(Cursed Superheroes, #3)
About the Author
Also by Jessica Sorensen
A look into my Guardian Academy Series
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Copyright © 2017 by Jessica Sorensen
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Cover Design by Najla Qamber Designs
Created with Vellum
“Are you sure you can handle this?” I ask August distractedly as I run a scan on my computer for all current cyborgs living within the city. A total of five pulls up. Four are currently working for either a company or are personally owned, which only leaves one that I can track down and ask to come work for me. Great. His last listed residence is down by the wall. “Shit, this isn’t good.”
“What isn’t?” August replies, sounding a tad bit bored.
“Nothing you need to worry about.” I leave the data open on my computer so I can return to it after I send August on his mission.
He needs to leave ASAP, not only because Ava’s—my next potential superhero—curse is about to be collected, but also, it’s a little unnerving having a zombie in my office.
“Then what do I need to worry about?” August asks, reclining back in the seat across from my desk. “Because you never explained that to me when you asked me to come here. You’re lucky I even showed up. I usually don’t agree to do a favor without knowing what the favor is.”
“Then why did you agree to come here?” I place my overlapped hands on the desk. “I mean, not that I’m not grateful. But usually zombies have zero emotions, well except brain hunger, so getting them to do anything for someone else is nearly impossible.” Then I quickly tack on, “No offense or anything.” The last thing I want is to upset a creature that could and would eat my brains directly from my head.
He lifts his shoulders, giving a sluggish shrug. “I’m not really sure, other than I guess it seems like I owe you for saving me from death.” He wavers. “Well, maybe ‘saving me from death’ is the wrong choice of words since technically I’m still dead.” He chews on his bluish black lip as he studies me with his eyes that are thankfully a silver-ish grey instead of blood red.
If his eyes were red, I’d be pressing the emergency button in my top desk drawer, since red eyes on a zombie mean hungry. And if you know anything about zombies, you know what they’re one and only food choice is.
My hand instinctively wanders to my head in a protective gesture.
“You’re worried I’m going to eat you,” August notes with a trace of amusement.
“You’re amused?” I lower my hand to my desk, intrigued by the hint of emotion in his eyes.
August shrugs. “Perhaps. But only by the idea that you think I’m going to eat you.”
“Why do you find that amusing?”
“I’m not really sure, other than I don’t think I ever would eat your brain.”
“You wouldn’t, huh?” My tone carries a bit of skepticism.
“You created me.” He props his foot onto his knee and restlessly taps his black fingernails against his leg. “And you let me feed off the discarded brains left over from your mad scientist experiments. I may be a cold hearted zombie, but I know better than to bite the hand that feeds me.”
“Have you ever fed off someone?” I ask. When he blasts me with a cold, dark look, I raise my hands in front of me. “I’m not judging you. I’m simply curious.”
His knee bounces up and down as he grows more restless. “I may have slipped up once or twice.”
“That’s not too bad for your kind,” I tell him. “Most slip up every day.”
He frowns. “But I’m only able to control my hunger better because you created me to be this way, right?”
“Yes, I created you to have a stronger will against giving into your brain hunger, so you wouldn’t run the streets murdering people, which is a good thing. But I don’t understand why you seem so upset that I made you that way.” And why does he seem upset at all? Zombies aren’t supposed to get upset.
He fiddles with a leather band on his wrist. “I’m not upset. I just get a bit lonely sometimes.”
“I’m not sure what you mean… Lonely how?”
“Lonely in the sense that I’m the only one of my kind. All the other zombies I’ve ever met want to eat brains all the time. They crave them more than anything else, and they’ll do anything to get them. Me…” He bobs his head from side to side, deliberating. “I rationalize before I attack, which more often than not, ends with me not attacking at all and coming here to eat brains instead.”
“Which is a good thing,” I remind him again. “And it’s the main reason why you’re not hunted by my zombie trackers.”
“I know that…. But being the only zombie who doesn’t want to kill for brains all the time can get…” He shifts uncomfortably. “Well, like I said, lonely.”
Interesting. A zombie who wants a friend. Who would’ve thought? Then again, I did create him a bit differently than the average zombie, making him faster, stronger, and wiser, so I guess it’s not completely crazy that he wants a friend.
“Did you know the favor I’m asking from you has to do with a girl?” I tell him, leaning forward in my chair.
“Yeah, so? I see girls all the time, but it’s not like I can get close to them. Well, not without scaring the shit out of them.” A sad longing flashes across his expression.
“This girl isn’t a normal girl,” I explain. “Her name is Ava Mikiley and she’s currently cursed to a painful demise that will happen on her eighteenth birthday. But you’re going to bring her here so that I can make her like you. She’ll be strong, fast, and have enough intelligence that she shouldn’t want to go around, killing everyone.” At least that’s the plan.
But since Ava is cursed, I’m concerned she may not be as easy to control as August, which is why I need him to stick around and help me train her. I haven’t figured out how to ask him that, though. Perhaps he might get excited by having another one of his kind? If he is right now, he isn’t showing it.
“So, I’m just supposed to, what? Bring this girl here so you can change her into a zombie?” He shakes his head. “I don’t want to be part of ruining some girl’s life.”
“If you don’t bring her here, then she’s doomed to become like all those other zombies you despise. The only way to save her from that future is to make her like you.” I cross my arms on top of my desk. “If you help me, after tonight, you won’t be the only one of your kind. But I can’t do it without your help.” It’s true, too.
Since zombie bites are infectious, I can’t risk letting anyone else help Ava with her transition. I need August to help me or else I won’t have my superhero zombie. And I need my zombie just like I needed my maddening and reaper.
“What are you going to do with her?” he asks. “After you make her like me, I mean.”
“I want you to help her learn how to control her power, so she can help save the world.”
“Save the world from what?”
“From a paranormal portal that’s about to open.” I don’t bother mentioning that two other portals are opening as well, since I still haven’t figured out where those portals lead to.
He shows zero shock, but that’s a zombie for you. Normally, I’m unbothered by August’s lack of emotion, but today he’s driving me crazy. I can’t tell what he’s thinking, if he’s actually considering helping me or just toying with me.
“Fine, I’ll do it,” he finally agrees, lowering his foot back to the floor.
“Good, I’m glad to have you on my team.” I lean over my desk and offer him my hand to shake.
He eyeballs my hand warily before placing his cold, dead fingers in mine.
After we shake hands and I give him the information on Ava, I send him on his way. Then I move onto my next problem—tracking down a cyborg to spy on my colleague who I’m fairly sure is keeping information about the portals from me. I don’t know why he’s withholding info from me or what the info is, but it makes me extremely nervous. He also knows about my superhero experiment and I fear perhaps his secretiveness has to do with that. The last thing I need is for someone to mess around with my potential superheroes. Potential paranormal superheroes.
No, I need to have a cyborg spy on him and find out what he’s up to. I just wish the cyborg didn’t live by the wall, a place where only wild cyborgs live. But as of right now, he’s my only option.
“I guess I’m going to the wall.” I push to my feet, grab a voltage gun from my weapons case, and step out into the hallway.
I don’t head for the exit doors, though, instead making a right toward the training corridors.
I’m not going on this mission alone. Why would I when I have a reaper and maddening who needs some real-life experience training?
I cross my fingers that they’re trained well enough to step out into the real world.
“I’m so hungry,” I gripe, my hands trembling at my sides. “Please, can you just give me one taste. Then I swear I’ll stop bugging you.”
Cameron, my trainer, shakes his head. “Nope. No tastes until you’ve finished your training for the day.”
My lip twitches and he grins, completely pleased by my misery.
But what can I expect? He is a reaper after all. And not just any reaper, but the freakin’ Grim Reaper, aka the big boss downstairs that gives orders to all the other reapers. So, if your soul is currently getting collected by some dude or chick wearing a cloak and carrying a scythe, Cameron is the one that’s sentenced you to your soulless demise.
“You’re doing this on purpose.” I put my hands on my hips and glare at him.
“Doing what?” he asks innocently, his boots soundlessly touching the floor as he floats a circle around me.
I cross my arms. “Starving me.”
“Now why would I do that?” he taunts, flicking a strand of my long, brown hair as he zips around me.
I grimace as my gaze attempts to keep up with his rapid movements. “Because you’re the Grim Reaper and you’re evil.”
“Hate to break it to you, princess, but my blood runs through your veins.” He moves up behind me and his breath dusts against my earlobe. “So if I’m evil then so are you.”
By the time I whirl around, he’s vanished. Dammit! How can I ever beat him, if I can’t even see him!
“I’m only half reaper,” I remind him, turning in a slow circle, my gaze skimming the ceiling beams and steel walls of the training room. “Therefore, I’m not evil.”
“Half reaper or full, you still have reaper blood in your veins. And reaper blood is categorized on the darker spectrum of paranormal creatures. And for a good reason.” His voice echoes around me, making it nearly impossible to locate him. “We’re not known for our niceness.”
I curl my fingers into fists, frustrated that I can’t spot him anywhere. “I’m not evil. I haven’t even hurt anyone.”
“Yet,” he stresses. “But you’ve also been kept locked up behind these steel walls for all of your reaper life.”
True. I haven’t left the facility since I was brought here a few weeks ago. The seclusion has been driving me mad, and I also worry what will happen when I finally endeavor into the real world, which will happen, at least according to Leader. But I’ll go into the world as a superhero. That is, if I decide to be one. I haven’t officially said yes yet, for many different reasons. One being that I’m constantly hungry for souls and seeing past that hunger is virtually impossible.
But things will get better. At least, that’s what Leader told me during the brief speech he gave me about my training.
“All of my reaper life?” I tell Cameron. “You make me sound ancient when I’ve only been a reaper for a few weeks.”
“Exactly, which means you haven’t had enough time yet to fully learn all of your cravings, urges, powers, strengths, and weaknesses.”
“What weakness?” Deciding to try another tactic to spot him, I hold still. “I feel stronger than I ever have.”
The room grows soundless, except for the humming of the air vent and the pounding of my heart. Without moving, I allow my gaze to rove the ceiling, the walls, the door, and the mat area, searching for a sign of an evil, gross, reaper lurking about. Okay, okay, I may have lied about the gross part. Sure, photos may show the Grim Reaper as a cloaked, bony creature with glowing eyes who carries a scythe. But Cameron doesn’t look like that at all. Blonde, tall, lean, with gauges in his ears, silver metal in his lip, and a tiny scar on his jawline, he’s utterly gorgeous. I’ll never admit that aloud, though, since the last thing I need is for the Grim Reaper, who is extremely cocky and self-centered, to know I think he’s hot.
“Exactly, which is one of your weaknesses.” Cameron materializes in front of me, so close the tip of our boots clip. “You think you know everything, princess, but you don’t.”
I trip back, putting space between us. “I know enough. And I thought I told you to stop calling me that.”
“Calling you what?” He feigns dumb, tapping his finger against his lips.
I sigh audibly. “You know what.”
“Sure thing, princess.”
Gah! He’s driving me crazy!
He reaches out and grazes his thumb across my jutted lip. “Reapers don’t pout.”
“Well, this one does.” I jut out my lip further just to annoy him.
He heaves a sigh of frustration, which twistedly pleases me. “Fine, if you’ll stop pouting, I’ll give you one taste. But then we’re focusing on you learning how to channel your reaper powers, got it?”
I nod, excitement bursting in my chest. Because it’s feeeeddding time! “Got it.”
He momentarily searches my eyes, for what I’m unsure, then takes my hand and guides me to the corner of the room. After he untangles our fingers, he lines my back to the wall and places his hands beside my head, pinning me between his arms.
“I don’t know why you insist on feeding me this way.” I cringe at the hint of excitement in my tone. “It’s just as easy to feed me in the middle of the room where I’m not trapped against your body.”
“But it’s definitely not as much fun.” The corners of his lips pull to an arrogant smirk. “And even if you won’t agree with me, I know you secretly like doing it this way.”
“No, I don’t,” I lie, because I do. I really, really do.
“Liar.” Then he dips his head and nips at my lips.
The briefest taste of souls kisses at the tip of my tongue, but then fades as he moves back.
“Stop teasing me,” I complain breathlessly, my eyes rolling into the back of my head as a drop of souls trickles down my throat.
“Not until you admit it.”
I shake my head. “Never.”
“Fine then.” He starts to push away, taking all of his wonderful, tasty souls with him.
Back when I was normal, I never would’ve begged a guy for anything. In fact, I had a lot of control over guys, due to a power I didn’t know I possessed. Sometimes I used this power for good, like with Ian, a guy I used to go to school with who slipped drugs into girls’ drinks so he could do awful things to them. After I found out about what he was doing, I made him dance for forty-eight hours straight. When I finally get access out of here, I fully plan on making him pay even more. My initial plan was to make a phone call to the police and divulge where Ian hides his drugs, but I figure what’s the point of having reaper power if I can’t use it for the greater good?
But then there was Max. While I never meant to use my controlling power on Max, I accidentally did. It’s an accident I’ll never be able to forgive myself for.
I swallow hard at the thought of Max.
“Tell me what you’re thinking about?” Cameron whispers into my ear.
“That I’m hungry,” I lie. “And that you’re the only thing stopping me from getting what I want.” Then I grab the front of his T-shirt, yank him toward me, and seal my lips to his.
He starts to pull away, but when a pleading whimper flees my lips, he caves.
“God, you’re such a pain in my ass,” he whispers before his tongue tangles with mine.
“I’m sorry, but I’m just so hungry,” I murmur then kiss him back, nearly devouring him.
The wonderful taste of delicious, intoxicating souls melts against my taste buds and pours fuel and energy through my veins. My legs grow weak from the energy overload and I loop my arms around him to keep from collapsing to the floor.
He moves back, but leaves a sliver of an inch between our mouths. “I’m not just supposed to give you what you want. It’s terrible training on my part, and you’re going to end up turning into a spoiled reaper.”