the wind, as if searching out her nose. His voice was familiar.

  Panic filled her. She knew him.

  He squinted, no doubt from the confusion of her still-glowing eyes and the possibility that he recognized her too.

  She smiled, raising her hands. “Run his prints and you’ll thank me. ” He wasn’t an innocent. The Roses did have rules about that sort of thing.

  He walked toward her cautiously as he assessed the alley and the danger. “Get down on the ground. ”

  She shook her head. “Really, would you lie on this street? This alley is filthy with germs and God only knows what else. ”

  A gust of wind blew past him, bringing with it a scent of laundry soap and deodorant with a subtle mix of windblown sea air. She would know that smell anywhere. She looked around for an exit beyond her usual one. She couldn't just vanish in front of him.

  His smell was the soundtrack to her youth and innocence. His was the only true love she had ever known.

  His face started to light up as his feet brought him closer. She felt the air suck from her body as he stood under the lone streetlight in the alley, which clearly the city's budget had forgotten.

  She gulped, pushing down her feelings. She felt frozen in panic, but also desperate to see him. Just one glance of him would fill her for the next hundred years.

  He looked at her and frowned in disbelief, as he drew close enough to fully recognize her. “You—you’re the one? That's not possible. ”

  She could see the raw emotion on his face. His lower lip trembled, no doubt followed by his entire body.

  She took a step back, putting her hands out. “Just pretend you never saw me. The medics will say heart attack. ”

  He shook his head. “No, not you. ” His face twisted in pain. “Anyone but you. Why?”

  She blinked as she remembered every second of their time together. She crammed it into a memory slot.

  Every touch.

  Every smile.

  They had become her playlist when the burn in her chest grew unbearable. Only those little moments could sooth her.

  She couldn’t avoid the sharp breath that left her mouth. She winced as she turned her heart off, and let the flat words leave her lips. “I have to eat—they make sense. ”

  He looked sickened. “You’re eating them? How? They have no marks. None of the others had marks. ”

  She let the moment of shame fill her. She deserved to suffer.

  She wanted to explain. She wanted to be that girl—his girl. She wanted to be sitting on the back steps of his house, listening to his dreams. Instead she turned, jumping onto the handrail of the stairs next to her, and climbed the fire escape.

  She ran up the stairs before he could register she had left. She could still smell his fear, but it had switched. It was a different kind of fear. The kind that broke her already-tattered and abused heart. His fear of losing her again filled the air with his screams. She felt the tears rolling as she listened to him shout her name, but she never stopped. She ran to the top of the building, desperate to get away.

  His screams filled the night. "AIMEE!"

  Chapter One

  Love and drugs change everything.

  Port Mackenzie 2010

  “Aimee?”

  I looked up from my pages of scribbles, confused. Sometimes that happened. It was new.

  I needed a moment to recognize, not only where I was, but also who spoke to me.

  I had let my daydream take me again.

  “Aimee?”

  I looked at the front of the class to find a nasty glare coming off Miss Simms, my English teacher. She was giving me the look she gave all the bad kids. I looked at the board behind her, trying to remember what we were doing.

  Twelfth Night.

  She tapped her toes and crossed her arms. “Aimee, what is the theme Shakespeare is trying to hide beneath the themes we easily see?” She asked it as if she was trying to trick me. Like she forgot who I was.

  I cleared my throat. “Beyond the obvious themes of the folly in ambition and the uncertainty of gender, Shakespeare, as he always did, liked to use the theme of love as a means to suffering—as if it were a weapon. Twelfth Night is only one of many of his plays where this theme is present. ”

  And there it was. The difference between the other spaced-out morons and me; I actually knew more than the teacher.

  I might have scribbled. I might have gazed out the window. I might have gotten lost in a few moments of lonely daydreams, but no matter what, I actually did my work. Even if I didn’t have the answer, it would be easy for me to make up one.

  Miss Simms smirked. “Nice answer, but pay attention. ”

  I nodded, but continued my scribbled flower garden. I felt a gaze upon me.

  My eyes darted to the right. The face staring at me took my breath away. He always took it away. His bright-blue eyes, sandy blond hair and sexy grin always made my heartbeat quicken. Even then, when my soul was filled with the nothingness I had become, I noticed him. I was certain my heart was covered by at least a mile of frost and snow. I didn’t really know how he made it take notice of him.

  He g
rinned, mocking me. “Nice answer. ”

  I felt my face heat up under his scrutiny. Miss Simms rattled on about the themes I’d given her. Her passion for Shakespeare was undeniable. She was single. Single female teachers should never teach English; this was my opinion.

  My eyes refused to listen to me and stole another glance at him.

  I surfaced when I saw him. He made the classroom grow brighter and the work less mundane. My own foolish grin crept across my lips as I stared back at him. His gaze had remained far too long.

  Sometimes that happened. It was new.

  I shook it off and refocused on my doodles.

  I made myself forget that I had wanted him—before, when I believed in love. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, before the real world crashed down on me and destroyed all my happiness and hope. Back then, I had been a girl with a dream. I had dreamed about him asking me on a date. I had fumbled my words around him. I had gotten lost in sentences when he walked by me. I had even forgotten my name watching him.

  He flicked something at me, pulling me from my spinster-like daze. I furrowed my brow.

  “I might need a tutor,” he whispered.

  I smirked. “It’s too late for you, Shane. Year's almost up. ”

  A shy smile crossed his lips.

  I bit my lip watching it.

  That smile had once been my food.

  The bell rang just as I opened my lips to ask him something humiliating and unrelated to tutoring. That happened a lot. It wasn't new, unfortunately.

  Miss Simms shouted homework and other things at us, but I jumped up and grabbed my books. I fled from the class.

  I hurried along to my locker. My hands fumbled with the cold metal lock. When I got it open, I stood inside the safety of the locker door. With my face shielded, I took deep breaths and shook my head. Arguments filled my head, convincing me of things I didn’t honestly believe. Things like the fact that Shane had flirted with me.

  “Aimee,” his deep voice spoke from the other side of the metal locker door.

  I panicked. I took my last deep breath and closed the locker. I smiled up at him, nervous of the small distance between our bodies. “Hey. ”

  Why had he followed me to my locker?

  He took a step toward me. I backed up a step. He put a hand on my closed locker, taking another step closer, as if blocking my path. “I was wondering if you were going to come to my party this weekend?”

  “What?” I'd heard him; I just didn’t understand.

  He looked down at me in a way I’d never seen before. His eyes held emotion that stretched beyond the simple question he had asked. “Aimee, you haven’t been to a party all year; it's senior year. ” His eyes grew serious. “You’re going away to university, and who knows how long before we see each other again. You know, all of us. I just thought, you know . . . ‘cause it's been a while since your mom and stuff. ” He regretted it as he said it. I could tell. That didn’t stop the clenching feeling in my belly.

 
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