Ember x, p.14
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       Ember X, p.14

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 14


  Asher’s gaze finds mine and his eyes light up, but then he notices Cameron standing next to me and the lightness alters to a glare. Cameron returns the glare with equal animosity.

  “I thought you said you didn’t know him?” I ask Cameron with cynicism in my tone.

  He blinks the glare away and smiles politely. “I don’t know him. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got places to be. ” He struts off to where Mackenzie and her friend are sitting, eating salads, and he immediately starts flirting with her.

  “Hot and cold much,” I mumble.

  Asher waves me over. I hesitate, not at him, but at the rest of the people at the table who are just as afraid of me as Mackenzie is. But then Asher smiles and I remember how he tasted in the art room, how he felt, how he touched me, and my doubting and worries crumble.

  I take a seat at the table and everyone gives me subtle nods, except for Farrah Taverson, who is the only girl at the table. She’s been dating Laden Miller for a while and she scowls at me, gathers her medieval era dress before she leaves the table and heads out into the parking lot.

  “You looked like you needed help,” Asher whispers in my ear and then his takes a gentle nip at my earlobe. “Was that guy harassing you?”

  My shoulders spasm as I stir a fry in a cup of ranch. “No, he was being…” I trail off because I don’t really have a clue what Cameron was being toward me.

  “So, Raven still not shown up yet, huh?” he asks and I shake my head, frowning as he takes a bite of his burger. He licks a dab of mayo from his lip and I imagine licking it off him, along with many other things.

  As my body starts to hum with the images of where his tongue could search, I squeeze my legs together. “No, I think she’s probably bailed and went shopping for the day. She loves to shop. ”

  He offers me a forced smile. “I’m sure she does. ” His eyes scan me over. “Are you okay?” His gaze travels to my forehead. “Did you go to the doctor after the accident?”

  “Yeah,” I lie. “And I’m fine. ” I wiggle my arms, bending my elbows. “No broken bones. No concussion. I’m like a walking miracle. ”

  “What about your car?” he asks with concern, leaning closer to examine me and I can feel the heat of his breath on my lips.

  My mood plummets. “That’s definitely a goner. ”

  “And how about… How are you doing with what everyone else is saying?”

  I shrug. “It’s not the first time they’ve wanted to burn me at the stake. ”

  Leaning back, he takes another bite of his sandwich and changes the subject. “So you never answered my question. ”

  “About what?” I asks, sipping on my soda.

  “About the guy you were with just now?” He chews on a French fry.

  “That’s Cameron. ” I unwrap my chicken sandwich. “He’s the other new guy here and coincidently, he’s also from New York. ”

  “That’s weird. ” His jaw tightens and he throws the rest of his food into his bag. “I don’t have to worry about him being competition do I?”

  I snort a laugh, figuring he’s joking, but the serious expression on his face silences me. “No, you don’t have to worry about that. ” Heat swells inside my body as he smiles and bites his lip.

  “Would you do me a favor?” He stands up and collects his garbage. “Would you show me around the town a little bit?”

  “Sure… Although, I’m surprised no one else has offered to yet, especially Mackenzie. ” I grab my sandwich and garbage and rise to my feet.

  He laughs, glancing at Mackenzie in the corner, and I realize he’s already talked to her. “I don’t think I’m really Mackenzie’s type. ”

  I eye his goth/emo style; a plaid shirt, black jeans, combat boots, the studs and skulls on his leather bands. He has piercings and even though he’s not, it looks like he is wearing a hint of black liner around his eyes hooded by long, thick eyelashes. He’s not her type, but he’s still strikingly beautiful, especially his eyes.

  “Give her time,” I say. “In fact, I’m pretty sure if you decide to show up at the next frat party, she’ll probably whisk you away to the upstairs room in a heart beat. ”

  He throws his garbage into the trash, but holds onto some French fries. “And what about you? Would you whisk me away to the upstairs room?”

  I dump my tray into the garbage, my skin growing warm. “I don’t know… Would you want me to?”

  He doesn’t answer and my heart sinks into my chest. I don’t understand, though, because he kissed me and touched me pretty much all over.

  We walk for the exit door, side-by-side, and at that moment, everyone else doesn’t exist. I crave for him to touch me again, for him to feel every inch of my body.

  I eat my sandwich as we roam up the sidewalk, walking passed the park, the town square, the shopping mall. I explain where everything is, who everyone is that’s walking around, and it doesn’t take long since the town is a mere blip in the center of massive amount of mountains

  “I used your name this morning,” I admit quietly when we stop in the center of the park. “When a cop brought me in for questioning. ” He appears mystified so I add, “Questioning for Laden’s disappearance. ”

  “I knew what you were talking about,” he says, leaning against the frame of the gazebo entrance. “I was just wondering why you said it so guilty. I know you were with me. ”

  “For part of the time,” I clarify, shuffling my toe in front of me. “You dropped me off around three and she wanted to know where I was between the hours of two and four. ”

  He gets this funny look on his face, like he might laugh. “So where were you for the extra hour? Or should I say we?”

  “You don’t have to cover for me,” I tell him. “Your name just slipped out because it seemed a lot better than telling her I was up at my house with a friend that was trashed out of her mind. And I’ve been through this before and excuses like that don’t fly. ”

  “When your dad disappeared?”

  “How do you know about that?”

  His face is guarded. “People like to talk a lot around here, I’ve noticed. ”

  I shy away. “I’m sorry. I’ll go find the detective and tell her the truth. ” I turn for the campus, but he moves around me and blocks my path.

  “Last night was one of the best nights of my life,” he starts. “I have never made out so long before and the lake was beautiful, crystal clear with a bright moon setting. And Ember… she is the most amazing kisser. ”

  “Yeah, I think you took it one step too far on the last sentence. ” I stifle a smile. “You might want to leave that part out. ”

  He shakes his head. “I know from this morning that the last sentence is the most truthful part of my statement. ”

  I touch my finger to my lips, trying not to grin. “Maybe that’s because you were inhaling to much paint fumes. ”

  “No way. ” He challenges me with a cock of his eyebrow. “But just to make sure, I think I might need to have a refresher. ” He stands up straight and coils a strand of my hair around my finger, watching for my reaction.

  But I have no idea what to say or to so I change the subject. “You seriously don’t have to cover for me. ” My phone rings inside my bag, but I ignore it. “I can figure out something else. ”

  “It’s fine,” he insists, releasing my hair. “I know you didn’t do it. ”

  There are no words to express my gratitude. “Thanks. I owe you big time. ”

  He fiddles with his eyebrow ring, looping the tip of his pinkie through it, and then pulling it out, before stuffing his hands into his pockets. Suddenly he looks nervous. “Okay, so I have to ask you something. And feel free to be completely honest with me. ”

  “Okay…” I wait for the moment where he tells me he was kidding and he really thinks I’m a killer.

  “Hypothetically, if I were to ask you on a date, what would you say?” he asks, flicking his tongue ring against his t

  My heart erupts in my chest. “Well, if we were only speaking hypothetically, I’d say yes. ”

  The corners of his mouth quirk. “And if I wasn’t speaking hypothetically. ”

  “Then I’d say, I’d have to think about it. ” Jesus. I’ve been spending way too much time watching Raven seduce guys.

  He reaches for my messenger bag, and before I can react, he extracts my cell phone. He punches a few buttons and then leans forward to put it back into my bag, moving in closer than necessary.

  He puts his mouth up to my ear. “Think about it and let me know when the hypothetical can become a reality. ” He gives a soft suck on the tender spot just below my ear before leaning away.

  My lips part as my breath speeds up. “Okay. ”

  He winks at me and then turns around, stepping off the gazebo. “I have to go to work. You have my number. ”

  I watch him walk across the grass, enjoying the way he moves and the numbing sensation he instills in my body, the way he silences death. When he’s out of my sight, I head across the park toward the back parking lot of the campus.

  When I round the corner, I find Raven leaning against the side entrance and a guy with greasy hair and sideburns leaning over her with his hands braced on the wall. Her eyes are locked on the guy like she is a love-struck puppy. He glances in my direction and I catch sight of the X on his eye—the sleazebag from the other night.

  “What are you doing?” I hurry toward her.

  Raven’s eyes are red and swollen and her mascara is smudged. “I’m not doing anything. Now, go away. ”

  “You’re not okay. ” I reach a hand for her. “What did he do to you?”

  “She’s fine,” the sleazebag snarls and slaps my hand away. “Now get the hell out of here. ”

  “Don’t touch me, asshole,” I warn, breathing through the stench of his death.

  Raven wipes her tears away with the collar of her pink shirt. “Ember, just go inside. Please. ”

  My muscles stiffen under the guy’s powerful glare. “I will, but you’re coming with me. ”

  “You need to butt out of business that doesn’t concern you. ” The guy prowls forward and shoves me backward hard, knocking the breath out of me.

  “She’s my friend,” I say firmly, regaining my balance. “So therefore, it is my business. ”

  He glares at me. “Well, if you want, I could make it directly concern you. ” He lunges at me, grabs my arms, and thrusts me back against the brick wall.

  His vile death chokes me. He stands in the middle of a field. It’s dark. A gunshot fires and he collapses to the ground.

  I blink, stunned. It’s not the same death omen as the other night.

  He smiles and chills prick at my skin. “What’s wrong, Ember? Are you scared?” He drops his voice as he leans in, his stale breath hot against my face as he delves his fingers deep into my waist. “Tell me, how was your drive home last night?”