Nick’s mouth dropped. "I’m missing almost two years of my life."
"No, Nick," Ravyn said quietly. "You’re missing two years of your death."
He grew quiet at the reminder.
"Let me get Dorian," Susan said, her blue eyes filled with sympathy for a man she didn’t even know. "I’m sure he has some place to put you." But before she could move, the back door opened to show Otto coming in with a large box in his arms.
He took one look at Nick and froze in place.
Time hung still as the two men faced each other with a shared look of stunned shock. It was obvious that they never thought they’d see each other again.
Nick was the first to recover himself. "Otto? What are you doing here?"
"Me? I thought you were dead…" He set the box down as he approached Nick like a man seeing a ghost for the first time. He offered Nick his hand and when he took it, Otto pulled him against his chest for a man hug.
When they pulled apart, Otto’s gaze narrowed on the bow and arrow tattoo on Nick’s face. "Jesus, it’s true. You are a Dark-Hunter."
Nick’s features hardened as if he hated that fact. "Why are you in Seattle?"
"I-uh… I got transferred up here."
A veil fell over Otto’s face. Ravyn had to give him credit, he had the best poker face he’d ever seen. Otto, along with a whole crew of New Orleans Squires, had been evacuated out of the city just before Katrina hit. Since then, they’d been slowly moving back to Louisiana, with Otto, Tad, and Kyl being the last to go. They’d been kept here a little longer while the New Orleans Council recouped. Not to mention that the Daimons hadn’t been very active there since the hurricane.
"Council’s orders," Otto said in a bland tone.
Nick nodded as if in understanding.
Otto’s brow furrowed as he continued to stare at Nick like he was a bad science experiment. "What are you doing here?"
"I’m supposed to train him," Ravyn said.
The poker face slipped as Otto’s jaw went slack. "You?"
"What about Ash?"
Nick cursed. "He’s recused himself." There was so much tension in the air that it was tangible.
"We need to find Nick some place to sleep," Susan said, trying to alleviate the unspoken hostility.
Otto shifted the box in his hands. "He can bunk in my room. I won’t be sleeping for a while anyway." He stepped past Nick, toward the stairs.
They disappeared for a second before Otto came back alone.
He neared the two of them, then spoke in a low whisper. "Whatever you do, don’t mention Katrina to Nick. I don’t think he needs to know what’s happened to New Orleans until he gets some bearing on being back here again. Not to mention, he was originally from the Ninth Ward."
"Don’t worry," Ravyn said. "I’m not about to tell him."
Nodding, Otto left them again.
"Are you okay?" Susan asked.
Ravyn shrugged. "Honestly, I have no idea. Any more than I understand why Savitar would release Nick to me. How can I train him with all the crap that’s going on?"
"Like he said, Savitar trusts you."
Yeah, but he couldn’t imagine why. This day made no sense whatsoever to him. Tired and baffled, he held his hand out to her so that they could return downstairs. "C’mon. We still have a lot of stuff to cover. "
Ash growled low in his throat as he twisted at the rope that held his arm to Artemis’s bedpost. At the moment, he hated her.
No, wait, he basically hated her every moment of every day, but at this particular time, he really wanted to rip her head off and play a few games of baseball with it. He stared at the gold hourglass that was set on the shelf across from the bed and watched as the last few grains of black sand fell through it.
He should have known that nothing with Artemis would ever be simple. When he’d made the bargain with her, he forgot to stipulate that she had to stay in the room for a full hour. Instead, she’d finished her fifth orgasm, then vanished out from under him before he could uphold his part.
But not before she’d tied him to her bed to keep him from going after her. Leaning his head back, he ground his teeth in frustration. Yes, he could use his powers to free his arm, but whenever he did that, Artemis went wild on him because the other gods on Olympus could feel it. They weren’t "supposed" to know that he was here.
Yeah, right. They’d known for centuries that he stayed with her in her temple, but all of them pretended ignorance so that they didn’t have to deal with Artemis’s temper tantrums. If only I were that lucky. . . .
Dressed in a long, flowing white gown, Artemis appeared beside the bed. She feigned shock as she saw her hourglass that was now empty. "Oh no, did the hour end?"
"You know it did."
She tsked. "Then I guess we have to start over, don’t we?"
"Don’t take that tone with me, Acheron," she said sullenly. "You accepted the terms of your release." She freed his arm, then rubbed at the bruise on his wrist that had been caused by the rope. "Now, now, love, don’t be petulant."
Ash recovered his features to the typical stoicism he wore around her. Fine. Now that he knew the rules, he could turn them on her. Rising from the bed, he went to the hourglass and turned it over.
Artemis watched him with a curious frown.
Ash returned to her side and reached for the brooch that held her dress over her body. He opened the brooch and let her dress fall in a puddle at her feet. "Now where were we?"
Susan caught herself as her head dropped down. Blinking, she stifled a yawn. Ravyn reached around her and took her hand from the keyboard.
"Let’s call it a night."
"Susan, you’ve been a trooper, but it’s already dawn and you look like you’re ready to keel over from exhaustion. You can’t keep going like this. You’re as likely to overlook something as you are to find it."
As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. She’d read the last paragraph at least a dozen times and she still wasn’t sure what it said. Her head hurt and it was all she could do to keep her eyes open. "I guess you’re right."
This time she didn’t bother to hide her yawn as Ravyn shut down the computer for her.
"Did you find anything?" he asked her.
"Not yet. There are a couple of entries about some of the missing students whose parents called trying to locate them. Jimmy wrote that he took the inquiries to his chief only to be told not to worry about runaways. The chief told him he needed to focus his attention on other cases. That’s odd, right? I mean, if he’s covering up for Daimons, it makes sense. Otherwise why wouldn’t he let Jimmy keep investigating their whereabouts?"
"I have no idea. Dealing with the police force isn’t something I have much experience with. I tend to avoid them as much as possible."
Susan rubbed her eyes before she helped Ravyn pick up the files he’d been reading through. "What about you?"
"Not much to say. Just case notes. There are a few that mention a couple of witnesses who changed their testimony about an investigation he had that involved some woman he’d been trailing. But no real names or information. It’s so vague that I’m not even sure what he was referring to. "
"C’mon, Jimmy," she breathed as she put away the file folders. "Tell me something we need to solve this."
Ravyn pulled her up against his hard chest. It was the most soothing thing she’d ever known. And if she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend they were something more than strangers. But that was stupid. She knew better. "Enough, Susan. You need sleep."
"I know." She looked down at the uninviting mattress.
Ravyn got up and started for the door.
She frowned at him. "Where are you going?"
"To tell Dorian to set you up in a bedroom upstairs where you can get a decent day’s rest."
He gave her a "duh" stare. "You’re not allergic to daylight. There’s no need for you to stay down here in this disgusting hole with me. At least one of us should get a good sleep."
His thoughtfulness warmed her. Susan caught his hand and pulled him back into the room. "It’s okay. I’d rather be here with you."
"Sh," she said, placing a finger over his lips. "Don’t argue. Besides, I’m too tired to climb those stairs one more time and I’m sure you are, too." She pulled him back into the room and closed the door. "We can be grown-ups about this."
Ravyn wasn’t so sure about that. All he could focus on was those lips that begged him for a kiss. He glanced down at her body and felt his own stirring in response. Not to mention the scent of her hung heavy around his animal’s senses.
Yeah, he could be grown-up about this…
Switching off the light, he allowed her to pull him down on the mattress. He grabbed the blanket and covered them. Then he turned his back to her, hoping that might ease some of the temptation.
She sneezed. "Ravyn?"
"Could you roll over?"
His heart skipped a beat at her question. "Why?"
"I’m allergic to your hair and I have to sleep on my left side. I don’t know why, but it’s the only way I can rest. "
That really wasn’t the answer he’d been looking for. He was actually hoping she’d wanted him to flip over for her to molest him.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t that lucky. "Are you serious?"
She sneezed again. "Yeah. I’m rather positive."
Great. Just great. She was allergic to him. Well, that was a new one. Sighing heavily, he rolled over only to realize that facing her was a big mistake. It brought the soft, delicate scent of her skin right up to him. Not to mention that his hand was dangerously close to the breast he wanted to explore.
She opened her eyes to look up at him with an expression that said she wasn’t any more immune to him than he was to her. Normally that invitation would kick him into action.
But she was a Squire, completely forbidden fruit, and the last thing he needed was to be physical with a human he had feelings for. Not that he was completely sure what those feelings were, but she wouldn’t be a one-night stand for him. He couldn’t just sleep with her and leave. It was wrong, and it was the last thing either of them need.
Which meant he had to keep his hands to himself. Frustrated, he moved to the other side and lay back-to-back with her. "Is this okay?"
"Perfect," she said in a voice that was so laden with sleep he wasn’t even sure if she was awake.
He smiled at the grogginess of her voice. "Night, Susan."
"Night, gorgeous." The words were barely out of her mouth before he heard her fall into a deep sleep.
How he wished it were that easy for him, but his erection was throbbing so badly that it was all he could do to lie still and not attend to it in some way.
Closing his eyes, he imagined Susan in his arms, her nak*d body pressed up against his as he sank himself deep inside her. Or better yet, her on top of him, riding him slow and easy as they both sought their own piece of paradise…
It was an image that both tormented and soothed him as he felt sleep slowly overtake him.
"Who exactly is Savitar?" Satara asked as she faced an angry Stryker in the main hall at Kalosis. The dark hall was empty except for her and her brother, who sat on his throne, thrumming his fingers against the carved arm as he eyed her with malice.
"That would be the question d’eternite, little sister. Basically he is what makes everything evil and otherwise quake in its boots. I’ve never met a god yet who didn’t flinch at his approach, and that includes the bastard who donated his sperm to create us. Savitar scares the gods so much that they won’t even speak his name for fear of drawing his attention to them. Ironically, the only person who doesn’t fear him is Acheron. No idea why."
That didn’t bode well for her plans. As a handmaiden to Artemis, Satara had never even heard of this man, but then given what her brother said, that made sense. Artemis liked to keep her head down low. "How do we fight him?"
"We don’t. I already told you, we don’t screw with him."
She wanted to choke him for his obstinacy and fear. If there was anything she loathed it was weakness. "Then how do we get inside the Serengeti to drive out Ravyn?"
"Again, we don’t." Stryker rose to his feet and stepped down from his dais. He strode forward with an eerie, silent gait until he was beside her. "My plan, such as it was, for Seattle has fallen apart. Now that the Dark-Hunters know what we’re up to, there’s no point in pursuing it. The game is over."
"Not so fast," she said as her mind played through everything that had gone wrong. "What was your original plan?"
"What do you mean?"
"Before Seattle opened its doors to you, what did you have planned?"
He didn’t answer. But even so, Satara knew. "You’re after Acheron. You want to see him suffer." She stepped closer to him so that she could whisper faintly in a voice that the goddess who ruled this realm wouldn’t hear. "More than that, you’re after Apollymi herself for all the pain the two of them have caused you."