Marked

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Summary

I forced my eyes open to see if I could recognise the features of his face, but he appeared like nothing but a foggy drop of watery paint before my eyes, just like the rest of my surroundings. All I could see was blue eyes and black, curly hair reminding me of only one person. “Shay…?” I whispered, unable to control the tremor in my weak voice. I saw the mystery man turn his gaze to look directly at me, validating my assumption, just before my mind gave out and surrendered me to the eternal darkness. || For 18 years, Rieka hasn’t seen the light of the stars at night - not even once. Until the day of her 18th birthday, when she sneaks out for a night with her friends that will change her life forever. Mysterious things start happening around her. People aren’t who she previously believed them to be. Not even herself. To make it through the changes affecting her, Rieka must seek help from those she’d rather stay away from. And a certain Alpha she can’t stay away from.

Genre:
Fantasy / Romance
Author:
Tori R. Hayes
Status:
Excerpt
Chapters:
3
Rating:
4.7 49 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

A Rebellious Act

I have been told the tale of my birth countless times throughout my life, and the story always remains the same.

My parents had planned for me to be born in the hospital of our small town, but I had been so eager to see the world that awaited me that my mom had been forced to give birth in the middle of the cold forest that we called home.

The skies had been so remarkably clear that Mars could be seen with the naked eye, and the only light surrounding us was the glow from the stars and light from the full moon shining above us.

It had been a night of magic and miracles, and the Moon Goddess had painted my hair the color of her light and my eyes the color of the lightning that had ripped through the dark clouds later on that same November night — or so my mom used to tell me.

‘White as the moon,’ she always said to explain why my hair was so unnaturally different from everyone else’s.

She said I was special, and maybe that was part of the reason why it had always been forbidden for me to be outside after sundown.

We live in a forest district, and have many predators roaming our area. My parents claim that they are most active at night, and the thought of losing me and my brother was too unbearable, so they wanted us inside where they knew we were safe.

The routine had been like that all my life. Even now, as I turned 18, I have no real explanation to the questions I so desperately seek.

I've never seen the night sky but always dream about bathing in the moonlight like I did when I was born, but that dream has remained unattainable until now.

For 18 years, I’ve been stuck inside my parent’s house. I've never been to a party nor a sleepover, and I’ve finally had enough.

I'm turning 18 tonight, and soon I can be free to do whatever I want. I've been planning my rebellion for years, and this was the night to execute that plan with my best friend, Everly, and my everlasting secret crush, Archer.

The moon would be full tonight, just like it was when I was born, but the air would be warm. I’d always cherished mom’s stories, but tonight, I wanted to see some of that magic for myself — a magic that might be more real than I ever thought it could be.

I never believed that my parents had told me the whole truth, but I never imagined that the truth would turn everything I knew upside down — revealing a mysterious world of creatures and promises lurking in the night while forcing me to choose between the love of my life and the man that I can’t stay away from.


“I’m home!” I shouted as I closed the front door behind me.

Mom was vacuuming somewhere in the house, but she turned the machine off the minute she heard me shout from the hallway. I hardly had time to take off my shoes before I saw her rapidly approaching me from the living room, and I prepared myself for the inevitable.

Her arms spread wide open, ready to be thrown around me like a pair of chains to bind me.

“Happy birthday, darling!” she squealed directly into my ear. “You disappeared so quickly this morning. I hardly saw you at all,” she complained and hugged tighter.

“We have a thing called school that I have to attend,” I said with the loudest voice her hug allowed me to have.

She released me from her iron grip and looked at me as if she immediately knew I wasn't telling her the entire truth; the damned mother's intuition.

“… You wouldn’t have let me leave if I’d been any slower, Mom,” I admitted and rolled my eyes at her. “My childhood is over after today, and I know you. Besides, Archer and Everly were waiting for me at school.”

She was about to defend herself when we heard footsteps by the stairs.

We both stopped arguing and looked up to see Dad coming down the stairs faster than the speed of light.

He was moving briskly and looking energised, but the dark rings under his eyes gave him away.

“Have you been staying up all night again, Dad?” I asked as he wrapped his arms around me for another hug.

“Of course, I have. It’s your birthday, and I have something special planned for my princess,” he said and kissed my forehead. “Happy birthday,” he finished and put a mechanical-looking flower behind my ear, which had me wonder what he was up to this time.

“Thanks,” I answered with a curious smile and adjusted the flower to have it sit correctly. “What exactly have you been doing?”

“Nice try, but you’ll have to wait like the rest of our family,” he teased and lightly poked my nose.

“But it's my birthday,” I chuckled, but my effort in trying to make him talk was interrupted by my mom’s attempt to change the direction of the conversation.

“Are you tired? Shall I make some tea? Something to eat?….” Her streak of questions continued until I cut her off.

“Mom! I’ve only been to school for half a day. I haven’t been away for the entire year.”

“I’m sorry, honey, but it is your 18th birthday, and I don’t want my little girl to be in need of anything,” she said with a smile before she turned around to head for the kitchen.

She seemed to be in a good mood, which sparked an idea. It was my 18th birthday, and if she wouldn’t give me permission now, she would most likely never let me leave this house for the rest of my life.

“Mom?” I started and waited until I knew I had her devoted attention. “I was wondering… Since it’s my 18th birthday….” It was now or never, so I took a deep breath before I asked the forbidden question. “Could I stay out a little longer to celebrate with Everly and Archer?”

She turned her head with a mix of horror and disbelief painted across her face. “Just a little longer. Like maybe an hour or so…” I said, trying to clarify the situation before she released her inner beast, but it was too late.

“No!” she roared and had the whole house shaking in fear. Her reaction startled me, and even dad seemed surprised to hear her shout like that. It was even worse than usual. But she realised that within seconds too.

“I… I’m sorry, honey,” she said and seemed to regret her immediate decision to shout. “I know that you really want to be outside, but we have that rule for a reason, and I don’t like seeing those boundaries being pushed.”

I didn't dare to argue with her when she put it like that, and no one seemed to want to carry the conversation either, so I decided to break the awkward silence instead.

“I’m gonna go upstairs to do my homework,” I said and grabbed my bag to head upstairs.

“That sounds like a good plan, honey. Just keep in mind that your birthday cake will be ready by 3 pm,” mom managed to say before I was too far away to hear her.

“Sure!” I shouted as I walked through the door to my room and closed it behind me.

I exhaled and let myself enjoy the sound of peace and quiet before I threw my bag in the corner and then myself on the bed.

My eyes had been closed for less than two minutes before I heard my phone buzz in the front pocket of my bag. I wasn’t ready to leave my bed just to fetch the thing, so I decided that they could wait for ten minutes or so. I’d already received dozens of birthday greetings, and this was most likely just another.

But then it buzzed again, forcing me to drag my feckless body out of the comfortable warmth of my bedsheets and unzip the pocket to access my phone.

I flipped it over and tapped twice on the dark screen to awaken it from its slumber to see who was so desperately trying to catch my attention. But the name that appeared on the screen nearly caused me to drop the phone before I saw what he wanted.

‘Hey,’ Archer’s text began. ‘Do you have any plans for tonight? I thought we could celebrate your birthday together for once.’

I couldn’t believe my own eyes and had to read the text multiple times to be sure.

My heart wouldn’t stop pounding against my chest bone with the excitement growing in my body. I’d been alone with Archer many times, but I'd never been asked out so bluntly by him before. And never for a rebellious date during the evening, where the romantic lights of the stars would surround us like a gathering of fireflies.

But the feeling of joy and thrill was short-lived and practically died with the message that arrived next.

′Everly and I will be waiting outside your house at 11:15 with a surprise,′ it said and had me sigh defeated as I was read the letters of Everly's name.

He wasn’t asking me out — they were.

I felt a little pinch of disappointment at first, but that feeling was shortly replaced by a touch of relief no more than a second later. The more I considered the thought of a romantic date with Archer, the more flustered I became. Without Everly to assist me, I’d undoubtedly do something that would jeopardise the friendship we'd built over the past decade. And that was something I didn’t want to see happening.

But it was still an opportunity I wouldn’t miss for the world.

This was my chance to see the starry night with my own eyes in the outdoor landscape of our forest, joined by my two closest friends to share the experience with me.

For years, I'd been preparing myself for a night like this, and tonight was the time to put my plans into action. But my parents could never know; not after Mom’s reaction to my request half an hour ago. So, I had to be careful if I ever wanted to see the light of day again.

Someone knocked on my door shortly after I'd made my decision, jolting me out of my reverie.

I barely managed to look towards the door before Mom entered and reminded me of my initial reason for going up here. “Finished with your homework already?” she asked, looking at the phone in my hand.

“I never made it that far,” I admitted and chuckled as I walked back to my warm bed. “I saw my bed, and it looked a lot more appealing than doing boring homework.”

She laughed and sat down beside me. “I think we can forgive you on this particular day,” she said and stroked my calf.

“We thought you'd maybe want your present,” she said after a few moments of complete silence. “Unfortunately, we haven’t had the time to buy it, and your father isn’t done with his creation, so… We’ve decided that you get to choose your own present this year.”

My eyes lit up, but she saw through me right away. “- with limits,” she quickly added, and I let my shoulders drop to underline my disappointment, to which she merely laughed.

“But anything reasonable you can think of, and it’s yours, Rieka,” she said and smiled before she found my hand and squeezed it tightly.

Being presented with so many options made it harder to choose the perfect gift, and I had to think for a while before coming up with the greatest idea of the century. “Okay,” I finally said and settled on an answer. “I’d like to change the colour of my hair.”

It wasn’t the response Mom had expected, and she immediately looked at me as if I was completely out of my mind. “But your hair is so unique. And such a perfect match for your eyes.”

“I don’t wanna be unique, Mom,” I sighed and ran a hand through the locks of my white hair. “I want to look normal — like you guys. I want to look like yours the way Luca does and not just by the few features of my face.”

She sighed but eventually surrendered to my stubborn idea. “Alright, but nothing too crazy. Then you might as well keep your hair as it is,” she said and accepted what was to come.

I squealed when I realised that she had finally permitted for me to do something irrational for once and pulled her in for a hug. “Thank you, Mom,” I said and let my head rest on her shoulder.

“Nothing permanent at first,” she quickly added as she caressed my back. “I don’t want you to regret your decision.”

“I can live with that,” I chuckled and sat back up.

“Then meet me in the bathroom in an hour, and I’ll see what I can do,” she said and got up to walk towards the door.

“Do you have some extra colour?” I asked and imagined myself with the brown colour of my mom’s hair.

“Fortunately for you, I just purchased an extra kit the other day,” she said and let her hand run through her own hair, which revealed a few grey strands hiding around her temples.

“Are you sure you don’t need the dye to cover your grey hairs first?” I teased just before she was about to exit my room.

“Be careful, young lady, or I might just mess it up by accident,” she shot back, shutting the door behind her to dodge the pillow I hurled at her.

“One hour!” she shouted from the other side.

I threw myself back onto my bed and let a smile stretch from one side of my face to the other.

One hour and I would finally be able to see what it would be like to look normal. Everly and Archer would be so surprised tonight.

After struggling to free my phone from the bedsheets that had entrapped it, I let my fingers race across the screen to compose the words that would be my reply to Archer’s text.

‘I’ll be there.’


The hour passed, and I ran downstairs to the large bathroom where Mom was waiting for me.

She was already standing with gloves on, a bottle of hair dye in her hand and a big smile on her face. “Are you ready, Birthday Girl?” she asked and presented the chair, which marked the beginning of a new image for me.

I nodded and sat down where she let her dye towel protect my clothes and applied vaseline around my hairline for reasons only she knew about. Next, she let a brush run through my hair to avoid dealing with tangles before she started sectioning, and then the dying process began.

I could hear my heart pounding loudly as she finished the final runs of dye. This was it; there was no turning back now.

“There we go,” she said and wiped down my face to get rid of the rogue stains of colour. “Don’t remove that cap before the timer reaches zero. Then jump into the shower but remember only to use warm water. You can shower properly tonight after the dye has rested.”

The wait was long, and surfing through my phone didn’t seem to make the time go any faster. But, once the alarm went off after the allotted time, I ripped off the cap and let the excess colour wash away with the water down my body.

I wanted the full experience with my new look, so I decided to blowdry my hair before looking into the mirror.

My hands were shaking as I felt my hair dry, and I suddenly began doubting myself and my decision to color my hair. What if I didn’t like it? What if I didn’t look like my parents as much as I'd hoped?

But the decision had been made, and it was too late to change anything by now. So, I took a deep breath and turned around to look at myself in the mirror.

It was like looking at a completely different person. Who knew hair could change so much about a person’s appearance?

The only thing covering the rest of my body was a white towel, but it only made the features of my face that much more prominent.

Mom had heard me turning off the hairdryer and came to join me. I could see her standing in the doorway, looking at me with a smile on her face.

“What do you think?” she asked and wrapped her arms around my neck.

“It’s a little weird, but not in a bad way,” I admitted and started turning my head in different directions to understand that it was my own image I was staring at. My eyes were shining slightly more in contrast to the dark hair, but I didn’t mind it.

I liked my eyes more than my hair. They weren’t as unusual, and people liked them too.

“Are you satisfied,” mom asked when I kept staring for longer than I probably should have.

“Yeah, I like it,” I answered with a smile. “It’s just funny to see how much I actually look like you, now that we have the same hair color.”

She chuckled and squeezed me harder. “You’ve always been our daughter — no matter the colour of your hair.”

I returned her smile with an even wider one, and she kissed my cheek. “I’ll give you a little time alone with the mirror so you can get used to the new you.”

She let me go and closed the door behind her, leaving me alone with my own reflection yet again.

Mom had been so kind all day, and it made me feel a little bad about sneaking out tonight. I loved my mom, and I knew she only wanted to protect me, but I was 18 soon, and this was the one act of rebellion I felt compelled to commit while I was still a teenager.

I shook it off and got dressed before I ran downstairs to show everyone.

Dad was sitting in his favorite chair in the living room, reading one of his countless books. But Mom beat me to it before I managed to break the news to him. “Do you like her birthday present, James?”

He looked up and found me standing by the doorframe. His initial reaction was to widen his eyes as if he didn’t recognise me, but that expression was quickly replaced by a wider smile. “You look so much like your mother when she was young,” he said and got up.

“You flatter me, James,” I could hear mom titter from the kitchen. “Rieka is so much prettier than I ever was.”

“Maybe,” Dad laughed to tease her. He didn’t even look surprised when a cloth flew across the room from the kitchen and straight towards him. Their marriage never seemed boring, and it was that kind of relationship I hoped to have one day with my future husband.

“You look stunning, Rieka,” he finally said and kissed my forehead as he reached me.

“Thanks, Dad,” I said and gladly accepted the hug he was waiting for.

“Who's that?” I heard the voice of a boy say behind me. I let go of dad and turned around to meet his widened eyes.

“Rieka?” he asked and stepped closer.

“Couldn’t you recognise me?” I chuckled and placed my hands on my hips.

“No, you look like Mom from this side,” he bluntly admitted with a wrinkle across his nose, which had me laughing again.

“You really think so?” I asked and squatted lightly to match his height, but our conversation was cut short by a yell from the kitchen.

“Cake is ready,” mom shouted before she entered the dining room with one of her famous cakes.

“Can I pick the first piece?” Luca asked and let his gaze be drawn towards the colorful cake. My dad and I both burst out laughing at Luca’s reaction, and we had to wait until we could control ourselves before joining them. He might be ten, but he had the attention span of a five-year-old.

I spent the rest of the day with my family, but after a luxurious dinner, I went upstairs to actually do my homework before I began making sure everything was ready for tonight.

The only thing left to do was to set the alarm on my phone that would only sound through my wireless earplug. I knew mom could tell if I pretended to be asleep, so I had to take every precaution necessary.

I fell asleep almost instantly, utterly oblivious to the fact that this night would change my life forever.

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