Cinder x, p.31
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       Cinder X, p.31

         Part #2 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 31

 

  It’s late; the moon a massive ring filled with light that glimmers through my window and illuminates the drawings and poetic ramblings on my wall; words the Reaper seems very interested in as he reads them.

  “What are you doing here?” I ask the Reaper who’s haunted me off and on since I was a child; the one that always seems to come back just when I’m about to believe he’s disappeared out of my life forever. “I thought you went away. ”

  “I came back,” he says simply, the hood over his head masking his face from me, but as he steps out of the shadows and into the moonlight, the glow of the moon hits his face. “I needed to tell you something. ”

  I shake my head, wrapping my arms around myself as I eye the door, wanting to run, but I know he’ll simply follow me. He always does. “No way. I don’t want to hear anything that you say… I just want you to leave. ”

  He takes another step towards my bed, seeming to grow taller with every movement. “Don’t tell lies, Ember Rose. You know that you’ve missed me. ”

  “Liar,” I say, but it’s not entirely true. Sometimes, when I’m really lonely, when my mom’s out doing drugs, my father’s stealing cars and my brother is out with his girlfriend getting high, I do wish he was here. “I never miss you when you leave. ”

  He shakes his head as the afterglow of his eyes brightens, highlighting the features of his face. “Another lie, but I’ll let it go because I came here to tell you something important. ”

  I move my hands to cover my ears. “I don’t want to hear it. ”

  “It’s about your father,” he says swiftly. With that, my hands fall to my lap.

  “What about him?” I ask worriedly, knowing it can never be a good thing when the Grim Reaper shows up in your room and says he knows something about your father.

  He walks the rest of the distance to the bed and then hovers over me. “He’s going to die. ”

  I shake my head, scooting away as the feel of his death flows off his body and tries to enter me. “You’re lying. ”

  He sinks down on my bed, nearly sitting on my legs as he makes himself at home. “I never lie. You know that. ”

  “I know nothing other than you show up sometimes and drive me insane. ”

  “That’s my job. ”

  “Well, it’s a sucky job,” I tell him. “Which makes you sucky. ”

  He chuckles, almost sounding human except his eyes are glowing and he’s wearing a cloak. “I love your sense of humor. You and I are really going to get along. ”

  “No, we’re not,” I protest. “Because you’re going to go away again. ”

  “We’ll still see if you feel the same way when I tell you what I know,” he says. I hold my breath, waiting for him to divulge what he knows, even though I know I should probably be running for the door. “I’ve been sent on a mission,” he starts, “to collect a very valuable soul. ”

  I swallow hard, shivering from the chill creeping into my body. “Whose soul?”

  “I think you already know the answer, but just to be clear, it’s your father’s. ”

  “But he’s not dead,” I choke, gripping onto the edge of the blanket. “He can’t be. ”

  “He isn’t yet,” the Reaper replies, rising to his feet. “But as soon as I collect his soul, he will be. ”

  I grab onto his cloak, despite my initial urge not to touch him. “Wait, please don’t do it. Please. ”

  He glances over his shoulder at me. “It’s my job, princess. ”

  “But I’m asking you not to,” I say in a pleading voice as I hold onto his cloak and kneel up on my bed. “Please, he’s the only one in my family that’s nice to me anymore. ”

  “You think I care,” he questions, “about you?”

  “I don’t know. . . but you’re here, aren’t you? And that’s got to mean something. ”

  He misses a beat and then quickly strides forward towards the door, swishing the end of his cloak behind him. “I’m giving you a few minutes to warn him,” he says and then opens the door. “Then I’m going to do what I have to. ”

  He exits the room and I leap to my feet, running out into the hall. It’s dark and the house is quiet, the temperature icy and haunting, carrying a warning that death was just here. That he’s about to take my dad’s soul, which means my dad’s going to die.

  No. I won’t let it happen.

  I hurry through the darkness and then sprint down the stairs, racing for the kitchen phone. I dial my dad’s house number, but no answer, so I try his cellphone. It’s been disconnected. I hang up, glancing around the kitchen as I attempt to figure out what to do next. I could tell my mom if she’s here, or my brother. Though, even if one of them is sober, they’d never believe me.

  Not able to think of another solution, I do something that I know is stupid. I call the police to report my dad’s death, and as the words leave my lips, I swear I hear the Reaper’s laughter echoing around me.

  Chapter 17

  When I wake up, I’m surrounded by a thin cloud of mist that quickly dissolves. I can tell my wings are still out by the way it feels like I’m lying on a pile of pillows. I’m not sure where I am. In a bed, that much I can tell, but the room I’m in looks like it belongs to a cottage. The walls are made of wood. Vines and flowers grow across the banisters in the ceiling. There’s a dresser in the corner and a mirror on the farthest wall. There are also paintings on the walls; some of landscapes, some of Angels, others are abstracts, full of vibrant colors and intricate shapes.

  “Where am I?” I mutter, blinking my eyes.

  “You’re somewhere safe where the Reaper’s can’t get to you. ” The sound of Asher’s voice kisses my skin, but at the same time it repulses me, something hidden inside me shouts to stay away from him, that I need—want—to hear someone else’s voice. Someone that calls me princess.

  I shove the voice out of my mind and rotate my head to the side. Asher appears through the doorway with his arms crossed over his chest. He’s changed his clothes and is now wearing a plain grey shirt, dark jeans and boots. His inky black hair is a little damp like he just got out of the shower while the tiredness in his eyes has diminished only slightly.

  “How are you feeling?” he asks with caution, his gaze skimming every inch of me as I sit up.

  I push the blankets off me, fighting to keep my body upright against the protest of my wings that flutter uncontrollably and bump against the wall behind me. “What happened?”

  He walks to the middle of the room cautiously as he skims over my wings, desire filling his eyes and making my skin tingle. “Cameron put you in a state of sleepiness. ” He sighs, unfolding his arms. “It’s a stupid Reaper thing. ”

  I shake my head, trying to find the nerves that control my wings to stop them from fluttering. “No, not that…” I rub my eyes several times as red creeps into my vision again. “I mean, what the hell happened back there? With the shadows… and you were talking to Cameron like that… Why?”

  He takes long strides to my bedside and he still seems nervous and tense as he shifts his weight uneasily. Then, with reluctance, he sinks down beside the bed as if he’s bowing before me. “I haven’t been completely honest with you. ”

  I bend one of my knees up and wrap my arms around it to hold up my body. “I figured as much. ”

  “And I’m sorry for that. ” He pauses, studying me with a look that makes my skin heat and my temper flare, but the rage is directed more at myself. “Remember how I told you that I had to make a choice whether I wanted to be a Reaper or Angel of Death?” he asks and I nod. “Well, I left out an important part of the story. ”

  I frown as I slant forward, trying to get more room for my wings. “I’m guessing it has to do with Cameron. ”

  He nods, his gaze flicking to my wings, and for a fleeting moment, yearning flashes across his face. I half expect him to grab me and take me here on the bed… which doesn’t sound so bad, yet at the same time, it does.

&nb
sp; “It does have to do with Cameron. ” He fiddles with his eyebrow piercing as he chooses his words carefully. “Cameron was faced with a choice, too. ” He pauses again and I feel the tension. “Because he’s my brother. My twin brother. ”

  It takes a second or two for what he’s saying to register. Between everything that’s happened, I think I’ve entered a state of shock and it makes it hard to process things that seem so unrealistic.

  When I speak, my voice comes out strangely calm. “So, he chose his Reaper blood,” I say. The story sounds strangely like my own story; whether I choose evil or good, Reaper or Angel, I now have an example of each. Of what I could become depending on what I choose. And now I have to choose. The wings growing out of my back are proof, but why just wings? Where’s the sign of my Reaper blood?

  “My mother had us both and we both faced the same decision,” Asher explains, pressing his lips together when my wings tremble for no given reason. I keep waiting for him to say something, however it’s like he’s afraid to. “I chose to accept my Angel blood and he chose to accept his Reaper blood. ”

  “So you were—are—brothers,” I say, still processing that all this time they’ve been brothers. All this time both of them have omitted the truth from me. I’m not sure how I feel about it—whether I should feel anything about it—because it seems like there’s so many more things to worry about; worse things.

  He nods. “Sadly, we are. ”

  The past starts to make a little more sense. Why they were always fighting so much. Granted, they are Reaper and Angel, but being brothers makes things more complicated. “So does he know who your dad is?”

  He shakes his head, his eyes fixed on mine. “It’s the downfall of having a Reaper as a dad—they don’t make the best fathers. Besides, ours… well, he didn’t want anything to do with us. ”

  His sadness begins to get to me and I tentatively put a hand on his unshaven cheek, trying to comfort him even though I want to be comforted as well. “I’m sorry. Not just for your father and not knowing exactly who he is, but for Cameron being your brother. ”

  His lips tip up into the most depressing smile I’ve ever seen. “You don’t need to feel bad for me; you have your own family problems, too, and I lied to you. ”

  It feels like I should be more furious with him, but at the same time, I’m not sure I’d want to admit Cameron was my brother, either. “Asher, my mom… I saw her back in the crowd…” I force back the impending tears. “She’s dead, isn’t she?” I ask it as a question, but I already know the answer. “Was she a Grim Angel too… she said something about my grandfather being one. ”

  “I’m not sure…” He hesitates, but then something flashes in his eyes—false hope maybe. Then he swiftly shakes his head and grabs my legs, pulling me to him. “We don’t know for sure that she’s dead,” he says, his hands sliding up across the fabric of my torn up jeans until they reach my hips. “It could easily be the Anamotti messing with your head. ”