Cinder x, p.17
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       Cinder X, p.17

         Part #2 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 17

 

  Chapter 9

  My head and body ache from the beating I just took. Plus, my back has started to burn again along with my eyes. I have no idea why, but after I take some pain killers, I go up to my room and make a face as I realize that while I was being attacked, something or someone came into my room and trashed it, probably looking for the book. Thankfully, they didn’t find it and it’s still tucked away in the bottom of the trunk.

  It’s past two o’clock in the morning, yet I don’t feel tired at all. In fact, I’m wired with thoughts of Reapers and Angels and my family racing through my mind. My brother’s on their side, my mom is missing, and all I have left is a very annoying Reaper who insists the only reason he’s tormenting me is because he wants me.

  Plus, there’s my dad. I know I heard his voice amongst the shadows, but I can’t be certain it was actually my dad, especially if the shadows were Reapers. It might have been their way to get at me… but then why was the shadow diving at Raven’s head?

  My head starts to throb the more I think about it. I need some rest. I close my eyes, and after a little while, I manage to drift off into dreamland. The next thing I know, someone’s stroking my cheek, and I’m yanked out of my sleep and back to reality.

  I stiffen from the touch, not just because it frightens me, but because, for the briefest moment, it becomes welcoming. “Cameron, go away,” I mumble. “Unless you’re going to tell me something that can give me any insight to what the hell’s actually going on. ”

  The fingers stroking my cheek pause and the person’s muscles ravel before they remove their hand. “It’s not Cameron. ”

  Asher’s voice engulfs my body and kisses every inch of my skin, awakening me from a deep, depressing slumber I’ve been sinking into over the last few weeks. I instantly feel more awake, alive, lighter. Freer. Not so dark and twisted inside. Reapers don’t consume my mind. The dark thoughts are gone.

  For a brief moment, everything feels right.

  My eyelids lift open and I gradually sit up, my head retaliating with blinding pain. I blink through it and then my lips part in disbelief at the sight of him before me, sitting on the edge of my bed beside me while appearing exhausted; his shoulders slackened and his plaid shirt and jeans wrinkled. His head is tipped down, his eyes locked on the floor, and there are wisps of his inky black hair hanging in his eyes. He looks heartbreakingly sad and in pain. I recollect his angel painting I saw in the art classroom the first time we kissed. He looks just like it at the moment, and it breaks my heart.

  I start to say something to him, but his presence has rendered me speechless, my voice won’t leave my lips. So instead, I’m left breathing deafeningly until, finally, he tilts his head and looks at me. When our eyes lock, anguish, agony, longing and want overpower me. He starts to reach for me, his fingers seeking my cheek, and I reach for him, but then he decides against touching me and pulls away, staring down at his hands.

  “I’m sorry,” he mutters with his brows knit.

  I fold my arms over my chest, curling into myself, wondering what’s wrong with him. Why he pulled away. “For what?”

  He peers up at me, his slate eyes black against the inadequate lighting of the lamp. “For leaving you. ”

  “Asher, it’s not your fault,” I insist, taking in the sight of his beautiful eyes, his eyebrow piercing, his dark red lips that taste divine, his long fingers that can do wonderful things to me. I take in all of him because I can. Because he’s here. With me. God, I’ve missed him. I want him to be real, but I have to question whether he’s real or not because, at the moment, everything seems like it could be the Anamotti tricking me. Or Cameron.

  “Is it really you?” I ask, watching his reaction closely. “Or is Cameron messing with my mind? Because it’s not funny if that’s what this is. ”

  Anger smolders in his eyes. “Cameron. I thought he was gone?”

  I slowly shake my head, astonished by his anger. “He was, but he came back the other night… although I think he’s been haunting my thoughts for longer than that. ”

  His fists clench on his lap and his arms tremble with his rage as his arm muscles ripple. “I should have known. He has a knack for never giving up. For always being around and trying to get what he wants, no matter what it takes. ” He huffs exasperatedly then his expression vaguely softens as he reaches for me again. He cups my cheek, his warmth spilling through me and heating the chill I didn’t know had been residing inside me until now. “I promise it’s me and not him. ” He releases an unsteady exhale as his thumb caresses my skin. “God, I forgot how beautiful you are. I’ve missed you so much. ”

  It’s him. It has to be. There’s no way Cameron or even one of the Anamotti could fake the passion in his voice or the honesty in his eyes. I leap from the bed and onto his lap, unable to control the amount of emotion bursting inside me as I throw my arms around his neck. I feel the silence of his touch as I bury my face against his solid chest and his arms wrap around me tightly, embracing me, pulling me closer to him. His chest crashes against my cheek with every breath he takes and his pulse is hammering in his chest.

  “What’s wrong? Why is your heart racing?” I start to pull away to look at him, but he only constricts his hold.

  “Nothing’s wrong. ” He kisses my forehead and nuzzles his face into my hair, taking ragged breaths. “Not now anyway. ”

  I let him devour my cheeks and forehead with kisses, afraid to move and break the silent connection between us. Plus, he seems to be struggling with his emotions, as though he’s overwhelmed by them, unable to keep what he’s feeling trapped inside. I’m falling to that place, too; wanting to cry over the sheer fact that he’s here and I’m no longer entirely surrounded by evil. I restrain the tears, however, because I know they’ll make me think about how I cried just hours ago when Cameron wiped and kissed them away from me. Still, the thought seeps in and I feel a pang in my gut.

  Guilt

  A plague

  It eats away

  At my rotting insides

  The more I fight

  The more it feasts

  I choke back my emotions, glad Asher doesn’t notice, glad he’s here holding onto me and no one else. Eventually his arms loosen around me, and he leans back to look me in the eyes, resting his hands on my waist. “Sorry, I got a little emotional there for a moment. ”

  “That’s okay. I’ve missed your touch,” I tell him, my voice shaky. “Even though I love that you’re here and happy to see me, I’m wondering how you’re here. I thought you had to go away… that you broke too many rules and were being punished. ”

  “I was being punished. ” He places a hand on my cheek again and I melt into his touch, letting his warmth consume me; the contact fills all the voids that formed over the last few weeks. “But protecting you is more important than anything else. ”

  “Protect me from what? Cameron?” I ask with a frown. “Or the Anamotti?”

  “You’ve said Cameron’s name a lot in the last few minutes. ” The anger in his eyes resurfaces. “Has he been around a lot?”

  I sigh and tell him the whole story, hating to admit what happened; that I was weak enough to mess up and allow Cameron to have access into my head. With each detail I give him, I feel more disappointed in myself, yet I feel a weight lifting from my shoulders. Asher is here to talk to, and even though I can’t tell if I’m upsetting him, I love that he’s here. That I’m not alone in this madness. That I have someone here who I can confide in, touch, and kiss. Someone who doesn’t drive me crazy and who doesn’t constantly remind me of death.

  When I finish explaining to him what’s happened over the last few weeks, Asher stares at me for a lengthy amount of time, his face contorted with pain and confusion. I think he’s going to yell at me or chew me out. Get angry about everything I’ve done since he left; how much I’ve screwed up.

  “I’m sorry,” I say. “For everything I’ve done while you’re gone. For messing up
so badly. ”

  He shakes his head, the pain subsiding. “Ember, I’m not mad at you. ” He rakes his fingers through his hair and turns forward in the bed, his jaw set tight. “If anything, I’m angry with Cameron. ” He contemplates something before he looks at me again. “After you took some of his life…” It’s difficult for him to speak, so he reaches for me, gripping my sides securely. Then his hands stray to my hips and his fingers jab down into my skin, firm but not rough, and my skin blissfully scorches from his touch. “Did something happen to you?” he asks. “When you took some of Cameron’s life?”

  The lines on my skin start to itch so I pull off one of my gloves, showing him. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I shouldn’t have done it, but I thought I had to in order to save the guy I stabbed. Although, honestly, I’m surprised Cameron has any life in him. I thought maybe he didn’t. ”

  “He doesn’t. ” Asher removes one of his hands from my hips and winces as he traces the vine-like lines on my arm. “Which is why these lines appeared. Instead of feeding yourself life, you were taking life in the form of death. If you would have gone for too long… done it too much…” His Adam’s apple bobs up and down as he swallows hard. “You would have drained all the angel blood out of you. ”

  “What?” I choke, panicking, thinking about my brother and the numbness, the emptiness he’s carrying. “Then I’d just be a Reaper?”

  He withdraws his hand from the lines and then his arm wraps around my side, pulling me closer to him on the bed. “Life is the Angel side of you and Reaper is death within you. You were filling your body with death, and therefore, eliminating the Angel blood inside you. That’s why he was able to talk to you through your thoughts and completely take over your body when he hasn’t been able to before. Yes, he’s been able to render you helpless, but that was through the faint connection you have to the Reapers. ” Our gazes fasten. “But by filling your body with more death—his death—it gave him total control. ”

  “Oh, my God. ” The last thing I want is to turn into death; into a Reaper. Or do you? My inner voice belongs to me this time and it sends a chill down my back as I briefly welcome the idea of walking around in a cloak, taking souls, devouring innocent lives. It’s a thought that has been plaguing me for days and only seems to be amplifying with time. I could try to keep blaming it on Cameron, but deep down, I know part of it belongs to me and I can’t help wondering if I’m getting close to giving in to the dark side.

  I blink the disturbing thought from my head and focus on Asher; his beautiful face and eyes that I could write about for hours. “So if I feed off a Reaper’s life for too long, then I’ll become one? Forever. I won’t be a Grim Angel anymore?” Jesus, I’ve already done it twice. How much of an effect has it had on me already?