Ember x, p.4
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       Ember X, p.4

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 4

  “Ember!” Raven shouts over the music as she dances through the crowd, her bubblegum pink wig standing out in the sea of bodies and her hands are in the air. Sweat trickles down her skin and she fans her face as she gets close to me. “What are you doing? You promised to have fun. ” She points an accusing finger at me and blinks her glossy eyes and then leans forward, getting in my face. “In fact, you swore on it. ”

  I take the plastic cup from her hand and swish the drink around, noting there’s only vodka in it and no punch. “I know and I’m trying, I promise, but no more drinks, okay?”

  She pouts out her bottom lip. “Come on, Em. You promised. ”

  I fake an excited dance move, shaking my hips. “And I’m having a blast, I swear. Now go and dance. Have some fun for the both of us. ”

  Annoyance burns in her eyes as she puts her hands on her hips and glares at me. “Are you just being a pain in the ass because you’re here, or is your little death thing putting you in a bad mood?”

  My gaze promptly sweeps the room and I hiss, “Lower your voice. Someone might hear you. ”

  She waves her hands in the air and rolls her eyes. She’s completely wasted and her split personality is coming out. “Oh, big news over here! Little Emmy can see death! Does anyone care?!”

  I pour her drink into the nearest garbage can. “No more drinks for you. ”

  She snarls, about to spit foul words, but a lanky guy, sporting dark jeans and a black T-shirt, interrupts us. “Death is everywhere, my friends. And it will all eventually catch up to us, so what’s the point of running from it. Instead, we should live life to the fullest. ” His green eyes are outlined with black eyeliner and crossbones tattoo his wrists. He drapes his arm around Raven’s shoulder and drunkenly staggers forward, inadvertently bumping his knee into mine.

  A weighted mass takes over my body, floods my veins like cinders. Black water. Trees. Rain pouring down from the dark sky. Glass everywhere. Blood… they can’t breathe… they can’t breathe! Feathers fall to the ground. I gasp, nearly choking on how much it resembles my father’s crime scene where his car was found.

  “Does that scare you?” His eyes scrutinize me, noting the gothic tone of my clothes. “By the looks of you, I wouldn’t think it would. But hey, maybe you’re just a poser. ”

  “You know, you shouldn’t judge people by their looks. ” I let my hair screen my face and I close my eyes. I don’t want to look at him. His life is approaching the end, the last rose petal about to wilt from the fading stem. I tuck my hair behind my ear and sigh. “You got a ‘DD’?”

  “What the hell’s a ‘DD’?” he slurs, stumbling, and spills his drink on the floor.

  I rub the sides of my temples. Idiot. “Do everyone, including yourself, a favor and don’t drive home tonight. Okay?”

  The guy lets out a sardonic laugh. “What is that, like an omen or something?” He holds up his hands. “Ooo, scary. . . ” He pauses and the recollection clicks in his expression. “Hey, wait a minute. Aren’t you that girl who killed her dad?”

  I swallow hard and take a step back. “No, I think you’re thinking of someone else. ”

  His glazed over eyes squint at my face. “No, I’m pretty sure it was you. Didn’t you, like, call the police and confess, then like run. . . ” He trips over his feet and grabs my arm for support. Again, I’m blasted with the burden of his impending death. “Wait… what was I saying again?”

  I slip my arm free and scoot back from the drunken idiot. “You were saying that you need to quit drinking. ”

  “Are you feeling okay, Em?” Raven asks, her voice laced with concern. “You look a little pale. ”

  “I always look pale,” I say, hugging my arms around myself. “And I have a headache. ” Our code for I’m having a death episode.

  “Oh, I get it. ” She coils a strand of her hair around her finger and flutters her eyelashes as she conjures up a plan. “Oh! Okay, I got it. ”

  Goth boy looks back and forth between us. “Got what? Wait a minute? Are you two fighting over little old me?” He grins and I shake my head in irritation. “Don’t worry, ladies, there’s plenty of Laden love to go around. ”

  Raven’s hand falls from Laden’s chest and she pulls a face, no longer interested in him, but she puts on her game face. “Hey, why don’t you and I go dance. ” She laces her fingers with his, and leans in to give me a quick kiss on the cheek and I wince. “I’m sorry for acting crazy. ” She sways her hips as she leads Laden toward the dance floor. Before she vanishes into the crowd, she peeks over her shoulder and mouths: I’ll get his keys.

  I lean against the wall, let my head fall back, and shut my eyes. “Breathe, Ember, breathe. You can’t stop death—it’s endless. ”

  “God, it’s like mating season in here,” a deep male voice enfolds around me and sends tingling vibrations quivering through my body.

  I shudder and misstep, tripping over my feet, and stepping on the toe of his shoes. Actually, boots; black ones with little silver skulls on the buckles. I like his boots. My eyes progressively travel upward as I take him in; dark jeans, a plaid shirt over a black T-shirt and a skull necklace hooks around his neck. There’s a sequence of leather bands on his wrists and a metal loop ornaments his eyebrow. His inky black hair dangles in his slate eyes and hangs shaggily down over his ears.

  His intense gaze tantalizes my skin as he takes me in. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. ”

  I shiver again at the sound of his sultry voice as it spills over my skin. “Sorry about your shoes. ” I retreat backward, putting space between us. The last thing I want is to find out when this gorgeous guy dies. “Crowded rooms just make me a little uneasy. ”

  He laughs softly as he tosses his cup into the trash. “I know what you mean. All this,” he motions at the people grinding against one another, “is an excuse for them to dry hump each other in public. ”

  I almost smile at the similarity of our thoughts. “That’s a pretty good observation. ”

  He presses his lips together and then with a hesitant look, he leans over my shoulder, putting his lips next to my ear. I stiffen, worried he’ll touch me and this magical moment will end, but he’s careful, leaving a sliver of space between his lips and my ear. “Take those two for instance. I think they’ve got their own mating ritual going on. Although, I think it might be a one-sided mating ritual. ” He angles his head to the side and looks at the crowd.

  I follow his gaze to Raven dancing with Laden. She has one hand on his hip and the other on his back pocket. Laden moves all over the place, flailing his arms as he shuffles his feet, like he’s trying to break dance and disco at the same time. Raven captures my gaze and rolls her eyes.

  “I think you’re right. ” I turn and meet the beautiful stranger’s eyes. “It looks like she’s bored. ”

  He leans from my ear, his tongue slipping out to lick his lips and I notice a glint of metallic—dear God, he has a tongue ring. “Is she a friend of yours?”

  I wonder if he’s attracted to her. Most guys are, which has never bothered me until now. Raven’s bold and flirty—everything I’m not—and I’ve accepted that. But this guy has my insides curving and cultivating with so much sweltering heat I’m nearly sweating.

  “Her name’s Raven,” I tell him, assessing his face closely for his reaction.

  “Like the poem?” He arches his pierced eyebrow.

  “You know Edgar Allan Poe?” I ask, not expecting much because The Raven is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s more legendary poems.

  “A little bit. ” He stares at me like he’s trying to unravel a maze. “And what’s your name?”

  “Ember. ” I inch forward, holding my breath as a girl wobbles by, waving her finger, chewing out the air.

  “Ember… I like it. ” He inches closer and our bodies almost touch. I can feel the warmth radiating off him, like flames, and I can smell the scent of his alluring cologne. “‘And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upo
n the floor,’” he quotes a line from Poe’s The Raven.

  “I thought you said you knew a little?” I ask, impressed.

  He shrugs and stuffs his hands in his pockets. “What can I say? I’m fascinated with the idea… love, death, and the insanity it brings. ”

  Growing uncomfortable with his mention of death, I scan the crowd for Raven. “Trust me, death isn’t that fascinating. ” I’m slightly nervous that I can’t find Raven. I turn back to the mysterious stranger. “It was nice talking to you, but I need to…” I trail off at the animalistic look he’s giving me. “What?” I ask, not sure I want to know—not sure I can handle it. I never let myself get close to guys. What would be the point? I couldn’t kiss them—do anything with them—without seeing their death.

  He shakes his head, his eyes locked on me. “It’s nothing… I was just wondering if you wanted to dance?”

  I instantly shake my head. “No thanks. I don’t dance. ”

  He smiles, rubbing his lips together, and I’m mesmerized by the way his mouth moves. “That’s okay. I’ll lead. ” He pauses, his eyes scrolling over my face, and then it travels downward over my body.

  “I really can’t…” The way he’s looking at me is making it difficult to protest. “I just… I’m not a fan of getting touched…” I shake my head at my absurd response.

  The corners of his lips tug upward. “Well, what if I promise not to touch you?” He arches an eyebrow at me as he backs toward the dance floor, maintaining my gaze.

  The song switches to “Degausser” by Brand New and I find my feet taking on a life of their own, as Raven’s words echo through my head. Have fun. I move with him, raising my hands above my head to maneuver through the people, trying not to get touched by anyone.

  He walks backward until he reaches the edge of the crowd, then he stops and waits for me to catch up. I’m grateful he chooses to keep a little bit of distance from the other people. Once I reach him however, I realize that I wasn’t lying when I said I couldn’t dance.

  “Don’t laugh at me when I fall on my ass,” I joke. “Promise you won’t. ”

  His mouth teases to a grin. “Okay, I promise. ” Then he puts his hands out like he’s going to touch me and I suck in a breath. But he stops right as he’s about to touch my hips, and inches close enough that I can feel the heat between us, the brush of his clothes, the feel of his breath; yet, he’s not touching me.

  I exhale as he begins to rock his body, swaying to the rhythm, and I can’t help but shut my eyes, and move freely to the beat as well. My heart is throbbing in my chest as I lean just a little nearer so I can feel him, yet I can’t feel him. All over me, invisible tingles everywhere. I imagine his hands could be on my arms, my back, my hips, grabbing my breast, sliding between my thighs. I want to moan so God damn bad that I have to bite on my bottom lip to suppress it.