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The Amaranthine: Thelum Series, #1
The Amaranthine: Thelum Series, #1
The Amaranthine: Thelum Series, #1
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The Amaranthine: Thelum Series, #1

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Claire is sassy, human, and an outcast of society.

Alex is arrogant, selfish, and an Immortal warrior.

When their paths cross, chaos ensues. To complicate matters, Alex is assigned as Claire's guide and guardian.

Can they survive this journey together, or will they end up killing each other before the enemy does?

LanguageEnglish
PublisherMurees Dupé
Release dateSep 7, 2015
ISBN9781516345007
The Amaranthine: Thelum Series, #1
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Author

Murees Dupé

Murees Dupé was born and still lives in South Africa. When she is not thinking up new stories, she is spending time with her family, playing with her four-legged kids, watching TV, or overindulging on desserts.

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    The Amaranthine - Murees Dupé

    For my family

    Dear Reader,

    Welcome to my fictional world.

    Thelum is meant to be an earth-like world where all things are possible, and where one can be or achieve anything. The focus of Thelum is to serve as the setting for various immortal species to exist, and thrive. Even though humans are in majority, they are not aware of the many immortals walking among them.

    The currency used in Thelum is gold coins. However, it’s been updated to paper currency. Let’s face it, nothing’s more inconvenient than slinging around a pouch of coins.

    I hope the information provided makes your journey into Thelum easier. Enjoy your visit.

    Chapter 1

    I stood outside my office building, the evening air so cold it gave me goose bumps, while artificial light illuminated my way home. I broke into a fast walk, unable to shake the feeling of being an easy target.

    I hadn’t intended to work late, but my boss, Anna, said it jeopardized my job if I didn’t. I had simply nodded then, but now I wish I’d given her the middle finger and walked out. But I needed this job. I had rent to pay. My apartment was my sanctuary. My safe place.

    Now I was the one walking home alone in a quiet part of Oak Tree City, where only weirdos lurked after dark.

    The soft clonking sound of my shoes kept me alert. There’s a comforting rhythm to my steps. My right hand pulled my bag tighter to my side in paranoia. Even the fragrance of freshly ground coffee from the nearby shop didn’t calm me.

    I kept my eyes dead ahead at my designated path home, and never let them wander. Every time I passed a treacherous dark alley, I hoped no one would grab me, and pull me into the shadows.

    Normally, I didn’t walk around at night. I stayed in my apartment unless I had to go to work, or run errands. I just preferred my own company, and the fact that all kinds of weird things constantly happened in the city didn’t help matters. Oak Tree City was home to a lot of freaky people.

    I gasped as I heard loud footsteps behind me. I didn’t dare turn around. What if it was someone dangerous? What would I do then, besides panic?

    I glanced at the oncoming traffic and crossed the road, but the footsteps followed. My stomach turned. My curiosity won. I peeked over my shoulder to find an ordinary man dressed in black jeans and a denim jacket. I’d expected someone with a scruffy beard and crazy eyes, along with several tattoos and piercings.

    I sighed with relief when the stranger rushed past me and disappeared around the corner.

    A taxi drove past, and I wished I had enough money to flag it down. But I didn’t. My low income and need to eat made sure of that. Not that it meant I was thin, though I wished I was.

    As I passed another alley I fumbled around my bag for the comfort of my pepper spray. When my fingertips touched the canister, I felt strong arms grab me from behind, and shove me into the alley on my right.

    Help me! I screamed.

    She looks like a tasty snack, a man’s voice said.

    The brute pushed me against the wall face first. I prayed someone would walk past.

    Let me go, please, I said.

    A hard fist connected with my ribs. Air escaped my lips in a whooshing sound and cry of pain. My right side throbbed. I felt weak and broken.

    I hate when the food puts up a struggle, a second man said.

    I know. I don’t hear about burgers getting up and telling people off, the first male said.

    Help me! I shouted.

    A nauseous feeling reminded me that I was about to die, and become another statistic.

    The men turned me around, and I could make out one of them. He was the man who had walked past me a few moments ago. But I was sure I’d seen him round the corner before.

    Help me! I screamed again, but both men laughed. My shouts turned shrill when my legs gave way, but I didn’t hit the ground. Instead, they strung me up by my ankles like a prized kill. The rope dug into my ankles with excruciating pain.

    Someone, please!

    I felt the cool can of pepper spray in my hand and fought back. I sprayed my attackers and screamed for all I was worth.

    Hell, that burns, denim jacket said.

    It tickles, the other said.

    What a nasty human. I’ll enjoy eating her even more now.

    Human? Were these men implying they weren’t?

    No, I said. Please, don’t.

    I didn’t know why the hell they wanted to eat me, but I knew they weren’t normal. Serial killers maybe? Yes, that sounded right. Maybe they were the ones responsible for all the alley killings. Who cared? I was going to die!

    My heart was about to erupt out of my chest, spurting blood.

    Help! I yelled.

    Now, boys. I thought I told you to stop eating people, a new male voice said, with authority.

    But we’re hungry! the second man whined. We haven’t had anything decent to eat in weeks.

    Please, help me! I cried.

    You know I’m going to have to report you this time, the new voice said.

    Not if we squash you first. You might taste good as well, denim jacket said.

    So much for being rescued.

    Well, if you want to be like that, the new voice said.

    A loud bang made my eardrums ring, followed by a quiet broken only by the sound of falling bodies. I tried to loosen the rope around my ankles, but it was useless. My head started to spin.

    Stay still, my rescuer said.

    He cut at the rope around my ankles. I was sure my ankles were bleeding, and would be terribly swollen tomorrow.

    The rope snapped and I fell. I waited for the hard impact of my body hitting the ground, but it never came. Instead, strong arms caught me―holding me as if I were light as air.

    I looked at my rescuer, and for a brief moment I was inside a fairytale. He had silky black hair with dark eyes, along with the most radiant honey toned skin, which now glowed as if illuminated. He was tall―over six feet for sure and built like a warrior, with broad shoulders and strong muscles―my idea of perfection. My breath caught.

    Groggy and unable to focus, I didn’t think my rescuer was much older than twenty-five years of age.

    For someone who had just experienced something horrific, my body was now tingling, abuzz with excitement. What was wrong with me?

    Why are you out here this late? What if I hadn’t come along? my rescuer asked.

    I was on my way home from work and—

    Just get out of here, he muttered, as he put me down.

    Normally I would’ve been offended, but at the moment I had a hard time remembering where I was, or focusing on my surroundings. After all, I’d just been attacked and nearly eaten. I had the right to be disoriented. Not to mention that my rescuer was the most gorgeous specimen of a man I’d ever seen.

    I stood for a few seconds, waiting for my head to stop spinning. While I gathered my composure, I searched for my bag in the dark. My ribs ached. When I found it, I rushed past the stranger.

    Oh, no, my rescuer moaned, but I didn’t stay to find out why.

    My body hurt, and I had a slight limp as I walked, but I kept moving. I had to get to the safety of my apartment.

    Wait, my rescuer called from behind. There’s something wrong with you.

    No shit. I got abducted, punched in the ribs, and then strung up like a fresh kill. Of course there’s something wrong with me. I’m an emotional mess, I retorted, my hands on my hips.

    Then there’s no point in me trying to be civil, he said, before slinging me over his right shoulder.

    Put me down! I screamed, and my ribs joined the protest. Help me!

    Yes, by all means keep screaming. It worked so well before, he said.

    I punched his back, but he showed no reaction. What did he want with me?

    Take a deep breath, he said.

    What?

    A bright light burned my eyes, and I was suffocating. Where had all the oxygen gone?

    The next moment air filled my lungs, and the bright light that hurt my eyes disappeared.

    I stood in a large garden with vast mountains in the distance. We were clearly no longer in Oak Tree City. The unbelievable quiet was foreign to me.

    How the hell did we get here? I asked as he put me down.

    Behave yourself, he commanded.

    Who are you? Where am I? What the hell’s going on?

    I’m Alex, he replied easily. No need to thank me for saving you from the Skinners. I’m sure you were just about to free yourself.

    My jaw dropped. Skinners were men who skinned their victims, and then ate them slowly. At least that was the story I was told as a kid in the orphanage, whenever I misbehaved: "Be good, or I will feed you to the Skinners in the basement."

    I thought they only existed in stories. Yet, two grown men had just talked about me as if I were a cut of mutton.

    Thanks, I said, remembering my manners. I’m Claire.

    Welcome, another male voice said.

    I turned to find a large, muscular man dressed in a white suit, behind me.

    Feel free to faint if you like. Usually we give people a heads up, but in your case it was a spur of the moment thing, the man said. I’m Rogaro, and you already met my son, Alexander.

    I didn’t know what was going on. But I suspected it had something to do with the fact that I’d hung upside down recently. All that blood to the head couldn’t have been good. Was I losing my mind? Had I really been abducted, or was I asleep at my desk and dreaming all of this?

    Alexander wasn’t amused by the introduction. I’m Alex. Call me anything else, and we’re going to have a problem.

    While I nodded, I lost the will to stand, and collapsed on the manicured grass. My ankles and ribs throbbed.

    I noticed it after I saved her, not before, Alex said.

    Interesting, Rogaro said.

    I’m losing my mind, I mumbled. I’m imagining all of this. I just know it. I’ve finally snapped.

    I could feel the wind blow through my thick hair. While gentle rays of sunlight warmed my skin. Maybe this wasn’t a dream.

    I’m in a different country, right? It was dark in Oak Tree City, yet the sun is shining here. How did I get here? Where am I? I asked.

    I should’ve let them eat her, Alex mumbled. She’s a whiner. I can tell.

    You abducted me! I yelled. I have the right to be unhappy about it. Are you going to eat me too?

    Alex brought out the worst in me.

    There’s another world that exists inside the human one: the immortal world. I rule it, Rogaro said. My son brought you to me because part of you is calling out to us. You have the potential to be an immortal too. Not just that but—

    Don’t, Alex said, cutting him off.

    I had indeed lost my mind. None of this was possible. There was no such thing as immortals. If there were, they sure as hell wouldn’t want me to join them. Maybe if I focused really hard I would snap out of this dream.

    This all sounds really crazy―I know, but I’m an Amaranthine, and you have the potential to be one too, Alex said.

    That’s why you’re here. I’m offering you the chance to join us, and be something more than just a mere human, Rogaro said. This offer isn’t made to just anyone. If not accepted, the offer will expire when you leave.

    I pulled myself together and stood. Even if Rogaro could offer me a better life, I wasn’t going to be dependent on anyone for anything. It wasn’t my style. I could only trust myself, and that’s the way I preferred it. Besides, who wanted to live forever anyway? To be forever reminded that I didn’t fit anywhere, no thank you.

    Thank you for saving me, but I want to leave now, I said.

    You’re not even the least bit curious about what I have to offer? Rogaro asked.

    I want to leave, I repeated.

    She’s freaking out, Alex said, amused.

    If it wouldn’t be a crime to bruise that pretty face, I would’ve punched him. Me, being here was his fault!

    Tell her, Rogaro said.

    It’s too soon. I don’t care what it means, Alex said.

    Tell her, or I will, Rogaro said.

    Mind your own business, Alex barked.

    Fine. It’s your loss, Rogaro smirked.

    Alex turned to me with a pained expression. Whatever he had to tell me wasn’t good―that much was clear.

    Have you noticed anything about me? Alex asked.

    You’re the sexiest man I’d ever seen, came into my tired brain.

    You smell really good. Like cotton candy and wild musk. I knew full well how stupid I sounded.

    Anything else? he asked. Do you feel like you’re drawn to me at all?

    I thought about it. Sure I felt something. But drawn to him? Nah. Although, every time I glanced his way my palms became sweaty. My stomach did flips. My heart raced, and I felt hot. Not to mention, my brain became foggy.

    You feel about me the way you do because you’re my soulmate, Alex explained.

    He showed no reaction. I thought maybe he was joking. But I couldn’t deny the chemistry between us, or the way he made me feel.

    I didn’t know what else to do, so I scoffed at the idea. When both men didn’t share my humor, I worried they might actually be serious.

    Imagine my surprise when I return to Oak Tree City after thirty years, and end up finding my soulmate, Alex said. It’s not like I want you, either. Just because you’re my soulmate doesn’t mean anything is ever going to happen between us.

    You’re actually serious? I asked, as I took a step back. I mean―look at you, and then look at me. There had to be a mistake. My clothes were disheveled, and I currently had swollen ankles. Not to mention many other physical flaws.

    I know, imagine my disappointment, Alex said.

    Well, I’ll leave you two to it. I’m assigning Alex as your guide and guardian. Enjoy, Rogaro said.

    No! I don’t want anything to do with her. Get someone else, Alex cried, following his father.

    I already made up my mind, Rogaro said. She’s your future, and you’re hers. You two figure this out.

    Part of me felt honored to have Alex as my soulmate. Another wanted nothing more than to strangle him.

    Rogaro walked toward a three-story, gray brick house in the distance. The house was situated in the middle of the wilderness—perfectly hidden from prying eyes, and big enough to be a hotel, with its many large windows. But the house had a cold feeling about it. As if it were a place of business, and not somebody’s home. I couldn’t help but wonder what the inside of the house looked like.

    There were ten huge oak trees at the right side of the house that drew my attention. I wanted to lounge underneath their beautiful, ancient branches. For some strange reason, the sight of those trees provided comfort.

    I can’t believe this. I save your life, and end up stuck with you for all eternity, Alex grumbled.

    I don’t want anything to do with you, either. Who says we’re soulmates anyway? Maybe you’re just making that up, I said.

    I really wished I was right. But my body reminded me just how sexy I found Alex. The way he ran his perfect hands through his hair made my heart ache for his touch.

    Wow! I heard a woman say.

    Alex and I both turned. Three women walked toward us. One was a tall brunette about my age, and the other two were model-like redheads with long legs, and lean figures. One in her twenties, and the other in her thirties.

    I can’t believe this. I thought Rogaro was joking, but this . . . is priceless, the brunette said.

    She looks average. Definitely not good enough for you, brother, the younger redhead said.

    Dad told you? What doesn’t he understand about minding his own business? Alex growled.

    I’m Aura, the brunette said. This is Alex’s mother Lea, and his twin sister, Alexis. It’s nice to meet you.

    I’m Claire, I said.

    I have to get a drink, Alex said, as he rushed to the house.

    Don’t think for a second that you can worm your way into this family. We don’t want, or need you here, Alexis said, before following her brother.

    Alex’s mother gave me a look I could only describe as disapproval, and followed after her children.

    I won’t lie; they’re tough to get to know. Alex especially, but you belong with him. There’s no doubt, Aura said.

    Well, I doubt it.

    There’s chemistry between you two. It’s right there for all to see, if they only cared to look.

    I felt as if Aura was one of those glass half-full people. She was seeing things that weren’t there.

    I want to go home, please, I said.

    I had enough of this place, and the people in it. Who cares if they could offer me a better life? The people in the immortal world were every bit as awful as the ones in the human one. The last thing I needed in my life was more drama and cruelty. Who knows what I would get into with these people? Some of them seemed on the stuck-up side, and I definitely didn’t fit in amongst them.

    I ran my fingers through my shoulder length curls and found myself feeling really out of place. Everyone I’d met in the past few minutes looked perfect in one way, or another, and it was clear that they took pride in their appearance. Not that I didn’t care what I looked like, but my clothes were simple and probably a bit outdated. So maybe my physical appearance wasn’t perfect, but it was something I could work on.

    You have a sense of loneliness about you. Perhaps you’re an orphan? Aura asked. How old were you when they left you?

    How the hell did she know that? Did she look my personal details up online or something? Being an orphan wasn’t something I shared with people. Orphans were rare. Most people treated us differently because it was almost unheard of for parents to give their kids up for adoption. Society assumed we had to be evil, or defective for our parents to give us away. Thus, we are treated like outcasts. Some avoid us, while others openly insult us.

    People treated me differently anyway, but my past was mine to keep, or share with others if I wanted.

    "When I said the word orphan you reacted. At least your energy did, Aura explained. I read people and their energy. I don’t always mean to say everything I learn from someone, it just comes out."

    Did she take pleasure in knowing how uncomfortable she’d just made me? Was she going to make fun of me like everyone else?

    When I looked at Aura I saw pain in her eyes. Not a physical type of pain, but an emotional kind. She wasn’t as happy as she pretended to be. Maybe she could relate to my feeling of loneliness.

    My parents died hundreds of years ago, but I still wish they were here, she said.

    I was three months old.

    Then take comfort in the fact that you belong in our world. You always have. Humans don’t appreciate you, because they don’t understand you. We do, she said. Rogaro and the others are just scared. Nobody has joined their family since I did, and they were only nice to me because I came before the twins. If I had come after their birth they would’ve treated me the same way they do you. Trust me, they don’t do well with change, but once you’re one of them you’re here to stay.

    I wanted to belong somewhere, and to someone so badly. All my life I’d been on my own, without any friends, or anyone who truly cared about me. The caretakers at the orphanage cared about me as much as they could, but I knew I didn’t belong with them either. I belonged to this world, the immortal one. I could feel it.

    To most people the idea of meeting immortals would’ve been absurd and overwhelming, but meeting Alex and his family felt more real than anything I’d ever known.

    It feels right, doesn’t it? Aura asked. Being amongst us feels more natural to you than anything you’ve ever known.

    How could she know this? I can’t make sense of it. Maybe this is all a dream. Maybe I’ll wake up and realize none of this was real.

    I was being optimistic, because I already knew this was real. I could smell the sweet aroma of the flowers, and feel the soft breeze of the wind on my skin. Not to mention that my stomach did flips every time I saw Alex, or when someone merely mentioned his name. That man was having some kind of unseen effect on me. I was longing for him as if my very life and wellbeing depended on him.

    You’ll get used to it. You’re tougher than you give yourself credit for, Aura said, smiling. Would you like to come inside? I’ll show you to your room.

    Oh, I can’t stay. I have to go to work in the morning.

    You don’t have to.

    Yes, I do. I have bills to pay. I need money to survive.

    Didn’t these people have responsibilities? Where did all their money come from? Centuries and centuries of investments perhaps?

    You have to make your choice, Alex said, appearing out of nowhere. If it helps, choosing to become immortal doesn’t mean we’ll end up together.

    Wait, you haven’t said yes yet? Aura asked.

    I shrugged my shoulders. What’s the rush?

    You’re stuck with me no matter what option you choose. Immortals are drawn to you, Alex smiled. So you’re going to need protection.

    And you have the potential to be immortal, which is rare right now. So just say yes. Your body has already made up its mind. Now . . . to get the message through to your stubborn brain, Aura pushed.

    I wanted to be immortal, but I was afraid I would regret it.

    Do you want to be weak, or do you want to be strong? The prey, or predator? Alex asked.

    Definitely the predator.

    If I become immortal, will I get to live my life like before . . . without having to report to any of you? I asked.

    If that’s what you choose, Alex said.

    So is your answer yes? Aura asked.

    I knew my answer the moment the offer was made. It’s a yes.

    Yay! Why not change her now? Aura asked.

    "Because she is not ready," he said, jerking his head toward me.

    Yes, I am, I said, adamant.

    You have no idea what being immortal means.

    The timing couldn’t have been worse, Aura said.

    I just want to go home! I whined.

    "There’s no going back. We’re in the middle of a war, and you showing up complicates things," Alex replied.

    How?

    Because you’re vulnerable. Because you’re now associated with me and my family, and those who want to hurt us will use you against us, he said. If I had any brains I would kill you myself, and eliminate the threat.

    I was ruining these people’s lives, and I didn’t even know them. What was it about me that attracted trouble? Why was everyone unable to care about me? Why was I not worthy of love?

    It’s not her fault. If anything happens to her, you failed her, Aura cut in, sending Alex a glare.

    She leaned closer to Alex, and whispered into his ear. What was she saying? Did it have something to do with me? Without uttering another word, Aura walked away.

    Rogaro appeared out of nowhere. I’ve decided that Claire’s going to become part of our family. If anything happens to her, I will make you human, Alex. I know how you’ll love that.

    My heart raced. How could these damn people just pop up out of nowhere?

    You’ll have to get comfortable with the fact that in our world most things are possible, Rogaro told me. Think of it as magic.

    I couldn’t stop smiling. Cool.

    Wait until you start visiting our restaurants and shops. Immortal designers are geniuses, Rogaro added.

    She just made her choice . . . give her some time, Alex added.

    I don’t want to be part of your family, I said. I’m better off on my own, no offense.

    You will be—when you’re ready, Rogaro said, smiling.

    O―kay, I said, knowing I didn’t want to be part of their family.

    I want to vomit, Alex said.

    I glared at Alex. Guess he had good looks and not much of a personality, which was going to take some getting used to. Regardless, my life had the potential to be wonderful.

    Just because she’s yours doesn’t mean you can treat her like shit. Where are the manners I spent hundreds of years teaching you? Rogaro asked.

    Claire and I are nothing to one another, and you know I don’t have manners. Which is why I live in a different country, Alex replied with a naughty smile.

    Just take care of her, Rogaro said, before he disappeared again.

    Wow, alone with Alex again. I had to keep my composure. So, what’s an Amaranthine?

    An immortal, Alex mumbled, gazing into the distance.

    Can you be more specific? What exactly are you?

    "Human―refers to something that lives and dies. We don’t die. Some of us, the royals, have extra

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