Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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Ma Donna

Moments later, they had arrived at a club. Malcolm smiled at the bouncer standing at the door of the club. After a moment, the bouncer grunted and stepped aside, allowing the two men to enter the building.

The lights were low, and so was the music. The area looked like a gentlemen’s club, with the red and black decor. Beck frowned as he gazed around the interior of the club. No one was around, except for a few waitresses. One of them excused himself from his companions, making his way over.

“Hello,” he said, a smile on his face. “What can I do for you gentlemen tonight?”

“We would like a spot in the unique booth,” Malcolm said. Beck narrowed his eyes. Was he speaking in a code?

“Of course!” the waiter said. “Follow me, please.”

Malcolm nodded, gesturing for Beck to follow. He did so, staying close to the mage’s side.

The waiter led them through the empty club. They passed through smaller, private rooms. They were all a dark, luscious red, and Beck felt his cheeks burn as they passed through. He faced forward once again, keeping his gaze down.

They stopped at a heavy, chipped white door in a room behind the kitchens. The waiter passed a hand over the door, and a strange, orange glowing rune appeared on the space above the doorknob. The waiter bowed to Malcolm and Beck, saying, “Enjoy your evening, Mr. McCullough.”

“Thank you very much, Edwin,” Malcolm said. He slipped a fifty dollar bill to Edwin, and after bowing one more time, he turned and exited the room.

Malcolm smiled widely at Beck. “Well, Beck Delacroix,” he said in a large, booming voice. “Welcome to the Dark Realm Lodge.”

He pushed the door open, revealing a dark passageway. Beck took a step back as memories of his most recent nightmare came to the front of his mind. Malcolm had been dying, and they had both fallen into darkness.

Malcolm took his hand, and after a moment, he led Beck down the hall, towards a black door at the end. Malcolm pushed it open, revealing the rave behind.

There were two levels to the spacious room. It was dark, and green, blue, purple, and red lights danced across the walls. Loud dance music pounded against the floors and walls, and the bright colors of the people surrounding them caused a headache to surge in his temples.

“What is this place?” Beck asked. He looked around, his eyes widening when he saw a group of pale, sharp-toothed people kissing some of the partiers necks. Upon closer inspection, he realized the pale people were biting them. “Are those…?”

“Vampires?” Malcolm asked. “Yes, they are. Don’t stare, they’re self-conscious. Come.”

Malcolm led him through the throng of people, heading towards the bar resting in the center of the dance floor. Despite Malcolm’s warnings, Beck couldn’t help but stare at the vampires as they walked by. One of them, a female with red and blue eyes and blonde hair, glanced up and smiled, her fangs dripping with blood. Beck yelped and pressed himself closer to Malcolm. The mage smiled, and he continued leading him to the bar.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Beck said. “What is this place?”

“The Dark Realm Lodge is a place for supernaturals to come together, to be themselves,” he said. “There are a lot of half breeds in here. It’s a great place for brand new supernaturals to come and learn how to be themselves.”

Beck frowned. “So you think I haven’t learned how to be myself?” he asked.

“I know you haven’t learned to be yourself,” Malcolm said. “You still have yet to learn how to differentiate the difference between dreams and visions. I brought you here for two reasons. The first being you need to relax.” He smiled as Beck tried, and failed, to protest.

“The second,” he continued once they had reached the bar, “is that there is someone here I wish for you to meet. Like you, she is a Seer. One of the oldest, by far. But…”

Malcolm turned to Beck, a serious look in his eyes. “Do not,” he warned, “underestimate her. She is very powerful, despite her not having any traditional magic. Hey, bartender!”

A tall man made his way over. His eyes glowed an unnatural shade of blue, his hair falling past his shoulders. It was tied back in a tight ponytail at the nape of his neck, and Beck could see the waves of power rolling from him. There was a strange, wild aura around him.

“Hey, Burt,” Malcolm said. “Have you seen Ma anywhere?”

The bartender, Burt, nodded silently. He turned and pointed up to the second balcony floor overlooking the dance floor. Malcolm nodded, muttered his thanks, and then turned to Beck. “Come on,” he said.

They made their way to the tight, spiraling staircase. Malcolm stepped up first, his eyes searching the area. He peered over the crowd, smiled when he saw his target. He turned back to Beck, grabbed his hand once again, and began dragging him behind him.

They made their way towards a circular couch shoved into a corner. There were fewer people here, and Beck found that breathing was somewhat easier. Malcolm led him over to the couch, and Beck took a moment to memorize every detail of the woman that sat before him.

She looked very much like a gypsy. She couldn’t look more than her mid-thirties, yet she seemed ancient at the same time. She wore a black and purple skirt, with a purple top. A patterned black and purple scarf with coins was wrapped around her waist, and a purple head scarf adorned her head, holding back her black dreads. Her eyes must have been blue once. Now, they were covered in a milky white film, telling Beck that she was blind. Her skin was the color of ebony, and Beck decided that she had to be the most beautiful woman in the world.

The woman raised her head as they neared, a puzzled look on her face. Then she smiled and stood, smiling towards Malcolm. “Ah, Takashi!” she exclaimed in a joyous voice. “It’s been so long!”

“Ma Donna!” Malcolm released his hold on Beck, stepping into the woman’s arms. She laughed as they embraced, and then she turned towards Beck.

“Ah, yes,” she said, slowly walking circles around him. “Beckham Silas Delacroix,” she mused. “My, my, you are certainly very powerful.” She turned to Malcolm, her eyes narrowed. “How long has it been since he’s bloomed?”

“A few months,” Malcolm replied. “He’s having difficulties separating the dreams from the visions.”

The woman, Ma Donna, nodded. “Yes, very common among young Seers. Do not worry, Beckham,” she said, patting his cheek. “Come, sit with me. Let us speak.”

Malcolm stirred at his martini, staring sulkily up onto the second balcony. Beck was engaged in deep conversation with Ma Donna. His amber eyes seemed alight with a newfound energy, and though Malcolm hated to be excluded from the conversation, he couldn’t help but smile admiringly at the young Seer. The past several weeks had been hard on him, and Malcolm loathed to see Beck in pain.

“Trouble in paradise?” Burt asked as he replaced Malcolm’s now empty glass with a full one.

He sighed. “Not necessarily,” he said. “It’s a long story.”

Burt nodded. “Understandable,” he said. He filled up three shots for the customer next to Malcolm, and then he walked away.

“Well, well, well,” a low, female voice drawled behind him. “If it isn’t Nakamura Takashi.”

Malcolm froze, his heart racing faster in his chest. There were only two people in the world that called him by his old name. One was Ma Donna, who was only a few years younger than Malcolm was. The other was Fujita Kaori, Malcolm’s first love.

He slowly turned, and a series of emotions rolled through him. Pain, hatred, anger, sadness, and longing. She had been born a mage, like Malcolm, and she was possibly the only other mage born in feudal Japan in the fourteenth century.

Kaori was just as lovely as she had ever been. Her physical appearance had stopped aging when she was eighteen, and her creamy skin seemed to glow in the pulsing lights of the club. She was wearing a tight, form-fitting blue and silver dress. Her long, thick black hair was straightened, and she wore just a small amount of makeup. It was subtle, but she looked all the more beautiful for it.

“Takashi!” she exclaimed, stepping forward. Before the thought to stop her had even crossed his mind, she had wrapped her arms around his waist.

Finally, she pulled away, a small smile on her face. “I’ve certainly missed you,” she said.

“Kaori,” Malcolm breathed out. “It’s been a long time.”

“Too long, in my opinion,” she said. “How are you?”

“I’m… fine,” Malcolm said, turning away from her, back to the bar. She sat on the stool beside him, draping an arm across his shoulder. He tensed and glanced up, back to Beck and Ma Donna. Beck was staring at him, a strange look in his eyes. Donna smacked the back of his knuckles, and Beck turned his attention back to her.

“Really?” Kaori asked. “You don’t seem fine.”

“I’ve just got a lot going on,” he said, hoping she’d leave.

“Mm-hmm,” she mused. He turned to give her an annoyed look, but she didn’t seem to notice as she continued, saying, “Look, I’m glad you’re here. I’ve actually been wanting to find you for a while now…”

“Why?” he asked. “What do you need?”

“I’ve missed you,” she said. “And, well, I remembered our promise. That if we didn’t find anyone else, we’d return to each other. I was hoping that maybe…”

Malcolm groaned, turning away from her once again. He could feel her surprise at his back, and then she said, “What is it? Have you found someone?”

He looked up, and Beck was staring at him again. Ma Donna was in her corner, her eyes closed and hands resting on her thighs. They must have finished their conversation. Malcolm met the young Seer’s eyes, and he saw a question in them.

After Malcolm and Kaori had broken up with each other at the end of the Renaissance, they had made a pact with one another. They would give one another three hundred years, and if they hadn’t found someone else to love, they’d return to each other, and try again.

“Yes,” Malcolm said. “I believe so.”

Kaori followed his gaze, up to Beck. She chuckled and said, “I didn’t know you had given any thoughts to men.”

“I didn’t, before,” Malcolm answered. “When I was with you, it was the farthest thing from my mind. But, I’ve since then been in relationships with vampires, werewolves, other mages, even a fae or two. I’ve been with men and women.”

She nodded. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t touch any women,” she said. “But why him? He’s young, and most likely impulsive. Why?”

“Honestly? I don’t know.” From the moment he had laid eyes on Beck, he had been captivated. He had seen how strong, how powerful his aura was. And he had seen the young man grow into himself, despite his sleepless nights. He had been captivated from the very first moment when Beck came to his home searching for Grace.

Kaori nodded, a sad look on her face. Beck had turned away from the balcony, and Malcolm watched as he descended the stairs and made his way over.

“I hope he makes you happy,” Kaori said. She pressed her lips to his cheek, and then turned and walked away. Malcolm sighed, and then turned to face Beck.

“So, there’s really nothing going on between you two?” Beck asked.

Malcolm shook his head. “No,” he said. “No, whatever Kaori and I had before is ancient history. Literally. She has nothing more to offer me.”

Beck nodded, a smile on his face. He fiddled with the stone in his pocket, feeling more at ease than he had before. Ma Donna had spoken with Beck for a long while, giving him tips and advice on how to keep better control of his visions. She had given him a jade stone, the surface etched with runes. She had told him it would increase his focus, helping him to find the blurred lines that surrounded the dreams and visions. Once he was able to determine what was a vision and what wasn’t, he’d be able to better compartmentalize.

He had been upset when he saw the pretty Japanese girl go up to Malcolm. The mage had had a look on his face that Beck couldn’t decipher at the time. There had been anger, fear, and pain in Malcolm’s eyes. Later, after the girl had left, Malcolm had told him that she used to be his girlfriend.

Now, they were strolling through the streets of New York City, quietly passing the time until they needed to return. This time, Beck reached over and gripped Malcolm’s hand. The mage smiled, bumping his shoulder against Beck playfully. Then they continued on their way.

After a while, Malcolm slowed to a stop. He sighed, and Beck frowned. Malcolm smiled and said, “It’s time to return home,” he said.

Now Beck sighed. Truly, he didn’t want to go back. He wanted to stay in this moment with Malcolm forever, while the bustling city raged around them.

But Grace needed him. And Basil needed Malcolm. They had all become a family to Beck.

He nodded, and Malcolm grinned. He snapped his fingers, and the familiar pulling sensation twisted his gut. The world blurred and spun before him, and then they arrived in the library at the mansion.

They gaped in horror at the sight before them. Red flames tipped with blue licked at the books and furniture. The ceiling above them groaned, and Malcolm cried out. He tackled Beck to the ground, and then the ceiling fell down on top and all around them.

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