She stood up and approached numbly, walked into the darkened room.


And even through her fog of shock and grief, she realized immediately that something wasn't right.


"It's not here."


She pivoted, a sudden surge of adrenaline sending her back to Professor Keaton's office at a near run. She made a quick visual search of the room, looking past the disheveled desk and well-worn sofa. Past all the blood.


"It's gone." The police officers and news crew went silent, everyone turning to look at her now. "Something was taken from here last night."


Eva had set off the compound's kitchen smoke alarm again.


The high-pitched beeping brought every warrior in the place running at full tilt to shut the bloody thing off.


Gideon abandoned his morning's work on the microcomputer--his new obsession--and hot-footed it up the serpentine corridor of the underground headquarters to the kitchen installed specifically for Eva and Danika, the only two residents biologically capable of eating anything that came out of it. Even that was questionable, when it was Rio's Breedmate's turn at the stove.


The Spaniard arrived in the kitchen mere seconds before Gideon got there. Rio had silenced the alarm and was pulling Eva into an affectionate embrace, chuckling good-naturedly as she tried to make excuses for what happened.


"I only turned away for a minute to watch something on the news," she protested, waving her hand toward the small television set on the counter as Lucan, Dante and Tegan shook their heads and returned to what they'd been doing. Conlan stayed, going over to put an arm around his mate, Danika, who stood nearby, trying to hide her smile behind her hand.


"Besides," Eva went on, "there was only a little bit of smoke this time. I swear that alarm hates me."


"It's all right, baby," Rio said around rich laughter. "Cooking has never been your best quality. Look at the upside, at least no one got hurt."


"Tell that to their breakfast," Gideon said wryly. He picked up the skillet of charred eggs and sausage from the stove and dumped the mess into the trash.


As he walked past the TV, he was struck by a pair of chocolate-brown doe eyes, fringed with feathery, thick lashes. The young woman was being interviewed outside one of the local universities. Short black curls haloed her face, a lovely, gentle face. Its soft features graced a perfect oval of smooth coffee-and-cream skin that looked like it would be as soft as velvet to the touch.


But the young beauty's mouth was tense, bracketed with stress lines on either side. And now that Gideon was looking closer, he realized tears were welled in those pretty dark eyes.


"Tell me more about the artifact you say appears to be missing," the news reporter pressed, shoving a microphone up toward her face.


"It's a sword," she answered, a voice to match her beautiful face, despite the tremor that made her words shake a bit. "It's a very old sword."


"Right," said the reporter. "And you say you're certain you saw this sword just yesterday in Professor Keaton's classroom?"


"What's this about?" Gideon asked, his gaze riveted to the young woman.


"Someone assaulted a professor at the college last night," Danika explained. "He's been taken to Mass General, critical but stable. The student who was with him was killed. Sounds like they suspect it may have been a robbery gone bad."


Gideon grunted in acknowledgment, wondering what the student being interviewed had to do with the situation.


"The sword was part of a collection of Colonial furnishings and art objects that were donated to the university recently," she told the reporter. "At least, I believe it was part of the collection. Anyway, it's missing now. It's the only thing missing, far as I can tell."


"Uh, huh. And can you describe for our viewers what the sword looks like?"


"It's English. Mid-seventeenth century," she replied with certainty. "It has an eagle or a falcon engraved into the handle."


Gideon froze, his blood running suddenly cold in his veins.


"There's a ruby in the pommel," the young woman went on, "held in place by carved steel talons."


Ah, Christ.


Gideon stood there, wooden, immobilized by the words that sank into his brain.


The weapon this student was describing in such unmistakable detail...he knew it all too well.


He'd held that very sword in his hand, a very long time ago. It vanished the night his twin brothers were murdered, taken, he assumed, by the Rogues who'd slaughtered them with it while Gideon had been away from the Darkhaven. Not there to protect them, as he should've been.


He never thought he'd see the sword again, never wanted to see it. Not after that night.


He never imagined it might end up here, in Boston.


For how long? Who had it belonged to?


More to the point, who would want it badly enough to kill for it?


The need to find answers to those questions lit his veins up with fire. He had to know more.


And as Gideon watched the pretty coed on the television screen, he knew exactly where to start looking.


Chapter 6


"That's the last of today's returns, Mrs. Kennefick." Savannah replaced the checkout card in the back of a popular new horror novel about a social misfit named Carrie. She eyed the book, sympathetic to the fictional high school girl from Maine who possessed some kind of frightening power. She was half-tempted to sign the novel out herself. Maybe she would have, if her day hadn't already been horrific enough.


Her supervisor, old Mrs. Kennefick, had offered to let Savannah take the night off, but the sad fact was, the last thing Savannah wanted to do was spend any more hours than necessary back home at her apartment alone. Her evening shift at the library was a welcome distraction from what happened at the university.


Rachel was dead. God, Savannah could hardly believe it. Her stomach clenched at the thought of her friend and Professor Keaton being attacked by an unknown assailant. Her eyes prickled with welling tears, but she held them back. She couldn't allow herself to cave in to her grief and shock. She'd had to excuse herself from the book return desk twice already tonight, barely making it to the ladies' room before the sobs had torn out of her throat.


If she could get through the remaining forty minutes of her shift without losing it again, it would be a miracle.


"All set then, dear?" Mrs. Kennefick patted her neat gray bun, then smoothed her similarly colored cardigan as she ambled around from her desk in the processing room.


"All set," Savannah said, adding the worn-out copy of Carrie to the wheeled book cart with the rest of the returns she'd handled that evening.


"Very well." The old woman took the cart and began rolling it away before Savannah could stop her. "No sense in you waiting around any longer tonight, dear. I'll go shelve these returns. Will you lock up behind you on your way out?"


"But, Mrs. Kennefick, I really don't mind--"


The woman dismissed her with a little wave and kept going, hunched over the cart, her drab-skirted behind and soft-soled shoes retreating into the quiet labyrinth of the library corridor.


Savannah glanced at the clock on the wall, watching the second hand tick slowly. She looked for something more to do there, knowing it was just an excuse to keep from returning to the reality that awaited her outside the library. She took advantage of the opportunity to organize Mrs. Kennefick's pencil cup and paperclip dispenser, even going so far as to use the edge of her long sleeved turtleneck sweater to sweep away the nonexistent dust from the pristine surface of her supervisor's desk.


Savannah was busy straightening the patron files when she felt the fine hairs at the back of her neck rise with a odd sense of awareness. A warmth prickled over her skin, strange and unsettling.


Someone was in the library's delivery room outside.


Although the adjacent room was silent, she closed the file drawer and walked out to investigate.


Someone was there, all right.


The man stood in the center of the room, facing away from her, dressed in a long black trench coat, black pants and black, heavy-soled boots. A punk, from the look of him. A very large punk.


Geez, the guy had to be six-and-a-half-feet tall and built of solid muscle. Which made it all the more incongruous to find him standing there in silent meditation, his head full of thick, spiky cropped blond hair tipped back on his broad shoulders while he perused the mural of paintings that circled a full 360 degrees around the ornately paneled, medieval-styled room.


Savannah strode toward him, cautious yet intrigued. "The library is about to close soon. Can I help you find something?"


He slowly pivoted around to face her, and, oh, wow....


The punk description might have fit his clothing style, but that's where it ended. He was handsome--devastatingly so. Under the crown of his golden hair, a broad brow and angular cheekbones combined with a square-cut jaw that would have seemed more in place on a movie screen than standing in the middle of the Abbey Room in the Boston Public Library.


"Just looking," he said after a long moment, a tinge of Britain in his deep voice.


And so he was looking, though no longer at the art. His piercing blue eyes met her gaze and held fast, so sharp and cool they seemed to read and process everything about her in an instant.


Savannah's skin felt tighter under his attention, making the soft knit of her ivory-colored turtleneck feel like sandpaper against her throat and breasts. She felt too warm, too noticed, and too aware of the sheer size and masculinity of this stranger before her.


She tried to project an air of calm and professionalism, despite the weird chaos going on with her central nervous system in reaction to this man. Striding up beside him, if only to escape his scrutiny, she glanced up at the series of fifteen original works depicting King Arthur and his Round Table Knights, painted for the library at the turn of the century by the artist Edwin Austin Abbey. "So, which are you more interested in: Abbey's work, or Arthurian legends?"


He followed her gaze up now. "I'm interested in everything. The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled."


Savannah registered the statement, knew she'd heard it in class somewhere before. "Plutarch?" she guessed.


She was rewarded with a sidelong grin from the gorgeous non-punk standing next to her. "A student of philosophy, I take it."


"It's not my strongest subject, but I get by all right in most of my classes."


His smile quirked a bit at that, as if he mentally scored a point in her favor. He had a nice smile. Straight white teeth framed by full, lush lips that made her pulse kick a little. And that English accent was doing funny things to her heart rate too. "Let me guess," he said, studying her in that unnerving way again. "Wellesley? Or maybe Radcliffe?"


She shook her head at the mention of the two prestigious, private women's colleges. "BU. I'm a freshman in the Art History program."


"Art History. An unusual choice. Most of the colleges are turning out high-priced doctors and lawyers these days. Or mathematics whiz kids hoping to be the Einsteins of the future."


Savannah shrugged. "I suppose you could say I'm more comfortable with the past."


Normally, that would be one hundred percent true. But not lately. Not after what she'd seen reflected in the sword's history yesterday. Now, she wished she could go back in time and undo the touch that showed her the horrors inflicted on the pair of young boys from the past. She wished should could deny the other horror she witnessed in the blade's history too--the monsters that simply could not exist, except in the darkest kind of fiction.


She wished she could turn back the clock to the moment Rachel told her about her date with Professor Keaton, so she could warn her not to go.


Right now, after everything that had happened recently, Savannah could find no comfort in the past.


"I'm Gideon, by the way." The deep, rich voice pulled her back to the present, a welcome life line, even offered by a stranger. He held out his hand, but she couldn't muster the courage to take it.


"Savannah," she replied quietly, clasping her bare hands behind her back to resist the temptation to reach out to him, even though her gift didn't work on living things. The idea of touching him was both compelling and unsettling. She felt as if she should know him somehow, perhaps saw him at the library or around the city somewhere, yet she was certain she'd never seen him there before. "People don't generally spend a lot of time in this area of the library. The Bates Reading Room and Sargent Hall are more popular with patrons."


She was rambling, but he didn't seem to notice or care. Those arresting blue eyes watched her, studied her. She could almost sense the machinery of his mind analyzing everything she said and did. Searching for something.


"And what about you, Savannah?"


"Me?"


"Which room is your favorite?"


"Oh." She exhaled a nervous laugh, feeling stupid around him, a feeling she wasn't accustomed to. As if none of her studies or schooling could have ever prepared her for encountering someone like him. It was crazy to think it. Made no logical sense. And yet she felt it. This man--Gideon, she thought, testing the name with her mind--seemed ageless and somehow ancient at the same time. He held himself with a confidence that seemed to say little to nothing could surprise him. "This room is my favorite," she murmured dully. "I've always liked hero stories."


His mouth quirked. "Men who slay dragons? Rescue the princess in the tower?"


Savannah slanted him an arch look. "No, the quest for truth by someone who isn't afraid to pursue it, no matter the cost."


He acknowledged her parry with a slight lift of his chin. "Even if it means risking the Seat Perilous?"

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***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

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