Beautiful Monster - The Exchange (Book One) Chapter 8

Lev yanked Alexei to his feet. “You will take Carly and me to see Boris.” He shoved his brother toward the doorway to the parlor. “See if Tony’s okay. Take him home quickly, then get back here.” Lev threw Alexei a steely glare. He’d half kill him if he had to, and he could tell by the look on his brother’s face that he knew it too.

Boris was ancient enough to possess more knowledge than Lev and Alexei combined, and Lev prayed that that vile creature would have a few suggestions or a trick or two up his sleeve to help him and Carly stay together, though he knew damn well it would come with a price. In the world in which they existed, time equaled experience, and experience equaled intelligence. Boiled down to the simple truth was the fact that Lev had run out of options, and despite the warnings about Boris from Alexei, he was willing to take his chances.

Alexei took a step toward the parlor and turned to Lev. “Tony will be fine. He needs sleep more than anything. When he wakes, he’ll leave. I’m sure of it. I don’t think I’ll see him again any time soon.” He laughed but it was without humor, and Lev noticed his eyes were puffy and red.

Alexei sniffed, then said, “Look, I’ve made it my business to keep tabs on Boris. I think you might already know that. But the reason why, is that I have to know where he is at all times because…because he’s looking for me.”

Lev was dumbfounded. “He’s looking for you? But why? It’s been many years. I’m sure he’s gone on to make others. What makes you so special?”

Alexei smiled, and it transformed his delicate features, making him beautiful again. He didn’t have to answer the question after all. Lev’s handsome brother was a magnet, much as he himself was, but the difference between them was Lev’s desire to repel the pull. He never craved the attention, unlike Alexei.

“A decade for us is no longer than a minute for a human. You know that,” Alexei said, not needing to explain but wanting to. “Boris, well, let’s just say he likes me and very much wants me back.” He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter anyway. Even if I did take you to that monster, he wouldn’t help you.”

Lev felt anger begin to rise again but pushed it away. He had questions. “How do you know Boris is on the hunt for you? And why hasn’t he found you yet? It’s not like we move around a lot.”

Alexei howled with laughter. “You are naive, Brother. Do you forget he is my maker? I feel that monster calling to me, trying to pull me to him. As for not moving around, well, that’s the reason he hasn’t found me. Think about it, Lev. We are together, you and me. We don’t see others of our kind. That’s how I kept word of my location from spreading.”

“Is Boris far from here?” Lev asked, anxiety creeping into his voice.

Alexei looked hesitant as if not wanting to answer.

“Is he far?” Lev asked again.

“No.” Alexei’s reply came out like a sigh. “He’s in the city.”

Lev’s eyes flashed with interest. “Really? Why would you want to be so close to him if he’s such a monster?”

Alexei patted his brother on the back. “It’s easier to keep an eye on him when he’s near.”

“So then at least tell me where he is. Carly and I can go on our own. I know it’s a longshot, but you’ll be safe, and with any luck, we’ll get what we need.”

Alexei shook his head. “You’ve never set eyes upon this beast. He’s unlike any other creature of the night. He’d kill you just as soon as look at you. Worse still, with just one look he’ll know you’re my brother. If he cannot creep into your mind and steal the information, he’ll torture you into telling him where to find me.”

Lev straightened and looked Alexei in the eyes. “I won’t tell. You have my word.”

“Why won’t you listen to me? He’s as ancient as they come. Lev, if you’re looking for any kind of compassion, you won’t get it from him. There is nothing human left in that creature.”

“Then his wisdom is vast!” Lev said, jumping on Alexei’s comment.

“Yes, I will admit that, but”—Alexei placed a hand on Lev’s shoulder—“do you not see the flaw in your plan?”

Lev waited for his brother to continue, curious. Alexei gave his head a little shake. That smile, the one that turned him from merely handsome to mesmerizing, returned. “Whether I help you or not, I will end up alone. If I refuse to help, you say you will leave, even destroy yourself, and if I do tell you where to find Boris and suppose by some miracle he does help, you’ll leave with Carly. I’ll lose you no matter what. I will be alone.” His smile faded, and his hand fell to his side. “Look at me. Look at what I’ve become. I don’t want to lose you, Brother. There is no good in my life except for you.”

Lev let his anger and frustration with his brother fall away and, against his better judgment, pulled Alexei into a hug, squeezing him tight. His brother returned the embrace.

“It’s not a flaw,” Lev said. “I’ve thought it through. I know either way you’ll be alone, but really, I’m the one without a choice. Life without the woman I love would be no life at all. If you truly care for me as you say you do, you’ll let me go.” He let his mental wall down, allowing Alexei into his mind, and could see by the look on his brother’s face that he was finally beginning to understand.

Alexei nodded and pressed his lips into a grim line of dissatisfaction. “I’ll take you to Boris.” He sighed. “And if I manage to get away from him, back to the relative safety of this home, I will be damning myself to a life filled with Tonys. I shall have to make do with the boring, mind-numbing company of pitiful mortals.”

His brother’s heartbreak was almost palpable, but Lev knew Alexei would get by; that he was made of tougher stuff than Lev was.

“Shall we go then?” Lev asked.

“Yes, yes but Carly mustn’t come. Best to keep her out of harm’s way.”

Carly had made her way out of the shadows and now stood next to Lev. She hooked a hand through his arm and addressed Alexei. “Boris can’t hurt me. I’m already dead, remember?”




The trip into the city took only minutes. Alexei and Lev were used to traveling as quickly as a thought, and Carly, who was new to such things surprisingly held her own. Now that she was without the encumbrance of a physical body, she too was able to speed through time and space.

They settle in a clearing in a forest. The night smelled of damp earth and the start of decomposing foliage. Fall was in the air, and soon the shadowy trees that surrounded them would be bare. Lev noticed a swath of mown-down grass just a few feet away. Alexei headed toward it, leading them along the gloomy path until they stopped at a set of intricately designed wrought- iron gates, standing like sentinels guarding the long driveway on the other side.

The house at the end of the driveway was daunting, all turrets and garrets, giving it the look of a Victorian castle. Lev tested the barred entrance. The gates were locked.

“Up and over?” Alexei said. The three of them linked hands and in unison leapt, though Carly managed more of a float. They cleared the gates in one bound, landing on the crushed stone of the driveway as delicately as a cat pouncing in grass.

“I hope you have a plan, Brother,” Alexei said as he eyed the towering stone mansion in front of them.

“I…I was counting on you, Alexei. After all, you know the man.”

Alexei was silent for a moment, then laughed so hard he doubled over and clutched his belly. When he regained his composure, he said, “So, what am I supposed to do? Knock on the door and ask Boris if he could please help you and Carly stay together because you love each other so much? Explain how she has a soul and you don’t? Tell him she can move on to the ‘other side’ and you can’t? Do you really think he’ll give a rat’s ass?” Alexei cocked his head, a smirk played on his lips. “I have a feeling he’s going to be more interested in the fact I’ve come to see him. I’m only here because you gave me no choice, and, so you can see for yourself who, or maybe I should say, what you will be dealing with.”

Lev thought back to the moment they’d had before leaving home to come find Boris. The hug they’d shared. Did it mean nothing to Alexei?

The double doors to the mansion flew open, snagging their attention. All three turned their heads as a huge man stepped outside with shoulders so wide, he blotted out the light shining from behind him.

Even from a distance, Lev saw that he was grinning.

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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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