Kellan Largant and Bastet are drawn into an ancient battle while learning to love each other.
Kellan Largent is a grad student at Harvard. His thesis is on ancient Egyptian religious cults. While immersed in his research, he comes across an obscure reference to the Earth Warrior cult. Little does he know that one sentence in a dusty tattered book will engulf him in a battle between good and evil. A battle that could be the end of the world as he knows it.
The stray cat wandering the streets around Kellan's house is more than an abandoned feline. Bastet has roamed the earth from the days when Egypt was young. He's watched the pharaohs rise and fall. New gods come and go. His purpose has remained the same: Protect the earth at all costs and keep the secrets of the Earth Warriors from regular mortals. He's sent to keep Kellan Largent from finding out the truth about the cult, but also to keep the unsuspecting college student alive.
One man will do anything for the spell that created the Warriors. He wants immortality and killing Kellan for the secret is just the beginning of the trouble he'll cause to get what he wants.
Bastet stood, shoulders back and eyes peering coldly at the priest. "What have you done to me, Priest?"
"He didn't do it, warrior. I did."
The chilly voice echoed through the sanctuary, causing the priest to drop to his knees and press his forehead to the floor. Bastet wasn't the type of man to bow before anyone.
"Who are you?" He glanced around.
A shape danced in the flames of the altar and his mouth dropped open as the Goddess Bast appeared before him. His knees buckled and he knelt, paying homage to one of the gods.
"You kneel now, but seconds ago, you defied all thought of bowing before anyone."
"I did not know who spoke, my lady. I am your most humble servant."
Her laugh skated down his spine like the coolest water. "There is not a humble bone in your body, my warrior, but that is good. I do not need a servant. I need someone who will fight for me and this planet we live on."
"My lady?" He tilted his head slightly so he could look at her.
"You will join the other warriors my brothers and sisters have chosen. Together you will protect this earth from destruction." The goddess strolled from one end of the altar to the other, her movements smooth and elegant.
"I will do whatever you ask of me, my lady." He would because one didn't make a promise to a goddess lightly.
"You will do it for as long as this world needs you. Your life is now tied to the life of the earth." She whirled to stare at him. "One more thing, you must never tell anyone about your mission or your brothers. The powers I have given you will keep you hidden from non-believers."
Before he could ask any more questions, the goddess disappeared and the priest muttered a prayer. Bastet stood, grabbed the priest by the collar, and snarled at him.
"What did she mean by powers?"
Staring out over the New York City skyline from his penthouse, Sterling's blood soared. Soon all of this would be his. All his long lifetime of searching would be over and he could claim his rightful place as God among the weak men surrounding him.
He rested his hand on the cool glass, ignoring the age spots and wrinkles that spoke of the only opponent he'd never be able to defeat. Time marched ever onward, taking with it his strength, but not his intelligence or ruthless pursuit of eternal life.
Reflections of the people behind him moved across the window. Sterling ignored them as he always did. They were unimportant except for how he could use them to become stronger, and richer. One day he would destroy them all for the pathetic hangers-on that they were.
It was only a matter of time before someone discovered where the Warriors had hidden the spell. When that happened, he would be there to take it and create a new world order with him as its ruler.
* * * *
The flickering lights warned Kellan the library was going to close in five minutes. He tucked away his papers and returned the reference books to the librarian. Pausing at the top of the stairs, he zipped up his jacket and flipped up his collar before taking the steps two at a time.
Brisk autumn air whispered around his ears and teased his dark curls. Kellan shivered. He should have grabbed his thicker jacket when he left the apartment earlier that day, but the shining sun had fooled him into thinking they had a few more days of Indian summer left. Leaves danced around his feet as he strolled to the bus stop.
Twilight danced along the edges of the campus square, lending darkness to corners and alcoves. He shivered again, knowing it was his imagination making him think someone watched him from one of those hidden recesses.
Checking his watch, Kellan saw that he had a few minutes before the bus arrived. He sat on the bench and tugged out his journal. So much information crammed into his brain. He needed to organize it or he'd end up forgetting it. Some facts weren't worth the paper they were written on, but others would help him with his thesis.
His hand shook slightly. While researching ancient Egyptian religions, he'd found reference to an obscure cult named The Earth Warriors. None of the other books he looked at mentioned the cult, but every instinct Kellan had screamed that he needed to find out more about it. He would do some looking online to see if anyone had ever heard of them.
Kellan jumped when a low voice spoke above him. Peeking through dark curls, he almost swallowed his tongue at the sight of the man standing in front of him.
The stranger towered over him and it wasn't just because Kellan was sitting. Long dark hair brushed the man's broad shoulders and those black eyes gave the man a mysterious air.
"H-Hello?" Kellan cringed inside at the stutter.
"Is anyone sitting next to you?" The man gestured to the open area beside Kellan on the bench.
He inhaled deeply. No point in being nervous. The man wasn't interested in him. The only reason he spoke to Kellan was to be polite.
"May I sit?"
Kellan nodded. "Go ahead."
He grabbed his backpack off the bench, setting it on the ground between his feet. The man sat, leaned back, and crossed his legs. Kellan scribbled some dates down, but his handwriting was shaky and he knew he wasn't able to ignore the man sitting next to him.
A gentle breeze smelling like Christmas drifted past him and he relaxed. True night slipped through the campus. Kellan tucked his journal away and wrapped his arms around his waist.
"Do you go to college here?"
The man's voice startled him. He'd almost forgotten he was there.
"Yes, I'm a graduate student." His fingers found a hole in his jeans and he plucked at it, unable to bring himself to meet the man's gaze.
"You must be smart. I was never able to continue my education." A hint of disappointment colored the man's words.
Kellan blushed, but shook his head. "I don't know about being smart, but I like to learn. Can you read?"
"Then you can always continue your learning. The library is open to everyone, even if you don't have a card to check books out." He pointed back in the direction of the Harvard library.
"True. What are you studying here?"
Was the man really interested, or was he just making small talk? Kellan gave a mental shrug. It didn't matter. Talking to the man would help Kellan gain confidence to talk to other people. His shyness often lead to him hiding in corners at parties or the bars, being ignored while more outgoing guys got picked up. Before this semester started, he'd made a vow that he'd try to be more open to new experiences and he couldn't get much more new than having a gorgeous stranger talk to him at the bus stop.
"I'm getting a doctorate in ancient religions." Kellan kept his answer short. He was an introvert at heart, but get him talking about his passion and he turned into a chatterbox.
The man stiffened slightly, but before he could ask another question, the bus turned the corner, brakes squealing.
"Here's the bus." He stood and scooped up his backpack.
The dark man shot to his feet. "I forgot something. I'll have to catch the next bus."
Kellan blinked in surprise. "Okay. Well, it was nice talking to you."
He started climbing on the bus and he swore he heard the man say, "We'll meet again soon, Kellan."
When he reached his seat, he glanced out the window. No one stood at the bus stop. Kellan looked in both directions, but there wasn't a person in sight. Weird. The man must have left in a hurry. Kellan settled in his seat, ready for the twenty minute ride to his apartment.
Stepping off the bus, Kellan glanced up just as the street lamp at the corner sputtered out, plunging him into darkness. He hunched over and hurried toward the older townhouse a block from the stop. He rented the top floor from the Bosleys, a great older couple who were always inviting him down for dinner and Monday Night Football. Mrs. B didn't think he ate enough, so she'd run upstairs with plates of cookies or pies she'd just baked. He never complained since he didn't have any family of his own.
Kellan's parents died when he was eight, dooming him to live the rest of his childhood in foster homes. Some were good. Others sucked, but he endured it until he turned eighteen and graduated with a full-ride scholarship to Boston College, then he moved on to Harvard for his doctoral work.
A car horn honked and he jumped. Silly, but he'd never out grown being afraid of the dark. In his subconscious, he accepted that bad things happened in the dark. Hell, he'd seen some bad shit while living in the foster system, yet he survived and that was the important part. No point dwelling on the past. He only did that when he was alone in his bedroom, watching the shadows crawl across his floor.
Faint footsteps caught his attention, seeming to be coming from behind him. He sped up and the sound kept pace with him. Was it someone thinking to rob him? Boy would they be shocked. He was a poor college student. Nothing more expensive than an iPod in his backpack, though his books had cost him a small fortune.
Rustling filled the air like pant legs rubbing together. Someone was following him. Not having the steadiness of nerves to begin with, Kellan broke and started running.
By the time he got to the outside set of stairs leading up to his door, he was running. Kellan dashed up the stairs and unlocked his door. He slammed it shut and leaned against it, chest heaving. Opening it a crack, he peered out. No one walked along the sidewalk or stood at the bottom of his stairs.
He shut the door and locked it, chuckling slightly. He was an idiot. Getting scared over nothing. Kellan slipped his backpack off his shoulders and onto the floor, pushing it out of the way with his foot as he wandered down the hallway into his kitchen.
The phone rang just as he opened the refrigerator. Leaning over, he snagged it from the base and tucked it between his ear and shoulder.
"Hey, Mrs. B. I'm home."
"Yes, I know, Kellan. I heard you thundering up the stairs. Is there something wrong?"
He ducked his head. "Sorry about that. My imagination got the best of me."
Her soft chuckle held understanding. "No problem, dear. Just wanted to make sure. Oh, I left some leftover meatloaf and potatoes in your refrigerator, plus some biscuits in the microwave."
"Awesome. Thanks, Mrs. B. I appreciate it lots." He grabbed the aluminum covered plate and bumped the door shut with his hip.
"You're too skinny, Kellan. I'm just doing my best to fatten you up."
A low murmur sounded in the background.
"Mr. B says that your friend stopped by again today. He's probably wondering where you are."
"Oh, cool. I got caught up in some research at the library. I'll run down to see him after I eat." He removed the cover before popping the plate in the microwave.
Mrs. B whispered, "I left a plate of food for him as well."
"You're a great lady, Mrs. B." The microwave beeped. "Have to go and eat while it's hot."
"Have a good night, Kellan, and call if you need anything."
"Will do. Sleep well."
He pushed the off button and set the phone on the counter before pulling the meatloaf out and starting to eat. Moaning, he savored the explosion of flavors on his tongue. God smiled on him the day he answered the rental ad in the newspaper.
Kellan practically licked the plate clean. After leaving it in the sink, he returned to the refrigerator where he found another smaller plate. He just reached the door when a yowl arose from the backyard.
"Hang on, you pig. I'm not here to serve you." He elbowed his apartment door until it was open only a crack and headed down the stairs to where a skinny black cat glared at him from the top of one of the garbage cans.
"Here you go, your highness."
With a flourish, he set the plate of meat scraps on the ground. The cat swatted his head as he stood up. Thankfully, the stray didn't use his claws. He eased away, knowing the cat wouldn't eat if he stood too close. The cat landed on his feet without a hitch and stalked over to the food.
Kellan sat on the bottom step and, bracing his elbows on his knees, he watched the cat eat. Even though he looked like he was starving, the stray ate with dignity and a regal bearing.
"Still a king, if a rather ragged one, aren't you?"
He never tried to touch the feline. Getting sliced by the cat's claws wasn't an experience he wanted. As aloof as the cat was, it never seemed to mind Kellan's presence.
"I talked to a guy tonight."
The cat's tail twitched and he took it as a good sign to continue.
"God, he was gorgeous. Dark hair and eyes. Big too." He sighed, resting his chin in his hands. The cat flicked an ear back at him.
"I know. It was crazy, but he seemed interested. Or at least interested enough to ask me questions. I mean, he could have just sat there and not said anything to me."
After he cleaned the plate, the cat settled back on his haunches and washed his face.
"Of course, I didn't tell him my name, so I doubt I'll ever see him again." Kellan laughed. "A guy like that doesn't look twice at a skinny nerd like me."
"Mreow," the cat agreed.
"I found something in the books tonight. Just a little mention, but I think I'm on the right track. There was a cult in Egypt centuries ago called the Earth Warriors."
He stopped. Something in the cat's posture made Kellan think he was really listening to him. The cat stared at him with gold unblinking eyes.
Before he could say anything else, the cat shot to his feet and raced off. Kellan picked up the plate and wandered back upstairs. He placed the plate in the sink with the other one and grabbed his backpack from the hallway.
There was still time that night to do some research on the â€˜net. See if anyone else had heard about the cult. He glanced outside once and smiled.
His feline friend would be all right for the night. At least he had gotten a good meal instead of mice.