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Heat of the Night
Connor Bruce took out the nearest guard with a perfectly aimed blow dart.
It was a split-second assault, but the tranquilizer took a bit longer to work than that. The guard had time to yank the dart free and withdraw his glaive before his eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed to the floor in a puddle of red garments.
"Sorry, chap," Connor muttered, as he bent over the fallen body and collected the guard's comm unit and sword. The man would awake with only the vague sensation of having dozed, perhaps in boredom.
Connor straightened and whistled a low warbling birdcall, telling Lieutenant Philip Wager that he'd succeeded in his task. The responding whistle told him the other Temple guards around the perimeter had also been neutralized. Within moments he was surrounded by a dozen of his men. They were dressed for battle in dark gray, form-fitting sleeveless tunics and matching loose pants. Connor wore similar garments, but his were black denoting his rank as Captain of the Elite Warriors.
"You're going to see things inside that will startle you," Connor warned, his blade whistling as he pulled it free of its scabbard on his back. "Focus on the mission. We have to figure out how the Elders brought Captain Cross back to the Twilight from the Dreamers' plane of existence."
Wager aimed a pulse emitter at the massive red torii gate that herald the entrance to the Temple complex, temporarily disturbing the vid unit that recorded those who visited. Connor stared at the archway with a roiling mixture of horror, confusion, and anger.The structure was so imposing it forced every Guardian to stare and read the warning engraved in the ancient language—"Beware of the Key that turns the Lock."
For centuries, he and every member of his team had hunted the Dreamer who was prophesied to come to their world through the dream state and destroy them. The Dreamer who would see them as they were and recognize that they were not a figment of a nocturnal imagination, but real beings who lived in the Twilight—the place where the human mind came in slumber.
But Connor had already met the infamous Key and she wasn't a specter of doom and annihilation. She was a slender-but-curvy blonde veterinarian with big dark eyes and a deep well of compassion.
Lies, all of it. All these years wasted. Luckily for the Key—also known innocuously as Lyssa Bates—Captain Aidan Cross, warrior of legend and Connor's best friend, had found her first. Found her, fell in love with her, and eloped with her to the mortal plane.
Now it was Connor's mission to unravel the mysteries of the Elders here in the Twilight, and everything he needed to know was safeguarded in the Temple of the Elders.
Let's go, he mouthed.
With the timing down to pinpoint accuracy, they rushed through the gate. They split into two teams running along either side of the stone-lined center courtyard, weaving in and out among fluted columns of alabaster stone.
The wind blew gently, carrying with it the fragrance of nearby flowers and fields of wild grass. It was the time of day when the Temple was closed to the general public and the Elders were secluded in meditation. The perfect time to break in and steal whatever information and secrets they could get their hands on.
Connor entered the haiden first. Holding up three fingers, he then waved to the right while he moved to the left. Three Elites obeyed the silent command and took the east side of the circular room.
The two teams moved within the shadows, highly aware that any misstep would allow the vid units around the perimeter to pick up their incursion. In the center of the vast space waited semicircular rows of benches that faced the columned entryway they had just come through. Rising several stories high, there were so many benches the Guardians had lost count of the number of Elders who ruled from them long ago. This was the heart of their world, the center of law and order. The seat of power.
Regrouping at the middle hallway that led to the honden, Connor paused, and the others awaited his command. The hall to the west branched off toward the Elders' living quarters. The hall to the right went to a secluded open-air meditation courtyard.
This center gallery was where it got freaky. After his first—and heretofore only—Temple break-in, he was prepared. His men weren't.
He looked at them with an arched brow, silently admonishing them to heed his earlier command. They nodded grimly, and Connor continued on.
As they walked, a vibration beneath their feet drew everyone's attention to the floor. The stone shimmered and became translucent, creating the impression that the ground had disintegrated and they were about to fall into an endless blanket of stars. He groped for the wall by instinct, his teeth gritted together, then the view of space melted into a swirling kaleidoscope of colors.
"Fuck me," Wager breathed.
Connor had said the exact same thing the first time he'd walked this corridor. Every step created ripples in the colors, suggesting that whatever it was responded to their presence.
"Is that real?" Corporal Trent whispered fiercely. "Or a hologram of some sort?"
Lifting his hand, Connor reminded the men to keep their silence. He had no idea what the damn thing was. He knew only that he couldn't look at it or vertigo would make him sick.
They moved past the private Elder library to reach the control room. There was one Elder there, a lone sentinel lost within a vast space dominated by high walls lined with bound volumes and a large console. As was the custom of the Elders, he'd been left behind when the others retired for the afternoon, which made him the unfortunate recipient of a tranq dart to the neck. Connor dragged his unconscious body aside to give Wager access to the crescent-shaped touchpad control panel.Heat of the Night. Copyright © by Sylvia Day. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>