Series: Fatal Truth Series
Author: Abbie Roads
Genre: Paranormal Romance
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The funeral was a typically sombre affair, alive with soggy tissues and streaky make-up. I stood at the back, letting the vicar’s voice wash over me, and spent the whole time staring at the flower-laden coffin, wondering if the lid would suddenly flip up and a fanged monster would escape to reap its vengeance on the congregation.
Unsurprisingly, it didn’t happen, and as the mourners dispersed in the direction of the pub, I quietly snuck off home. I wasn’t in the mood for crowds and needed time to think, time to try to make sense of at least something, but as I turned to close the door, it was obstructed by a perfectly polished black shoe that belonged to…
“Seb, please,” he said, easing his way through. “Only my father calls me Sebastian.” He checked down the backstreet and closed the door securely. His eyes scanned the flat. “Nice place.”
“I like it.”
“It doesn’t bother you? Living over a funeral parlour?” he asked.
“Why would it? The neighbours are quiet.”
He didn’t laugh at my joke; neither did he comment. He simply stood silently, staring. It was very unnerving and made my legs go all wobbly. Perhaps if I turned away from him, he’d disappear again? It was worth a shot. I forced my jelly legs over to the front window and stared out at nothing in particular. The light was subdued, and the sky had darkened to an air force grey. A low mist was beginning to carpet the distant fields, and I wondered if snow had been forecast.
I knew my little experiment hadn’t worked. He was still there. I could feel his presence and smell his scent, a musky, inviting aroma that filled my senses and sent my head into a whirl, and it was getting stronger.
“Your friends interrupted us the other day. Can we talk now?” he whispered softly into my neck, and his fingertips traced a fiery trail down my spine.
“What’s the point? There’s nothing to say. I wish you’d just leave me alone,” I said, lowering my head in time to see Lara leaving the newsagents. She glanced up with a look of fury contorting her face as Sebastian’s hands reached around either side of me and grabbed the window frame.
“I can’t do that. I’m not that strong,” he said.
I studied the arms now imprisoning me, with their perfectly formed muscles straining against the rolled-up sleeves of his white shirt, and seriously doubted his statement. His stance was predatory and made me feel uncomfortable. I ducked under his elbow to escape, but he caught me around the waist and pulled me against him. Our bodies moulded together perfectly, and the strength of his grip made me feel like a china doll that he’d be able to crush in an instant. He was almost a full head taller than I was, and the warmth of his breath caressed my forehead. How easy it would be to reach up and taste those lips. I imagined the feel of them, and my own parted in an involuntary invitation.
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rain has stopped, but fog crept in while I sat in Rory’s. I walk
through that fog now, the streetlights casting cones of luminescence
that capture swirling mist. I should go straight home, but I really want
a bottle of wine. J.J.’s Market is only two blocks off and I walk
toward neon signs advertising beer and cigarettes, drawn like a moth.
Not long ago, I was newly married, looking forward to finishing my MFA
in Design with the hope of someday starting my own business. I barely
drank and rarely got drunk. Now, I’m wandering around out here at night
trying to avoid ghosts and unwilling to go home without alcohol because
I’m afraid I won’t sleep. My eyes start to prickle and I wipe the back
of my hand across my face.
no, I’m not alone. I can’t hear her behind me—her steps will never make
sound again. All the same, I feel her there and soon she walks beside
block to go and maybe I’ll just uncork that bottle right in the store.
With any luck, she’ll veer off and find some other lucky person to latch
really need your help.” Her breath hitches as her voice rises in pitch.
She’s also crying and I just can’t ignore her—it’s not about me
turn to look at her. No, she doesn’t look dead but many of them don’t.
Not to me, anyway. Some are more translucent while others appear
basically the same as you and me, give or take the glow around them.
That’s not guaranteed either. People are all different,
whether dead or alive. One of my new theories is that we all start out
as “dead” before becoming “alive” again. Like a lightbulb switching on
and off again here in this realm. I think it’s a circular system. It
seems an efficient use of energy. In this theory, ghosts are glitches.
But this girl next to me isn’t interested in hearing about my theories,
which change daily anyway. She just wants to know what’s going on.
really don’t want to go there right now but I’m stuck in this
situation. I look at her young, beautiful face. Trusting eyes stare back
happens a lot too, I’ve come to learn. Suicide is a big one for getting
you grounded. You cause that kind of pain and you just can’t move on.
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Ashra’s hand trailed across Jaden’s muscled torso. He made it easy for her to be gentle. His body trembled as if he longed for her. His mouth was hungry for her kiss. He arched up against her, as if craving more. His need was like a living creature, wild and aching for her touch.
Eyes closed, Ashra shivered. Only one other person had desired her as much.
And he was dead.
She forced her way through the memories of pale bodies tangled upon cool silk sheets. When her soul-sucking power leeched out, it found no opposition. Images of the human’s life rewound in a blaze of vivid sights, sounds, and sensations.
Ashra looked up at Tera, her smile little more than a barely perceptible curve of her lips. “He fancies himself the protector of the child of prophecy. Was she among those taken tonight?”
Ashra chuckled, the sound without humor. “It’s a pity her genetic heritage wasn’t sufficiently superior to prevent her from being culled.”
“There’s more. Go deep.”
She pushed past the blackness at the start of his memories, expecting deeper darkness. Instead, the colors shifted into shades of ochre and gray. Memories, older than his body, resided in his soul; memories of an Earth long since lost to them—a planet surrounded and nourished by water; images of tall buildings glistening beneath a benevolent sun, and of thriving cities filled with the bustle of humans; memories of quiet and intimate conversations beneath a silver moon, the same silver moon that now graced Malum Turris with its light, though a thousand years older and viewed only from beneath the protection of the dome.
She saw herself as he must have seen her, a much-younger icrathari, still hopeful for the future, never realizing that the Earth they had all known and loved was irretrievably lost. Had she ever looked that vulnerable? Had her smile ever been so beautiful, so filled with love as she looked upon—
“Rohkeus?” Oh, blessed Creator, was that stricken whisper her voice?
Ashra pulled back and stared at the human. Her mouth dropped open. Her heart pounded in her chest, its beat erratic. It couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t be—
She looked up at Tera. The other icrathari nodded.
Rohkeus’s soul reborn…in a human.
Ashra threw her head back and laughed, a despairing sound. Her prince, her love, reduced to a human? Her slender fingers coiled into fists. Her golden eyes glittering, she pushed away from him, though her body trembled from the loss of his warmth. No, the human was not Rohkeus; he could never be Rohkeus.
Steeling herself against the gasp of pain that escaped from his lips as the anesthetizing effect of her kiss faded, Ashra rose to her feet with sinuous grace. “He is not one of us. Not anymore.” Nothing had been more devastating than losing Rohkeus to a human assassin. To see his soul reborn in that contemptible and weak race was an insult to the person Rohkeus had been.
“Should we turn him into a vampire?” Tera asked.
“Kill him. Set Rohkeus’s soul free.”
All around her, the sounds of baying wolves echoed in the night. Trees slapped her face as she ran, and she tripped more than once. She was crying now and mumbling to herself, terrified. She dared not look back, knowing that the wolves were pursuing her. She came out of the woods into a clearing leading to a tall hill. The howls came from all directions. Shadows flew through the woods in her peripheral vision, and Gabby cried out. She fell again, skinning her knee badly on a jagged rock. In her terrified state, she felt no pain, but continued as fast as she could and ran up the hill.
A snarl came from directly behind her, and she instinctively turned and cried out. A wolf was bearing down on her fast. She turned and raised a hand as the beast leapt at her with gleaming claws leading the way.
“NO!” Gabby cried.
To her amazement, the wolf changed form in mid-flight and turned into a naked man. He landed at her feet on all fours and snarled at her.
“Get away from me!” she screamed.
The naked man backed away from her warily, glancing down at his human hands with a look of confusion and shock. More wolves were coming out of the woods. They stopped when they saw the one who had turned into a human in the light of the full moon.
Gabby wasted no time considering her luck and ran as fast as she could up the hill.
“Gabriella Cross, stop!” Michael’s voice rose up over the howls.
Gabby could hardly see through her tears. She didn’t dare look back, knowing that she would find death closing in on her. She reached the top of the hill and ran across the flat expanse of rocky earth.
“Gabriella!” came the voice again.
The wolves were gaining on her.
She darted between two pines blocking her way, receiving many scrapes on her face and arms. Half blinded by tears and slapping branches, she stumbled out from between the trees and suddenly came to a steep cliff. She tried to stop, but her momentum was too great. With a terrified cry she fell forward over the cliff.
She frantically thrashed her arms as she fell to her death. Above, on the ledge, a mournful wolf cried out. The ground was coming up fast to crush her, and Gabby closed her eyes, not wanting to see her death.
Then. Suddenly. Gabriella was weightless.
Strong arms held her firmly. She opened her eyes to find a winged beast staring back at her.
Gabby passed out.