Sarwat Chadda: Devil’s Kiss

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Sarwat Chadda Devil’s Kiss
  • Название:
    Devil’s Kiss
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  • Жанр:
    Триллер / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Devil’s Kiss: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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There's Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself…And Billi SanGreal. As the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar, Bilquis SanGreal grew up knowing she wasn't normal. Instead of hanging out at the mall or going on dates, she spends her time training as a soldier in her order's ancient battle against the Unholy. Billi's cloistered life is blasted apart when her childhood friend, Kay, returns from Jerusalem, gorgeous and with a dangerous chip on his shoulder. He's ready to reclaim his place in Billi's life, but she's met someone new: amber-eyed Michael, who seems to understand her like no one else, effortlessly claiming a stake in her heart. But the Templars are called to duty before Billi can enjoy the pleasant new twist to her life. One of the order's ancient enemies has resurfaced, searching for a treasure that the Templars have protected for hundreds of years – a cursed mirror powerful enough to kill all of London 's firstborn. To save her city from catastrophe, Billi will have to put her heart aside and make sacrifices greater than any of the Templars could have imagined.

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‘They’re waiting, Art,’ comes a loud whisper from beside the door. The voice is deep and soft: Percy, her godfather.

The hand straightens her duvet, and rests momentarily on her shoulder. Then her dad sighs and turns away. Moments later the door closes, darkness returns and the latch falls into place.

Billi waits unmoving for a minute, then slides out of bed. She’s tall for her age, but light. The floorboards don’t squeak even as she crosses them. Then she’s beside the door, listening.

Muffled voices murmur from beyond. She can’t make out any words, but there’s the scrape of chair legs on bare wood and the sound of taps running: they’re in the kitchen, downstairs.

Billi knows what she’s doing is wrong, but she must know. Her dad is lying to her.

Why?

Why are there half-burnt bandages in the fireplace? Bloodied bandages.

Where does he go when he thinks she’s asleep?

And why does she fear that he might never come back?

Billi opens the door and darts through the narrow gap. She scurries along the short corridor, then crouches at the top of the stairs.

And listens.

‘If the boy is right, we’ve got no choice.’

It’s her dad; he sounds tired. What boy? It can’t be anyone from school – none of the other parents let their children play with her any more. Maybe it’s that boy Father Balin brought last week. That skinny boy with the huge blue eyes and white hair. What was his name? She remembers.

Kay.

‘A girl? In the Order? That’s not foolishness, that’s heresy.’ The voice is hard and full of rage: Gwaine. Why is he always so angry? He and her father used to be friends.

‘Art, at least give her a few more years of freedom – she’s only ten,’ says Percy.

They’re talking about her! Billi catches her breath. She wants to hear everything. She puts a foot on the step and shifts her weight slowly on to it. She takes another silent step, then another and soon she’s at the bottom, waiting beside the door.

The tap runs and water rattles inside a kettle.

‘You know what the Jesuits say,’ says another, in the slight Welsh-tinged accent of her babysitter, Father Balin. ‘Give me a boy of seven and I’ll give you the man.’

There’s a snarl from Gwaine. ‘We’re not bloody Jesuits. We’re -’

‘Enough. I’ve made my decision,’ says her dad, and everyone shuts up. It’s like they’re afraid of him. Why? He’s not important. He’s just a porter, here at the Middle Temple, like Percy and Gwaine. He fixes things. He tends the gardens and waters the plants in the halls. Doesn’t he?

Or maybe Billi doesn’t know her father at all.

‘D’you think I’m happy with this? With what she’ll have to go through?’

Why are they talking about her? Is she going to have to move school again?

Peeking through the narrow gap, she sees Father Balin put the old steel kettle on the electric hob. Percy, Gwaine and her dad sit round the kitchen table. She glimpses something metallic and bright on top of it then Percy, who’s the biggest person Billi knows, shifts his seat and blocks her view. But as he moves she spots something else. Something wrapped up in a black plastic bin bag.

And dripping blood.

Gwaine shakes his head. ‘Just because you’re Master doesn’t give you the right to make such decisions, Art.’

Master? What’s Gwaine talking about? Master of what?

‘Actually, Gwaine, being Master gives me exactly those rights.’

Gwaine jerks forward. ‘For the last nine hundred years the Order has followed the Templar Rules, ever since Bernard de Clairvaux. You can’t just discard them and make up your own.’

Arthur leans back into his chair, arms folded across his chest.

‘I can, and I have.’ He points to the priest. ‘Balin, she’ll study Latin, Ancient Greek and Occult Lore with you.’ He slaps Percy’s massive shoulder. ‘Percival, weapons training.’

Billi sees a thin smile on Percy’s lips.

‘Of course,’ he says. ‘Any preference? Swords, daggers, quarterstaff?’

‘Everything,’ replies Arthur. ‘I’ll teach her unarmed combat.’

‘Arthur, I’m begging you. Please reconsider.’ Gwaine. He won’t give up. ‘Remember what happened to Jamila.’

Billi starts as he mentions her mum. The room is silent and she looks towards Arthur. Even now, five years after her mum’s murder, she can see the pain splashed across his face.

Arthur jabs his finger at Gwaine. ‘History and Arabic.’

Gwaine leaps to his feet, his face bright red. ‘Your arrogance killed your wife and your arrogance will kill your daughter as well!’

Billi screams as Arthur’s fist blurs the short distance across the table, smashing Gwaine’s jaw and hurling him off his stool. Gwaine crashes down hard, knocking Balin and sending the tray of mugs into the air and down on to the tiled floor. Billi screams again as the mugs shatter and the tea splashes everywhere.

But the others ignore the broken crockery.

They all stare at her.

Chair legs screech harshly as they slide across the floor and Arthur stands. His face is cool, blank and frightening. He points at a spot in front of him. ‘Here. Now.’

Gwaine struggles to stand, ignoring Percy’s offer of help.

‘Little sneak. How long has she been listening -’

‘Shut it, Gwaine,’ says Percy.

Billi and Gwaine’s eyes meet and red anger wells up in her chest. He’s wrong. Her mum’s death was not her father’s fault; he’d loved her. He’d never have hurt her. And he’d never hurt Billi. She knows what they whisper at the school gates, but it’s not true. Her dad was found innocent. The judge said so.

It takes forever for her to cross the room. She looks up at Percy for reassurance – nothing bad will happen to her if he’s here – but the West African’s usually friendly face is gone. Instead it is hard, emotionless rock.

She stops before her dad and forces herself to meet his stern gaze. When she does she can’t control her legs from shaking.

‘Why were you spying?’ he asks. It’s strange how when her dad is angry his voice becomes quiet and flat.

‘I… just wanted to know.’

‘What?’

Billi takes a deep breath. Everything. She wants to know everything. But where to begin? Why did Gwaine say that? Why are they talking about her like this? That’s where she’ll begin – with him.

‘Where you go. What you do.’

Arthur gazes silently at her for the longest time. It’s as though he’s searching her eyes for something. Finally he gives a curt nod.

‘Then look,’ he says, ‘at what I do,’ and steps away from the table.

Billi gasps. Lying across the dark oak table is a sword. It’s huge. The blade is wider than her hand, and the whole thing’s as tall as her. The pommel is nearest, and she can see its face is engraved with an image: two knights astride a single horse. Though the blade has been wiped, traces of blood smear the polished steel.

Next to the sword is a large, long-barrelled revolver. There are three bullets lined up. Made of silver.

She stares at the weapons. Then turns to her dad.

‘You’re not… bank robbers are you?’

Arthur looks scornful, but says nothing. He unwraps the black-plastic package.

Billi barely holds in the scream when she sees the severed limb within.

It’s a dog’s forepaw. Thickly muscled and grey-furred, with savage yellow claws as long as her fingers, the dog must have been the size of a lion!

‘You killed a dog?’

‘A wolf,’ says Arthur. ‘Show her, Balin.’

Balin gently lifts the silver crucifix off his neck and with it clenched tightly in his right fist he touches the paw with his left palm.

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