Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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The Party

Grace clung tightly to Beck’s arm, her heart racing as the party raged around them. The main lights were low, with colored beams shooting all over the house. Loud hip hop music blared through large speakers, and the high schoolers around her were all either drunk or well on their way to being gone.

Some of Beck’s drama friends staggered up to them, laughing loudly. Grace’s nose scrunched as the stench of beer traveled up her nostrils.

“Oh my God, Beck! You made it!” one of the girls, Angela, slurred heavily as she staggered onto her friend. The other girl laughed and said, “I’m gonna go take care of her. You and Grace have fun!”

They stumbled away through the crowd. Beck chuckled, and then glanced down to Grace. “You okay?” he asked.

She nodded. “I’m fine,” she said. Even though she wasn’t. There was once a time when Grace and her sister had gone to parties together, after Grace had started high school. They were the queens of any party or get-together they attended, and now all Grace could do was press herself against Beck’s arm and hope they didn’t get separated, dragging her into the depths of the crowd.

Her messenger bag slammed against her hip as they pushed their way towards the back of the mansion, where the crowd was thinnest. Grace sat down on one of the patio chairs, and Beck left to get them both a cup of punch. It’s probably spiked, Grace thought. As she waited for her friend’s return, she decided to pull out her sketchbook and begin taking down the scene before her.

Some time later, when Beck hadn’t returned, Grace looked up. And found someone staring right at her.

Like her, the guy was perched on the edge of a patio chair. He looked to be about eighteen, and though he was sitting, Grace could tell that he was very tall. He had broad shoulders, and through his long sleeved thermal shirt she could see he was very well muscled. He had tanned skin, and he had features very similar to a Native American. He had brown hair that was almost black, and his dark brown eyes resembled that of overturned, fresh earth. He had flecks of gold and copper in his irises, and Grace decided that she could spend hours sketching his eyes alone.

He stood, and for a moment Grace thought he meant to join her. Then Beck returned, a wide smile on his face. “Hey,” he said. “Sorry it took forever; I had to hold a friend’s hair while she puked.”

Grace laughed. “It’s fine,” she said. “I was thinking that someone had kidnapped you.”

He scoffed. “Hardly.”

She laughed again, taking a sip of the fruit punch. She glanced back to where the guy was, but he wasn’t there. She looked around, sitting up higher in her seat to see through the throng of people. Nothing. It seemed that he had disappeared. For a moment, Grace wondered if she had imagined the whole ordeal. Then she forgot everything as someone started to scream.

When Regan and Basil arrived to the party, she could immediately see the demon’s path. She had sent Basil to search the party goers and see if anyone began acting strangely, while she followed the demon’s path. It was difficult to make heads or tails of the trail, but as long as she persisted in her pursuit, she knew she would find the demon.

Red flashed everywhere, both from the lights and from the demon’s path. A dull ache began throbbing in her temples, and Regan closed her eyes and exhaled. When she opened them again, she pressed forward, using her shoulder to shove her way through the crowd.

“Why, hello Regan! How are you this fine evening?”

Regan turned to glance at the man behind her, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. This was the famous Malcolm McCullough?

He wasn’t very tall. That was the very first thought that crossed Regan’s mind. Every time she heard about the magnificent mage Malcolm, she thought that he’d be at least somewhat taller, but he couldn’t be more than five foot ten. He couldn’t look to be more than twenty, but Regan knew he was centuries old. He had Japanese and English features, with a slim, yet muscular, build. He was very lean and wiry-looking, with his black hair spiked everywhere. His electric blue eyes were very bright and captivating. He was dressed in a colorful, flamboyant outfit, and Regan’s headache only intensified.

“Yes,” she said. She stuck her hand out and said, “You must be Malcolm. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

He smiled, and instead of shaking her hand, he gently took her fingers in his hand. He lifted her hand to his lips, brushing a soft kiss across her skin.

“The pleasure’s all mine,” he replied. He released her hand, and glanced around once before returning his gaze to her. “Where’s your partner?”

“Helping look for the demon,” she said. “I think he’s sitting out on the patio.”

Malcolm nodded. “Good, very good. This demon has been terrorizing anyone and everyone in a fifty mile radius. I’d very greatly appreciate it if it was contained and exorcised tonight, before anything too bad happens.”

Regan nodded. “Of course,” she said. “That’s all we want as well.”

She noticed red out of the corner of her eye. Regan turned, her eyes narrowing when she saw the poor soul being possessed by the demon. He couldn’t be more than fifteen, maybe sixteen. He wore black clothes, with his hair cut a little long.

He glanced around the crowd, and when he seemed sure no one was paying attention, he turned and made his way up a set of stairs.

Gotcha, Regan thought. She turned to Malcolm, and after excusing herself, she pushed her way through the crowd. She let the sacred dagger in her jacket sleeve slide down so it had landed in her hand. She glanced over her shoulder, and then followed the demon up the stairs. She knew she ought to contact Basil, let him know she found the demon. But something stopped her, some irrational part of her mind that wanted to do it alone.

She followed the demon’s trail to the left, leading towards the back of the house. The window was wide open. She stuck a leg out, and then after having a firm grip on the outside, the rest of her followed.

Outside, she pulled herself up so she was on the roof. She straightened, and immediately caught sight of the demon standing on the edge, right over the back patio. With a sudden sense of dread, she slowly started walking towards him. Lesser demons were unable to assume their own physical form, and so possessed people. The human, for as long as they were possessed, were able to perform great feats of strength and power. Unfortunately, their bodies were still so very fragile. Too much strain could damage something, and the human could still die. If Regan wasn’t careful, the demon would kill the poor boy it was possessing.

Regan began muttering in Latin. A simple exorcism would expel the demon from the boy’s body, sending it straight back to Hell. However, it didn’t always work. Unless the demon was properly secured, it could still wreck havoc.

The demon turned at the sound of Regan’s voice. She paused in her incantation, and the demon smiled. Then it stepped one foot out over the edge. As the demon, and the boy, began to plummet to the ground below, Regan did the only thing she could think of to warn the people below. She took a deep breath, and then screamed.

Grace looked up, and cried out when she saw a freshman from her gym class begin to plummet to the ground. After that, everything happened so fast that it wasn’t until later that she realized what had happened. A Japanese man raced to break the boy’s fall, and a pair of hands grabbed her from behind, pulling her against a warm, muscled chest that was swiftly backing up. This isn’t Beck, Grace thought.

She looked up, into the brown and gold eyes of the guy from earlier. He blinked, a worried expression on his face. “Are you okay?” he asked.

She nodded stupidly. “Um, uh, yeah… yeah, I’m fine.”

He sighed and nodded. “Good. You should go back to your friend. He’s worried.”

He released her, and Grace dimly remembered walking towards her friend. He took a hold of her hand, and it took her a moment to realize he was talking to her.

“…let’s go,” he was saying.

Without a word, Grace let him pull her along behind him. The party obviously now broken up, some of the kids began leaving. Some stayed behind, and Grace saw a girl was on her cell phone. The guy that pulled her away was crouching next to the Japanese man, and between the two she could see the boy on the ground. His eyes were wide open, and a pool of blood was growing larger around his head.

Her stomach roiling, Grace broke off from Beck and dashed to some nearby bushes. She retched, her stomach muscles contorting as nothing but fruit punch and air left her body. She felt Beck’s hand on her back, rubbing gently. She groaned, and when she stood her head was swimming.

She felt a pair of eyes on her. Grace glanced up to the night sky, and standing against the light of the moon on top of the house, she could make out the shape of a woman. From behind her, a set of headlights flashed, illuminating the person.

Grace gasped. Regan? She blinked, and then the woman disappeared. Beck pulled at her hand, and she numbly allowed him to pull her along. She faced forward, pressing herself against Beck’s side once again. When she looked back, the woman had reappeared, and she could see a set of gold orbs blinking back at her through the darkness.

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