Hi all! Tuesday Teaser time again, and I'm sharing the opening chapters of Immortal Surrender.
If you'd like to catch up on the previous teasers:
Immortal Surrender Prologue
Immortal Surrender Chapter One
Diving right in....
The Curse of the Templars, Book II
September 25, 2012
Farran curled his fingers around the steering wheel as Noelle’s perfume assaulted his nose. The faint sweet scent of jasmine soaked into the air, making it impossible to pretend she did not sit beside him.
A woman. A cursed woman. He had been sent to guard the Sudarium, not to act as maid to a woman. God’s teeth, did Gabriel seek to punish him? For what, Farran could not fathom. Yet he could think of no other reason the archangel would assign him to such a menial task.
Aware he could not sit in the parking lot forever, he slid his gaze sideways to the wench occupying his passenger’s seat. “Where is your apartment?”
“Go right at the end of the block, left at the next, and left on the third block. It’s the town house without Christmas lights.” She did not look at him, rather kept her gaze fastened out the side window. Still, he could not help but notice the way she slunk down further into her seat.
Good. So she sensed he cared not for this distraction from his purpose. If he had known Gabriel intended to have him serve as chauffer, he would have insisted on staying in the stronghold with the other Templar knights. Whilst their commander, Merrick, healed, there was much Farran needed to do.
Tamping down a rush of annoyance, he shifted the SUV into drive and eased onto the gas. Would that this chore ended quickly, for he could not stomach hours of idleness. Not when so much lay at stake. Not when they had all been warned Azazel would attempt to take the
Sudarium. The master of darkness coveted the cloth’s power. ’Twould give him another victory in his quest to overthrow the Almighty. Whilst Lucan could fend off a great many of Azazel’s demons, if Azazel sent a fallen Templar knight, ’twould take both their swords to protect the holy cloth.
He glanced through the rearview mirror into the backseat, ensuring Lucan had not forgotten his blade. Only one silver scabbard sat in sight, and Farran allowed the tension in his shoulders to dissipate. He would speak with Gabriel on his return and make his displeasure known. Until that time arrived, however, there was naught he could do except cart the woman where she instructed.
They drove in silence, a welcome sound to Farran’s ears. The less she engaged him in conversation, the better. If not for the subtle aroma of her perfume when she shifted, he could dismiss her presence. At least Gabriel had not sent a comely wench to torment him. This one’s brown ponytail did not taunt. Her oversized coat did not cling to shapely curves. And her complete lack of conversation did not plague him with the need to find words he did not wish to speak.
As he wound down the twisting residential street, she pointed at an aged, brown brick building. “It’s there.”
Farran pulled to the curb and shut the engine off. She gathered her purse to her chest with one hand, opened the door with the other. “I need to shower. I’ll be a little while. You want something to eat? Or drink?”
Nay, he wanted neither. But Gabriel had ordered him to not stray from her side. He dared not linger outside. He let out an exasperated sigh and opened his door. “I will have water.”
Noelle rounded the front of the car, leading the way up the building’s front steps. As she bounced up the snow-covered stairs, her ponytail bobbed against the middle of her back, catching the rays of afternoon sunlight. Farran’s gaze fixed on the unexpected, reddish brown sheen. ’Twas not the color of a mouse’s coat after all. A most startling discovery, for naught about the tiny little woman had caught his attention upon first meeting. Naught beyond her wire-rimmed glasses and the passing thought he knew no woman who preferred the bits of glass to contacts.
She punched her pass code into the security system, and the bolt on the doors clicked open. He followed wordlessly down the hall, up another fl ight of stairs. She unlocked her apartment and entered, leaving him to shut the door.
Inside, Farran halted. The apartments he frequented were small, unlike the vast expanse of her front room. Polished planks of wood adorned the floor, and where he had anticipated crisp modern furniture and appliances, he found simplicity. A couch, a coffee table, a plush rug. He glanced around, noting the same lack of frivolity applied to her dining area, the sparse but tasteful hangings on her walls. Even the open kitchen, he noted, held naught that could be considered luxury.
Not what he expected to find in Washington, D.C.
Nor had he expected to find a gray cat lounging in the nearby chair.
He blinked as Noelle scooped up the feline and buried her nose in its fur. “Hey, fella.” The way she nuzzled her cheek against the cat’s head and closed her eyes struck a chord of dissonance deep inside his soul. ’Twas so tender, so natural, he felt at once out of place. Oversized. Too harsh.
When she opened her eyes and her gaze met his, Farran realized he stared. He gave her a curt nod, then distanced himself by sitting on the couch. A colorful magazine atop her coffee table caught his eye, and he picked it up to thumb through it whilst she attended to her affairs.
From the kitchen, he recognized the sound of a can opener. The anxious meows that accompanied the noise told him her pet expected dinner. A plate clattered onto the countertop. Silverware pinged against the dish.
“Here you go, Scat Cat.”
Scat—what manner of person named her pet the very word meant to drive a cat away? For some unexplainable reason, the oddity of her chosen name amused him. Long dead humor stirred, and he felt the corners of his mouth twitch. Listening with more interest, he tracked her movements through the house. Behind him, she shrugged out of her coat. After she entered the kitchen once again, ice cubes plinked against glass. The sound of running water blended with the melodic sound of her voice as she hummed a tune he did not recognize.
Her footsteps approached the couch. Her perfume tickled his nose. She leaned over his knee and set the glass of water on the polished tabletop. “Are you sure I can’t get you anything else?”
Farran’s heart skidded to a stop as her gaze locked with his. Her glasses removed, eyes the color of a doe’s hide and every bit as soft drew him in. They shone with warmth, a natural friendliness that her silence obscured. Where he had thought her plain less than thirty minutes previous, he looked upon features as delicate as porcelain. Creamy skin bore no mark of time, no suggestion of a hardened life—unlike the whores he entertained himself with. Neat white teeth peeked behind full lips as she offered him a hesitant smile. And her nose possessed just enough uplift at the tip to belie a spriteful spirit.
Jesu, Gabriel tortured more severely than the days spent in the strappado at the Inquisition’s mercy.
“Nay,” he grit out through clenched teeth.
Even his traitorous wife did not compare to the picture of loveliness that stood at his side. Especially when he considered the twinkle in Noelle’s eyes. Nay, that foul creature he married centuries ago had never held such sunlight in her stare.
He jerked his gaze away at the tightening of his gut.
“You don’t talk much, do you?” she asked as she vanished behind him.
The same could be said for her. Yet, at her subtle rebuke, the discomfort in his gut intensified. He had no cause for rudeness. ’Twas no more her fault he sat here than Lucan’s. He set the magazine aside and pulled in a deep breath. “I have little to say.”
“I see that.”
As the silence lapsed between them, Farran’s mind wandered to the temple and his fellow knights. Were he with them, he would no doubt be aiding Merrick in teaching Lady Anne the use of a sword. In comparison to spending an afternoon with that particular woman, this one seemed much more benign. The last time he had cause to spar with Anne, he could not walk right for three days, such was the damage her knee did to his groin.
Aye, mayhap he could suffer worse assignments than guarding Noelle. ’Twould be a short reprieve from the duties of his immortal cause. Here he would not confront Azazel’s creatures and would not wonder if the next battle would be his last.
He listened to the sound of running water and laid his head on the back of the couch. Closing his eyes, he sought a moment’s rest. But behind his lowered eyelids, those fawn brown eyes gleamed bright. He snapped upright with a mutter and snatched the magazine back into his lap. Damnation, he did not need this distraction. Nor did he desire it. He belonged with Lucan, protecting the Almighty’s sacred treasure. The sooner he delivered Noelle to the airport, the sooner he could return to usefulness.
Come back next week for more of Chapter 2!