Drip Drop Teardrop Page 9

Brennus threw her a look. “You came willingly.”

“I was blackmailed!”

“Same difference. You made a choice.”

The door cracked behind him and a small, older man with the best posture Avery had ever seen came into the room carrying a large tray that should have been too heavy for him.

“Ah, Ames, thank you.” Brennus stood up and reached for the tray.

Ames nodded respectfully. “I hope everything is satisfactory, sir.” He didn’t even glance at Avery.

Brennus put the tray down and then turned back to Ames (the butler?!). “Ames, I’d like to introduce you to Avery.”

Avery fluttered her hand at him. “Hey.”

“Miss.” Ames gave her a little bow.

“Avery.” Brennus gestured to Ames. “Ames is my butler and the head of the household staff. If you have any problems or need anything, Ames will be more than happy to assist you.”

“More than happy, miss,” Ames added congenially.

“Thank you,” she somehow managed to be polite. It wasn’t the butler’s fault that his employer was a twisted, blackmailing, kidnapping immortal son of the dead.

“Thank you, Ames.” Brennus dismissed him and the butler left the room without making so much as a peep.

It became clear, as Brennus fiddled with the tea, making up her cup (a splash of milk, one sugar – she didn’t even want to know how he knew how she took her tea!) and a little plate with sandwiches and biscuits, that he wasn’t going to answer her question unless she asked it again. He was really going to make her work for it, which was so unfair considering she was the one who apparently held the key to his future happiness (freedom).

“Well?” she snapped, jerking the cup out of his hand as he passed it to her. He threw her another one of those irritatingly wicked hot smiles. “Are you going to answer the damn question or not?”

Settling back into his seat he watched her through narrowed eyes. “I’m going to assume your lack of manners this evening is due to the shock of discovering you have a soul mate.”

Avery choked on her tea, a dribble of hot liquid rolling down her chin. She wiped at it furiously and nailed him to his chair with the deadly look. “Soul mate! Manners?! Are you frickin’ kidding me?”

Brennus snorted. “You make my point brilliantly.”

“You arrogant, pain in the ass. You kidnapping, evil, twisted-”

“Yes, yes I get the point,” he sighed wearily. “I’ll refrain from teasing you.”

She reminded herself that her Aunt Caroline brought her up to be polite and in control of her emotions. Avery closed her eyes, drawing in a deep, calming breath. She shook a little as she reached for her tea again.

“I have servants who help me with the dead,” Brennus answered suddenly and her eyes popped wide, staring at him, immediately intrigued despite herself. “We’re allowed a handful to help carry the burden.”

“Who are they?”

“Men and women who died. Spirits.”

“And they take care of the dead you can’t get to?”

Brennus nodded. “They’re tied to me. They feel what I feel; they do what I would do.”

“How many spirits are tied to you?”

“Five.”

Avery gulped. This night just kept getting weirder and weirder. “Did they have a choice?”

Brennus sighed, seeming somewhat annoyed by the question. “Contrary to what my scar portrays I’m not some kind of ogre, Avery, forcing people to do things.”

She snorted.

Refusing to take the bait, Brennus sighed again. “Most people, nearly everyone, believe in some kind of afterlife, even if they don’t think they do. It can be buried deep down, a precious piece of hope in something akin to paradise awaiting us after our lives here in this plane of existence end. But there are those few who never even subconsciously dream to hope. They become spirits, shades, wandering the infinitesimal line between this plane and all the others.”

“Purgatory?”

He shook his head. “If you believe in purgatory then yes if you’ve not repented for your sins, but these people haven’t believed in anything. Not even the idea that we simply cease to exist when we die-”

“So people who believe we just cease to exist…”

“They just cease to exist.”

“Huh.”

“Anyway, I’ve given the choice to a few of the spirits and they’ve chosen to do something with their strange existence and help me ferry the dead into their afterlife.”

Avery was engrossed despite herself. What Brennus was telling her was unbelievable. As a person of no religious affiliations it was astonishing to be told that our beliefs in life were strong enough to determine our afterlife. For a moment her busy brain forgot she hated him. “OK, so say I believe in heaven, hell and purgatory. Where do I go when I die?”

“If you believe in them then you believe in the rules. It all depends on how you lived your life.”

Avery huffed, a small smile playing on her lips. “Wow, Sarah would be so smug right now. She’s always going on and on about the power of belief.”

Brennus nodded, a smirk playing on his lips. “She’s very loyal, your Sarah.”

That statement jolted her back into reality. Jaw clenched tight with restrained emotion, Avery shook her head at him. “Please don’t tell me you’ve actually been watching over me… as in stalking?”

He raised an eyebrow. “OK, I won’t tell you.”

“How can you be so blasé about this? Don’t you know what you’re doing is wrong?”

At the sudden stillness of his body, Avery knew she had angered him. She hated to think how quickly she was learning the nuances of him.

Those dark eyes settled on her and she felt an icy chill holding her stuck in place. “You made the choice to come with me and give me a chance to prove to you that we belong together. Baiting me and continually throwing the choice I gave you in my face is not upholding your end of the bargain.”

Her blood sizzled under her skin but she nodded jerkily. “Fine.”

Warmth enveloped the room again and Avery shuddered, her heart beating rapidly against her ribcage. She was scared. And she hated being scared.

“So can I still ask questions?” she queried indignantly, determined he wasn't going to see how much he unsettled her.

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