Ember x, p.10
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       Ember X, p.10

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 10


  “Oh my God! He’s the grave robber. ” Raven slams her hand on the steering wheel as it clicks. “We so have to go over there. ”

  “Don’t even think about,” I hiss, but she’s already turning the steering wheel. “You just said it yourself—he’s a grave robber. ”

  Her eyes sparkle mischievously and I slouch in the chair as she drives toward his house.

  “What’s your problem?” she asks, turning down the radio as she pulls up to the curb. “Don’t you want to find out who he is? And why he was digging up a grave in the middle of the night. I mean, maybe you misunderstood what was going on and now he could explain it to you. ”

  I shake my head and shield my face with my hand, letting my hair fall forward. “Why? So you can date him?”

  “Or maybe you could?” She parks in front of the Jeep. “You really need to get over this fear of men, Em. We’re nineteen-years-old. We can drink and go to bars with fake IDs, get laid whenever we want to; yet, you’re so God damn terrified, you’ve never even kissed a guy. ”

  “Because I can’t. Not because I don’t want to. ” I’m growing annoyed with her. “Do you know what it would be like to kiss a guy… and feel his death course through you at the same time?” I shake my head when she rolls her eyes at me. “Nevermind. Can we just go? Please. We’re not going to make it back in time if we don’t get going. ”

  “You are so freaking weird sometimes. ” Pressing the button on the door, she rolls down the window and waves him over. “Lighten up. ”

  He walks over with a swagger to his hips, his legs taking long strides, and there’s cockiness in the way he moves. Each step states self-assurance and sex pretty much drips off him as he bends down and rests his arms on the door, his dark eyes taking us in leisurely.

  “Hi there, gorgeous,” Raven purrs in a seductive tone as she slides her finger up his arm. “We noticed someone is finally moving into Old Man Carey’s house and we thought we’d come over and introduce ourselves. ”

  “Old Man Carey’s?” He cocks his head, amused, but beneath it there’s anguish. “I assume you’re talking about my grandfather. ”

  “Oh, he was your grandfather?” Raven presses her hand to her heart. “I was so sorry to hear that he died. ”

  “You knew him?” the stranger asks with doubt. “Really?”

  “Oh yeah, I used to bring him soup all the time when he was sick. ” She licks her lips slowly. “I was very heartbroken when he died. ”

  “I bet you were. ” His eyes focus on me, causing my adrenaline to surge. “Did you get your notebook back, Ember?”

  I pressed my lips together, shocked. I thought he’d deny he knew me, considering the circumstances that we met under.

  “I did. ” I straighten up in the seat and tuck my hair behind my ears. “Thank you for dropping it off at my house. ”

  “I could tell it was important to you. ” His gaze penetrates under my skin as he leans in through the open window. “Did you get my message?”

  “You mean the poem?” I ask and he nods. “Yeah, I got it… It was sad and beautiful. ”

  “But did you get it, get it?” His voice hauntingly floats out like the night I first saw him. He sucks his lip up between his teeth, waiting for my response.

  “I’m not sure…” I can’t take my eyes off him, the need to touch him scorching inside my body like liquid fire in my veins. It’s intense, like standing at the edge of a cliff, preparing to base jump, but I’m not sure if the parachute will open.

  “Read it closer. ” His eyes smolder as he releases his lip from his teeth and a small gasp escapes my mouth. He smiles, pleased at my reaction. “I think you’ll get it eventually. ”

  I’d blush if I wasn’t so sexually riled up on the inside. “I’m sure I will. ”

  Raven clears her throat and her tone is snippy. “Sorry to break up your guys’ little moment—since personally I’d love to see if you end up screwing each other. ” She rolls her eyes. “But we gotta get going. ”

  I blink at the sound of her voice. I’d forgot she was there. “Yeah, we should get going. ”

  “Right…” He pats the car door as he ducks his head and steps away. “Maybe I’ll see you around later tonight, Ember. ” He winks at me. “At the cemetery. ”

  My stomach flutters with fear and exhilaration. “Yeah, maybe. ”

  Raven rolls the car forward and he starts to walk away.

  “Wait,” I call out and he stops. “You never told me your name. ”

  Raven cocks a reprimanding eyebrow at me. “Don’t you mean us?”

  “Cameron. ” He flashes me a sexy grin. “Cameron Logan. ” He waves and turns away from us, strutting up to the movers opening the back of the U-Haul.

  Raven rolls up her window and turns the car around, heading for the main road. “Okay, what the fuck was that about? Since when are you such a little slut?”

  “I wasn’t being a slut,” I protest, not taking it personally, because Raven calls just about anyone a slut. “I was being friendly. ”

  “You never talk to guys like that,” she accuses, flooring the car to the end of our street, and then she veers to the right and speeds off onto the highway. “And how did he know your name? And where you live?”

  “They were on my journal. ” I shrug, still dazed over what happened.

  “Still, it’s really creepy. ” She flips down the visor. “And what poem were you guys talking about?”

  I roll down the window and let the breeze cool off my stifling skin. “The one he wrote in my journal. ”

  “You mean that creepy one you just put up on the wall?” She frowns. “The one that sounds like it was written by a serial killer?”

  “That’s what you say about all poems,” I remind her. “And his was just deep. ”

  “Whatever, Em. In my opinion, the guy is a total creep… looking at you like that… you practically had an orgasm. ”

  “No, I didn’t,” I protest. “And why is he a creep? Because he knew my name and writes poetry?”

  She laughs disdainfully. “I’m not jealous of you. ”

  I flip through the radio stations. “I never said you were. ”

  She smacks my hand away from the stereo and cranks up some upbeat pop song, knowing I’m not a fan of that kind of music. She belts out the lyrics at the top of her lungs, waving her hands and bobbing her head. I rest my head back and watch the trees drift by. I’m almost asleep when she slows down the car.

  I open my eyes and start to unbuckle my seatbelt, but we’re stopped in a line of cars, not at the store. “Where are we?” I rub my tired eyes.

  “Stuck in traffic. ” She impatiently drums her fingers on the steering wheel.

  “Wait, what… traffic?” I quickly sit up. The town is too small for traffic, yet there’s a row of cars lined each way over the bridge and down the road. Police vehicles barricade the street and uniformed policemen are sectioning off the center of the bridge with yellow tape and trying to detour everyone to the side.

  “What’s going on?” I mumble, rolling the window all the way down to get a better look.

  “Somebody probably did something stupid,” she replies in a bored tone as she inspects her fingernails for chips.

  The line of cars crawls forward and Raven presses on the gas, driving by slowly. In the middle of the taped off section, an X is spray-painted across the asphalt and smashed into the cement barrier of the bridge is a rusted black Cadillac. The windows are broken, the hood is demolished, and there’s blood dripping from the back tire. And there are black feathers on the ground and on the hood.

  “Isn’t that Laden’s?” I squint at the car. “Oh my God, it is. ”

  “Hmm… I guess he must have got into some trouble last night. ” She smiles at the thought.

  “This couldn’t have happened last night,” I say. “I just saw Laden this morning. ”

  “How can you be sure of what you saw?” she questions with
a sparkle in her eye.

  I eye her over questionably. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

  “There’s a lot of things I’m not telling you. ” She grins and cranks up the stereo.

  I turn back to the scene. There’s an hourglass painted on the back of the window in red, and feathers all over the hood and the ground. It’s the exact scene of when the police found my dad’s car, just a different location. And I worry that, like with my dad’s disappearance, I’ll become the prime suspect.

  Chapter 6

  When night arrives, I don’t visit the cemetery. The news announced that Laden is considered a missing person and that there is evidence of foul play. My mom ended up skipping out on dinner and so Raven took her place at the table. She acted like a lunatic, like she was high on the news of Laden’s disappearance, or high on something.

  While Raven and I were out shopping, I tried to press her about the details of last night, but she shifted the conversation to clothes every time. I end up going to bed early, but late during the night, I’m woken up by the sound of my mom’s voice.

  “Ian,” she yells up the stairs in a drunken slur. “I need your help. ”

  Ian is locked away in the attic, with his “muse,” a mysterious person that sneaks in every night so he can paint them. I climb out of bed and pad to the top of the stairway.

  “Mom, Ian’s in the attic,” I say tiredly, rubbing my eyes and yawning. “What do you need?”

  She frowns up at me. “I need help getting up the stairs. ”

  I sigh and trot to the bottom of the stairway. Her brown hair is disheveled and knotted and her eyes are bloodshot. She used to be pretty, but her lifestyle has rapidly aged her.

  She tugs down the hem of her dress and drapes her arm around my neck, sighing. She smells like tequila and cigarettes and her death omen smothers me, like it always does when I come into contact with her. She’s lying in a bed of pills and bottles, dying in her own flames. Holding my breath, I guide her to her room, lie her down on the bed, and slip off her high heels.

  She blinks at me through her blurry eyes. “You look so much like him,” she mutters. “You have his eyes and everything. ”

  She’s referring to my father. “Shhh… Get some rest,” I say, tossing her shoes onto the floor.

  “I wonder if you’ll turn out like him,” she says, rolling onto her side. “I bet you will… A killer… You did kill your grandma. ”

  Her words stab at my heart, like a rusty, jagged knife, but it’s not the first time she’s uttered them. “Mom, Dad didn’t kill anyone. ”

  “Yes, he did… Yes, he did. ” She drifts off to sleep.

  I force back the tears and rush out of her room. I don’t cry—I never do—but I can’t fall back asleep. So I read Cameron’s poem, over and over again until the words blur together and make no sense at all. Just like my life.