Angelic nightmare, p.1
Angelic Nightmare, page 1part #4 of Unfortunate Blood Series
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Ember breathed in deeply, the cold, crisp air filling her lungs with bliss. Even the scent of the car exhaust mixed with rain was lovely in its own way. She held out her arms wide, as if she could embrace the whole city, the whole country. Damn, it was good to be back! The grey clouds moved sluggishly overhead, across the pale blue sky, a brisk wind ruffling her hair. She turned to look at Sherry, who was smiling too, her green eyes bright as she laced her fingers through Ricky’s. Ricky was looking around with his chin held high, his eyes narrowed. He seemed to be fascinated by every scent, every sound, every sight. Ember grinned at Reid on her other side and saw his head tilted quizzically, his blue eyes darting around.
And then, a familiar voice squealed in delight from a short distance away, a high pitched noise even over the rest of the din of the airport parking lot; the cars and taxis and various people rushing into each other’s arms for welcoming hugs. Ember’s head whipped round to see a woman with thick grey hair and a smile that Ember’s own smile reflected sometimes, rushing toward her with her arms open.
Ember grinned. “Hi, Grandma!” she greeted brightly as the old woman wrapped her in a lavender-scented embrace and placed a kiss on her cheek. A man with a ring of white hair around his head, bald on top, and wearing glasses, followed and gave her a rough one-armed hug.
“Oh, it’s lovely to see you. How have you been, my dear?” her grandmother asked. She was dressed in neatly pressed navy trousers, a pale blue shirt almost the exact shade of the sky, and a knitted white shawl, and the man — her grandfather — was wearing his usual mossy-green jumper and brown trousers.
“I’ve been good. I missed you,” Ember said quietly, truthfully. She had missed her whole family —or most of them anyway — and she couldn’t wait to see her dad in a couple of days. Right now though, he and her mother were visiting friends in Edinburgh, while her little brother stayed with his best friend for a couple of days. So, her dad’s parents had agreed to pick them all up, which made sense really, considering they’d be staying in their house for the next three weeks, while the elderly couple visited with her uncle in Livingston.
“Ooh, we missed you too, Deary. Everyone has. Why don’t you introduce us to your wee friends?” Edith Jennings was a spry seventy-something year old, but you’d never guess she was that old from her kindly face and upbeat personality. Ember always thought she was a lot like a hummingbird, how active and energetic she was. Her grandfather, Alistair, was almost as lively, but his chosen hobby was fishing. He used to take her little brother fishing on weekends, until Josh had gotten bored. He was a gentle soul with a ruddy face and happened to be one of the most intelligent men she knew.
Ember sucked her lip nervously for a second before she spread her hand out to Sherry. “You already know Sherry, of course,” she said lightly.
Edith nodded. “Oh, yes. Nice to see you again, Deary.” She patted Sherry softly on the arm and Sherry smiled politely back.
Ember motioned to Ricky, on Sherry’s left. “This is Ricky Sanders,” she said and Ricky held out his hand to shake Edith’s.
“Nice to meet you, lad,” Alistair said as he shook hands with the brunette boy, too.
Lastly, Ember turned to her other side and Reid beamed charmingly, introducing himself — as usual. “Reid Ashton. Lovely to meet more of Ember’s family.” He brought her grandmother’s hand to his lips briefly and Ember rolled her eyes.
Her grandma chuckled her warm, rough laugh and Alistair chortled.
“What a pleasant young man,” he commented, shaking Reid’s hand with a firm grip.
Reid nodded politely to him.
“Pleasant to you, is irritating to us. Trust me, you get bored of his charm after a while.” Ember smirked and the blond boy feigned hurt, making her grandparents laugh again.
“Okay, have you all got your luggage?” Alistair asked gruffly.
“Then let’s go. We’ll be leaving you in a few hours, but we’ll help you get settled,” he said kindly, taking Sherry and Ember’s suitcases with surprising ease. He was a big man with good strength for his age.
They all followed along to the shiny silver car — Ember couldn’t have said what kind of car it was, just that it always smelled like her grandfather’s cologne inside — and Alistair tossed all the suitcases in the boot. The four teens squeezed into the backseat, which really should’ve only held three people, but considering Ember’s tiny stature, it was hardly a tight fit.
Her grandparents spoke little —thankfully — on the drive out to Ellon, and Reid and Ricky seemed too fascinated by the rough, unfamiliar landscape outside the car windows to say much either. The North Sea was a vast blue-grey sheet off in the distance to the right of the car, little ships floating on the surface like tiny toys. Sherry and Ember chatted quietly about the last time they’d been to Ellon, staying with her grandparents for a few days in the Easter holidays two years ago.
Ember had fallen out of a tree —a tree she’d climbed every single time she’d been to her grandparents’ house, starting before she’d even been able to reach the lowest branch without a boost up — and Sherry had slipped in the muddy forest on the way back from the ‘big park’ and ended up with slimy mud all up the backs of her jeans. And they’d visited the carnival in Aberdeen, and seen some cute boys, though Ember got motion sickness from the rides eventually. They’d gone to Haddo Country Park and played in the park like little kids, and sat in trees, and talked about nonsense. It had been a fun few days, if a little messy.
Ember couldn’t keep the smile off her face as the car pulled up to the curb in front of the familiar bungalow. The little kiddie’s park to the side of the house looked muddy, and the swings were swaying slightly in the wind. The trees that ran along the back of the street, behind the park and the houses, were bare, their branches spindly. And everything looked exactly the same as the last time she’d been there, except the roses and other plants that usually crawled up the front of the house were limp and yellow, dead from the cold. It was still a beautiful sight though; the house with its large, rough stones and dark front door, the narrow driveway down the side, between it and the next house, and the warm light spilling out through the wide living-room window.
“Well, here we are.” Alistair chuckled as swung open his door, getting out.
Ember unfastened her belt and lunged out, feeling the crisp air sting her cheeks. It smelled like mud and rain and decaying leaves, and very faintly like the moss that grew on the trees behind the house. She could almost hear the babble of the tiny bird’s bath fountain that sat in the back garden. She loved this place.
The boys lugged the suitcases inside, though Alistair took Ember’s despite her insistence she could carry it herself. She rolled her eyes and said thanks anyway.
Once they were all inside, the suitcases piled into the back room —it was a small room at the back of the house, with an old green sofa, a couple of wicker c
The elderly couple disappeared for a little while with the words, “We’re popping down to see a friend, but we won’t be long. You can get yourselves settled, and work out your own sleeping arrangements. Be good.” And then they were gone.
Ember grinned as she settled herself in her favourite armchair in the living room, and looked around. The carpet was a deep cinnamon colour, and the walls were dusty cream. There was a large, oval dining table in front of the long window, set with chairs and a rose-coloured tablecloth. A glass-topped, wooden-framed coffee table sat in the middle of the semi-circle of seating around the TV and the big, stone fireplace. Ember had always adored the fireplace, it was so pretty and homely. The walls were hung with photos of her and her family, and her uncle and cousins, and half a dozen framed sets of fishing-flies in all shapes, sizes and colours. Each fishing-fly was named in tiny, unreadable script, and Ember had once gone through the whole house, counting every fishing-fly. There had been over forty then. She didn’t think there’d be any less now.
Across the hall from the living-room, through the large glass-and-wood double doors, there was study with a computer, a desk and a big swirly chair, where her granddad always sat to make his own little fishing-flies.
Down the narrow hallway was the kitchen, with its clean white floor and cupboards, and the side-door that they’d come in through — only rarely did her grandparents use the front door.
Beyond that, on the opposite side of the hall, there was her grandparents bedroom, with the plush double bed, the mirrored dresser where her grandmother kept her innumerable bottles of perfume, the en-suite bathroom she’d rarely seen, and the odd little aisle at the far side of the room, invisible until you came right across the room, that led to another set of doors that let out on the back garden. Ember had never seen those doors open.
At the back of the house, there was the ‘back room’, the main bathroom, and the guest room. Ember was sure that when she got her own place, she wanted her bathroom to be just like this one. It was so cool. The roof was arched with wooden panels, and a huge mirror ran along the whole of the left-hand wall, from the waist up. And, the thing she’d always thought was so awesome was the bath. It was sunk into the floor! Plus, it had Jacuzzi jets in the sides. Just awesome.
Last of all, there was the guest room, which Ember had already claimed for herself —and Reid, of course, because he wasn’t ‘having any of that ‘sleeping in separate rooms’ crap.’ The guest room had an adorable double bed with a duvet so thick you could sink into it, and a little white-painted bookshelf loaded with Catherine Cookson books, little bedside lamps on little white nightstands on either side of the bed, and cupboards that hung over your head when you were sleeping. And if you looked out the window in the morning, you got a lovely view of the little birdies eating from the bird feeding table near the stone bird-bath fountain.
Yes, she loved staying here. She’d stayed here with her cousin, Harriet, a number of times, and she’d stayed here with her friend, Kat, a few times, and she’d stayed here with Sherry a couple of times too. On nice days, she used to sit out in the back garden, on the cute wooden bench in the far corner, surrounded by high wooden fencing just dripping with all sorts of pretty plants she couldn’t name, and admire the area of lush grass in the centre of the garden, ringed with a red brick path all the way around. There were always flowers blooming and scenting the air in spring and summer, and at night, if you sat on the patio, you could occasionally see bats screeching overhead.
“Ember, hello?” Sherry’s voice snapped her out of her reverie, and Ember blinked. Sherry was waving a hand in front of her face, grinning at her.
“You were away with the fairies, weren’t you?” The green-eyed girl laughed.
Ember smiled, nodding. Someone had once told her that they could always tell when she was daydreaming because she looked downright scary. “Your fairies must be evil, Ember,” the friend had said. That was years ago now. Before she knew fairies really could exist, and some really could be evil. Or at least, dark.
“I was just thinking about how good it is to be back. Even if I do have to put up with a couple of family occasions,” she said, rolling her eyes. A hand came down on the top of her head and ruffled her hair.
“And aren’t you glad you brought me along?” Reid chuckled, placing a kiss on her temple as he dropped down next to her armchair.
Ricky was standing by the fireplace, examining one set of framed fishing-flies with his hands clasped elegantly behind his back. Vaguely, she wondered if he could read the tiny scripture any better than she could. She shoved Reid’s shoulder and he toppled out of his crouch onto his ass, and Sherry snickered.
“Yeah, I would’ve been just devastated if I’d left you behind,” Ember muttered sarcastically and he arched a brow at her sceptically. She pursed her lips, then sighed, “Okay, I would’ve been a little upset,” she conceded.
Reid grinned smugly. “Course you would’ve been,” he said, getting off the floor to drop into the other armchair. Sherry took a seat at the end of the dainty sofa that faced out the window, playfully tossing a cushion at Reid. “Hey, what was that for?” he pouted and Ember shook her head at him.
Sherry giggled. “Just felt like it,” she replied.
Ember laughed, and Ricky turned with a smile on his face.
For a moment, Ricky looked oddly serene, the golden light coming in the window etching out every strand of his dark hair and every finely-shaped feature of his face, including his indulgent smile. Sometimes, she thought Ricky was old for his years —and then she’d laugh silently because, after all, he was a vampire. The boys swore they really were only seventeen, and Ember was, only very rarely, struck with the notion that they’d look pretty much like they did now, forever. They stopped aging at eighteen after all.
“So, what are the odds this holiday is going to go without a hitch? That our biggest worry is going to be drunken family rows and how to make a good impression on the kind people of Scotland?” Reid asked doubtfully.
Ember shook her head.
“Not a chance. Something will happen. Something always happens, ever since you two popped into our lives. That dark cloud of the supernatural is going to follow you around, but maybe over here it’ll get tangled in all the brutal Scottish clouds that, right now, are ready to let loose a shower of rain,” Sherry answered, sounding unusually cynical.
Though, Ember had to admit, it is fair enough for her to be a little more cynical after all she’s been through. She glanced out the window through the slats of the blinds, and saw the roiling bruise-coloured clouds shifting, bleak sky monsters waiting for some poor old bird to start making her way to the shops, and get caught in the down pour.
“First thing about Scotland you ought to know,” Ember said, not taking her eyes off the churning grey ghosts of the sky, “the weather is predictable this time of year. Rain, rain, and more rain. And sometimes snow. But mostly rain.”
Sherry laughed and Reid grimaced, shooting a look at the clouds.
“Rain? It’s so damn cold over here, it ought to be showers of ice-pellets instead,” he grumbled. Though, she didn’t really understand why. It wasn’t like he really got cold.
“Oh, no, we only get sleet when we anger the Seonaidh,” she joked.
Ricky’s eyebrows went up comically. Reid looked confused. Sherry just giggled and rolled her eyes heavenward. Reid opened his mouth, undoubtedly to ask what a ‘Seonaidh’ was, and she waved a hand dismissively at him.
“Just a Celtic mythology joke. Seonaidh is said to be a malevolent water-spirit…” she paused for a moment, realisation and curiosity hitting her. “Huh. Do you think maybe it’s real? I mean, hell, there’s all sorts of supernatural shit
This, apparently, the boys found utterly hilarious. Even Sherry laughed, though she’d already known it. Perhaps it was the boys’ reaction, doubling over with laughter. It was making even Ember herself bite her lip on giggles. “Okay, okay, it’s awfully amusing. But I bet every kid in Scotland who’s ever been to Loch Ness has done exactly the same thing. So, shush, unless yi want me tae send yi tae the West Heilinds and dump yi in The Minch for the storm kelpies to get yi,” she put on the rougher accent she’d learned from her Grandma Lachie —her mother’s mother.
Reid gave her an odd look, and even Sherry had a blank look on her face.
“What’s ‘the Heilinds’?” Ricky asked, not impolitely.
“What’s ‘The Minch’?” Reid added.
Ember rolled her eyes. “The Highlands. Heilinds, Highlands. And The Minch is the stretch of water that separates the West Highlands and Inner Hebrides from the Outer Hebrides. The story is that ‘The Blue Men Of The Minch’ — The storm kelpies — used to hang about in The Minch, looking for sailors to drown or ships to sink.”
Sherry raised her brows at Ember. “I didn’t know you knew so much about the Celtic mythology?” she said, apparently surprised.
“I did a little digging one day when I got bored.” Ember shrugged.
Sherry made a nonchalant gesture and sat back against Ricky, who’d dropped down onto the sofa next to her. The soft sound of the side-door in the kitchen opening distracted them.
“Yoo-hoo, we’re back,” Edith called, chuckling her rough laugh. She wandered into the room, patting down a few stray strands of her silver hair, smiling. “What are we all talking about?” she asked in her kindly voice.
by H G Lynch have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes