Drake (Book 1)

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[35]-Scarlet Letter

“All it takes to change the world is one good lie and a river of blood,”- Drake

8:00 a.m.

Serina’s gaze shifted towards a duo prodding down the sidewalk. The sky was a harder blue with full clouds. She turned away and observed her curvaceous and robust figure in the mirror. Her dress slipped from her shoulders and fell to her ankles. Then she turned, so her back faced the tall mirror. Below her, on the first floor of the ballet studio, Lyn conducted rehearsals for her play. The only thing it lacked was its shining star, Serina Ackner.

She continued to stare at her reflection, pulling her hair into a tight bun. Serina made a face at the large brand on her back, resembling a large A. A scarlet letter forever scorched into her skin. A reminder and monument to her sins.

It felt like yesterday, when she had been branded. The molten iron being carried from the forge. Two burly men pinned her to a table as the brander brought down his reckoning upon her. Her skin screamed as it met hot iron, and Serina’s body recoiled. However, she couldn’t move from the men holding her down. So, instead, she bellowed, though it fell on deaf ears in the town. She caught a whiff of burning flesh and her skin sizzled before going numb.

But that smell. How could she forget that smell of her own flesh being seared away by hot iron? After that day, she felt like property. No different from the cattle grazing in her father’s field that bore the family mark.

She heard a knock on the door and covered herself.

“Just a minute!” she said, rummaging through her gym bag for a leotard and top.

She heard an exasperated sigh through the door. “Hurry it up,” Lyn ordered curtly.

Serina sat on the floor, her red dress spread across like a wildflower. She curled her knees into her chest and gazed into the mirror. Drake’s face flashed in her mind afterwards.

“He, from whom all others are made…”

8:24 a.m.

Lyn tapped her feet against the mahogany colored floors. She glanced at her watch and then glanced again. Serina was nowhere to be seen. The other ballerinas continued their warm-ups and stretches on the floor. A door creaked and Serina stepped through, walking down the stairs to meet them. Lyn’s expression changed like a blossoming flower from pale to darkness as she stormed towards Serina.

The other ballerinas wasted no time stepping out of her path as she flew past them. But then a voice said: “Miss Valeska!”

Lyn turned around to see her assistant coach, Hester, rushing over to her. Lyn continued on, but Hester caught her arm.

“It’s serious!” she said, hushed.

Lyn looked around as all eyes fell on her, to include Serina. Hester shook her shoulder. “We’ve got a big problem…”

She pulled Hester aside. “Ladies, keep doing your warm-ups, please.”

Hester leaned closer and whispered to her: “One of our girls, Natalie, the back-up swan hasn’t showed up in days. I called her house and her mother hasn’t seen her either. She’s worried sick-!”

Lyn covered her mouth with sudden swiftness and raised a finger to her lips. “Keep your voice down. The other girls can’t find out about it…”

Hester rolled her eyes, her face puzzled. “You really think the other girls haven’t noticed? There’s talk- talk around town that young women have been disappearing left and right!” she breathed.

Lyn tilted her head. “What?”

“Yes! All of them have been found nude and ripped to shreds… How do you not know about this-?”

Lyn turned and sauntered away. She gathered the girls towards the center of the floor to resume practice. She shot Serina a spiteful glare as she took her spot towards the front. Serina regarded her coldly and spun as the soft adagio began and she disappeared for a moment into the throb of white swans…

8:41 p.m.

“Drake? Drake?” a soft voice mused.

He rolled over in his bed and groaned.

The voice continued calling his name. He turned over and placed a pillow over his head. But the voice didn’t stop…

Finally, he rolled to his back and opened his eyes. It wasn’t night, but a white sun that illuminated the sky. Green fields stretched as far as the eye could see towards a stern mountain. Its jagged peak scraped the sky and was capped by snow. Wisteria leaves floated in the air from a gentle autumn breeze. He looked below where he stood on white tiles in what resembled a park surrounded by more Wisteria. A lone tree stood in the middle where a woman swung on a swing.

Her swing lost momentum, and she planted her feet to the ground and skipped to him. Her face softened and her amber eyes flickered. She was a petite woman who wore an enticing white toga with hair the color of a dark phoenix. She stood on her toes and gave Drake a quick peck on the lips.

Anna smiled. “You look pale,” she quipped.

Drake observed his surroundings for a moment, pondering. “Where’s Irene?”

“She went on ahead,” Anna replied. “She told me to watch over you for now. So, here I am.”

Drake rubbed her smooth, pasty cheek. Though it felt more like cold-wind. “Anna, you died.” He looked away. “I watched you die…”

A soothing gale flowed over his shoulders as if howling at a mountain. It caressed Anna’s hair, and she giggled. He missed hearing those girlish giggles. He had almost forgotten what it had sounded like and of course, her eyes. Such kind eyes.

She crossed her arms behind her back and leaned forward, smiling.

Drake sighed. “I remember now. The person who used to look at me with such kind eyes. It was you wasn’t it?”

Anna nodded. “I came here to warn you. Something from your past is coming back to haunt you. It hunts for you even now. Remember who you are. Take Acheron and your cross and vanquish it before it’s too late-”

She turned suddenly and returned to her swing. She started to swing and Drake was torn from her, pulled away by an attractive force. He screamed as he awakened, his body doused in sweat. Moonlight peaked through his blinders as thin white lines. He looked at his clock, still shaking and gasping.

What the fuck just happened!

He gulped down the glass of water on his nightstand and exhaled. The sweat on his chest and back cooled against the cool night air. His heart settled, and he set the glass down. A dark mass manifested just outside his window, growing closer with every second. It stopped, forming in the dimension of a wolf. A wolf that stood on its hind legs.

Drake raised a brow. “What-?”

His window exploded, and the figure lunged towards him, snarling like a rabid wolf. Its bite crushed his arm and dragged him from his bed. His screams pierced through the night as the beast thrashed his arm in its mouth and struck him with its claws.

He passed out from the pain, and the wolf guffawed. It hoisted him over its shoulder and leapt through his window, leaving a shamble of blood and glass.

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