Home > How to Save an Undead Life (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #1)(17)

How to Save an Undead Life (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #1)(17)
Author: Hailey Edwards

“You sound as if you’re speaking from experience.”

“Did I mention the likelihood of them carding you goes lower as your hem goes higher?”

Following Boaz like a love-struck puppy had given me one heck of an education in more ways than one.

Volkov raked his gaze over me, assessing. “How old are you?”

Curiosity pulsed behind the words, and I wondered how often he interacted with my kind—or humans for that matter. Necromancers commanded respect. Humans, on the other hand, were food, their lives too short for most vampires to take notice of them.

“Twenty-one.” Old enough to barhop without the fake ID for a change.

“So young,” he murmured.

“How old are you?”

“Thirty-five,” he admitted. “Does that make you uncomfortable?”

“Age is just a number between friends,” I assured him, unwilling to consider the true issue.

“So it is.” His rich chuckle rewarded me. “Can I ask if I’m your only friend with a sun allergy?”

“You can, and you are.” I fiddled with his bangle, which snapped his gaze to my wrist. Slowly, before I compounded my faux pas, I slid my hand out of sight to avoid the temptation to fidget. “I do, however, have a stalker of the undead variety.”

With Volkov pressed so close, I felt his thigh muscles tense. “What do you mean?”

“A vampire was waiting for me when I got home from work the night I met you.” I outlined our conversation and his threats from the parking lot too. “Any clue who he might represent?”

“Without a name, it’s impossible to guess.” He drummed his fingers on his knee. “You’re a valuable asset, Grier. All the clans with means will be in contact with you in the coming days. Of that I’m certain. It could be that this male represents a clan without the funds or clout to win you over by traditional means and seeks to intimidate you.”

“Do I get to know why everyone wants a piece of me all of a sudden?”

“It’s not my place.” Frustration turned his comment bitter. “You’ll learn soon enough, and when you do, you’ll understand why an alliance will be beneficial to you, and why remaining unallied will only encourage more such incidents.”

Thinking back on what Odette told me, I had to be certain he and I were on the same page. “You’re talking about me marrying for protection.”


“And you’re okay with your master offering you up on a silver platter?”

“You’re beautiful, kind and intelligent. I could do far worse.” He sobered. “Do you understand how the vampiric clan system operates?”

“I understand basic vampire biology and how the undead caste system works. The rest wasn’t a concern of mine. I was being trained as an assistant and not as a practitioner.”

A peculiar expression swept over his features before he smoothed them. “Last Seeds are a caste unto themselves, but we are loyal to the clan that bred us. For me, that was Clan Volkov. I’m the first Last Seed my line has produced in centuries. I will outlive them all, and that makes it my sworn duty to oversee the protection, growth and wellbeing of the clan. As the youngest born vampire, I am the heritor, but one day soon, I will be named master.”

I gulped audibly, and his eyes tracked the motion as my throat worked. “You’ve got the wrong girl for the job, Mr. Volkov.”

A clan master’s wife I was not. I could barely take care of myself, let alone hundreds of undead.

“Danill,” he insisted. “You’re young, but you’re strong. I would be proud to have you at my side.”

“Until I turned old and gray,” I mumbled. “I’ll be honest here. I’m not sure I could handle aging while you stay young and gorgeous. I’m not a vain person, I don’t think, but it would poison me from the inside out if I had to know you were entertaining younger, more beautiful women on the side.”

“Our vows are sacred.” He shifted to look at me head-on. “Accept my offer, and you accept me for who and what I am as I will accept you for who and what you are. I will be yours until your dying breath, and I vow I will never injure your pride or your heart.”

“I was just granted my freedom. I can’t toss it away without a good reason, and you can’t give me one.”

“I am under orders I can’t break.” His gaze skittered to the window. “No matter how much I might wish to gain the advantage with you, I am bound to silence.”

A concern niggled at the back of my mind, and it popped out before I could filter my mouth. “Heritors are answerable only to their masters…and the Grande Dame of the Society.”

“See what I mean? Intelligent.” His slow smile held a razor’s edge. “You are also correct.”

Black spots danced in my vision at what he wasn’t telling me. The Grande Dame had anticipated the offer his master and the others would make, and she must have put orders in place to hobble their efforts as much as possible. Meaning she intended to make an offer herself. Not good. Not good at all.

I took a moment to study his profile while his attention was fixated elsewhere. “Will you attend the inauguration tomorrow night?”

“I have no choice.” Catching the slip-up, he amended with, “It’s my pleasure to witness history in the making as the first Grande Dame of my generation is named.”

I snorted out a laugh. “You sound about as happy as I am to be going.”

“Born vampires aren’t allowed much socialization outside our clans until we reach our majority. You’re the first necromancer I’ve engaged in conversation. Are your kind not the community-minded group they present themselves to be?” His bland delivery informed me he was well aware of what dangerous waters he treaded. “Isn’t that the point of calling themselves a Society?”

“We have a Grande Dame.” I shook my head. “Necromancers are all about the prestige. The Society for Post-Death Management sounds more upscale and corporate than Will Raise the Dead for Cash, Inc.”

A rich, dark laugh broke from his chest. “You have more reason than most to resent their antiquated hierarchy.”

“They aren’t all bad. The High Society is the most ridiculous. The Low Society is more relatable.”

“Interesting,” he mused. “I would have thought being raised by Maud Woolworth would have ensured the exact opposite.”

“I came into the culture late in life by their standards. My formal education started when I was five, which put me years behind my High Society peers. Factor in my public school education, which exposed me to humans and Low Society as my classmates, and I grew into too much of my own person to conform.”

Stubborn as the day is long—just like your mother—that was Maud’s favorite lament.

“Plus, Maud was not the conformist type. Dame Lawson despaired of me, the orphan her sister had adopted. She was determined the Woolworth heir act like a lady. She doesn’t have any daughters, only her son, Linus. She played with me like a doll until she grew bored with her attempts at taming me. She stuck bows in my hair I ripped out when her back turned, and I wore shorts under my skirts so I could strip them off after dinner and run outside to play. Maud just laughed and told her sister girls will be girls.”

“You are not close to Dame Lawson then?”


There was nothing more I could say about her that wouldn’t plunge me into the abyss. All my memories of that woman were strung on a thread that tied to the same fixed point in time, the worst night of my life, her recent antics included. What started as rage over what she’d ordered done to Woolly morphed to grief over Keet’s abduction which spun my thoughts back to the last time I’d faced her in the Lyceum along with the other society dames and matrons.

I hadn’t come out on top then, and I doubted I’d climb to new heights tomorrow. All signs pointed toward new lows being in the forecast. At least I would get my bird back.

Perhaps sensing the taut wire of my temper vibrating, he set about defusing my anger. “What can you tell me about that building?”

Though it took a moment to relocate my tour-guide persona, I reapplied her within seconds, a trick learned from Amelie.

“The Black Hart was built in the early 1800s. It went by another name then, White Sparrow’s Tavern.” The spiel tumbled out with practiced ease, and I took comfort in the cadence of the story. “Patrons swear the building is haunted by the original owner, Brutus Sparrow, who bricked his mistress up in the basement when she tried to leave him. Folks claim he loved her so much that when she made amends with her husband, he slit her throat and walled up her corpse so he could keep her forever. Even now his wails of grief at having killed the love of his life can be heard on clear nights. And a few have even seen her wandering the halls, dressed in a filmy white nightgown slicked with blood from the gash in her throat.”

“What about that one?” Volkov indicated the mom and pop grocery store where I liked to buy fresh fruit. “Surely there can’t be horror attached to such a wholesome place.”

“You would be wrong.” I took his dare merrily. “The same family has owned the property since the 1920s. A Cat 1 hurricane hit Beaufort, South Carolina, in September of 1928, and it produced more than a foot of rain that caused significant flooding in Savannah. Only this end of town escaped unscathed. Everything from River Street down was underwater, including the hospital. Newspaper clippings tell us that since the market was the largest structure standing, it was cleared out and cots were brought in to aid the victims.” I wiggled my fingers at him. “According to the current owners, some mornings they go in to open the store and find lights on and objects moved by the restless spirits who perished there and the brave souls who fought to save them.”


“This town is mired in creepy. All old cities are if you dig deep enough.”

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