Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the romantic thriller, Byzantine Gold, by Chris Karslen. Enjoy!
A sunken warship from the Byzantine Era carrying an unusual cargo of gold has been found off the coast of Northern Cyprus. News of the valuable cache has attracted the attention of a terrorist cell. They plan to attack the recovery team’s campsite and steal the artifacts. On the Black Market, the sale of the relics will buy them additional weapons.
Charlotte Dashiell, an American archaeologist, and her lover, Atakan Vadim, a Turkish government agent, are scheduled to be part of the recovery team that brings up the artifacts. While en route to Cyprus, they find themselves caught in the crosshairs of Maksym Tischenko, a Ukrainian contract killer bent on revenge. Charlotte, Atakan and Tischenko share a grim history. As a result, Tischenko is a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal—seeing them both dead.
Charlotte and Atakan stopped midway on Sacre-Coeur’s steep staircase to admire the basilica’s architecture. The Romanesque-Byzantine influence reminded her of historical buildings in Istanbul, their home. With the variegated onion-shaped domes and turrets similar to minarets, the church was one of the more unique city structures.
“So beautiful,” Charlotte said, “like an artifact on top of the skyline.” Atakan hadn’t said much as they came up the hill. She wasn’t sure if he was impressed or not.
“Reminds me of an Ottoman wedding cake,” he replied.
“Seeing this makes me anxious to start the recovery project,” Charlotte said, adding, “provided they select me for the team.”
Atakan embraced her from behind and nuzzled her neck, the uber sensitive side, then rested his chin on her head. She giggled, wrapped her arms around his and pressed deeper into his chest. He rarely showed his romantic side in public. Apparently, the romance of Paris had inspired him. She opened her mouth to say as much, but changed her mind. Why spoil the moment?
“You have a taste for Byzantine style jewelry. The Cyprus shipwreck is from that period. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and find a cache of jewelry at the site. You’ll have the opportunity to hold authentic pieces.” He released his embrace and moved next to her. “Shall we?”
A faint shiver trickled down her spine with the loss of his body’s warmth.
They continued to the entrance and inside.
“Let’s go to the dome first,” Charlotte said.
They climbed the narrow, spiral staircase eighty-three meters to the top, holding hands as they strolled along the gallery enjoying the panoramic sight.
Atakan stopped to study the elegant capitals topping the support columns. “Excellent stonework,” he said with is archaeologist’s eye for detail.
She leaned over the railing to people watch. Below her, guides led their clusters of tourists to the apse, famous for its golden mosaics and from there to different quiet corners of the basilica to point out the highlights.
“Charlotte, turn around. Smile.” Atakan played with the camera in his phone for a few seconds then snapped a photo. “I’ll be right back. I want one of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.”
She continued to people watch from her birds-eyes view. A lone man in a baseball cap walked up the main aisle. He wore sunglasses in spite of the overcast April sky. He kept his hands in the pockets of his bomber jacket and looked straight ahead, showing no interest in the stain-glass windows or other architectural features.
She turned her attention to the constant stream of worshipers who took seats on pews away from the tour groups. Some knelt and prayed, others sat with eyes closed, their hands folded, and listened to the nuns singing.
A large group of tourists and the lone male approached the chancel, directly below Charlotte. The man stepped aside to allow the guide and her charges to pass. Then, he removed his cap and glasses, looked up at Charlotte, and smiled.
The past terror she’d buried and fought to forget returned with a vengeance. Rocked, she sucked in a fear driven gasp and reflexively jerked back.
She shook off the panic. Angry with herself for the way she reacted and pissed the bastard still had that effect. She peered over the rail again. Maybe she was wrong.
She wasn’t. The same brush-cut hair, the same dimpled smile as he kept his eyes on her, the handsome Slavic face was forever etched in her memory…the face of the man who’d kidnapped and tortured her.
Heart pounding, she spun, dashed to where Atakan snapped pictures and grabbed his arm. “Quick, Tischenko is here.”
“Charlotte—” He followed as she raced down the twisting staircase. Visitors coming from the other direction flattened themselves to the wall, out of her way and his.
When they reached the main floor, Atakan pushed past her and blocked her path. He held her by the upper arms. “Charlotte, stop for a moment. Where did you see him?”
She tried to pull away. “Here—he was walking down the center aisle,” she stressed, searching the faces in the crowd of visitors.
Tischenko was gone.
“I tell you, I saw him.”
Atakan continued to hold onto her as he scanned the aisles and pews. “I don’t see anyone resembling him, let alone the man himself.”
“He must’ve realized we’d chase after him. Come on, he can’t have gone far.” She broke from Atakan and hurried along the aisle with the fewest tourists and out the doors.
She hesitated on the portico. The ever-present musician buskers with their open instrument cases and people resting from the long climb littered the stairs.
Her eyes darted from one person to the next. “He’s wearing a black leather jacket and ball cap. He’s not here. Which way do you think he went?” she asked, turning to Atakan. “Maybe the metro—Abbesses is the closest stop.”
“If I were running from a wild woman, I wouldn’t risk getting caught at a station waiting for a train.”
“I bet he ran through the gardens toward Place Saint-Pierre.” She glanced at her watch. “Almost noon. The square will be swarming with families and lunchtime diners, easy to blend in and get lost.”
She threaded her way through the crowd toward Saint-Pierre. Ahead, a fair-haired man, in a black leather jacket walked at a brisk pace by the merry-go-round playing a tinny version of the Star Wars Theme. Jogging faster, Charlotte caught up to him and yanked on his arm.
The man looked momentarily stunned.
“Pardon monsieur,” Atakan apologized and took Charlotte aside. “Enough!”
“It was not him at the church.”
She hadn’t thought of Tischenko in months. How likely was it for her to imagine seeing him? But if it was him, he did a great job of vaporizing.
She laid her head on Atakan’s shoulder for a long moment. He rubbed her back along the spine until the adrenaline rush passed and she calmed.
“You’re hungry,” she said at last, hearing his stomach rumble. “Le Barouder is charming and nearby.”
“No. We’re not eating anywhere in Montmartre. I don’t want to be in the middle of my food and have to chase after you because you think you’ve seen Tischenko again. We’ll find a café by the hotel.”
“Pretend for a minute, I’m right. It’s—”
“If it’s true, his presence here is a coincidence.”
“You don’t believe in coincidence.”
“In this case, I do.” Atakan bent and brushed her lips with a light kiss. “So intelligent and lovely, a pity you are crazy.”
“That’s what makes life with me exciting,” she said, with feigned, wide-eyed innocence.
“I’m not sure exciting is the right word.”
Still uneasy, Charlotte scanned the crowd one last time.
Across the square, Maksym Tischenko stepped from the rear of the crepe vendor’s stall. Atakan and the Dashiell woman returned the way they came. Maksym took side streets that didn’t intersect with the one Atakan and Dashiell were on. At the main avenue, he hailed a cab and instructed the driver to take him to Hotel Du Danube, where the couple was staying.