Authors: Ela Lond
In the haunted ruins of an old monastery, seven teenagers have gone missing in recent years. Kate, who is the Soul Reaper, goes with her friends to investigate. Once there, they find themselves tangled up in the deceptions of the dead, trapped like flies in a spider web.
Copyright © 2014 Ela Lond
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This book uses British spelling
The trees rushed by in a green blur, broken by flashes of sunlight that reflected against the car's side window. Kate averted her gaze from the scenery outside and yawned. Fifteen minutes ago when she, her boyfriend, and two of her closest friends had stopped at the gas station, she had taken a pill for motion sickness since, according to the map, a large number of winding turns were coming up.
A hand curled around her shoulder and half-turned her before an arm wrapped around her waist and drew her backward until her back rested against a firm chest.
She looked over her shoulder at Ethan who, with a twinkle in his ice-blue eyes, gazed down at her. “Are you volunteering to be my pillow?” She tried not to stare at him, but as always, it was so hard to take her eyes off his beautiful face. Sometimes she wondered if she would love him the way she did even if he weren’t as pretty as he was.
“Yes.” He wrapped his arm more tightly around her and pulled her into his lap.
“You are so courteous; feeding me and pretending to be my pillow, what's next?" She really appreciated his habit of always having a snack for her in his pocket. It was his way of showing affection. Since the time she had refused a bar of chocolate, jokingly accusing him of trying to fatten her up, nowadays his pocket contained mostly dried fruit and nuts. Sometimes she wondered what she had done that was so good that the entity had given him to her.
“Making out, if you are up to it?” His breath caressed the outline of her ear and stirred the black strands of hair that escaped from her braid.
She licked her lower lip and her eyes glided over Mandy's blond curls, visible over the back of driver’s seat, to her childhood friend Tyler, who was staring at them with narrowed eyes over the edge of passenger seat.
“Get a room,” he said.
“Or we could slip into our energy form,” Ethan proposed in a whisper.
“Our powers are for reaping souls and for hunting Soul Eaters, not for sneaking around.” She looked up at him and tugged on the blond curl that fell across his brow, even though she wanted a few of his kisses right now. But she always wanted them and, luckily for her, he was very generous with them.
“Don't look at me like that.”
“How am I looking at you?”
“Like you want us to get a room.”
“Eww.” Tyler grimaced. “You two, stop flirting already.”
“You'll have time for that later,” Mandy said, her gaze on the road and her hands on the wheel. She had replaced Ethan in the driver’s seat at their last stop. Tyler would probably love to get his turn to drive, but Ethan didn’t entrust his precious car to anybody but his sister, Mandy.
“No, they won't,” Tyler objected. “We went on this road trip for some friendly bonding, not so they could get their groove on. They can do that at home.”
“You could get your groove on, too,” Mandy said in a low, slightly timid voice, and Kate noticed, as the blonde glanced at Tyler, the redness that spilled across her cheeks. Tyler blushed too.
“They are so cute,” Kate whispered as she snuggled deeper into Ethan's embrace. Mandy usually reminded her of a cute puppy, despite her tall and athletic build, and she was a perfect match with Tyler, who was their school basketball star.
“Yes, but not as cute as you,” Ethan said to her in a low voice.
She felt heat crawling into her cheeks. She fixed her gaze forward, since if she had looked at him, she wouldn't have been able resist kissing him.
He chuckled and twirled a strand of her hair around his finger.
She cleared her throat. “I thought we came on this trip because Tyler wants to play ghost buster.” Since Tyler had learned about her being a Soul Reaper, he had, as a good friend, tried to learn everything about ghosts and ghost-related events. That included searching for local haunted sites and then insisting that they visit them. As a Soul Reaper she didn't have to search out ghosts, since, as soon as she materialized her scythe, they started to crowd around her. She had indulged Tyler, though, and they made small trips to those sites. This was one of them, even though this one couldn't be called a small trip. The ride to the haunted ruin of an old monastery Tyler had found online was a twelve-hour drive and, since Tyler loved camping, this was going to be a week-long trip. It was summer vacation and they had the time, so they had decided to check out the place where, according to the articles Tyler showed them, over the course of ten years seven teenagers had gone missing. She doubted they would find anything, since ghosts, even Soul Eaters, couldn't harm the living -- or at least normal Soul Eaters and ghosts couldn't. Ethan agreed with her. But they didn't mind humouring Tyler, especially not when it meant spending more time together.
“The proper term is ‘paranormal investigator,’ not ‘ghost buster,’” Tyler said.
The Everything Ghost Hunting Book
,” Mandy explained.
“Great,” Kate said.
“Do you want to see it?” Tyler offered, enthusiasm in his voice.
“No, not really.” When she saw disappointment written on his face, she said. “Maybe later.” Her mouth opened in a yawn again and her eyes fluttered closed. She lifted her legs onto the backseat and leaned more heavily on Ethan. “Wake me up when we get there.”
The greyish light that poured through her eyelids woke her up. She rolled onto her side and buried her face in the pillow, but the light was still there, preventing her from diving back into the comfortable darkness of sleep. She heard the soft thuds of feet and the creaking of wood before a hand descended on her shoulder and shook her.
“You sleepyhead, wake up,” a familiar female voice said.
She opened her eyes and peeked out from under her eyelashes. An oval face framed with jaw-length blond curls looked down at her. She knew the girl quite well and wanted to say her name; she had it on the tip of her tongue... What was it? Something with an M? Maya? Mandy? “Mandy?”
Mandy sat on the edge of her bed and put her hand on her forehead. “Your fever seems to be gone. Do you feel well enough to go to classes today?”
“Yes.” Had she been ill? Well, that would explain the heaviness in her head.
“The first class is going to start in an hour.” Mandy stood. “You better hurry up, if you want to stop for breakfast.”
Her stomach rumbled. “Breakfast, yeah.” She sat up and stretched her arms. They were sore and heavy.
“See you downstairs.” Mandy grabbed her books from the desk by the bed.
She tossed her legs over the edge of her bed and frowned as her eyes scrutinised the bare greyish walls and simple, worn-out furniture. The room she had been sharing with Mandy for -- she pinched her eyebrows together. For how long? “Three years. Yeah. Something like that.” Her brain felt slightly muddled and her body a little weak. She must have been really ill.
“Breakfast.” She jumped up, feeling as if her brain rattled against her skull at the movement. She staggered slightly and, teeth clenched, stumbled into the adjoining bathroom. Splashing cold water onto her face cleared her mind and made her feel slightly better. She washed up, then she tossed on the clothes she found in the cabinet beside her bed, grabbed the bag on the desk on her side of the room and went into the weakly lit hallway. The cafeteria was two corridors away. She found Mandy sitting at the end of the second of the two long tables. After she got her food from the poorly-stocked self-service buffet, she strolled toward her.
A black-haired girl sat beside Mandy. She looked familiar and her name came as soon as she laid her eyes on her. Katherine, but everybody called her Kate.
“Hey.” She lowered herself into the seat beside Mandy.
The girls greeted her back and after a few minutes three boys joined them.
Seeing the blond, beautiful oval face with its narrow nose, high cheekbones and strong chin, her mouth stretched into a smile. She knew his name as if it were imprinted onto her brain. “Ethan,” she breathed out. She loved that boy and he loved her, or so he said, and not only said, but showed her, repeatedly.
Claire? Her name wasn't Claire, her name was -- Claire. She rubbed her forehead and sighed. When she lifted her head, she saw ice-blue eyes staring at her, something like worry written on his face. She smiled. “I'm afraid that I'm not completely well yet.”
“You might not be completely well for a while,” Ethan said. “You were quite sick, much more than Mandy and Tyler were.”
“Ryan was almost in as bad shape as you.” Kate put her hand on the black-haired boy's shoulder. “But you feel better now, right?”
Claire watched Ryan’s spiked hair shift with his nod, wondering how much time he had to spend on gelling it. His skin was pale and had a grey sheen. She leaned toward Ethan. “Who's that?” she asked in a whisper. “A new student?”
“You are so silly.” Ethan flickered her forehead. “That's Ryan, Kate's boyfriend. He has been here for two years now.”
He had? But he looked so... unfamiliar. She faced Ryan and found him staring at her. Had he heard her? She gave him a smile.
He rolled his eyes and turned toward Kate. The light scowl that marred his face smoothed out and his face lit up. He picked an apple from his plate and offered it to the black-haired girl.
He must really like her,
“What's that?” Kate asked, frowning.
“For you. You have been really into them lately,” Ryan said.
Kate took the apple, but instead of biting into it as Claire expected she set it on the tray before her.
It was such a nice gesture and I would have eaten it in Kate's place
, Claire thought as she wrapped her fingers around her apple, which she had taken in her pillage of the buffet. After she had read that they were good for one’s health, she tried to eat at least one a day. She lifted the fruit up and sank her teeth into it, breaking the red skin. The sweet juicy taste spilled over her tongue. She had really started to like apples. They had become one of her favourite fruits.
“Kate said there’s a party this evening.” Claire pushed the brown thing that was supposed to be meat to the edge of her plate. The food here... She grimaced, put the fork down and leaned back in her seat.
“Yes, there is.” Ethan leaned his forearms on the table.
“She said we are going?” Which was weird, since usually they liked to keep to themselves.
“That’s the plan.”
But she and Ethan didn’t have to go. “You could back out.” She eyed the table, annoyed that it separated her from him. Usually he sat on the same side as her, so that he could hold her hand. She liked the way he slid his fingers among hers and slightly squeezed them as if in reassurance, telling her that he was there and that he wasn’t about to go anywhere. She glided her hand over the table and her fingers touched his then tiptoed over his hand. “You could come to my room.” As he had so many times before, and they would snuggle and talk late into the night. “You haven’t been to my room in such a long time, not since I got well again. I miss you.” And their talks and his warmth against her back.
He hauled his hand against his side.
She scowled. “What’s the matter?”
She chuckled. “You are not serious.”
“It’s forbidden,” he stubbornly repeated.
“So is the party.”
“Both are against the rules, aren't they? But when has that ever stopped you?”
“We are not going to have...”
“I’m not going to break the rules.”
“Why not?” Claire couldn’t understand it. He was the one who always waltzed into her room, into her bed and under her bedcovers to spoon with her. Why had that become such a problem now? “You’ve done it before.”
“I might have, but...”
“Look at the time.” He glanced at his watch and stood up. “I have a meeting with a teacher I’m helping on a project for extra credit.” He piled his plates onto one another.
“Wait, let me walk you part of the way.” She jumped up and picked up her plates.
“If you must.” He started to walk away.
“The way you are acting, I might start to think you don’t like me anymore,” she said, a chuckle in her voice.
“No, I...” He put the plates on the counter.
He should have said, ‘As if that would ever happen.’ Her eyebrows furrowed as she scrutinised his profile. “What’s going on with you?”
“What are you taking about?”
“You are different.”
“ Nothing’s different. You are just tired.” He took her plates off her hands and added them to the pile. “Maybe you should take a nap.”
Her eyes narrowed into slits.
“What did I say wrong this time?”
It wasn’t the first time he had proposed a nap to her, but before it was always accompanied by a naughty wiggle of his eyebrows and a suggestion that he could join her. She pressed her fingers against her forehead. Or maybe she really was tired and it was making her too sensitive. This was Ethan, the boy who had taught her that leaning on others wasn’t a bad thing, the boy who had showed her that she wasn’t alone in this world. He had proven his worth to her, more than once. And he loved her, she was certain of it, he had said that to her many times -- and not just said it, but proved it with his actions. Nothing said ‘I love you’ more than supplying her with care and attention, and by that she didn't mean only his habit of bringing her food. Something that he hadn’t done for quite a while now, not since she had gotten well.