KEEPER OF THE LOCH
The seventh and brand new Tale of the Order
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Though this book is the seventh in a series, it can be read as a stand-alone.
When Rogan MacClean receives word that his estranged parents have died in Loch Ness, he wants nothing more than to retrieve their things and walk away. After all, his parents were chasing myths and fairy tales—things that don’t interest their marine biologist son.
When Rogan arrives at the Loch, he discovers that there’s far more to the story than he’d thought. It’s the find of a lifetime, one that he’s not sure he wants to share. But a persistent journalist wants to make him change his mind and isn’t above playing dirty to get her way.
Exposing the sea monsters would make his career, but could put the whole Order at risk—including Enora, the woman he’s come to love. And if the journalist discovers the monsters, it’s too late for everyone.
Copyright © CANDACE SAMS, 2008
Enora took a flashlight out of her jacket pocket and turned it on. She didn’t need it but the outsiders with her certainly would. “Stay very close to me. We’ll be heading into a cave that will slope down at a very sharp angle. You can’t fall off the path as the walls are quite narrow. But you can tumble forward and break your neck.” She shot what she hoped was a contemptuous look in Rogan’s direction. The flashlight illuminated his face just enough that she could see him scowling at her. She turned and led the way through a thick variety of gorse and shrubbery to reveal the small opening of the cave into which they were entering.
“I can’t believe this bullshit!” Rogan groused.
“Hang on to your temper, Rogan,” Wayne warned. “Whatever’s going on, I’m sure there has to be a very important reason. Even your parents wouldn’t go this far just to get you away from Architeuthis.”
Rogan snorted. “Oh, I believe they would. They faced down a United States Navy destroyer without so much as batting an eye.”
That was a story Enora wanted to hear. The elder MacCleans had never said they’d done such a thing for any reason. And she’d spent a great deal of time getting to know as much about them as possible. It concerned her that the Sorceress hadn’t mentioned any such scenario. Surely if Rogan’s parents had confronted the U.S. Navy, she should have been told about that escapade. But she kept her thoughts to herself and kept walking. She only spoke when it was necessary to warn the tall men to bend over where the ceiling was low. And at each level they descended, the air became very much colder.
“Damn! When you said it’d be cold you weren’t lying,” Wayne said and pulled his collar up around his neck.
Rogan refused to give the woman the satisfaction of seeing how cold he was. Or how desperately tired. He plowed gamely along behind her as if he’d been strolling the downward path his entire life. After about a half hour of trudging into darker and darker blackness with only Enora’s flashlight to light their way, he finally stopped. “All right, Ms. Brighton. Where are you taking us? How do we know what’s at the end of this path, if it even has an end?”
“It’s only a little farther. But you must remain quiet from this point on. Sounds carry a great distance within this rock and those below may be startled by us if we aren’t careful.”
“And why should I care if I startle my own parents? Especially after what they’ve put me through?”
Enora stopped walking and turned to face him. She lifted the flashlight up to shoulder level so she could see the face of the man towering over her. “It isn’t for your parents’ sake that I’m telling you to keep your mouth shut, Mr. MacClean. There are…well, let’s just say there are some things in the world below you wouldn’t want to startle or frighten.”
Rogan glanced at Wayne who shrugged his big shoulders.
“Let’s see what’s up, Rogan. We’ve come this far.” Wayne motioned for his friend to follow Enora as she struck off down the narrow rock path again.
After walking about another hundred yards, Enora suddenly turned. Rogan stopped within inches of her. “We’re here,” she told them. “Keep walking slowly, try not to make any sound and follow me into the cave.”
“Cave. Should’ve expected something like this,” Rogan quietly complained, but he kept walking and did as Enora instructed. As he worked his way into the darkness ahead, they made a very sharp turn to the right and were suddenly bathed in light. A good-sized campfire was blazing before them, the smoke of which was rising to the cathedral-like ceiling above. The smoke seemed to be drawn upward and Rogan surmised it was headed toward numerous cracks in the cave ceiling high up. By the time the smoke exited the cave, it was probably dissipated enough that it would never be visible even in the daylight. Within the cavernous space of rock, there was no sign of his parents or anything else but that campfire. Light reflected on small mica and quartz particles within the stone of the cave, making it reflect eerily and look a bit like some enchanted place from a fairy tale. From his reading, he wouldn’t have thought any such cave like this existed within the loch. The geology was wrong. But here he was, standing within its depths.
“This is beautiful,” Wayne uttered.
Enora nodded. “It is, isn’t it? There are many like it around the loch. All below the water level. And look there.” She pointed toward the far end of the cave behind them. Both men turned to look and she couldn’t help smiling at their mutual gasps of surprise. “It’s like a small beach. They come up on shore here and rest.”
“Who is they?” Rogan asked. Just as he made the query Rogan felt his face go slack. Out of the water rose a huge creature the likes of which he’d never seen. With the animal were two human figures wearing dry suit diving gear and standard scuba tanks. They walked alongside the beast as it strode onto the sandy beach-like space. The man on the animal’s right side pulled up his face mask.
“Hello, Rogan, meet Nessie.”