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Seven Forbidden Arts : Volume One

By: Charmaine Pauls
Published By: Melange Books, LLC
Copyright: Copyright  2015 by Charmaine Pauls
Twenty-six Chapters / 101,000 Words
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At the same time as mysterious fires commence to rage through Clelia d'Ambois' home village in Brittany, France, she starts sleepwalking. Daughter of a Japanese orphan, Clelia's heritage is riddled with dark secrets that threaten anyone she loves. In a recurring nightmare she sees Josselin, the haunted man who abandoned their village nine years earlier, come for her, but she doesn't know why. All she knows is that she has to run. As fast as she can.

What is Clelia supposed to do when the man she secretly loves kidnaps and uses her as bait to catch a dangerous firestarter?

Leader of a paranormal crime taskforce, Josselin de Arradon is called back to his hometown with a mission—find and kill the firestarter responsible for Larmor—Baden's blazing destruction. Sensing that Clelia is the key to solving the crime, Josselin kidnaps her to use her as bait. The battle doesn't turn out quite as he expected. Nothing could have prepared him for the truth, or the depth of his desire for his prisoner.

Clelia suddenly realized that this was her opportunity for escape. She might not get another chance. Glancing in Josselin’s direction, she saw that his eyes and gun were trained on the window to their right. Lann was scanning the garden through the broken window on the left, and Maya’s attention was focused on the door. Slowly, she crawled away from her position next to Josselin. If she could get down the hallway, she could climb through another window at the back.

When she was a few yards away from the corridor, she jumped to her feet and sprinted for the escape route. All she had to do was launch her body and jump, shut the door and lower the bolt. That would give her enough time to get away. Just as she projected her body, she felt a hand on her ankle, breaking her run. She fell forward, a scream escaping her lips because she knew it was going to be a hard landing, but the hold on her foot disappeared and a strong pair of arms grabbed her from behind and steadied her.

She still went down, but not with the jaw-breaking thump she’d expected. It was Josselin’s body that covered hers once more. He dragged her to the far wall, and pushed her body tight against the cold bricks with his. He had his hand in her hair. It was a firm grip, but it didn’t hurt. Pinching her eyes shut, she refused to look into his face.

She could feel his lips brush over the lobe of her ear, his warm breath as he whispered, “Don’t ever run from me. Don’t make me come after you.”

A shiver ran over her body at the menacing undertone she heard in his voice, and then the noise of a helicopter broke through the air.

“Yes, permission to fire,” Josselin said into his mic. There was a short pause. “Fuck. Did you get a visual?” He listened to the reply. “We’re coming out. Wait until we’re mobile and circle around. See if you can pick up the shooter.”

Josselin lifted Clelia in his arms and carried her outside. Lann and Maya flanked them.

“Maya, scan for explosives.”

Maya ran ahead with something she pulled from a big bag on her shoulder. It looked like a handheld metal detector. She flicked a button and did a quick search of the SUV before she nodded at Josselin. He helped Clelia into the vehicle and took the seat next to her, sheltering her under his arm. Lann sat opposite them and Maya took the driver’s seat. They each knew exactly which position to take. They appeared to function like a well-oiled machine.

Josselin addressed the Russian. “Assessment?”

“Like you said. Sharpshooter,” Lann said. His voice was velvety and calm, but he appeared stressed. “We better warn Cain.”

“We didn’t have any fucking intelligence of an attack,” Maya said over her shoulder, starting the engine and taking a dirt trail that led to the village.

“Bono,” Josselin said, “are we clear?”

“Either we were the targets,” Lann said, “or he was after someone else.” He looked pointedly at Clelia.

Josselin’s arm tightened around Clelia’s body. She was shaking uncontrollably. Even her teeth were chattering. She couldn’t decide if she was hot, or cold, or both. She stared at Josselin, frightened, feeling out of control.

“Easy now.” Josselin rubbed her arms. “You’re all right. It’s the shock.”

“Where are we going?” Maya said, glancing at them in the rearview mirror.

“D11.” Josselin wiped a hand over his face. “Bono, take her down in ten. If we don’t have a tail on our killer by then, he’s gotten away. Too many holidaymakers to use infrared. We’ll run the satellite recording later, see if we can nail anyone with a weapon. Maya, brief Cain on our status. He’s coming in by helijet. He needs to know we’re exposed before he crosses French airspace. Lann, set up a safe house before Cain arrives. Maya, we’ll need to shift our ground base to the safe house as soon as Lann has secured a new location.”

“I’m on it,” Lann said.

“The locals are going to go ape shit,” Maya said. “What are we going to tell the press? If this comes out, our operation is compromised. Can we cover it up?”

“I’ll handle the media,” Josselin said. “Can you keep your asses clear until we have a new safe house?”

Maya snorted. “I should kick your ass just for asking that. What about you … and her?”

“I’m taking her someplace secure until it’s safe to move.”

The van suddenly came to a halt where the road split to Carnac. Clelia tried to look out of the darkened windows of the vehicle to get a sense of where they were heading. It wasn’t that she needed to know where she was, she needed to ground herself with something concrete. She was still shaking, and it wasn’t just from her damp clothes. So many things assaulted her mind that she couldn’t think.

It was Maya who spoke. “You know what to do, Joss.”

Clelia got the uneasy impression that Maya was talking about her from the way they all stared at her.

“I’m not pulling a bag over her head,” Josselin said, “not with what just happened.”

“It may be your territory, but your protective behavior of the China doll is questionable, not to mention that she’s going to get us killed,” Maya said.

“Japanese,” he hissed. “Not Chinese. And another word from you and you’re back in the office doing admin. Permanently. Am I clear?” Josselin said.

Maya pursed her lips. “Like crystal.”

“Take this,” Lann said. He held out a hypodermic needle in the palm of his hand.

Clelia was battling to follow the conversation. It was as if her mind wasn’t capable of processing words or deciphering sentences. But when Josselin took the needle and removed his arm from around her body, shifting so that he pinned her into the corner, a cold fear made her body break out in a comprehending sweat.

“No,” she whispered through dry lips, suddenly understanding that whatever was in the needle was meant for her.

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking her arm and pushing the needle into her skin.

The last thing she remembered was the feeling of his thumb brushing over her palm.

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