Today’s Wicked Wednesday is a busy one! I’m prepping to visit my Bandita friends over at Romance Bandits tomorrow and have some giveaways for you there. I want to thank all of you who have been busy following me all along the blogosphere and leaving your many comments and support for me and for STRONGER THAN SIN!
Many of you have asked along the way about the fate of THE CALLING. Well, there are two more which will come out in January and February 2012. But well before those, I’ll have another vampire treat for you: AZTEC GOLD, a novella from Carina Press. AZTEC GOLD is the story of a woman searching for her missing lover and fighting an unusual enemy: an Aztec vampire demi-goddess.
Warning, it’s a cliff hanger at the end of this little excerpt! I want to whet your appetite for more.
The feel of old papers called to Cynthia Guerrera the way a lover’s skin might.
Even with the gloves she wore to protect the fragile documents from the oils on her fingers, she sensed the raspy texture of the heavy parchment beneath her fingertips. Smelled the mustiness that hinted at the fact that it had been some time since these papers had seen the light of day.
At first she had been skeptical about the provenance of the documents. Missouri cornfields were not the place one expected to find a trunk filled with nearly five-hundred-year-old Spanish artifacts. But a Missouri cornfield was just where the trunk containing the papers, journal and maps had been discovered when a developer had begun excavations for a new strip mall.
Setting aside the missive—a letter from Coronado himself to one of his seconds in command—she turned her attention to the leather bound journal of Juan Domingo Cordero, one of the conquistadors who had accompanied Coronado on his adventures. Gingerly opening the cover, she traced her fingers over the sprawling script. The first entries in the journal had provided her with the identity of the author and the date of the documents thanks to Cordero’s meticulous notations.
With that information, she had been able to check a number of other sources to confirm that Cordero had indeed been one of Coronado’s lieutenants. When Coronado had left Mexico City in 1540 in search of the fabled Cities of Gold, Cordero had been at his side for the first leg of the journey. Coronado had eventually separated from Cordero and his contingent, ordering them to search in one direction while he went in another.
Cordero’s entries in the journal carefully detailed their travels throughout the south central portion of Mexico, before his band had turned northward until they crossed the Rio Grande. Eventually the group had drifted eastward and reached the Mississippi, hugging the fertile banks of the river until it landed them in the area that would become known as Missouri.
Tired of their journeys and with their group decimated by a number of incidents, the Spanish conquistadors had built a small settlement a short distance from the sluggish and fruitful waters of the Mississippi.
The notations in Cordero’s journal gradually diminished after the establishment of that settlement, with the conquistador’s adventures giving way to the routine of farming and family life. It seemed that Cordero had finally stopped writing at all.
Cynthia supposed that was when the conquistador had tucked the journals detailing his explorations into the small wood and leather trunk together with his other papers. The trunk in turn had been put in a cellar, and over time, the floods that often occurred in the area had covered Cordero’s home and the surrounding settlement with mud. Further flooding and natural events had added to the layers over the former community, hiding its existence from sight until the developer’s bulldozers had dug up the first hints of the earlier colonization and the trunk.
Cynthia picked up the report that had arrived that morning. The assorted laboratory tests she had requested absolutely confirmed the age of the documents.
With that endorsement came proof of one thing, while serious doubt remained about a series of entries in the journals—unusual and unbelievable tales.
She rose and walked over to the climate-controlled locker in her office and then removed a hand-wrought wood and metal tube from within. Returning to her worktable, she untied the laces holding the metal cap in place at one end of the cylinder and slipped out a pliant sheet of leather that bore a crudely drawn map identifying the sometimes circuitous route Cordero and his men had taken from Mexico City.
In the middle of the map, more carefully detailed than anything else, were the geographical features and path to what Cordero had believed to be one of the fabled Cities of Gold. A city supposedly inhabited by a demon goddess who had taken away and killed nearly half a dozen of his men. Cordero had decided after the incident that no amount of lucre was worth their lives and had chosen to leave the area in search of a safer existence.
Shortly thereafter, he and his men had traveled northward, reached the Rio Grande, and eventually built the small farming settlement near the banks of the Mississippi.
Cynthia could well understand the motivation for adopting a quieter life after such hardships. Her childhood had been a series of travails thanks to her anthropologist parents and their thirst for knowledge.
But unlike the entries detailing Cordero’s travels, the tale of a demon goddess was hard to believe. Yet everything else about the documents was genuine.
Worse, something about the map had troubled her from the moment she first unrolled it onto her workstation—its similarity to one she had seen a little over six months earlier. As she had compared the various features on the drawing to a copy of one given to her by her lover, Dr. Rafael Santiago, she realized there was too much coincidence to ignore.
So many months ago, Rafe had detailed to her the plans for his latest archaeological expedition—a trip to a previously unknown and unexplored Aztec temple located in south central Mexico. While on that trip, Rafe, his younger brother and a team of five other men had disappeared into the Mexican jungle.
For weeks rescuers had searched for them, but without luck. The guides assisting them had refused to enter the Devil’s Jungle and without their advice, finding Rafe’s exact trail toward the temple had been virtually impossible.
For months Cynthia had been reaching out to various contacts in the area, hoping for word of Rafe and his group and keeping faith in the belief that they were still alive. But with each month that passed and every clue that evaporated into nothingness, that hope was fading along with the prospect of discovering anything about her lover’s disappearance…until now.