Marked (Soul Guardians Book 1)By: Kim Richardson
For my mother Danielle,
“Wait for me!” Kara jogged along Saint Paul Street. She pressed her cell phone against her ear with a sweaty hand. “I’ll be there in two minutes!”
With her heart thumping against her chest, her black ballet flats tapped the cobblestones as she avoided oncoming traffic. Her portfolio swung at her side. She jumped onto the sidewalk and ran through the crowd.
“I can’t believe you’re not here yet,” said the voice on the line. “You had to pick today of all days to be late.”
“Okay, okay. I’m already freaking out about the presentation. You’re not exactly helping, Mat.”
A laugh came through the speaker. “I’m just saying …this is supposed to be the most important day of your life. And you, Mademoiselle Nightingale, are late.”
“Yeah, I heard you the first time…Mother. It’s not my fault. My stupid alarm didn’t go off!” Kara dashed along the busy street, her long brown hair bouncing against her back. The smell of grease and beer from the pubs reached her nose and her heart hammered in her chest like a jackhammer. She knew if she missed the presentation, her hopes of landing a scholarship were over. She didn’t have any money for college, so this was her only shot.
Over the heads of the crowd, Kara could just make out the sign, Une Galerie. Stenciled elegantly in bold black letters, the name hovered above the art gallery’s majestic glass doors. She could see shadows of people gathered inside. Her chest tightened. She was only a block away now.
“You know, the presentation won’t wait for you—”
“Yes, yes, I know, it’s not like I planned this. Now I’m going to do my presentation out of breath and disgustingly sweaty. Not exactly the kind of first impression I wanted to make,” Kara growled into the phone, trying to catch her breath.
For a horrible moment she thought she wasn’t going to make it on time and considered getting off the sidewalk to run along the edge of the street instead. She looked back to see how bad the traffic was.
Then her heart skipped a beat.
Less than half a block behind, a man stood motionless and indifferent to the wave of humanity that flowed around him. He was staring at her. His white hair stood out against his dark gray tailored suit. Kara frowned.
His eyes are black, she realized.
A chill rolled up her spine. The man melted into the crowd and vanished, as though he were a mere trick of the light. The hair on the back of Kara’s neck prickled as a sense of foreboding and the urge to scream filled her. Who was this man? And why was he looking at her?
“I think I’m being followed,” Kara spoke into her cell phone after a few seconds. Her mouth was dry as a feeling of dread welled up inside her.
“You always think you’re being followed.”
“No. I’m serious. I swear…this guy is following me—some psycho with white hair. I…I think I’ve seen him before. Or at least my mother has…”
“We all know your mother is a little nutty sometimes. No offense, I love your mom, but she’s been seeing and talking to invisible people since we were five. I think it’s rubbing off on you.”
“Listen. I was with my mom yesterday on Saint Catherine Street, and she said we were being followed by someone. What if this is the same guy? Maybe she’s not as crazy as everyone thinks.” Kara wondered if there was a little truth in her mother’s visions. She loved her mother very much, and she hated herself at times for thinking her mom belonged in a loony bin.
Mat laughed. “Are you serious? It’s bad enough that your mom sees spirits and demons. If you start believing in all that, they’ll lock you up.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Remind me why you’re my best friend again?” Kara decided to drop the subject. After all, the strange man was gone and her fear of him was melting away with every step, replaced by nerves and restlessness for her presentation. She focused on the gallery sign as she ran. “Okay…I can see you now.”
Mat was leaning against the gallery’s brick exterior. His head was turned toward the glass doors. He pulled his cigarette from his lips and blew smoke into his phone’s receiver. “I think it’s starting. Hurry up!”