As promised, here is the excerpt from The Soul's Mark: HUNTED. I hope you all enjoy it. :)
The wind whipped through Amelia’s hair as the door opened. She felt alive, pure adrenaline pumped through her body. It was a dizzying and exciting kind of rush. One she had never experienced before.
Mitchell’s hands grasped her shoulders so tightly that she winced. He whimpered and she was pretty sure she heard a shriek, a sound that she had never before heard from him. She glanced over her shoulder and reached up to squeeze his hand. She couldn’t stop the burst of laughter that erupted from her belly.
The sounds of her laughter were drowned out by the rumbling engines of the plane and the windstorm that blustered around them, and she wondered how on earth she had heard his shriek. Then she noticed his slightly pink cheeks and the emanating feelings of embarrassment and she realized she was feeling it through the bond.
You’ve got to be kidding me? she sent through her sidesplitting laughter, as she took in his ghostly complexion. You’re scared?
We’re really, um, high, Mitchell whimpered into her mind. He sounded like a scared little child and he took a few steps back, pressing his body firmly against the wall. I don’t think I can do this. What if my parachute doesn’t open?
Oh, honey, Amelia said, crossing the short distance between them and caressing his pale cheeks. She smirked, dropping her thoughts to a gentle whisper. You know you’re a vampire, right? Even if it doesn’t open, you’ll be fine.
She felt Mitchell groan. You really aren’t helping, love.
Suddenly the plane hit a bit of turbulence, jostling them around and he screeched, an ear piercing little girl kind of sound. He pulled her into his arms, holding onto her so tightly, as if she were the only thing that could save him—his stable rock.
She squeezed him back just as firmly, feeling the fear tremble through his muscles and the panic that he pushed into her mind. She stood up on tiptoes and kissed the tip of his nose. Now, this is new, she pushed the thought to him. I think I could get used to being the strong one.
He chuckled, or at least that was what Amelia thought he was trying to do. It sounded more like a gurgling sob. He rubbed his nose, side to side against hers. In case…In case… He shook his head, as if he couldn’t bear to finish the words. His lips twitched up into an unconvincing smile. I love you.
Amelia almost laughed again. Who would have thought that Mitchell, of all people, would be scared of heights? Or scared of anything for that matter. But before the giggles could explode, he silenced them with a hungry kiss. His lips worked over hers with such an urgency and fierceness that Amelia was quickly swept away, forgetting the plane, forgetting the wind, forgetting everything around them. It was just them. Together. Nothing else in the world mattered. Not a single other thing existed apart from him.
“If you’re going to jump, you’ve got to do it now,” the coach shouted, ruining the moment.
Reluctantly, Amelia pulled her lips away, panting. She locked eyes with Mitchell. “We don’t have to do this,” she yelled, although it floated through the air like a hushed whisper thanks to the almost deafening wind blowing around them, and she tried to hide the disappointment in her voice.
His gaze shifted quickly to the open doorway, and then back to her. He took a shaky breath, cupped her face with his soft and clammy hands and a scared thought trembled into her mind, Can you push me out?
Amelia grinned and nodded in response. Her heart swelled and jumped around in her chest. How had she gotten so lucky? How many other men would jump out of a plane, just because their girlfriend wanted to?
“Guys, you really have to jump, like now,” the coach shouted again.
Mitchell visibly shivered. What if I land on a twig and it pierces my heart? He sent the thought through their bond, and she could tell he didn’t trust his voice.
I’ve got it covered, honey, Amelia sent back, coating the thoughts with a soothing tone.
How? he breathed.
Amelia leaned into him, stretching up and brushing her lips against his ear as if she were going to whisper a secret. But even this close and with his enhanced hearing, she knew she would have to yell to be heard over the noise. We’re going to land in the lake. That’s why he’s rushing us.
Mitchell looked more horrified than reassured. But what if we get tangled in the ropes, what if our parachutes drag us underwater, what if…
Amelia cut off Mitchell’s rambling thoughts and again reassured him, Shhh…We’ll be fine.
It had taken some arranging, but using her magic to pull on Mitchell’s power of persuasion, she had managed to arrange for them to jump alone, over a lake. They wouldn’t have an instructor, and they didn’t have to be secured together, although, she planned to use a little magic to keep them together as they fell through the sky.
He took her hand, lacing their fingers together, and inched towards the opening. Don’t let go? he said, as if it were a question.
Never, Amelia answered, and she meant it. Never again would she let him slip away. They locked gazes and together, they jumped.
Amelia was the first to scream as they tumbled, but it wasn’t from fear. Mitch, you’re going to break my hand, she sent in a panicked rush.
He loosened his grip to a bearable tension and sent a blast of shame through the bond. I didn’t want you to know I’m such a wuss, he sent.
With her free hand, she pulled him closer to her, lancing their hands together with steamy golden strands of power that wrestled against the wind that tried to rip them apart. You’re not a wuss, she pushed the thought to him. You’re the strongest person I know, and I love you, Mitchell Lang.
He gave her a genuine smile, and for just a second, the fear vanished from his eyes. Bright, warm sunshine poured through the bond. Amelia soaked it up, basking in his love. The emotions wrapped around her, seeped into her skin, and filled her soul. He leaned closer and kissed her with just a light peck, and then cleared his throat and yelled, “Can we pull the cord?” The fear crept back onto his face.
She reached to her side and he mimicked her movements, clasping the cord tightly, and together, they pulled. As the parachutes opened, the wind caught them and they jerked up. Mitchell screeched and Amelia grinned, keeping a tight hold on his hand. It took a moment for the ballooning chutes to fill out, but when they did, it was amazing. Floating down over the crystal clear lake, the world around them was breathtaking. A sight that Amelia was sure was now etched into her mind. The glistening water, the rolling hills, the little cottage. From above, it was just all the more beautiful. She lost herself, allowing the vastness of the earth below to fill her soul and the closeness of Mitchell to warm her heart.
This past week had been wonderful, and floating from the sky seemed like the perfect way to end their perfect vacation. Amelia had been a little apprehensive when Mitchell had suggested that they go away—just the two of them. To her pleasant surprise, without all the stress of running a town full of vampires and dealing with an amazing, yet demanding family, they actually had a great time. She would have sworn it wasn’t possible, but this time with him had brought them back to the dreams. Back to the times when all that mattered was each other.
The time alone had been full of firsts: their first real date—alone, the first time to the movies; he even bought her flowers for the first time. It had been more than she could have ever imagined. And for the first time since they had met, she actually felt like they were just a normal couple, having a normal life, and best of all, she realized how much she truly loved him. The way he smiled at her, the way he caressed her cheek. How his eyes sparkled when he laughed, and the way he always opened the door for her. She loved him. Everything about him. Would it be like this when they got back? she wondered, as the ground approached. Mitchell tightened his grip on her hand, pulling her from her musing.
Amelia squeezed back, trying to reassure him, and then she focused on the fall. She gathered up her magic, pulling the energy together and letting the golden strands wrap around both of them. Their momentum slowed, and she felt like a feather drifting in the wind as they descended the last few feet. When they landed, the cool lake water gently splashed up around them.
“Mitch, you can open your eyes,” Amelia said, as the parachutes billowed around them, landing in the hip-deep water.
“Is it over?” he asked, keeping his eyes squeezed tightly shut.
Amelia laughed. “Okay, now you’re acting like a wuss.” She gave him a playful nudge and then unclipped the chutes. She was about to start wading in towards the beach, when suddenly, his lips were on hers, in a hard, breathtaking kiss.
“I can’t believe we actually did that,” he said when they finally came up for air. And then a grin spread across his lips and he scooped her up in his arms. Amelia gawked at him in amazement as he carried her out of the water. She had never seen him so happy before. So content. And seeing him like this made her happier than she had ever been before.
Mitchell was still grinning as he set her down on the beach, and she smiled up at him. “I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” she said, and then giggled at the amount of emotion that came out in her words. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Mitchell said, leaning down, pressing his warm lips to hers. And in that moment, everything melted away. The sounds of the chirping birds and the soft crashing waves were gone. All that was left was him. And he was all hers.
Looking back, Amelia figured she should have known that the honeymoon phase wouldn’t last. She had really wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, the vacation had worked. Perhaps the magical perfection they resurrected while they were away would remain, and it did–sort of. They hadn’t fought for about three weeks, but realistically, long-term bliss didn’t seem entirely possible now. Something was definitely different, something seemed wrong, and no matter how hard she tried, Amelia just couldn’t put her finger on it.
They fought. That’s just what they did. It wasn’t something to be proud of by any means, and she hated to admit it but their squabbles made them work, and she kind of, sort of, missed it. She had always believed that fighting was healthy to a certain extent. Yell a little, say what’s on your mind, and with it out in the open, it’s easier to get over the issue and move on. But since they had returned, Mitchell had been distant, on edge, and overly sensitive.
For a quick second, Amelia thought about sneaking a peek into his mind. What was the point of having a link to each other’s thoughts if they weren’t going to use it? Besides, she was dying to know where he had taken off to in such a rush. Amelia’s mind tried to reason with her, insisting that one little peek wouldn’t hurt. A little bit of information now could prevent a slew of misunderstandings later. That’s a good thing, right? But her heart couldn’t do it; it pleaded and begged her not to snoop. It twisted and turned, insisting that she let things be.
Part of their agreement eight months ago was to stay out of each other’s minds. It had been Amelia’s idea, and she had been adamant that their bond should only be used for emergencies—no more snooping. And no matter what, no matter how much her mind was itching to snoop, she wasn’t going to be the first to break that rule, even if it was torture not knowing whatever it was that she didn’t know.
They had been about to go for a swim when his cell phone rang and to her disbelief, Mitchell—strong, in control Mitchell—actually jumped when it started to ring. He tried to hide his anxiety from her, but thanks to the bond (or maybe cursed by the bond; Amelia wasn’t sure) she felt every bit of turmoil that bounced around in him during that very short call. After a few yes’s, Mitchell hung up and then without any real explanation, only saying he had some business to attend to, he had taken off. She knew, just knew, he was hiding something—something big—and her suspicion was driving her crazy.
Amelia huffed, and instead of checking in, she threw a tank top and a pair of shorts on over her bikini and then stomped out of her bedroom and onto the terrace, gazing over the vast gardens while deep in thought. Had she made the right decision? She wasn’t sure, and she couldn’t help but wonder if putting a limit on their connection was actually the right thing to do. Amelia knew she should think of it as a gift. Most people would kill to know the inner workings of their boyfriend's mind. Even so, Amelia knew all too well that knowing everything wasn’t always a good thing. It led to anger, jealousy and, above all else, danger for their friends.
It was an unseasonably warm night for mid-April. Amelia glanced at the thermometer and wasn’t surprised that it was still 90 degrees. In spite of only wearing lightweight clothes, she felt sticky and gross from the humidity. There wasn’t even a touch of a breeze to ease the discomforting heat.
The sky was alive with heat lightning that danced through the clouds and the far off rumble of thunder signaled the approaching rain. Amelia hopped down the steps and strolled over to the pear-shaped pool. The water looked so alluring and almost magical with streaks of silver as the lighting continued its rain dance. A few scattered droplets of rain fell around her, light and refreshing. She perched at the edge of the pool and dipped her feet in the cool water.
Amelia guessed she should have been happy. Over the last few months, she had really made some headway with Mitchell. With some careful planning and a touch of flirty manipulation, she was able to convince him to put a stop to the hunting and lift the curfew in their little gated community.
But really, stopping the hunting was a must. Amelia remembered when she had first arrived in Willowberg and found out her little gated community was actually a hunting ground for vampires. The thought of it still turned her stomach. Really, it was the 21st century. They can’t just go around killing people like barbaric cavemen.
It had taken months of arguing but in the end, she had convinced Mitchell to put a stop to it. And with that win, he had slowly started to back off, treating her like an equal and not like a precious little flower that always needed protection. But lately, there had been a shift in the incredible balance they had found. Instead of dictating what she could and couldn’t do, he was using sugar to get his way. And that was really, really infuriating. Especially since Amelia was positive that he was using this over sensitive, sugary attitude to get his own way. How could you say no to someone who was just so damn sweet?
“Millie, what are you doing out here?” Eric called, ripping her from her thoughts. Not that she minded. In truth, she was relieved not to be alone with her thoughts. They could be dangerous—destructive. “Where’s Mitch?”
Amelia glanced over at him, and her breath caught in her throat. Eric was shirtless and looking incredibly yummy in his snug cut-off jeans. He wandered towards her, and she couldn’t help but admire his perfectly sculpted six-foot frame. He was grinning at her with a grin that Amelia was sure had broken many hearts and turned even more girls into giggling fools. Despite her best efforts, she was not immune to his charm. His leafy-green hair was dripping wet, and the drops beaded on his chest. His vibrant green eyes twinkled with mischief.
Eric plopped down beside her and sprawled out on the dampened lawn, stirring up the sweet scent of fresh-cut grass. His grin spread even wider, and he chuckled. “Better not stare at me like that, Millie. Mitch could be watching.” He said it jokingly but there was something in his voice that sounded strained, and Amelia was sure there was a hint of longing that she forced herself to ignore.
Things weren't easy between them. Not since their little kiss. The kiss still lingered in her mind, popping up occasionally. His sweet and soft, moist lips. His musky scent. Stop it! Amelia scolded herself silently. For the life of her, she couldn’t understand why the memory was still so vivid. From what she had read and been told about the soulmate bond, she knew she shouldn’t even be able think about anyone other than Mitch, especially since he had bitten her, strengthening their link and claiming her as his mate. But there was just something about Eric that made her tingle all over.
Amelia swallowed hard and tried to tell herself it was okay to admire because Eric was so oh-my-God hot, and she would have to be a complete freak not to notice. As long as it didn't go any further than that, it was fine, right? She gave herself a shake and then grinned at him. “Didn’t you have a date?”
Eric’s gentle gaze turned into a fierce glare. “Don’t change the subject. Where’s Mitch?”
Amelia tried to glare back at him, but it was useless. Eric always seemed to know when something was up with her, and it was hard to resist opening up to him. He was exactly that kind of guy. The kind of guy you just wanted to spill all your secrets to. “Don’t know. He just took off,” she huffed, annoyed that she sounded so whiny.
“What?” He looked genuinely surprised; his eyebrows lifted so high that it looked as if they were about to jump right off his face. “You and Mitch have been getting along great since you got back from the lake. He even moved into your room. What’s up?”
“I don’t know, Eric,” Amelia snapped and shifted her gaze back to the water. She swished her feet violently, sending out waves of ripples. The water sloshed up her legs, leaving puddles all the way up to her thighs. “And he may have moved into my room, but he set up a cot. He won’t touch me,” she said, glancing at him with a quick look. She felt a hot and rosy blush creeping all the way up her neck, settling onto her cheeks. She wasn’t sure why she had told him, but man it felt good to get rid of some of her frustration.
The good feeling vanished far too fast. Eric laughed and then coughed over it, trying to cover it up. “Damn girl, you’re kidding me, right?”
Amelia bristled. “Seriously, Eric, I don’t want to talk about my lack of a sex life with you. I don’t know why I even said it.”
He tossed up his hands in surrender, and the laughter vanished. “Whoa, sorry I asked.”
Amelia flopped back onto the grass, keeping her feet in the water and groaned. “What about you? You had that hot date tonight.”
“Yeah, I canceled.”
Amelia tilted her head toward him and raised a questioning brow. “Why?”
They locked eyes for an uncomfortable minute, and Amelia wished she understood the feelings she had for him. It was a jumbled mess of emotions—not a single one made any sense. She wondered if she had met Mitchell first, if he had been the one to greet her, would she even notice Eric now. Probably. There was just something between her and Eric. A fierce spark. And the weirdest part about it was that, every now and then, she felt as strongly for Eric as she did for Mitchell—as if she was bonded to both.
But Amelia knew that was impossible. There was no such thing as two soulmates. Although at one point, Amelia could have sworn that there was no such thing as soulmates at all. She would have been happy to believe that they were just a foolish romantic idea. Maybe it was her stupid witch powers that were interfering. Or maybe she still had doubts about Mitchell. Maybe? Who was she trying to kid? Hell yes, she doubted Mitchell, doubted their bond, doubted everything about their relationship.
When it had been just her and Mitchell, alone in the middle of nowhere, life had been beyond perfect. No distractions, no business, nothing but time to get to know each other. But now, back in the real world with real problems, it was just…
Just when Amelia thought the look would never end, Eric whispered, “I’ve been dreaming.”
Amelia let the word bounce around her brain. If he meant what she thought he meant, then why did he look so defeated? Shouldn’t he be ecstatic? He definitely did not look pleased. She tossed around a bunch of different things to say. She wanted to be happy for him. She really did, but he looked just so upset, so broken. She swallowed hard, plastered on a smile, and said, “That’s awe…”
The words fell short. Amelia was abruptly cut off by a girl screeching, “Help me!” In a flash, Amelia and Eric both jumped to their feet. Eric took off towards the tree line with vampire-speed before Amelia even figured out where the screaming was coming from.
“Help!” another cry sounded.