3. Death broke the rules

“I don’t have time for this now, Kendra. I told you last night that if you keep this up I will have Ghede remove you. I thought you liked the attention of the human boys. You want to stay here? Then leave me alone. Back away. I don’t need you here. All I have to do is tell my father and you’ll be back in Vilokan. Do you want to be back under Ghede’s sexual beck and call? Hmm? Didn’t think so.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong last night. I thought you’d like to know that Death is here to take Pagan’s soul. Her time is up, again. You go and get all pissy about missing your study date with her but the info I had was kind of important.”

She was right, of course. Pagan’s soul was of utmost importance. If Death was here to take it, then I needed to get ready.

“Now play nice, my prince. I was just doing my job,” she cooed reaching up and running a hand through my hair. Kendra really couldn’t take a hint. “You sure coming over last night wasn’t a big deal? I would hate to mess things up with you and your girlfriend.”

Damn she was going to screw things up for me with Pagan if she didn’t shut up. The last thing Pagan needed to hear was that I had claimed her as my girlfriend. She’d be furious. “You know she isn’t my girlfriend Kendra. Stop calling her that. You’ll start talk.” The pleased smile that came over Kendra’s face confused me. What had I said that would cause her to smile? The girl was insane.

“You spend a lot of time at her house and she’s always looking at you.” I was sure the people around us could hear her.

I needed to do something. Say something to fix this. Pagan did not need to hear this from someone else. I hadn’t progressed that far with her. I needed to build her trust first. So, I glared down at Kendra and said the only thing that would shut everyone’s gossip up. “She’s my tutor and no, she isn’t looking at me. You’re just being paranoid when you have no reason to be.”

Kendra’s voice dropped to a whisper so low only I would be able to hear it. “Oops, my prince. Bad move.”

“You sure she knows she isn’t your girlfriend because it looks like she is stalking you?” Kendra purred and her gaze was directed over my shoulder.

If Pagan was standing behind me, I was going to extinguish Kendra with my bare hands. Turning around my horror was complete when I found Pagan’s hurt eyes taking in the scene she thought she’d just witnessed. The red splotches on her cheeks told me more than I feared. FUCK. What had Kendra done? I needed to do something. But what?

“Oh, uh, Pagan. I was going to come find you and explain about last night,” I began.

Pagan nodded stiffly and held out a paper toward me. “Thought you might need this.”

I reached out to take it, staring down at it trying to figure out what she had for me. But as soon as I took it from her she turned to walk away. “Wait, I was going to call you last night. I just got tied up. Thanks,” I held up the paper in my hands as I realized she’d finished my speech for me.

Kendra slipped her arm inside my arm, “That’s not true, Leif, I never tied you up.”

I was going to kill her. Voodoo spirit or not she was going to die. Grabbing Kendra’s hand, I ripped it off my body and slung her backward before taking off after Pagan.

“Pagan,” I called out to her.

Slowly she turned around and faced me, “Yes?”

“Look, about last night, I’m really sorry. I hadn’t expected you to finish the speech for me. I messed up and I was going to take the bad grade. I should’ve called, but –”

She shook her head, “It’s not a big deal. However, from now on would you please let me know in advance when you won’t be able to make it to the appointed time for your session? Now, if you’ll excuse me.” The cold clipped sound of her voice felt like ice water through my veins. NO. This could not be happening. I’d come so far with her.

“Pagan wait, please.” I begged chasing after her.

She stopped, paused then turned back around to level me with a glare so hard I knew I’d ruined everything. “What?”

“I was coming over and Kendra called.” I started

“I don’t care. Just call next time, please.” She snapped then spun back around and walked away. I wanted to go after her and beg her not to go. But what could I say to make this better?

I followed quietly after her. I needed to make sure she was going to be okay. There had been unshed tears in her eyes. It ripped me apart thinking about her hurting. The idea that she was going to cry made me want to roar in frustration.

She didn’t go to her classroom. Instead, she headed for the parking lot. I stopped short when I saw a dark figure appear by her side. I knew it was Dankmar. I could feel his presence. This was it. Her death was near. She wasn’t in love with me but she had feelings for me. That would have to be enough. Because when her body died, I was going to be there to take her soul.

But her death didn’t happen…

Instead, Death broke the rules. Why? It had been Pagan’s time to die, again. But this time, it hadn’t been me that saved her soul. Death had saved her. I backed away from the wreck scene as Death cuddled Pagan safely in his arms. Her soul was weak and trying to release but Dankmar refused to allow it. This wasn’t right. It was his job. He couldn’t just choose not to take her. Could he? His cold glare lifted to meet mine. He knew I was near. A possessive gleam startled me. What did that mean? Did Death know of my claim on her soul? Was he challenging me? Did he… did he want… Pagan, too? Shaking my head, I backed away. No. That couldn’t be it. That wasn’t right. Death didn’t care for souls. I should talk to Father about this but first I needed to get back to school. She’d be in the hospital soon and I needed to be there when she woke up.

The sound of the ambulance was the last thing I heard before I left her there in Death’s arms.

“Listen here, Leif Montgomery, I don’t care who you are. All I care about is the fact my best friend is lying in that hospital room lucky to be alive because YOU upset her. I don’t know what you did but this is your fault. She. Liked. You.” Miranda stood like a tiny warrior pointing her finger at me with a snarl on her face. Everything she said was correct. I wasn’t going to argue or even defend myself. I deserved more. I wished Wyatt would take a swing at me. I needed to feel something. Everything inside me was numb from fear.

“You aren’t worthy of her. Do you hear me? NOT WORTHY. So stay the hell away from her. I love her. She is like my sister. If something had happened to her,” Miranda stopped and sobbed loudly. Wyatt was instantly at her side pulling her into his arms. He wasn’t happy with me either. The worried frown on his face as he held Miranda in his arms told me he would have words with me when Miranda wasn’t around.

“I know I don’t deserve her,” I replied in a low whisper. I’d protected her from the time I’d saved her soul from Death. But now, when she needed me most, I’d sent her away right back into Death’s embrace. Why he hadn’t taken her soul, I couldn’t figure out. It didn’t make sense.

“Why Kendra? She is so, so, Ugh,” Miranda hissed.

I couldn’t argue with that. “It wasn’t anything like you think. I’m in love with Pagan. Kendra is an annoying pest that can’t accept I’ve moved on.”

Miranda straightened up and turned her full attention on me. “You love Pagan?” she asked with awe in her voice.

I’d said that aloud. Well, it was time I admitted it. “Yes, but please don’t tell her I said that. Right now, she isn’t ready to hear it.”

Miranda nodded and a small smile touched her lips, “I agree. She doesn’t need to hear that right now. But you’re going to need a lot of luck to get back in her good graces. Considering you almost,” Miranda stopped and her eyes filled up with tears again. I didn’t need to ask her to know what she was thinking.

“I know. I intend to do everything I can to win her forgiveness.”

Death was singing to her? What in the hell was that about? I came by everyday. I brought her the foods she requested. I spent time with her just the way I’d always wanted. We laughed. It was perfect…but at night he was coming to her. He was singing to her as she slept. The lyrics he sang weren’t words the lord of Death should be directing at anyone. Clinching my fist to keep from walking into her room and demanding he leave, I listened to the words.

“The life I walk binds my hands, it makes me take things that I don’t understand.

I walk this dark world unknowing of what they hold true, forgetting the me I once knew—until you.

The life I walk eternally was all I knew, nothing more held me here to this earth— until you.

I feel the pain of every heart I take, I feel the desire to replace all that I have grown to hate.

Darkness holds me close but the light still draws my empty soul, the emptiness where I used pain to fill the hole no longer controls me, no longer calls me—because of you.”

Dread ran through me as the meaning of those words sank in. Dankmar was attached to Pagan. He’d kept her alive because he felt something for her. She was mine. I’d been there. I’d saved her and molded her. Death was NOT going to take her away from me. I couldn’t tell Father. He’d demand that I just take her. She wasn’t ready that yet. Not now. She was so close to feeling for me something deeper than friendship. I needed her love. I had to win her love. When I took her from this life, I wanted her to go willingly. Dankmar would not stand in my way. She didn’t know who he was. She couldn’t. If she did, she’d be terrified. Pagan would not fall in love with Death. I knew her well enough to know that she’d never accept who he really was.

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