Fresh from confronting the Lord of the Vampires in the limestone catacombs beneath Paris, Jack Templar faces his toughest challenge yet as he searches for the next Jerusalem Stone, this one being held by the Lord of the Werewolves.
But the narrow escape from the vampire lair came at a great cost and Eva battles to survive the new vampire blood in her veins. The only chance to help Eva is to continue their quest and find the Jerusalem Stones. Reuniting the Stones will not only stop Ren Lucre’s coming war against mankind, but also transform Eva back into her human self.
From the ruins of ancient Delhi to the depths of the Black Forest in Germany, Jack and his friends face monsters, bewildering riddles and treachery from the most unlikely of places. Through it all, they are plagued by the Oracle’s prediction that at least one of their group with not make it through the adventure alive. Worse yet, they know that Kaeden, the Lord of the Werewolves, will do his best to make sure none of them do.
But they are monster hunters of the Black Guard… and they will do their duty, come what may.
It seemed impossible to digest that Ren Lucre, the Lord of the Creach, the one raising an army to destroy the world, the monster who most wanted me dead and who kept my father prisoner in his dungeon, was actually my grandfather.
But I knew my friends deserved the truth, so on the first day on the boat leaving Paris, I told them everything. They were shocked, of course, and didn’t know what to say.
Will, my scrappy friend from Sunnyvale, put an arm around me. He’d stuck by my side during my whole crazy adventure into the world of Creach, monster hunters, and ancient prophecies. “Wow,” he said. “And I thought my family was messed up.”
It was the perfect comment. Five out of six of us laughed, including T-Rex, my other friend from middle school, along with Xavier and Daniel, who I’d met at the Monster Hunter Academy. Then we spoke openly about what my monster relatives meant to our mission – stopping Ren Lucre from destroying human civilization – and how each of us felt about it. Not that it solved anything, but it did make sure we all had the same information. Everyone felt better afterward, everyone except the sixth member of our party who stood silently staring out into the night. It was an unspoken understanding that the best way to handle that situation was to just give it time and leave it alone. She would come around eventually. We hoped.
But that was three days ago and, with night closed in around us, the stress of our situation made the companionship of that moment seem far away.
I turned my back on my friends and stared up at the moonless night sky. I felt the gentle movement on the river as it carried our boat west, away from Paris. The bank slid by silently on my right, just a dark shadow of trees.
“I can’t take any more of this endless debate,” Daniel said behind me. “I say we fight, and the winner chooses our next move.”
I clenched my hands into fists and wondered whether I should just let them give Daniel my answer. I turned to gauge whether the comment had been a joke to release the tension or a real suggestion. Neither would have surprised me.
Daniel stepped toward me and, by the look on his face, I don’t think he was sure either whether he’d been joking or not. He was taller than me by a foot and built like a star high school quarterback, with broad shoulders and thick twists of lean muscle. His once ridiculously good looks now had the blemish of a fake nose attached to his face where a swarm had screechers had chewed off the original. Even though I’d saved him from dying that day and we’ve been friends and fought side-by-side ever since, some of the old tensions between us still leaked out every now and then.
He and I hadn’t exactly gotten off on the right foot when I’d arrived as the new guy at the Monster Hunter Academy. The ancient school in France served as the training grounds for the Black Guard, the secret society tasked with protecting the reg, or regular, world from the Creach. He was already top dog there when I showed up with everyone whispering about the prophecy, about how I might be “the One,” how I was the last Templar knight. There’s nothing a top dog like Daniel appreciates less than another dog showing up and peeing in his yard. Well, peeing in his front yard and then trying to steal his ex-girlfriend is worse. Yeah, that happened too. Worst of all, he still had a thing for her.
All that was supposed to be behind us now. We were friends, comrades-in-arms who’d faced down screechers, dragons, goblins, desert djinn and even an entire vampire horde together. Still, under the stress of the last few days, we were at each other’s throats.
“Back down, you idiots,” said a voice from behind us. It was Will. “You guys are acting like morons. You’re just tired. We all are.”
He stepped between us like the mini-pit-bull he was, pushing each of us back with a hand. Because of his small size, enemies often underestimated Will, and sometimes his friends did too. But I knew no one tougher or more loyal. Out of respect for him, and because neither of us really wanted to fight, Daniel and I backed away from one another.
Will was dressed in the same gear we all had, black pants, black t-shirt, and a jacket with multiple pockets. Exactly the same outfits we’d all been wearing three days earlier when we battled the vampire horde in the catacombs of Paris.
Three days ago.
It seemed like a lifetime.
Especially since that was how long it had been since any of us had more than an hour or two of fitful sleep.
“That’s better,” Will said. “We’re all tired and more than a little grumpy, so let’s just assume people are going to say dumb stuff they don’t mean, okay?”
“Like when I said I wasn’t hungry,” said another voice. “I was just kidding about that.”
T-Rex, piped up from the opposite side of the small steering house in the center of the boat. He stepped out, hand on his oversized stomach, looking unhappy. I smiled at him not because of what he said but because his presence on this adventure always reminded me about the strength of friendship. He was here because he would do anything to help his friends. And if that meant traveling halfway around the world to battle monsters, so be it. He was along for the ride.
“’Cause, honestly, I’m getting really hungry,” T-Rex said.
T-Rex had thinned down since leaving Sunnyvale, and he’d kicked his habit of picking his nose when he was nervous, but he still didn’t look like an obvious fit to be a monster hunter. His round face, freckled nose and wide waist had made him a perfect candidate to be a Ratling at the Academy, working the kitchens and serving the food he loved. But as soon as I decided to seek out the five Jerusalem Stones from the five Creach Lords who had them, he’d stood right next to the others with his short sword clutched to his side, demanding that he come along.
“That much we can agree on,” I said. “I think we’re all hungry.”
Xavier, the brainiac of our little group, gave a nervous glance to the boat’s bow. “We better hope she doesn’t get too hungry.”
While most of the Black Guard relied on their swords, crossbows and other weapons to fight the Creach, Xavier’s brilliant mind was a weapon in and of itself. He was only twelve, the youngest of our group, but his inventions had saved our bacon more than a few times already. His brilliance made him a little socially awkward though since he didn’t see the need to filter anything that came to his mind. You never knew what was going to come out of his mouth. This comment about the last member of our group only said exactly what the rest of us were thinking but were too polite – or afraid – to say out loud.
My eyes flicked towards Eva, the proud fighter who’d been the first to tell me about this whole undiscovered world swirling around me. Eva, the fourth level monster hunter who was one of the most feared members of the Black Guard even though she only had one hand. Eva, the first girl who I’d fallen for but who wisely had kept us focused on our mission, which was so much larger than either of us. She was all these things, but since the events of the catacombs under the streets of Paris, she was one other thing as well.
She was Eva the vampire.
Author Jeff Gunhus
Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Amazon bestselling supernatural thriller, Night Chill, and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book of the series, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. Killer Within is his second novel for adults. As a father of five, he and his wife Nicole spend most of their time chasing kids and taking advantage of living in the great state of Maryland. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel. If you see him there, sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. You just might end up in his next novel.
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