CHOSEN BY DESIRE

 

chosenbydesireTaking care to hide himself, Max watched the tour group emerge from the archives room. In his seven years there, he’d grown accustomed to the daily onslaught of tourists, but something about the blonde drew him.

She had the face of a cherub with big brown eyes, creamy skin, and rosy cheeks. Her strawberry blond hair made a stubby ponytail at the nape of her neck. He watched as she undid the ponytail to release a mass of curls that bounced onto her shoulders and into her face. The embodiment of innocence.

Except for her bowed lips. Her lips were pure sin.

But the innocence was a ruse. He stilled, feeling waves of elemental energy emanating from her. The way she clutched her bag to her side like it contained precious treasure confirmed what he already felt.

She’d taken The Book of Water…  { scroll down for sneak peek! }

 

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SNEAK PEEK
CHOSEN BY DESIRE  •  CHAPTER ONE

Taking care to hide himself, Max watched the tour group emerge from the archives room. In his seven years there, he’d grown accustomed to the daily onslaught of tourists, but something about the blonde drew him.

She had the face of a cherub with big brown eyes, creamy skin, and rosy cheeks. Her strawberry blond hair made a stubby ponytail at the nape of her neck. He watched as she undid the ponytail to release a mass of curls that bounced onto her shoulders and into her face. The embodiment of innocence.

Except for her bowed lips. Her lips were pure sin.

But the innocence was a ruse. He stilled, feeling waves of elemental energy emanating from her. The way she clutched her bag to her side like it contained precious treasure confirmed what he already felt.

She’d taken The Book of Water.

He took a step toward her before he stopped himself. This wasn’t his concern—he wouldn’t get involved. Let someone else deal with her. Max looked around for another monk but found no one.

Anger flooded him, cold and steely. It was like fate taunted him. He’d be damned if he had to deal with another less-than-angelic woman with light fingers. No way in hell.

He followed the group silently into the garden, keeping his gaze on the woman, willing another monk to show up and intervene.

Only then she turned around.

Max wasn’t prepared for the shock of her doe-eyed gaze meeting his. She studied him as if she had nothing to hide and everything to offer.

It infuriated him. And then she grinned, and her face lit artlessly.

Inexplicably, his groin tightened.

He shifted, crossing his arms. Damn it—seven years at the monastery should have eradicated these baser needs. And his temper. But it only reinforced Sun Chi’s increasingly repeated statement that he wasn’t meant to be a monk.

She gave him one more sweet smile before she followed the dispersing tour back to the bus.

He needed to stop her but, frankly, if he got his hands on her, he didn’t trust himself not to strip her bare and sink in deep. His conscience pointed out that he’d seen other women in the seven years—the tour guide for example—and not had this strong a reaction.

He told his conscience to shut up.

The bus’s engine growled to life.

Max looked around. Still no one. He glared at the bus.

No choice. Teeth grinding, he went to head it off.

He’d taken only a few steps before a strong hand caught his arm. Caught off guard, he trapped the hand and automatically arced the wrist in a leverage.

The calloused hand reversed the leverage instantly, letting it go almost as quickly. Max spun around, bringing the knife-edge of his hand up to chop. He stopped an inch from his mentor’s neck.

The Keeper’s peaceful face shined up at him. Its serenity irritated the hell out of him. How could he be so still when his throat had almost been crushed?

When the Book of Water had been stolen?

Max looked over his shoulder to see the bus winding down the mountain road back to civilization. Angry and frustrated, he scowled at the old monk. “Damn it. The Book of Water is riding away on that bus.”

Sun Chi stared after the bus. Max waited, expecting a barrage of questions, starting with why he hadn’t done anything to stop it. But his mentor just studied him quietly before turning and shuffling away. Motioning with his hand, he said, “Come.”

What the hell? Max stalked after the smaller man, wanting to interrogate but knowing he’d get no answers until the monk was ready. As a teenager, when he’d just become a Guardian and was sent to study with Sun Chi, the man’s stoicism had infuriated him. As the only child of rich bluebloods, Max had always had everything handed to him when he wanted. Since, he’d learned patience.

For the most part.

Following Sun Chi into the archives room, Max closed the door behind him and watched as the monk kneeled before a shelf in the back. He hadn’t realized how much he’d wanted to be wrong about the woman stealing the scroll until he heard Sun Chi’s gasp and felt the corresponding sinking in his chest.

“Gone.” Sun Chi looked up at him, his gaze bright. ”The Book of Water. The journal of Wei Lin. And more.”

“Why would she take the journal?”

“As a mistake in her haste. For more knowledge of the scrolls. The reasons are numerous.” Sun Chi gazed at him levelly. “This is disastrous. You understand, yes? She must not be allowed to learn the mysteries of the Book of Water, or locate the other scrolls.”

“Yes.” The scrolls were distributed to separate Guardians because their powers were too powerful. Too corrupting. But for one person to possess all five… He shook his head. “I thought the Book of Water was sent to its next Guardian.”

“Sent. And refused.” Sun Chi stood and walked the room in slow, measured steps, hands behind his back.

Max frowned. “The Guardian didn’t accept his duty?”

“Some Guardians are thick-headed.” He tapped Max’s shoulder before returning to his contemplative stroll. He suddenly stopped and lifted his head, piercing Max with his all-knowing gaze. “You must go after her.”

From the moment the bus drove away, he’d known this was coming, but a part of him still didn’t want to accept it. All he wanted was to go back to his cell and forget he’d ever seen the duplicitous angel. “No.”

His mentor nodded as if Max hadn’t spoken. “You use your family’s diplomatic connections.”

“I gave all that up seven years ago. I’m on a different path now.”

“You choose the wrong path. Your path is to follow that woman. I feel it here.” The monk beat his fist over his heart. “Find who she is. Retrieve the scroll and the journals.”

“No,” he said again, shaking his head. “Seven years ago—” “Seven years ago, you came to the monastery to heal,” Sun Chi interrupted. “But you stayed in the monastery to hide.”

“I haven’t been hiding,” he said, but even as the words came out of his mouth he knew they were a lie.

“You hide. From the past, from the present, from the future.” His mentor’s narrowed gaze dared him to contradict it. “You are letting yesterday kill tomorrow.”

“My future—”

“Your future is back in your world.” Sun Chi pointed at him. “You are not a monk. You are Maximillian Prescott, Guardian of the Book of Metal. Heir to your own dynasty. Your path—” he pointed into distance “—leads out into the world. After that woman. You must find her,” he said, his voice low and insistent.

Max knew from experience that the Keeper’s will wouldn’t be denied. To fight it was wasting energy. He gritted his teeth. God help that woman when he caught up to her. “What will I be up against?”

The monk had the grace not to gloat. “The Book of Water is not claimed by its Guardian, so the powers are free. They will affect the person who holds it.”

Remembering how unprepared he’d been for the onslaught of his own powers, he said, “That could be to our advantage.”

“Her powers will be weaker than yours, since she is not a Guardian. Unless she studies the scroll and learns to harness its secrets.” Sun Chi shook his head. “You must recover it. And the journal.”

Max heard the implied do whatever it takes in his master’s words. He recognized the chance to redeem his mistake with Amanda seven years ago, but it didn’t mean he had to like it. He rubbed his neck, his fingers sliding over the familiar ridges of the burn scar—a constant reminder of that night.

Sun Chi placed a hand on his shoulder. “To heal, you must go. This last step exorcises the ghosts of your past.”

More likely this was just going to attract another ghost—one with big doe-eyes and lips made for sin.

No, this time he knew better than to let a beautiful woman’s appearance sway him. He drew on jÄ«n ch’i. His powers settled around him like a cloak, giving him the cool distance he needed from his thoughts. “I’ll leave immediately.”

His mentor nodded. “I never doubted that you would. Go in peace.”

Bowing his head, Max strode out of the room, not happy in the least to be reentering the life he’d left behind.

 

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