Beautiful Monster - The Exchange (Book One) Chapter 3



“Carly?” Lev asked breathlessly.

She silenced him with a finger to her lips and moved closer. He hadn’t shifted from where he’d landed at the bottom of the staircase. Fear, anticipation, curiosity, or perhaps all of the above rooted him to the spot. His pants were dusted in a fine grit, as were the white cuffs of his shirt, but he dared not move to brush himself off.

A terrifying thought struck him. What if this…this being…wasn’t Carly? Could Alexei be playing a trick? He thought on this for a second and decided it would be impossible. His brother, though devious, was not clever enough to pull off something this elaborate.

She was in front of him now, growing denser and less translucent before his eyes. He could see her flawless skin, plump pink lips, and wide blue eyes sharpening and changing back to the Carly he knew before her accident. Her hair shone, as if each strand were lit from the inside out.

She sat down beside him, and for some silly reason, Lev worried about her pretty dress being ruined by the dirt that covered the floor of the old cellar. He glanced around for something for her to sit on but found nothing except cobwebs and more dirt.

She seemed to read his mind. “It’s okay. I’m fine.”

They were face to face. A moment later, a feathery kiss tickled his cheek. She is real, he told himself, absently bringing a hand to the place where Carly’s lips had just touched him.

Lev caressed her face. “Is it really you?” She certainly felt alive, but he’d just seen her die.

“Yes, my darling, it’s me. I don’t want to leave you.” She punctuated her words with a giggle and seemed to enjoy his astonishment.

“But how can you be here? I…I was in your hospital room. I saw—”

She smiled widely and when she did, it stilled him. Instead of continuing with his question, he let out a sigh of relief, then got to his feet and finally dusted himself off. He reached for Carly’s hands and pulled her up beside him. They moved to the bottom step of the creaky old staircase and sat down so close together their knees touched. He wanted to hug her to him and kiss her, but first he needed answers.

“I did die, Lev, but it’s not like you think. Death isn’t the end.” She stood and looked down on him. “I’m still here, right? I’m still Carly.” She nodded as if trying to convince herself as well.

He pounded a fist to his forehead. “Are you trying to tell me that you’re a…a ghost?” If his heart hadn’t stilled years ago, it would be thumping wildly now, not from fear but out of surprise and maybe even excitement.

She shook her head. “Not exactly.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but she muted him with a hand. “I’m in spirit form. I’ve left my body.”

“But you just said you weren’t a ghost.” Lev ran his hands through his hair and pulled, then got to his feet and began to pace. Did ghosts really exist? It had to be a possibility; after all, creatures like him existed.

“You can call me whatever you want. Ghost, spirit, soul, but I’m still me!”

Carly tilted her head, her eyes suddenly no longer held the innocence he loved, but something he saw frequently in his own expression: sorrow.

“I only have three days and then I have to go.” Her voice was little more than a whisper.

Lev didn’t understand. “Go where?”

Carly chewed on her lower lip, her eyes darted from Lev’s to the floor, then back to Lev’s again. She sighed then said, “To another dimension. I’m not entirely sure where, or what it is.” A half-hearted grin curled her lips but quickly faded. “We have three days together until then.”

He felt as if he’d been punched in the stomach. How could he survive losing her again? And yet, he had to. He was immortal and couldn’t escape the pain of his existence. There was no way out for him.

From above them, Alexei’s footfalls echoed. Then his brother called down the stairs. “Going out for a bit. Hope you can manage not to kill yourself in your grief.” He laughed at his own joke knowing the impossibility of it.

“You want to go upstairs? We’ll be more comfortable,” Lev said.

Carly nodded, and together they made their way back up the stairs and into the parlor.

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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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