Cinder x, p.18
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       Cinder X, p.18

         Part #2 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 18


  He nods, releasing me, and then brings his leg up on the bed between us, his foot wiggling restlessly. “Yes, if you drink too much and do it too many times then it’d eventually drained of all your Angel’s blood, then Cameron would get exactly what he wants. He’d have the Reaper version of you. ”

  “God, I’m so stupid… for a brief second, I thought he was trying to help me,” I mutter, disgusted with myself for touching him like that, for talking to him, for letting him kiss my tears away, for thinking he was trying to help me. “He pretended like he knew stuff about my dad. God, what was I thinking giving into him like that, letting him convince me to take his life—death—like that?”

  “You’re not stupid,” he insists, taking my hand in his and tangling our fingers. “Despite your Angel and Reaper blood, you’re still a human who feels things and Cameron knew that threatening you with the life of that guy would break you down emotionally. ” He brings my hand to his mouth and grazes his lips across them. “None of this is your fault. ”

  “And what about the second time?” I disagree with him, ashamed of what I’ve done. “He didn’t threaten me with anything. ”

  “You can’t blame yourself for the fact that he took over your body and stuff happened,” Asher says with an underlying hint of pain in his voice. He’s trying to shrug this off, although I can tell it’s sort of bothering him.

  “Still, I never should have trusted him to begin with,” I tell him. “And let him get my hopes up that he’d help me find out about my dad. ” I shake my head at myself, wondering if that was a lie, too. If Cameron really doesn’t know a damn thing about my dad; if he ever did, even back when he told me my dad was going to die. “I let him in and I shouldn’t have, especially when so much has been going on in the town. I should have been more careful. Protected myself more instead of throwing myself into his will and letting him walk me into an Anamotti pit. ”

  “It’s not your fault, and besides…” Asher deeply considers something, distractedly running his pierced tongue along his teeth, which is one of the sexiest things I’ve ever seen. “Do you remember that story I told you? The one about the tattoo on my side?”

  “Sort of. ” Unable to help myself, I slip my free hand up the front of his shirt and trace my fingers along the cursive font, feeling him shudder beneath my touch. “It is about the last Grim Angel standing and how she will have to make a choice between good and evil. ”

  He stares down at my hand beneath his shirt with confliction as he recites the story tattooed beneath where my hand rests. “Blackness caped the land and possessed the bodies of the mortals. Fire erupted over the fields and famine possessed the oceans. The wrath of Death was winning and the Angels of Death suffered. It was the end, but a single sacrifice reversed it all. One beautiful Grim Angel with death in her blood and on her shoulders connected them all, and with a single choice, she would save the world. But the fight would not be easy. Death would play with her mind and her life. Angels would do everything they could to protect her. She would struggle with right and wrong and mess up along the way, but in the end, she would have to make the right choice; otherwise, Death would win then humans and Angels would endure an eternity of suffering. ” When he glances up at me, the amount of emotion his eyes carry causes me to gasp. “Sometimes you’ll mess up, but I know that, in the end, you’ll do the right thing. ”

  “I thought the story was about the last Grim Angel standing?”

  “It is. ”

  “But then, you’re saying I’m the last Grim Angel standing?”

  “No, I’m saying I believe you’re going to be the last Grim Angel standing. ”

  “Why?” I croak, my voice faint and weak as I remove my hand from beneath his shirt and rest it on my lap.

  He swallows hard. “For a lot of reasons, one being that you were born in Hollows Grove, along with your entire family, at least as far back as I can trace. You’re roots started here. ”

  “But a lot of Grim Angels were… because this is where it all started, right?” I point out. “My dad was one of them and my brother, so how do you know for sure that I’ll be the last one when there could be a ton more here. ”

  He hesitates, considering what I said. “Do you remember what Alton told you about the battle? How it started here? And how the beginning of Grim Angels started here?”

  “Did I mention that Alton said that to me?” I ask, perplexed. “I don’t remember mentioning that to you. ”

  He deliberately shakes his head. “You didn’t. ”

  My confusion magnifies. “Then how do you know he told me about the battle?”

  “Because…” He seems nervous, chewing on his lip. “I was there and I could also see it in his eyes when he was talking to you that he thinks you’re going to be the last Grim Angel standing—could see how deep your Grim Angel bloodlines go—which is why they’re centering so much energy on you. ”

  “Yeah, but… Wait a minute…” I trail off, starting to retreat away from him as I back up on the bed, preparing to jump up and run. “You say you were there, but the only thing I saw was the Anamotti. ”

  His arms snap out and he grasps onto my wrists, forcing me to sit back down. “Please, listen to me before you try to bolt,” he says, a silent plea in his tone. I debate what to do, but ultimately let him pull me back down to the bed. He lets out a relieved breath the moment I sink down beside him and his hold on me loosens, but his hands remain on my wrists. “I was there at the bowling alley, trying to help you,” he starts to explain. “I’ve actually been watching you since I left, despite the fact that I was banned against doing so. ” He looks a little guilty as his fingers leave my wrists and he turns his back to me. “I couldn’t help it,” he says passionately. “Not knowing where you were—or what was happening to you—it was driving me crazy. ” He shakes his head at himself. “And then I saw you in the bowling alley with the Anamotti. And Alton. I couldn’t just stand by and watch them set you up for murder, to have you go to jail, or let them push your sanity even further. ” He rotates back around and scoots towards me, passion pouring off him as his gaze devours me. I can’t help but think about when I read that Angels of Death are passionate in battle. “I had to stop them. I couldn’t let them frame you with Raven’s murder and all the other murders that have happened. ”

  “That’s what they were doing? They were going to kill Raven and frame me for it?” Goddammit, Cameron. “Wait, did Cameron know about this?”

  “I have no idea what Cameron knows or what his brilliant plan was by bringing you there, but he’s proved once again what side he’s on,” he says, his low tone nearing a growl as he turns back around to face me.

  I don’t entirely agree with him. Going to the bowling alley helped me discover that the mayor is also the leader of the Anamotti, however now is not the time to point that out. “You act like he could be on a different side than the Reapers,” I say.

  “No, but I’d like to believe that despite his Reaper blood, he still has a bit of emotion left in him, enough that he wouldn’t sacrifice your safety. ”

  “Why would he have emotion in him at all when he’s death?” I pause, recollecting the few times Cameron and Asher have crossed paths. “You know, you two have acted like you’ve known each other from the beginning. ”

  “We’ve known each other for far too long,” he says dryly, staring down at the floor.

  “How so?” I ask. “I mean, how can Reapers and Angels know each other when they work for opposing sides?”

  “We’re not necessarily on opposing sides,” he mutters and then sighs, closing his eyes. “And after being around for centuries, it’s hard not to get acquainted with your enemies. ”

  My head starts to pound at something he’s said, something that scares the shit out of me. I massage my temples with my fingertips, forcing air in and out of my lungs. “Wait, how old are you?”

  It takes him a moment to answer, and when he does speak again, his voic
e is barely audible. “I’ve been around long enough to see five centuries pass by. ”

  “Jesus,” I murmur, lowering my hands. “You were alive when Edgar Allan Poe was. ” There’s brief silence and then suddenly Asher snorts a laugh. I look up at him, stunned by his humor. “What’s so funny?” I ask.

  Wrinkles crinkle around his eyes as he tries to stop laughing, his mouth concealed by his hand. “I’m sorry, but only you would make that first observation. ” His laughter dies down a little.

  I press my lips together. “This isn’t funny,” I say, but laughter tickles the back of my throat. Call it insanity, but I do find it amusing. “I mean, I just found out you’re really old. ”

  He starts laughing even harder and eventually my laughter slips through and I join him. Nothing we’ve been talking about is humorous, yet honestly, I don’t want it to stop. Call it madness. Call it too much darkness and death in my life. Call it whatever you want, but it’s been a long time since I’ve laughed, and if I had my way, I’d keep doing it forever.

  “I’m sorry,” he says after our laughter settles down. “It’s just that I can’t help but think about the first time I met you and how I could see in your eyes that you have an obsession with Edgar Allan Poe. ”

  I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes with the bottom of my shirt. “I’m not obsessed,” I insist, “I just admire his poetry. ”

  He looks over at the picture of Poe on my wall and elevates his eyebrows in speculation. “Oh, really? Because I completely disagree. ”

  I stifle a smile, playfully pinching him on the arm. “Quit distracting me from the fact that you’re so old. Like creepy old. ”

  He redirects his focus on me and observes me momentarily before he scoots close enough that our knees touch and his heat spirals through my body. My stomach flutters with nerves and want. “I might be old in numbers, but not in the way I look,” he says, leaning in, wetting his lips with his tongue.

  I catch the silver glint of his tongue ring and my body reacts inappropriately; shivers and tingles dancing up and down my thighs. I squeeze my legs together as I scan over his lean arms, his sturdy chest, and his near ageless eyes. “Yeah, I know, but still…” I alter my weight as I sigh, bending inward to get closer to him. “It’s just a little startling, but I guess I should have known. ”

  He quickly shakes his head. “No, you shouldn’t have, especially when no one can, or will, give you the full truth. ”

  I frown. “Like you?”

  He offers me an apologetic look, but doesn’t say anything as he gazes off into empty space. I wonder what he’s thinking about. What he’s lied about. I wonder how many things between us are real and how many are fake.