Home > Marked (House of Night #1)(4)

Marked (House of Night #1)(4)
Author: P. C. Cast


Power. I felt power.

"Zo? What the fuck?" Heath's voice broke my attention and pulled my gaze from the brothers.

"We're outta here!" Dustin said, throwing the truck into gear and stepping on the gas. The pickup lurched forward, causing Heath to lose his balance and slide, with a windmill of arms and flying beer, onto the blacktop of the parking lot.

Automatically, I rushed forward. "Are you okay?" Heath was on his hands and knees, and I bent down to help pull him to his feet.

Then I smelled it. Something smelled amazing—hot and sweet and delicious.

Was Heath wearing new cologne? One of those weird pheromone things that are supposed to attract women like a big genetically engineered bug zapper? I didn't realize how close I was to him until he stood up straight and our bodies were almost pressed together. He looked down at me, a question in his eyes.

I didn't back away from him. I should have. I would have before…but not now. Not today.

"Zo?" he said softly, his voice deep and husky.

"You smell really good," I couldn't stop myself from saying. My heart was pounding so loud that I could hear its echo in my throbbing temples.

"Zoey, I've really missed you. We need to get back together. You know I really love you." He reached up to touch my face and both of us noticed the blood that smeared the palm of his hand. "Ah, shit. I guess I—" his voice closed off when he glanced at my face. I could only imagine what I must look like, with my face all white, my new Mark blazingly outlined in sapphire blue, and my eyes staring at the blood on his hand. I couldn't move; I couldn't look away.

"I want…I whispered. "I want…" What did I want? I couldn't put it into words.

No, that wasn't it. I wouldn't put it into words. Wouldn't say aloud the overwhelming surge of white-hot desire that was trying to drown me. And it wasn't because Heath was standing so near. He'd been close to me before. Hell, we'd been making out for a year, but he'd never made me feel like this—nothing ever like this. I bit my lip and moaned.

The pickup truck squealed to a halt, fishtailing beside us. Drew jumped out and grabbed Heath around the waist, and jerked him backward into the cab of the truck.

"Knock it off! I'm talking to Zoey!”

Heath tried to struggle against Drew, but the kid was Broken Arrow's senior linebacker, and truly ginormous. Dustin reached around them and slammed the door to the truck.

"Leave him alone, you freak!" Drew yelled at me as Dustin floored the truck and this time they really did speed off.

I got into my Bug. My hands were shaking so hard I had to try three times before I got the engine started.

"Just get home. Just get home.” I said the words over and over between wrenching coughs as I drove. I wouldn't think about what had just happened. I couldn't think about what had just happened.

The drive home took fifteen minutes, but it seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Too soon I was sitting in the driveway, trying to get ready for the scene I knew, sure as lightning follows thunder, was waiting inside for me.

Why had I been so eager to get here? I suppose I hadn't technically been all that eager. I suppose I'd just been escaping from what had happened in the parking lot with Heath.

No! I wasn't going to think about that now. And, anyway, there was probably some kind of rational explanation for everything, a rational and simple explanation.

Dustin and Drew were retards— totally immature beer-brains. I hadn't used a creepy new power to intimidate them. They'd just been freaked that I'd been Marked. That was it. I mean, people were scared of vampyres.

"But I'm not a vampyre!" I said. Then I coughed while I remember how hypnotically beautiful Heath's blood had been, and the rush of desire I'd felt for it. Not Heath, but Heath's blood.

No! No! No! Blood was not beautiful or desirable. I must be in shock. That's it. That had to be it. I was in shock and not thinking clearly. Okay…okay…absently, I touched my forehead. It had stopped burning, but it still felt different. I coughed for the zillionth time. Fine. I wouldn't think about Heath, but I couldn't deny it any more. I felt different. My skin was ultrasensitive. My chest hurt, and even though I had my cool Maui Jim sunglasses on, my eyes kept tearing up painfully.

"I'm dying…" I moaned, and then promptly clamped my lips shut. I might actually be dying. I glanced up at the big brick house that, after three years, still didn't seem like home. "Get it over with. Just get it over with." At least my sister wouldn't be home yet—cheerleading practice. Hopefully, the troll would be totally hypnotized by his new Delta Force: Black Hawk Down video game (um…ew). I might have Mom to myself. Maybe she would understand…maybe she would know what to do.…

Ah, hell! I was sixteen years old, but I suddenly realized that I wanted nothing as much as I wanted my mom.

"Please let her understand," I whispered a simple prayer to whatever god or goddess might be listening to me.

As usual, I went in through the garage. I walked down the hall to my room and dumped my geometry book, purse, and backpack on my bed. Then I took a deep breath and headed, a little shakily, to find my mom.

She was in the family room, curled up on the edge of the couch, sipping a cup of coffee and reading Chicken Soup for a Woman's Soul. She looked so normal, so much like she used to look. Except that she used to read exotic romances and actually wear makeup. Both were things her new husband didn't allow (what a turd).

"Mom?”

"Hum?" She didn't look up at me.

I swallowed hard. "Mama." I used the name I used to call her, back in the days before she married John. "I need your help.”

I don't know whether it was the unexpected use of "Mama" or if something in my voice touched an old piece of mom-intuition she still had somewhere inside her, but the eyes she lifted immediately from the book were soft and filled with concern.

"What is it, baby—" she began, and then her words seemed to freeze on her lips as her eyes found the Mark on my forehead.

"Oh, God! What have you done now?”

My heart started to hurt again. "Mom, I didn't do anything. This is something that happened to me, not because of me. It's not my fault.”

"Oh, please, no!" she wailed as if I hadn't said a word. "What is your father going to say?”

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