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Authors: A. M. Hudson

Mark of Betrayal

BOOK: Mark of Betrayal
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Mark of Betrayal

Book IV of Dark Secrets

Mark of Betrayal

A. M. Hudson

 

Text © 2012 by Angela M Hudson

Cover image © 2012 Shutterstock

 

Smashwords Edition

License Notes

 

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 Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, events or incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to places or incidents is purely coincidental.

 

 


I believe we search for the meaning of life until we find a purpose.

Then we no longer wonder why we’re here; we know.”

~Ara-Rose

 

Chapter One

 

 

Life is nothing without pain. We cannot feel the warmth of the sun without knowing cold; we cannot feel the joy of a smile without knowing heartache. But sometimes I wonder how we could know joy without ever experiencing
it
, either.

My life would end today, when I hopped in the car at the end of the driveway and saw David in the rear-view, waving. It would be enough to crush me. But right now, in his arms, safe and protected from that fate, I could imagine this was what joy felt like.


Don’t say it, Ara.” He stepped back from our embrace. “It’s only goodbye if you say it.”


That’s not true, David. I’ve never said goodbye to anyone I’ve lost—doesn’t change the fact that they’re gone.”

He smiled softly, brushing his thumb over my cheek. “Well, who knows, maybe I’ll turn up some positive information on your bloodline—perhaps you were adopted after all, and you’ll be saying hello to a whole new family you never knew you had.”

I smiled. “Well, I’ll keep the dad I have, but I’d like a sister.”

He laughed a little. “Then, a sister I shall find you.”

We both looked up to the car when Mike cleared his throat for the tenth time, leaning on the hood, his arms folded, the passenger door sitting open.


I think that’s your cue to go,” David said.


No, the last four huffs before that were. He’s one grunt short of physically removing me.”


Shall we run away then?” His eyes, as I looked up at him, offered only humour, not the proposition I hoped for.


I wish we could. But then who’d catch the big bad vamp?”

He waved a dismissive hand. “Let the humans do it.”

I laughed and wrapped my arms all the way around his ribs, disappearing from the warmth of the near-summer sun against the shade of his towering height. “I’ll see you soon.”


You will.” He kept one hand around my neck as I backed slightly away. “I’ll find Drake for you, Ara—and I’ll be at the manor by the end of summer.”


Promise?”

He shook his head. “Too many promises have not been kept, my love. I won’t promise this, but I will promise not to rest until I find that son of a bitch.”


It’s not his fault, you know.”


Who?”


Drake. It’s not his fault there’s a prophecy that states he’s going to be killed by a kid. I mean, we’d be hunting us down if we were Drake. I feel sorry for him.”

David let a breath out through his nose. “And this is why children should not take on adult responsibilities.”


Who? Me? A child?”


Yes.”


I’m not a child.”


Ara, you’re nineteen. You’re a child.”


Then you are, too.
You’re
nineteen.”


I’m over a hundred and twenty years old. My body is nineteen. But my mind is wise beyond that—far wiser than yours.”


So, now I’m dumb.”


Not dumb, my love, I’d never say that about you—you’re a very smart girl, but sometimes you just see things with the innocence of a child.”


I disagree. I think I’m right about Drake.”

He half turned away, looking back at the house. “You’ll see, in time. Your decisions will directly affect others now, mon amour, and I can only warn you so far. There will come a point where you will have to
see
the damage you’ve done before my words finally sink in.”

I huffed, dropping my hands onto my hips. “Well, if you think you know so much,
you
go rule those people.”


I will be ruling. Once we catch Drake.”


Fine. Then you can do it alone. I quit. If I know nothing, why should I—”


Ara.” Mike grabbed my arm from behind and tugged me away a little. “Stop arguing, baby. We gotta go; the Lilithians are rallying to meet their princess.”


No.” I shrugged from his grasp. “I’m not going anywhere. How can I find one ounce of faith in myself, when no one else seems to have any?”


We do, baby. We’re all just stressed, okay.”


David?”

He looked up from his feet.


Do you really believe I’m too young to do this?”


Just say it,” Mike said; I looked at him, but he was looking at David.


Say what?” I asked.


Nothing,” David said, staring Mike down.


Guys!” I stomped my foot. “Stop doing that. I know you’ve been talking about me when I can’t hear you. What’s going on?”

Mike took a breath. “He’s not worried about your abilities as queen, Ara.”

David stepped forward a little, his body language holding no bars back, warning Mike not to elaborate.


I’m sorry, mate, she deserves to know.”


Know what?” I said.


He’s worried about the spirit bind.”

David sunk back, silently cursing.


Really?”


See, this is exactly why I was worried,” David said. “You swore you wouldn’t tell her. You just can’t do it, can you? You just can’t separate yourself from her.”


I’m marrying Emily, David. There is nothing going on between Ara and I.”


Doesn’t mean there won’t be.” He turned away and gave the picket fence a little kick with his toe, gentle enough not to knock it down.


Oh, my God. You think because I’m bound to him I’m going to betray our wedding vows?” I stomped over to David. “How can you think that?”


Because I know your heart, Ara.” He faced me again, hunching slightly, his hands in his pockets. “I know you’d follow it to your own detriment. I—” He looked at Mike for a second, his eyes narrowed, a thousand words not found in the dictionary being aimed at him across the lawn. “I love you, okay, but you’ve never loved just me. And I’m sending you away for God knows how long, to live in a place without me, without my touch. If you get lonely or scared or—” He shook his head. “You’re gonna go to
him
for comfort.”

My mouth wouldn’t close. I looked at Mike, then David, and back again a few times, unsure what to say. And Mike didn’t say anything either, maybe because he’d already had this argument with David, or maybe because he believed I was incapable of fidelity.


But, of
course
I’ll go to Mike for a hug or some companionship, David—he’s my
friend
. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to forget I love
you
,” I said.


Hasn’t stopped you in the past. Nay, the lake?”


Oh, my God! Is this
say whatever you can think of to hurt me
day? Christ, David. You’re such an arse.”


No, Ara.” He grabbed my arm. “I just love you. And I am so sick of losing you that the very idea of you getting in that car right now has me blinded with madness.”

I sniffled, shaking a little despite the heat. “You’re not going to lose me, David. I have to go away, yes, but I won’t let myself be with Mike. I swear it.” I touched my chest.


Don’t.” He shook his head. “Don’t swear it, Ara; promises have never stopped you from doing what you want to do. So don’t make a promise to me, because I know you can’t keep it.”


David, that’s a horrid thing to say.”


I know, but—” He licked his lips, shaking his head as several sentences came to fruition, but only one came out; “Something’s different—it’s not like it was before.”


What’s not?”


Our love.”

The world rocked beneath me. “What are you saying?”


Just forget it.” He turned away.


No.” I grabbed his arm again. “I won’t just forget it. David, tell me what you mean.”


I mean—” He towered over me as he walked closer. “All we do is fight. I can’t read your thoughts; I can’t even read your heart, anymore. Whatever the connection we used to have…” He looked over at Mike, then back at me. “It’s gone.”


Gone?” My heart dropped into my knees. “You don’t love me?”


I didn’t say that.” His voice softened, his eyes flicking over my face.


Then what are you saying?”


I’m saying I don’t trust you—like I did before. And I don’t even know why. I just know there’s something different about you, and I don’t trust it, whatever it is.”


Different
?”


Just forget it.” He turned away again. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”


Yes, you should.” I followed him. “That’s the real problem with this relationship, David. You never say anything. You never tell me
anything
.”


Maybe I have good reason for that,” he said, walking faster.


What reason? What have I ever done to prove you can’t trust me?”


You never listen,” he hissed as he spun around. “You make misinformed decisions about what’s best; you let your heart control everything you do. If you would just grow up, just—” He held his hands up, shaping his sentence into a ball of frustration. “None of this would’ve happened if you were even a little bit more mature.”


None of
what
would’ve happened, David?” I challenged, wearing my hands in a gesture of authority.

He ran his fingers through his hair. “Think about it. Just trace over everything we’ve suffered, Ara. It’s all because you couldn’t make up your mind—all because you have some deluded idea of what right and wrong is.”


Deluded? Deluded! Damn it, David. Killing is wrong. That’s all I ever had a problem with. Why can’t you see that? Why do I have to take the blame for all of this, when, at any point, you could have shared yourself with me? Told me how you killed Rochelle, told me to watch out for your brother—that he might come after me. You could’ve warned me he could mind-link, saved me all this anguish for being in lo—” I zipped my words back in. He couldn’t know the truth of those dreams I had. Couldn’t know Jason ever mind-linked with me, other than the dream where he bound me.

David stepped carefully toward me, becoming taller as he grabbed my arm. “Being in
what
, Ara?”

I swallowed. “No one’s to blame here. Okay. Things happen, David. We can’t blame each other, or we’ll never get through this.”

He let go of my arm. “You’re keeping something from me. I can feel it.”

He stared me down, and I stared back, with the wall of everything at stake rising up in front of my thoughts, protecting them in case he got through. If he ever found out that I had loved Jason, anywhere in my heart, I’d never see him again.


You’re right.” I took the route of deflection. “I do love Mike. And the spirit bind complicates things. But it always has. It’s never been any different.”

Mike wandered back to the car then, shaking his head. David and I watched him for a minute.

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