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CHAPTER THREE

The limo sucked him back inside, sprawling him over the back seat. Death gritted his teeth as he hefted himself right way up.

“What are you playing at, Danu? Take me back to Amaru Elora. I would speak with you now.”

The door slammed shut. There was no answer apart from the engine purring as it gathered speed when it turned into traffic.

“The silent treatment is immature, Goddess, you know that?”

 

He grunted when there was no reply. Feeling no more urges to harvest souls, he helped himself to another tumbler of whiskey and downed it in one gulp. He welcomed the smooth, fiery path and yet he couldn’t shake his uneasiness.

He didn’t like this feeling. He wanted to feel nothing at all. It was easier that way. Simpler. The ambivalence disturbed him in a way he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

Thankfully his heart remained still after that last gigantic, unexpected beat that thumped the inside of his chest like a stone fist. He didn’t want it to beat again. It had been almost painful, and not just in a physical sense. Unsettling more to the point. Hopefully, it was just a once-off thing. Maybe it had been another one of Danu’s tricks. Something to make him think. He wouldn’t put it past her. He wished he could talk to his brothers. Together they might work out a way of Danu’s little lessons.

“War? Famine? Conquest? Are you there?”

The limo drew up to a curb and stopped. He hadn’t observed where they’d been going, hoping it might have been The Black Rabbit, but that was just wishful thinking. He glanced out of the window and grimaced. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

The door opened and he was unceremoniously expelled from the limo in the same manner as outside the shop after he made no move to get out. No wonder she’d dressed him in denim and leather. The material stood up to the rigors of being thrown out of the backs of cars, obviously.

He got to his feet and didn’t bother brushing off. There was no way he was staying here. Besides, the good whiskey was still inside the car.

The car door slammed shut in his face and the motor turned off. No matter how hard he tugged the handle, the door remained sealed shut. There was nothing else to be done unless he wanted to sleep on the streets. Not a comfortable proposition in the slightest.

“Fuck.”

Death put his hands on his hips and hung his head, letting himself wallow for a moment. Taking a steeling breath, he made his way to the happy little 1920s-style bungalow that was going to be like living in the relics of the dead, by the look of it. It was nothing like his own sleek apartment back in Amaru Elora that housed him and numerous servants to keep it maintained, clean, and private in between bouts of soul reaping. Just the way he

liked it.

His steps were heavy as he tread the overgrown pathway to the weathered house. His bedroom was larger than this entire dwelling. Make that this entire block of land. He was used to space. To unending living areas. To long corridors where footsteps echoed. To go into whatever room he liked without bumping into another soul. To his own in-house gym and pool. To a commanding view of the immortal world.

The only time he stepped into spaces like this was when he came to harvest souls, certain that they silently thanked him for rescuing them from their misery after a lifetime of living in such squalor.

Five steps took him to the wooden-fenced porch that supported a flowering plant and a rocking chair. A rocking chair! The front door swung open, inviting him into the claustrophobic space inside. It was like walking inside a child’s cubby. He ducked his head as he stepped through the doorway. The entrance was nothing but a space with no more than a couple of steps between a kitchen and living space. Down a short hallway he spied a laundry room and bathroom. Two strides past that was a backdoor and a… chicken coop against the back fence. There were stairs that no doubt took him upstairs to a bedroom. Maybe two. If he was lucky. He had a wardrobe for his boots bigger than this house.

This was going to end. It was time to suck it up. He took a deep breath, calming his fractures sensibilities. “How… quaint. Joke’s over, Danu. I’ll apologize. Let me back inside my own house. I see the error of my ways.”

There. That should do it.

The front door slammed shut behind him. The cheery yellow walls and well-worn furniture closed in on him, and there was a gnawing feeling from the middle of his torso that was steadily becoming worse. Hunger. Something he rarely experienced and was easily dealt with a click of his fingers back home and servants scurried to tend to his every need. Here, however, no help came.

It seemed he couldn’t do anything about being in this house, but he spied a bowl of apples, bananas, and pears on the kitchen counter. He’d seen humans eat. He harvested their souls after they choked on their food often enough. The fruit would have to do. He had no idea how to prepare a cooked meal. After all, it was only mortal souls that had to eat to keep their bodies alive.

Happy he could identify the fruit at least, he grabbed a banana, bit into it, and spat it out right away. It was terrible. Sharp and tangy and disgusting. How did they stomach anything so horrible?

Yet, he remained hungry. He ran his tongue over his lip. There was a trace of sweetness gathered there. He smelled the banana. The sweetness came from the inside. He squeezed the fruit, expelling the insides from the evil-tasting skin. That was much better. He devoured the banana and then took another one, carefully squeezing out the insides of that one as well, taking care not to accidentally bite into the skin. They should all be eaten that way, in his opinion.

Now that his stomach was taken care of, it was his body that required something of a different nature. A new lethargy tugged at his limbs, making it hard to keep his eyes open. His body clearly needed to rest.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d needed to rest. The last millennia was spent doing deed after deed without need of respite, yet now as he was in the mortal plane, his body was being directed to it.

Maybe he should just give in to it. Maybe when he woke, he would find that this had all been some sort of a mixed-up nightmare and all had been forgiven. He trudged up the stairs, finding a small bathroom and two adjacent bedrooms.

First things first. He used the bathroom and then went into the bedroom with the least offensive bed coverings, although both were equally as bad as the other, pulled back the frilled, floral cover, removed his boots, and fell face-first into the pillow. His eyes closed of their own will. He dreamed of the old lady’s strange revelation and then of the shop assistant with the smile that somehow had the power to make his dead heart beat.

GO TO CHAPTER FOUR

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