Cinder x, p.26
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       Cinder X, p.26

         Part #2 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 26


  “Just because the poem says Ember, doesn’t mean I wrote it about me,” I say quietly, crisscrossing my legs.

  “It’s not about you then?”

  I shake my head, but then sigh despairingly. “All right, it is about me, but keep in mind that I wrote it when I was fifteen and wasn’t handling my gift very well. I always felt completely alone and empty, kind of like how I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks. ”

  “I never want you to feel alone and empty…” He trails off as his gaze glides downward to the necklace resting in the hollow of my neck. His slate eyes turn as dark as magma. “Where did you get that?”

  I cover the pendant with my hand. “Um, Cameron gave it to me just a while ago,” I tell him and then quickly add, “He said it would protect me from the death that’s supposed to be in my near future. ”

  “It will protect you…” He trails off again, his eyes gliding up to mine. He looks pained. “Wait a minute, you were with him before; that’s where you were?”

  I feel like an asshole as I nod. “He showed up at the house this morning. ”

  “And just gave it to you? Without taking anything in return?” He’s not buying it.

  “Well, after he took me to his house,” I say ashamedly.

  His jaw muscles go taut. “You went with him to his house. Alone? How…? Why…? Do you…?” He scratches at the back of his neck as more and more anger rises. “Do you like him?”

  “What? No. Asher, it’s not like that. He was just chattering in my head and then he told me he had something to give me. I don’t like him. At all. I promise. ” Laughter instantly fills my head and even though I hate to admit it, it’s not Cameron’s; it’s my own.

  “Yet you trusted him enough to go with him,” he says, the hurt on his face so overwhelming that I feel like crying. “Trust means a lot, especially when it comes to you. You don’t trust very often. ”

  “It’s not like that… he just—” I blow out a frustrated breath. “Sometimes when he’s around it’s hard to think straight. Besides, I trust you more than I trust anyone. ”

  He’s still unconvinced, however he lets his anger go. “I just want you to be careful. ” He takes my hand. “You’re so important to me. ”

  I’m not sure how to respond to his endearing remark, therefore I remain silent. I do need to be more careful, but at the same time, I’m glad that I have the necklace right now because it makes me feel safe. It always has since the day my grandmother gave it to me.

  He releases my hand from his and rubs his eyes like he’s exhausted. “I feel weird, like really tired all the time and overly emotional. I think it might be because I was banished and am feeling more human stuff or something. ”

  I force a light tone. “I’m sure it’ll get easier with time. ”

  “I hope so,” he says, his mood plummeting. “The last thing I need is to be weakened by emotions, especially when you need me. ”

  “I’ll be fine,” I assure him then get to my feet, threading my fingers through his and pulling him with me. “Which reminds me, I need to check my email. ”

  “Why?” he asks as we exit the closet, holding hands.

  “Because I’ve been trying to get a hold of this guy named August Millard. ” I let go of his hand, get my laptop from the dresser, and drop down on my unmade bed. “Who wrote that book your uncle erased. I’m hoping he might be able to give me some answers, not just about freeing the town from the possession but also what lies for me ahead if I become a Grim Angel. ”

  “My uncle didn’t erase the book… he just hid everything in it,” he says, sitting down next to me. “Besides, when my uncle puts the words on the pages, I can translate it for you. ”

  “Yeah, but the book can’t tell me everything, like what’s going to happen to me if I’m the last one remaining. ” I say. “But August seems like he might know enough about it and he can tell me unlike you. ”

  “I already told you I don’t know everything. Only our leaders do, since they’re the ones who created the curse. ” He sighs. “And the parts that I do know, you wouldn’t want to know. ”

  “I do want to know,” I insist. “And August isn’t an Angel so he might be able to tell me. ”

  “If you really want to know stuff…. ” He rubs a hand over his face. “I might be able to tell you a few things. ”

  “But I thought you were bound not to tell because you’re an Angel. ”

  “Yeah, but—but I’m not feeling very…. ” He angles his head back and looks up at the ceiling like he’s thinking deep, feeling what lies inside him. “Angel right now and it makes me wonder what would happen if I told you stuff I knew. ”

  I open my laptop and press the power button. “You could try it out,” I suggest, thinking about how Asher’s uncle was able to tell me stuff and he was an Angel of Death once. “Although, I’m not really sure what will happen if you try to tell me and you can’t. Will you just not be able to say anything, or do you simply get in trouble?”

  He absentmindedly reaches behind him and touches the spot on his back where I saw his wings sprout from. “No, in the past my lips literally couldn’t utter the secrets bound in the Death Angels’ circle. ”

  I yawn as the computer screen lights up. “Okay, then you should try to tell me something and see where it goes. ”

  “I’m not sure I want to tell you the parts that I know,” he states with indecision, staring down at his hands.

  I type in my password, feeling my stomach jolt in fear of just how bad it is. “Why not?”

  He swallows hard, glancing up at me, his eyes flooded with worry. “Because it’s bad. ”

  “Worse than being tortured by a group of rebellious Reapers?” I point out, trying to be calm, but my nerves are jumbled.

  He sighs heavy-heartedly, his head slumping forward as he shakes it. “It’s way worse than that, Ember. There’s so much more to it than just the torture. ”

  I recollect the death omen I saw, the blood staining the streets—blood that belonged to the entire town. “Please just tell me. I need to know what I have to face, if it comes down to that. ”

  When he raises his head, he has a heart-wrenching look on his face, like he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His lips part. Words leave his mouth. Words he’s probably not supposed to tell me, yet somehow he manages to speak them. “In order for the battle between the Reapers and Angels to come to a complete end—which I’m not even sure how we get there—you’ll have to choose a side. You’ll pick between good and evil—pick the world’s fate, and then… you have to sacrifice the life of someone close to you with your own hands. ” He shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath before he speaks, his voice barely a whisper, but I still hear him as clear as day. “Someone you love. ”

  Chapter 13

  I don’t say anything for a while. I can’t. My voice has drifted away like ash stolen by the wind. Sacrifice the life of someone I love. That’s where this is all leading if I end up being the last one standing.

  “So, you’re saying that regardless of what happens—whether I choose Angels or Reapers—I’ll have to kill by sacrifice someone I love to make it all end?” I want to cry, yet my eyes refuse to produce tears.

  Asher nods, watching me attentively. “Either way, you’ll have to face the choice. ”

  “I could never do it,” I whisper, setting the laptop to the side as I struggle to breathe. “I’m not a killer. ” And I’m not even sure I’m in love with anyone.

  He grabs my arm and guides me closer to him. “I know you’re not… I’m just telling you what I know about the battle. ” His arms wrap around me and he pulls me in for a tight embrace.

  I shake my head in astonishment, my arms pinned between us because I can’t seem to find the strength to lift them up to hug him back. “I couldn’t do it. Even if I’m the last one standing, I’ll never be able to go through with it. ”

  “I know,” he says, kissing the
top of my head. “We’ll figure out something. ”

  “We don’t even know if I’ll be the last one. ” I utter. “I’d have to… no… I can’t… I can’t be the last Grim Angel standing… I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen, if I have to, even if I have to take my own life. ”

  “Ember. ” Asher forces my body against his, tucking my head beneath his chin. “Don’t talk like that. We’ll find a way out of this, even if it ends up that you’re the last Grim Angel standing, I won’t let things end for you like that. ”

  “I’m not going to be the last one,” I insist, leaning away to meet his eyes. “There’s got to be another way. . . someone else has got to bear that burden. Not me. ” It sounds like such a selfish thing to say and the moment it leaves my lips, I hate myself for saying it. Yet, I want it to be true.

  “There has to be something else. Something I don’t know,” he mumbles to himself.

  “But how can we find out? I mean, there’s hardly any information anywhere about Grim Angels. ”

  “I’m not sure…” He lets go of me with one hand and rubs his jawline. “We need to meet up with my uncle, not just so he can get the pages back on the book, but he also might know more about this than I do, considering he’s much older and wiser. ”

  “Well, I’m going to get a hold of August Millard still, just in case. Plus, he could know more. ” I move out of his arms, reaching for my computer. Asher observes me with curiosity as I open up the browser and my inbox. My heart leaps when I see that I have one unopened message from an August Millard.

  “Know more than me and my uncle?” Asher says with skepticism as he leans over my shoulder and squints at the screen. “I don’t want to be negative, but at the same time, this is just a guy that wrote a book. ”

  “A book that talks about ways to free people from possession,” I say, clicking on the message. “Do you know how to do that?”

  He shakes his head with dissatisfaction. “I’ve never heard of a human being able to break their Reaper possession, unless the Reaper themselves break it. And I sure as hell haven’t heard of a Grim Angel’s soul getting possessed. ”

  “Well, this book explained it. Although, it was in Latin, so all I got was the intro. ” I take a deep breath and read the message aloud. “Dear Miss Edwards, I’m so very please that you took the time to read my book and write me such a passionate letter. I would like to accept your request that we should meet up and discuss my research about Angels of Death and the Grim Reapers that walk amongst us. Please give me a call at your convenience. ” At the bottom, he wrote his name and number. I glance over my shoulder at Asher who’s reading the screen. “Well, what do you think?”