Flameout (Souls of Fire #3) - Keri Arthur

CHAPTER 1

The throaty roar of machinery shattered the peace of the cemetery. Deep in the old trees and on the other side of the road that channeled drivers up to the mausolea, light shone. It was fierce and bright against the thick cover of night, but it oddly cast the man who stood at the very edge of its circle into shadow.

I paused on the side of the road and took a deep breath. It did little to calm either my nerves or the churning in my stomach. I had no right to be here. No right at all. And I certainly knew that shadow wouldn’t be, in any way, happy to see me.

But I couldn’t stay away. I had to see with my own eyes the lack of a body in the grave the excavator was digging up. While it might have been only a few days ago that I’d physically confronted the man who was supposed to be buried there, some insane part of me couldn’t help hoping that it hadn’t been Luke, that it had instead been some sort of doppelgänger. Not for my sake, but for the sake of the shadow ahead.

After another useless deep breath, I crossed the road and walked as silently as possible through the old eucalypts that dominated this section of the cemetery. Although given the man ahead was infected by a virus that had basically turned him into something of a pseudo vampire, I’m not sure why I bothered. He’d sense my presence long before I actually got there.

Whether he’d acknowledge it was another matter entirely.

The excavator’s engine suddenly cut out, and the ensuing silence was eerie. It was almost as if the night was holding its breath, waiting to see the outcome of the grave being opened.

As I neared the site, the shadow turned. Despite the darkness, his blue eyes had an almost unnatural gleam, and, as ever, I felt the impact of them like a punch to the gut. But if he was in any way surprised to see me, it wasn’t showing.

But then, Sam Turner probably knew me better than almost any human alive, given our rather intense—if altogether too brief—relationship five years ago.

“Evening, Emberly.” His voice gave as little away as his expression, yet it ran over my senses as sweetly as a kiss. “I was wondering when you’d turn up.”

“There was always a chance the sindicati were lying when they said the leader of the cloaks was your brother.” I shrugged. “I needed to be sure.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Why would you disbelieve them when you confronted Luke face-to-face?”

“I know. I just . . .” I paused and shrugged again.

“You just keep hoping that you’re wrong, that it’s someone who looks like my brother in charge of the red cloaks rather than Luke himself.” A bitter smile momentarily twisted his lips. “I know the feeling.”

“The red cloaks” was the nickname given to those infected by the Crimson Death virus—or the red plague, as it was more commonly known—and it was a virus Sam had running through his veins. Those infected generally fell into two categories—the ones who were crazy and kept under control only by the will of the red cloak hive “queen,” and the ones who kept all mental faculties even though they were still bound to the hive and its leader. No one really understood why the virus affected some more than others, although the powers that be suspected it very much depended on whom you were infected by. Of course, there was a third, much rarer category involving people like Sam and Rochelle—Sam’s lover