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Cursed Hadley, Page 11

Jessica Sorensen


  My mom warned me about this. I thought she just meant death would come for me metaphorically, not literally.

  “I don’t want to be bound to all four of you—”

  A scream rips from my throat as the pain takes over, ripping my vision away.

  I fall to the floor, my eyes slipping shut as death overtakes me.

  I’m going to die.

  My sisters are going to be all alone, unless I agree to this.

  “Yes …” the binding agreement slips from my lips.

  The last thing I feel is a mouth on mine, then darkness consumes me, wrapping around me like a cloak and pulling me toward the unknown.

  Chapter 13

  When my eyelids flutter open, my eyes are greeted with darkness. In the back of my mind, I feel as though I should be alarmed, but I find comfort in the darkness. I can even see where I am, as if I’ve developed night vision.

  Climbing out of the bed I find myself lying in, I make my way across the bedroom and out into the hallway lit up by lanterns, the veil of confusion slowly lifting.

  I’m in Rhyland, Blaise, Alex, and Jaxon’s house. I’m in their house because some creepy storeowner creature dude tried to claim me. He tried to claim me because I’m some cursed fire reaper who has cursed powers. Rhyland, Blaise, Alex, and Jaxon are Grim Reapers, and now I’m …

  Bound to them.

  Does that mean I’m dead like they are?

  Wait. Are Grim Reapers considered dead?

  Pressing my hand to my chest, I panic when I don’t feel my heart beating. I check my pulse on my wrist, but again, nothing. Rage and fear wave through me as I barrel down the stairway toward where I know they are. How I know where the Porterson brothers are, I have no damn clue, but I’m guessing the little claiming and bonding thing has something to do with it.

  They must sense me as much as I do them because, when I enter the living room, they’re already looking at me.

  Blaise is leaning against the pool table with his arms crossed, Jaxon is stretched out on the sofa, and Rhyland and Alex are by the window. In typical Porterson brothers, Grim Reaper style, they’re decked out in black shirts and matching jeans and boots. But their outfits slightly differentiate. Rhyland has a vest on, along with leather bands. Jaxon has chains dangling from his belt loops and a knitted cap on his head. Blaise has cargo pants on instead of jeans. And Alex is sporting Converse sneakers and has gauges in his ears. What, did he go and get them put in during the few hours I was passed out?

  Wait …

  “How long have I been out?” My voice sounds scratchy, and I realize how badly my throat is burning.

  The four of them trade an unreadable look, then Alex cautiously steps toward me. “About three days.”

  My eyes pop wide. “Three days? My sisters are going to be so worried?” I spin toward the door but trip in the process and start to fall.

  Right before I eat shit, fingers fold around my arms and pull me right back up.

  Grimacing, I twist back to face Rhyland. “I thought maybe after all this, my little curse would be gone.”

  Rhyland shakes his head, the corners of his lips twitching. “Unfortunately, as long as you’re up in the human realm, you’re going to remain cursed.”

  I wrap my arms around myself. “You say that like I’ll end up someplace else.”

  “Maybe one day,” he replies evasively, fiddling with a leather bracelet on his wrist.

  “So, I’m still cursed then?” I frown, lining my palm to my chest. “And dead?”

  A drop of surprise resides in Rhyland’s eyes. “You figured that out already?”

  “It was kind of hard not to figure out when I realized my heart wasn’t beating.” My hand falls to my side.

  I’m dead.

  I’m really, really dead.

  It feels like I should be panicking more, but I feel strangely subdued inside, as if I knew all along this was going to happen to me.

  But then a hint of panic manages to push through as I start to realize the bigger picture.

  What about college? What about my plans? Can I do all that still if I’m dead? What are the rules of this new life for me?

  I have so many questions.

  “Being dead isn’t bad. In fact, I think you’ll learn to love it in time.” Alex reclines against the window, his lean, tattooed arms flexing and glowing.

  “Why do your tattoos glow?” I wonder. “And why do Blaise’s eyes do the same thing?”

  Alex cocks a brow at Blaise. “She saw your eyes glow?”

  Blaise’s cheeks flush with… Wait, is that embarrassment?

  “Only because I lost control of my power.” He glares at Alex.

  Alex smirks. “Sure, you did.”

  Jaxon chuckles softly, lowering his feet to the floor and sitting up. “That’s not the reason it happened.”

  Blaise leans over and smacks Jaxon on the head, but Jaxon only laughs harder.

  “Whatever,” Blaise mutters, throwing his hands into the air. “You can all go fuck yourself.”

  Rhyland, Alex, and Jaxon all laugh, while Blaise grinds his jaw from side to side.

  I consider asking again about the glowing eyes and tattoos, but with how agitated and embarrassed Blaise appears, I decide I might not want to know.

  This is all so weird.

  I feel so lost.

  I’m dead.

  I’m really, really dead.

  I should be crying about this, right? Should be sadder than I feel.

  Dead.

  Fuck, what am I going to tell my sisters? They must be so worried already.

  “I have to go home.” I turn for the door again. “My sisters are probably freaking out.”

  Rhyland steps in front of me. “Actually, they have no idea you’re gone.”

  I move to step away from him, but find myself leaning in and breathing in his intoxicating scent. “What do you mean?”

  “We used magic on them to make them think you’re still around.” He tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear, his fingers noticeably trembling. “We knew you wouldn’t want your sisters worrying about you while you were transitioning.”

  “Yeah, I don’t,” I say, feeling confused. “But, how did you know that? You barely know me.”

  His lips spread to the prettiest smile I’ve ever seen—and yes, I’m still going to keep calling them pretty, even if these guys are creatures of death and drink souls for a living.

  “Every time you’ve threatened Blaise, you’ve stressed that, if he messed with your sisters, you’d come after him,” Rhyland explains. “It’s pretty obvious they’re important to you.”

  “They’re the most important things to me in the world, which is why I was so pissed off about the flyer thing,” I stress, throwing a glare at Blaise.

  “I already said I nothing to do with that,” Blaise bites out. “I don’t know why no one will believe me.”

  “Because you slashed her tires, dude,” Alex reminds him, lowering his hands to his sides.

  Blaise stares him down hard. “Which you helped do.”

  “True,” Alex says thoughtfully. “But only because I wanted to see if she was really immune to our charms and magic like you said.” His gaze scrolls up and down my body. “I’m glad you were right.”

  I roll my eyes, but another question pops into my mind. “So, if Blaise didn’t put up those flyers, who did?”

  The room grows eerily quiet as the four of them exchange yet another mysterious look.

  “We’re not sure yet,” Rhyland says, but I think he might be lying. “And until we find out, we need for you to be extra careful.”

  “Why?” I question. “It was just a stupid prank.”

  “See, that’s the thing,” Jaxon surprises me as he speaks directly to me. “We don’t think it was.”

  As the burn in my throat increases, I swallow hard. “Then, what was it?”

  He gracefully stands and moves toward me. “A way to keep people away from you.”

  “
Why would anyone want to keep people away from me?” I crinkle my nose, realizing if the truth got out about what I am, no one in their right mind would want to come near me. Well, except for these guys, apparently. But they’re Grim Reapers. They’re death. And honestly, I think they might be a little insane, but the two sort of go hand in hand, I guess.

  “That’s what we need to find out.” Rhyland molds his palm to my cheek. “But it’s probably the same creature who put that book in the library so you’d find it.”

  “You really think that?” I question skeptically. “Because you should know, it was in the school’s online library system.”

  Rhyland glances at Blaise and sighing, Blaise moves over to a shelf and extracts a book…

  “Give me that back. You stole that from my room.” I move toward Blaise with my hand stretched out.

  Blaise’s brow curves upward. “Yeah, so? And you stole it from the library.” He tucks the book under his arm. “And whoever put it there stole it from an underworld library.”

  I grind to a stop. “An underworld library?”

  A glint sparkles in Rhyland’s eyes. “What? Did you actually think these sorts of books just lie around in high school libraries?”

  I shrug. “That one was.”

  “Because something put it there,” he stresses. “Probably so you would find it and discover what you are.”

  “But how would this person… creature even know I was looking for it?” The look that passes across all of their faces sends an icy shiver through my body.

  “We’re not sure yet, but we suspect something has been watching you for a bit,” Blaise replies cautiously. “And while it could have been the curse fire seeker we just got rid of, it might not have been.”

  “My bet is it wasn’t,” Alex puts his two cents in. “The curse fire seeker may have been watching her, but I’m positive he never left that mirror.”

  “You keep saying creature,” I utter softly, my burning throat making my voice sound raspy. “What other creatures exist?”

  The burn in my throat increases, scalding hot.

  I feel so hungry…

  “Everything you’ve read about and everything you haven’t read about,” Rhyland sets his hands gently on my shoulder and steers me back to him. “Look, I know you’re worried and probably have a lot of questions, but right now, I think we need to get you fed. Then we can tell you more about this new world you’re almost officially part of.”

  I touch the base of my throat. “Feed… Is that why my throat is burning …” I trail off at the sight of the hunger gleaming in all four of their eyes. “Wait … Please don’t tell me I’m supposed to …” I shake my head. “I’m not drinking souls. No way in hell.”

  “You don’t have to drink souls, Hadley,” Rhyland tells me as I’m on the verge of bolting.

  “Oh.” I marginally relax. “Then, what do I eat? Because I’m craving something, but I can’t figure out what.”

  Rhyland’s pierced tongue slips out of his mouth to wet his lips, his gaze devouring me. “You drink from us.”

  I stare at him, trying to convince myself I just hallucinated, that the last three days have been a hallucination. That none of this is real.

  Thought I saw.

  Thought I saw.

  Thought I saw.

  “Were you guys there the day my mom died?” The words fall out of me uncontrollably and crash into the room. “Were you the ones who took her soul?”

  Rhyland’s brows rise in surprise and then he hastily shakes his head. “That wasn’t us.”

  I inch away from him. “How do you know for sure?”

  He catches the hem of my shirt, latching onto me in desperation. “Because we remember every soul we drink, and I know we didn’t drink hers.”

  “But, how do you know that for sure?” I tug my shirt from his grip. “You don’t even know her name.”

  “Actually, we do, sweetheart.” Blaise ambles across the room. “All we have to do is take a look at a person and we can see every aspect of how death has affected them.”

  Reality dumps over me like a bucket of ice water.

  They’re death.

  Grim Reapers.

  This is real.

  “Kind of like night vision, only death vision,” I nervously joke, swallowing against the dry throb aching in my throat.

  Blaise’s lips kick up in a lopsided smile. “I guess that’s one way to look at it.”

  Silence builds between us as reality sinks in deeper, marking my skin, scarring my dead soul, and making my throat burn hotter.

  “What happens if I don’t feed off you?” I pretend to be disgusted by the idea, yet a craving throbs in my chest…. And other places…

  What is happening to me? Why do I feel so hungry and not for food?

  “Then, eventually, you’ll turn into dust,” Rhyland replies guardedly. “You should also know that the moment you do feed, the bonding will be complete, and you’ll be—”

  “Ours,” Blaise finishes, his intense gaze searing into me, as if attempting to brand my soul.

  Fear whips through my cold veins, along with desire. Part of me wants this; the other, not so much. Which part is truly who I am?

  Do I even know who I am? All these years, I thought I was just a cursed human who sometimes hallucinated. Now I find out I’m a cursed fire reaper, inhuman, part of death.

  Does anyone in my family know?

  I need to find out.

  Need to get some more answers before I seal my fate eternally.

  “How long will it be before I turn into ash, if I don’t drink from you guys?” I ask and my entire body aches in protest.

  Rhyland wavers, a frown etched into his face. “If you’re lucky, maybe a week.”

  “Will I know before it happens?” I ask. “Or will I suddenly just turn to ash?”

  Rhyland’s frown deepens. “You’ll slowly start to wilt away. But Hadley, I wouldn’t recommend pushing it that far—”

  I hold up a hand. “I need some time, okay? I mean, this is a lot to take in, and I need to process it first.”

  “Process?” Blaise gapes at me. “You’re going to turn into ash if you don’t feed from us.”

  “And then your soul trapped forever in the underworld’s dungeons,” Blaise adds. “Which I can assure you from personal experience sucks big time.”

  His words cause a shiver to roll through me, but I hold my ground.

  I have no plans of dying. I just want to try to find another way out of this besides binding myself to these four reapers, no matter how pretty they are. Maybe I can even find a way to come back to life. To not be a cursed fire reaper.

  Yeah, maybe I’m being a bit naïve, but accepting this fate isn’t something I’m ready for, no matter how much my lips crave to taste them.

  “I-I just need some time,” I sputter, then whirl around and sprint out of the house before they can stop me again.

  They don’t chase after me. Instead, they watch me through the window, which might be one of the nicest things they’ve ever done. Well, except for saving me from the curse fire seeker’s claiming magic, but I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

  As I make my way across the yard toward my house, the girl who warned me about the Porterson brothers materializes beside me.

  “I told you to stay away from them,” she says as she skips through the grass at my side.

  I take in her ghostly form, the orb of light emitting from her. “You’re a … ghost?” Why did I not notice before?

  Because I was alive?

  Holy shit, I’m dead.

  “And you’re a cursed fire reaper,” she quips back, doing a little twirl. “We all have our faults.”

  I stop as I reach the fence. “Who are you?”

  She stops spinning. “Scarlett, their sister. I’m technically not supposed to be here, being a ghost and all, but my brothers like to break the rules.”

  “Are there more like you …? I mean, are there more ghosts just roa
ming around?”

  “There are if you know where to look.”

  “Oh.” I smash my lips together, my wheels turning.

  She smiles, sunlight trickling through her face. “If you’re wondering if your mother is still around, the answer is yes.”

  Excitement bursts through me. “Do you think—”

  Poof.

  And just like that, she’s gone.

  I don’t know where she went, but I need to find her. Because, if she has any idea of where my mom is, she could help me find her. And maybe, just maybe, I can get some answers as to who and what I really am before my time runs up and I die for reals.

  About the Author

  About the Author

  Jessica Sorensen is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who lives in the snowy mountains of Wyoming. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading and hanging out with her family.

  jessicasorensen.com

  Also by Jessica Sorensen

  Other books by Jessica Sorensen:

  The Cursed Series:

  Cursed Hadley

  Charmed Hadley (coming soon)

  Shadow Cove Series:

  What Lies in the Darkness

  What Lies in the Dark

  Untitled (coming soon)

  Tangled Realms:

  Forever Violet

  Untitled (Legend’s story) (coming soon)

  Unexpected Series:

  The Unexpected

  The Unpredictable

  Untitled (coming soon)

  Curse of the Vampire Queen:

  Tempting Raven

  Enchanting Raven

  Untitled (coming soon)

  Bad Boy Rebels:

  Meeting the Bad Boy Rebels

  Bad Girl Training

  Untitled (coming soon)

  Hacker Rebels:

  Truths

  Untitled (coming soon)

  Mystic Willow Bay Witches Series:

  The Secret Life of a Witch

  Broken Magic