Dark gathering, p.1
Dark Gathering, page 1
Table of Contents
About the Author
My strength, my love, my world.
“Tha gach uile dhuine air a bhreth saor agus co-ionnan ann an urram 's ann an còirichean. Tha iad air am breth le reusan is le cogais agus mar sin bu chòir dhaibh a bhith beò nam measg fhein ann an spiorad bràthaireil.”
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Brady Hawkins fumbled for the lone cigarette he kept tucked away in his shirt pocket. He placed the flattened stick of tobacco loosely between his lips and, holding the match between his thumb and forefinger, struck hard against the crumbled outcropping. The flame sprang to life and he quickly lit the pungent stick, his fingers shaking. The cigarette end glowed brightly in the darkness as he took a deep draw, blowing thin pale smoke rings into the inky blackness that surrounded him. His mouth twisted into a sardonic and cruel jeer as he allowed the nicotine to work its magic.
With his good arm, he gingerly felt for the gash above his eye, his fingers trying to discern the damage. The cut was deep, but he would live. He flinched as his fingers pressed a little too hard.
He closed his eyes, an involuntary shudder brushing across his body as the events of last evening came rushing back. After MacKinnon’s blade had struck him, his world had gone dark as the ground rushed up to meet him. He stayed there for several minutes before he felt the blast and the wave of heat and flame that nearly engulfed him. He remembered thinking he was going to die without ever having fucked the redheaded beauty that was an aberration of everything he believed. The blast expelled him away from the crumbling outcroppings and burning buildings and into a sheltered, dense patch of brush where one of his men had eventually found him. Ironically, it was the blast that saved his life.
He winced as he recalled how his men had scampered like roaches in a brightly lit room once the fighting broke out. Where had it all gone wrong? he wondered as he ran a hand through his matted hair, blood from his head wound coating his fingers. At least I am alive.
He took another long puff on the cigarette and exhaled the smoke slowly. Of course, he hadn’t quite escaped injury: his head was bleeding profusely and his left arm hung useless at his side.
But MacKinnon and his witch had underestimated him. Again. He laughed hysterically, the sound a raspy, hoarse snigger that turned into a violent cough. He crushed the cigarette out beneath his boot and spat a stream of bloodied tobacco into the slick dirt. Next time he would be ready. He chuckled without mirth and then winced as the pressure in his head grew. He again touched the deep gash over his eye and cursed loudly.
When he saw the Seer again—and he would see her again—he would make her pay for his defeat. And she would pay dearly.
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, the tug of th
“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 agonizing 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 groaned.
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.
“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 easygoing 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 again. 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. But how much are you willing to sacrifice to ensure your side wins?”
“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 int
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 gooseflesh 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.
Duncan removed the stopper from the decanter and poured himself and his father, Gawain MacKinnon, each a dram of the decades-old whiskey. He watched as his father swirled the amber liquid, and then tossed back the contents of the glass. Setting the glass in front of Duncan, Gawain motioned for him to pour another. When his father had downed his second drink, he faced his son.
Duncan sat down in one of the oversized leather chairs opposite his father and watched as the older man ran a wrinkled hand through his thick, gray hair. A handsome man, Gawain MacKinnon was not Duncan’s biological father, nor was he Scottish. The older man had earned the title of Laird when he had first defeated the New World Order nearly 50 years ago. As a Knight in the Templar army, Gawain had dedicated his life to freeing the Dwellers—those forced to live underground to avoid persecution from the Order’s rule. For that, he earned the trust and adoration of not only the Dwellers, but the Templars as well. He quickly rose in power and took over the castle when the rightful heir, Ian MacKinnon, had died protecting his three-year-old nephew, Duncan, from a rogue New World Order soldier. Gawain had taken Duncan under his wing, as well as the other occupants of the castle, and had raised Duncan as his own, ensuring the young lad had a keen appreciation and love for all life. Gawain had eventually brought other children to the castle to foster and adopted a young girl, Fiona, as well. The two were raised as brother and sister—brought up with a clear understanding of what it meant to be Genetic born, yet part of the resistance.
by Karlene Cameron have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes