Ember x, p.32
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       Ember X, p.32

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 32


  “Is he paying them off?” I ask, astonished, and she gives a subtle nod. I consider the dilemma for a moment, but there isn’t much to consider. “Fine, I’ll keep my mouth shut, but please try to figure something else out, before they actually arrest me. ”

  “Thank you, Ember,” she says gratefully and lowers her hands to her lap. “And I’m sorry, you know, for treating you so badly in school. ” She gets up and wraps her arms around me.

  My eyes widen as I prepare myself, but her death never announces itself.

  She retreats for the doorway, telling Cameron, “I’m going to go lay down, Cam. I’m really tired. ”

  She disappears out the doorway and I turn to Cameron.

  “So it still doesn’t explain how the cops found out where my car was,” I say.

  “That’s a question I can’t answer for you. ” He rests his arms on his legs and interlocks his fingers. “The only thing I can say is that there has to be someone else who knew where your car was. ”

  Asher. And perhaps the person who was tailgating me that night.

  “Did someone save you?” he wonders with accusation in his eyes. “Or did you swim out of the car on your own?”

  “I have excellent panic reaction skills. ” I get to my feet. “I should get home. It’s late. ”

  He walks me to the door, but pushes it closed when I start to open it. “Can I show you something first, before you go?” His nice guy act is back, like when we first met and had that briefly decent moment in his Jeep.

  Sighing, I go upstairs with him into his room. There’s a large bed in the middle of the room, a tall dresser in the corner, and a door that extends to a small patio with a camping chair on it. The walls are black and bare except for a white accent wall with lines and lines of poetry scribbled on it.

  “Are they your words?” I ask, amazed, and he nods. I walk up to the wall and read the poem that centers them all. “In separate fields of black feathers, the birds fly. Four wings, two hearts, but only one soul. They connect in the middle, but are separated by a thin line of ash. It’s what brings them together, yet rips their feathers apart. They can never truly be together as light and dark. Unless one makes the ultimate sacrifice, blows out their candle, and joins the other in the dark. ”

  Cameron watches me with interest. “So what do you think it means?”

  “They could never be together,” I say, running my fingers along the words. “Unless one died? But why? What makes the other one fly in the land of the dead?”

  “That’s something you’ll have to figure out on your own. ” He chips a flake of blood off my shirt. “You should know that a poet doesn’t like to explain the meaning behind his words. ”

  I bite at my fingernail. “Yeah, I understand that completely. But you should know that, as a poet, I have a desire to understand words. ”

  “You know,” he steps closer, “we never got to go to that poetry slam. ”

  “That wasn’t my fault,” I remind him, stepping back.

  “You’re the one that ran away. ” He places a hand on my wrist and tenderly traces it up to my shoulder. “I was trying to make you jealous. ”

  “Cameron,” I say with caution, looking at the wall. “You didn’t happen to see a black car with really tinted windows up at the lake, did you?”

  His fingers discover my collarbone and he traces circles over my skin. “No, why? Did something happen with this car?”

  A soundless sensation numbs my mind and I feel myself falling to him as his hand travels downward toward my chest. But Asher’s face enters my mind and I shake my head and sigh through his touch. “I should get going. “

  His fingers drift down the front of my body as I turn to leave and he hitches the bottom of my shirt. “You can stay here, if you want. You can sleep in my bed. ” He raises his hand innocently. “I promise not to touch you, unless you ask. ”

  “Is that the same thing you told Mackenzie?” I ask with an arc of my brow.

  “Mackenzie and I are just friends. ” He grins, intentionally grazing his knuckles across my stomach. “But I like that you care. ”

  I waver back and forth between him and the door.

  “Come on, Ember,” he coaxes in that voice that’s hard to resist as he yanks on my shirt and pulls me closer.

  I let him reel me to him, briefly wondering what it would be like for him to thrust inside me. Would it feel the same as with Asher? Or would he be different?

  “Please stay with me. ” He nearly begs.

  I force willpower to my legs and back away for the door. “I’m sorry, Cameron, but I think you’re a little too much for me. ”

  “That’s what all the girls say,” he jokes, but there is a vast sea of pain in his eyes as he releases my shirt. “Hold on. I’ll walk you to the door. ”

  Chapter 18

  When I was thirteen, my mom locked me in the attic for an entire day because she believed I killed several of her house plants. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, only she didn’t let me have anything to drink or eat and there were no bathroom breaks permitted. I walked out of the situation without being too traumatized.

  The only thing that bothered me was her belief that I killed the plants on purpose. At the time, it seemed ridiculous; the idea a person could dry out houseplants in less than five minutes. Now I wonder if perhaps I did do it and if my mom has always known there was something different about me.

  I wake up on the couch, with my legs flopped over the back and my head hanging upside down. It’s late in the afternoon, the sky tinted a pale pink. Children are laughing outside and someone is throttling a motorcycle.

  I lie motionless, with a splitting headache, trying to fall back asleep, not ready to face the day, or find out what Ian’s been doing in his studio all night. I heard someone sneak in late last night, but I didn’t care enough to go see who. There were muffled voices on the stairway and then footsteps headed into the attic.

  Without changing position, I reach for the remote on the coffee table, but the front door swings open and someone comes whisking into the house.

  Their high heels click against the floor. “What the hell happened?” Raven asks with her hands on her hips. “Why was there an ambulance here yesterday?”

  She looks strange upside down, dressed up as an Angel with white-feather wings and a silvery-satin dress. Her pink hair is curled and wound with white ribbon to form a halo on the top of her head.

  I sit up and rub my eyes. “Because my mom flipped out and tried to slit her wrists. ” The words tumble out.

  “Ember…” Her arms fall to her side. She doesn’t have a clue how to react to my honesty. “What can I do to help?”

  I drag my ass off the sofa and her glitter-framed eyes widen at the blood all over my shirt. “You can let me go to sleep for a really, really long time,” I say. “That’s all I want to do is sleep. ”

  She gasps, pressing her hand to her heart. “Why the hell is there dried blood all over you?”

  “Because my mom stabbed me with a pair of scissors,” I confess with a yawn.

  She pries open the gap in my shirt where the scissors had violently entered. “Em, that’s not funny. ”

  “I’m not trying to be funny,” I tell her. “She stabbed me with the scissors and then I almost killed her by sucking the life out of her to heal myself. ”

  “You’re in shock. ” She pulls her hands away. “Or did you hit your head?”

  “Nothing’s wrong with me. ” I push past her. “I’m going to go up to bed to get some rest. Maybe I’ll sleep for an eternity. ”

  She seizes the back of my shirt and pulls me back. “No, you’re not. You’re going to go to this party and have some fun. Depression runs in your family. And I will not let you sink into that dark hole. ”

  I spin on my heels. “My mom is locked up on suicide watch and I found out that my death omen curse stretches farther than I originally thought. I sucked my mom’s life awa
y to help myself survive. I’m not going to a God damn Halloween party. ”

  “You are not going up to your room to write sad poetry about death and pain,” she insists sternly. “Your mom’s pulled a similar stunt before, when she locked you up in the attic for an entire day after she thought you purposefully killed all the plants. ”

  “No, that was different—she actually killed me this time. ” But was it her or the Grim Reaper? It seemed like she could hear him and see him.

  “I don’t care what she did,” Raven says with a bossy attitude. “You’re going. ”

  “Have you lost your mind?” I annunciate each word. “My. Mom. Tried. To. Kill. Me. ”

  “Are you sure?” She twists the silver chain of her necklace. “Maybe you should think about it really hard. ”

  “I…” I stare at her, watching her eye twitch. “What aren’t you telling me?”

  “Nothing. ” She rubs the corner of her eye like she has something stuck in it. “I just think you should go out and have some fun for once. ”

  “I think you should go,” Ian intrudes from the bottom of the staircase. He’s dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt with red paint smeared on it, along with his face and arms. “In fact, I’ll drop you off on my way to my own party. ”

  “You’ve both lost your minds. ” I storm for the stairs, but he dodges to the side, blocking my path. “Move out of my way, Ian. Please. ”

  He shakes his head. “I’m not going to leave you here by yourself after what just happened. Mom will be fine—you’ll be fine. In fact, I got a call from the hospital this morning and they said she’s doing really well. Her wounds are healing really quickly and the meds have stabilized her mood. We should be able to see her tomorrow. ”

  I thrum my fingers on the sides of my legs. “I’m still not going. ”

  “Yes, you are,” Raven insists.

  I shake my head. “I always go with you to every party you’ve ever asked me to, but not this time. ”

  Ian gently shoves me toward the stairway. “Quit being a baby, go get a damn costume on, and go have some fun for once in your fucking life. ”

  “Asher will be there,” Raven entices with a waggle of her eyebrows. “He texted me and said to make sure you were still coming, because you wouldn’t answer your phone. ”

  Asher. The Anamotti. The X on my mom’s head. It all rushes back to me. I need to know what’s going on.

  “Okay, I think I…”

  The Grim Reaper materializes behind Ian with his head tipped down as he floats up to the ceiling. Then he elevates his hand to his face and the sleeve slips down his arm, revealing his human hand.

  “He’s human,” I whisper, unable to move.

  The Reaper puts his finger to his lips. “Shhh… There’s no need to be afraid. The answers are in me,” he purrs and the sound of his voice is enthralling. “Come with me, Ember. I’m begging you. Never look the other way. ”