I've been talking about the companion novella to The Curse of the Templars for a while now, and in case you haven't heard, it releases on March 12th! It falls between Immortal Surrender and Immortal Trust (Mar 26). In keeping with the Tuesday Teaser theme, I'm bringing you the first part of chapter one today.
Remember, this is a digital novella. As such, the excerpted material is shorter than would be included for a full length novel.
The Curse of the Templars, Companion Novella
March 12, 2013
Kansas City, Missouri
Iain Donnelly was so preoccupied by the easy way he succumbed to Lady Anne’s determination to stow upon him the title of errand boy that he failed to execute the proper turn on his sheet of directions. He swore beneath his breath as 14th Street rolled by.
It had taken very little persuasion in truth. Merrick’s wife had a gentle but firm way about her that few of the Templar Knights could resist. In no time at all, Iain found himself agreeing to drive to the Salvation Army drop-off point, pick up the heavy leather couch she had purchased, and deliver it to Tane du Breuil’s new center for homeless teens. Tane, the traitor no less. Though in truth, Iain had not been present when Tane damned himself, and he held no opinion on his fellow knight’s status within the Order. Lady Anne had made peace with him, the archangels discussed restoring him to duties, and Merrick . . . well the North American commander of the Knights Templar had never been particularly soft of heart.
Iain glanced at the approaching street sign, intending to circle around the way he had come, only to discover a one-way sign. Damnation! He had turned himself around thoroughly, and the vile streets of Kansas City seemed intent on forbidding his escape. Where, in the name of all things sacred, was this accursed Truman Road? This grid-layout was no better than the narrow, twisty roads of Europe, despite what the Americans claimed.
He turned and headed down the one-way road, hoping the next corner would offer a ready solution. Sabbatical had never been less enjoyable. At least he could take a measure of relief in the fact he did not still sit in the bowels of the temple, attempting to find faith in the purpose he served and make peace with the knowledge he would die.
Iain hit the brakes as a flash of yellow entered his peripheral vision. In the next instant, a bright red Jeep shot into the intersection ahead of him. A horn blared angrily. His own tires squealed in chorus with the yellow convertible’s.
His pickup truck screeched to a halt. In front of him, the convertible sat helpless as the Jeep’s front bumper plowed into its polished chrome grill. The crunch of metal echoed off the brick buildings. Glass shattered as headlights exploded onto the pavement. The convertible spun sideways, pushed along by the momentum of the speeding Jeep. Its passenger door smashed into an ornate, green lamppost. Then everything went still, including the passersby on the street.
Iain’s heart pounded. Had he hesitated a moment longer, he too would be part of the twisted mess of tangled automobiles. Not that he would have known harm, nay, immortality prevented such. But he could be responsible for injury to another. As he had been responsible only a few short months ago.
He stuffed the rising memory down with a grimace and opened his door to investigate whether the colliding drivers suffered injury. He could not pass through the intersection, could not turn around—at least he could make himself useful. Judging from the appearance of the convertible, quite likely the driver needed aid.
Halfway across the street, the yellow car’s driver’s side door creaked open. Relief swept through Iain as a young blond woman stumbled to her feet. He increased his pace to a jog and swiftly crossed to her. “Are you injured, mademoiselle?”
Startled, she turned to look at him, and the prettiest pair of pale blue eyes Iain could ever recall seeing met his. Her shock was evident. Though she was already fair, her skin took on the color of ash. She held on to the crinkled door frame as if she might topple over at any moment, and the nod she gave him came with such hesitance he wondered whether she comprehended his question.
Iain laid his hand over her white-knuckled grip. “Mademoiselle, are you harmed?” he repeated with concern.
Slowly, those blue eyes focused, and awareness registered in her expression. A hesitant, embarrassed smile touched the corners of her mouth. “I-I’m . . . fine.” She cleared her throat, but when she spoke again, the nervous vibration in her voice remained. “I . . . got turned around. I didn’t know it was a one-way—”
“You stupid bitch!”
The furious masculine bellow came from behind Iain. He looked over his shoulder to find the Jeep’s owner storming across the pavement, his face a mask of rage.
“Can’t you see the fucking signs? It’s one way through here! Let me guess, you were texting or something.”
Venom dripped from the man’s voice. He thrust his hand out, grabbing for what, Iain did not know. But the way the woman shrunk away swept Iain back in time. In a flash he remembered terror within another maid’s lovely blue eyes. Fear that lingered despite the smile she had somehow found for him those long centuries ago.
Before he realized what he was doing, he grabbed the man by the shirtfront, whirled him around, and pinned him against the hood of the woman’s demolished car. “Do not think of touching her.”
Strong fingers plied at Iain’s wrists. “Get your hands off me, asshole.”
Iain tightened his grip. “You will take yourself across the street, where you shall wait until the police arrive. Away from the lady. Is this understood, good sir?”
Bushy eyebrows drew together as the man scowled. Beneath two days’ worth of stubble, his lips pursed. A moment of silence strained between them, and then, he offered a short, succinct nod.
Iain released him, backed up a step, and folded his arms across his chest. From the corner of his eye, he noticed the woman stood a bit taller. He kept his attention focused on her assailant, however, watching as the driver of the Jeep crossed the intersection and began to pace on the opposite sidewalk. Iain gave the woman a smile. “You are certain you are not injured?”
She exhaled. “Just a little shaken.” With a shy smile, she extended her hand. “I’m Catherine. Thanks for getting rid of him.”
Iain clasped her smaller hand, captured once more by the uncanny way she resembled a maid he had not considered in centuries. Ella. Saints’ teeth, she too had difficulty holding his gaze. Though Ella had possessed entirely different, far more dangerous reasons for looking at her toes.
Nevertheless, Catherine’s faint blush warmed him. He squeezed her hand affectionately. “And I am Iain. Iain Donnelly.”
Wide, compelling blue eyes lifted once more to his. Their palms touched for a heartbeat too long. Where her soft skin met his, his nerves prickled. Pleasant. Her touch was most pleasant indeed. His pulse skipped several beats.
Catherine’s fingers let go, forcing Iain to do the same. He took a step back, all too aware of her nearness. As a rule, women’s perfumes offended his nose. But something about the faint whiff of fragrance that drifted to his awareness made him want to breathe deeply. He tempered the urge, shifted his weight. For the first time in eons, he could not think of a single word to speak.
The wail of approaching sirens broke the odd, heavy cloud that draped around them. Catherine blinked, as if she were once more drawn from some far away place, then bent inside her open car door. “I guess I better have my insurance ready.”
Though ’twas most improper, Iain could not stop himself from inspecting the slight indentation of her narrow waist. Nor could he keep his gaze from dropping to her backside, no matter how he ordered it to remain locked safely on her shoulders. When he observed the way her faded denim jeans molded against a perfectly shaped bottom, warmth infused his veins.
She backed out of the car, and he quickly averted his stare. Saints’ toes, she was most lovely.
And he had no business entertaining such thoughts. Not when his stay in America would soon end, and he would again return to the calling of the Templar, fighting Azazel’s foul creations until his soul became as black as the things he slayed.
Most certainly not when he had recently failed to protect his own seraph from a horrific end.
“Do you require a ride somewhere?” The question popped free before he consciously became aware of the thought.
The blare of sirens whined to a stop beside the Jeep that remained in the middle of the intersection, forbidding Catherine’s reply. Behind the police car, another rolled to a stop, its light bar flashing, sirens blessedly silenced. Two men filed out from both patrol cars. The pair from the first moved around the parked Jeep, inspecting it as the second pair approached Catherine.
“You all right, ma’am?” one drawled, though his gaze remained sharp and alert.
“I’m fine,” Catherine answered. “The whole mess is my fault. I got lost and turned down the wrong way.”
Iain cocked an eyebrow. So she was honest then as well. Entirely too many years had passed since he witnessed such merit in humankind. But then, until he came to America to escape the hellish nightmares of Europe and his murdered seraph, Bianca, he had little cause to interact with modern mortals.
From across the street, her pudgy bully yelled, “Give that bitch a ticket!”
Once more, Catherine shriveled. Iain bit down a fierce rush of anger. Hundreds of years of warrior instincts rose, and he took a step forward, placing himself between Catherine and the man across the street. Which also placed him between her and the officers, earning him a reproachful, lifted brow.
“He has already attempted to assault her person,” Iain explained. “Mayhap you should speak to him first, so he will leave.”
The shorter officer nodded at his dark-haired partner. “You head on over, Dane. I’ll finish up here. Shouldn’t take long.”
Dane nodded, reached into his front shirt pocket to withdraw a tablet and pen, and strode off across the street. The other turned to Catherine. “Officer Martinez, ma’am. Care to tell me what happened? Let’s start with your name. May I see your license please?”