Home > How to Live an Undead Lie (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #5)(7)

How to Live an Undead Lie (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #5)(7)
Author: Hailey Edwards

“You have a firmer grasp on the political ramifications of whatever choice I make. What do you think?”

“You sound like you’ve made up your mind to help him disappear.”

“Unless there’s reason to believe he’s a threat to innocents, I won’t return him to a cage. I just…can’t.”

“I know.”

“You have more to lose if this goes south. You don’t have to back up my decision with your mother.”

“Yes,” he said, his fingers pressing along the peeling edge of his name tag. “I do.”

Unable to resist the temptation, I crossed to him and plopped down on his lap. “I like you.”

“I like you too.” He leaned forward, his mouth an exhalation from mine. “Very much.”

“Kiss me already.” I threaded my fingers through his silky hair and guided his face down to mine, our lips brushing as I spoke. “I’m tired of doing all the work for you.”

“This is a dream.” His cool breath whispered across my cheeks. “That I can touch you, that you want me to touch you...” He laughed softly. “None of this feels real. One wrong move and I’ll find myself in bed, alone.”

The roots of my heart twisted until I worried they might snap. “You haven’t slept since the ball. Not once that I’ve seen. Please tell me this isn’t what’s keeping you up days.”

“I’m afraid of waking.”

“Oh, Linus.” He was breaking my heart. “I’m sorry for this in advance.”

While his brow gathered in neat little rows, I pinched the soft part of his upper arm with a vengeance.

The shock blasted him out of his seat, dumping me on the table as he stood. “Why did you—?”

“Congratulations!” I clapped for him. “You’re wide awake.”

And he had probably bruised my much-abused tailbone. I really had to add some padding back there.

Note to self: Eat more churros. Add extra caramel. With a side of chocolate sauce.

So far, I had gained fifteen pounds thanks to the high concentration of Vitamin L in my diet, but I wasn’t as curvy as I used to be even with the blood smoothies Linus blended for me at breakfast. I missed having boobs. A butt would be nice too. Most of my hard-earned weight was settling in my hips and thighs. I never had an hourglass figure, but I was starting to look like the bottom half of one. Until I turned sideways. Oh well. Curves were curves.

Maybe I expected Linus to laugh. Maybe I expected him to rub his arm and scowl. Maybe I expected more sweet words exchanged in whispers. However I expected he would take the wake-up call, it hadn’t been like this.

The darkness in him beat like a second pulse in his temple, his tattered wraith’s cloak a smudge across his shoulders. Black churned in his eyes, devouring the blue, and he flattened his palm against my sternum. He pressed, not hard but firm, forcing me to lie back on the table. Bracing his palms on the wood to either side of my shoulders, he lowered his head until I could have stuck out my tongue and licked his chin. I was tempted to do just that.

Linus gazed down at me, ravenous, a buffet of his favorites he wanted to savor one item at a time.

I joked to cover my nerves. “Cletus isn’t going to get an eyeful of what’s happening down here, is he?”

Mentioning the wraith broke the spell, and Linus blinked his eyes clear. “No.”

Gathering my wrists in his hands, he hauled me into an upright position and claimed my mouth in a blistering kiss full of sharp edges and flavored with hope. I didn’t understand where either came from, but they both cut just as deep. His blood hit my tongue from where my teeth clashed with his lips, and my head spun, my stomach tightening for an entirely different reason.

The force of his embrace had me reclining again, this time with a smile on my face.

Tap-Tap-Tap

“Ignore it,” I breathed into his mouth, hooking my legs around his hips. “Whoever it is will go away.”

“Sun’s up,” Lethe yelled against the door. “Corbin’s out cold. I’m heading to bed.”

Footsteps thumped away from the basement door, and I relaxed into his embrace with a low moan.

“Ha!” Lethe shouted loud enough to raise the dead. “I thought I heard heavy panting down there.”

“I give up.” I dropped my legs, scooched off the table, and sidestepped him. “I’m going to die a virgin.”

“Whoa.” Lethe sucked in a sharp breath. “I’m really going now. As you were, lovebirds.”

More footsteps tromped away from us, but I called out, “No one believes you.”

She answered a heartbeat later, “I was totally leaving that time.”

After jogging up the stairs, I shoved open the door, which bounced off her forehead.

“Fuck.” She rubbed the red spot between her eyes. “That fucking hurts.”

“Such language,” I said sweetly, not feeling the least bit sorry for whacking her. “Think of the baby.”

“You weren’t thinking of the baby when you gave his or her mother brain damage.”

“You’re fine.” I pried her hands away from her face to examine her. “You’ll have a goose egg, but that’s it.”

“I wouldn’t have bothered you if I’d realized that’s what Linus meant about you two staying occupied.” She sighed with her whole body. “Okay, I still would have done it, but I would have quit after the first time.”

“No, you wouldn’t have.” I took the modified pen out of my pocket, grateful each time I used it that I didn’t have to resort to brush and ink to draw on sigils these days. “Hold still.”

“You just want to erase the evidence before Hood sees what you’ve done to his darling mate.”

“You’re not wrong.” I tapped her on the end of her nose. “Now stop wiggling.”

“I have to pee. The baby is jumping up and down on my bladder.”

“You’re not that far along yet.” I narrowed my eyes as she darted a quick glance out the window and then to the door, as if measuring the distance. Motion caught the corner of my eye. Hood, strolling into view as he made his rounds. “You’re trying to beat me to Hood and get me in trouble.”

“You’re not wrong,” she parroted, baring her teeth in a grin. “So long, sucker.”

Faster than anyone on two legs had any right to be, she bolted out the front door.

Before Woolly could latch it behind her, I leapt over the threshold and skidded across the planks.

Lethe was fast, her feet hitting the grass as she sprinted toward her mate, who stopped to watch our mad dash with an indulgent shake of his head.

“You’re teaching our child to be a tattletale,” Hood warned, amusement brightening his eyes.

Five yards ahead of me, Lethe slid to a stop, almost knocking him to the ground. “I have a boo-boo.”

“Poor baby.” His arms came around her, steadying her. “Did you drop another cookie?”

“That was one time,” she protested, “and it was still warm.”

Mallow hired a new baker last week, and he worked magic on the selection of cookies, brownies, and cake pops they sold. Usually, I was all about the hot chocolate, but Lethe was broadening my horizons.

The incident in question occurred when she promised me the last cookie then waited until I left to pour us glasses of milk before she stole it. Suspecting treachery, I ducked back in the room and caught her with her hand in the glassine bag. I tackled her from behind, and she dropped the prize, which rolled under the coffee table. After a growl to warn me away from her food, she wedged herself under there. When she popped the treat into her mouth, she cracked her head on the underside of the table.

Leaning down, he kissed his mate’s forehead tenderly. “Better?”

“That’s it?” A growl revved up her throat. “I’m injured.”

“The rest is waiting for us at the gate.” He indicated the driveway with his chin. “I ordered breakfast.”

“I love you more than bacon,” she said, peppering his face with kisses. “More than ham. More than hot wings. More than steak.”

“Let’s not go overboard.” He took her hand then pointed a finger at me. “Get in the house.”

“You’re not the boss of me.”

Woolly opened the door, beckoning me back in, but a throat cleared behind us.

Amelie stood in the doorway of the carriage house dressed in nice pants and a cute top with her hair pulled back into a neat tail. “Do you have a minute?”

Already tired from the early hour and goofing off, I slumped. Her appearance exhausted me. “Sure.”

For the first time since moving her into the carriage house, I entered its living room. I paused on the threshold and shot a glance at the kitchen, but it was just a room filled with appliances. Without Linus, the warmth was gone. The heart of this home now beat in his childhood room in Woolworth House.

“You look nice,” I told her when she didn’t manage to come up with a reason for wanting to see me.

“Online classes.” She smoothed her hands down her pants, and I noticed her feet were bare, her toenails painted a flaking orange color. “Usually I can fudge it with brushed hair and a clean shirt, but tonight I had a presentation.”

“Your brother stopped by,” I said, and I could have strangled myself for providing the segue.

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” She reached out, her fingers curling, like she worried I might sprint for the door and she planned on stopping me before I escaped. “Not him, I promise.”

Unable to bring myself to sit, to get that comfortable around her, I stood with the backs of my knees pressed against the couch cushions. “I’m listening.”

“Odette is gone.”

Happy this was one mystery I could solve on the spot, I let the coil of tension in my chest unwind.

   
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