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CHAPTER 7 - AURIE

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August 10 | Evening

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August 10 | Evening

Savage. I had been callously run down and killed. How could anyone do that to another human being? I was assailed by the mental picture of my body splayed in front of the hotel. Like I was sleeping, albeit the eternal rest, as Mys called it.

After the detective stepped outside, I struggled to pull myself together. Emily Leigh Edison's daughter wasn't a victim. She was a doer; something had to be done.

I gradually noticed my so-called hangover was lifting. My mind was growing sharper and clearer by the second. Clear enough to know a guy like Darcy Cyprian would think he was untouchable, but he messed with the wrong one.

"My life might've been nothing to you, Mr. Cyprian, but it was mine," I growled.

The vampire had taken everything except my determination to see him destroyed. I paced the studio. I would tell Zyr that Haley could pick Darcy out of a line-up. The autopsy would prove he had tampered with my drink. Rich asshole or not, it was an open and shut case.

Detective Zyr could already see that.

With his mesmerizing amber eyes.

I shook my head at myself as I paced some more. Now isn't the time to be thirsty, Aurie. I had just learned the detective was a werewolf. Fawning over a genderqueer human like Mys was uncharacteristic enough, but getting a buzz for someone inhuman? Fail.

"Detective Zyr?" I called out at the door after it felt like I had been walking back and forth for ages. Mys had warned me the sands in the hourglass moved weirdly for the dead, but the detective had been gone awhile. I called his name again.

No response. I crossed my arms and stared at the doorknob. Maybe his phone call had been an emergency. I considered poking my head through the wall, but it seemed wrong to do that. I waited.

I waited as boredom came. Then, fear. Darkness. Night crept up beyond the high basement windows, and I couldn't even turn on the lights. I was alone and forgotten as I retraced the same steps over and over.

This must be what it feels like to be dead.

All at once, I had to face an incredible loss that amnesia had mercifully blocked. I wanted Haley. I wanted Mom. My home in the Garden District. My pink Miata. The stuff that made up my life as a college teen.

I imagined going back as a ghost. It was one thing not to be able to open doors, something else entirely not to be able to hug my family. I didn't want to go back like that.

Yet, what else could I do, and where else could I go? Mys had made it clear I needed to vacate the premises by the time they returned from work. I wondered what it would be like for people to not see or hear me. A depressing existence.

Heaven, it is. "Figure out the specifics of your unfinished business," I said out loud to keep my nerves from fraying.

I snorted at the psychic (Empath or whatever) assuming I had spent my life purposefully avoiding a good time. After my dad passed away, Mom was always in Los Angeles for work. I basically had to raise my sister by myself, but it seemed like trying to be a good role model had landed me in this limbo.

My absent-minded roaming took me midway through the coffee table. When I saw my legs bisected by wood, I shuddered and hurried to open floor.

On the bright side, I didn't have to worry about the rebel back home ending up here with unfinished business. I knew Haley would do everything to the max, my perfect example be damned. My sister had never needed me to put my life on hold for her. I should have let her show me how to live it up.

"I wish I had you around to help me now," I said.

What did I want? What had gone undone that could be completed in this Afterlife? I considered daredevil hijinks—like base jumping or doing cocaine—but my unfinished to-do list needed bullet points I wanted to try. Drugs had never been my thing.

All the same, I had to think outside the box. Which made me remember last night's indecent proposal from Mys. Which made my phantom body start zinging with interest again. Who was I kidding? The zinging had re-started the minute the attractive Detective Zyr Ravani arrived.

(I scratched Supernatural kink from my ideas list. How did one engage in "relations" without a body anyway?)

I wondered if I could enjoy traveling by myself. I had always wanted to go places. Except, in my present condition, there would be no vacation photos, no exotic food, no fruity drinks with mini umbrellas. Just me, out haunting around. I scratched off travel.

With a groan, I plopped to the couch, accidentally knocking a lamp off the side table. There had to be something else people put on their bucket lists. Something like...love?

Falling in love was a big part of living life to the fullest.

There was this one guy I had been crushing on since freshman year: William J. Varnado. He wasn't the usual leading man, but he was smart and idiosyncratic. I could write to him. Better than that, I could stop by his place on my way home to say goodbye to my family. I was sure Mys would make a side trip if it got me out of here faster.

The more I thought of it, the more it fit. There was nothing else left undone in my life. My planner was an open book in my head now, and my ultra-organized, methodical ass had attended to every other detail. So, my unfinished business was to confess my feelings.

I tried out the words: "I like you, Willie-Jay."

Tick. The lamp switched on as I picked it up to put it back where it belonged.

Convulsing in overhyped amazement, I shoved the thing on the side table and sat back with wide eyes. Had I done that? Was it a sign Dead Girl was onto something with the love letter? A grin shaped my lips as I rushed to find another light switch. Edging it to the ON position, more illumination—and more excited squeals—filled the studio.

Mys had made it seem like I would never again be able to impact the Real World, but this changed everything. This means I can interact with my family, I thought. I almost walked out the door. I stopped because I hated walking through things and because I remembered the warning about Overlay City.

As per the Empath, Supernatural laws mostly dealt with keeping humans from learning of this hidden world. There were no laws against causing harm, especially harming other Supers. It could be unsafe for a ghost on her own.

Also, as impatient as I was to be home, it was impolite to leave without thanking my host. No self-respecting Southern girl would ever.

Moving to the stylish kitchenette, I popped a grape from the fridge in my mouth and ate it as a tester. When it went down, I applauded myself for figuring out another Overlay City rule, like the clothes I could wear because they were "transmuted" by Supernatural contact. I was no longer restricted to a half-life. I could eat. I could move things. What else could I do?

My eyes skated to the bathroom door. There was a big, sexy clawfoot tub in there. Could I get a nice, long soak? I tossed off the shirt I had borrowed from Mys and raced to find out.

An hour later, I was floating in water scented with products from that organic cosmetic store where Mys bought their cologne. A tiny, bittersweet laugh escaped. It felt like this was my first time living for myself, and that was funny.

Because it was true, except I was dead.


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