Home > The Soul's Mark: FOUND (The Soul's Mark #1)(2)

The Soul's Mark: FOUND (The Soul's Mark #1)(2)
Author: Ashley Stoyanoff

Angelle made a quick right, heading away from the beautiful area. “Okay, I’m completely lost. Why did you buy my books and computer? How do you even know what I need?”

“It’s my job to know,” Angelle replied, waving a dismissive hand. “Didn’t the school tell you anything? They should have mailed you all the information last month. Oh, and speaking of the school, there it is.” She pointed off to the right, but Amelia barely noticed the large buildings.

She was just so confused. “Um, I didn’t get anything in the mail,” Amelia stammered. “Just a phone call telling me that I’d won a scholarship. All they told me was that it included tuition, housing and a basic living allowance. Then there was an email a couple days ago with the bus details.”

Amelia felt a rush of pure adrenaline and her heart rate picked up, pounding loudly in her ears. Oh God, she panicked. Why am I telling her all this? And why does she already know so much? She had so desperately wanted to keep everything quiet. No one needed to know about her past or that she was poor. All she wanted was to just move on, start a new life, be… happy.

“Seriously?” Angelle said. “That’s all they told you? That’s ridiculous. I’m going to have to have a little chat with the administration office about that. Oh well, it will all just be a big surprise then. That’s even better.”

Amelia wanted to grill her with questions but suddenly, Angelle was making another right and pulling the car up to a gate. She rolled down her window and smiled at a portly, balding guard in full uniform. “Good afternoon, Ms. O’Conner,” he said with an easy smile.

“Hi, Joe,” Angelle said, smiling at him, and then she gestured towards Amelia. “This is Amelia, she’s moving in with us today. I’ll come by tomorrow with a picture you can post until everyone gets to know her.”

Amelia gave Joe an awkward wave and said, “Hi.” An uneasy feeling grew in the pit of her stomach as she realized this was her street. The school had told her she would be staying on Bankdale Ridge, a gated complex, but she had assumed that meant a new housing development, like the ones that seemed to be popping up everywhere with the little stone fences that surrounded a dozen or so normal houses. She had never imagined it was a gated complex, the kind with security guards and an actual gate.

“Nice to meet you Amelia,” Joe said, nodding towards her. He had a nice voice, Amelia thought. Not quite deep but not high—a comforting kind of timbre.

“Have Eric and Luke been in yet?” Angelle asked, as the big iron gate clanked open.

Joe’s smile widened. “Mr. Carter came in about twenty minutes ago,” he chuckled. “He was looking unusually green today.”

“Green?” Angelle questioned, as she raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow.

“Oh you’ll see. Trust me, it’s hard to miss,” he replied, shaking his head and laughing. “You ladies have a nice day.”

“Thanks Joe. You, too.” Angelle rolled up her window and thrust the car forward through the gate, climbing up the hilly street. Trees lined either side, immaculately groomed, and Amelia could just barely see the tops of the houses past them. Obviously, people here really liked their privacy.

As soon as they were clear of the gate, Amelia said, “Sorry if I sound really stupid but…” she paused and took a deep, calming breath, “What do you mean it’s your job to know? Aren’t you a student?”

“Don’t be silly. You don’t sound stupid at all. That’s actually a very good question. None of us are in school. We all work for Mr. Lang managing different parts of his businesses. I manage the Dreams Come True Scholarship that you won. Out of all the applications, you definitely deserve this more than anyone I have ever seen. I just can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for you after your parents passed away, and to be there when it happened, to see them murdered.” Angelle made a sad tsk sound and then a long sigh.

Tiny beads of sweat popped up on Amelia’s forehead and a sudden flash of her parents ripped through her mind. Her mouth opened, and then closed, not sure of what to say. So many thoughts swirled through her brain. No one was supposed to know. She didn’t want the sad looks and the comfort any more. All she wanted was to move on. Amelia swallowed hard, trying to loosen the orange-sized lump that was lodged in her throat. She wiped at her sweaty forehead, turned to Angelle, and said in a small voice, “You know about my parents and the foster homes?”

“I know everything, honey,” Angelle replied warily, glancing over quickly, eyes red and glassy with unshed tears. She reached over, giving Amelia’s knee a little reassuring pat.

Amelia leaned against the cool window, exhausted and unhappy and tried to get her head together. It was all happening. Everything she had wanted to hide from. Everything she had wanted to leave behind. Was she ever going to be able to move on? A thick, tense silence fell over the car, giving an ominous feeling, as if a storm was brewing, rolling in and surrounding her with darkened clouds.

“But things are going to change for you now,” Angelle continued, breaking the silence and sending Amelia a dazzling smile. “We’re so excited to have you staying with us. You really are something special. How in the world did you manage to get such good grades and stay so focused?”

Amelia didn’t want to talk. She just wanted to sit there, silent and miserable. But she also didn’t want to be rude. She knew that would just make it all a whole lot worse, so she took a couple of deep breaths and said, “I guess I just really love to learn. Well, that and running. They’re sorta my… escape.” She looked at Angelle for a prolonged second, and then asked hesitantly, “Um, how many people live at the house?”

“There’s Eric and Luke. You’ll meet them today. They handle all the businesses Mr. Lang owns here in town. There’s also Lola and sometimes Mr. Lang. They both should be back in a few weeks. I’m sure you’ll just love them. You’re going to fit in wonderfully. I just know it.”

“Wait a minute,” Amelia said, a panicked knot wrenching tighter in her stomach. “You guys all live with your boss and he’s moving me into his own house? That’s crazy. Why would he do that?”

“Hmmm. I guess that does sound a bit strange.” Angelle paused, bringing a pink polished fingernail to her lips and then gave Amelia a thoughtful glance before turning her eyes back to the road. “I never really thought about it before. The five of us grew up together here in Willowberg so when we started working together it just made sense to all be in the same place and since it’s where it all started we made it the base of operations. But really, he isn’t around that much anymore. He stops by every few months for a quick visit and then he’s off again. For you though, it’s all part of the Dreams Come True experience. You’ll understand when you see the place.” Angelle turned off the street onto a hidden driveway lined on both sides by weeping willows swaying gently in the breeze. “We’re here!” she announced.

When they passed through the trees Amelia’s jaw actually dropped. The house was not so much a house as a mansion, but it reminded her more of a castle from one of those childhood fairy tales her mom used to read her. It was all arches, turrets and balconies, with a brown tiled roof and gray stone walls. And it exuded a magical elegance.

Amelia blinked a few times, licked her lips and swallowed the nerves that were jumping around like grasshoppers. “You can’t be serious,” she blurted out, awe-struck.

“Pretty amazing, right?” Angelle chirped with a sparkle in her eyes. She maneuvered the big SUV around the west side of the house and into a motor court with large carports on both sides and parked in between a green Corvette and a mud-caked Jeep.

“That’s the understatement of the year,” Amelia mumbled under her breath.

Angelle turned off the car and hopped out. When Amelia didn’t move, she peeked her head back in. “Are you coming in or did you just want to stay in the garage?”

Still gaping, Amelia struggled to unbuckle her seat belt, which took a few tries and when it finally clicked open, she snagged her backpack and got out.

Amelia’s legs felt like rubber as she walked back out to the motor court where Angelle was waiting, looking like a glossy magazine photo in her low-riding jeans and white empire-cut long-sleeved top. She looked completely in her element standing in the expansive court.

“What do you…?” Angelle started, but was cut off abruptly by the sound of a shrill scream coming from the house. There was a clattering of pots and pans crashing onto the floor.

Angelle stiffened, and her light bubbly smile vanished. She whirled around quickly and gracefully, which Amelia would have thought was impossible in her six inch stiletto heels, and she moved in front of Amelia, taking on a protective stance, as if blocking her from some unseen danger that was about to drop.

The shrill screaming continued, relentlessly, like a banshee, and it cut through Amelia like a knife, chilling her to the bone. There was another voice, a man’s voice, hollering from inside the house. Amelia couldn’t make out what he was saying, but the tone definitely wasn’t good. Then another clatter pierced the air, like glass breaking into a million sharp-edged shards.

CHAPTER 2

“Crap,” Angelle said, relaxing her stance slightly. “It’s coming from the kitchen. This can’t be good.” She shot Amelia a frazzled look and then dashed up the steps of the porch. At the glass double doors, she turned back and waved, gesturing for Amelia to follow. “Come on, honey,” she called, before rushing into the house.

The screaming grew louder and another clatter echoed through the doorway. Amelia rushed after Angelle, jogging over the inter-locking stone, dazed, as if she had stumbled into an alternate universe. She climbed the three steps of the stone-covered porch and peeked through the open door, trying to stay out of the way of whatever chaos had been unleashed.

A faint smell of smoke washed out, followed by a man’s agonized yell. Amelia glanced around, realizing she was walking into the kitchen.

   
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