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       Marked, Soul Guardians Book 1, p.1

           Kim Richardson
 
Marked, Soul Guardians Book 1


  THE COMPLETE

  SOUL GUARDIANS

  COLLECTION

  MARKED, Soul Guardians Book #1

  ELEMENTAL, Soul Guardians Book # 2

  HORIZON, Soul Guardians Book # 3

  NETHERWORLD, Soul Guardians Book # 4

  SEIRS, Soul Guardians Book #5

  MORTAL, Soul Guardians Book # 6

  REAPERS, Soul Guardians Book # 7

  SEALS, Soul Guardians Book # 8

  The Complete Soul Guardians Collection

  Copyright © 2016 by Kim Richardson

  www.kimrichardsonbooks.com

  More books by Kim Richardson

  SOUL GUARDIANS SERIES

  Marked Book # 1

  Elemental Book # 2

  Horizon Book # 3

  Netherworld Book # 4

  Seirs Book # 5

  Mortal Book # 6

  Reapers # 7

  Seals Book # 8

  MYSTICS SERIES

  The Seventh Sense Book # 1

  The Alpha Nation Book # 2

  The Nexus Book # 3

  DIVIDED REALMS

  Steel Maiden Book # 1

  Witch Queen Book # 2

  Blood Magic # 3

  THE HORIZON CHRONICLES

  The Soul Thief Book 1

  The Helm of Darkness Book 2

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  MARKED

  ELEMENTAL

  HORIZON

  NETHERWORLD

  SEIRS

  MORTAL

  REAPERS

  SEALS

  THE SOUL THIEF

  STEEL MAIDEN

  About the Author

  SOUL GUARDIANS

  * Book One *

  MARKED

  KIM RICHARDSON

  Marked, Soul Guardians Book 1:

  Copyright © 2011 by Kim Richardson

  This ebook is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locals are used fictitiously Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  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 person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

  For my mother Danielle,

  in Horizon

  Chapter 1

  Reborn

  “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!”

  Kara felt her cheeks burn. Her heart pounded in her ears and muffled the sounds around her. She took a deep breath, hoping it would calm the fluttering in her stomach, and she sprinted onto Saint Laurence Boulevard. Her cell phone slipped out of her hand and hit the pavement.

  “Crap!” Kara crouched down to grab her phone. “Stupid phone—”

  A flicker of movement appeared in the corner of her eye.

  “WATCH OUT!” Someone shouted. She stood up and turned around.

  A city bus hurtled towards her. She stared, transfixed. The bus kept coming.

  An arm reached out to her. She saw a split second image of two monstrous headlights.

  And then it hit.

  Thirteen tons of cold metal crushed her body. She didn’t feel any pain. She didn’t feel anything at all.

  Everything around her went black.

  A moment later, Kara was standing in an elevator.

  A
t first, streaks of white light obscured her vision. She blinked and rubbed her eyes. The elevator was elegant…three sides appeared to be made of handcrafted cherry panels decorated with golden-wing crests. The smell of mothballs lingered in the air, like her grandma’s dusty old closet. When her eyesight improved, she realized that she wasn’t alone.

  On a wooden chair facing the elevator’s control panel, covered in black fur, and wearing a pair of green Bermuda shorts from which protruded two hand-like callused feet, sat a monkey.

  It spun on its seat, wrapped its feet around the backrest of the chair, opened its coconut-shaped mouth and said in a very business-like manner, “Hello, Miss.”

  Kara’s jaw dropped, and she swallowed the urge to cry out. She stared at the beast, terror rising up inside her. The creature’s words rang against her ears, foreign and impossible. The elevator seemed to spin about her. There was nowhere to run; she was trapped in a wooden box.

  His hairless face crinkled into a grin so that he looked like an oversized walnut. His square head sat directly on powerful shoulders. He raised his chin and looked down upon Kara. His yellow eyes mesmerized her; and although she tried, she couldn’t look away.

  A cascade of emotions ran through her: fear, revulsion, and anger. Confused, she couldn’t make sense of it all. The monkey had in fact spoken to her like it was the most natural thing in the world, and now it was watching her as though she was the one that was unnatural.

  Kara’s nails dug into the soft flesh of her palms, and after a minute she was able to force some words out of her mouth.

  “I’m dreaming. Yes, that’s it. I’m having a strange, mind-blowing dream of a talking monkey.” She shook her head and rubbed her temples. “And it’s definitely the wildest dream I’ve ever had.” Her throat was dry like she hadn’t had a sip of water in weeks. She tried to swallow, but all she could do was contract her throat muscles.

  The monkey frowned, a low growl rolled from his throat. “I’m not a monkey, Miss. I’m a chimpanzee. You mortals are all the same. Monkey-this, monkey-that. No respect, always getting above yourselves. You forget what you are now. You are not as important as you think.”

  Just then Kara realized her hands were shaking and didn’t know whether it was from fear or from anger at the way the chimpanzee was addressing her. She clamped her fingers into fists and kept a straight face. “I meant no offense, Mr. Chimpanzee. I’m just having a very strange dream that I probably won’t remember at all when I wake up.” She shrugged. “This is probably some past experience I had as a child at the zoo that’s resurfacing somehow. I wonder what it means…”

  The chimp glared at Kara with a mixture of disdain and indignation. “You’re most definitely not at the zoo or any such wildlife park. And you may address me as Chimp Number 5M51, if you please.” He raised his chin importantly. “You’ll be arriving at your destination momentarily.” And with that, he turned his attention back to the control panel.

  Gradually, Kara began to feel more awake, as though she had woken from a long, deep sleep. Reality slowly crawled back in along with the fear that perhaps this wasn’t a dream. She bit her lower lip as she told herself to think.

  “Um, what destination? What are you talking about? Where are we going?” she asked, her eyes focused on the talking chimpanzee. Panic soared as she tried desperately to squelch the screaming in her head, but it wouldn’t go away. This was a dream…wasn’t it?

  Chimp 5M51 turned his head and smiled, exposing rows of crooked yellow teeth. His eyes locked onto hers. “To Orientation, of course. Level One.”

  “Orientation?”

  “Yes. All mortals who have passed must go through Orientation. That’s where you’re going.” Chimp 5M51 clamped his feet around the edges of the chair and extended an abnormally long arm in the direction of the elevator’s control pane. He pointed to the brass buttons.

  Kara leaned over for a better view. The panel read:

  1. Orientation

  2. Operations

  3. Miracles Divisions

  4. Hall of Souls

  5. Department of Defense

  6. Council of Ministers

  7. The Chief

  A feeling of dread slowly rose up inside her. She stared at the panel, dizzy, her knees weak like she was about to collapse. “This…this doesn’t make sense. I…I’m dreaming. This is a dream!”

  Kara shut her eyes and pressed her back against the elevator wall, trembling. “It can’t be happening. It just can’t. I need to wake up now. Kara, you need to wake up!”

  “You’re dead, Miss.”

  Kara opened her eyes. The word dead echoed in her ears like some sick joke. The weight of his words started to pull her under. She was drowning. She fought against the overwhelming feeling of panic, like a need for air.

  “I’m not dead!” she hissed, and gave a shudder of dismay. “I’m right here, you stupid baboon!”

  The chimp was unconcerned. “Think what you must,” he said, as he lifted his chin. “But think about this. Can you remember the events before this elevator?”

  Kara floundered, trying desperately to remember. Bits and pieces flashed inside her brain: a white light …metal … darkness …

  The bus.

  Kara dropped to her knees. The city bus had hit her…pulverized her core and crushed her like a tomato. But then she remembered something else, something that didn’t make any sense. It was coming back to her now, like a faded memory sharpening into a clear picture. It flashed before her eyes…she saw an arm reach out and touch her during the bus crash. Someone had tried to save her…

  “See? You’re dead,” said the chimp matter-of-factly, and Kara detected a hint of amusement in his voice, as though he enjoyed watching her struggle in misery and confusion.

  As she pulled herself together, she pressed her hand against the left side of her chest, she couldn’t feel a heartbeat. She pressed down on her rib cage. Nothing. She clasped her wrist. No pulse. No beating. No movement at all.

  “See. No beating. No heart…like I said, you’re dead,” declared the chimp again. Kara felt herself wanting to punch him.

  But before she could make sense of what was happening, she was thrown off balance as the elevator stopped abruptly.

  “Level One. Orientation!” the chimp announced.

  “Wait!” Kara pushed herself away from the elevator wall and wobbled up to the chimp. “I don’t understand. What’s Orientation?”

  With his finger still on the button, he turned his head. “Orientation is where all the new GAs are categorized.”

  Kara stared stupidly into chimp 5M51’s yellow eyes. “What are GAs?”

  “Guardian Angels.”

  “Huh?”

  Kara heard the swish of doors opening. A hint of a smile reached the chimp’s lips. He raised his arm and pressed his hand on her back. Then she flew out the elevator.

  Chapter 2

  Orientation

 
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