Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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Regan strapped two knives to her forearms, testing the mechanisms that released the blades. Once she was confident in her ability quickly retrieve the weapons, she pulled a baggy zip-up hoodie over her arms. She zipped the front shut, pulling the hood over the back half of her head. She strapped her katana to her belt, and then two more knives to her thighs. Sensing eyes upon her, she turned her head and met the gaze of the vampire, Leah.

She had been watching Regan closely, just as a wolf eyes her prey. For a while, Regan thought that Leah wanted to feed on her. When she brought her concerns to Caíl, he had laughed and waved a hand, saying, “Don’t worry about that, kid. Vamps don’t like our blood. Like them, we’re technically dead. They only feed on the living.”

Regan shivered, strangely relieved. She met Leah’s gaze, narrowing her eyes. The wolf in her refused to look away, and after a moment, the vampire smirked and turned away. Regan growled softly, which caused Leah’s smile to grow.

“Ready?” Caíl asked, coming to stand by Regan. She nodded, and he grunted.

“Let’s go,” Leah said, pushing off from the wall. Regan blinked, and then after Caíl went ahead of her, she followed.

They stepped from the study, into a long, Gothic style hallway. Vladimir had left moments earlier, to inform the vampires of their plan. Regan spotted some of them as they made their way through the mansion, watching them with dark, red ringed eyes. They looked hungry. Only the knowledge of Caíl’s claim that they didn’t like revenant blood made her stay calm.

They left the mansion, stepping out onto a busy New York Street. It was warm out, the sun shining down on the trio. Leah paused for a moment, tipping her head back and baring her face to the sun. She sighed, a small smile playing at her lips.

“What are you doing?” Caíl asked, an annoyed edge to his voice.

“Enjoying what others take for granted,” she murmured. After a moment, Leah straightened, then turned right and began walking. Regan and Caíl hurried to catch up, nearly tripping over one another in their rush. As they walked, people turned to stare at them for a moment, taking in the weapons strapped to Regan and Caíl. They soon turned away, uninterested.

“Why are people not freaking out?” Regan whispered to Caíl. She had expected strange, worried looks.

“This is New York,” Leah cheerily called back over her shoulder, a bounce to her step. “They’ve seen crazier.”

Regan frowned, but said nothing.

As they walked, Regan turned her head, taking in the sights all around her. Huge skyscrapers rose up all around her, reaching towards the sky. The streets were a jumble of cars, trucks, taxis, and bicycles. The sidewalks were just as crowded, full of people hurrying along, unaware of the undead beings in their midst. It awed Regan to think that there were more revenants, vampires, and other supernatural creatures out there, living their lives. Though she had the ability to see someone’s aura, like most revenants, she could only sense when another of her kind was nearby.

She picked up her pace, walking faster until she had caught up to Leah. She fell into step beside the vampire and said, “What was that about back there?”

“What was what about?”

“The whole, ‘enjoying what others take for granted’ bit. What was that about?”

Leah smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She seemed sad, and for a moment, Regan was confused. “What a lot of people don’t realize,” she said, “is that the sun is a wonderful thing. When a person becomes a vampire, there is no more going into the sun. At all.”

She turned her head to meet Regan’s gaze. “For a while, I couldn’t go into the sun either. For the first fifty years of my life.”

“So how can you be in the sun now?” Regan asked.

The vampire smiled, her sharp fangs poking her bottom lip. “I’m not going to tell you,” she said. “I don’t know you that well. But, I will say this—from that point forward, I decided that I’m never going to take the sun for granted again. I don’t know if I can be out during the day for the rest of eternity, but I do know I can now. So, I’m going to enjoy it while I have the chance.”

The vampire stared at the wolf for a moment, her silver eyes narrowed in thought. Unbidden heat crept into Regan’s cheeks, and behind them she could hear Caíl growling. Leah chuckled and faced forward again, weaving gracefully between a large group of people.

A few hours later, after riding the subway, hailing two taxis, and what seemed like an eternity of walking, the trio had arrived at an abandoned factory. The old building rested along the banks of the Hudson River, with an assortment of warning signs and caution tape strung everywhere. Upon first glance, no one could tell that a powerful, malicious revenant used it as his playing grounds. But once Regan crouched and pressed a hand against the ground, she was able to see everything. Wards surrounded the area, preventing anyone inside to escape. They felt fresh, as if they had just been put up. She lifted her head, inhaling deeply. The stench of charred flesh and blood stung her nostrils, and she wiped at her nose with a whimper. She rose and, turning to her companions, Regan said, “Do you guys feel that?”

They nodded, and Leah said, “Duncan probably put the wards up after I escaped.”

“Do we really want to go in there?” Regan asked, a frown pulling at the corners of her mouth. If they went inside to kill Duncan and succeeded, how would they escape?

“We have no choice,” Caíl said. “We’ll deal with the ward situation later. Right now, we have our mission. We must fulfill it to the end.”

Regan sighed, nodding. He was right, of course. Caíl and Leah stepped forward, past the line. Regan paused a moment, her heart racing.

This is it, she thought. She was finally going to be close to Duncan, close enough to kill him. She would finally have her revenge, and gain justice for not only her death, but for the deaths of her parents, and the attempt on Grace’s life. As she thought of her sister, Regan smiled. Soon, and she would return to her beloved sister. Then they could live through eternity together.

But she couldn’t shake the feeling that everything seemed too easy. Other than the hunters coming after her, she and Caíl hadn’t met any resistance on the road. None of Duncan’s men came after them, and he had to know they were coming for him. After all, he did send the horde of Kuren to the cabin that day. Otherwise, there was nothing.

Before she could doubt herself further, Caíl hissed out, “Regan! What are you doing? Let’s go!”

She blinked, nodded, and followed them. Together, they made their way towards the factory, ducking behind occasional piles of rubble and debris. As they came closer to the building, the dread in Regan’s gut continued to grow.

They reached the entrance. One of the doors was hanging from one of the hinges, squeaking incessantly with the wind as it blew by. Leah crept towards the door, grabbing hold of the edge. She held it still for a moment, and then quickly pulled it open. Caíl stepped aside, allowing Regan to go in first. When she looked at him, he quickly glanced away, refusing to meet her gaze. She frowned, narrowing her eyes in suspicion. Then all thoughts fled her mind as she felt a sharp pain at the back of her head. Regan blinked once, twice, and then she blacked out as she watched the floor rush towards her.

When she awoke, Regan’s head was pounding. She groaned, peeling her eyes open to take in her surroundings.

She was in a bedroom. For the most part, it looked normal—she was laying in a twin sized bed, with a bedside table on the right and a dresser pressed against the wall in front of her. The colors were brown and tan, and she would have thought she was in a motel room if it wasn’t for the metal bars over the windows. And the fact that her door was made out of metal as well.

Regan groaned again, pushing herself into a sitting position. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, allowing her head to hand for a moment. Once the harsh throbbing had ebbed away, she stood, taking stock of her situation. She had been stripped of her weapons, and her hoodie was gone. She was alone, and she had no idea where she was, or the time. How long had she been out?

Regan padded over to the window, peering outside. Her window overlooked the Hudson River, and in the distance she could see the lights of Jersey City. Gripping a bar in each hand, Regan began pulling at it. She snarled, her muscles straining. The metal groaned, but it didn’t give. Her hand slipped, and she cursed in frustration.

The door behind her screeched open. Regan threw herself to the side, keeping her back to the wall as she dropped into a low stance. A moment later, the door closed again as Duncan Carter stepped inside.

He looked just the same as he always had. He had short brown hair, lightly tanned skin, and brown eyes. He was wearing a dark gray suit, with a red dress shirt underneath. The top few buttons were undone, showing his throat. He didn’t look a day over forty-three, but Regan knew he was centuries old.

He smiled, despite the fact that Regan was ready to attack. The shadow of a tiger spirit curled itself around his body, its huge, yellow eyes staring at her. Beside her, Regan’s wolf pulled her lips back from her teeth in a vicious snarl. Regan copied the action, causing Duncan to smile.

“It is wonderful to see you again,” Duncan said. “Never thought you’d ever be reborn as a Mejhan, but no matter. You’re no longer a mage, and I have nothing to worry about from you ever again.”

“Go to hell,” Regan growled.

He chuckled, crossing his arms over his chest. “Caíl did a good job bringing you to me.”

She frowned. “What are you talking about?”

Duncan smiled, a cold, cruel twist to his face that made a shiver run down her spine. “Don’t you know?” he asked tauntingly. “Caíl is the one to bring you to me.”

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