Copyright 2015 by T.L. McDonald All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in whole or in part in any form or by means, including photography, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Marked : The Marked Book One
Black soulless eyes stare down at me. These eyes terrify me and even though I want to run, I can’t tear my gaze away. Something in the depths of the darkness there holds me captive. It wants something from me. Something I don’t want to give. Something I’m willing to die for to protect.
My heart speeds up at the touch of a sharp blade being pressed against my stomach. A thin layer of gray fabric is the only thing separating it from my skin. Somewhere in the back of my mind a voice yells for me to run. My feet don’t listen. They remain firmly planted to the ground.
I’m not going anywhere.
His black eyes pull me in deeper trying to get into my thoughts, but I have to be strong. I can’t let him get in. A sharp pain stabs through my head blurring my vision. He’s getting closer. I fight harder. But he’s stronger and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out.
The blade enters into my abdomen slowly, the pain of it weakening my resistance. His mind rips through my thoughts like paper extracting anything he can grab onto.
I can’t let him find it.
I think of everything else but what he wants, pushing the hidden thought further and further to the back of my mind. The corners of his mouth curve into a grin as he pushes the blade in further. He knows what I’m doing and he’s going to make me suffer for it. Once the blade is buried to the hilt he pulls it out just as slowly as he entered it. Blood pours, saturating my clothes.
Something distracts him causing him to sever our connection before he can find what he’s looking for. All at once the pressure in my head dissipates and I’m free. My secret safe.
I sit up in one swift motion my hands finding their way to my abdomen to stop the bleeding, but the skin there is dry and smooth. That can’t be right. I felt the burn of the knife as it entered. There should be a wound here. Where is the wound? Where is it!
Hands grab ahold of my shoulders forcing me down. I thrash and jerk to get away.
“Hanna! Hanna calm down!”
The voice sounds familiar, but it’s too hard to tell over all the screaming. The hands pull me back up turning into strong arms that wrap around me holding me still. Cradling me. These arms don’t want to hurt me they want to comfort me.
“Shhh, its okay now. You can stop screaming. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Am I the one screaming?
At this realization my heart rate slows, ending its marathon. Catching my breath, I take in my environment. Ugly institutional green walls, a vase full of flowers on a window’s ledge, an uncomfortable looking chair sitting in the corner with a blanket draped over the arm, and sad limp balloons tied at the end of my bed.
I’m in the hospital, a place I’d hoped I’d never see again.
I turn my head toward the sound of his voice. His eyes once a piercing green are now dulled and filled with worry. Brown messy hair sticks up every which way and his clothes look slept in.
“Jared?” My voice is raspy, my mouth dry. He smiles in relief and wraps his arms tighter around me.
“Need…air,” I gasp.
“Oh. Sorry.” He lets out a half laugh as he releases me.
“What happened to me?” My hands go back to where I thought for sure I’d been stabbed.
He turns his eyes away focusing them on the floor. Whatever happened to me must have been bad if Jared can’t even look at me. “What do you remember?” He asks so quietly, I have to strain to hear.
I try to think back, but it’s mostly jumbled images that I can’t really focus on. “I remember going to the club.”
“No, but it must’ve been bad if I’m in here.”
“I’m so sorry Hanna.”
“For what?” I ask, a feeling of unease settling in my stomach.
Minutes pass. The tick tock of the clock on the wall gets louder and louder the longer he stays silent. Pain, guilt, and sadness ripple simultaneously beneath his features.
“Jared. Please tell me what happened.” He won’t look at me; the sick feeling in my stomach grows stronger.
“It’s all my fault. If I hadn’t left, you wouldn’t have come after me,” he says finally looking at me with eyes full of self-loathing. “You wouldn’t have been in that alley.” He takes my hand and stares at me with such intensity I’m finding it hard to breathe. “God, Hanna. It could have been you who…” He trails off, his eyes drifting once again to the floor.
Something tugs at my memory. “It could have been me that what?”
Letting go of my hand he folds his own in his lap. He looks up at me through his lashes, tears dropping to the floor. “Died.”
It was barely a whisper, but I heard that word loud and clear.
The memory comes rushing back full force. The two guys in the alley, the blood—so much blood—the black holes where there should have been eyes, and the cold darkness that dwells in them. The way my wrist burned when the dark haired boy grabbed me, and the flash of whiteness that followed pulling me under. I remember it all.