Home > How to Save an Undead Life (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #1)(4)

How to Save an Undead Life (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #1)(4)
Author: Hailey Edwards

“I get that.” He kicked out his amputated leg. “I understand witnessing horrors you can’t put into words. I’m just saying I’m here. You need to talk, you come to me. Understand?”

I cocked an eyebrow at him. “What about Amelie?”

“I don’t care who you talk to as long as you open up to someone when the time comes.” He flashed me a crooked grin. “But I’m willing to make out with you to help take your mind off things after. Amelie won’t go the distance like I will.”

I almost swallowed my tongue.

To give my cheeks time to cool, I turned my back on him. I kept a basket of fresh veggies from the greenhouse on the counter near the fridge. I grabbed a box grater from a drawer then selected a carrot and started shredding Keet a snack. I would have to buy him fresh seed and a cuttlebone tomorrow. I could afford those if I skimped on dinner this week. I’d also have to hike the stairs leading up into the attic and find his old cage and floor stand. Unless I could con Boaz into doing the work for me.

The blare of Boaz’s cellphone ringing made me jump on my way back to the sink, and a few veggie shreds spilled from my fingers before I could catch them and mound them with the rest in Keet’s temporary nest.

“Hey, sis,” Boaz answered, still laughing. “How did you know—?” His gaze bored a hole through my spine. “Figures.” He grunted. “I’m still not convinced Mom didn’t have us microchipped.” A pause. “Yeah, I’ll remind her.”

“Well?” I prompted, joining him at the bar after he ended the call.

“Mom overheard our conversation. She called Amelie to scream at her for not telling her I was home, so she called to yell at me for not telling anyone I was home, and then she put two and two together and got five.”

“I asked her to cover my first tour so I could recover Keet while he was still fresh.” A groan left me slumped over the counter. “She must think that I… That we…”

“There’s still time.” His eyes twinkled. “She said you’ve got forty-five minutes left. I can get you there in ten.”

Crossing my arms over my chest, I tapped my fingertips on my elbows. “Are you offering me a ride to work or an orgasm?”

“Both? Either?”

“You should go.” I planted my palm in the center of his rock-hard chest and shoved. He swayed a centimeter. Maybe. “Your mommy is waiting to smother you with kisses.”

If he heard the faint undercurrent of jealousy, that he still had someone to fret over his boo-boos, real and imagined, he ignored it. “I’d rather you smother me with kisses.”

I flashed him a saccharine smile. “I’d rather just smother you.”

“Kinky.”

“I have to run.” I ushered him toward the door. “That means you have to go too.”

Boaz shuffled along until we reached the foyer, but when I tried opening the door, Woolly fought me. Big surprise. While I was busy jiggling the knob, Boaz slipped behind me. He wrapped his thick arms around my middle, twisting me until my head spun, and I found myself sandwiched between a hardwood door and an even harder man.

I hadn’t let myself look at him, not really, but I had no choice now.

Boaz was taller than me by a few inches, so I had to tip my head back to hold his gaze. Milk-chocolate irises striated with lighter bands, like swirled caramel, stared back at me. White scars stood in stark contrast against his tanned skin. His platinum hair, baby fine and impossible to style, was shaved on the sides and longer on the top. Grudgingly, I admitted the blunt cut suited his square jaw and harsh features. Boaz was not a handsome man, but his charm made him irresistible. Sometimes I had trouble seeing past his personality to all the rest. At least when all the rest wasn’t pressed hip to hip with me.

“I missed you,” he rasped softly. “So damn much it hurt to breathe.”

I melted against him, allowing him to hold me, and rested my forehead on his chest. “Me too.”

“I want to kiss you.”

Lungs tight, I snapped my head up to find his mouth hovering inches from mine.

“But I’m scared you’ll hide from me again if I do.”

A thousand denials sprang to my lips, and they each died a thousand deaths.

“Woolly, you mind?” He flicked a glance up at the foyer chandelier. “Don’t want to keep Mom waiting.”

The door snicked open under his hand. The traitor.

I scurried out on his heels before she could slam it shut in my face.

“Night, Grier.”

“Night, Boaz.”

The boy next door left me standing on my front porch, unkissed and unsure where this left us.

“This has been a night full of surprises,” I told the old house, and the porch light hummed agreement.

I left Woolly with the usual instructions on how to behave once Amelie and her guests arrived. A flickering light, a couple of curtains blown by the floor registers, that kind of thing. Simple stuff that wouldn’t get me in trouble. The architectural spotlights had to go. Nothing killed ambiance like floodlights. Plus, darkness facilitated better shots. The odds were in the tour’s favor of snapping pictures of orb lights or other traceries indicative of a true haunting since Woolworth House was steeped in old magic from the not-so-secret lab in the basement to the junktique paradise under the rafters.

Despite the boost to my morale—and libido—Boaz had gifted me, resorting to whoring Woolly out to human gawkers left me feeling dirty.

“Make no apologies for surviving.”

One of Maud’s favorite sayings, and my personal talisman against the tough choices I made daily.

The garage door whined in protest when I mashed the button on my fob, and I couldn’t suppress an eager grin. Boaz would kill me when he noticed I’d helped myself to Jolene. Not waiting on the mechanism to grind all the way up, I ducked under the door and crossed to the coat rack holding my riding leathers and helmet. Both were from before and a smidge tight, but I made them work. Replacing them was light-years outside my budget.

I zipped up the plated jacket, plopped down on an overturned plastic bucket, then pulled on thick socks and boots. Done with that, I wiggled on flexible gloves. I waited until after I’d straddled the motorcycle, a crimson Yamaha V Star 250, to slide on my helmet. Dark, tight places made me nauseous, but I gritted my teeth and rolled us down the driveway. I wanted as little distance between me and the road as possible just in case Mrs. Pritchard wasn’t holding on to Boaz when he heard Jolene’s familiar growl.

Twist, flip, press. The engine caught, and her rhythmic purr blocked out the garage door closing behind me. The steady rumble vibrated through my body, soothing my frazzled nerves, and I fought a grin imagining his expression when he realized his mistake in storing Jolene in my garage. I blazed a trail into town as though the hounds of hell—or one really pissed-off necromancer—were chasing me.

A large crowd milled in front of the bar where Cricket asked our victims to meet and mingle while waiting for their tours to begin. I pulled into the employee parking lot in back and did my best shadow impersonation before the boss caught me showing up late and out of costume.

“Cricket is looking for you.” Neely hooked his arm through mine as I walked in the door and whirled me in the opposite direction from the downstairs salon, guiding me up a flight of stairs to the cramped room where the guys changed. “Smoke is pouring out of her ears.”

“Family emergency.” The reminder that my next of kin was a newly resurrected parakeet put my whole life into perspective. “Amelie is covering my tour, right?”

“Yes.” He rolled his eyes. “That doesn’t mean Cricket won’t chirp at you about responsibility and accountability and all her other favorite ilities until either she’s blue in the face or you are.”

“Ugh.” I was not in the mood for a lecture tonight. “Blue is so not my color.”

“Tell me something I don’t know. Why Cricket assigned you as Blue Belle, I’ll never understand,” he lamented. “I moved your costume into booth two.” He hauled me onto the landing then shoved me toward a curtained-off corner. “Go on. Shoo.”

Sidestepping the puff of azure fabric that was my dress, I skimmed over the costume accoutrements, checking that all the thingamajiggers and doohickeys were present. Afraid of being caught with my pants down, I stripped to my bra and panties then fitted the corset in place.

Fiddlesticks.

This next part wasn’t happening without divine intervention or a glob of Crisco to lube up my torso. Squishing into the silky torture device left me winded from sucking in my belly to fasten the bottom hooks at my spine. The laces… Yeah. Not happening. Not without the aforementioned shortening so I could twist it to the front, lace it, and then spin it around back.

Usually Amelie and I changed together for this very reason. Except she was at my house right about now. Poor Ame. Being that close to her annoying oaf of a big brother without being able to pop in for a hug must be torture. Much like this corset.

While I wriggled in my best worm-on-a-hook impersonation, the stairs groaned loud enough for me to hear over my frustrated panting. I held my breath, afraid to give myself away. Excuses tripped over my tongue as I armed myself to face the Wrath of Cricket about the time a husky, masculine groan preceded ardent smacking noises.

“Um, Neely?” I called, crossing my arms over my chest to pin the corset in place. “Little help here?”

A handsome man with tanned skin, black hair and dark eyes yanked back the curtain, wearing a stern expression. “Should I be concerned about Neely hiding a half-naked woman in his dressing room?”

“Guess it depends.” Blushing under his frank scrutiny, glad I’d worn my good underwear, I curled my toes in my stockings. “How do you feel about half-naked women?”

“They’re like avocados. I can appreciate they exist, but I wouldn’t want to eat one.”

Hooting laughter exploded through the room. “Dang, baby.” Neely hooked his arm around Cruz’s wide shoulders. “You didn’t have to be so mean. We like Grier, remember?”

   
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