A Forbidden Temptation

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Highlands of Scotland

Winter 1436

The icy fingers of winter had nature firmly in her grasp.  The cold slammed into Valentinus Romulus’s body as soon as he stepped through the time portal.  As one of the youngest generals in Rome’s great army, he had experienced his fair share of climates.  But this one was frigid.

The Highlands, Aimery had told him.

Val blew out a breath and watched it cloud around him through the light of the full moon.  The bitter temperatures had him gritting his teeth as he gripped his halberd tightly in his hand.

He wasn’t here by chance.  It was the magic of the Fae that had moved him through time to this very spot.  When he was exactly, he had no idea.  But then again, this was part of the work that he loved.

Being a Shield had its advantages.  Val loved the constant danger he was in.  It made him feel alive, and helped to banish the demons he couldn’t shake. 

The Shields were fighting mythological creatures wreaking havoc on Earth in order to reach the Chosen – women who had the power to end the evil controlling the beasts. Which is why Val had been brought here.

He scanned the darkness slowly, noting the eerie quiet that had descended upon the area.  He drew in a deep breath and frowned.

Evil.

Val quickly crouched down in the thick snow.  He was out in the open and the nearest grove of trees was several strides away.  He would have to make a dash for it, but the heavy blanket of snow would slow him down.

Just as he was about to bolt, he heard it.  The steady flap of wings.  Val raised his head and spotted the great beast silhouetted against the dark sky.

“By the gods,” he whispered in awe and unease.  He hesitated only a heartbeat before he stood and ran to the trees.

The small grove offered little protection.  With the shadows hiding him, Val took his time scouting the area.  To his left a castle stood high atop one of the smaller mountains with a village in the valley below.  Massive mountains surrounded the area, making it near impossible to reach the town or castle without being seen from many leagues away.

His gaze searched the skies again, and it didn’t take him long to find the creature.  With no word from Gabriel, the other Shield who was supposed to meet him, Val would have to do this alone.

He missed having Roderick and Elle with him, but with the Great Evil closing in quickly, Roderick had to take Elle and the other Chosen where they could be protected.

Only one more Chosen needed to be found to end the evil.  Only one more woman who bore the mark, and then all this could end.

From the brief conversation Val had with Aimery, the Fae Commander had told him that Cole, another Shield, had not only found his mate, but had also found the third Chosen.  It was cause for celebration, but the reveling would have to wait.  Evil still had a tight hold on Earth.

Val was about to make his way to the village when he heard the crunch of snow, signaling someone was close.  He tensed and gripped his halberd, his weapon of choice, with both hands, ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

He molded his back to a tree and waited.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the shadow against the snow.  He stepped out and aimed the point of his halberd at the throat of the man.

“Who are you?” he demanded

A soft chuckle, devoid of humor, reached him.  Val tried to peer into the hood of the cloaked form but saw only shadows.  The man did not smell of evil, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t evil.

“And here I thought I might receive a warm welcome,” the man said and swept aside the hood of his cloak.  “Especially since I’m freezing my balls off.”

Val instantly lowered his weapon as he recognized Gabriel.  He shook his head and clasped Gabriel’s forearm with a welcoming grin.  “I was beginning to wonder where you were.”

“I’ve been scouting the area,” Gabriel replied.  “I knew Aimery would have you arrive outside the village.”

“Did you see the creature?” Val asked.

Gabriel’s silver eyes met his.  “I did.  I was on my way to the village when you stopped me.”

“Then let’s go,” Val said. 

Without another word the two men started toward the village. Hunting was the second thing they did well.  The first was battle, and they were eager to end the beast.

They had gone only a few steps when they heard the shrill scream.

Val exchanged a look with Gabriel before lengthening his strides to race down the mountain, Gabriel on his heels.  They saw the flames of the fires lightening the sky before they reached the village.

“The creature will be after the Chosen one,” Gabriel yelled over the cries of the villagers.

Val nodded grimly.  “Let’s hope we find her in time.”

Neither spoke as they reached the village and took in the devastation.  Chaos reigned as people ran about, their shrieks echoing in the night.  Some held the wounded.  Some held the dead.

Yet not all the village had been touched.

“He left us a trail,” Val said and pointed to the line of destruction.

Gabriel smiled.  “Let’s not keep him waiting.”