In the end, they, like the Chthonians, were a law unto themselves. The only difference being that the Cthonians truly had no one holding their leash. At least with the Dolophoni, the Erinyes could call them off. Not that they did that often. The Furies had a tendency to revel in conflict, and there was nothing they loved more than a good bloodbath.
Megeara sat back on her heels to stare at him. The dawn’s light highlighted her hair and made it glow.
Her cheeks were pink, and all he could think of was the hours he’d spent kissing those lips.
And the hours more he’d like to spend making love to her.
He was already hard for her, wanting to taste her again. Why wouldn’t she grab him in this realm the way she did in the other?
"You are so beautiful."
She gave him a doubting look. "Man, you hit your head hard, didn’t you?"
He frowned. "Why can’t you take a compliment?"
"Because I’m just not used to them. I come from a family that doesn’t believe in randomly patting people on the back. The assumption is if no one’s yelling at you, you’re doing a great job. And no one ever complimented each other on appearances. Those are trivial. It’s what’s inside that matters."
His smile turned gentle and guileless. "And you’re even more beautiful there."
Geary merely stared at him. What did a woman say to that? "Thank you." But that was extremely inadequate for what she felt. Everything about Arik touched her deep and made her want to stay with him.
She turned at Teddy’s call. "Yeah?"
"We got a kink in the dredge. Justina is working on it right now. I just wanted to let you know."
Geary pulled back and smiled at Arik. "We’ve got a lot to do. You feeling up to it?"
"Absolutely. I’m here to help."
And over the next hour as they prepared the boat and equipment, he proved to be true to his word. No matter how hard or dirty the task, he lent himself to it without complaint.
They were just about to weigh anchor when Solin showed up on the docks looking perfectly groomed and highly offended.
His eyes heated, he boarded the boat and made his way straight to Geary. "You weren’t about to leave me, were you, Doctor?"
Geary didn’t know what to say. Honestly, she’d forgotten about him.
Luckily, Arik showed up at that moment and distracted Solin from chastising her. A stern frown creased Solin’s brow as he noted the slight bruise on Arik’s brow. "What happened to you?"
"He fell out of his hammock last night," Geary explained. "And if you two will excuse me, I want to get under way immediately."
Arik didn’t speak until he was alone with Solin.
"Hammock?" Solin said with a mocking laugh. "It looks more like you had a run-in with something hard."
"I did. The Dolophoni showed up last night in my dreams."
Solin went completely still. Anger radiated out of him with such ferocity that it actually singed Arik. One would think they’d attacked him instead. "How many?"
Solin arched a shocked brow. "And you lived? I have to say I’m surprised."
"I don’t go down easily."
"Apparently. So how did you get away from them?"
"They pulled back after I killed one of them, then-"
Solin gaped. "You what?" he asked in disbelief.
"I killed one of them."
Solin gave him a look of supreme respect. "How did you manage that?"
"I’m real good at what I do." He didn’t say that arrogantly, he was only stating fact.
"Yeah, and have you any idea of the firestorm you’ve just unleashed for yourself? The Dolophoni don’t
like people to get the better of them."
"I know and I’m sure we’ll battle again."
Solin shook his head as he looked out over the water.
One corner of his mouth lifted into an evil grin. "So which bastard did you nail?"
Arik didn’t know their names, but he had a feeling Solin must have had more than his fair share of run-ins with them to be this interested. "The one with a staff."
Solin laughed. "Erebos. Good man. Wish I could have seen it. Zeus knows I’ve been wanting to shove that staff up his ass for centuries." He indicated Arik’s face. "Are you sore, too?"
And it was. None of this made sense. There shouldn’t be a single remnant of their battle on him. With the exception of death that happened in the dream realm things shouldn’t transfer to the human plane. It just didn’t happen. "All I can figure is it has something to do with the fact that I’m Skoti and don’t belong in this realm. Maybe that’s why I can feel dream pain in this world."
Suddenly the sound of a tin whistle rent the air as the boat engines started up. Arik cocked his head as someone started playing an Irish tune. A few seconds later, he heard a beautiful voice singing the folk song "I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day." The rest of the crew picked up the song as they pushed away from the dock and headed out of the harbor.
Every one of them was working together, and the sight of them like that warmed him.
Arik smiled at the camaraderie. "They’re incredible, aren’t they?"
"They can be, I suppose."
Arik watched Solin as he kept himself apart from the others, and he couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to have the best of both worlds. To be able to feel and walk among humans both in this realm and in the sleep one. How could Solin be so lackadaisical about it all? Surely he had to appreciate the beauty of this world. "So what’s it like?"
Solin frowned. "What’s what like?"
He let out an angry scoff. "Basically sucks. I highly recommend returning to your godhood as soon as you can."
Arik didn’t understand that. There was so much charm here. So much of everything. "Listen to their song… look at the landscape. How can you not love it here?"
Solin curled his lip. "Disease. Filth. Waste. Crime. Brutality. What’s there to like?"
"There’s brutality on Olympus."
"True, but I hate humanity as much as I hate the gods. Both groups are selfish bastards bent on destroying everything around them. They were given a perfect world and rather than enjoy it, they’d rather destroy it and each other. Excuse me if I don’t look at them with love in my eyes but rather scorn in my heart."
Arik cocked his head at the heated rancor that bled from every part of Solin. "Yet you’re helping me.
His features blank, Solin shrugged nonchalantly. "Nothing better to do. Eternity is boring. Really boring.
I’m hoping that when you pop the seal on Atlantis, there will be a giant explosion to add some humor and interest to my life. If we’re really lucky, Apollymi will come out and thoroughly entertain us with a massive fireworks display. Hell, if she does half of what she did last time, there will be belly rolls aplenty for those of us who hate the Olympians and humanity."
Arik didn’t understand how anyone could get bored with the sensations of the human existence. Never mind hate it to such an extent. But then Solin had been here for centuries. Perhaps, given time, he’d become jaded, too.
As the song ended, the crew picked up with the Beatles’ "Revolution 1."
He turned as Tory came running up to him with a small foil package that she handed to him. "Frosted Pop-Tarts. Fudge. Trust me." Then she went bounding off again.
Laughing, he realized it must be more food. She seemed bent on corrupting him.
Solin wandered off while Arik broke into the package and realized that Tory had excellent taste. These things were delicious. While the Beatles melted into the Bee Gees, the boat picked up speed as it raced them to the spot where eleven thousand years ago a very pissed-off goddess had destroyed her family and sent an entire continent to the bottom of the sea.
Popular legend told that it’d been Apollo who had destroyed Atlantis because their queen had ordered the death of his child and mistress. It was good propaganda for the Greek pantheon, who wanted to be thought of as the most menacing. But the truth was very different.
They were neophytes compared to the Atlanteans. Their power nothing.
Apollymi the Destroyer would have swept over the entire earth until nothing was left standing had she not been imprisoned in the middle of her bloodthirsty tirade by a trick of fate. Now she sat trapped in her netherworld, Kalosis, watching this one, waiting for someone to free her.
Even though Arik lacked his god powers, he could hear the Atlantean goddess calling out for release.
She was like a beacon, summoning people to her. It was probably why so many quested for Atlantis.
The other gods were why those quests ultimately failed. No one other than Apollymi wanted her released.
He looked up to catch Kat’s gaze from where she stood on the prow. They were at odds over this, but so long as Megeara didn’t disturb the seal what was the harm in her poking around the ruins? So she’d find a few shards of pottery and maybe some jewelry. None of that would interfere with Apollymi’s prison.
They were safe.
At least that was the lie he wanted to believe.
SOLIN FROZE AS HE MOVED ALONG THE DECK AND SAW the exceptionally tall woman standing by the railing. Lithe and graceful, she was completely striking. But greater than her beauty was the power emanating from her. It was an aura he knew well. She was an Olympian.
And there was nothing he hated more than Olympians.
He approached her cautiously, sizing her up and wondering how much power she carried. "You have the presence of a god, but I don’t know you."
Her green eyes narrowed suspiciously on him, and he knew she was feeling his powers to measure him just as he was her. "I’m a servant to Artemis."
He laughed at those words. " You a servant? You have much more power than that and we both know it."
"And you have a lot of juice for a demigod. Makes me wonder if you haven’t made a deal with someone yourself."
Solin gave her a cocky smirk as he glanced about to make sure the humans couldn’t overhear them. "I like to keep people guessing about me."
"I’ll bet. So what brings you here? Isn’t it unusual for two Dream-Hunters to work together?"
"Not really. There are a lot of tag-team Skoti out there who make it their habit to work together." He looked her up and down, taking in her delectable body. She was prime material for his kind to play with in dreams. "I’m surprised you haven’t been visited."
"Oh, I’m not. Artemis fed the last person who made a pass at me to a wild boar. When it comes to my dreams, she’s even worse. Only the most suicidal would tread there."
"Oooh." He sucked his breath in sharply at her warning that actually made him smile with anticipation. It also made him instantly hard. "You make it all the more tempting."
She returned his smile, only hers was beguiling, with a hint of malice and challenge. "And you still haven’t answered the question of the day. Why are you here, Skotos?"
He shrugged nonchalantly. "Originally, I was just going to screw with Arik. But I’m rethinking that now. I mean honestly, this whole situation shouldn’t be the least bit interesting, but with you here that means that Artemis is extremely interested. And anything she’s interested in I’m interested in, which means things around here are about to get really interesting. Wouldn’t you say?"
"Not really. Why not save yourself the headache and sod off?"
"Oh see now, that’s no way to get me to leave. You’re pushing me away. Why?"
"I find you irritating."
He laughed at that. "I haven’t even begun to irritate you yet. Imagine what I could do if I applied myself?"
Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "I can imagine. I can also imagine ripping your throat out and tying my shoes with your larynx."
"Really, kori , you have to stop. You’re seriously turning me on."
She screwed her face up at him. "You’re a sick bastard, aren’t you?"
"Is that not the very definition of a Skotos?"
She stepped back from him before she looked around the boat to make sure no one was within earshot.
Her gaze paused on Arik. "As you can see, we already have one of you on board. We don’t need another."
"That’s what everyone thinks, but they were running a special. Two Skoti for one, so here I am in all my glory just to get under your skin or skirt. I’m really not particular."
"Yes, but there is a law that says you can send back defective merchandise. I can’t think of anything more defective than you."
"I can. An immortal possessing god powers who passes herself off as a servant and expects the rest of us not to notice. Definitely defective, don’t you think?"
"I think it’s none of your business."
"Hmm…" He really was becoming intrigued by her, and that was highly unusual for him.
She cocked her head and looked at him. "Why do you hate Arik so anyway?"
The question was a non sequitur and surprised him. "Excuse me?"