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       Soul's Mark 02 - Hunted, p.1

           Ashley Stoyanoff
 
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Soul's Mark 02 - Hunted


  The Soul’s Mark: HUNTED

  Book 2 of The Soul’s Mark Series

  By Ashley Stoyanoff

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  CHAPTER 1

  CHAPTER 2

  CHAPTER 3

  CHAPTER 4

  CHAPTER 5

  CHAPTER 6

  CHAPTER 7

  CHAPTER 8

  CHAPTER 9

  CHAPTER 10

  CHAPTER 11

  CHAPTER 12

  CHAPTER 13

  CHAPTER 14

  CHAPTER 15

  CHAPTER 16

  CHAPTER 17

  CHAPTER 18

  CHAPTER 19

  CHAPTER 20

  CHAPTER 21

  CHAPTER 22

  CHAPTER 23

  CHAPTER 24

  CHAPTER 25

  CHAPTER 26

  CHAPTER 27

  CHAPTER 28

  CHAPTER 29

  CHAPTER 30

  CHAPTER 31

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  The Soul’s Mark: HUNTED

  By Ashley Stoyanoff

  Published by Ashley Stoyanoff Books

  Copyright 2012 Ashley Stoyanoff

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

  Edited by Kathryn Calvert

  Cover design by Liudmyla Supynska

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  To my good friend Angelle for her countless hours as my trusted sounding board and to all of my wonderful coworkers for vetoing ideas that made absolutely no sense—thank you for your support and for helping me keep my sanity! I couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you. To my mother Jo-Anne, a special thank you for the continued emotional support and feedback. Further thanks to my editor Kathryn. Without your technical expertise and assistance, this book would not have been finished. Most of all, I would like to thank my husband Jordan, whose unwavering encouragement, support and patience have made it possible for me to finish The Soul’s Mark: HUNTED.

  Books by Ashley Stoyanoff

  The Soul’s Mark Series

  The Soul’s Mark: FOUND

  The Soul’s Mark: HUNTED

  CHAPTER 1

  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 was 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 was 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 was 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, lacing 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. Mitchell leaned closer and kissed her with just a light peck, and then he 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.

  CHAPTER 2

  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; 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. Her brain 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 she 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 manipulatio
n, 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 twenty-first 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 oversensitive, 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.

 
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