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Authors: Mackenzie Lucas

The Megiddo Mark, Part 1

BOOK: The Megiddo Mark, Part 1
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The Megiddo Mark

 

Part I of IV

 

 

Mackenzie Lucas

 

***

 

The Megiddo Mark
is a paranormal romance released as a serialized novel--in small bites you can read in one sitting–that contains elements of mystery and fantasy. Think Indiana Jones meets A.S. Byatt’s
Possession
. So watch for the weekly release of
The Megiddo Mark: Parts I - IV.

 

The Megiddo Mark: Part I of IV

Sometimes you must sacrifice everything you love to find your true legacy . . .

 

Literature professor Malena Alexander never imagined a place where God speaks his mind, guardian angels grumble, or a dark outcast amasses an army to overtake the world. But when she becomes the reluctant guardian of an ancient mystical book called the
Vitae Lux
, she’s plunged into a realm where angels and demons are at war. She joins forces with sexy, tormented archaeologist Cullen Wade who is searching for a legacy he believes she’s stolen from him. Together they must expose an evil Outcast before he locates the book and kills to gain the power he needs to devastate the world. Their journey into the heart of darkness launches them into a struggle that might very well destroy them both unless they can forge a sacrificial love strong enough to rescue each other and save the world.

 

Copyright ©2013 by Mackenzie Lucas

KINDLE EDITION

 

Cover Design: Robert Lyons/Roar Desygn/RoarDesygn.com

Cover Photographs: woman © 123RF/
Alena Ozerova

mandala © 123RF/ Anna Yakimova

church window © 123RF/
anobis

 

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Author.

 

This work is fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are totally fictitious. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

 

Interior by The Killion Group

www.thekilliongroupinc.com

 

for P.K.B.

(July 3, 1949 - November 8, 1998)

 

 

The Meg
iddo Mark

 

Chapter One

 

Oxford, England

 

“Dead women tell no tales, their books, however, weave a story all their own.”
Malena Alexander whispered her mother’s words. Desire crystallized into the hard edge of possessive need. She’d do almost anything to own the book she now held.

In another, more rational moment, she’d acknowledge that this book, like any other book, contained words like words she’d read a thousand times in the course of teaching literature.

They held no special magic.

No great power.

Yet, her response to
Flights of Fancy
, the limited first-edition book of poetry written by her mother, the poet known as A. Alexander, was anything but rational. Her hand shook. She looked around to see if anyone noticed her interest.

No. She stood alone in the preview room.

She turned over the slim leather-bound volume of poems by Ava Alexander, fanned the pages in a careful, precise way, opened to the copyright page; 1973, the year she’d been born. She flipped back a page.

Then she saw the bookplate.

Her mind buzzed, a low hum of excitement. The sounds of busy pre-auction activity at the Bodleian Library in Oxford faded into the distance.

The three-by-five-inch swatch of linen paper fused to the inside of the book heralded her mother’s autograph and much more. Malena ran her thumb over
A. Alexander
, the signature of the mother she lost twenty years ago. The white auction-house-issued gloves created a barrier of cloth between her and the feel of the fine, tight weave of the patch.

A pang of loneliness shot through her.

Malena didn’t doubt for a moment that a handwritten message intended for her lay behind this plate. When her mother knew she was dying, she began writing messages to Malena, leaving them behind bookplates like this one.

She turned the page.

To Juliana Wade, my best friend in life, may your death not be in vain. Justice will prevail. Rest in peace, dear heart. One day we will meet again. ~ Ava

 

The name sounded familiar. She grasped at the gentle watercolor-wash of a faded pale memory. A distant snippet of a conversation. Turning another page she saw the book dedication:
To Juliana Wade (born July 1948 ~ died August 1973).
She remembered. Juliana had been her mother’s friend who had died a few months before Malena’s birth.

She opened the back cover and a piece of paper flutter
ed, falling in a slow twirl to the ground. The edges glowed like a charcoal briquette then flamed. She blinked rapidly to clear her eyes. In an instant, the flames were gone. The slip lay on the floor pristine; a simple square of heavy-weight paper. Her mother’s neat penmanship blazoned across the course linen.
Vitae Lux
.

Surely she’d imagined the fire.

Malena stooped to consider the fragment of paper on the pitted slate floor then flipped the yellowed piece over. A beautiful image was imprinted on the small square, an intricate sphere with symbols worked into the pattern. The bold black lines formed geometric ellipticals in every shade of the rainbow–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet–to create the design of a lacey flower.

A bell sounded inside the library. The auction signal.

Malena resisted the strong urge to tuck the scrap into her pocket. It didn’t belong to her. Yet.

She brushed her fingers across her mother’s handwritten farewell to an old friend
, then slipped the paper between the pages and replaced the book on its stand. Malena tugged the short white gloves from her fingers, and deposited them in a nearby basket before she walked through the doorway into the auction hall.

Elizabeth waved. Malena sat in the chair next to her, pleased she had a clear view of the auctioneer. She accepted the auction program from her. Elizabeth O’Malley, Rush College Rare Collection’s librarian, had accompanied Malena to Oxford to secure the
Maria Edgeworth manuscript.

“An autographed first-edition.
Flights of Fancy
is in perfect condition. Only five copies printed with these exact poems. I must have it,” Malena said close to Elizabeth’s ear.

“Lovely.” Elizabeth nodded and smiled. “The
Edgeworth is on page one hundred three.”

Malena had been asked by the department head to attend today’s auction. Finding a volume of her mother’s poetry here at a rare book sale was an unexpected bonus.

She flipped through the glossy pages to the right spot. Her mind again wandered to
Flights of Fancy
. An impatience she hadn’t experienced in years hit her, making her antsy and anxious. She wanted this volume of poetry more than she’d wanted anything in a long time. What if someone else won the bid? She couldn’t bear to think about it. Surely no one else would show interest in the tiny, insignificant book of poetry by A. Alexander; insignificant to anyone but her. She would not lose the book now that she knew it existed. Her mother’s poems would be hers in moments. Malena glanced at her watch. She’d give it five minutes. Tops. She tapped her foot on the floor, anxious to hold the book once again. To keep its secrets safe from outsiders.

A few tourists peppered the assembly. Otherwise, the crowd looked predominately academic.

The bidding on
Flights of Fancy
had begun. Ten pounds. She nodded, a slight movement. The auctioneer noticed. Someone else bid twenty-five. She sat forward to see if she could find the other bidder. She couldn’t see anyone else bidding on the item. Elizabeth pulled out her knitting and began to tat in time with the auctioneer who continued his chant from the podium.

“Do I hear fifty? Fifty?”

Malena twitched, fifty pounds.

“Fifty. And sixty?” He pointed at someone in the audience. “Sixty.”

Again, Malena scanned the crowd. This time she turned in her seat. No one seemed remotely interested.

“Eighty. Ninety. One hundred.” He pointed first to the far window, second to the center of the crowd and then, finally, to her. She
’d bid one hundred.

Counter bid, one hundred fifty.

She fought to sit still.

Again, someone raised the bid.

She twirled her auction paddle, her move hidden from the larger crowd. The auctioneer caught the fluttery movement.

“Two hundred fifty pounds.”

Who else would want the book that had belonged to her mother? Participants were still filing in the door, causing a slight disturbance.

Bright morning light poured in the windows behind her, casting shadows in the nooks and alcoves. The auctioneer waved his gavel back and forth between where she sat near the door to a spot close to the far wall.

Bidding escalated at a rapid rate.

“Gimme five. Five. Anyone five? Five hundred pounds.” The auctioneer confirmed Malena’s bid.

She whispered to Elizabeth. “Who in blazes cares about my book? Well, they can’t have it. Find the person who is bidding against me and create a distraction. I need this book.”

Elizabeth smiled slyly, her violet eyes and short spiked gray hair giving her the air of a mischievous sprite rather than a serious college librarian. She slipped out of her seat and disappeared, knitting in hand.

A few others in the center of the room drove the price up. Still, not many people would carry the bidding as high as she planned to take it if necessary.

“Six hundred fifty pounds.”

Malena fanned herself using the paddle then grabbed her purse and jumped to her feet. She took up a position next to the door so she could see across the room. The auctioneer nodded in affirmation. Someone else bid. He stood against the cathedral-style window. He was tall, dark-haired, and extremely handsome. Why on earth would he want the volume?

Pockets of conversation here and there, small beehives of murmuring, hummed throughout the room. Malena bid. Again, the man on the other side of the room was about to lift his arm to bid when Elizabeth walked straight into him, knitting needles first. She’d skewered him.

Ouch. Malena winced, turning back to the auctioneer. She bit down hard on her lips to keep from smiling.

“What the hell?” the man said.

“Eight hundred. Eh-eh-eight. Give me eight?”

Malena flicked her number. The bid was hers.

“Eight it is. Nine?”

A man in the middle aisle bid nine.

She placed her final bid. One thousand pounds.

“One thousand. One thousand one hundred? Anyone? One thousand then. Going once.”

She looked across the room. Half the patrons in the room stared at the commotion as the attractive man whirled, almost knocking Elizabeth over. The crowd parted. People shuffled out of Elizabeth’s path, giving her a wide berth as she clutched her knitting needles.

Her half-moon spectacles sat askew on the tip of her nose. She stumbled and almost sprawled onto the floor. The man grabbed her elbow to steady her. The bag Elizabeth carried on her shoulder, stuffed with bright colored balls of yarn, fell off her arm as he jostled her to keep her from falling into the lap of a man seated nearby. Extra needles clattered to the floor. Yarn rolled down the aisle.

Elizabeth scrambled on the floor after the wayward yarn, jamming her needles into the man’s ankle.

“Ow. Damn, woman. Would you watch those?”

Moments after the bag spilled its contents onto the slate floor, the man’s feet were tangled in yards of loose yarn. Malena watched in fascination. Elizabeth looked up at him standing over her. He held his side. God, she was good. Elizabeth could earn an Academy Award for this performance. Her voice sounded strained and worried even to Malena’s ears.

“Did I hurt you, lad? Oh, by the saints, I never meant to hurt you,” she said. She pulled at his tucked-in shirt to assess the damage.

He pushed her hands away to keep her from undressing him in public. “I’m fine.”

Malena smiled behind her hand at the look of horror on his face. She focused her attention back on the auctioneer but found herself straining to hear the conversation.

“One thousand going twice.” Seconds had passed.

She held her breath, waiting for the man against the wall to
chime in with a counter bid, but his focus remained on protecting himself from Elizabeth.

“Last call for one thousand.” The auctioneer’s chant was muffled by Elizabeth’s loud confessional.

“Ooch, I’m sorry, lad,” Elizabeth said. “I’m sooo clumsy. I wasn’t lookin’ where my feet were taking me. Me mum’s scarf is all I think about. Do you ken? Look at the mess I’ve made.”

Elizabeth continued to brush at the web of colored yarn that wound tighter around his feet. Malena covered her mouth, working hard to quell the laugh that threatened to erupt.

“Shush.”

“Quiet.”

“So rude.” Bidders tried to silence Elizabeth, but to no avail.

The man squatted next to Elizabeth, and then lifted her into a standing position away from the yarn. “Don’t,” he said. “Let me.” His voice, deep and clear, carried across the room sending a shiver up her spine. He wasn’t unkind to Elizabeth, just the opposite in fact, but Malena could tell by his tight facial expressions that he was uncomfortable with the attention directed his way. He gathered the yarn in one swoop.

The gavel pounded, echoing loud. “Sold for one thousand pounds!”

The tangled bidder snapped to attention and searched the crowd.

Malena ducked through the doorway and into the nearby ladies room. She wasn’t sure why, but she didn’t want him to see her. She’d done it. She was surprised at herself. She’d never gone to such lengths to obtain anything. The compulsion to own her mother’s book had been like nothing she’d ever experienced.

The book was hers.

Why had the man been so adamant about buying her mother’s book? His determination puzzled her. She flexed her shoulders. Oh, well, it wasn’t her problem.
Flights of Fancy
now belonged to her.

“Whoohoo!” She danced a little jig. Nothing could stop her now.

 

***

“So you’ve never seen this version of
Flights of Fancy
before today?” Elizabeth huddled in close to see the small leather-bound volume.

“No, never.” Malena laughed. “I am so pleased.”

“Who would have thought something like this could happen? Wonderful.”

“I know.”

Standing outside in the slate courtyard of the Bodleian Library, Malena and Elizabeth exchanged excited whispers. Malena slipped the small volume into her purse. She’d cut the plate from the book later to unveil the secret message. A rush of emotion threatened to overwhelm her. The book remained too personal to put on display right now.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the spectacle you created.” Malena hugged Elizabeth. “Thank you.”

They walked across the courtyard away from the auction. Malena felt like a teenager again. She hadn’t pulled a prank of that magnitude since high school.

BOOK: The Megiddo Mark, Part 1
13.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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