Ember x, p.25
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       Ember X, p.25

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 25


  By the time he hangs up, we’re at the mouth of the canyon that wraps around the lake. The heater is on, but it’s hot outside and my skin starts to get damp underneath my leather jacket.

  “So your friend finally found someone interested in her, huh?” Cameron tosses his phone into the console.

  I crack the window and suck in some fresh air. “Asher’s not interested in her. . . They’re just friends. ”

  He turns down the heat. “Hmm… that’s not what I saw. It looked to me like they were both happy to be leaving with each other. ”

  “I don’t agree with you,” I say, slightly irked. “And Asher isn’t really her type. ”

  “It seems like everyone’s her type, if you ask me,” he comments, downshifting. “Ember, is something wrong? You seem mad at me for some reason. ”

  I encounter his gaze and the hurt in his eyes makes me feel bad. “Sorry, I just didn’t sleep very well last night. ”

  The pain in his eyes subsides as the sunlight reflects in his pupils. “Well, you could have always came down to the cemetery and kept me company. ”

  “Why were you there?” I ask. “Were you looking for the family jewel again?”

  “No, I gave up on that,” he replies. “I was actually there, hoping you’d show up again. ”

  “Sure you were. ” My tone is cheerful, but I’m anxious on the inside. Unlike Asher, Cameron makes me feel uneasy, in both good ways and bad. “And now you’re going to tell me that you can’t stop thinking about me. ”

  His passionate expression intensifies and he lowers his voice to an intimate level. “Actually, I was going to tell you how much I like that shirt on you. ”

  I glance down at the lace-up shirt Raven gave me that I’ve never worn until now. I don’t even understand why I chose to wear it. Maybe subconsciously to live up to Cameron’s flashy standards, and if it is, I’m disappointed in myself.

  He reaches over the console and fiddles with the ribbon on the front of my shirt, twisting it around his finger. “You’re so much different from the other girls I’ve dated. ” He gives a gentle tug on the ribbon, loosening it. “There’s so much substance to you. And innocence. ”

  The top of my shirt is starting to unlace and my black lacy bra showing. I want to tell him to stop, but I can’t seem to get the words out, so I let him open my shirt, then he grazes his fingers across the top of my chest. I breathe as quietly as I can.

  “Maybe you’re not as innocent as I thought,” he says in an accusing tone as his fingers trail lower.

  I lean away and tie the ribbon back up. “Don’t pretend like you know me. ”

  It gets awkwardly quiet.

  He sighs, pulling back, and flips on the blinker. “Look, I’m sorry. I can be kind of cocky sometimes, but I promise I’ll try to tone it down for today. ”

  I slip off my jacket and ball it on my lap. “No, I’m sorry. I’m acting rude again and I don’t know why. ” Because I want to be with Asher.

  “Because I make you nervous,” he says simply and slows down the car. He turns down a bumpy, dirt road that inclines to the shore of the lake. The steep, rocky hillside is covered with shiny fragments—my dad’s Challenger. This is the exact spot where the accident happened.

  “What’s the matter?” Cameron silences the engine and takes the keys out of the ignition.

  I rip my gaze from the lake. “Nothing… What are we doing here?”

  He points at a fire pit in the middle of the shore. “Some people told me this was a good place to go. ”

  “Yeah, to get wasted and have sex,” I say, thinking of all the lake parties Raven has dragged me to.

  He shoves open the car door. “You say that like it’s a bad thing. ” He slams the door and walks toward the lake.

  Shaking my head, I hop out of the car and slam the door. The metallic pieces of the Challenger glimmer in the sunlight like nickels and I pluck a piece from the rocks and turn it over in my hand.

  “Looks like someone had a bad accident. ” Cameron appears at my side and takes the piece of metal from my hand. “They must have been driving really fast to shatter the car so bad. ”

  “Yeah, probably. ” I stroll to the edge of the shore where the water meets the sand. Is the necklace still down there, trapped in the car?

  Cameron comes up behind me and leans over my shoulder, whispering in my ear, “Tell me what you’re thinking. ” He uses the same seductive voice as he did in the cemetery, the one that pulled me to him, that begged me to touch him.

  I feel lightheaded; almost hypnotized. “I’m just sad…”

  “Tell me why,” he purrs. “Maybe I can help. ”

  It feels like I’ve drunk a bottle of wine and topped it off with a few shots of tequila. “I was the one who wrecked… and my car, it’s at the bottom of the lake. ”

  “There was something important in it, wasn’t there?”

  I nod absentmindedly. “A necklace my grandmother gave me. ”

  He moves to the side of me and reaching over his shoulder, he tugs off his shirt. He tosses it on the ground and wades into the water until it is waist deep.

  “Cameron, what are you doing?” I call out, stepping up to the line of the water. “You can’t—” He springs up with his arms up and then swan-dives into the water, vanishing. I stand on the shore, searching for a glimpse of him resurfacing, but too much time goes by for a normal person to breathe underwater.

  I pat my pockets for my phone. “Shit. ” I left it at home.

  I run back to the Jeep to grab Cameron’s phone that I saw him toss in the console, but stop in my tracks when a tall figure darts out of the trees and cowers down behind the back of the Jeep. Fear rushes through me as I glance back at the lake and then at the car.

  “Shit. ” I waver for a moment and then sprint for the car, picking up a long, sharp stick before I cautiously open the passenger door. Without taking my eyes off the rear end of the Jeep, I feel around the inside of the cab until I find Cameron’s cell phone.

  I swipe my finger across the screen and search for the dial pad, but nearly drop the phone when the tall figure steps out from the back of the Jeep. He’s dressed in his usual back cloak that shields his eyes, but I know he’s looking at me.

  “I told you to go away last night. ” I back away from the Grim Reaper with the stick out in front of me. “And you have to leave because I told you to. Those are the rules. ”

  “You didn’t mean it,” he purrs softly, stepping toward me with the tail of his cloak dragging along the ground.

  I chuck the stick at him and he leans to the side so it misses his head. “Yes, I did. And I told you to go. I’m not a child and I can’t see you anymore. ”

  “You’ll see me forever. ” He stalks toward me, step after step, eyes fastened on mine.

  My feet are frozen in place, but not out of fear. In a weird, twisted way I’ve always wanted to find out what’s beneath the hood. When he gets close enough, I reach my fingers toward him and he allows me to grab the brim. I begin to lift it back, but I hear water splashing and reel around just in time to see Cameron break the surface. He floats in the water, his lengthy arms guiding him to the shore and the sunlight sparkles across his tan skin.

  Ripping my gaze from him, I glance back at the Grim Reaper, but he’s gone.

  “I got it for you,” Cameron calls out as he wades out of the lake. Beads of water drip from his hair and down his well-defined abs as the sunlight glows against the sky behind him. It’s straight out of a cheesy movie scene, where everything is fake. Fake.

  The closer Cameron gets to me, the more nervous I grow; yet, I can’t seem to take my eyes off him. His soaked jeans ride low on his hips and my head begins to conjure a poem with words like perfection. Then fake, plastic, nonexistent.

  He struts up to me with a smile on his face and my grandma’s necklace dangling from his fingers. “Did I mention that I’m an excellent swimmer?” He stops in front of
me, grinning and then reaches around and hooks the necklace around my neck without coming into contact with my skin.

  The maroon gem rests at the hollow of my neck as I rub my finger along it. I’m speechless, not because he brought me the necklace, but because he was able to retrieve it from the bottom of the lake.

  Suddenly, he places his hands on my arms and I stiffen, my breath catching. “You don’t have to say anything. ” His hands travel up my arms, over my shoulders, and down just below my neck, leaving a trail of water on my skin.

  My heart erratically pounds in my chest and his phone falls from my hand. He’s touching me and I can’t hear the noise of death, just like when Asher touches me. Jesus. How can this be? How can I go through nineteen years, asphyxiated by deaths and then suddenly two guys enter my life around the same time and give me silence?

  But Cameron instills a different kind of quiet than Asher. There’s a hint of static inside my body and mind and instead of calm, I feel out of control, like when my car went over the cliff.

  “Your heart’s racing,” he whispers with an arrogant smirk as he presses his palm flat against my chest, over my uncontrollable heart. He dips his head down toward my neckline and sucks the water off my skin. It feels wrong, yet, right, somehow. As his lips inch closer and closer, an involuntary moan escapes my lips, especially when his other palm glides up the front of me and cups my breast. I feel hypnotized and start to surrender in his arms as he tugs down my top and my chest heaves with my ragged breath.

  “God, you smell and taste so good,” he whispers, sucking on the curve of my breast and his other hand starts to wander up the front of my shirt. “You’re mouthwatering. ”

  I’m working up a protest, when he swiftly pulls away with his forehead furrowed as he peers over my shoulder. I turn around to see what he’s looking at. Mackenzie’s shiny Mercedes is winding down the dirty road, headed straight for us.

  “Did you invite her here?” I ask with a frown.

  His eyes are locked on the car as he shakes his head. “Nope, I’m just as surprised as you. ”

  The car slams to a stop beside the Jeep and kicks up a cloud of dust. The door swings opens and Mackenzie steps out, adjusting her neon pink dress as she struts forward, her high heels wobbling over the rocks. The passenger door flies open and her best friend, Dana Millard, climbs out.

  “You have got to be kidding me,” I mutter with a heavy-hearted sigh.

  Cameron raises his eyebrows. “What? You don’t like her?”

  “Honestly, no,” I say and he smiles for some strange reason.

  Mackenzie waves her hand as she heads in our direction. “Hey, I didn’t know you were coming to this. ” She struts straight up to Cameron without so much as giving me an acknowledging glance. “I thought you said you were busy tonight. ”

  A lifted truck rolls down the road, followed by a line of fancy SUVs, trucks, and cars. It’s Saturday night and the whole college campus is probably headed down here.