Demitri was speeding ahead as we turned into the street to the house, but by the time we'd reached the drive I was hot on heels. The door was ajar. We were neck and neck as we entered the house.
There were signs of a struggle in the normally pristine entrance hall. Lamps and the tables they stood on were knocked over and the mirror along one side of the room was cracked all the way across.
'I'll take upstairs,' Dem said as he stormed towards the stairs. I took this as a sign for me to start searching the ground floor.
The kitchen showed no signs of commotion. Everything was as we'd left it, nothing out of place, so I only needed to look around the door to know Mark wasn't there.
'Mark!' I prayed he would answer but all I heard was Demitri calling the same thing upstairs.
The living room was in a similar state to the entrance hall. Things were smashed on the floor and the pictures on the walls had been knocked askew. But there was no sign of Mark. There was only one room leading off from this one, the room where I trained with Dem.
'Mark?' I wasn't sure if I wanted him to answer or if I even wanted
to open the door. 'Ma-'
I hoped Demitri didn't come downstairs and see the scene that was in front of me. There were blood spatters across the walls and floor and Mark's broken and bruised body was lying in the middle of the room. Luckily the cabinet where Dem kept the most dangerous weapons was locked and although it was clear someone had tried to break into it, the lock seemed to have held. Unfortunately the practise swords we'd been using the day before weren't kept in there and one was lying discarded close to Mark's body. There was blood on the blade and it looked like someone'd had a
good go at beating Mark with it.
It felt like an age before my brain managed to convince my legs to move towards Mark, but when they got the message I threw myself towards him, pressing my fingers against his neck.
'Cassie, have you fou-' There was nothing I could do to stop Demitri from seeing Mark's body on the floor.
'Dem. I think you should leave,' I said softly, trying to keep calm.
'He's not dead.' His voice was flat and unemotional but when he looked at me I could see the fire in his eyes and he began to yell at me. 'He cannot be dead! Tell me he's not dead!' He charged towards us, throwing me to the side as he took Mark's head and cradled him on his lap. 'Please,' he whispered, the energy draining from him and
tears flowing in rivers down his face. 'Please, please, please...'
Trying not to disturb Demitri I put my fingers against Mark's neck and
felt a flicker.
'Dem! He's not dead!' Dem's head shot up and looked at my face trying to work out if I was lying. 'Call an ambulance. Quick!' He scrambled to his feet and staggered off towards the phone. I couldn't believe there was a pulse. It was very faint but it was definitely there.
Then an unsettling thought came into my head. Why hadn't Mark's attacker finished the job? He must have been disturbed when Dem and I came in the house. But if that had been so, then there was only one way he could escape unseen, when I was in the kitchen. And if he hadn't escaped then, he could still be here. What if he was hiding in this room, waiting to finish the job?
My head spun around quickly, looking for a figure hiding in a shady corner but there was nothing. The only other place someone could hide was in the weapons cupboard. Picking up the discarded practise sword I advanced on the cabinet. Using my left hand I reached out to check if the lock was working. The door wouldn't budge.
'What are you doing?' I screamed as I turned and was faced with Savannah. 'Geez, calm down, it's only me.'
'I thought you were someone else.' I sighed with relief as Abril entered the room, closely followed by a shell-shocked Demitri.
'The ambulance says they can be here in a few minutes. How is he?' Demitri knelt again by Mark's head, stroking the matted hair off his face.
'He'll be fine,' I said. It wasn't exactly a lie, I didn't know what would happen to Mark. But inside I desperately needed him to survive. Demitri would fall apart if he didn't have Mark and that would leave our little group leaderless and I was scared that they would turn to me to step into Dem's place. I wasn't sure if I was ready for that.