Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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After Regan and Caíl had left the apartment building, they returned to the Greyhound bus station and hopped on the next bus that was heading east, to Pittsburgh. The drive was over six hours long, and Regan was exhausted. So, after adjusted the weapons she had strapped to her body underneath a baggy hoodie, she leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes.

When Caíl awoke her, they had arrived in Pittsburgh. She groaned, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Then, once everyone else had filed off the bus, Regan and Caíl followed. They made their way into the station, where Caíl searched the schedule for the next bus heading east. Regan stayed a distance away, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed over her chest. She scanned the area, searching for any signs of danger. Outside, a bus pulled away, and when the area was clear Regan cursed.

The hunter from Washington had followed them. His back was turned to her as he searched the area, hunting for any signs of either Regan or Caíl. The shadow of his polar bear spirit prowled beside him, its huge head swinging around.

“Caíl,” Regan muttered in a low voice, until the black wolf heard her. He glanced up from the counter, met her gaze, and then looked out the door when she jerked her head. He cursed and walked away, heading towards her. She fell into step behind him and, after making sure no one saw them, they slipped through a door labeled “Employees Only.”

Regan and Caíl searched for an open window. When they finally saw one, they raced over towards it. Caíl leaned his back against the wall, dropping into a stance and lacing his fingers together. Regan grabbed his shoulders and placed a foot in his hands, and then he hoisted her to the window sill. She flipped the lock, pushed the window open, and hopped over.

As soon as her feet landed, a huge force shoved her back against the wall. Regan cried out, and looked up to see the hunter looming above her. He grinned, and slammed the hilt of a dagger into her skull. Regan’s eyes rolled up into her head, and she slumped to the ground.

When she awoke, it was dark, and she felt something scratchy at her eyes. She tried moving her hands to remove the blindfold, but they were bound behind her back. Her ankles were tied together as well. She grunted and struggled to push herself into a sitting position. Her stomach rolled with nausea, and it took every ounce of strength she had to keep the contents of her stomach where they were.

Regan raised her head, hoping to see anything out of the edge of the blindfold. She was disappointed, but not surprised, when she discovered she couldn’t. Instead, she allowed her other senses to compensate for her sight, hoping to find her bearings.

The air smelled of wood. Cool air blew into the room from an open window, and she could smell rain and pine trees. The scents of many different people and animals overlay the atmosphere of the room, and Regan’s heart jumped into her throat. This was a hunter safehouse. There was no way she’d be getting out of there on her own anytime soon.

Her hearing finally caught up with her. The sounds of footsteps, both heavy and light, drifted towards her, as well as voices. She heard three voices, two male, and one female. The scent of bear, cheetah, and raven entered her nose. Regan’s head throbbed at the overwhelming smells and sounds, and it took much too long for her liking for her to hear what was being said.

“… all that’s left to do now is transporting the prisoner,” a woman was saying. “How’d you finally manage to catch the wolf, anyway?”

“She practically walked right into me,” a gruff man said. It was the polar bear, the hunter that had followed her all the way from Washington. “She was trying to escape with the Kuren, and hopped the window and landed right in front of me.”

Caíl. Regan realized then that she had no clue where he was. She couldn’t smell him anywhere, and fear began to take over. Was he dead? How did he get killed? Was there any hope for her escaping at all?

“What about the Kuren?” a second male’s voice asked. “What did you do with him?”

“I left him,” the bear said. “My orders were to retrieve the white wolf, nothing else.”

Hope blossomed in Regan’s chest. If the hunter left Caíl alone, then there was the chance he could find her. Regan let out a breath, and then the conversation ceased. She froze, and a moment later she heard chairs scraping against the floor. Three people began making their way towards her, and she relaxed her muscles. Regan slowed her breathing, making sure her body was limp. She heard a door in front of her slam open, and then the three hunters stomped their way towards her.

Regan cried out in pain as a pair of large, rough hands gripped her arms. She was thrown over a broad shoulder, and then she was being carried out of the room. The air pressure changed as they moved into a larger space, and then she was being tossed onto a very hard couch. She heard a knife being drawn from a sheath, and then the pressure on her ankles from the ropes disappeared as someone sliced through the tough cords. The blindfold was yanked from her head, and she blinked several times to adjust to the sudden brightness.

Regan glanced around, taking in as much of her surroundings before the hunter roughly gripped her chin and forced her to look at him. From what she could gather, it was dark outside. She was in a small cabin, and she decided that she was nowhere near Pittsburgh anymore. She counted three windows and two doors leading into open bedrooms. A third door on the other wall led to a bathroom, and a fourth paved the way outside. There was only one piece of sitting furniture, which was the couch she was sitting on. There was a table with four chairs, and the rest of the area was occupied by a small kitchen.

The hunter released her chin. She slowly worked her jaw, releasing the tension. Leaning against the wall behind him, Regan could see her weapons. The case with her sword lay on the floor, and her gaze stayed riveted on her katana for a long moment, until the hunter spoke again.

“You were certainly difficult to track,” he growled. “But apparently, not difficult enough. I almost had to call in reinforcements when I caught your scent at the station in Chicago.”

Regan narrowed her eyes, but she stayed silent. She refused to give him anything. She needed to focus, to keep her energy. She needed to keep her mind clear, so she could find a way to escape. Regan knew what would happen if she didn’t get away. The hunters would take her to the Council, she’d be put on trial, and then she’d be found guilty. Regan would be sentenced to death, and then the executioners would end her. Permanently.

Unable to stop herself, Regan shivered. Dominic had told her that there was one way to kill a revenant, and to ensure they stayed dead. The body had to be burned to ashes. Then, the revenant’s soul could not return to its body, and they were doomed to wander the earth for all eternity. After a decade or so, the spirit would become angry, and then vengeful. There was no peace.

Regan was terrified. If she didn’t find a way to escape soon, then she would become one of the vengeful dead.

The hunter smiled at her quivering. He laughed and said, “You know what’s coming. You should never have sided with the Kuren. Then, you’d have nothing to worry about.”

“Breccan, stop playing with your food,” the female voice from before chided. Regan glanced over her shoulder, then snarled when the polar bear, Breccan, slapped her on the upside of her head.

A pretty woman with brown hair and black eyes stepped into the room. She was dressed in the black leathers of the hunters, her hair braided back from her face. Perched on her shoulder was the shadow of a raven, its eyes blinking curiously at Regan.

“Aw, come on, Sybil. I’m just having some fun,” Breccan complained.

“No, man, she’s right,” a third voice said. A third party entered the room, and Regan was somewhat surprised. This had to be the cheetah, but to Regan, he didn’t seem like much. He didn’t look a day over fifteen. He had tawny colored hair and brown eyes, and a thin, wiry frame. How did someone like that ever become a hunter?

“Shut up, Douglas,” Breccan growled.

“I don’t like the look about her,” Douglas whimpered, giving Regan a quick glance before bringing his attention back to Breccan, “She looks like she’s about to snap.”

“She’s a wolf,” Sybil snapped. “They always look about ready to snap.”

“I still don’t know…” Douglas whispered.

“Douglas, just shut your mouth. You don’t know a damn—”

Breccan roared in pain as Regan brought her foot up, connecting with the spot between his legs. Knowing she didn’t have long, Regan lurched to her feet. Her foot arched out as she caught Sybil’s cheek with a crescent kick. She glared at Douglas, who yelped and ran from the room. She scoffed, and then glanced behind her. The sound of a knife slashing through the air caught her attention, and at the last second, she lifted her hands, allowing Breccan’s knife to cut through her bonds.

Breccan cursed, and then grunted as she threw a sidekick to his hip. Breccan flew back several feet, landing against the wall before he crumpled to the ground in a dazed heap.

Sybil yelled out a battle cry, and Regan barely had time to dive roll away as an ax kick came at her head. She shifted, dropping to a knee as she threw an elbow forward into Sybil’s gut. She cried out, and Regan turned to her weapons.

She had almost gripped her katana when Breccan growled beside her. She leaped away, missing as he slammed at the ground. She glanced around frantically, searching for a weapon. She couldn’t find one, but the front door was wide open. After sending a regretful glance back to her sword, Regan shifted into wolf form and dashed through the door. The sound of a polar bear roaring in anger followed her as she disappeared into the darkness of the night.

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