Home > The Soul's Mark: FOUND (The Soul's Mark #1)(9)

The Soul's Mark: FOUND (The Soul's Mark #1)(9)
Author: Ashley Stoyanoff

It took three minutes to drive back to her house but those three minutes felt like an eternity. Amelia wondered what her roommates were going to say when she showed up with a cop. What a way to make an impression. Not even twenty-four hours in Willowberg and she was already being escorted home.

Sweat trickled down her neck and soaked into her collar. She tried to tell herself it was from the run but deep down she knew it wasn’t. Between the scary little girl and Officer McLean, she was wound tighter than a coil of string. Of course, she’d be sweating. Who wouldn’t be after the morning she had had?

Her throat was dry and scratchy, and when they turned onto the long driveway Amelia had to clear it twice before she could make her voice work. “You can just drop me off here.”

Officer McLean didn’t stop the car and he didn’t even bother to acknowledge that she had spoken. He drove around the side, entering the motor court and to Amelia’s horror, he parked right in front of the glass doors leading to the kitchen. Without a word, he turned off the car and got out.

Amelia watched him saunter, in a way that only a police officer could, towards the porch steps. Maybe they’re still sleeping, she hoped. With squinted eyes, she tried to see if there was anyone in the kitchen, but the frosted glass gave nothing away. She took a deep breath, reached to unbuckle her seat belt, and right at the moment that her seat belt clicked, her door flew open and before she knew it, she was yanked from the car.

“Amelia. Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Luke asked, anxiously. He had his hands firmly on her shoulders, shaking her like a rag doll and his face was streaked with panic. Before she could say anything, he turned to Officer McLean. “Is she hurt?” He didn’t wait for the response but he stopped shaking her, and with frantic eyes, started searching her over.

“She’s fine, Luke,” Officer McLean said, sounding slightly bored. He folded his arms across his chest. “I found her out running. Is Mr. Lang here?”

“No, he’s out of town,” Luke snapped, his eyes still scanning Amelia. What he was looking for Amelia had no clue, but his panic was rubbing off on her, and she started to shake. He finally seemed satisfied that she wasn’t broken and he dropped his hands from her shoulders. “What the hell were you doing running this early in the morning?” he yelled at her.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Amelia answered, flinching. Anger blazed in his eyes. What had she done wrong? She didn’t know, but gauging his reaction, it was serious. “What’s the big deal?”

“Officer McLean,” Angelle’s chipper voice came from the porch, and Amelia was thankful. Angelle—looking immaculately polished in a tailored dark gray jacket and slacks and light blue v-neck top—had captured the men’s attention, effectively drawing the heat away from Amelia. “What brings you here so early in the morning?”

Luke, of course, recovered first. “He found Amelia out running.” Now that he was sure she was okay that original panic was gone and he spat the words, clearly annoyed.

“Oh,” Angelle said. A flash of something vaguely like terror snapped across her face so quickly that if Amelia had not been paying attention she would have missed it. But in less time than it took to blink, Angelle had recovered, back to her glamorous, knock’em dead smile. “Thank you for bringing her home. That was very nice of you.”

Amelia watched, stunned, as Angelle turned away from him, taking a step back towards the door, very clearly dismissing the officer. Luke followed her lead, and placed a firm hand on the small of Amelia’s back, nudging her forward. Amelia had only just taken a step when the cop moved to block the stairs.

“Hold on a minute,” Officer McLean said sternly. Angelle stopped and gracefully turned back to give him her attention. “Amelia claims she saw a little girl while she was out. She needs to know how serious this is. It’s not safe for her to be out alone. At least not until the notice is sent.”

Amelia bristled and side stepped away from Luke’s hand. Did he doubt her? Did he really not believe she saw that creepy little child? “First of all, there was a little girl.” That got everyone’s attention, she thought, suddenly regretting she had said anything. They were all glaring at her, even Angelle, and her nerve faltered. But she managed to push on. She didn’t want her new friends to think she was crazy and that’s exactly what the cop was trying to do. Amelia was sure of it. “I swear I saw her.” She looked back and forth between Luke and Angelle, eyes pleading for them to believe her before focusing back on Officer McLean. “And I really don’t know why you keep saying it’s not safe. It’s a gated street for goodness sakes. And there’s a guard at that gate. What could be so dangerous? And what notice?”

“Millie, why don’t you go inside and see what Eric’s up to?” Angelle said, ignoring her questions. “I need to speak with Officer McLean for a moment.”

Amelia could not believe what was happening. Was she being dismissed now? Were they really just going to ignore her? They were treating her like a little kid. And for a hot second that’s exactly how she felt. She wanted to storm out, tell them all to kiss her butt. Luckily, she caught herself, because whether she liked it or not, she knew throwing a tantrum wasn’t going to get her anywhere. It would just show them that she was in fact the child they thought she was. So instead, Amelia pushed down her boiling rage, and very calmly looked Angelle squarely in the eyes and said, “Not until someone tells me what’s going on.”

Angelle held her stare but she didn’t seem ruffled in the least. No, she looked… amused? Yes, Amelia thought, amused, and that just made the hot anger that was already burning her up turn blistering. After a moment, she looked away from Amelia, and smiled at Officer McLean. “Would you like to come in for a coffee?” she asked, again ignoring Amelia.

He looked at his watch. “Sure, I could spare a few minutes,” he said, and like she wasn’t there, the three of them turned and went inside, leaving Amelia stunned and staring after them.

Amelia watched them disappear through the doorway, mentally chewing on a bunch of nasty comments and wanting to spit them out, but in the end, she swallowed them. She stomped up the stairs, banged the door open and stopped just inside the door.

Luke, Angelle and Officer McLean were already sitting at the island, busy in conversation while Mabel was serving breakfast. None of them bothered to look at her when she came in.

“You look like shit, Millie,” Eric said. She hadn’t noticed him, but he was lounging at the island cradling a cup of coffee in his hands, looking hot, of course, in a form fitting black t-shirt and gray and black plaid pajama pants. His hair was a mess, standing up every which way. Amelia took a moment to appreciate how great he looked all sleepy and rumpled and then she remembered she was supposed to be mad. She shot him a look, which she hoped told him to shut up.

“She went out for a run,” Luke said.

“By yourself?” Eric asked. He got up, went to the coffee pot and poured another cup then handed it to her. He seemed at ease, not stressed like the other three sitting around the island sipping at their coffees. “You should have woken me up. I would’ve gone with you.”

Amelia took the cup, gulped down a big mouthful, as the white-hot anger built up just waiting to erupt. She took another gulp, trying to calm down and then she shouted, “Someone needs tell me what’s going on!”

Eric pulled out a chair and gestured for her to sit. Amelia glared at him and shook her head, determined not to move until someone started telling her what was going on.

“Don’t pout,” Eric smirked. “It’s really not a flattering look on you.” He gestured again for her to sit.

Amelia looked around at the rest of them. It was clear that they were all waiting for her to sit, faces closed and guarded. She rolled her eyes and huffed loudly, then stomped her way over to the chair and banged her coffee cup onto the table.

Eric sat down beside her, taking her hand in his, gently rubbing his thumb across her palm. “Couple days ago one of the neighbors was attacked,” he said. “It happened in the early morning while she was out for a walk.” He paused for a moment and kept stroking her hand lightly, looking at her, Amelia thought, as if he was waiting for her to breakdown. Was she supposed to be upset about this girl? Things like this happen all the time. Anyone who watches the news or reads a paper or even listens to the radio knows that. He must have read the confusion on her face because the next thing he said hit her hard and all the blood drained from her face. “It happened on our street, Millie. She was attacked behind the gates.” He squeezed her hand a bit tighter, reassuring her silently. “There’s been a string of break-ins, too and we think that the attack is connected. So until whoever is behind this is caught a curfew is in effect. That’s why everyone was so worried about you.”

“Break-ins? How?” Amelia breathed, their concern now feeling all too real and completely justified.

“We don’t know, honey,” Angelle said. “No one has been able to figure out how they’re getting in. But the girl that was attacked is still in the hospital. She was really beaten up.”

Officer McLean cleared his throat loudly. “When is the notice going out?”

“Today,” Luke said. “Amelia, the curfew is from nine at night until seven in the morning. If you need to go somewhere, please get one of us to go with you. It’s for your own safety.”

“What notice is he talking about?” Amelia asked.

“It’s nothing,” Eric said. He let go of her hand and tapped the plate in front of her, which she guessed Mabel had brought but she hadn’t noticed. When she didn’t budge, he sighed and handed her a fork. “It’s just to let the neighbors know you moved in. Everyone’s really jumpy right now so seeing someone new raises a lot of questions.”

Makes sense. “Why didn’t you guys tell me all this before?” Amelia asked, and took a bite of her eggs.

   
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