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Solomon's Jar [Rogue Angel Book 2] [Secure eReader]
eBook by Alex Archer

eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: Priceless artifact sparks a quest to keep untold power from the wrong hands... Rumors of the discovery of Solomon's Jar--in which the biblical King Solomon bound the world's demons after using them to build his temple in Jerusalem--are followed with interest by Annja Creed. An archaeologist intrigued by the arcane, Annja pursues the truth about the vessel and its ancient origins. Her search leads her to a confrontation with a London cult driven by visions of a new world order; and a religious zealot fueled by the insatiable desire for glory. Across the sands of the Middle East to the jungles of Brazil, Annja embarks on a relentless chase to stop humanity's most unfathomable secrets from reshaping the modern world.

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Rogue Angel
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2006

143 Reader Ratings:
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On long tanned legs Annja Creed ran through the hardwood forest. Rays from the sun hanging precariously above the great mountains slanted like pale gold lances at random between the boles. They caressed her sweaty face like velvet gloves as she ran through them.

Despite sweating in the heat, she breathed normally, dodging thicker stands of brush, crashing through the thinner ones. Late-season insects trilled around her and in sporadic spectral clouds tried to fly up her nose and into her mouth. The birds chattered and called to one another in the trees. The woods smelled of green growth and mostly dried decayed vegetation, not at all the way she imagined a true rain forest might smell, lower down in the Amazon basin proper. Up in the watershed of the Amazon's tributary the Río Marañón, in eastern Peru, the early autumn was drier and cooler, the growth far less dense.

Her heart raced as much as any person's might have after running at high speed for over two miles, up and down steep ridges. It had little to do with the exertion, though.

She ran for her life.

* * *

DAYLIGHT CAME LATE and evening early to the small Peruvian village of Chiriqui. The sun had rolled well past the zenith. Though shadows weren't yet very long, it wasn't far from vanishing behind the tree-furred ridge to the west when the blast of a diesel engine ripped the calm air.

Beyond the ridge loomed the mighty peaks of the Andes themselves, looking close enough to topple and crush the little village into its dusty hillside, their blue tinge hinting how far away they really stood. The hills were mostly covered in patchy grass, dry as the hot Southern Hemisphere summer ended. Stands of hardwood forest rose on some of the heights, interspersed with tough scrub.

Chickens flapped their wings in annoyance and fled squawking as a big blue Dodge Ram 2500, battered and sun faded, rolled into the small plaza in the midst of the collection of a couple of dozen huts. A tethered spider monkey shrilled obscenities and ran up a pole supporting a thatch awning as the vehicle clipped the edge of a kiosk and spilled colorful fruits bouncing across the tan hard-packed dirt. The owner remonstrated loudly as the vehicle stopped in a cloud of exhaust and dust.

Men began bailing out of the truck's extended bed. Men dressed in green-and-dust-colored camouflage who carried unmistakable broken-nosed Kalashnikovs and grenades clipped on their vests like green mango clusters.

They were gringos, unmistakably, who towered over the small brown villagers. The vehicle sported a powerful Soviet-era PKS machine gun mounted on a roll bar right behind the cab.

The people of Chiriqui knew better than to call attention to themselves when such visitors came to town.

"Gather 'round," the apparent leader commanded in clear but norteamericano-accented Spanish. He wore a short-sleeved camo blouse, a similarly patterned baseball cap atop his crewcut red head, and carried a black semiautomatic pistol in an open-top holster tied down his right thigh like a movie gunslinger.

Unlike people familiar with such things only from watching television from the comforts of their dens, the villagers knew well the difference between semi and full automatic.

The villagers stared, more as if their worst nightmares were coming true than from any lack of comprehension. Because, of course, that was exactly what was happening. The gringo soldiers with their hard faces grinning mean white grins spread out in pairs with rifles at the ready to enforce their leader's command.

* * *

IN THE RELATIVE COOL of her hut Annja Creed sat straining to read by the light coming in by dribs and drabs through gaps in the hardwood-plank wall. A bare bulb hung by a frayed cord perilously low over her head at the table on which she had spread the ancient book. It was unlit. The people of the village of Chiriqui had already done more than enough for her; she had firmly but with effusive thanks refused their offers to burn up more of their scarce, precious fuel to run the generator to provide artificial illumination. She could smell hot earth outside, the thatch, the sun-dried and splitting planks of the walls. And most of all the familiar musty odor of an ancient volume.

"…herb has most salubrious effects," she read, "particularly with regards to ye falling sickness, the effects of which fit it serves to ameliorate most expeditiously…"

That was how she would have translated it into English, anyway. The Jesuit Brother João da Concepção's seventeenth-century Portuguese gave her no problems; modern Portuguese had changed less in the intervening centuries than most languages. Even other Romance languages, which if translated literally tended to sound archaic and formal even at street level to English ears.

She knew her Romance languages. She knew the majors, Spanish, French, Italian and, of course, Portuguese. Plus she was rudely conversant in some of the minors, such as Catalan. Of the whole group she knew little of Romanian. She read and wrote Latin superbly; it had formed the core of her language study since she had learned it in the Catholic orphanage in New Orleans.

What gave her fits was Brother João's crabgrass handwriting. The ink had faded to a sort of faint burgundy hue on the water-warped pages of the ancient journal. In some places water spots or mold obscured the text entirely. In others the words faded entirely from visibility as of their own accord.

"This would probably be easier if I went outside in the direct sun," she said aloud. She had a tendency to talk to herself. It was one of several reasons—that she knew of—that the villagers called her la gringa loca, the Crazy White Lady. That she spoke Spanish and was willing to share her medical supplies or give impromptu English lessons to the local kids—or their elders—helped keep the inflection friendly when they said it, so all was well.

Copyright © 2006 by Worldwide Library.

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