Chapter Nine

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Friday arrived. Campus was closed as a mark of respect to Simone, and by ten o’clock, a large crowd of students had gathered along the street outside the church.

Standing at one of the flat’s front windows, I surveyed the scene below. An elaborate, horse-drawn hearse was parked in front of the undertakers, and two black stallions, adorned with ostrich plumes in their bridles, whinnied and stomped their hooves with impatience. The funeral cortège had assembled on the pavement. Simone’s casket appeared, and the pallbearers gently lifted it onto the runners feeding it into the carriage.

Justin’s head popped around the door. “Ready?”

“Yeah, sure. Beth!” I called, and she dutifully appeared.

The funeral was a typically sombre affair, alive with soggy tissues and streaky make-up. I stood at the back, letting the vicar’s voice wash over me, and spent the whole time staring at the flower-laden coffin, wondering if the lid would suddenly flip up, and a fanged monster would escape to reap its vengeful attack on the congregation.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t happen, and as the mourners dispersed in the direction of the pub, I quietly snuck off home. I wasn’t in the mood for crowds and needed time to think, time to try and make sense of at least something, but as I turned to close the door, it was obstructed by a perfectly polished, black shoe, that belonged to…

“Sebastian?”

“Seb, please,” he said, easing his way through. “Only my father calls me Sebastian.”

He checked down the backstreet and closed the door securely. His eyes scanned the flat. “Nice place.”

“I like it.”

“It doesn’t bother you? Living over a place like this?” he asked.

“Why would it? The neighbours are quiet.”

He didn’t laugh at my joke, neither did he comment. He simply stood silently, staring. It was very unnerving and made my legs go all wobbly. Perhaps if I turned away from him he’d disappear again. It was worth a shot. I forced my jelly legs over to the front window and stared out at nothing in particular. The light was subdued, and the sky had darkened to an air force-grey. A low mist was beginning to carpet the distant fields, and I wondered if snow had been forecast.

I knew my little experiment hadn’t worked. He was still there. I could feel his presence and smell his scent, a musky, inviting aroma that filled my senses and sent my head in a whirl, and it was getting stronger.

“Your friends interrupted us the other day. Can we talk now?” he whispered softly into my neck, and his fingertips traced a fiery trail down my spine.

“What’s the point? There’s nothing to say. I wish you’d just leave me alone,” I said, lowering my head in time to see Lara leaving the newsagents. She glanced up with a look of fury contorting her face, as Sebastian’s arms reached either side of me and grabbed the window frame.

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