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Marked (Soul Guardians Book 1) - Ebook

Marked (Soul Guardians Book 1) - Ebook

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READERS’ FAVORITE AWARD WINNER. Experience the award-winning series that fans are raving about. Don't miss this thrilling, action-packed urban fantasy adventure.

Sixteen-year-old Kara Nightingale didn’t believe in angels and demons. But when she died, everything changed...

As if the dying part wasn’t bad enough, she is chosen to work for the Guardian Angel Legion, a secret band of angels sworn to protect mortal souls from demons. While she struggles to understand the responsibilities of her new job, Kara realizes she is different from the other angels and discovers a mysterious inner power. Something dangerous... something dark...

Determined to embrace her hidden talents, Kara undertakes a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil. But will she succeed in saving the world from an ancient enemy before it is too late?

Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Kara Nightingale didn’t believe in angels and demons. But when she died, everything changed...

As if the dying part wasn’t bad enough, she is chosen to work for the Guardian Angel Legion, a secret band of angels sworn to protect mortal souls from demons. While she struggles to understand the responsibilities of her new job, Kara realizes she is different from the other angels and discovers a mysterious inner power. Something dangerous... something dark...Determined to embrace her hidden talents, Kara undertakes a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil. But will she succeed in saving the world from an ancient enemy before it is too late?

READERS’ FAVORITE AWARD WINNER

Experience the award-winning series that fans are raving about.

Look Inside Chapter 1

“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.

At 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
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 panel. 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 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.

 

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