Chapter 1: Run
The sun was rising. Normally, the sight would fill me with awe, even joy. Yet today, as it had for the past months, it only filled me with dread. He would be here soon. I could feel it.
I glanced at the man sleeping beside me. His jaw was clenched even in sleep, inky brows furrowed. At the end of scarred forearms, his fingers twitched as if fighting an invisible foe. Gingerly, I lifted his head onto my lap, ran my fingers through his hair. Still, he was restless, yet when I covered his hand with mine, he sighed and went calm. I looked at our entwined fingers, a black Mark on his ring finger, a white Mark on mine. We belonged to each other, I had no doubt of that. It was that feeling that kept me going, yet also made it so difficult to do what I was about to. I longed to sit there for a moment more, enjoy this time with the person who meant more to me than anything. Yet as a white hot spike of pain ripped through my mind, I knew I didn't have that luxury.
I slipped away from him, rising to my feet after carefully laying his head back down. Yet I only managed a few steps away before the attack began again, making me fall to my knees. My Mark began to burn, but I gritted my teeth. I could get through another day. I could do it for him.
My voice barely a murmur, I whispered his name. Instantly, the calm spell over the bodyguard was broken and his dark lashes parted. His gaze shot to where I sat, slumped on the ground, fingers digging into the soil as if to anchor myself.
"Is he here?"
I spoke no response, merely inclined my head slightly. It was enough.
The mercenary was groggy, sleep apparent in his blue eyes and his countenance, yet he was immediately at my side. He brushed my skin with a fingertip, deft fingers briefly tangling in strands of scarlet as he traced the inky Mark on my neck. He lingered for only a second before moving away to gather our belongings, still damp with pristine drops of dew. I would've gone to assist him, yet I could already feel the pain brimming up as he began his assault on my mind. I drew in a shaky battle of a breath and released it through chattering teeth, though the morning air was tepid.
With a muffled grunt, the tall man half helped, half hauled me to my feet, trying to hide the worry in his mind as I tried to do the same with the weakness of my body. My efforts accomplished little. I longed to slip into my other, stronger form - feel my thick pelt cover me like a familiar coat. It was harder for him to find me there. Yet it was also harder for me to find myself.
The horses lifted their heads from their grazing at our hurried commotion. Dante bridled his stallion - raven colored and silent - just like its rider. I approached my gelding and laid a hand on his sweat-flecked neck. Already, the tall war horse could sense my anxiety and he shifted uneasily as I slipped the bit into his mouth.
"Steady, Feodor," murmured Dante, his hand on the horse's neck as I swung astride. For once, I hated how attuned the animal was to me as my tension radiated through the chestnut gelding, making him snort apprehensively. Pain lanced through my mind from temple to temple as he began his attack with increased vigor and ferocity. I tried to remain silent, but a tortured hiss slipped through my lips like water through cupped hands.
Dante leapt astride Fell, sword on his back and icefire eyes alight. He rode up beside me and laid his hand on my knee for only an instant.
"Go," he said simply. He could see the way I struggled to stay still, to endure this onslaught without trying to flee. "I'll catch up."
I touched my heels to Feodor's sides, and the chestnut charged forward, hooves kicking up dust as they tore up the dry ground. With one hand on the reins and one tangled in his mane, I clung, bareback, to the galloping horse. Pain shot through me again and my sides and stomach heaved, trying in vain to turn me inside out. His voice screamed through my ears, wordless in its might and volume. Yet this time, even Feodor's speed couldn't keep the voice at bay, and slowly, like a distant object coming into view, its incoherent shout became whispered words that struck me harder than any howl ever could.
"Your mother died, and you weren't even by her side. Your father died when you tore out his throat with your teeth. Your brother died so you might have a chance to live, but that's something you'll never be able to do. You're a weapon, Calla, you can only do harm. Dante can protect you from the blades of others, but in the end, we both know that your destruction will be at your own hands as well. He will watch you butcher yourself, and it will kill him too. Everyone you love will be dead because of you. Calla, you may be able to flee from me, but their deaths are on your head, and we both know that no amount of running will ever change that."
A flash of pain flared somewhere behind my eyes in a burst of white, and my muscles involuntarily tensed. Claws tore from my fingertips, rupturing the soft flesh that had been in their place. I cried out in pain. The horrid sound emerged as a howl no human was capable of making. Frightened, Feodor shied. With claws no longer able to guide the terrified horse and muscles too strained to balance, I fell, the rocky ground none too kind a cushion.
I lay where I landed, limbs twitching in silent agony. I could feel it - the other part of me - begging, fighting to take control and let the blackness take me far away from this white hot pain and the voice and its words. Yet I fought it, somewhere between white and black, human and beast. As I drifted, I felt my lips form the words that I wanted to believe.
"I'm not a monster."
[Author's Note: Hi everyone! I'm back! For those just reading, this is a sequel to my first novel "Marked" which is right here on fictionpress. Feel free to check it out for the backstory between Calla and Dante, as well as the world they live in. Please feel free to review, I always love to receive feedback. Thanks so much for reading, I hope to post again soon! ~DarkHawk14]