Restless Soul (Rogue Angel Series #28)

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In 1966, a group of battle-weary American GIs trekked through the Vietnamese jungle knowing each step could mean facing the enemy's guns. But instead of ambush, they stumbled upon a hidden treasure beyond their wildest dreams. It was a discovery that exacted a terrible cost.

A vacation spot picked at random, Thailand is intended to provide relaxation time for globe-trotting archaeologist Annja Creed. Yet the irresistible pull of the country's legendary Spirit Cave lures Annja ...

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Restless Soul (Rogue Angel Series #28)

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In 1966, a group of battle-weary American GIs trekked through the Vietnamese jungle knowing each step could mean facing the enemy's guns. But instead of ambush, they stumbled upon a hidden treasure beyond their wildest dreams. It was a discovery that exacted a terrible cost.

A vacation spot picked at random, Thailand is intended to provide relaxation time for globe-trotting archaeologist Annja Creed. Yet the irresistible pull of the country's legendary Spirit Cave lures Annja and her companions deep within a network of underground chambers—nearly to their deaths. The ancient burial sites have slumbered through the ages. Yet no rest is found there—just the voices of the dead. When the dead speak, will they help Annja uncover the perplexing past of a remarkable find or will they call her to join them?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599508139
  • Publisher: GraphicAudio
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Series: Rogue Angel Series , #28
  • Format: CD

Read an Excerpt

"Company. Such beautiful company you are, Annja Creed. And I am very much enjoying the pleasures of it." He stood behind her at the sliding glass door and slid his fingers through her silky chestnut hair.

She leaned against him, happily discovering he hadn't put on a shirt. At five feet ten inches, Annja was nearly his height.

"And I am so very much enjoying this vacation, Luartaro."

"Lu, please." He leaned around her and softly kissed her cheek. "How many times do I have to ask you to call me Lu? It's what my family calls me. And it's much easier for you to pronounce."

"Lu." She blew out the breath she'd been holding, fluttering the hair that hung against her forehead. "Lu. Lu. Lu. This vacation was long overdue."

He brought a long strand of her hair to his nose and inhaled. "I wish it could go on forever, Annja, this vacation."

"But we've only got another four days," she said.

"Maybe we should leave this bungalow and see a bit of the countryside? We didn't travel halfway around the world to Thailand to spend all our time in bed."

"Speak for yourself." He chuckled.

Annja reveled in his voice, throaty and rich with a sensuous Argentine accent. She waited for him to speak again, but when he didn't, she edged away and pressed herself against the glass door. It was cool with the rain that had blotted out the July sun. She followed a rivulet with her finger as it slithered down the pane.

The patter was gentle, like his breath on her shoulder, and it made the green of the trees beyond their cabin more intense.

They'd found this resort on the internet, though there were no public internet connections available in the lodge or any of the cabins. Wireless service didn't exist here. Neither were there television sets, nor telephones, save an old rotary one in the office. With that they had both immediately agreed on the place, as they could keep the world at bay for a while.

Annja had been in South America, filming a segment for Chasing History's Monsters on the fossils of ancient penguinlike creatures that had been discovered in the mountains. She'd met Luartaro Agustin at one of the dig sites there.

He was charming and smart, and when he'd surprised her by suggesting that they spend some more time together, she'd hesitated only a moment.

She desperately needed time off—from the show, from her life, from everything. So right there in his lavish office, she'd twirled the huge globe that took up most of one corner, closed her eyes and pointed her finger.

Luartaro had come over to see where her finger had landed. Northern Thailand. She'd surprised him by walking over to his immense oak desk and calling the airline to make a reservation. For two.

As she watched the rain, she thought that perhaps Luartaro had fallen in love with her, though he wisely hadn't said the words.

Would those words frighten her away? Did she love him? Not yet. But perhaps…with time… She'd only known him a handful of days before they'd recklessly packed their bags and flown here. She'd learned through difficult circumstances that life was terribly short, and she decided to take a chance on joy for once.

Could she love him? Perhaps if she let herself. The attraction, physical and otherwise, was strong.

She watched the way the rain distorted his handsome reflection.

He had a rugged face weathered by long days in the sun, a shock of black hair with the faintest hints of silver at the temples, broad shoulders and considerable muscles from years spent digging at sites throughout the mountains and foothills of South America.

He had flashing eyes that she could easily lose herself in. Had lost herself in, she corrected herself. He was intelligent—in addition to being an archaeologist, he taught at a college during the regular academic year, had written three textbooks and was fluent in half a dozen languages. Though, unfortunately, Thai was not one of them. They had a lot in common.

Perhaps she was reading too much into his actions. After all, he knew very little about her, which was a plus, as far as she was concerned.

He didn't know that danger too often surrounded her and that some mystic force seemed to have chosen her to battle evil.

She hadn't told him that she was an orphan with little sense of a real connection to people. Nor had she told him—and never intended to—that on a whim she could summon Joan of Arc's sword from some nether-dimension to fight whatever malignant force had crossed her path.

She had been on a dig in France when she found a piece of the legendary sword. She didn't know how, but in a heartbeat, magically reformed by her touch, it had appeared in her hand, whole and shining, more than five hundred years after its famous wielder had been put to death by fire. Now the sword was poised just beyond this world, waiting for her call. She sometimes thought of it as waiting in a closet in her mind, though armory might be a better term.

Because of the sword and her risky life, she never allowed herself to become too attached to people. She had Roux and Garin, but they were associated with the sword, Roux claiming they had witnessed Joan's horrific death and had existed in a kind of decadent limbo in the centuries since.

Luartaro was different. Like so many others, he wasn't a part of that life. Normally, she would have kept her emotions in check. But there was something special about him. She felt things for him that she hadn't intended.

And what does he think of me? she wondered. Did he consider her merely a television personality with a flair for archaeology? Or was she just another woman who had quickly succumbed to his boyish grin?

She watched his reflection in the window again. He had moved close enough that he was stroking her hair again, but he, too, was staring out at the rain and the mountains beyond.

The view was the reason she was paying eight hundred baht a night for their cabin, four times what the average room cost. It was more lavishly furnished than most of the other accommodations at the lodge. It even had its own bath and shower. But best of all, it offered an incredible view of the lush countryside.

Beyond the sliding glass doors was the path that led to the swimming hole and another that wound its way to the small restaurant that served only native Thai dishes. The rain was slowly turning those paths into mud slicks.

In the distance, the mountains that ringed the place disappeared into the gloom. "Complicated mountain ranges," one of the locals had called them on the bus ride to the resort. Misty clouds hung halfway down them, and the rain was blurring the rest.

Mae Hong Son was called the City of Three Mists because no matter the time of year, there were always low-hanging clouds present. "Three" because the mists were different—the forest-fire mist of the summer, the rainy mist in the monsoon season and the dewy mist of their mild winter.

The area had long been considered a "land of exile" because it was largely inaccessible, but tourists had eventually found the place, and buses and rental cars brought them in from larger cities. She and Luartaro had opted for a bus, the seats of which had not been very well padded.

Mae Hong Son claimed a hot spring, small and large crystal clear streams and a magnificent cape—none of which Annja had seen. There was an elaborate Buddhist temple nearby, so the brochures said, and a tribe where the women elongated their necks with a series of rings—the Karen of the Pa Dong.

"I think we should do something touristy," she said, breaking the silence that had settled comfortably between them. "Maybe we could take an elephant ride or do some mountain biking. The pamphlets—" she pointed at the nightstand "—say they have meditation classes in the mornings, rafting and—"

"If you want to venture outside," Luartaro interrupted, "why don't we visit a spirit cave?"

A shiver raced down Annja's back, and she bit back a No! before it could escape her lips.

She couldn't explain what brought on the touch of dread, not to herself and not to Luartaro. She could just claim that exploring a cave was too close to her real life as an archaeologist. That wasn't too far from the truth. She hadn't planned to let real life interfere with this long-overdue vacation.

She shook her head and turned away from the window. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close; he couldn't see the sour, conflicted expression on her face.

"I saw a flyer about it in the lobby—a spirit cave," Luartaro continued. "And I remember it was also mentioned on the internet when we found this place. Ancient coffins carved from trees, burial grounds inside the mountains. There's such a cave less than a day's hike from here, and a guide takes you out in the morning. This area is known for its spectacular limestone caverns. There are hundreds of caves in the mountain ranges. It would be a shame not to visit at least one while we're so close…especially since you want to venture outside."

She could tell by his voice that the prospect enticed him.

"All right," she said after a moment. "A spirit cave. First thing tomorrow morning." Another shiver coursed through her.

"Wonderful! And we'll manage to make time for an elephant ride or some rafting before we leave," he added. "And maybe see the long-necked women and that big Buddhist temple. But for the moment, since it's raining." He drew her toward the bed.

At first glance, Annja couldn't tell whether the guide was thirty or fifty. His eyes were bright, hinting at youth, but his skin was tanned and leathery from the sun, the wrinkles deep especially at the edges of his eyes. Careworn, she judged his face. His black hair was thin and short, slick with either sweat or oil, and his shoulders hunched slightly.

He smiled broadly and nodded to their little group. "Zakkarat," he said, holding his index finger to his chest.

He wore khaki pants, frayed and stained green and brown at the ankles as if he'd never bothered to hem them, instead letting the ground and his heels wear the fabric down to a more suitable length. He had a faded polo shirt with an illustration of a gibbon on it, and over that an unbuttoned short-sleeved shirt that was a riot of color—red, blue, green, with birds and flowers. He also wore a cord around his neck with a whistle dangling from it and old black-and-white tennis shoes.

"Zakkarat," he repeated. "Zakkarat Tak-sin. Your guide to Tham Lod Cave."

Luartaro reached for Annja's hand and swung it as if he was a child. He was smiling, too, obviously happy to be off to the spirit cave, as the pamphlet called it. His skin felt warm against hers, and she intertwined her fingers with his and reveled in his boyish attitude.

With them were two other couples, one in their twenties—on an ecohoneymoon, they'd proudly announced. The other was a middle-aged Australian pair who were on their third trip to Thailand.

"Comfortable shoes, all?" Zakkarat looked at everyone's feet.

"Comfortable shoes, yes," Luartaro replied. The others nodded in agreement.

"Five, six miles to the cave," Zakkarat said. "Two hundred baht now, more later for extras. Not much more. This is one of the cheapest trips for tourists."

Luartaro was quick to pay the guide, whispering to Annja that the pamphlet said there would be a charge to enter the cave and for the raft.

After passing out small water bottles, Zakkarat led the way. He had a quick gait and was nimble, ducking under branches and stepping over ruts, and Annja put him closer to thirty for it. He chattered as he went, pointing first to the tops of the mountains and mentioning the mist. They were unlike other mountains she'd traipsed through, certainly unlike the familiar Rockies and the mountains she and Luartaro had combed through for the ancient penguin remains. These peaks had been weathered away into twisted shapes and odd-looking knobs largely covered by jungle. They were beautiful and ghostlike in the mist.

She regretted not bringing her camera. Luartaro wasn't taking as many pictures as she would have, or from what she deemed the proper angles. The path Zakkarat took was wide and flat from the traffic of countless tourists. To the sides stretched swaths of dark green moss, still shiny from yesterday's rain.

Though practically everything was green, there were remarkable variations, Annja noted. Some of the leaves were so pale they appeared bleached bone-white by the sun. Others were a deep green that looked like velvet. Shadows were thick near the ground where the large leaves reminded her of umbrellas. If there were patterns to the colors and light, she couldn't discern them— everything was a swirl.

Had someone taken a picture of the scenery and turned it into a jigsaw puzzle, it would be one of the most difficult ever to assemble, she thought.

Annja listened intently to hundreds of tiny frogs that chirped like baby birds. After a mile, she spotted a fence far to her left, and a tilled field beyond. On the opposite side the ground rose at a steep angle, and she wondered if there were caves beneath.

A bit farther along, the Australian man drained his water bottle and looked at his watch. "My feet are hurtin', Jennie," he said. His wife smiled sympathetically and pointed to a thin river that meandered out of the fields to their left. It widened as they kept walking, eventually paralleling the path, which had started to narrow.

"More than two hundred caves in Pan Mapha in Mae Hong Son alone," Zakkarat announced.

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