Home > Marked (House of Night #1)

Marked (House of Night #1)
Author: P. C. Cast



House of Night series
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1

Just when I thought my day couldn't get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker. Kayla was talking nonstop in her usual K-babble, and she didn't even notice him. At first. Actually, now that I think about it, no one else noticed him until he spoke, which is, tragically, more evidence of my freakish inability to fit in.

"No, but Zoey, I swear to God Heath didn't get that drunk after the game. You really shouldn't be so hard on him.”

"Yeah," I said absently. "Sure." Then I coughed. Again. I felt like crap. I must be coming down with what Mr. Wise, my more-than-slightly-insane AP biology teacher, called the Teenage Plague.

If I died, would it get me out of my geometry test tomorrow? One could only hope.

"Zoey, please. Are you even listening? I think he only had like four—I dunno—maybe six beers, and maybe like three shots. But that's totally beside the point. He probably wouldn't even have had hardly any if your stupid parents hadn't made you go home right after the game.”

We shared a long-suffering look, in total agreement about the latest injustice committed against me by my mom and the Step- Loser she'd married three really long years ago. Then, after barely half a breath break, K was back with the babbling.

"Plus, he was celebrating. I mean we beat Union!" K shook my shoulder and put her face close to mine. "Hello! Your boyfriend—”

"My almost-boyfriend," I corrected her, trying my best not to cough on her.

"Whatever. Heath is our quarterback so of course he's going to celebrate. It's been like a million years since Broken Arrow beat Union.”

"Sixteen." I'm crappy at math, but K's math impairment makes me look like a genius.

"Again, whatever. The point is, he was happy. You should give the boy a break.”

"The point is that he was wasted for like the fifth time this week. I'm sorry, but I don't want to go out with a guy whose main focus in life has changed from trying to play college football to trying to chug a six-pack without puking. Not to mention the fact that he's going to get fat from all that beer.” I had to pause to cough. I was feeling a little dizzy and forced myself to take slow, deep breaths when the coughing fit was over. Not that K-babble noticed.

"Eww! Heath, fat! Not a visual I want.”

I managed to ignore another urge to cough. "And kissing him is like sucking on alcohol-soaked feet.”

K scrunched up her face. "Okay, sick. Too bad he's so hot.”

I rolled my eyes, not bothering to try to hide my annoyance at her typical shallowness.

"You're so grumpy when you're sick. Anyway, you have no idea how lost-puppy-like Heath looked after you ignored him at lunch. He couldn't even…?”

Then I saw him. The dead guy. Okay, I realized pretty quick that he wasn't technically "dead.” He was undead. Or un-human. Whatever. Scientists said one thing, people said another, but the end result was the same. There was no mistaking what he was and even if I hadn't felt the power and darkness that radiated from him, there was no frickin' way I could miss his Mark, the sapphire- blue crescent moon on his forehead and the additional tattooing of entwining knot work that framed his equally blue eyes. He was a vampyre, and worse. He was a Tracker.

Well, crap! He was standing by my locker.

"Zoey, you're so not listening to me!”

Then the vampyre spoke and his ceremonial words slicked across the space between us, dangerous and seductive, like blood mixed with melted chocolate.

"Zoey Montgomery! Night has chosen thee; thy death will be thy birth. Night calls to thee; hearken to Her sweet voice. Your destiny awaits you at the House of Night!”

He lifted one long, white finger and pointed at me. As my forehead exploded in pain Kayla opened her mouth and screamed.

When the bright splotches finally cleared from my eyes I looked up to see K's colorless face staring down at me.

As usual, I said the first ridiculous thing that came to mind. "K, your eyes are popping out of your head like a fish.”

"He Marked you. Oh, Zoey! You have the outline of that thing on your forehead!" Then she pressed a shaking hand against her white lips, unsuccessfully trying to hold back a sob.

I sat up and coughed. I had a killer headache, and I rubbed at the spot right between my eyebrows. It stung as if a wasp had bit me and radiated pain down around my eyes, all the way across my cheekbones. I felt like I might puke.

"Zoey!" K was really crying now and had to speak between wet little hiccups.

"Oh. My. God. That guy was a Tracker—a vampyre Tracker!”

"K." I blinked hard, trying to clear the pain from my head.

"Stop crying. You know I hate it when you cry." I reached out to attempt a comforting pat on her shoulders.

And she automatically cringed, and moved away from me.

I couldn't believe it. She actually cringed, like she was afraid of me. She must have seen the hurt in my eyes because she instantly started a string of breathless K-babble.

"Oh, God, Zoey! What are you going to do? You can't go to that place. You can't be one of those things. This can't be happening! Who am I supposed to go to all of our football games with?”

I noticed that all during her tirade she didn't once move any closer to me. I clamped down on the sick, hurt feeling inside that threatened to make me burst into tears. My eyes dried instantly. I was good at hiding tears. I should be; I'd had three years to get good at it.

"It's okay. I'll figure this out. It's probably some…some bizarre mistake," I lied.

I wasn't really talking; I was just making words come out of my mouth. Still grimacing at the pain in my head, I stood up. Looking around I felt a small measure of relief that K and I were the only ones in the math hall, and then I had to choke back what I knew was hysterical laughter. Had I not been totally psycho about the geometry test from hell scheduled for tomorrow, and had run back to my locker to get my book so I could attempt to obsessively (and pointlessly) study tonight, the Tracker would have found me standing outside in front of the school with the majority of the 1,300

kids who went to Broken Arrow's South Intermediate High School waiting for what my stupid Barbie-clone sister liked to smugly call "the big yellow limos.” I have a car, but standing around with the less fortunate who have to ride the buses is a time-honored tradition, not to mention an excellent way to check out who's hitting on who.

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