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Excerpt from Portal to Peace

 Pre-dawn light blanketed the horizon when Lars spotted his Land Rover. Fatigued and blurry-eyed, he rested before continuing the last two hundred yards. The lone sheep had paralleled his descent down the mountain, keeping him company through the night. He watched while the injured animal succumbed to exhaustion. Determined to finish the crawl before resting, he pulled forward. Beneath him, the ground vibrated. He heard the high-pitched whine of an approaching vehicle.

How to get to the car before someone spotted him in his current condition? Without a passport, sporting military tags, and carrying a wealth of classified information presented untold problems. The door locks would not deter someone from gaining admittance and removing electronics.

After several yards, Lars inhaled sharply and gauged the distance. No way could he close the gap before the unidentified visitor arrived. He rolled behind a boulder. A battered jeep pulled up behind the Land Rover. Who would be out driving this rough terrain? Maybe the owner of a lost sheep?

Given the distance, dim light, and his position, he couldn’t make out the driver. He glanced down. His sweat-drenched skin, coated in brown dirt and his black clothing, created perfect camouflage. With head low and body tucked, he waited.

The vehicle stopped. The sun crested the horizon. Waves of apprehension and wariness surrounded him. The door on the vehicle slammed.

Lars heard slow hesitant footsteps, and shifted his head. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, not sure he was seeing clearly through the narrow opening between the rocks. Yes, definitely a woman. A woman with extraordinarily long, thick black hair, walking directly towards him. Each step she took caused the curtain of hair to sway, adding allure to her graceful curves, and honey-colored skin. She leveled a medical bag in front of her like a shield of honor.

Did she see him behind the rock? Impossible. The distance and obstruction between them required startling visual ability. Certainly not a local villager searching for a lost sheep. Out of habit, he slowly removed his knife. She paused twenty-five yards below him and stood in silence.

“Sir, I mean you no harm. Please put your weapon down. I have come here to help you.”

The gentle voice coaxed him into a false security. Why couldn’t he place the accent and meter in her words? Surely, not Spanish. He took shallow breaths and held his partially-rolled strike position. Who sent her? Who but the general knew his location? He loosened his grip on the smooth metal. How did she know about the knife? He sheathed the weapon while she approached.

“Zeta sent me. You are hurt and unable to complete your task. Please allow me to examine your leg.”
Zeta? Helvete, who was Zeta?

All pretenses gone, Lars sat up. He studied her progress until she stopped in front of him, asking silent permission to examine his leg. As she crouched in front of him, her black hair flowed over her shoulders and brushed the ground.

His gaze met hers and he lost himself in the unexpected blue of her eyes. Too late, he remembered his own skills at blocking such an invasion. His mental door slammed and he gathered his remaining strength and control. In that brief unguarded moment, she had gained access to his mind.

He masked his facial features. “Who is Zeta? What does she know about my task?”

“I am Doctor Wanda Dove and Zeta is my ancestor guide. And the task? She will tell me what she knows when the time is right. Are you going to let me look at your leg?”

Again, her voice sent a soothing sensation rippling down his spine. He coiled his remaining energy. The SAS recruiters used mysterious, drop-dead gorgeous women like her for interrogation training exercises.

He stared.

She blinked.

He swallowed.

She smiled.

He inhaled sharply. Now what?

Though he wanted to, he didn’t flinch when she stood, reached down, and removed his hat. Guarded and unable to trust his voice, he watched her study his head. The morning breeze lifted and dried the thick strands. Hadn’t she ever seen blond hair? Her eyes sparkled at him. Uneasy, he shifted and pointed to his leg, then tugged his hat away from her limp hand and tossed it behind him.

She knelt to remove the make-shift splint bindings, her backside facing him. He reached for her mantle of black hair, which had pooled on the ground and brushed off the dirt. Her movements stilled. He’d only meant to hold her hair out of the dirt, but the sensuous heavy strands were now wound rope-like around his hand.

She pivoted and eyed his fist. “You do not need to trap me. I will not run away. I have promised not to harm you.”

Lars looked beyond her shoulder for a moment then back at her eyes. Her face remained expressionless, and yet her eyes spoke of shock and wariness. Releasing the black tresses, he held up his palms.

“I…so sorry. The dirt…I lifted the hair from the dirt.”

Had he said that?

She made several quick hand gestures around her head while mouthing words. Was touching her hair some kind of sacrilege? She removed a cloth band from her bag and swiftly formed the hair into a long sleek braid all the while murmuring foreign words. Without further comment, she returned to unbinding the splint.

Ignoring the pain, Lars replayed the previous few minutes and her unusual psychic abilities. He itched to take some measurements, but his pack was just out of reach.

Finished with the unbinding, she slid his pant leg past his knee. At her quick intake of breath, he darted a look, assessed the damage, then studied her face. Her gaze focused on some distant point; her head cocked as if she were listening.

“Stephan Lars, this is serious. The village clinic cannot provide the care you need. With your permission I would like to use alternative treatment.”