Ember x, p.2
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       Ember X, p.2

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 2


  “Don’t even think about it, you little punk. ” He starts to haul me back to the ground by the leg. Images of his death course through me, thick and heavy. A sharp knife. Blood. His body falling to the ground.

  I wiggle my foot, trying to slip it out of my boot, but his hands move higher up my leg, just below my knee. My fingertips scrape the brick as they dig down to hold onto the edge.

  The cop’s fingers wrap around my other leg. “Just let—”

  The cop abruptly releases my legs. My knee crashes into the fence. I scramble to the top and glance behind me. The cop lies unconscious on the grass. The tall, dark stranger stands over him, watching me. The dusky shadows of the trees dance across his face and his untamed eyes smolder like cinders.

  “Ember. ” His ghostly voice encircles around me like smoke.

  I inch forward until the tips of my boots align with the ledge of the fence and my hand powerlessly reaches for him. I’m hypnotized by his beauty, the haunting sound of his voice, and I can’t seem to keep my hands to myself. I want to run them all over his body, feel his skin, touch him, kiss him, press my body against his.

  “Come here,” he coaxes, extending his long arms toward me, offering me his hand.

  My other hand elevates to my side and I bend my knees to jump off the ledge, trusting him, and desperate to touch him.

  “Don’t move. ” Sirens screech from the gate and red and blue lights flash across the cemetery, bringing me back to reality. I flinch and quickly crouch down as a police car slams to a dirt-grinding stop on the other side of the cemetery. Two cops barrel out of it and dash through the gate, hollering over their radios. I glance down, where the tall stranger used to be, but all there is is a single raven feather floating across the grass. It floats up to me in the wind and I catch it, my gaze sweeps the cemetery covered with shadows. Where did he go?

  The cop on the ground stirs and begins to wake up. Spinning around, I leap onto the sidewalk, and sprint down the street toward my home, never looking back.

  Chapter 2

  “Wakey, wakey, sleeping beauty,” my best friend, Raven, singsongs as she fluffs my hair with her fingers.

  “I’m not a dog, you crazy woman,” I mutter, groggily. “Now leave me alone. ”

  She blows in my ear, careful not to touch me with her death omen, even though I’ve seen it before. “Ember, come on. Wake up. ”

  “You are such a weirdo,” I murmur sleepily.

  “I’m the weirdo,” she teases. “You’re the one who sees death. ”

  I roll my eyes open to the brightness of the sunlight spilling through my room. “Way to tell the world. ”

  Her sapphire eyes glimmer against her glittery pink eye shadow as she gestures at my black and red walls, sketched with mythical drawings and depressing poetry. A thin black curtain veils the closet doorway with photos of dead poets and authors tacked along the frame.

  Raven hops off my bed and traces her fingers along a penciled drawing of a female Angel with black-feathered wings spanning across the wall. The Angel’s black dress flows to the floor, her eyes are shut, and there’s despair in the way she carries her head and how her arms curl around herself.

  “Do you remember when I drew this for you?” Raven asks.

  I climb out of bed and rummage through the dresser drawer for some clothes. The feather from last night sits on top, ruffled and bent in the middle. I don’t know why I kept it, other than I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. I’ve never been attracted to a guy like that before and it seems like a shame to throw the feather and memory away. “Yeah, what were we… like thirteen or something? It was right after I moved back and accidentally told you I could see death. ”

  “I thought it would protect you from death. ” She laughs bitterly. “I was too little to realize that nothing can save you from it, not even an Angel. ”

  Painted on the opposite wall is a bone-faced creature in a long black cloak, holding an hourglass in its emaciated hand, and a raven shedding its wings is suspended on the shoulder.

  “You know he swears it’s not a Grim Reaper. ” Raven observes the drawing closely, squinting her eyes. “But it sure as hell looks like one. If I didn’t know better I’d swear your brother put it there on purpose, because he knows about your little death thing and wants to drive you mad. ”

  “He doesn’t know about it,” I remind her. “No one does but you. ”

  She assesses the Reaper’s hand. “And what’s with the hourglass?”

  My shoulders rise and fall as I shrug. “It’s one of the symbols of the Reaper, like, ‘your time is in my hands. ’”

  She sketches the hourglass with her finger. “Well, your brother could have at least put sand in it then, so it wasn’t like your time had expired. ”

  “I’m sure he wasn’t thinking that far into it,” I assure her. “Besides, he only did it to impress you. He wanted to show you that you two share an artistic side. ”

  She chews on her bottom lip. “You know I would never date him, right? I’ve had one too many manic depressives in my life. ” She pulls a guilty face. “Sorry, Em. I didn’t mean it to come out like that. ”

  “It’s okay. I know my brother has problems. And I know you’ve been through too much to want to deal with it. ” I pause. “How’s your mom doing?”

  She shrugs, staring at the drawing. “Fine, I guess. I haven’t gone to visit her in a while. ”

  Raven’s mom is in a drug treatment facility. She suffers from depression and self-medicates. Her illness has been going on for years. A couple of months ago, Raven came home from work and found her mom on the living room floor with a lit cigarette in her hand. She wasn’t breathing and barely registered a pulse. Raven called an ambulance and the paramedics resuscitated her. Raven chewed me out for not telling her it was coming and I realized that day that there were many negatives to my gift. But I didn’t tell Raven her mom was going to die, because I knew she wasn’t going to die that day. I refuse to tell Raven when anyone in her family will die—including herself—because no one needs that burden on their shoulders.

  Raven was mad at me for two weeks and wouldn’t talk to me at all. It was the loneliest two weeks of my life. Raven is my one and only friend and it’s pretty much been that way forever. When I get old, I’ll probably end up a spinster with ten cats and maybe a bird. Raven will pay me visits every so often with her children and make sure I stay sane.

  “What is that?” She stands on her tiptoes, leaning in my face, and with her pink fingernail, she chips away a flake of mud off my cheek. “Why do you have dirt on your face?” She turns my hand over and examines my palm. “And your fingers are rubbed raw. ”

  I pull my hand away. “Last night, while I was in the cemetery—”

  “I thought you stopped going there so much,” she interrupts with disapproval written all over her face. Raven has never understood my need to be alone—my need for the quiet.

  I grab a purple and black T-shirt with torn sides and a pair of black jeans out of the dresser. “I haven’t been sleeping very well and it’s relaxing, being there. ”

  She twists a strand of her shoulder-length, bubblegum pink hair around her finger. “I don’t understand you sometimes. I told you to come to my house whenever you want. You don’t need to go hang out in a graveyard—it’s creepy. ”

  I don’t have the heart to tell her that her house is one of the worst places, chock full of death, even after her mother went away. Her brother, Todd, will have an early death from lung cancer. He smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and he’s been smoking since he was thirteen.

  “The cops busted me,” I admit, knowing she’ll find it humorous.

  Her lips quirk. “Oh yeah, did you run?”

  I nodded, and keep my tone playful. “Yup. Really, really fast. ”

  Her smile broadens. “Did they chase you?”

  I nod again. “I’m pretty sure he stumbled and landed on his face, too,” I
exaggerate, knowing she’ll love it—Raven’s all about the drama.

  A laugh sputters from her lips. “Okay, I’m kind of jealous. I wish I could have been there to see it. ”

  “It was pretty funny,” I admit. “Except for…”

  “Except for what?” she presses. “Come on, Em, tell me please. Don’t do your secret-keeping thing. ”

  I sink down on the bed and ball the clothes up on my lap. “There were these guys there, digging up a grave. ”

  Her forehead scrunches and she sits down beside me. “Ew, like grave robbers?”

  “I’m not sure what they were doing, but it was kind of creepy. ”

  “Did they take anything from the grave?”

  “I have no idea. I was too busy running from the cops…” It dawns on me. “Shit. I think one of the grave robber guys might have my notebook. ”

  “The one you’re always writing your deepest darkest secrets in?” she asks.

  I nod. “And it has my name on it. ”

  Tapping her finger on her chin, she muses over something. “Was he hot?”

  I fiddle with a loose string on my pajama pants. “Are you seriously asking if the grave robber was hot?”

  “Grave robbers are people too,” she says with a sassy attitude. “And just because they like to dig up graves, doesn’t mean they can’t be hot. ”

  Hot? More like intense and frightening. Shaking my head, I stand up. “You’re a weirdo. I’m going to go get dressed. ”

  She eyeballs me with suspicion. “Quit trying to change the subject, Emmy. ”

  I head for the closet. “You know I hate it when you call me that. ” It’s the nickname my dad gave me and I hate being reminded of him.

  “You know you always do this,” she calls out. “You always run away from guys. If you keep it up, you’re going to end up a lonely old spinster. ”

  “Which is just what I want. ” I pause when I reach the curtain. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess we’re going to a party. ”

  Her mood suddenly boosts and she grins impishly. “What gave it away?”

  I eye her outfit and count down on my fingers. “Four things: leather shorts, pink high heels, knee high socks, and a sparkling top. ”

  She sticks out her hip and pops up her foot, striking a pose. “Come on, admit it, I look hot. ”

  “You look like a slut. ”

  She tosses a pillow at me and I catch it and throw it back at her. “Watch that dirty mouth of yours, Death Girl,” she says, dropping the pillow onto the bed. “I don’t look like a slut. I look like someone who needs to get laid. That’s all. ”

  “Same difference. ” Laughing, I duck through the curtain into my closet. Immediately, my lips sink to a frown. Parties equal lots of people and lots of people mean lots of death omens. But I have to go with Raven to protect her from herself because she tends to get reckless.