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Authors: Cate Tiernan

Immortal Beloved

BOOK: Immortal Beloved
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Copyright © 2010 by Gabrielle Charbonnet



All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.



Little, Brown and Company



Hachette Book Group



237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017



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Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.



The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.



First eBook Edition: September 2010



The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.



ISBN: 978-0-316-12233-7





With love to my husband, Paul—the bearer of unconditional things. Your love and support make it all possible



With appreciation and affection to Erin Murphy, for your hand-holding, cheerleading, and savvy instincts


Thank you












































ast night my whole world came tumbling down. Now I’m running scared.


Have you ever been going along, living your life, living in your reality, and then suddenly something happens that rips your world right in two? You see something or hear something, and suddenly everything you
, everything you’re
, shatters into a thousand shards of sharp, bitter realization.

It happened to me last night.

I was in London. With friends, as usual. We were going out, as usual.

“No, no, turn here!â€




fter some of the events I’ve witnessed, the Incy/cabbie/magick/neck night should seem like a party. I’ve raced away in the night, clinging to a horse’s mane, with nothing but the clothes on my back, while a city behind me burned to the ground. I’ve seen bodies covered with the oozing sores of the bubonic plague, piled high in city streets like logs because there weren’t enough people alive to bury them. I was in Paris on July 14, 1789. You never forget the sight of a human head on a pike.

But we weren’t at war now. We were living an ordinary life, or as ordinary a life as an immortal can have. I mean,
there’s always a bit of a surreal quality. If you live long enough, through enough wars and invasions and attacks by northern raiders, you end up defending yourself, sometimes to an extreme point. If someone’s coming at you with a sword, and you have a dagger tucked in the back of your skirt, well…

But that was different. It didn’t matter that your attacker probably wouldn’t kill you—how often does someone actually cut your head clean off?—it still
like a life-or-death situation, and you reacted as if it were. But last night had been… just a regular night. No war, no berserkers, no life or death. Just a pissed-off cabbie.

Where had Incy gotten that spell? Yes, we’re immortal, we have magick running through our veins, but one has to learn on purpose how to use it. Over the years, I’d known some people who were all about studying magick, learning spells, learning whatever they needed to learn to wield it. But I’d figured out a long time ago that I didn’t want to. I’d seen the death and destruction that magick could cause, I’d seen what people were willing to do to pursue it, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I wanted to pretend it didn’t exist. And I’d found some like-minded aefrelyffen (an old word for immortals), and we hung out.

Okay, maybe I’d use magick to get a cab when it’s raining and there’s none to be found. To make the person in front of me not want that last
pain au chocolat
. That kind of thing. But to snap someone’s spine, for fun?

I’d seen Incy use people, break girls’ and boys’ hearts, steal, be callous—and it was just part of his charm. He was reckless and selfish and a user—but not to me. To me he was sweet and generous and funny and fun, willing to go anywhere, do anything. He was the one who would call me to go to Morocco at a moment’s notice. The one I’d call to get me out of a jam. If some guy wouldn’t take no for an answer, Incy was there, smiling his wolfish smile. If some woman made a snide remark, Incy’s wit would skewer her in front of everyone. He helped me pick out what to wear, brought me fabulous stuff from wherever he went, never criticized me, never made me feel bad.

And I’d done the same for him—once breaking a bottle over a woman’s head after she went after Incy with a long metal nail file. I’d paid off doormen, lied to bobbies and gendarmes, and pretended to be his wife or his sister or his enraged lover, whatever the situation demanded. We would howl about it afterward, falling together, laughing until tears came out of our eyes. The fact that we’d never been lovers, never had that awkwardness between us, only made it more perfect.

He was my best friend—the best friend I’d ever had. We’d been tight for almost a century, so it was amazing that he’d managed to shock me last night. And amazing that our other friends hadn’t been shocked. And amazing that I’d managed to reach a new low, even for me. The low of indif
ference. The low of cowardice. And, to top it all off, Incy had seen my neck. Better and better.

When I got back to my London flat, I took a shower, sitting on the marble floor and letting the hot water rain down on my head for a long time, trying to wash the alcohol and the warehouse off my skin. I couldn’t even name what I was feeling. Fear? Shame? It was as if I’d woken up into a different life from the one I’d woken up into yesterday, and I was a different person. And this life and I were both suddenly much darker and grosser and more dangerous than I’d realized.

I soaped up all over, practically feeling the alcohol oozing out of my pores. I washed my hair, automatically avoiding my… it’s not a tattoo. Immortals get tattoos, of course, and they last a long time, maybe about ninety years or so. Other scars heal, fade, and disappear much more quickly and completely than on regular people. A couple of years later, you can’t tell where you were injured or burned.

Except for me. The mark on the back of my neck was a burn, and I’d had it since I was ten years old. It had never faded, never changed, and the skin was slightly indented, patterned. It was round, about two inches across. It had been caused by a red-hot amulet pressed against my skin 449 years ago. Sure, despite my paranoia, the occasional person had seen it, now and again, over the last four and a
half centuries. But as far as I knew, no one
now living
had ever seen it. Except for Incy, last night.

Finally I got out, all prune-y. I wrapped myself up in a thick robe I’d taken from some hotel, avoiding looking at myself in the mirror. Feeling like a ghost, a wraith, I wandered into the living room and saw the
London Times
on the floor in front of my door, where I’d kicked it. I carried it into the kitchenette, where all I found were an ancient packet of McVitie’s and a bottle of vodka in the freezer. So I sat on my sofa and ate the stale crackers, skimming the
. It was buried way in the back, before the obits but after, like, Girl Guide meeting announcements. It said,
Trevor Hollis, 48, an independent taxicab driver, was attacked last night by one of his fares and suffered a broken spine. He is in the ICU of St. James’s Hospital, undergoing tests. Doctors have said he will likely be paralyzed from the shoulders down. He has been unable to name or describe his attacker. His wife and children have been at his side.

Paralyzed below the shoulders. If I had called an ambulance, gotten him help sooner, would it have made a difference? How long had he lain on the sidewalk, rigid with pain, unable to scream?

Why hadn’t I called 999? What was wrong with me? He could have died. Maybe he would have preferred to. He wouldn’t be driving a cab any longer. He had a wife and children. What kind of a husband could he be now? What
kind of a father? My eyes got blurry, and the stale crackers turned to dust in my throat.

I had been part of that. I hadn’t helped. I’d probably made it worse.

What had I become? What had Incy turned into?

The phone rang and I ignored it. My buzzer sounded three times, and I let the doorman handle it. I’d lost my mobile a couple of days ago and hadn’t gotten around to replacing it, so I didn’t have to worry about that. Finally, at about eight, I got up and went to my bedroom and pulled out my biggest suitcase, the one that could hold a dead pony. (Before you go there, I’ll clarify that it never has.)

Quickly, with a sense of abrupt urgency, I grabbed armfuls of clothes and whatever and shoved them in, and when it was full, I zipped it up, found a jacket, and headed out. Gopala, the doorman, got me a cab.

“Mr. Bawz and Mr. Innosaunce were looking for you, Miss Nastalya,â€




watched him in the rearview mirror as he walked down the road. He was tall and broad-shouldered, and the way his jeans hugged his butt was a rare treat. As I looked at his back, that feeling of recognition lingered, and I frowned, racking my memory. Then I caught a glimpse of myself and groaned out loud—my skin had an unhealthy nightclub pallor, my lips were practically as pale as my skin, my eyes looked weird because of my blue contacts, my spiky black hair was lopsided and stiff. I was his antithesis: He was the perfect
man, while I was the least perfect of women. Strung out, unhealthy. Well, what did I care? I didn’t care.

Four minutes of rutted road later, I finally pulled up in front of a long two-story building that looked more like a school or a dormitory than someone’s home. It was large and rectangular, painted a severe, pristine white, with dark green shutters on each precise window. There were at least three more outbuildings off to the sides, and a stone fence that might enclose a large garden.

I parked my car on autumn-dry grass next to a beat-up red truck. It felt like the next few minutes were monumental, as if they would decide my whole future. Getting out of this car would be admitting that my life was a waste. That
was a waste. It would be admitting that I was scared of my friends, scared of myself, my own darkness, my history. Everything in me wanted to stay in this car with the windows rolled up and the doors locked, forever. If I’d been a human, and
meant only another sixty years, I might have actually done it. However, in my case, forever truly would have been unbearably long. There was no way.

BOOK: Immortal Beloved
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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