Ember x, p.24
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       Ember X, p.24

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 24


  He smoothes my hair back from my forehead. “Are you okay… you don’t regret it, do you?”

  I shake my head, a smile touching at my lips. “No. ”

  “Good,” he says and I hear the smile through his voice. “You should get some sleep. ” He plays with my hair, combing his fingers through it. “I’ll stay with you until you do. ”

  “You don’t have to worry about me. ” I yawn. “I’m fine by myself. ” I press my cheek against his chest and his heart skips against it. “Asher, why did you take off the other day? After you got Garrick away from me?”

  “That’s another question you may really want to think about and make sure you want me to answer. ”

  I deliberate his response, my skin still tingling from where he touched me. “I want to know. ”

  He lets out an uneven exhale. “Because if I didn’t leave I would have chased Garrick down and killed him. ”

  Perhaps I should have got up and ran, but the silence of his body is my sanctuary. “Why would you have killed him?”

  “For a few reasons,” he whispers and kisses the top of my head. “One being that he tried to hurt you. ” He pauses. “Does that scare you?”

  “Do you think it scares me?”

  “No. ”

  “Then you’re right. ”

  Stillness takes over, along with the sound of the lyrics flowing through the speakers. Moments later, I drift off to one of the most peaceful nights of my existence.

  Chapter 12

  I open my eyes to the warmth of Asher’s arms wrapped around me. A rare smile graces my lips, and I’m glad he fell asleep and never left like he said.

  The scent of freshly fallen rain and a bird’s melody flows through my open bedroom window as I sit up. I spot a raven suspended on a tree branch with its black eyes fastened on me. I stick my arm out the window, trying to coax it closer.

  “Hello, little minion of death,” I whisper with my eyes narrowed. “Why won’t you leave me alone? Are you trying to tell me something about my death? Because I’m sorry to break it to you, but I already died and now it looks like there is no death in my future. ”

  That’s when I notice Cameron’s Jeep parked in front of my house, two of the wheels up on the curb.

  I glance down at Asher fast asleep in my bed and then back at the Jeep, suddenly remembering that I’m supposed to be going on a date with Cameron. I carefully slip out from under Asher’s arm and sneak into the hall, closing the door behind me, and then I tread to the top of the stairway.

  Cameron and Ian are chatting in the foyer. Ian is telling him about this slammin’ new art exhibit tonight in Jackson with excitement in his voice.

  Cameron’s ash black eyes instantly find me and a smile curves at his lips. “Good morning, princess. ”

  Princess? I smooth my hair down and trot down the stairs. “What are you doing here?”

  Cameron is dressed in dark jeans, a grey Henley, and black boots, and he has an array of leather bands on his wrist. But with his blonde hair and tan skin, he looks more vintage than gothic. “I came to see you. ”

  Ian’s head is covered with a beanie and his eyebrows and his jeans are smudged with charcoal. He looks uncomfortable, standing next to Cameron, who’s about six inches taller than him. “Well, I’ll let you two chat or whatever. ” He raises his eyebrows at me and wariness flashes in his eyes. He doesn’t like Cameron and I find it odd because Ian usually is “all about the love. ”

  “If you need anything, just holler,” Ian says and heads upstairs. Seconds later the door to his studio slams shut.

  “I thought we weren’t going out until later,” I say quickly and comb my fingers through my tangled hair and then cross my arms over my chest because I don’t have a bra on. “And I was actually going to call you. . . Something came up and I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it to the poetry slam tonight. ”

  “Are you blowing me off?” His tone is clipped and his jaw is taut.

  “No. ” I’m thrown off by his sullen attitude. “I just had something come up. . . My mom needs my help with something. ”

  “That’s funny, because your brother just told me your mom’s out of town. ” He sounds irritated.

  “Did he…” I rack my brain for another excuse.

  “Does this have anything to do with the owner of the GTO in your driveway?” he asks bluntly, moving closer to me and I can see just how dark his eyes are, like black ink.

  “Um…” I don’t know what to say.

  Thankfully, the front door swings open and Raven pops her head in. Her pink hair is fluffed up in the front and pulled up into a ponytail. Bright pink eyeliner frames her eyes and she’s wearing a black dress trimmed with crimson leather.

  “Hey, chica,” she chirps. “Thanks for letting Asher and I meet at your house. It totally sucks that my brother doesn’t approve of him. ” She gives me a secret wink, then grabs my hand and says to Cameron, “Can you hold on, hun? I gotta borrow her for just a second. ”

  Cameron motions at the stairway and smiles. “By all means, go ahead. I can wait. ”

  “Thank you, gorgeous. ” Raven drags me up the stairs and stops once we’re in the hall out of Cameron’s sight, then she slaps my arm. “You slut. Please tell me he’s still naked in your bed. ”

  “What are you talking about?” I play dumb.

  She rolls her eyes. “The hot sexy guy who had his car parked in your driveway all night. ”

  “I didn’t sleep with him. ” I lower my voice. “Well, not in the way you’re thinking. We just fell asleep in my bed. ”

  She eyes me like a cop trying to break down a criminal. “So nothing happened at all?”

  “We kissed,” I say. “And did a few… other things. ”

  A grin rises on her face. “Dear God, please share the details. ”

  I shake my head. Even though she tells me everything, I don’t feel like sharing stuff with her, at least about Asher. It feels too private and sharing it with her seems wrong almost, because it would almost ruin the perfection.

  Her mouth sinks to a frown. “Okay, well here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to get Asher to agree to come with me and then Cameron won’t ever have to know about this. ”

  “I don’t think I want to go out with Cameron,” I protest. “I really like Asher. ”

  “So,” she says, shaking her head. “It’s not like you’re dating. You’ve been out with him once. ”

  “And he saved me from drowning in the lake. ” I let it slip it out.

  She swats my arm again and I flinch from the spark of her death. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”

  I rub my arm and shrug. “You were talking about how much you wanted him and I don’t know…”

  “You just kept your mouth shut, like you always do. ” She takes me by the shoulders and looks me straight in the eyes, as if her next words are the most important thing I will ever hear. “Look, Em, I love you so much and that’s why I’m going to do you this favor. You’re going to go out on a date with Cameron. ” I open my mouth to argue, but she shushes me. “You owe it to yourself not to get serious with anyone yet. Serious relationships mean things I don’t think you’re ready for. ”

  I eye her warily. “We did some pretty serious stuff last night. ”

  “Oh, I’m sure,” she says like I’m an amatuer.

  The door of my bedroom unexpectedly opens up and Asher walks out, slipping on his jacket. He’s got bed-head, but it’s ridiculously sexy. “So that went a little differently than I planned. I don’t even remember falling asleep. ” He shoves up the sleeves of his jacket, ignoring Raven. “I want to take you somewhere today, if that’s okay?”

  I open my mouth to say yes, but Raven interposes, positioning herself between us. “Em’s already got plans. ”

  I glare at her. “I’m going to cancel. ”

  Asher looks at Raven as he buttons up his jacket. “With you?”

; She aims a conniving look at him. “No, with Cameron. You know, the other new guy who just moved here… I’m sure you do since everyone in this town knows everything about each other. ”

  Asher narrows his eyes at her. “Yeah, I know who he is. ”

  “Good, then I don’t have to stand here and explain it to you. ” She links arms with him and Asher gapes at me. “You can hang out with me today. ”

  She leads him toward the stairs and I’m surprised by how little of a fight Asher puts up.

  “Wait a minute,” I hiss, hurrying after them, but they ignore me, heading down the stairs.

  When Asher and Cameron see each other, the air suffocates and stills.

  “Well, you two have fun,” Raven singsongs, tugging Asher down the last of the stairs and toward the door.

  I’m getting irritated as I trot down the steps. “Raven, would you wait a minute. ” I stop beside them. “Asher, can we talk for a second?” I really don’t want to go with Cameron, at least, not more than I want to spend the day with Asher.

  But Asher won’t meet my eyes and he seems eager to leave. “I’ll see you later, Ember,” he says, like we’re acquaintances.

  I open my mouth to beg him to stay, but they walk out the door, and Asher takes my tranquility and silence from death with him. I’m dumbstruck. What the hell just happened and why was he so okay with leaving? Thoughts of the two of them making out infest my brain like annoying little bugs.

  “I thought we could spend the day at the lake,” Cameron’s voice intervenes my thoughts and I tear my gaze from the door. There’s something off about his demeanor today; the misery and internal torture he so often carries has evaporated into self-assurance.

  “Yeah… I just need to change first. ” I retreat toward the stairs, wishing I’d never agreed to the date in the first place. Cameron can’t touch me without driving me insane, so what’s the point of doe-eyed looks and flirty conversation? That’s not what I want at all. What I want is Asher.

  I hurry up to my room and throw on a pair of black shorts and knee-high lace-up boots that have a maroon ribbon lacing up the center. I clip on my bracelets, grab my leather jacket and meet Cameron downstairs.

  He’s looking at the same baby photo as Asher did last night. “You look happy in this one,” he observes.

  “I was two,” I say, flipping my hair out of the collar of my jacket. “A cardboard box could make me smile. ”

  “Yeah, you’re probably right. ” He turns away from the photo and opens the front door, his gaze slowly taking in my legs and chest. “After you, beautiful. ”

  I walk outside and frown at the empty driveway. Raven’s car is still parked in her driveway next door. I wonder if they really left together. This bothers me. A lot. Maybe more than anything in my life.

  Chapter 13

  The first half of the drive with Cameron is awkward, but mostly because Cameron’s dad keeps calling him and chewing him out over the phone. From what I catch on, he’s in town, and pissed off about something. I wonder if that’s who I saw at the bar; if the older Cameron clone was actually his dad.