Beautiful Monster - The Exchange (Book One) Chapter 10

An hour later Lev walked through the door of his home; the pink residue of tears on his cheeks was a pale reminder of his anguish. Carly was gone now. Forever this time; vanishing into a ball of light, presumably the portal to the “other side”.

Hightailing it out of Boris’s dump of a mansion hadn’t been difficult. The creature had been too dumbfounded by what he’d just seen Carly do, as well as sated enough by gorging on Alexei, to not even notice Lev make his escape.

Lev entered the parlor and threw himself onto the couch. Covering his face with his hands, he began to sob again. The pain of loss burned in him. With the loss of Carly, he realized being alone was his biggest fear, too.

As if whisked in by an unseen twister, Alexei was suddenly at his side. “Does Boris know where we live?” he asked anxiously as he peeked outside through the drawn curtains. “He didn’t follow you, did he?”

Lev sat up and snarled, “You self-absorbed asshole!”

Alexei shrugged. “What? There’s nothing to be done now, Brother. Carly’s gone. But I must say, that was awesome! I mean, that spinning golden light thing was quite something. Not to worry, though. Time will pass as it always does, and you, will undoubtedly find another woman to love, which will end in yet another heartbreak. Why not abandon this madness now?” His tone was devoid of emotion—a flat line of words.

Lev shook his head in amazement. Shouldn’t he already have realized how uncaring his brother was? Why did Alexei’s callousness continue to surprise him? He noticed Alexei’s wounds had healed and that he was no worse for wear. Lev switched gears, wanting to jab back at his brother and summon up as many unpleasant emotion as he could. “Why are you so afraid of Boris?”

Alexei splayed long fingers over his chest and threw his brother a look of surprise. “If you don’t know the answer to that after what you’ve just witnessed, then you’re denser than I thought,” he said over his shoulder as he left the room.

Lev followed him, and as he did, he tried to tune into his brother’s thoughts but got nothing. Alexei was clever; he’d thrown up a mental wall. There was more to it than what his brother was letting on. Lev could feel it.

“Why won’t you tell me? I won’t take no for an answer. You know you’re stronger than I am and always will be because you’re my maker, but I have some power over you now.” Lev raised a brow.

“You wouldn’t?” Alexei said, and Lev knew he’d read his mind. A sigh of discontent rattled from his brother’s throat. “If you tell Boris where to find me, he’ll…well, he’ll do something really awful to me. I was lucky to get away tonight! How stupid I was to take you there. You, my only brother. See what I was willing to risk for you?”

Then, seemingly without reason, his demeanor softened, and Alexei said with a sigh, “It’s really my own fault. I should have taught you better. Taught you the ways of the creature I’ve turned you into.” He wagged a slender finger and shook his head. “But you were always the sensitive type. Always with your books and your poetry and your writing. I thought you’d be more like me by now. Perhaps it’s because you’ve never turned anyone. You haven’t, have you? Surely, you would have told me?”

Lev shook his head. “No, I have not, and I never will.”

He thought back to when he’d almost turned Carly—holding her delicate wrist to his lips, his fangs drawing blood. But that was out of desperation, a need to keep her with him and even then, he couldn’t do it. Shame fell on him briefly at the thought of what he’d been tempted to do to his beloved Carly. There was something dark living within him, something that constantly tried to claw its way to the surface but so far, he’d been able to keep it at bay.

“I knew it,” Alexei said, grinning widely. “If you’d turned someone, you’d be changed. You’d be hardened and tougher like me and like Boris.” He whispered Boris’s name as if there was power in just speaking it.

“But I am like you. I feed like you,” Lev said. He didn’t understand his own motives in defending himself. He didn’t want to be like his brother, did he?

“You’ve never turned anyone, and you’ve never killed, so that’s where we differ, Brother. As your maker, you’re my responsibility, and as you well know, I’m not very responsible.” He laughed, and it soon morphed into a giggle. “Time you learned to be a true creature of the night, especially now.” Alexei placed a hand on Lev’s shoulder. It was a tender gesture, but Lev bristled at his brother’s touch.

“Tonight, you will come with me. We will feed together again for the first time in a very long time. You can either turn someone, or…” Alexei threw a hand in the air, pointer finger straightened as if he’d had an epiphany. “Perhaps you’re ready for a kill?” A devilish gleam shone in his eyes.

Lev shook his head. “You go. I’d rather be alone.” His words were hollow, and Alexei would see straight through them, but he was afraid, plain and simple. There was enough of the old Lev, the true Lev, still in him to keep the darkness away for a while longer.

Alexei furrowed his brow and shook his head. “You wallow in your grief and pain. You live a life of self-pity. It’s time you left that behind. When you turn another or better still, when you take a life, Lev, you gain power! You take a part of your prey. In fact, we take a piece of every person we kill and of every new creature we make. It’s how our kind builds strength and how…” He moved close enough to whisper into Lev’s ear. “It’s how we stop feeling. Weak human emotions disappear and oh, what a wonder that is, Brother.” Alexei’s dark eyes were mesmerizing, and his smile grabbed at something deep inside Lev. “Do you want the pain to stop?”

Lev nodded slowly.

“Then come with me.”

Lev stood, and Alexei clapped him on the shoulder. “Now we will finally be brothers in every sense of the word.” Alexei threw open the curtains to reveal a moonlit sky. “There is so much out there waiting for you. Much more than you’ve dreamed and I’m finally going to get to show you. Forgive me, Lev. I have not done my duty as your maker or as your brother.”

Lev followed Alexei out into the night.

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I'm a USA Today bestselling author. I've written 12 novels and I also work as an editor. I love crypto, writing and Boston terriers.

Beautiful Monster - The Exchange
Beautiful Monster - The Exchange

Lev Baronovsky, a soulless creature of the night, has a problem. Carly, the love of his life has just died in an accident and in three days will pass to the other side. Without a soul, he cannot cross over with her and the thought of spending eternity without his beloved is unbearable. Is seventy-two hours enough time to find a way? With the help of his brother, Alexei, they must face the vilest creature of all, Boris, an ancient one with selfish motivations of his own. A CHAPTER A WEEK WILL BE POSTED

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