"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Monday, December 2, 2013

Excerpt From Innocent Blood by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

I'd like to thank Harper Collins Publishing and the William Morrow division for this excerpt of the exciting second book in the Order of the Sanguine series by James Rollins. If you enjoy what you read, and I know you will, be sure to visit your local bookstore for a copy.

"In this riveting follow-up to The Blood Gospel, the first book in their thrilling and atmospheric Order of the Sanguine series, New York Times bestselling authors James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell deliver a riveting tale of international adventure, intrigue, suspense, and supernatural mystery involving a modern scientist, a highly secret eternal spiritual order, and a terrifying power who must join forces to bring down a ruthless and cunning enemy and prevent the Apocalypse."

AUTHOR SOCIAL MEDIAOfficial Author Website: JamesRollins.com
Official Author Facebook: /sigmaforce
Official Author Twitter: @jamesrollins

On Sale: 12/10/2013
  • Tr 9780061991066 $27.99 ($32.99)
  • 448 pages; 6 x 9
  • ISBN: 9780061991042


December 18, 9:58 a.m. PST Palo Alto, California
An edge of panic kept her tense.
As Dr. Erin Granger entered the lecture hall on the Stanford campus, she glanced across its breadth to make sure she was alone. She even crouched and searched under the empty seats, making certain no one was hiding there. She kept one hand on the Glock 19 in her ankle holster.
It was a beautiful winter morning, the sun hanging in a crisp, cloud-studded blue sky. With bright light streaming through the tall windows, she had little to fear from the dark creatures that haunted her nightmares.
Still, after all that had befallen her, she knew that her fellow man was just as capable of evil.
Straightening again, she reached the lectern in front of the classroom and let out a quiet sigh of relief. She knew her fears were illogical, but that didn’t stop her from checking that the hall was safe before her students trooped in. As annoying as college kids could be, she would fight to the death to keep each one of them from harm.
She wouldn’t fail a student again.
Erin’s fingers tightened on the scuffed leather satchel in her hand. She had to force her fingers to open and place her bag next to the lectern. With her gaze still roaming the room, she unbuckled the satchel and pulled out her notes for the lecture. Usually she memorized her presentations, but she had taken over this class for a professor on maternity leave. it was an interesting topic, and it kept her from dwelling on the events that had upended her life, starting with the loss of her two graduate students in Israel a couple of months before.
Heinrich and Amy.
The German student had died from injuries sustained following an earthquake. Amy’s death had come later, murdered because Erin had unwittingly sent forbidden information to her student, knowledge that had gotten the young woman killed.
She rubbed her palms, as if trying to wipe away that blood, that responsibility. The room seemed suddenly colder. It couldn’t have been more than fifty degrees outside and not much warmer in the classroom. Still, the shivers that swept through her as she prepared her papers had nothing to do with the room’s poor heating system.
Returned again to Stanford, she should have felt good to be home, wrapped in the familiar, in the daily routines of a semester winding toward Christmas break.
But she didn’t.
Because nothing was the same.
As she straightened and prepared this morning’s lecture notes, 
her students arrived in ones and twos, a few climbing down the stairs to the seats in front, but most hanging back and folding down the seats in the uppermost rows.
“Professor Granger?”
Erin glanced to her left and discovered a young man with five silver hoops along one eyebrow approaching her. The student wore a determined expression on his face as he stepped in front of her. He carried a camera with a long lens over one shoulder.
“Yes?” She didn’t bother to mask the irritation in her voice.
He placed a folded slip of paper atop the wooden lectern and slid it toward her.
Behind him, the other students in the room looked on, nonchalant, but they were unconvincing actors. She could tell they watched her, wondering what she would do. She didn’t need to open that slip of paper to know that it contained the young man’s phone number.
“i’m from the Stanford Daily.” He played with a hoop in his eyebrow. “i was hoping for one quick interview for the school newspaper?”
She pushed the slip of paper back toward him. “No, thank you.”
She had refused all interview requests since returning from Rome. She wouldn’t break her silence now, especially as everything she was allowed to say was a lie.
To hide the truth of the tragic events that had left her two students dead, a story had been put out that she had been trapped three days in the Israeli desert, entombed amid the rubble following an earthquake at Masada. According to that false account, she was discovered alive, along with an army sergeant named Jordan Stone and her sole surviving graduate student, Nate Highsmith.
She understood the necessity of a cover story to explain the time she had spent working for the Vatican, a subterfuge that was further supported by an elite few in the government who also knew the truth. The public wasn’t ready for stories of monsters in the night, of the dark underpinnings that supported the world at large.
Still, necessity or not, she had no intention of elaborating on those lies.
The student with the line of eyebrow rings persisted. “i’d let you review the story before I post it. If you don’t like every single bit, we can work with it until you do.”
“i respect your persistence and diligence, but it does not change my answer.” She gestured to the half-full auditorium. “Please, take your seat.”
He hesitated and seemed about to speak again.
She pulled herself up to her full height and fixed him with her sternest glare. She stood only five foot eight, and with her blond hair tied back in a casual ponytail, she didn’t strike as the most intimidating figure.
Still, it was all about the attitude.
Whatever he saw in her eyes drove him back to the gathering students, where he sank quickly into his seat, keeping his face down. With the matter settled, she tapped her sheaf of notes into a neat pile and drew the class to order. “Thank you all for coming to the final session of History 104: Stripping the divine from biblical History. Today we will discuss common misconceptions about a religious holiday that is almost upon us, namely Christmas.”
The bongs of laptops powering up replaced the once familiar sound of rustling paper as students prepared to take notes.

“What do we celebrate on December twenty-fifth?” She let her gaze play across the students—some pierced, a few tattooed, and several who looked hungover. “december twenty-fifth? Anyone? This one’s a gimme.”
A girl wearing a sweatshirt with an embroidered angel on the front raised her hand. “The birth of Christ?”
“That’s right. but when was Christ actually born?”
No one offered an answer.
She smiled, warming past her fears as she settled into her role as 
teacher. “That’s smart of you all to avoid that trap.” That earned a few chuckles. “The date of Christ’s birth is actually a matter of some dispute. Clement of Alexandria said . . .”
She continued her lecture. A year ago, she would have said that no one alive today knew the actual date of Christ’s birth. She couldn’t say that anymore, because as part of her adventures in Israel, Russia, and Rome, she had met someone who did know, someone who was alive when Christ was born. in that moment back then, she had realized how much of accepted history was wrong— either masked by ignorance or obscured by purposeful deceptions to hide darker truths.
As an archaeologist, one who sought the history hidden under sand and rock, such a revelation had left her unsettled, unmoored. After returning to the comfortable world of academia, she discovered that she could no longer give the simplest lecture without careful thought. Telling her students the truth, if not the whole truth, had become nearly impossible. every lecture felt like a lie.
How can I continue walking that line, lying to those I’m supposed to teach the truth?
Still, what choice did she have? After having that door briefly opened, revealing the hidden nature of the world, it had been shut just as soundly.
Not shut. Slammed in my face.
Cut off from those truths hidden behind that door, she was left on the outside, left to wonder what was real and what was false.
Finally, the lecture came to an end. She hurriedly wiped clean the whiteboard, as if trying to erase the falsehoods and half-truths found there. At least, it was over. She congratulated herself on making it through the final lecture of the year. All that was left now was to grade her last papers—then she would be free to face the challenge of Christmas break.
Across that stretch of open days, she pictured the blue eyes and hard planes of a rugged face, the full lips that smiled so easily, the smooth brow under a short fall of blond hair. it would be good to see Sergeant Jordan Stone again. it had been several weeks since she had last seen him in person—though they spoke often over the phone. She wasn’t sure where this relationship was going long term, but she wanted to be there to find out.
Of course, that meant picking out the perfect Christmas gift to express that sentiment. She smiled at that thought.
As she began to erase the last line from the whiteboard, ready to dismiss the students behind her, a cloud smothered the sun, cloak- ing the classroom in shadow. The eraser froze on the board. She felt momentarily dizzy, then found herself falling away into—
Absolute darkness.
Stone walls pressed her shoulders. She struggled to sit. Her head smashed against stone, and she fell back with a splash. Frantic hands searched a black world.
Stone all around—above, behind, on all sides. Not rough stone as if she were buried under a mountain. But smooth. Polished like glass. Along the top of the box was a design worked in silver. It scorched
her fingertips.
She gulped
, and wine filled her mouth. Enough to drown her. Wine?
A door at the rear of the hall slammed shut, yanking her back into the classroom. She stared at the eraser on the whiteboard, her fingers clutched tightly to it, her knuckles white.
How long have I stood here like this? In front of everyone.
She guessed no more than a few seconds. She’d had bouts like this before over the past few weeks, but never in front of anyone else. She’d dismissed them as post-traumatic stress and had hoped they would go away by themselves, but this last was the most vivid of them all.
She took a deep breath and turned to face her class. They seemed unconcerned, so she couldn’t have been out of it for too long. She must get this under control before something worse happened.
She looked toward the door that had slammed.
A welcome figure stood at the back of the hall. noting her atten
tion, Nate Highsmith lifted up a large envelope and waved it at her. He smiled apologetically, then headed down the classroom in cowboy boots, a hitch in his step a reminder of the torture he had endured last fall.
She tightened her lips. She should have protected him better. And Heinrich. And most especially Amy. If Erin hadn’t exposed the young woman to danger, she might still be alive today. Amy’s parents wouldn’t be spending their first Christmas without their daughter. They had never wanted Amy to be an archaeologist. It was Erin who finally convinced them to let her come along on the dig in Israel. As the senior field researcher, Erin had assured them their daughter would be safe.
in the end, she had been terribly, horribly wrong.
She tilted her boot to feel the reassuring bulge of the gun against her ankle. She wouldn’t get caught flat-footed again. no more innocents would die on her watch.
She cleared her throat and returned her attention to the class. “That wraps it up, folks. You’re all dismissed. enjoy your winter holidays.”
While the room emptied, she forced herself to stare out the window at the bright sky, trying to chase away the darkness left from her vision a moment ago.
Nate finally reached her as the class cleared out. “Professor.” He sounded worried. “I have a message for you.”
“What message?”
“Two of them, actually. The first one is from the Israeli government. They’ve finally released our data from the dig site in Caesarea.” 
“That’s terrific.” She tried to fuel her words with enthusiasm, but failed. if nothing else, Amy and Heinrich would get some credit for their last work, an epitaph for their short lives. “What’s the second
“It’s from Cardinal Bernard.”
Surprised, she faced Nate more fully. For weeks, she had 
attempted to reach the cardinal, the head of the order of Sanguines in Rome. She’d even considered flying to Italy and staking out his apartments in Vatican City.
“About time he returned my calls,” she muttered.
“He wanted you to phone him at once,” Nate said. “Sounded like an emergency.”
Erin sighed in exasperation. Bernard had ignored her for two months, but now he needed something from her. She had a thousand questions for him—concerns and thoughts that had built up over the past weeks since returning from Rome. She glanced to the white- board, eyeing the half-erased line. She had questions about those visions, too.
Were these episodes secondary to post traumatic stress? Was she reliving the times that she spent trapped under Masada?
But if so, why do I keep tasting wine?
She shook her head to clear it and pointed to his hand. “What’s in the envelope?”
“It’s addressed to you.” He handed it to her.
It weighed too much to contain just a letter. Erin scanned the return address.
Her fingers trembled slightly as she slit open the top with her pen.
Nate noted how her hand quivered and looked concerned. She knew he was talking to a counselor about his own PTSd. They were two wounded survivors with secrets that could not be fully spoken aloud.
Shaking the envelope, she slid out a single sheet of typewritten paper and an object about the size and shape of a quail’s egg. Her heart sank as she recognized the object.
Even Nate let out a small gasp and took a step back.
She didn’t have that luxury. She read the enclosed page quickly. it was from the Israeli security forces. They had determined that the enclosed artifact was no longer relevant to the closed investigation of their case, and they hoped that she would give it to its rightful owner.
She cradled the polished chunk of amber in her palm, as if it were the most precious object in the world. Under the dull fluorescent light, it looked like little more than a shiny brown rock, but it felt warmer to the touch. light reflected off its surface, and in the very center, a tiny dark feather hung motionless, preserved across thou- sands of years, a moment of time frozen forever in amber.
“Amy’s good luck charm,” Nate mumbled, swallowing hard. He had been there when Amy was murdered. He kept his eyes averted from the tiny egg of amber.
Erin placed a hand on nate’s elbow in sympathy. In fact, the talisman was more than Amy’s good luck charm. one day out at the dig, Amy had explained to Erin that she had found the amber on a beach as a little girl, and she’d been fascinated by the feather imprisoned inside, wondering where it had come from, picturing the wing from which it might have fallen. The amber captured her imagination as fully as it had the feather. It was what sparked Amy’s desire to study archaeology.
Erin gazed at the amber in her palm, knowing that this tiny object had led not only to Amy’s field of study—but also to her death.
Her fingers closed tightly over the smooth stone, squeezing her determination, making herself a promise.
Never again . . . 

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