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Authors: Claire Ashgrove

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Gothic, #Paranormal

Immortal Surrender (7 page)

BOOK: Immortal Surrender
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Interesting indeed.
New
theology even. If there was a modicum of truth in this, it would turn the zealots upside down. Everyone would be screaming for the angels to return. Especially in this politically charged world.

Noelle dipped her head, encouraging Farran to continue.

“You are a descendent of that power, damsel. The living breath of the Nephilim. The torc recognizes you. ’Twill use whatever means necessary to ensure you assume your place.”

Aha! He had slipped. Time to turn his words back on him and watch him squirm. Her mouth curved with a smirk. “But you said it recognizes you.”

Without missing a beat, Farran agreed, “Aye. It does. I am…” He paused, looking to the ceiling. Noelle resisted the urge to call his bluff right there, and leaned back on her hands as he furrowed his brow in search of what to say next.

The deep frown returned to his handsome features, and he cast his gaze to his lap. “Nine centuries ago, I joined a small gathering of men in the Holy Land. You would know them as the Knights Templar. I have spent centuries fighting Azazel’s evil creations and protecting man from his unholy desires. Our power weakens with each evil life we take. The seraphs…” His eyes gleamed with soft light as he lifted them to hers. “You … are the strength we need. I am your mate. We shall take vows. You shall gain my immortality, and I shall gain the light that lives in your soul.”

Noelle couldn’t help herself—she burst out laughing until tears gathered in her eyes. Wiping them away, she expired into chuckles. “Oh God, Farran, that’s a good one. I’ve heard some doozies, but that’s great. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t laugh. I don’t mean to spoil your joke. But that’s just amazing.”

In the blink of an eye, his serene expression morphed into a dark scowl. “You do not believe me.”

“No,” she answered on a chortle. “Did you really expect me to? I’m sure someone else would—you’ve put so much feeling into the tale. But I’m a scientist. I don’t even believe in God.” To soften his disappointment, she reached between them and patted his hand. “You did good though. Better than some of the things Gabriel has told me.”

He abruptly pulled his hand away. “Everything Gabriel has ever told you is true, damsel. He is an archangel. Whilst he may behave most strange, he is God’s messenger and cannot lie.”

Gabriel an archangel. Oh man, the two of them were in this together. When she saw him next, she’d buy him a drink for this. She grinned at Farran and shook her head. “You two are something else. I swear, I should have known. He tries to do this to me all the time.”

“Woman,” Farran barked. “’Tis no jest! You are branded as mine.” He grabbed the hem of his shirt and yanked it over his head. “Look for yourself.”

Noelle gaped at the vision that sat before her. Smooth bronzed muscle lacked any trace of hair and bulged even as he sat still. The chest she remembered so vividly was nothing less than a wall of corrugated stone. Thick forearms led to even thicker biceps, arms so strong she felt three times smaller than normal. He could crush a man—or so her imagination said.

Her appreciative stare dropped to his belly and stopped on her gasp. Scored into his taut abdomen, a white scar ran from his ribs down beneath the waistband of his jeans. A good three inches wide, and easily three times as long, the scarred flesh assumed the distinct shape of a ring-hilted dagger. Someone had heated metal and pressed it to his skin.

“My word,” she whispered.

Drawn to the horror of the mark, she leaned in and traced a fingertip down the length of the hilt. The pain he must have felt—her heart twisted hard. “What happened to you?” She glanced up at his face.

Eyes closed, he sat utterly still. “’Twas meant to gain my confession.”

Noelle winced. Looking back at the ugly scar she couldn’t take her hand off of, her chest tightened. What sort of person could do that to a man? His stomach bunched beneath her fingertips, mystifying her even more. As deep as the wound had been, he was lucky he could feel anything at all. Whoever had done this was sick. Sick, sick. “Were you in the war?” she asked quietly.

“Aye,” he exhaled.

“Oh, Farran, I’m so sorry.” And she was—sorrier than she’d ever been for anyone. All the stories she’d heard about beheaded captives, tortured soldiers, and political screw-ups amounted to nothing when faced with the stark truth of what he’d been through. He’d suffered. Through some miracle, he’d survived a wound that would have killed a lesser man.

On sheer impulse, she leaned in and pressed a kiss to the ringed pommel.

As she leaned back, Farran’s palm cupped her chin. He lifted her face, locked his eyes with hers. The light that always burned so bright within those ale-brown depths now glowed a rich golden color that reached down into her and touched some unnamable part of her soul. Her heart skipped a beat, then launched into erratic rhythm. She drew in a short breath, and Farran’s lips touched hers.

She’d been kissed a handful of times before, but nothing like this. Compared to the sloppy, inexperienced searchings she knew, no hesitation came with the caress of Farran’s mouth. He slid his hand from her chin to her hair and settled in, knowing what he wanted and exactly how to take it. Velvety warmth nudged her lips apart, and Noelle yielded with a surprised gasp. The tip of his tongue coaxed hers to join its seductive dance. As the quivering in her belly turned into liquid heat, she all too willingly complied.

Sensation burst through her veins as his woodsy-orange scent soaked into her. So clean, so tempting, so completely masculine. The softness of his mouth, so unlike the hardness of his body, had the effect of wine on her thoughts. It made her dizzy, yet she couldn’t get enough. She braced a hand on his shoulder to steady the rapid swirl of her head and eagerly tangled her tongue with his.

A husky murmur rumbled in the back of Farran’s throat. His fingers tightened against her scalp, and he tipped her head back. Where he wanted it, where he could explore more thoroughly. As his mouth took on more pressure, demanding something she didn’t fully comprehend, the heat pooled in her belly fanned into her blood. Her skin felt tight. Restlessness possessed her body.

The feel of Farran’s palm against her breast soothed the need to move. Those strong fingers lifted and squeezed. Firm, but like every other time he’d touched her, filled with an underlying tenderness. So unlike the fumbling attempts of her one, almost lover right after college, he knew how to touch a woman. Knew it well. And the unrelenting caress stirred that aching need to move to intolerable limits. When his thumb grazed across her swollen nipple, Noelle shuddered. Her womb contracted. The heat in her blood spread uncomfortably between her legs.

Then everything changed. Farran abruptly drew away, his kiss terminating with his raspy gasp. He stood. Ramrod straight, his back faced her. He stared at the wall as he spoke. “We are fated. You will come with me.”

It took a minute for his words to reach her brain. When they did, she laughed. That again. If he wanted to date her, this was a bit ridiculous. All he needed to do was ask. “I have to get home, Farran.”

As if he hadn’t heard her, he pulled on his shirt. “I apologize for my trespass, damsel. ’Twill not occur again whilst you reside in the temple. Though we are fated, you shall have freedom to the pleasures you wish, and I shall take mine elsewhere.”

Her features scrunched together as she tried to process his meaning. The temple, reside … “What?”

He gave her an incredulous look. “Do not be daft. You may have the men you wish. I prefer whores. You shall have no demands from me in that respect. But damsel, you
will
come with me. We both must answer duty.”

Shock rocketed through her. She stared, speechless. He was still clinging to that ridiculous tale? Was he nuts? He had to be. Whatever had happened to him as a captive had affected his brain. Made him think he was stuck in a different time. “Don’t be absurd, Farran. I’m not going anywhere but home.”

His glower silenced her protests. He took four purposeful strides and opened her door. “Ready yourself to travel. Whether you wish it or not, you are mine. Lord knows I do not want you, but the choice is not mine.”

The door clanged shut with an angry shudder. Stunned, Noelle sat in the middle of the bed. As the understanding she’d just been kidnapped slowly filtered into her consciousness, she made a mad lunge for her purse. She hauled it onto the bed and dumped out the meager contents. Lipstick, tampons, car keys, canister … but no cell phone. She’d left it on her nightstand, plugged in. Despair crashed into her.

She hurled the empty bag across the room with a frustrated scream. This wasn’t happening. She hadn’t been run off the road and taken to some house she didn’t know. Gabriel’s guard hadn’t turned out to be some psychotic veteran who’d decided to take her prisoner. And she hadn’t just been kissed senseless, only to have the stark reminder of her innocence thrown into her face. He preferred whores. Then what the hell did he want her for when she evidently couldn’t get a single kiss right?

She dismissed the displaced thought and gnawed on a short fingernail. She’d been kidnapped. Now wasn’t the time to lament her inadequacies with men. She had to find a way out of here. And if Farran’s twisted convictions started with this damn torc, she’d begin by getting rid of it.

She tugged her arm out of sweatshirt and pushed on the brass adornment.

To her complete horror, it refused to move.

Swallowing another frustrated howl, Noelle grabbed her glasses off the nightstand and raced to the window.

 

CHAPTER 6

Farran braced his hands on the kitchen countertop and dragged in deep lungfuls of air. Squeezing his eyes shut, he willed the trembling in his body to subside. God’s teeth, that wench provoked something deep inside him. A feeling so buried in his darkened soul he thought he had snuffed the life out of it centuries ago. ’Twas not just desire the brush of her lips stirred, but a sensation far more damning. The gentle sweep of her mouth against his scar carried compassion. Tenderness he had once believed in. Tenderness he learned ’twas naught more than deception.

Noelle knew men. And like the black-hearted Brighid he had sworn his life to, Noelle knew well how to manipulate him. ’Twas evident in the readiness of her mouth, the willingness of her body. If he had not come to his senses, he would now have her splayed beneath him, and she would have wrenched his vow of loyalty free.

He would give her the oath to bind them, but he would never pledge himself to her. No matter how comely she was, no matter how she might attempt to coerce him, he would resist. Once had nearly destroyed him. The loss of his wife, his son, his kinsmen’s respect … He would never make that mistake again.

“Sir Farran?”

Louise’s voice intruded on his thoughts. He pulled in another haggard breath and lifted his head. “Aye?”

She crossed to the large window that overlooked the backside of her expansive lawn. Leaning a hip against the counter, she cocked her head and looked up toward the overhanging gables. “How are your climbing skills?”

His brows furrowed into a tight line. He did not have time to retrieve her cat. With two days between Louise’s adytum and the temple in Missouri, he must get to the halfway point whilst he still possessed the energy to travel. Still, after all she had done for Noelle, he owed Louise the courtesy of his aid. “Why do you ask?”

“I’m afraid you have a little problem.”

The hairs on the back of his neck lifted in alarm. Noelle. He knew it before Louise ever answered. Grinding his teeth together, he strode to the window. “Where is she?”

Louise pointed a bony finger toward the white eave. “There. On the trellis outside her window. I noticed her when I was in my room and the bottom half of the trellis broke free. It dropped past my window. She can only go up.”

A low growl rumbled in his throat. He detested heights. Few things could make his stomach churn, but to look down from anything more than a horse had a worse effect than any severed limb or foul demon’s breath. His stomach knotted at the very thought.

“There is no other way down?”

“Oh, there is.” Louise nodded. “An iron ladder on the south side of the house. But if she’s sneaking out windows, good luck convincing her to come to you.”

“Then I shall wait. Unannounced.” He grabbed his coat off the chair. Another look outside told him Noelle would have to come down sometime soon. She wore only her sweatshirt. “Lock her window, Louise.”

A knowing smile tugged at the caretaker’s mouth, and she left the room humming a soft tune.

Farran did not share her good humor. Muttering, he stalked out the front door and made his way through the snow to the south side of the house. He eyed the rusty iron ladder to ensure he did not doom Noelle to a fall. Strong bolts, void of any trace of rust, held it firmly in place against a newly mortared brick wall. It climbed the two stories, fit neatly against the white eave, and rounded onto the roof between a pair of tarnished copper gargoyle heads. Satisfied the ladder would hold, Farran folded his arms over his chest and prepared to wait.

*   *   *

Noelle kicked off the brick exterior and grabbed the next thin trellis slat above her head. Silently, she cursed her luck. If she hadn’t tried to climb down at full speed, she’d have noticed the weak board. Now, with her window too far below to drop onto the sill, she squinted through the sunlight and willed her body to cooperate. Her left side burned. Her shoulder screamed against the effort of holding on. And the wind whipped through her, making stronger muscles weak.

She grabbed at her courage and climbed higher. Another foot, at most two, and she could rest. Then, she’d find another way down. The lack of shouts within the house told her Farran hadn’t realized she’d escaped. She still had time. Not much, but enough to get to the ground and down the road to the house at the bottom of the hill.

With a grunt, she climbed up the last of the trellis. She swung her leg, hooked her heel on the eave. Finding finger holds in the sturdy boards, she tuned out the protests in her left side and hauled herself onto the roof. For several minutes, she did nothing but lie on the shingles and pant. Two years of regularly attending the gym was nothing compared to that kind of workout. Scaling the side of a building made forty minutes with weights seem like child’s play. Never mind that in the gym she didn’t have to worry about falling and breaking her neck.

BOOK: Immortal Surrender
13.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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