Okay, so I couldn't resist sharing... Eeeh! I LOVETH This book! So much has happened since the last time I posted something from this one, as you'll be able to see as you read it, but I'm having so much fun working on this with my co-author (who is a freakin speed demon when it comes to typing!) Yes, I've actually found someone who writes faster than me.
I hope you enjoy!
PS: Here's the premise if you're just tuning in--
Eternity takes place in the pre-existence and is about a female General for God, who's trying to survive in a world full of men during the battle of Satan, and the soldier under her command who'd do anything to prove his worth to her.
AJ Cole & Jenni James©copyright2010
The rustle of movement and a snapping twig shattered me out of my pleasant train of thought and back into hyper awareness. Somebody else was out here, possibly following me. Whoever it was could evidently move almost as quietly as myself, the rustle could feasibly have been a breeze among the dry leaves; but the wind doesn’t snap twigs that litter the floor.
I gave no outward indication that I had heard the other person’s progress, well trained now in how to deal with all manner of situations and types of attack. But my thoughts moved into territory that dealt with how to incapacitate another person with the minimum of fuss.
Finally decided, I slowed down enough that the hushed sounds of the stranger got closer to me, allowing them to catch up and luring them into my trap. When the noises were telling my ears that my would be assailant was almost near enough to strike, I simulated a fall and disappeared from view down in the undergrowth, using all of my speed and grace to move rapidly around in an arc so that I would emerge behind them.
As they came into view I saw that they had their head covered with some kind of blanket or shawl, and that they’re scanning the scenery for evidence of where I fell. With their attention suitably distracted I sprung from my new position and raised my arm ready to strike. It is at that moment that the figure moved faster than I had thought possible and I somehow ended up on my back with only the scantest grip on my senses and a blade at my throat.
“Laurelia?” I manage to gasp, recognizing her now.
My breath came out in a great heave. I nearly collapsed from the weight of needless worry that lifted from my shoulders. “What are you doing out here? Are you trying to frighten me to death?”
“You mean it’s possible to scare you?” He laughed below me, as I removed my sword and held my hand out to help him get up.
“Of course it’s possible! Of all the—you nearly got yourself killed. You can’t sneak up on someone like that.” I gave him a quizzical look as he hauled himself to his feet and then sheathed my sword. “Were you following me?”
His eyebrows rose. “Was I following you? I thought you were following me.”
I laughed, shaking my head and turned away. “You wish,” I called behind me as I started back on the path again.
Petrarchus was quick to catch up. “Do you often walk alone?”
I glanced up to my right, my eyes flickering over his handsome profile. “As often as I can. You?”
He shrugged and grinned, taking a glimpse in my direction. “More than I should, but not enough obviously, if I’ve never ran into you before.”
Laughing again, I nudged him with my shoulder. “Are you trying to flirt with me? Or are you just practicing your skills on someone you know is safe, until you can use them on the choir angels?”
He chuckled in response and smirked, his confident eyebrows raised. “Well… there are a few choir angels who wouldn’t mind my attention.” His dark eyes twinkled into mine. “And you are here, and easy to practice with, so—”
“Hey!” I protested and gently pushed him off the path. “I’ll have you know, there are plenty of men around this place who seem to think I’m more than just practice.” I scowled. “Of course they’re seriously annoying, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re there.”
“Oh-ho! Are you trying to make me jealous, General?”
“What?” Jealous? My mouth gaped open. “No.” As if I could make Petrarchus jealous.
“You’re not? Are you sure?” he teased, as he stepped back onto the path with me.
I rolled my eyes, ignoring the increasing heartbeats within my chest and swung at a vine bough that had overgrown into the trail above me. “Yeah, who would I make you jealous with, anyway? As if you could be threatened by any other man in court, or within my circle—the idea is laughable.” I tried to laugh again, but my chuckle got lodged somewhere in my throat when I felt Petrarchus catch my hand.
He’d stopped and slowly pulled me toward to him. “What are you trying to say, Laurelia?” he asked, his hooded eyes, locked with my wide ones. “I’m being perfectly serious in my question, not flirting, not bantering, or repartee in any shape or form. Just what do you mean when you tell me you don’t believe there is any man you know who would threaten me?”
“I—” I didn’t know what to say. What did I mean? I hadn’t even thought about my comment long enough to even consider the hindrance in saying such a thing out loud.
I had to distract him until I had a moment to myself to really evaluate what I was revealing. “While I was in the Council briefings, following the attack last night—a problem was brought to their attention.”
“Is this somehow related to the question I’ve just asked you?”
I ignored him and plowed on, “Anyway, they were concerned I had been personally targeted by Satan’s followers. They’re worried it may happen again. So, after a unanimous vote all of Council agreed I needed to keep a Guard with me, within my quarters.”
I blushed at Petrarchus’s swift intake of breath.
“In-in a separate room, of course,” I quickly interjected. “But they feel we are at a time when even surrounded by Heaven’s gates we aren’t safe. There’s also talk of overthrowing Satan and banishing him from this world forever.” I looked down at our locked hands. “But until then, I told Council I would ask if you’d be willing to be the Guard who watches over me—as I really don’t feel comfortable with anyone else.” I looked up into his glittering eyes and realized I’d be devastated if he told me no.
“Well, that will definitely complicate matters, don’t you think?” he asked his gaze gentling over my features. “I’m not sure I could handle being in such close proximity with you.”
My heart fell. “You’re not?” Oh. I forced a laugh. “Well, never mind then—it was a silly idea, anyway. I’ll just tell them, I—well, I’ll tell something. Something like, I don’t need a Guard, or something. I mean, because I don’t really—I don’t. I’m perfectly fine on my own, I always have been until now, so—”
“Laurelia,” he brought his hand up and silenced my words as he brushed aside a few stray wisps of hair. “I would be happy to guard you personally—there is nowhere else I’d rather be than with you.” He smiled ruefully. “Even if you don’t need me.”
I need you more than you realize. That thought alone came at such a surprise and stunned me so much I was speechless.
Petrarchus must’ve misunderstood my silence, because he continued, “I meant, it would complicated matters to be with you—not that I wasn’t willing to do so. Just being near you a great deal of time, and throughout the night, may possibly kill me.”
Composing myself, I grinned at his confession. “Kill you?” Raising my eyebrow, I challenged, “Really? I think you’ll survive.”
He placed his other hand on my neck, neatly capturing my jaw within his hold—dark eyes locked with mine as he brought his mouth just centimeters from my lips. His warmth breath sent a flurry of tingles as spoke, “Are you saying you won’t even be the slightest bit tempted?”
“Tempted to do what?” I smirked, curious to see just how far he dared take this conversation. Maybe he’s braver than I thought.
I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sensation of his lips lightly skimming over mine—not as a kiss, but as a sparkling, fluttery consciousness. “Tempted to kiss me again, of course.” His mouth, a feather’s wisp of contact, continued to tease me into a heightened awareness of his charismatic presence, until the reality of his words sunk in.
Tempted to kiss him. Again? The audacity! I gasped and went to pull away, but Petrarchus was quicker than I as his arms dropped lower to hold me in place.
“Admit it.” He chuckled at my affronted expression. “Admit that you’ll be tempted every single night I’m with you to taste my lips. Admit that your last thoughts before drifting off to sleep will be of me, just feet away from you in another room. Admit that your whole world will be knocked off kilter just from having me so near you, constantly.”
I could’ve cheerfully smacked the smugness from his features, instead I leaned in closer, allowing my hand to silently remove my sword from its sheath, and focused intensely on his full lips near mine. “The only thing I will admit, my dear Petrarchus—” I pointed the tip of the blade just an inch below his left ear. “—is that if you ever tried anything to make these egotistical fantasies of yours come to life, you will find yourself in just the exact predicament you are in now.”
Petrarchus, lowered his brows a moment, contemplating my arch look, I’m sure—before he turned his head slightly to the left where his sensitive skin met the tip of my blade. “Ahh,” realization dawned and his eyes sparkled to life. A grin worthy of the Cheshire cat made its way across his face. “You mean I can look forward to these games every night? Done.” He laughed. “I would be very jealous indeed if you offered such amusement to any other man I know—so I gladly accept your offer and look forward to working with you.”
He kissed me rather impertinently then, and would most likely regret his atrocious behavior, but I can’t say it wasn’t fully anticipated or enjoyable.