Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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The Vampire

Leah Akadi hissed in pain, pressing her hand against her side. She leaned heavily against the alley wall, feeling every ounce of strength drain away from her body. She groaned, her agony ripping through her gums in a flash. From several blocks away, even through the din of New York traffic and chatter, she could hear a heart beating slowly. A homeless person, someone that nobody would notice. Perfect.

I need blood.

The thought raced through her mind a hundred times. After checking her wound one final time, she pulled her dark jacket over the opening and staggered out onto the sidewalk. Within moments, she had blended into the foot traffic of the night owls of New York City.

She kept her teeth clenched together, forcing herself to breath through her mouth. She gritted her teeth, and she felt her canines grow and sharpen. She closed her lips, pulling her hood up to avoid anyone’s gaze.

After what seemed to be an eternity, she finally reached her destination. She turned right, and laying with his feet out of a cardboard box, was a homeless man. She ducked into the alley, making sure no one noticed her. She made her way to the man, crouching low beside him.

He smelled foul, as if he hadn’t bathed in years. Of course, Leah figured he probably hadn’t bathed. He was covered in layers of dirt and grime, and several flies buzzed around his sleeping body. Under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t have even bothered to think about this man. But this wasn’t a normal circumstance, and she needed to feed before she did something she’d regret.

The call of hot, thick blood too strong, Leah reached down and gently gripped the man’s hand. She froze as he mumbled in his sleep, turning over. She paused a moment, and then brought his wrist to her mouth.

Her teeth sank through his skin, and instantly the hot, red liquid was coursing down her throat. The longer she drank, the stronger she became. Strength flooded into her limbs once more, and she could feel her wounds stitching back together.

With great effort, she pulled away. Leah sighed, tipping her head back to allow as much of the remaining blood left to trickle down her throat. When she had drank all she could, she dipped her head and ran her tongue along his skin, across the two puncture marks left. Within moments, her saliva had sealed the wounds closed.

Leah patted her pockets, searching for anything of value. She smiled triumphantly as she withdrew a fifty dollar bill from her back pocket. She chuckled, slipping it into one of the man’s pockets, somewhere he was sure to find it. After everything she had gone through the past several nights, it was a miracle she had the money.

Always perform a kind act in thanks, her mentor had drilled into her when she first turned. They unknowingly give us what we need when we need it, and we must repay the humans. So, she stood, turned to the opening of the alley, and disappeared into the crowd once again.

“Leah!” a familiar voice called as Leah crossed into her territory. She whirled around, sighing with relief when she saw Nic, her long time best friend and companion.

He sped to her in a fraction of a second, his hand cupping her chin as he moved her head sideways.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “What happened? We were all so worried about you. Is this your blood?”

She smiled, leaning forward to wrap her arms around his waist, resting her head on his skinny chest. Nic had been turned into a vampire only a few short years before she did, and ever since she came into the clan, he had been there for her.

She leaned back, taking in the sight of his ruffled, mouse-colored hair, and his bright, yellowish eyes. His nose was slightly crooked, as if having been broken too many times. He was her best friend, and she loved him. She had thought that she’d never see him again.

“I’m fine,” Leah assured Nic. “I was caught.”

“By who?”

“That bastard Duncan Carter,” Leah hissed. Anger and hatred flared up within her at the mention of his name. The damned Kuren had been terrorizing supes all over New York, kidnapping them and keeping them hostage for his own entertainment. He’d set them loose in his warehouse, and then permit his followers to hunt them down like hounds. It sickened Leah to her core. She had only managed to escape because she found a loose hatch in one of the windows.

Nic snarled. “One of these days, I’m going to rip his throat out.”

Leah nodded, suddenly tired. She wanted nothing more than to sleep now. And maybe drink some more blood…

As if he sensed her exhaustion, Nic put an arm behind her knees and swept her up to cradle against his chest. As he started running back to the sanctuary, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift into darkness.

When she awoke, Leah was laying in the middle of a large, thick bed covered in red and black bedding. It was dark, with heavy, blackout curtains over the windows to block the sunlight from coming in. Candles dimly lit the room, and she couldn’t help but scoff at the room.

Typical Vlad and his love for the cliché, stereotypical vampire, she thought. Then, once she realized she was in Vladimir’s bed, she threw the covers off her legs and jumped to her feet. She spun around when the door opened, and if she were still alive, her heart would have been racing.

A vampire had stepped into the room, holding two wine glasses filled with red liquid. Leah’s nostrils flared as the scent drifted towards her. Her gums ached, and she longed to lurch forward and rip the glasses from the vamp’s hands. Instead, she forced herself to remain calm.

Vladimir Ardelean was among the oldest supernatural beings in all of New York. he had shoulder length pitch black hair that was swept away from his face, curling slightly at the bottom. He was pale, with dark, near-black eyes. He wore a dark blue dress shirt with silver stars embroidered into the fabric, with black dress pants and black shoes. He had been turned young, and though his physical appearance was nineteen, he was easily three hundred years old. He was the leader of the Brooklyn vampires, and had been kind enough to accept Leah into the fold when she became one of the undead.

“Little Leah,” Vladimir purred, smiling as he came closer. “How are you doing?”

He held out one of the glasses. After fiercely scrutinizing it, she decided it was safe. She gratefully took the glass, and shrugged as she took a sip. “Annoyed,” she said. “Frustrated. Like I want to tear out someone’s throat.”

He chuckled. “I’m sure you are,” he said. “And believe me, you’ll have your chance at revenge.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

He smiled. “I mean, there are two revenants here, in the mansion, that wish to speak to us. I’ve agreed to meeting with them, and you’re going to come with me.”

Leah finished the glass of blood, licking the remainder off her lips. “Why?” she asked.

He smiled. “Because, they want to kill Duncan Carter. Since you’re the only one that’s escaped his compound so far, that we know of, I figured you might be willing to guide them.”

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