(Circle of Ghadan #2)
by Kimberly Cummons
The sequel to Paranormal Romance Guild’s 2016 Reviewer’s Choice Nominee “Forever Love”
“At least I’m not sick, just halfway to immortality, but now it seems like halfway may be as far as I get.”
Although rescued from her kidnappers, Sidney Sheppard isn’t safe. She’ll soon be immortal, but there’s a catch. A vial containing the immortality drug was removed from where she was held and the clock is ticking to replace it. Bastien St. Clair has been tasked to translate Thales’ notes and synthesize Sidney’s last dose. If he fails, the woman he loves dies.
To complicate matters, the others kidnapped with Sidney are also in the process of becoming immortal. If three scared and confused women with out-of-control paranormal abilities isn’t enough of a distraction, add in Bastien’s thirteen-year-old daughter who can start fires with her mind and his growing love for Sidney. Bastien has just six days to translate nearly unreadable journals and synthesize the proper drug. All this while falling deeper in love with the woman he’s wanted for years.
Sidney never wanted to be immortal. If given a choice, she would have politely declined the offer. But she wasn’t given a choice and the longer she’s around Bastien, the more she wants to live forever with him. However, if Bastien doesn’t succeed, that won’t happen. It’s a good thing, then, that she has all the confidence in the world in his abilities. Too bad he doesn’t.
Crouched behind the barracks of an abandoned military base outside Miami, Bastien St. Clair watched the man enter the building across from his position.
At a little past midnight, the clouds obscuring the waning moon provided all the cover he required. Too bad the evening didn’t include cooler temperatures. It was still too damn hot and humid. Removing the night-vision goggles, he wiped sweat from his forehead, and shoved his damp hair back before storing the goggles in the small pack slung over his shoulders. Except for the crickets and occasional vehicle on the highway nearby, no sound broke the almost tangible silence.
Behind him, his bodyguard, Caiden Drake, checked his phone for the tenth time, the glow from the dimmed screen unusually bright. Despite their growing need for action, they’d remain where they were until Micah, head of Circle Security, gave the word.
Micah Windwalker and the five men he brought along had already swept the area, finding only the main building occupied. If Thales, Bastien’s father, hadn’t lied in the email he’d sent that morning, there were four women being held in there.
Bastien clenched his fist, resisting the urge to smash it into the rusted-out corrugated metal beside him. If Thales was correct, one of those women was Sidney Sheppard.
Dammit. Beautiful, vivacious, life-loving Sidney should not be in there.
Bastien and Caiden had traveled to Sidney’s apartment the moment Micah alerted him she’d been taken, but all they’d discovered was her cat, Zephyr. Frustrated, Bastien returned home with her pet along with most of Sidney’s belongings and moved them into one of the guest rooms.
Over the following three days, Circle Security and Bastien had contacted anyone who might have knowledge of her whereabouts, but they’d remained in the dark until Thales’ email appeared that morning. Now all he wanted was to get her out of there and home with him and her cat.
Micah approached, crouched next to them and spoke softly. “From what we can see, it appears there are five men. According to Thales, they’re holding four women. I doubt they need any more security.”
Bastien nodded. “I just saw a man go in, did you count him?”
“He’s the fifth.”
“Are we movin’ now, lad, or do we need to wait for something?” Caiden asked, his Scottish burr stronger than usual.
Micah shook his head. “No, we’re good. My men are in place, we just have to join them. They discovered a broken window at the back of the building. Looks like our best way in.”
Bastien stood, stretching out the kinks in his legs, happy as hell to get moving. He wanted Sidney out of there, preferably before anyone got a needle in her. He didn’t hold out much hope for that, however, since Thales assured him the change was why the women had been abducted. According to the timetable used on Cassandra more than a year before, Sidney should be halfway through the transformation from mortal to immortal.
The formula better be in there, as well, or they’d be in deep shit. No, he wouldn’t think of that now. They would deal with that problem later if they needed to.
Caiden’s hand landed on his shoulder, holding him back. “We’ll find her, Bastien, never doubt that, but don’t go rushin’ in there and getting yourself killed. That won’t do either of you any good and the Circle would rip me a new one.”
Despite his worry, Bastien smiled at his friend. “Thank you, mon ami, I will not do anything stupid.” At least not intentionally.
“Aye, lad, see that ye don’t.”
Moving silently in the still night, they joined Micah’s men. Bastien swallowed hard. He refused to contemplate any outcome except Sidney’s safe removal from this building. Tonight.
She frustrated him, irritated him and drove his libido crazy, but he’d missed her ever since she’d moved out. He should have been more insistent on her staying with him. She was too damn independent. But with her father incarcerated and no further Daughters harmed after Cassandra, there’d been no reason to stop her from returning to her condo. He’d chosen to believe Thales’ promise that he had the formula under control.
Besides, at twenty-six Sidney was still too young to be changed. Or that’d been their belief until he’d received Thales’ email revealing his most recent research proved a Daughter could be changed at any age. Damn, that was going to cause a shit-storm once it was made known. For millennia the Aeterni race had consisted solely of first-born sons. Then sixteen months ago a drug created by Thales had made a female Aeterni.
They reached the back of the building without incident. As Micah’s men entered first, Bastien shook his head. His father never had the damn formula under his control, and once again he was forced to admit it’d been stolen. When Sidney was safely ensconced in his home, he would find a way to contact his father and insist he give the formula to the Circle of Ghadan for protection since he was incapable of keeping it safe.
Micah touched Bastien’s arm and indicated he was to go next. He nodded and climbed through the window. As soon as his feet landed on the floor, he pulled out his Browning 9mm and held it firmly in his left hand. Grabbing the flashlight out of his backpack, he held it in his right hand without turning it on.
Caiden stood beside him gripping a gun, his sword strapped against his back. Everyone knew there would be Aeterni present and beheading was the only way to ensure death. If they had no other choice, they’d kill any Aeterni they located, but capture was preferable because they needed answers. Besides, death would only be lawful if the kidnappers were declared Mortuus and so far they hadn’t been.
The room was dimly lit by battery-operated camp lights placed on scattered tables abandoned when the base was closed. Disturbed insects of all sizes darted about in the dim light. Dust and the musty smell of the building made Bastien’s nose itch and he pinched it, aborting a sneeze. The closed-up room was a good ten degrees hotter than outside. His black long sleeved t-shirt clung to him as sweat ran down his spine and his feet were too damn hot in the heavy boots.
He shoved hair from his forehead with the back of his hand, wiping sweat away before it ran in his eyes. It’d been a while since he’d been on this type of mission as he’d spent most of the last hundred years secluded in his home with his books. No matter how long it’d been, he was ready and knew precisely what he had to do. First up was ignoring the heat and any other discomfort caused by weather or environment. That included the buzzing mosquitoes abandoning the lamps in favor of fresh blood.
The man Bastien had seen entering the building earlier was sitting on the floor, propped against the back wall, his arms and legs tightly secured. A gag made sure he couldn’t warn his companions.
One of Micah’s men stood by an open door, indicating a stairway down. Micah nodded, motioning the man to go. Without a sound, they filed down the steps. To Bastien’s surprise, no one was on duty at the foot of the stairs. Micah’s brows snapped together and he signaled for them to spread out.
The hallway split left and right at the bottom of the stairway. Bastien and Caiden turned to the right, easing down the hall. Humidity and external heat collided with the cool concrete and caused moisture to run down the peeling, institution-gray walls, staining the floor dark. Cold air chilled his sweat-coated skin and caused Bastien to shiver. The smell of mildew and rat droppings overpowered him. He heard a sound to his left and pointed his gun and flashlight as a rat scurried past, disappearing into the shadows in front of him. Merde, he wanted Sidney out of this hole now.
“Lovely accommodations our friends have given the lassies.” Caiden’s whisper carried the same disgust Bastien felt.
Sporadically placed bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling illuminating the area directly beneath, leaving the walls in shadow. Bastien carefully opened doors as Caiden stood ready at his back. Sweeping the rooms with his flashlight, the beam revealed nothing but random pieces of discarded furniture.
Another rat darted down the hall, hugging the wall, and disappeared into the darkness behind Bastien. On second thought, please do not let Sidney be down here. Don’t let any young lady be down here.
When he reached for the next door, Bastien cautiously pushed it open. The smell hit him before his flashlight illuminated the decapitated man lying in a pool of blood. It had to be one of the kidnappers based on his dark clothing and mask covering his head.
Caiden entered behind him. “What the hell?”
Bastien couldn’t agree more. Watching his friend remove the mask and search the body, he pushed the button on his Bluetooth mic and whispered, “Micah, we have company and he is killing who I believe are the kidnappers.”
“Shit, yeah, I just stumbled across one and there’s no doubt whoever’s doing it knows about Aeterni. Take care, Bastien, this makes the situation doubly bad.”
Caiden stood, wiping his hands on his jeans. “Nothing, the man’s clean and I dinna recognize him. Do you?”
Bastien shook his head as they left the room slowly closing the door and continued down the hallway. With more caution than before, he opened first one door then the next, but they didn’t run into any more men, dead or alive.
A beep sounded in his ear followed by Micah saying, “Bastien, we’ve found the cells, but only two women so far. They’ve been drugged and are out for the long haul. When we touched them, they didn’t flinch, let alone wake.”
“Where are you? What about the other three men guarding the women?” Bastien fought to keep his voice low and even.
Micah sighed before answering. “We found them dead, heads cut off.”
So they’d been right, the kidnappers were all Aeterni and they weren’t the only ones aware of it. Since they were beheaded, Bastien hoped they were dealing with another immortal, because if a mortal knew enough about them to know how to kill them, it could mean bigger problems for the Aeterni.
His thoughts were interrupted when Micah continued, “According to the blueprints I downloaded, go to the end of the hall you’re in, you’ll meet up with us. Be careful, we still don’t know what the unknown’s intentions are.”
“On our way.” Bastien picked up his pace, gun ready, searching every shadow with his flashlight for any trace of movement. Behind him he heard the slide of steel as Caiden pulled his claymore from its sheath. Bastien couldn’t blame him. At that point, he wished he’d brought his sword along as well. As Second Drakōn, it was his job to hunt rogue Aeterni.
He shoved open the door at the end of the hall and was immediately blinded by the bright glare of ceiling lights. The door closed behind him and one of Micah’s men called, “I’ve got a blonde in here.”
“Sidney,” Bastien breathed. Cursing, he picked up his pace and Micah stepped aside to let him pass. He entered the cell just as Micah’s man neared the cot where she lay face down. His heart lurched. Dieu, she was such a whirlwind of irritation and seeing her lying like the dead caused his breathing to stutter.
The man reached for her but Bastien said, “I have her, go see if you can help them locate whoever killed the guards.”
Turning to face him, the man nodded and left to join Micah.
Crossing the room, Bastien carefully turned her over and stopped short. The woman with dark-blond hair wasn’t Sidney. He swallowed his disappointment. Someone must have located her by now.
Bastien scooped the girl up, agreeing she was heavily drugged as her head flopped to the side. He braced her against his shoulder and exited the cell to find Micah waiting at the end of the hallway.
The Native American’s face fell when he saw the woman in Bastien’s arms.
“Non, this is not Sidney.”
“Damn, including this young lady, we’ve located three. Sidney’s not here, but I found a recently occupied cell. I’m hoping our mystery man’s a friend. Regardless, we’ll start searching for them both once we get these women to safety.”
BOOK 1 of the Circle of Ghadan also available!
BUY LINK FOR BOTH BOOKS
Link to my book page for purchase sites http://tinyurl.com/jqu473e
Kimberly Cummons wrote her first Gothic romance novel while still in high school. Believing there were more profitable ways to earn a living, she turned away from her first love and earned a Bachelors’ Degree in Business Education. Over the years, she’s worked at a number of interesting small businesses. Her favorite job will always be the local historical society where she met her own personal hero. Never forgetting her love of writing, Kimberly continued to write romances in different genres, but paranormal, fantasy and suspense have proven to be her favorites.
Kimberly, her husband and their cat live in Michigan.