The Goddess Legacy
About the Author
Non-fiction includes the international bestseller
Blake is co-author of
Blake writes under the moniker R.E. Blake in the NA/YA/Contemporary Romance genres. Novels include
Having resided in Mexico for a dozen years, Blake enjoys his dogs, fishing, boating, tequila and writing, while battling world domination by clowns. His thoughts, such as they are, can be found at his blog:
A pall of exhaust hung over India’s capital city, a hazy cloud that lingered in the still night air like a toxic mist. Elliott Carson, light-headed from the third celebratory cocktail he’d downed against his better judgment only minutes before, walked unsteadily down what passed for a sidewalk, dodging piles of refuse. The restaurant’s festive lights receded in the gloom behind him, and as he made his way down the dark street, he realized that it was later than he’d thought, his meeting having taken considerably longer than planned. Still, it had been worth it, and now that the question of financing was answered, he was tantalizingly close to his objective.
The area was deserted; the daytime crowds had vanished as the sun sank into the horizon, leaving the street eerily silent. His footsteps sounded unsteady to his ear, and he picked up his pace, wary of inviting unwanted attention in a district that could get ugly at a moment’s notice.
Two men in dark robes stepped from a doorway halfway down the narrow block, and Carson’s stomach tightened. He told himself that he was too close to the main boulevard for there to be any danger, but his breath caught in his throat when he got a better look at the approaching figures, their onyx eyes glinting in the faint light from a passing car and their body language radiating menace. Adrenaline flooded his senses at the urgent determination in their stride, and he realized belatedly that he was anything but safe on the empty sidewalk.
Carson made a snap decision and darted between two cars. A loud honk blared from his right as he stepped into the street and narrowly dodged the front fender of a sedan barreling down on him. He cursed and skirted an overloaded truck lumbering along in the opposite direction, laborers on the running boards gripping the roof rack for support, and then continued across once the vehicle passed.
He hopped across a wide puddle and almost slipped when he landed hard, wrenching his ankle. He winced but kept moving and, when he reached the far curb, glanced over his shoulder.
The men were nowhere to be seen.
Carson shook his head to clear it and exhaled as he gingerly stepped onto the uneven concrete rise. A stream of noxious fluid, the surge the last of the runoff from a late afternoon cloudburst, burbled in the gutter around a clot of trash. A figure stepped into his path from the gloom and Carson stiffened. The man’s hand was outstretched, blocking Carson’s way.
“A few rupees, mister?” a sandpaper voice pleaded in heavily accented English.
Carson’s nose wrinkled at the stench drifting from the beggar, a rancid combination of filth, sour sweat, and decay. The vagrant eyed him hopefully through milky eyes, his jaundiced skin the texture of old leather, his trembling arm little more than bones and sinew. Carson pushed past, leaving the beggar leaning on a makeshift crutch fashioned from a broom handle, the soiled bandages that enveloped his stump of a left leg dotted with flies.
Carson’s pulse thudded in his ears as he willed himself calm, chastising himself for allowing his imagination to get the better of him. The main avenue was only two more blocks, and he’d be there in no time. He could easily do this.
Running footfalls thudded in his wake as he turned the corner, and his relief dissolved into fear — the city had a deserved reputation as treacherous for the unwary. He looked around for a taxi, but there were no cars on this street, and he swore under his breath at his carelessness. He’d dropped his guard for only a moment, but that had been enough in a town that offered no quarter. His pale complexion announced him as easy prey, a visitor in a country where he didn’t belong, and now his pursuers were closing in, no doubt planning to mug him.
Carson hurried along the narrow strip of sidewalk toward the far intersection. The long block seemed to stretch endlessly before him, leaving him to navigate around muddy gaps in the concrete where the pavement had washed away. He dared a look behind him but didn’t see anything other than iron-barred windows and shadowy doorways, and he slowed as he quelled the panic he’d succumbed to.
What was wrong with him?
It wasn’t like he was helpless — he’d spent his life in the military, where he’d seen enough combat to fuel decades of sleepless nights with the phantoms of his squad mates and those he’d gunned down. Even now he cut an imposing figure for a man of his years, his silver hair cropped close to his skull, his shoulders square, frown lines scoring a seasoned face beneath hard cobalt eyes. Any thieves foolhardy enough to tackle him would be in for an unpleasant surprise, he assured himself, although the coil of anxiety in his gut twisted tighter as he strode past crumbling, graffiti-marred façades.
Carson swerved abruptly, narrowly avoiding a pile of cow dung in his path, a regular consequence of the sacred beasts that roamed unfettered even in the cosmopolitan areas. He skirted the lump and stopped in his tracks when another figure appeared from the shadows ahead of him, moving with a cautious precision that he instantly recognized as professional.
He looked around for anything he could use as a weapon, but saw nothing. Carson quickly calculated the distance to the next street and his odds of dodging the newcomer, but dismissed it. Soles pounding on the street behind him decided his course, and he ran to a dark opening between two buildings — a pedestrian walkway between deteriorating tenements. He sprinted down the muddy track and then skidded to a stop when he came face-to-face with a massive head, its baleful eyes staring at him with bovine indifference.
Carson glared at the cow in the faint light and edged past it, ignoring the pink dust that rubbed on his clothes from where its hide had been festively colored by the faithful. He was just past the enormous beast when he heard his pursuers trail him into the passage. He slapped the cow’s haunch to goad it into charging them and sprinted as fast as he could for the far end, not waiting to see the effect of his effort.
At the next street he spotted a taxi creeping his way and flagged it down, hoping he didn’t look so frantic he would scare the driver off. The car slowed to a stop, and he was reaching for the rear door handle when the pair emerged from the passageway behind him. The driver blanched at the sight and stomped on the gas, leaving Carson standing alone, fully exposed.
He tore toward the glowing doorway of a curry restaurant, where a dim yellow sign over the storefront promised the best food in all India, and edged by a startled hostess in a golden sari before shouldering his way through the packed dining room, past the cash register in the rear, and through a pair of scarred double doors.
A half dozen cooks labored over pots of steaming gruel beside two dishwashers in a corner, scrubbing wooden bowls. Across from them, a wiry man chopped vegetables on a length of plywood with an oversized blade, his expression blank, head bobbing slightly with the music from a boom box on a shelf over the prep area. All looked up at Carson in surprise as he burst into the cramped cooking area and made for the rear door. A cry of protest went up from the two closest women ...