Ember x, p.18
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       Ember X, p.18

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 18


  She flops down on my bed and dramatically drapes her arm over her head. “Oh, Em, you are so naïve sometimes. ” She peeks out from underneath her arm. “Did you ever read that romance book I gave you? It has a lot of good tips about what goes where. ” She laughs.

  “I know where everything goes. ” I feel like shit, but try to play it off, convincing myself that what happened with Farrah was just my death omen evolving. “But I still don’t know if I should go…”

  “Are you having second thoughts because of Asher?” She frowns. “Because I don’t think you should date him. ”

  I check my messages and then toss the phone on the dresser. “At the library, you said the opposite. ”

  “No, I said you should call him and find out if he likes you. And obviously he doesn’t, since he hasn’t called back. ” Her lips twist to a smile as she peeks out from under her arm. “And now you have tall, blonde, and sexy wanting you. ”

  “It’s just a date. ” I write the word solitude on my wall and then below it: Do you know me at all? Are my words just air? Is my heart easy to spare? “I don’t have him. ”

  She slants up on her elbows and scowls at my words. “Why did you just write that?”

  I shrug and circle the words: you, are, my, and heart. “Why do I write anything?”

  She leaps off the bed, steals the marker from my hands, and traces over the letters until the words transform into a small sketch of an intricate Angel. Then she clicks the cap on and hands the marker to me. “There. That’s much better. ”

  We grow silent and she gathers her purse from the bed. “I’m going to take off. Call me tomorrow before you go on your big date and if he’s as good in bed as he looks… And wear something sexy that shows off your curves. ” She eyes my clothes and slips out into the hallway.

  I drop down on the bed and pick up the romance novel from my nightstand. Each and every page has me pulling faces, not at what they’re doing, but at the cheesiness. It’s a relief when my phone rings. I chuck the book aside and grab my phone off the dresser.

  I yawn and stretch out my arms. “Hello. ”

  “Hey, it’s me,” Asher says.

  I pause. “Hey. ”

  He hesitates. “Look, Ember, can we talk about something in person? There’s something really important that I need to tell you. ”

  “Umm… is this about the message Raven left you because that was all her. ”

  “Kind of. ” His tone is cautious. “But there’s also something I want to show you. ”

  “Okay… What time are you going to be here?”

  His somber tone doesn’t alleviate the tension. “Can I pick you up in like fifteen minutes?”

  I tell him yes and we say goodbye. I pull my black button up vest over my red and black top, and then slip on a pair of holey jeans, and boots. I wait for Asher on the living room couch, trying not to get too pumped up about seeing him. Ian’s not at home and I haven’t seen my mom since she told me I’d turn into a killer like my dad. But that happens when she drinks a lot. My dad wasn’t a killer. He liked his bar fights, and did some questionable things, but he never sent anyone to their grave.

  I turn on the TV, but the satellite’s been disconnected. “Did she forget to pay the bill again?” I dial my mom’s cell, but it sends me straight to voicemail. I hang up and search the cabinet drawers for the bill. There are stacks and stacks of papers, batteries, tacks, pens, but no bills.

  Suddenly the lights flip off and the house suffocates in darkness, except for the faint cast of the outside light filtering through the curtains.

  “Okay… did she forget to pay the power bill too?” I fumble through the drawer and pull out a flashlight. I shine the light around the room as I walk toward the front door. The floorboards creak under my feet and I can hear heavy breathing.

  I’m not alone.

  My boot catches on something solid, I fall flat on my face, and the flashlight flies out of my hand and rolls across the floor. My legs tangle with something and the silence of their body is more frightening than if I felt their death.

  “Asher?” I squint through the dark down at my legs.

  A dark figure slowly rises from the floor. The head is enormous, its arms long, and its body stretches to the ceiling. A cape flows to the ground and armors its face. Nope, not Asher.

  “Ember,” it breathes, reaching for me. “Don’t be afraid. You know I’d never hurt you. ”

  “You stay the hell away from me. ” I flip over onto my stomach, taking out the table as I scramble to my feet and sprint across the room for the flashlight. I scoop it up and spin around, sweeping the light across the room.

  But he’s gone.

  I back for the door, sliding my phone out of my pocket. I dial Ian’s number. “Come on, come on, come—”

  The doorbell rings. Startled, I drop my phone on the floor and the back pops off. Cursing, I snatch up the pieces and quickly throw open the door.

  Asher looks sexy as hell, and my legs nearly give out at the sight of him. His inky black hair hangs in his gorgeous slate eyes and the sleeves of his black shirt are pushed up, showing off his lean arms. My eyes stray down lower, to where his jeans ride low on his hips, and I picture myself trailing kisses down his abs and feel him through his jeans like he did with me in the art room.

  Damn Raven and her dirty books. They’re messing with my head.

  He shields his eyes with his hands. “Do you blind every guy that shows up on your porch?” he jokes.

  I click off the flashlight and toss it on the end table. “Sorry, the power went out. ”

  I shut the door behind me as I step outside, then we walk silently to his car and get in. Through my living room window, the caped visitor watches me and I can’t seem to take my eyes off him.

  Asher turns the stereo down and rotates in his seat to face me. “Is something wrong?” He tracks the course of my gaze. “What are you looking at? Did you forget to turn something off?”

  I tear my attention away from the house. Away from him. “No, everything’s good. So what did you want to show me?”

  He grins as he backs down the driveway. “It’s a surprise. ”

  I try to be happy, but I’m severely distracted by the return of an old friend, the Grim Reaper. The last time he showed up, he ruined my life.

  Chapter 10

  I first met the mysterious cloaked creature when I went to live with my dad. I named him the Grim Reaper, but only because he looked like the Keeper of Death. When I was little, I thought he was my imaginary friend because no one could see him but me. After he vanished from my life, he reappeared once, right before my dad disappeared. He told me my dad was going to die within minutes and I panicked and called the cops, telling them Patrick Edwards was about to die. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life and put me under high suspicion.

  I watch the trees blur by, trying to convince myself that I didn’t see the Grim Reaper, that he was just a figment of my imagination. The sky is masked with darkness and the fields and yards are shadows.

  “Are you sure you’re okay?” Asher drives down the main road toward the outskirts of town. “You seem a little distracted tonight. ”

  “What?” I turn away from the window.

  Sighing, he reaches over and takes my hand. “You’re probably wondering where I’ve been for the last few days and why I ran off after that thing with that man who had the X on his eye. ”

  “You mean Garrick,” I clarify. “And I wasn’t wondering… you don’t owe me an explanation Asher. I’m not your girlfriend or anything. ”

  He entwines our fingers and tranquility swathes my over-active mind. Suddenly, my Grim Reaper and my Death problem are insignificant.

  Asher asks, “Do you know Garrick?”

  “Yeah, I met him at the party,” I explain, trying not to shiver as he traces the folds of my fingers. “The one that I met you at. ”

  “Did you meet him before or afte
r I talked to you that night?”

  “After. It was right before I left to chase down Raven… He told me someone was messing around with my car. ”

  “And then your car’s brakes went out. ” He cracks his knuckles on the steering wheel as he cogitates. “I wonder if…”

  “If what?” I press. “Asher, do you know this guy? And did he mess with my brakes that night? Because he told me someone else was messing with my car, and I’m starting to wonder if it was him and maybe he was also the tailgater. ”

  He slips his hand from mine and places it on the shifter and it feels like a glove slipped off my fingers. “Ember, have you ever heard of the Anamotti?” he asks and I shake my head. “Well, it’s this term that got thrown around a lot in the neighborhood I lived in New York… It’s kind of like this hush-hush secret society thing. ”

  “What kind of a neighborhood did you live in?” I wonder.

  He hesitates, holding my gaze. “The Upper East Side. ”

  “So it’s a secret society for rich people. ”

  “Kind of. ”

  “I’m confused,” I confess. “What does this have to do with Garrick? Is he part of it?”

  He fiddles anxiously with the air freshener on the rearview mirror, twisting it around. “Yeah, he was… He is part of it. ”

  “So Garrick’s from New York too?” I ask. “I don’t mean to sound rude, but I’m not sure I believe that you, Cameron, and Garrick all moved here at the same time and from New York. ”

  “Garrick didn’t move here from New York,” Asher discloses in a subdued voice. “I said the term got thrown around a lot in my neighborhood, but it doesn’t mean every member from the Anamotti lives there. ”

  “But then, how do you know Garrick is part of the Anamotti?” I wonder, peeling away at the black nail polish on my thumb, a bad habit of mine.

  “That X tattoo he has,” Asher makes an X motion over his eye with his finger, “is the symbol of the Anamotti. ”

  “So what are they?” I recollect about what I read on the internet about X symbols. “What is their secret society all about? And why do they have X’s?”

  He restlessly drums his fingers on the shifter, and then his chest rises as he exhales out a shaky breath and laces his fingers with mine again. “I’m afraid it might scare you, especially because Garrick is interested in you. ” He brings my hand to his mouth and grazes his soft lips across my knuckles.

  “No, he seems interested in Raven. ” Unable to help myself, I caress his palm with my thumb. “I think he was with her that night when Laden disappeared. ”

  “Maybe,” he says sadly. “But I think he’s using Raven to get to you. ”

  “For what?” I begin to pull my hand away. “And how do you know all this… Are you part of this Anamotti?”

  “I can’t tell you that right now. ” His hand tightens on mine, his eyes pleading. “Trust me, I want to. Desperately. But not yet, okay? I need to… we need to spend some time together first. ” Honesty blazes in his gaze like smoke combined with fire. “Please, just trust me, Ember. ”