From the day of her birth, Rieka has been locked away at night by her family, unable to fulfill her one wish: to look at the stars at night. Now, eighteen years later, she’s concocted a plan to sneak out with her friends, but she doesn’t know that this simple act of rebellion will change her life forever and put her in the sights of an alpha who won’t let her go.
Age Rating: 18+ (Violence, Sexual Abuse)
Marked by Tori R. Hayes is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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From the day of her birth, Rieka has been locked away at night by her family, unable to fulfill her one wish: to look at the stars at night.
Now, twenty years later, she’s concocted a plan to sneak out with her friends, but she doesn’t know that this simple act of rebellion will change her life forever and put her in the sights of an Alpha who won’t let her go.
I was born on a cold November night under the light of the full moon.
My mom never made it to the hospital. The car broke down in the middle of the forest, and the ambulance never had the chance to get to them in time.
I was always told that was why I looked so different from my parents.
That the light of the moon had turned the color of my hair white and my eyes as blue as the icy cold night when I was welcomed into this world.
Since the day I was born, it has been forbidden for me to be outside after sundown.
They claimed the many predators roaming our district are most active at night. I was their only daughter, and they couldn’t bear the thought of losing me.
I never believed they had told me the whole truth, but I also never imagined that the truth would turn everything I knew upside down.
Forcing me to choose between the love of my life and the man that I can’t stay away from.
I was nine the first time I asked if I could stay overnight at one of my friend’s. After that, I knew I had to ask them if I ever wanted to see the light of day again.
I had never before requested something like that, but they looked at me with horror. As if I had asked for the most outrageous thing in the world.
They yelled at me for half an hour, although I never got a reason for the rejection and the attitude toward it.
I was just told to be home at 7 p.m. and that I might as well stay home if these conditions weren’t committed to.
Once I was half an hour late, and they were already making calls to the police station to send a search party to look for me. I never broke that rule again.
By the time I was fifteen, I had never been outside for later than 7 p.m. I was to lie in bed at 10:30, and I had stopped questioning it after so many years.
“If I didn’t get my eight to nine hours of sleep, I wouldn’t be ready for the next day,” was the answer I always received when I dared to ask the question.
The routine had been like that all my life. Even now, as I turned eighteen, I have no real explanation as to why.
I had never seen the night sky but always dreamed about how it would be to bathe in the light of the moon like I did when I was born, but that dream was almost impossible for me to carry out.
For eighteen years, I have been stuck inside my parents’ house, never been to a party or a sleepover. I finally had enough.
I had been planning my rebellion for years, and this was the night to execute the plan.
It was my birthday, and the moon was full. My two best friends had invited me for a moonlight picnic as the November night this year was warm.
My best friend, Everly, who has been by my side for as long as I can remember, and the man who I have had a secret crush on for years. Archer.
Maybe something would happen tonight. Everly was undoubtedly confident about helping it come to pass.
I was less confident, but a girl was allowed to dream.
And this night was going to be magical. Literally.
“I’m home!” I shouted.
Mom was vacuuming, but she turned it off the minute she heard me shout. She came running through the living room and into the hall where I stood.
I prepared myself for the inevitable.
She finally reached me and threw her arms around me.
“Happy birthday, darling! You disappeared so quickly this morning that I hardly saw you!” she complained and hugged me again.
“I had to get to school,” I explained.
She looked at me as if she knew that I was lying.
“You wouldn’t have let me leave if I had taken my time, Mom,” I admitted and rolled my eyes.
“This is my last birthday while living at home, and I know you. Besides, Archer and Everly were waiting for me at school.”
Before she could defend herself, I heard footsteps by the stairs.
Dad was coming down the stairs at the speed of light, and it looked like he had been working all night.
He was moving fast and looking energized, but he had dark rings under his eyes, which gave him away.
“Have you been staying up all night again, Dad?” I asked as he wrapped his arms around me for a hug.
“Of course, I have. It’s your birthday today, and I have something special planned for you,” he said ecstatically. “Happy birthday, by the way, my girl,” he finished and kissed my cheek.
“Thanks, Dad,” I answered and smiled. “What exactly have you been doing?”
“Nice try. But you will have to wait,” he teased.
My mom interrupted the conversation. “Are you tired? Shall I make some tea? Something to eat?” she continued to ask until I cut her off.
“Geez, Mom! I’ve only been to school for half a day. I haven’t been away for a year.”
“I’m sorry, honey. But it is your birthday, and I want my birthday girl at her happiest.” She was in a good mood, so I decided to take a chance since it was my eighteenth birthday.
“Mom?” I started. “I was wondering, since it is my eighteenth birthday, if I could stay out a little longer?”
She turned her head with fear.
“Just a little longer. I thought that maybe…”
“No!” she roared. It startled me. Even Dad seemed surprised by her reaction.
“I… I’m sorry, honey,” she said, and she seemed to instantly regret her decision to shout.
“I know that you really want to, but we have that agreement for a reason, and I don’t like seeing the boundaries being pushed.”
We were all silent for a while before I broke it again.
“I’m gonna go upstairs to do my homework,” I said and left the room.
“Okay, darling, but the cake will be ready by three,” I heard my mom shout.
“Sure!” I replied.
I threw my bag in the corner and then myself on the bed.
Finally, a little peace.
I barely managed to breathe before my phone buzzed on the desktop from the opposite side of the room.
My body didn’t want to get up, so I ignored it until it buzzed again.
I exhaled and dragged myself to the table. I turned on the screen and nearly dropped it on the floor when I saw who it was from.
I couldn’t believe my own eyes. Archer was actually asking me out! My heart wouldn’t stop pounding, and I thought it was gonna pound right out of my chest for a second.
A new text message arrived.
He wasn’t asking me out. They were. I felt a little bit disappointed but also a touch of relief. I was probably gonna die of embarrassment if I was alone with him for a whole evening.
I was about to answer without hesitation when I thought about my parents. They would never let me go out that late. But… What if they never knew?
This was my chance to finally see a starry night with my own eyes and hopefully get a chance alone with Archer.
Everly knew how I felt about him, so I was optimistic that she would somehow create an opportunity for me. I couldn’t miss that chance.
I was ripped out of my thoughts by someone knocking on my door, thereafter my mom entered. “Finished with your homework already?” she asked.
“I saw my bed, and it looked more appealing than homework,” I admitted.
She laughed. “Why do I know that feeling?”
“We thought you might want your present,” she said. I looked up.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t had the time to buy it, and your father isn’t done with his creation, so… we’ve decided that you get to choose your own present this year.”
My eyes lit up. “With limits,” she quickly implied, and my shoulders dropped to underline my disappointment. She laughed.
I had to think a little before I found my answer. “Okay,” I said. “I want to dye my hair.”
Mom looked at me as if I was out of my mind. “But your hair is so special. And it matches your eyes so wonderfully.”
“I don’t wanna be special. At least not like this. I want to look like you guys. Look like your actual daughter and not just know it. Like my brother does…,” I mumbled.
She sighed. “All right, but nothing too crazy. Then you might as well keep your hair as it is,” she surrendered. I screamed and pulled her in for a hug.
“Nothing permanent at first,” she quickly added. “I don’t want you to regret your decision.”
“Fine.” I was okay with a compromise in the beginning, so I agreed.
“Meet me in the bathroom in one hour, and I’ll see what I can do,” she said and got up.
“I thought hair dying was done by a hairdresser?” I said.
“It usually is, but I dye my own hair too, so I think we’ll manage.” She laughed.
“Right, because you don’t want people to notice your gray hairs,” I teased.
“You’re not getting any younger yourself, little lady,” she shot back and laughed before she went down to make sure everything was ready for my hair dye.
“Mom?” I asked before she exited. “How come both of you have brown hair and brown eyes, while I have blue eyes and white hair?”
She looked at me. “Sweetie. You were born under the light of a full moon. A lot of unexplainable things happens during a full moon. Your body might have reacted to the light and made you our special girl.”
And then she walked out.
I threw myself on my bed again. It sounded as surrealistic as the first time I heard it. I had never heard about another person experiencing the same thing.
Then I thought about my birthday gift. She actually permitted me to dye my hair, which meant I could finally look at least a little bit normal.
They would be so surprised tonight. So, I grabbed my phone and responded to Archer’s text.
The hour passed, and my birthday present was ready. I ran downstairs and into the bathroom where my mom was waiting for me.
She was already standing with gloves, the bottle of hair dye in her hand, and a big smile on her face. “Ready, birthday girl?” she asked. I nodded and sat down.
As she finished with the final runs of dye, I could hear my heart pumping loudly. There was no way back now.
“There we go. Now, don’t remove that cap before the timer reaches zero. Then jump into the shower, but remember to use my shampoo and conditioner.”
The wait was long. Too long. But the alarm finally went off, and I ripped off the cap before I let the water wash out the excess dye.
After I finished blow-drying my hair, it was time. This was what I wanted, right? A regular hair color. Why was I this nervous?
I took a deep breath and turned around to look in the mirror. I looked so different.
Mom had heard me turn off the hair dryer and came to join me. I could see her standing in the doorway.
“What do you think?” she asked.
I almost didn’t recognize myself. “It’s a little weird, but not in a bad way,” I admitted. My eyes were shining a bit more in contrast to the dark hair.
Not that it bothered me. I liked my eyes more than my hair. People liked them.
“Are you satisfied?” she asked.
“Yeah, I like it,” I answered. “It’s just funny to see how much I actually look like you guys, now that I have the same hair color.”
She chuckled and wrapped her arms around me. “You have always been our daughter. No matter the color of your hair.”
I returned a smile, and she kissed my cheek. “I’ll give you a little time alone with the mirror so that you can get used to your new hair color.”
She closed the door behind her, and I was standing alone with my new look.
I felt a little bad about sneaking out tonight. I loved my mom, and I knew she only wanted to protect me.
I shook it off and ran downstairs and into the living room.
My dad was sitting in his favorite chair, reading a book. But before I could say anything, my mother broke the news. “How do you like her birthday present, James?”
He looked at me and smiled widely. “You look so much like your mother when she was young.”
“You flatter me, James.” I could hear her giggle from the kitchen. “Rieka is so much prettier.”
“Maybe,” Dad teased her and laughed. A washcloth flew across the room from the kitchen straight toward him. Their marriage never seemed to be boring.
“You look beautiful, Rieka,” he finally said.
“Who is that?” I heard the voice of a little boy say behind me. I turned around, and his eyes widened.
“Yup. How do you like it, Luca?” I asked and opened my arms for him. He was only ten. It was a significant age difference, but it hadn’t made me love him any less.
He ran into my arms and embraced the hug. “It’s weird. You look like mom.”
I laughed. “You really think so?”
“Cake is ready,” Mom shouted and entered the dining room with one of her famous cakes.
“Me first, me first!” Luca shouted and let go of me to run for the cake. I giggled and followed him.
After a luxurious dinner, I went upstairs to my room to make myself ready for tonight.
Before I went to bed, I texted Archer and Everly that I had a surprise for them tonight.
I set the alarm on my phone and used one of my wireless earbuds. I knew Mom could tell if I pretended to be asleep, so I had to take precautions.
I said good night to my family and went to sleep.
I slept right away, not knowing that this night would change everything.
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The alarm went off, and I had to rip the earbud out of my ear. The volume was maxed out, which I hadn’t noticed before I went to sleep.
I looked at my phone. 11 o’clock. They would be here any minute.
I got up in a rush and dressed myself in the carefully selected outfit. From there, I waited.
My phone buzzed, and they were waiting for me right outside. I snuck down the stairs and past my parents’ bedroom without making a sound.
I closed the front door as quietly as possible and locked it behind me.
Everly had already found my bike and passed it to me as I stepped closer.
“What happened to your hair?” she whispered.
“I’ll tell you when we get farther away from my house,” I promised her.
“Ready?” Archer asked.
“Ready,” I whispered into the night.
Their bikes were parked about half a mile down the road.
Everly’s bike was ordinary like mine, but Archer had a motorcycle with a noisy motor, and we had to make sure not to wake anyone up.
We weren’t in a hurry, and I took the time to enjoy the sparkling stars lighting up the dark sky. They were even better in real life than through the amazing pictures I had found online.
Archer turned off his bike when we made it to a small clearing.
“We have to walk a bit from here,” he said.
Everly and I placed our bikes next to his and followed his lead to the top of the hill, where I could see a small picnic setup. It was beautiful.
The small area was lit up by lanterns and torches placed around the carpet.
“Happy birthday, Rieka,” they said simultaneously.
“This is the best spot for moon gazing,” Everly quickly added. “Especially since the moon is so big and bright tonight. They call it a supermoon.”
It was true. The moon was big tonight. Much bigger than I had imagined it could be.
The size was mesmerizing, and I forgot to look where I was walking.
My foot got caught in a root, and I tripped, but Archer was fast and reacted before I hit the ground.
He grabbed my wrist and saved me from the horror of ruined pants and an abrasion. “Thanks,” I said, relieved.
“I know that you’re excited, Rieka, but maybe watch the ground too.” He laughed. I pushed him forward for laughing at me, but I was secretly hoping that he hadn’t noticed my red face.
“So…,” Everly said. “Care to tell us about the new look?”
Archer turned around and gave me the same wondering eyes.
“My mom finally let me dye it as a birthday present. Not that I don’t like the color of my hair, but it can just draw so much attention sometimes, and I would like to know what it’s like to be a little normal…
“Do you like it?” I asked and ran my hand through my brown locks.
Archer cleared his throat. “It… It looks good, I mean… I have been kinda curious to see it in the moonlight.”
I could feel the warmth rising to my cheeks for the second time. “Really?” I tried to say without sounding flustered.
“Yeah, but it looks nice on you anyway.”
I felt very embarrassed and lost for words.
Everly gave me an elbow to my ribs. She had a teasing smile on her face, and her eyebrows were moving up and down repeatedly.
I knew what she was implying, but I stuck out my tongue to wave her off. She shrugged but put it to rest.
Archer threw the bag of food beside the carpet and turned around to look at me again.
He stared at me with his golden eyes. I had convinced myself a long time ago that someone must have selected them carefully to match the color to his blond hair so perfectly.
The light from the moon almost made them glow.
“I will admit that you actually do look a lot like your mother like that,” he acknowledged.
“It’s not the first time I heard that today.” I chuckled.
“I still liked it better before,” I heard him mumble before he reached for something in the pocket of his jacket.
“Happy birthday,” he said and held out a small black box in his hand.
Everly came running from behind and almost pushed me onto Archer’s lap. “We were supposed to bring presents!? I thought we had agreed not to!”
“I’m sorry, Everly,” Archer said with a crooked smile. “I couldn’t help myself when I saw it.”
I accepted his present and opened it. Everly widened her eyes when she saw it.
It was a necklace. At the end of the long chain was a round figure representing a full moon like the one I could see right in front of me. “It’s beautiful, Archer. Thank you.”
“Here,” he said and reached out his hand. I gave him the necklace and turned around. “There.”
I let my hair fall and turned around so he could see.
“It suits you,” he said and smiled. It reached almost to the middle of my stomach, but it was the most beautiful present I had ever received.
“Rieka! It’s almost midnight!” Everly shouted. “Are you ready to turn eighteen?”
I took a deep breath of the moist night air. “It’s going to be the best birthday ever,” I replied eagerly.
It was quiet. All I could hear was the wind and my friends.
“Sit down,” Archer said and patted the pillow beside him. So I sat down and found a nice position.
I was less than a minute from turning eighteen, and I was here with my two best friends. Nothing could make this night any better. Almost.
Archer put his arm around me and pulled me closer, which made my heart race.
Everly put her head in my lap and had her phone show the time down to seconds so we knew the exact time of my birthday.
Five seconds from midnight, I heard Archer whisper, “Happy birthday,” and he kissed the top of my hair.
It surprised me. He had never done anything like that before.
I was about to turn my head to look at him when the clock struck midnight. My head exploded, and everything darkened.
I woke up to the howl of a wolf. Archer and Everly were both standing above me with a worried look on their faces.
“Rieka! Can you hear us?” Archer shouted.
I sat up. “What happened?” I asked and tried to wrap my head around it.
“You just… fainted,” Everly said.
My head was throbbing as if someone had hit me with a bat but without the bruise.
“Let’s get you home, Rieka,” Archer said and helped me to my feet.
We reached the bikes, and I went for mine, but Archer grabbed me by my waist and lifted my body onto his motorcycle.
“Don’t even think about it,” he said. “You’re riding with me. There is no way I am letting you ride by yourself.”
“But…,” I complained.
“You are riding with me,” he repeated and tightened his grip around me. I knew that voice, and I knew that it was stupid to try and argue with him again. I wouldn’t win that fight.
He gave me his helmet and placed me in the seat behind him.
I grasped a small part of his T-shirt to avoid falling off, but within the next moment, he grabbed my wrists and pulled my arms around his waist.
“Rieka,” he said and looked back at me. “You have got to hold on tight.”
I nodded without looking at him in the eyes.
My face was pressed against his warm back, and as he started the bike, I could feel his muscles work underneath the shirt. I tensed up, and I wondered if he could sense it.
None of us said anything on the way home. Archer stopped the bike in the same spot, with distance to my house.
I took off the helmet and handed it to him. “Thanks,” I mumbled.
“No worries,” he said. “Are you able to walk from here by yourself?” I nodded, and he helped me off his bike.
The second my feet touched the ground, my legs disappeared underneath me.
“Rieka!” Archer shouted and was with me again in seconds.
I was short of breath, and my whole body was aching. What was happening?
“Can you stay here, Everly? I’m going to help her home.” Everly nodded with worried eyes.
He took one of my arms and put it around him so that I could use him as support. My parents couldn’t know.
“Archer…,” I whispered. He looked at me. “Please don’t tell my parents.” I could see his jaw tighten, but he said nothing. “Please,” I begged.
For a moment, I wasn’t sure if he was going to listen, but the sound of my pain was enough for him to surrender. “I promise. But if it becomes worse, I don’t think I have a choice.”
“Thank you,” I whispered.
He lifted me into his arms so I didn’t have to walk the rest of the way. Normally, I would have rejected it, but right now, my body was so weak that I could barely walk, even with his support.
I had never been sick. Not one day in my entire life. It was very unnatural for me to feel like this.
Archer couldn’t help me inside without waking my parents, so I had to find my way upstairs without making any sounds.
I finally reached my bed and couldn’t wait for the soft pillows to keep me comfy and warm.
My body and my mind were exhausted, but the memories were clear as day.
I could still feel Archer’s body heat. My hands on his muscular body. I held on to that memory until my mind gave up, and I drifted into sleep.
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