Time Raiders: The Whisper

By: Elle James

Chapter One

Marisol Vasquez fell into a grassy field feetfirst. Though she’d done everything she’d trained for in the Air Force Pararescue unit she’d been recruited from, the landing knocked the wind out of her.

She lay for a moment, rocks pressing into her sides, the colorful, woolen native dress she’d been given to wear hiked up around her thighs.

With her pulse pounding in her ears, she felt for the bracelet that was her only link to the twenty-first century, her only way back to her world, her time, her life. Not until her fingers wrapped around the cool metal did she breathe a sigh and push to a sitting position to take in her new surroundings.

The field was a small plateau nestled in the Peruvian Andes near the Urubamba Valley of what she knew to be South America. Below her stretched the center of the ancient Incan Empire, the divine city of Cusco, founded and expanded by the great Incan ruler Pachacuti.

Marisol stood up, her gaze taking in the view of the sprawling city below. Spread out before her, bigger than she’d ever imagined, was the reason for her journey across time and distance. She found Cusco’s sheer size and density to be much more intimidating than she’d originally anticipated. For the first time since Marisol had agreed to this extraordinary mission, she wondered if she was in over her head.

She’d traveled from Arizona to Peru and over five hundred and sixty years back through time in the blink of an eye. Marisol was a highly trained Air Force Combat Rescue Officer with a special ability to communicate with animals and “see” through their eyes.

“Now all I have to do is walk right into the city, locate Pachacuti’s palace and find what I came here for. Easy, right?”

“Depends on what you are looking for,” a voice said behind her.

Marisol spun toward the voice, crouching in a fighting position. Sure of only one thing—the language translator implanted behind her ear was working.

A man lounged across the lush green grass, a woven cloth spread with a variety of fruits, cheese and bread arranged before him. What struck Marisol wasn’t that he was a man but that he wasn’t what she’d expected to see in Pachacuti’s Incan Empire.

He wore sandals and a short wool skirt that exposed amazingly thick thighs. His top half was bare but for two large gold bands around his upper arms. He had a bright red cape slung across shoulders so broad they could have easily filled any modern doorway.

Marisol gulped at the breath catching in her throat.

It wasn’t his clothing or his jewelry that took her aback. The long, white-blond hair hanging past his shoulders and his ice-blue eyes captivated her. Where had this Norse god sprung from? The Spaniards weren’t due to arrive for several more years and even they weren’t as pale as this man who was a freak among the dark Incas.

“Who are you?” Marisol wondered if she’d landed in the wrong time or place.

He raised his eyebrows. “You are the intruder to my peace. Perhaps you should be so kind as to gift me with your name, first.”

Seeing no reason to withhold her identity, she answered, “Marisol Vasquez.”

The man tipped his head in a regal manner, a smile twitching his lips. “I am Gunnar.”

“That tells me a lot.” She cast another glance around at the hillsides and the metropolis stretched out before her. “Am I right in assuming that the city below is Cusco?”

“You are correct.” He remained in the supine position, tossing a mango in one hand.

“What business have you with the Incan ruler?”

Marisol’s eyes widened. “Do you mean Pachacuti?”

Gunnar nodded. “Everyone in the land knows of the great Pachacuti. It surprises me that you must ask. Are you a stranger from a foreign land?”

“Yes. I am.” She glanced toward the city. “I need to get to the palace.”

“Ah, yes. To find something.” He plucked another fruit from the assortment on the blanket in front of him. The muscles in his arm and shoulder rippled, sending corresponding waves of awareness through Marisol. His full sensuous lips closed around the fruit as he bit into the flesh.

Mesmerized by the slow, deliberate tasting, Marisol could only watch as the man called Gunnar consumed the sweet, his jaw moving as he sucked the juices out of the fruit.

An image of those lips caressing her nipples flashed through Marisol’s mind, knocking her back a step. She shook herself, forcing back any sensual thoughts of the stranger, his lips or the fruit he suckled.

Long, broad fingers twirled the half-eaten fruit in his hand, his gaze on what he held, not her. “You will not get into the palace by walking in. There are guards at every entrance.”

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