The story so far…..
This is Kaleo and Sarah’s story. They met in Tainted Fortune (Book #7) but Kaleo’s twin sister ran away with that book. This is where Kaleo gets his chance to shine…
I’m making this first chapter of Ancient Deception, Book # 9 in the Of Gold & Blood series, available to you in its unedited and un-proofed state. No one’s eyes but mine have seen it till this point. If you notice glaring errors please forgive.This is Draft 2…..
My Draft 3 version involves going through the whole thing with Pro-Writing Aid, a marvellous piece of checking soft ware which helps fix lots of grammatical and punctuation errors… so bear with me.
The Story so Far…
In Tainted Fortune, Book #7. Kaleo meets Sarah and forms an instant connection. That’s as far as it goes. Events over take him – including the death of his “god-father’ – and the discovery (spoiler alert here for those who haven’t read Book 7 yet) of a father he did not realise he had…
The story picks up again with this natural aristocrat called to do what he does best – protect those he cares for. When it comes to protecting Sarah he discovers he’s taken on far more than he bargained for.
So here it is.. the Prologue and Chapter 1 for Ancient Deception
The nightmare came out of nowhere. The thrashing water, scarlet and stinking. It filled his nose, his mouth. He was struggling, coughing, salty water choking him. He could taste it, that bloody smell like when the men were gutting fish. Then the screams. Cutting into him, a fisherman’s knife in the stomach. His hands flew to cover his ears to shut out the noise, but it went on and on. His eyes were staring, stinging from the waves.
Then a hairy arm, tough as a jungle vine, looped around his waist and scooped him out of the ocean.
He was on the rope swing, over the forest pool, free falling to the embracing arms of cool water. Except this time there was no enfolding wetness. He flopped like a jellyfish, stomach down, onto the hard board.
Over the surfboard’s edge, he could see it, a dark shape, hovering deep down. The screams stopped, replaced by raspy noises that sounds a bit like crying, rumbling from a man’s throat.
Bully? Surely, Bully wasn’t crying? He scrunched his eyes closed at the sound. He didn’t want open them.
When he did, the water was still red. A man’s body was draped over Kanaloa’s board, his leg gone. Just like his father. And he knew he’d never feel safe again.
The candlelight glowed. The silverware sparkled. Their hostess, ‘Countess’ Elizabeth Westerhoven presided over the well-set table, while the stately portrait of her husband, the late William Westerhoven, US envoy to France, gazed down from the wall over her right shoulder.
In death, he displayed the same measured air of assurance as his widow did in life as she who turned to Kaleo, seated on her left.
“I do apologize for Senator de Vile’s absence tonight, Mr Manolo. I appreciate it will have been a disappointment to you.”
Her expression was gentle, but her dark brown eyes were probing, searching his.
The recently re-elected Senator had planned to be at this January 6 Epiphany dinner–12 days after Christmas – hosted in his honor in Elizabeth Westerhoven’s Nob Hill mansion.
The second-term Senator had sent word urgent government business had delayed him, but he’d done so too late to call it off. The wealthy widow and benefactor to San Francisco’s poor had gamely continued with the evening, despite the absence of the guest of honor.
“It’s quite alright, Mrs Westerhoven. You don’t need to apologize.”
The words left a bitter tang in his mouth. Hector de Vile, California Senator to Washington, was six months ago revealed as the father Kaleo Manolo never knew he was missing.
But now he knew he had a living father, not one who’d died when he’d been too young to notice as he’d always believed, he had a thirst inside him that grew more debilitating with every day. Deep inside, he wanted to know what it was like to have a father, and he was sick of waiting.
Had this man he hadn’t known existed less than a year ago left any stamp on Kaleo’s person; on his temperament, despite them never having met until six months ago? Did they laugh at the same things? Share a dislike for chili?
Perhaps the Senator willing to accept a role, however belatedly, in his life? Mentor him in business? Advise him on the choice of a wife – when he came to it. He wasn’t ready yet. But when he was?
His eyes travelled down the table to Sarah Wyndham, four chairs away, chewing her roast pork, her sharp intelligent gaze set on the guests sitting opposite her; Will Davenport, his immediate superior at Pike Consulting, and Alex de Vile, de Vile’s son and his new half-brother. Alex was adopted, so he wasn’t sure the relationship meant much.
Sarah wasn’t talking, responding instead with subtle non-verbal cues which left them in no doubt she was taking in every word. A slight hunch of a shoulder. “Who knows?” A brief smile.“You’re right there.” The crinkling of a brow.“Do you think so?”
When she was unguarded, the fleeting mobility of her expressions spoke volumes.
When he’d first met her last July, they had an instant rapport. He was certain of it, though now, looking back, he wondered if he’d badly misread the situation. They talked with more ease than any woman he’d ever known, and he wasn’t lacking for women who’d shown a blatant interest over the years. The problem was none of them had raised a flicker of interest in him. Sarah was different.
He turned his attention back to his hostess with a barely suppressed sigh to find her alert kindly eyes still regarding him. He’d been wrong. Like a brief false spring, Sarah’s spontaneous pleasure at their chats had hardened after the first couple of months into stiff politeness.
When they met over their work at Pike Consulting now her shoulders set in a rigid line, and her soulful hazel eyes roamed from the paperwork to an invisible spot over his left shoulder, rarely making contact.
It made it damned difficult to work together in the busy import export office where she was a quiet but capable manager and he a factor man for raw materials imports like the sugar from his family’s Hawaiian estates.
“Sarah’s a highly intelligent young woman, isn’t she?” Elizabeth Westerhoven said. She arched one sculpted brow, speaking of all the things she hadn’t voiced. Kaleo’s insides clenched. Was she hinting that Sarah was way out of his league? Or was she making it plain she’d noticed he couldn’t keep his eyes off the young woman’s slender face, the exuberant red blond locks that sprang out from the hair band at her brow when she was buried deep in her mathematical calculations.
“She is,” Kaleo readily agreed. “Very clever.” He glanced back down to where she sat, laughing at some remark of Alex’s. Returned his gaze to the Countess. “She’s a deft touch in business, too. The company has taken flight since she joined us.”
Elizabeth gave him a warm, approving smile. Reached out her hand and covered the top of his hand that was closest to her. Gave it the lightest of a reassuring squeeze. “Be patient, Mr Manolo. I have every confidence your constancy will be rewarded.” She removed her hand and hesitated, as if considering whether to add to her remarks, then pulled back her elbows from the table in a negative.
She glanced at the attendant hovering beside the sideboard on the nearby wall.
“Please serve the Galette des Rois, Mr Bayreuther.”
The portly grey haired butler bowed and gestured to a pretty server to present the dessert.
“We might not have the Senator’s presence, but we can still have King’s Cake for Epiphany,” she said to the table, which had fallen silent.
“Frangipane tart to mark the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem.”
She gave Sarah a smile laced with motherly tenderness.
“We’ve got a charm, a ‘fève,’ hidden inside. Whoever finds it will be Queen for the night.”
Kaleo suspected she’d already arranged for Sarah to be served the ‘charmed’ dish.
An icy wind nipped at their cheeks as they huddled in the shelter of Elizabeth Westerhoven’s porch, making their last farewells reluctant to break away from the convivial warmth generated over dinner to venture home alone.
For him meant taking a bracing walk across town to the house he and his sister Leilani had inherited from their unofficial godparents.
Cyrus and Misty May had died tragically in a murder-suicide six months ago, and they’d left them their Folsom Street house, an attractive Queen Anne-style villa with an expansive porch that had been the Hawaiian Consul’s office and the childless couple’s home.
Leilani was on a ship coming back from Honolulu, so he had the place to himself. Mostly, he didn’t mind. But tonight, going home to an empty house left him feeling hollow feeling inside.
He wrapped his arms around his midriff and stamped his feet to keep warm. He intended to see Sarah onto her coach and then walk it out.
Light cast from a street lamp directly outside the house picked up a fine sheen of transparent ice. Black ice, the nearly invisible thin film that formed on street and sidewalks on frigid nights. It was a dangerous night for travelling anywhere, and he’d be wise to remember it.
Sarah was giving Will and then Alex a sisterly hug before turning to make her way towards a hack that had just rumbled up. Kaleo fell into step beside her.
“Sarah! Let me escort you home. It’s not a good night to be out alone.”
She turned in surprise. “I’m not alone. Will’s coming with me.”
The slight, willowy figure of the office manager slipped in beside him.
“I’ve got it Kaleo. You don’t need to worry.”
Kaleo halted, his heart pumping, fighting to keep his expression neutral.
“Oh sure, Will. So long as someone has taken care of it.”
He gave his boss a cordial farewell tap on the shoulder and turned to leave.
“But thank you, Kaleo. I do appreciate the offer.” Sarah’s voice was thin and reedy. Her warm breath was creating plumes of light mist.
He paused mid-step and dipped his head.
“I don’t think O’Farrell Street is safe for you, you know that. It’s too close to the Tenderloin.”
She smiled at him. “It’s fine Kaleo. I never took you for a worrier.”
“It’s just common sense. I don’t know why you insist on hiding in the shadows like you do.”
The short vertical lines between Sarah’s brows deepened.
“I’m fine.” She sounded exasperated.
Will took her elbow. “I’ll see her to her door, Kaleo. Don’t worry.”
“Sure thing.” Kaleo stepped back to indicate he was disengaging and hesitated, hovering on the kerb in a No-man’s-land as Will guided Sarah to the hack awaiting them. He glanced back to the house.
Alex was chatting quietly to Elizabeth in the entryway. The warm glow from inside spilled out onto the street from the lead-light windows, silhouetting them on the broad front steps.
Elizabeth huddled into a fur cape over her dark red dress, the smoky quartz gray of the sable seeming to wrap her in welcoming warmth. Dancing red flares from the dining room fire momentarily lit up their faces. They were smiling at one another, and Elizabeth touched Alex’s arm with her gloved hand in a gesture of affection.
Kaleo’s insides swamped with frosty isolation. There’d be no one to greet him, no welcoming fire in the hearth when he got home.
He rotated on his heel, eyes tracking back to Will and Sarah’s retreating figures.
They reached the hack. Will was handing Sarah up into the cab ahead of him.
She disappeared inside, gold-red hair momentarily flashing in the streetlight, before Will stepped in behind her.
That was when a dark figure came around the side of the vehicle, arm raised. The same beam that had caught Sarah’s hair highlighted a heavy set, tall figure, hat pulled low over his eyes, in a black coat with the collar turned up, masking his face.
A faceless goon wielding a lethal-looking cosh above Will’s head. In seconds, it smashed down on the back of his head with skull-splitting force. Will’s sharp cry was short, strangulated, as he fell to the hard street.
Kaleo was already sprinting toward him as the attacker jumped into the cab behind Sarah and the vehicle pulled away.