Before I lock myself away in the editing cave today, thought I’d present a sneak peek into Greylyn’s first encounter with Kael. Not all is sweet and romantic…actually their first meeting is rather bloody. But don’t worry, these two have centuries to fight each other and their undeniable chemistry.
London, England 1567
Inside, her heart hammered against her ribcage. Cold sweat broke out on her palms. Peering through the soupy fog across the broken cobblestone street, Greylyn paused to stare at the entrance to the tavern. Women weren’t commonplace in bars, unless as barmaids or they practiced a certain profession. The tight corsets and stiff skirts didn’t work well in circumstances where she needed to fight. She prayed the ruffled shirt, vest, baggy britches, as well as the tight bandages that kept her bosom well-hidden and made breathing near impossible, were enough to disguise her femininity.
She’d spent the last few months learning how to fight, how to utilize her guardian senses, how to cover her tracks, and how to blend into society from her mentor, Jasper Moreau. He’d been an unrelenting task master, but kind after training was completed each day. The grueling physical training had been nothing compared to his endless lectures on everything from metaphysical sciences and world religions to telepathy and mastering the art of disguise. The latter came in handy for tonight’s assignment.
This would be her first test as a guardian angel. The very first time that she, and she alone, was responsible for the success of the job. No partner to bail her out if she messed up. No pressure…then why did she feel the need to vomit from the pinching pain in her stomach?
Jasper had flashed a brilliant smile and pushed her hair back up under her boy’s cap before shoving her out of the carriage a couple blocks down from the tavern. He’d said, “You’ve got this, darling. You’re a natural.” Greylyn was glad someone had confidence in her because she certainly did not.
A tingling feeling spread all over her body from the moment she pushed open the heavy doors of the tiny, dim pub. The heat from too many bodies crammed together so closely and the stench of the smoke emitting from the corner fireplace smacked her in the face immediately. Sweat broke out across her forehead. She itched to wipe her brow, but her hands were shaking too violently. Swallowing the bile rising from her belly, she forced her feet to move forward until the heavy door thudded back against the doorframe.
Five steps into the establishment and every nerve ending ignited like the fireworks Jasper had told her about from his last visit to China. This feeling was very different from what she experienced when coming into contact with the innocent human she was charged with saving. The first time her guardian senses had picked up on Edward, the hairs on the back of her neck rose, her vision momentarily blurred, and there had been a faint tickling in her chest. But this feeling, she couldn’t place. It was more than nerves, too. Something was definitely wrong.
She shoved her way through the throng of patrons to the bar. A sensation of being drawn to something, like a magnet in her belly, fought against her body’s command to move forward. It demanded she stop and turn. Jasper had never warned her about something like this. Was it really just nerves? Greylyn dug her fingernails into her palms.
The invisible pull messed with her connection to the innocent man she was there to help. The ruddy-faced gambler was on the other side of the tavern. His eyes flitted around the room. His time was short and he knew it. The man, Edward, had failed to pay his debt to a notorious card shark. He didn’t owe money, he owed his soul. No matter where he ran, the demonic enforcers would track him down. She had been sent here tonight specifically to save the man from having a harpy gorge on his soul like a meal of fish and chips.
He was her mission. But still her feet refused to cooperate.
What is happening to me?
As her eyes darted around the room, looking for the source of her discomfort, her vision blurred and her pulse quickened. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until…
A dazzling pair of eyes, flecks of gold practically glowing in a sea of burnt umber, stared at her from a corner table. The gentleman’s eyes widened and a slight tremor rippled through his expression. Dark hair with auburn highlights cascaded down past his shoulders, tied back in a sophisticated manner at the base of his neck. Heat crept up her cheeks, but for what reason she couldn’t comprehend. Rooted into place, time stopped and the world around her went hazy until his face transformed into a mischievous grin that sent tantalizing tingles throughout her body.
A loud crash from across the tavern broke Greylyn from her paralysis. She spun around to see her charge bolting out the back door, followed by a group of burly looking men carrying a large potato sack and thick wooden clubs.
“Dammit.” This was exactly what she was meant to stop. Before she could give chase, a tall, muscular form blocked her path. The scent of citrus and sandalwood invaded her senses, which was strange, given the odor of sweat, stale whiskey, and ale that permeated the air.
“Excuse…” She looked up. Big mistake. The same set of hypnotic eyes stared down at her, and a delicious smile curled the corners of a sensual mouth. Her own lips failed to form words.
“May I help you, young lad?” His voice washed over her, deep and somewhat familiar, followed by a throaty chuckle. Paralysis overtook her entire being. Her mind screamed to get away from this man, but her eyes were locked on his, unable to break free.
An abrupt high-pitched cackling of a barmaid burst through her deaf ears. Forcing her feet to move, Greylyn spun around and sprinted out the back entrance of the tavern, desperate to find Edward before the demons captured him. Or worse.
The alley behind the bar was dark and stank of garbage piled in more than a dozen mountains against the weathered stone exterior. Her eyes adjusted almost instantly, but Edward was nowhere in sight. He must’ve gotten away or done a damn good job of hiding, because the demon thugs canvassing the alley cursed and hurled threats to no one in particular. One especially rotund demon-possessed man swung a large wooden slab at piles of refuse lined up against the building while the others slowly stalked along the alleyway. “Here, here, little kitty,” one taunted. “You can’t hide forever, stupid bloke.”
Okay, now what, Greylyn?
Lost the innocent. Now she was stuck in a face-off with a band of demonic ruffians.
Brilliant job, old girl.
She doubted Jasper would praise her efforts so far to save the human. Instead, she was in quite a conundrum. No, her first lone assignment was not going smoothly. Not at all.
Greylyn took a deep breath before moving out of the shadows to stand in the middle of the alley. Yanking the cap off her head that had kept her long ebony locks hidden away, she whistled to get their attention. “Yo, laddies! Lookin’ for a good time?”
They turned in unison, each bearing the same slimy grin as the others. The one in the middle carrying a meat cleaver of all things, stalked towards her. “What we got here? A wee pretty thing, tain’t she?” He cranked his head left and then right, bones popping loudly. “Why ya covering up all ye assets dressing like a lad?” With that, he lunged for her arm.
Greylyn side-stepped, pivoted, and slammed him in the back of the head with her fist. “What d’hell…” were the last words he uttered as she slid in front of him with her dagger drawn, leaving a bright trail of blood along his now near-decapitated neck.
The others paused as the man fell to the ground, his head lolling. Crimson blood gushed onto the cobblestones to mix with the putrid liquid run-off from the piles of refuse. Greylyn stood tall…well, as tall as she could for her barely five foot frame. “Who’s next, boys?”
Look who’s the tough broad now? Me, that’s who.
Spending all day, every day with Jasper, and his sarcastic wit had rubbed off on her. With her confidence reinstated from such a quick first kill, Greylyn ego swelled with pride. However, this probably was not the best time to spout off to a demon gang, even if she was tough.
Tall, splotchy, and already sporting a black eye from another encounter, the man on the left advanced. “Such a lovely lassie,” spit flying out between his blackened and rotting teeth, “t’would be a shame to spoil such a lovely lassie as yourself, but…” he shrugged, “that’d be fun, too.” He barreled towards her with a wicked smile. Whoosh! The air escaped her lungs when he slammed into her, knocking her to the ground. No sooner had she blinked away the stars in her eyes, his tremendous weight lifted off her. Greylyn flinched and screwed her eyes shut, waiting for him to punch or kick her, or outright twist her head off her body.
“What da bloody…” The goon didn’t get to finish his sentence. The next thing she heard was him gasping for breath, then the tremendous thud when he collapsed onto the ground. Blood flowed from his mouth and his neck bent at an awkward angle.
Oh, thank heavens! Jasper had arrived to save her sorry butt.
But when she looked over, the man smashing the other goon’s face into the brick wall until his skull split open was quite obviously not Jasper Moreau, her friend and guardian angel mentor.
It was the man with the predatory tiger eyes she’d encountered inside the tavern. The one that caused her to mess up because the pull to him had been greater than her guardian angel connection to poor, hapless Edward.
Where the hell was Edward anyway?
Lying paralyzed on the ground, Greylyn watched in abject fascination as the handsome man savagely twisted the neck off of the last member of the card shark’s hit squad. From this vantage point, she couldn’t make out his expression, but his movements were smooth and agile, but also brutal. An exquisite and macabre dance.
No more bad guys to fend off, he whipped out a handkerchief from his breast pocket with a flick of his wrist and wiped away the blood and gore splattered on his face and hands. He did it in such a nonchalant manner, as if it was commonplace to violently beat men to death. A chill ran up Greylyn’s spine as he turned to face her.
Do I thank him or run?
In two quick strides, he knelt down beside her. One hand came up to brush a tendril of hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. The angered expression he’d worn just seconds before evaporated. His eyes softened. A small smile tugged at his lips.
A wave of heat originated from his touch, spreading out to her entire body. “Everything’s alright now, Gr…” His voice, smooth yet husky, trailed off but with a slight accent marking him as not English, but from someplace close…someplace familiar.
Glowing topaz eyes widened before morphing to deep crimson. A chill raced through her veins, freezing her in place.
No, not exactly. The hint of sulfur was missing. The way pinpricks of pain flashed out when one touched her skin didn’t happen. Oh, there were pinpricks of something, but definitely not the same sensation. No, he wasn’t a demon, nor was he possessed by one. Of that she was certain, but the realization something was different about this man was enough to jar her back to her senses.
Her fingers coiled tighter around the hilt of her dagger – a weapon bestowed upon her as part of her initiation into the world of guardian angels. An intricate Celtic symbol carved into the handle pressed into the soft skin of her palm. Months of intensive practice, it was now an extension of herself. Its sharp, jagged edges of an almost blue metal were forged specifically to kill demons, to kill anything not intended for this world. Greylyn prayed it also worked on whatever this man was.
He hadn’t moved. Just stared at her with those freaky eyes of blood. She slashed upward with the blade. He jerked away, but not in time. A gash appeared across his cheek and his hand flew up to his face. Greylyn used his momentary surprise to push herself off the ground to run away. Not two steps later, the man grabbed her upper arm, hauling her backwards into his chest with such momentum she felt, as well as heard, the cracking of her spine from the impact. The small bones of her wrist popped painfully under pressure from his much larger hand, forcing her fist to unclasp and the dagger to fall. His other hand snaked around her waist to press firmly into the small of her back.
“Going somewhere so soon?” His voice held a gruff edge to it now, no longer velvety smooth.
Every instinct screamed at her not to, but she defiantly craned her neck to stare up at her captor. Big mistake. He whipped her around to face him. Now pressed against his chest, the thumping of her own heart against her ribcage mixed with sound of his own rose to a deafening level, blocking out all other sounds. His lips curled on one side, highlighting a dimple. Perfectly white teeth glinted in the dim moonlight. Warm breath caressed her face, smelling slightly of bourbon.
“Let. Me. Go,” she ground out from clenched teeth. Her body shivered, but she refused to acknowledge the fear. Although she thought she might not survive her first guardian assignment, Jasper’s mantra that he’d drilled into her head over the last year rang in her ears – Never acknowledge the fear. A guardian does not have the luxury of giving in to fear. Greylyn prayed her eyes reflected resolve and courage, not the terror coursing through her veins. Or whatever else was pulsing through her body.
A full grin broke out on the man’s face. The red flames dancing in his eyes smoldered before returning to their topaz hue that had riveted her in place earlier. His entire face relaxed. “Now, love. Why would I do that? There’s so much we have to discuss before…”
Greylyn stomped down on his foot with all her strength. Considering their significant size difference, she didn’t expect it to work, but it startled her captor enough for him to loosen his grip. She took advantage and wrenched her arm away while her other fist swung up and slammed into his face. Blood gushed from his nose, flowing down to drip off his chiseled chin.
Instead of an angry shout or a return punch, he glared steadily at her with no other outward show of pain or emotion.
“So much for civility then.” The words were spoken so softly through thinned lips that she almost doubted he’d spoken at all until his fist shot out. Excruciating pain blinded her.
The jerk broke my nose!
Strong hands gripped her arms and yanked her with such force her neck snapped as her body sailed across the alleyway. Colliding with the moss-covered stone wall of the tavern, all the air whooshed out of her lungs. A coppery tinge filled her mouth.
Pain and anger boiled up, fueling a surge of adrenaline that brought everything into crystal clear focus. All sound, except for her assailant’s heavy breathing, stopped. She waited.
Why didn’t he attack? Why did he stop?
She raised her head in defiance, blood and muck clinging to the strands of hair covering her face.
I am a guardian angel. No evil shall pass by me.
The words were drilled into her for months by her mentor. He’d made her repeat it verbally every day before lessons and every night before sleep.
This man was obviously evil. Demon or not, evil was evil. She had no choice but to put an end to him.
“Like hitting little girls, do you? Not very gentlemanly.” She clicked her tongue behind her teeth as her arms numbly pushed her into a squatting position. Sizing him up, this time as an opponent, Greylyn saw past the fashionable attire and good looks to the dark soul underneath. A blackness exuded from his aura, so dark it mingled with the night sky. How had she not seen it before?
The man straightened to his full height, hands at his side curled into fists. “You shouldn’t be here, love.” She’d expected an angry retort or another attack, but his voice was soft and shaky.
Her eyes darted around the alley. She needed a weapon, preferably her own. Where had it gone? With the moon fully ensconced behind the clouds it was impossible to see more than his faint outline, even with her superior nighttime vision.
Greylyn rose to stand, her fists clenched at her hips and her back against the broken brick wall. “Well, I am here. Ready to party.” She’d aimed for a daring, but jovial tone. The slight squeak at the end belied her inner fear.
“Looking for a good time, I see. Well then, how about a dance?”
He sprung at her in a blur, but Greylyn dodged just an inch to the left and he slammed into the same wall he’d thrown her against. She pivoted to attack while he was still prone on the ground, but a sudden glint of blue caught her attention. Her dagger! Just a few yards away.
She dove to the right, her outstretched fingers grazed the hilt, but her hesitation cost her. A hand clamped down fully on the handle and wrestled it away from her grasp. He rolled her over roughly, straddled her hips with her arms trapped underneath his knees, and smashed her face with the fist holding her own weapon.
Pain exploded as bones and tendons cracked and blood seemed to spurt from every pore. The assault continued, punch after punch, blow after blow. Greylyn’s world turned crimson just before a blackness edged her vision.
Her first assignment as a guardian angel. Her first failure, and quite possibly, her last.
Death was inevitable. Not even her own supernatural strength could save her from this monster. Despite the agony racing throughout her body, her mind clearly accepted her fate.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil…
Silence fell over the alley. The rain of punches stopped. Greylyn’s eyes opened to peek at her attacker. What she saw chilled her to her soul – the demonic red eyes had smoldered away, back to their original gold-flecked hue. The man’s face transformed from pure rage to sadness as a tear rolled down his face. A tear? “I’m…I…Oh no…” His trembling lips continued to move, but no coherent words formed.
“What in the bloody hell…” An angry roar shocked her out of her stupor. That voice she recognized. Jasper.
Unable to move, she gaped as a tall shadow with piercing eyes of ice jerked her assailant away from her.
“You damn…” He didn’t finish his sentence, just punched the man in the face while holding him by his lapel.
Greylyn gulped in air. She wasn’t dead, not yet. Renewed energy pulsated through her body and gave her strength to push herself up on shaky arms. She stared, turning to look at each man as they circled each other. Both men with deadly intent etched on their faces. In between getting hit, and throwing jabs of his own, the stranger muttered, “Had to be you! It just had to be you!” One final uppercut to Jasper’s jaw, and the guardian angel fell back.
Not sure what to expect now, her mouth opened to scream for him to leave Jasper alone, but no words came out. He turned to her, his face bloodied, but with a sad smile. “Until next time, love.” Seconds later, he vanished down the alleyway.
Suddenly able to move again, Greylyn jumped up and ran over to Jasper. “Who the hell was that?”
“Oh, I’m fine, by the way.” The indignant look he flashed her, she knew Jasper was far from being fine. Physically, yes, he was alright. But his icy-blue eyes spoke volumes of fury she could not understand.
“I’m so sorry…” She checked him for injuries, hands roved over his body. His clothes were spattered with blood. Other than his pride, and a black eye that would fade in an hour or two, he was in perfect shape.
Greylyn knew she looked a mess. Hell, she should be dead. Instead, the blood had already dried and the sizzle of her bones mending underneath her skin comforted her.
I’m not going to die. At least not tonight.
Jasper cupped her chin. “Yes, I know. It’s my fault. It was too soon to send you out on your own like that. I realized my mistake and came to find you, in case you needed assistance.” A nerve twitched in his jaw. “And, I find I was correct. You certainly needed help.”
“Oh, no! Edward? Did he escape? I came out here looking for him, but these guys,” she waved her hand towards the corpses littering the alley, “were after him and…”
“Yes, yes. I get it. You ran into the bad guys and as a bonus, you got a bloody dark guardian your first time on your own.”
“A dark guardian. The exact opposite of us, darling. You are just lucky I came along when I did. That one would’ve carved you up like a porterhouse steak.” He pushed himself off the ground. At his full height of well over six feet tall, he towered above her.
“Does this dark guardian have a name?” She didn’t know why it mattered that she find out his name. Jasper narrowed his eyes at her in obvious disapproval.
“That one in particular is Kael,” Jasper spat. “Truly nasty piece of work. Avoid him at all costs. Hopefully, you will never have to see that creature again.”
He turned towards her and grabbed her by the upper arms, leaning forward so they were nose to nose. An aroma of whiskey and tobacco wafted into her face. “Greylyn, promise me that you will stay away from Kael. If he ever crosses your path, either annihilate him completely with your dagger through his heart and then rip it out of his body while it’s still beating; or run. Just run.”