Home > The Soul's Mark: FOUND (The Soul's Mark #1)(8)

The Soul's Mark: FOUND (The Soul's Mark #1)(8)
Author: Ashley Stoyanoff

Mitchell laughed and she stiffened. When she looked up, he was lounging back in his chair with a playful smile on his face. Just yesterday, that smile would have turned her into a lovesick puppy. She would have run to him, throwing herself into his arms.

But now, it infuriated her. Amelia straightened her shoulders and clenched her teeth. She could feel her fingernails digging into her palms as she balled her hands into tight fists. “This isn’t funny,” she bristled, and shot him a fierce glare.

“Oh, love,” he chuckled. The sound made her heart skip a beat and she cursed under her breath. She hated feeling this way about him. “You met someone?” Amusement filled his eyes and he laughed, full heartedly. “Let me guess. Eric?” He got up from his chair and kneeled down on the floor in front of her so his face was at the same level as hers. “There’s so much you don’t know, love,” he whispered, brushing her hair off her neck. He let his fingers linger, lightly tracing the outline of her birthmark.

His touch made her skin tingle, and her body lit up like a blazing fire. She knew there was something, something that he said that he shouldn’t have known but with him this close she just couldn’t seem to figure out what it was. He leaned in and kissed her slowly, his lips soft and teasing. This time he ended the kiss. “I love you, Amelia,” he said, brushing her hair back. “You should get some sleep, love.”

Mitchell bent forward and kissed her forehead. She was about to protest because she was already asleep. This was her dream and she really didn’t want him to go. But when she looked at him he was flickering and fading like a television set gone to static. The room was changing, shifting, colors flashing, and then it was dark and she faded into a deep sleep.

CHAPTER 6

Morning came early, and Amelia, no matter how hard she tried, could not sleep. She glanced over at the clock next to her bed, almost 5:30. She groaned, wishing she was one of those people who could sleep in until noon because she really, really hated mornings. For a moment she thought about staying tucked into the warm, cozy blankets, but it seemed pointless. She was wide-awake and knew she was up for the day. With another agonized groan, she decided to get up and go for a run. Exercise was the only thing that made her remotely sociable in the morning and at least it would give her a chance to see the neighborhood.

Tumbling out of bed, stretching and yawning, Amelia made her way to the window. The sky was fixed in that special place at the end of night but before day, neither dark nor light. The stars were just little specks, fading into dim sparkles in the gray-blue sky.

She tossed on a t-shirt and her favorite gray yoga pants, then grabbed her water bottle and running shoes and headed out of her room. The house was completely quiet. She crept quietly down the hall, hoping not to wake anyone.

In the kitchen, she turned on the tap, letting the water run for a second. It gushed from the tap, crashing against the stainless steel sink. There goes being quiet, she thought and hastily shoved her bottle under the stream, not waiting for the water to turn cold.

Amelia pulled on her running shoes and went out the door into the motor court. She shivered as the brisk fall breeze touched her bare arms. There was a bite in the air and she knew she would soon have to bundle up before venturing out in the mornings. She headed down the porch steps and did a few stretches, then took off down the driveway at a slow jog, warming up her muscles.

In no time at all her blood started to pump, her muscles started to tingle and she started to feel… alive.

The street was quiet and deserted in the early morning light. The sky was turning a deep purple-blue and the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon. She picked up her pace to a sprint.

Amelia had hoped to see some of the other houses on the street and get a feel for the neighborhood, but the thick tree line blocked her view. She made out some of the houses through the breaks and from what she could see, they were all just as big and fabulous as the one she lived in.

She passed by a little opening in the trees. A small park, she assumed, with a few benches and a garden. As she passed, Amelia felt a tingle at the back of her neck. The kind of feeling she always got when someone was watching or following her. She glanced over her shoulder, not slowing the pace, but saw nothing.

Amelia pushed herself faster, adrenaline pumping, but the feeling of eyes boring into her back became more intense and prickled down her spine, rolling like needles.

A loud crack, like a branch breaking, and the rustle of leaves crunching under foot broke the silence of the morning, and she stopped abruptly. She peered into the trees where the sound came from, trying to see what was there. Nothing. She couldn’t see anything but the trees. She waited, listening closely but the crunching of leaves was gone. Maybe a squirrel? No, too loud. She knew a squirrel couldn’t make that much noise. A fox?

Amelia tried to shake off the feeling, knowing it was just her imagination working on overdrive. She was in a new place after all. Reluctantly, she pulled her gaze away from the trees, turned back to the street and screamed.

Standing in front of her was a little girl. She was so close that Amelia could feel a warm burst of air with every breath the girl took. Amelia jumped back and clasped her hands over her mouth to stifle another scream that was building up. The girl was young. Maybe eleven or twelve and she was creepy, like little kid, horror movie creepy, with unnervingly pale white-gray skin, big pale gray eyes and straggly shoulder length thin white-blond hair. She wore an evil, devil child kind of smile.

Amelia forced her hand down from her mouth, feeling bad at her reaction. She knew the kid was probably just as scared as she was, with her screaming. “You startled me. Are you lost?” Amelia asked, her voice a little shaky.

The girl just stood there, frozen like a statue, cold dead looking eyes boring into Amelia. A chill prickled down Amelia’s spine and her heart started thumping like a jackhammer in her chest. Unconsciously, she took another step back. The child still did not move, not an inch, didn’t even blink. “Are you okay?” she asked, stuttering over the words.

Right at that moment, a car door slammed from behind her and Amelia jumped. She really didn’t want to take her eyes off the creepy little girl but she couldn’t seem to stop herself from glancing over her shoulder quickly. She caught a glimpse of a short, chubby police officer strutting towards her. She flipped her focus back to the girl, but she was… gone. Amelia frantically scanned the street but there was no sign of her. She had looked away for only half a second. Gone.

Amelia turned back to the police officer, who was now only a few steps away. “Did you see that little girl? Where did she go?”

“What little girl? All I see is you. Who do you belong to?” the officer asked, not unkindly, but with a definite air of authority. He looked older, in his early fifties, Amelia guessed, with wrinkles touching his eyes and the corner of his mouth. His hair was graying, close-cropped, and his smile was friendly enough but there was something careful and guarded and a bit unsure about it.

“You didn’t see the little girl? She was standing right there,” Amelia replied, flustered, and pointed to the empty space in front of her. Then his question sunk in and she replayed in her mind. Who do you belong to? What kind of question was that? She shook her head, sure she had heard him wrong and asked, “Sorry, what did you just ask me?” her voice sounding more scared then she had hoped for.

He studied her closely, eyes scanning her over and eventually settling on her neck. She fought back the urge to cover up her birthmark. The way he was looking at it, examining it, she felt as if she was being put under a microscope. “Interesting.” He folded his arms over his chest. “You must be new here. Which house are you in?” he asked, raising a questioning eyebrow.

Amelia tried not to tremble, but with the way he was looking at her it was hard not to. She was not a fan of the police. Not since the night her parents had been murdered. They brought back too many memories that she wanted to keep buried. “18 Bankdale Ridge. Did I do something wrong, officer…” she peered at the brassy name plate on his jacket, “McLean?”

“You must be Amelia.” He extended his right hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. And no, you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that this really isn’t the kind of neighborhood that a kid like you should be running around alone in at the break of dawn. It’s not safe.”

Amelia was sure she was looking at him as if he might be crazy. Not safe? You couldn’t even get onto the street without a guard opening the gate. “I find it hard to believe this area isn’t safe,” she said, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice. Then a thought dawned on her, the amusement vanished, and her skin rose in goose pimples, “How do you know my name?”

He gave her a long, hard stare and then shrugged, looking, Amelia thought, as if he was trying to cover up a mistake. “It’s my job to know who should and shouldn’t be here,” he said, too quickly for her to believe. “Like I said, it’s not safe, especially for those who don’t belong. Why don’t I take you home?”

“That’s okay, it’s only a few houses down.” Amelia was vibrating all over. She was nervous. She knew she shouldn’t be. He was a police officer. He was a good guy. But he exuded an unnamed quality that unnerved her. It was probably just her imagination but she really didn’t want to go anywhere with him. “I’m sure I’ll be fine,” she added when he didn’t leave.

Officer McLean didn’t look happy at her response and Amelia was sure she saw a flicker of fear in his eyes. Was he sacred of her or scared for her? She didn’t know and part of her didn’t want to know. It was all just a bit too strange, the girl, Officer McLean. What kind of a town had she move to?

He sighed a gusty sound. “Humor an old man and get in the car. It would make me feel a lot better to know that you made it home okay.”

“What about the little girl?”

“Amelia, I didn’t see a little girl. You’re the only person I’ve seen all morning,” he said, shaking his head. “Come on, get in the car.” He waved his hand to her, a clear signal to follow and started towards the car. She hesitated for just a moment, then, not wanting to get into trouble, Amelia followed and got into the front seat of the waiting cruiser.

   
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