Scotland, November 2, 2212
“If I didn’t learn to use a gun in my century, what makes you think I’m going to learn to use one in yours?” Caitriona Sinclair quipped at the hulk of a man who stood before her. She exhaled, blowing an errant red-brown curl from her eyes and watching as her breath reflected the cold November day. Her deep, emerald green eyes met his hard grey ones without backing down. After all, she knew he would win in the end. He always did. As if reading her mind, he placed two fingers under her elbow and pushed her arm up so that it was parallel to the ground.
“Again,” he growled.
Caitriona sighed and cocked her head to the right, holding her breath to steady her hands. In all the many ways she had imagined her life, she never thought she would be staring down the sights of a next-gen gun, preparing to defend herself against 23rd century enemies. Only a few months ago she had been a successful marketing executive at one of the largest advertising agencies on the West Coast. But, Commander Duncan MacKinnon, leader of the 23rd century Templars, had other plans for her. His century’s scientists had discovered a genetic link to magic that had prompted him to travel to 21st century Earth to bring her—and her gift of sight—into his centuries old war. Of Jesus’ Merovingian bloodline, she knew her gift was powerful and essential in helping the vastly outnumbered Templars shake off the shackles of oppression and win the freedom of those they sought so valiantly to protect. Although she was trying hard to fit into this new world, their very ideals and ideology were vastly foreign and confusing to her.
“Yer not concentrating, lass,” Duncan admonished her as he wrapped his gloved hands over hers and leveled the red laser on her target. She squeezed the trigger softly, the tug of the weapon pulling her hand sharply to the right as the particle laser fire was released in a short blast of pure destruction. Fifty yards in front of her, a rock exploded in a burst of rubble that sent a shower of shrapnel into the air. The target Duncan had set up earlier remained upright, mocking her wretched attempts. Caitriona sighed again and lowered the weapon.
“I’m just not any good at this,” she said petulantly, wincing as she saw the storm brewing beneath the surface of his hardened features. She knew Duncan was concerned about her safety, given her most recent vision that the leader of the New World Order, Brady Hawkins, still lived. Only a few months earlier, the maniacal leader had kidnapped her, tortured, and nearly raped her. Had it not been for Duncan’s steely determination to get her back, she would likely have died at the hands of the notorious monster. A battle—born of that insidious night—had brought Hawkins to his knees with a deadly knife to his temple. Or so they all thought. Caitriona’s latest vision said otherwise.
“Steady,” he growled, pressing the chamber button that charged the weapon. He gently wrapped her hand around the next-gen gun, the contact between them instantly igniting, even through the sheepskin warmth of their gloves. She felt the familiar electrical current that sparked to life whenever the warrior was near. It was almost painful to stand so close to him. And she didn’t miss the way his body reacted to their contact, either. But, if the energy that surrounded them affected him emotionally, he didn’t give any indication. And, if she was being honest, the energy and connection they shared hadn’t been nearly as powerful since she’d bonded with her handler, Nicolas LaFelle. But at least it’s back, she thought wryly, remembering how despondent she had been for weeks after the bonding ceremony when she’d first noticed the connection between her and Duncan had disappeared.
“Duncan, we’ve been at this for several hours already,” she said, trying for diplomacy. “I’m exhausted and I’m hungry. Can’t we stop for the day? I promise I will be more focused tomorrow.”
“Nay,” he growled, closing her fingers around the weapon and removing his hand so that she was forced to feel the weight and bulk of the weapon in her small hand. She wondered if he was trying to reduce the contact between them. It was almost painful—in an unsated way—the way their bodies craved each other.
She sighed knowing it was useless to argue with him. He was driven in his single-minded pursuit of Brady Hawkins, and his dedication to his mission: to give all men and women the right to live their lives free of persecution and tyranny. For two centuries, the New World Order engineered natural disasters and committed genocide to reduce the planet’s population to what the Order conceded was a manageable size. Using the church to persecute and control the masses, they created a two-tier society of genetic superiors and those who served them. Freedom fighters eventually emerged to lead a rebellion against genetic perfection. But this wasn’t Caitriona’s battle. And this wasn’t her fight. She had been brought here—against her will—to play a role in a war that she neither understood, nor could control. And Duncan was hell bent on making sure she upheld her end of his plan.
Caitriona once again raised the weapon to her eye, using her right hand to help steady her left. Duncan slipped behind her, his hand once again covering hers. At his touch, a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth as she felt the familiar charge between them. The energy fairly crackled off Caitriona’s body until the un-satiated need hurt. She sighed. Everything about him was unbearable and yet the only relief she ever knew was through him.
“Concentrate,” he whispered, his breath teasing the soft hairs on her neck.
“You’re making that quite impossible,” she said huskily.
Chuckling, Duncan stepped away from her, watching as she sighted her target and pulled the trigger. This time, her target neatly disintegrated from the accuracy and force of the blast, sending debris and smoke settling in its place.
Caitriona squealed in delight and turned to find Duncan staring at her, a huge grin splayed across his face.
“Well done,” he said, pulling her into his arms and kissing the top of her head through her stocking hat. She set the weapon on the preparation table and leaned into him, relishing the feel of his hard muscles beneath her hands. They stayed like that for several minutes, neither saying anything to the other. He didn’t have to. Caitriona knew how he felt about her, but his loyalties were with his people and his mission.
“I want ye tae be happy here, Leannan,” he said, breaking the silence. She nuzzled against him, smiling as he used the Celtic term for lover when addressing her. “I ken this isna what ye wanted. Goddess, it’s nae even what I wanted,” he murmured, his grey eyes locking once again with her emerald green ones. She knew he was referring to the fact that to save her life, she’d had to bond emotionally with another man, an empath who could absorb the unused energy she harnessed after she received a vision. It was also a bond that could not be severed, except through death.
“That’s what I’m afraid of Duncan. I’m afraid that with you I can be truly happy but at what price?” She traced the hardness of his muscles through his buckskin shirt that was tied loosely at his neck. He preferred the casual, hunting clothes over the military outfits he was forced to wear as befitting his station.
Duncan continued to hold her against him, the back of his knuckles brushing her cheek.
“I’m not even sure I should be this happy,” she continued. “Or that I always will be,” she murmured. “With us everything is so complicated.” The unspoken words rested between them.
While Caitriona had never shared a physical intimacy with her handler, Nicolas LaFelle, her feelings for him were complicated by the emotional bond they shared. She genuinely cared for Nicolas and often felt conflicted about her destiny with the handsome young empath who, on more than one occasion, had openly professed his love for her. To complicate matters, he had saved her life, channeling her unused energies so that she could perform her allotted role as Seer in the Templars’ struggle against the Order’s autocracy. Without him, the energy would have consumed and killed her. She owed him her life.
Duncan nuzzled Caitriona, effectively breaking her melancholy thoughts. She stared into his smoky grey eyes and saw her reflection mirrored in them. She watched as he ran a hand through the thick black hair that fell seductively over his shoulders, the soft curls mocking his attempts to keep them at bay. At 6’7” he was imposing to most men. His arms and legs were thick with defined muscle while a Celtic knot tattoo circled his upper left arm. The effect was intoxicating in an animalistic way.
Pushing aside thoughts of Duncan, she let her mind stray to Nicolas. With him, happiness was effortless. He was easy-going and carefree, his attitude on life infectious. He was day to Duncan’s night—both physically and emotionally—and he loved her, unconditionally. With Duncan…she sighed heavily. Love was complicated.
“One side has tae win, Caitriona,” Duncan said, interrupting her thoughts. “Either the Templars or the New World Order, but both canna exist together. Not here. Not in this world.”
“I know that I’m a symbol for you in this war; that you need for this to turn out right. But how much are you willing to sacrifice to ensure that happens?”
“Ye ken the answer to that, Leannan. As I also ken that ye willna let everything we’ve worked so hard tae achieve, be destroyed.”
She eyed him curiously, raising one perfectly shaped brow. She knew Duncan struggled not to give in to his passion. And now with her bond to Nicolas, and his oath to protect and free his people, she knew it was highly unlikely they would ever be together. Sure, they had shared a few steamy interludes, and they were connected in a way she had never felt with any other man, but the obstacles seemed insurmountable. Love, it seems, cannot always conquer all, she thought wryly. He nudged her shoulder and tucked an errant strand of hair under her stocking hat.
“I just don’t know where I stand with you,” she said, aware that he was waiting for her reply. “I suppose I never will.”
Duncan brushed the back of his fingers across Caitriona’s cheek. She sighed and leaned into his touch. As always, his touch elicited feelings in her that she couldn’t explain. While she couldn’t deny the physical attraction, the connection she felt—that she knew they both felt—went far deeper than a mere school-girl crush. She was connected to him in a way that she still didn’t fully understand herself. At first, she had hated him for bringing her to this time and his war, but the animosity she felt for him soon faded as she learned more about his world and the people he so valiantly sought to protect. Because of this, she also knew he would continue to use her as a pawn in his political game; a means to the end of a bloody and violent war.
He pulled her to him and kissed the top of her head again before tilting her face to his. His lips brushed hers causing butterflies to surface again and again. Her breath hitched as his touch once again brought goose flesh to her skin.
“I just want this war to be over,” she whispered against his ear. She decided that deflection was a much safer path.
Duncan stepped back from her and searched her eyes, a closed expression settling across his dark features. “Those in power dinna give it up so easily, Leannan. They never have and they never will.”
She sighed and snuggled back into his arms, not wanting to argue with him. She still didn’t know where she fit in his world, but she did know that she fit in his arms. And for now, perhaps that was enough.
Dark Gathering is available in paperback and digital format. To get notified when Dark Storm, the last book in the Dark World trilogy will be released, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Or, follow me on Twitter or Facebook.
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