He’d been commanding, controlling, and worst of all had monopolized the entire dinner conversation-which had mostly been about how great he was and how he’d make the world a better place if he were emperor. Of course, in her opinion, he’d be dragged through the streets and stoned fifteen minutes after he took that office.
She should have been so lucky-it was a pity the man hadn’t been crowned emperor before their dinner.
It’d been the only time in her life she’d actually considered crawling out of the bathroom window to escape an obnoxious date.
If only she hadn’t been in a low-cut dress and high heels…
Tonight she had on pants and low-heeled Clarks-just in case.
"Geary, Mr. Arik is here for your date."
She smiled at Tory’s loud voice, which was followed by a high-pitched meow from Kichka, and was again overwhelmed with gratitude that no one had been hurt today. Geary honestly wouldn’t be able to survive knowing she’d killed someone in her quest.
Nothing was worth sacrificing a human life for.
Pushing that thought away before she became completely maudlin, Geary checked her makeup one more time, especially since she wasn’t used to wearing it and hoped that she hadn’t applied it too darkly.
Or, more to the point, that she didn’t look like a Kabuki actor.
"You can do this," she said to her reflection, trying to bolster her confidence. It was only dinner. She could survive that. There were no strings attached. Just two humans having food and good conversation…
Which she hoped wouldn’t end with Arik thinking he was an all-powerful god of the known universe.
She pulled her light crocheted sweater out from under Kichka, who meowed in protest before swatting her hand with an indignant paw, then headed to the living room, where Tory was sitting with a copy of Plato’s Republic in ancient Greek on her lap. Geary laughed. "Don’t you ever get bored reading that?"
"Not really. There’s always something in it that I missed the last time. The man is really, really deep."
Geary shook her head. "You’re a sick girl, Tor. Sick, sick, sick."
"I know. I come by it honestly." She gave Geary a meaningful look over the top of her glasses.
"It’s true," Geary agreed. "We come from a long line of people who live to read boring texts-I think it may be why we all die young. Complete boredom."
Tory stuck her tongue out at her.
Geary paused as she saw Arik waiting by the door. He was positively striking in a black suit with a white silk shirt that had the top two buttons undone to show a delectably tanned neck. His black hair curled becomingly around his face and shoulders while those crystal blue eyes radiated heat and intensity. For the first time since they’d met, he was clean shaven, which made him appear somewhat more tamed and cultured. But only a tiny bit. There was still that aura of raw power that emanated from him.
As she drew near, he handed her a bouquet of white roses. Geary smiled at the gesture as she took them and cupped them to her nose so that she could inhale their sweet scent. "Thank you."
"My pleasure." Then he crossed the room and handed a smaller bouquet off to Tory, who actually put her book down and beamed happily.
"For me, too?"
He nodded. "Least I could do for the woman who introduced me to fudge Pop-Tarts."
Tory squeaked as she took them and buried her face in their soft petals. "I love roses. Thank you."
Geary kissed his cheek before she handed her roses to Tory to take care of. "Are you sure you’re going to be all right by yourself?"
Tory scoffed. "You’re the one wigging out over today, not me. I’m fine. You two go and have fun. I have plenty of stuff here to entertain me with. Plato rocks."
Geary glanced to the mountain of ancient Greek books on the coffee table and knew that Tory would be up all night reading. The girl really was insane. "Okay. But if you need anything, call Teddy. He said he was staying home tonight."
"Will do, Captain."
Arik opened the door for Geary to walk through. She paused as she saw Solin’s limousine on the street, waiting for them. "Should I be afraid?"
He offered her his arm. "Not at all. Solin has already prepped me on how to behave tonight. No public gropings no matter how much you turn me on. He even showed me how to use cutlery so that I wouldn’t embarrass you."
Geary frowned, wondering if he was joking. He didn’t seem to be, but surely…
Her thoughts drifted as she entered the car with Arik behind her. A weird sense of deja vu went through her, along with the scent of his aftershave and the strength of his body. He was a choice specimen who caused every part of her to sit up and beg for attention.
How she wished she had more of Thia in her. If she did, she and Arik would be getting naughty and nak*d in the back of the limo and poor George would be going blind from their raucous play. But she wasn’t that type of woman. All she could do was dream…
Arik sucked his breath in as Megeara slid over the seat to the opposite window. The way she moved, slow and easy, reminded him of her sliding over his body. If this were a dream he’d be able to pull her to him and kiss her until they were nak*d and blind with pleasure.
His swollen c**k burned with need. But unfortunately, this wasn’t a dream and she would probably have his head if he tried… and he didn’t mean the one on his shoulders.
"You look incredible," he said as George shut the door.
Her cheeks pinkened. "Thank you. You look pretty good yourself."
He smiled. "Good. Solin can live another day."
"What do you mean?"
"He’s the one who told me what to wear tonight. I didn’t know if I should trust him or not, though. He’s not the most reliable of people."
Her eyes softened as if she understood. "You two have an odd relationship, don’t you?"
"You could say that. It often reminds me of a blowfish and a barracuda."
"Interesting analogy. So which one is you and which is Solin?"
He winked at her. "I’ll leave that for you to decide."
Not sure what would least insult him, Geary didn’t speak while they drove to a small seaside cafe. Her heart clenched as they left the car and she realized where they were.
Arik paused as he noticed her hesitancy. "Are you all right?"
She had to force herself to respond over the lump of sadness in her throat. "Yeah. Sorry. I was just thinking about something."
She pointed to an old brick wall across the street that was beside a set of stone stairs that had been
worn by intensive foot traffic over time, and the elements. "My brother and I used to climb over that wall when we were kids. We’d pretend it was the wall of Troy." She gave him a sheepish look. "Yeah, I know, we were strange children. Jason would play Hector and I was always Achilles. We’d lob dirt clods and rocks at each other until either one of us was bleeding or my father would yell at us to stop.
Then we’d sneak attack each other and plot our revenge."
She took a deep breath to stave off the pain. "God, how we’d play. Then when we were older, Jason used to come here to sit at this cafe and sketch what he thought this whole area would have looked like centuries ago." The corner table that he would always lay claim to because it had the best view was still there just as it had always beer. The table looked as if it were waiting for the young man who would never again pass this way.
Her eyes misting, she looked up at Arik as all those memories ripped through her. Jason would spend hours telling her his concepts for his drawings. He’d been so precise and detailed in his descriptions that there were times when she would have sworn he had to have lived back then to know them all. How she wondered what he’d have been like now. What he’d think of her…
Shaking her head, she tried to dispel her bittersweet memories and the grief they caused.
"Can you imagine what the island must have looked like a thousand years ago? Two thousand?" she asked Arik.
Arik wished he had his powers. If he did, he would have granted her that wish. In one heartbeat, he could have shown her exactly what this place had looked like-firsthand.
Then again, he did have that power in another realm. "I’ll bet when you dream tonight you’ll see it."
He saw the doubt in her eyes before she answered. "Sure. Why not? I dream of enough other weird stuff."
She blinked before she stepped away. "Nothing. Shall we eat?"
He hated whenever she closed herself off from him.
Especially when he knew how much more she was hiding. But then he’d known her for a while now.
In her mind, they’d just met and they were all but strangers.
Regretting the necessity of that, Arik directed her toward the cafe. Solin had prepped him on how to greet the hostess and request a seat, but it was still very strange. It was odd how people left such trivial matters out of dreams. They simply cut to the chase and didn’t waste valuable time with incidentals. If someone wanted to eat, they were in the restaurant, eating. There was none of this getting to it and requesting tables or waiting.
Dreams really were superior to reality.
After a bit of a wait, Arik and Megeara were seated at a table that overlooked the sea. Even though it was dark, they could still hear the surf and see the whitecaps as they rolled onto shore. Lights from boats and buildings in the distance twinkled like stars that had fallen to earth, while the smell of cooking food
made his stomach grumble and cramp.
Arik was surprised by the sensation. He’d never been really hungry before. And the sights and sounds were overwhelming as they brought a peculiar ache to his chest. He didn’t understand the source of it. He felt sad and happy for no apparent reason, and when he looked at Megeara all he wanted to do was reach out and touch her. To ask her if the sight and sounds made her feel the same way.
"I’ve never eaten here before," Megeara said as she skimmed her menu. "What do you recommend?"
He frowned as he looked at his menu and wondered what he should suggest. "I don’t know. I didn’t think to ask that of Solin. Is that something a date normally knows?"
She gave him an arch stare. "Only if the date has eaten at the restaurant before." Then she chided him,
"Don’t tell me you’ve never been on a date."
Arik realized he’d already made another mistake. She would never believe that he’d reached whatever age he appeared to be without having taken out a woman-it would be completely illogical for a human male to have kept to himself. "No, I have… just not like this."
She still wasn’t buying it. "Not like this how?"
Think, Arik, think. "With a woman."
Her other brow raised as she gave him an amused smile. "So you’ve been on dates with men?"
Smooth move. Solin was right. He was a moron. "No, no. What I mean is that I’ve never asked a woman out on a formal date. I usually spend an evening or two with them and then leave." There, that sounded better and it was the truth.
"Then you what?" she asked, her voice tinged by anger. "You leave them waiting by the phone for a call that never comes? How wonderfully kind of you."
Why the sarcasm? What had he said that was so upsetting?
"No, that’s not what I meant." How could one man get himself into so much trouble with just words? But he could tell from her body language and the fury in her eyes that he wasn’t helping himself in this at all.
"Why are you being so hostile to me, Megeara?"
"I’m not hostile. I’m merely trying to understand you and the things you keep telling me. I mean how did you manage in Nashville with such a limited understanding of people and how things work?"
Nashville? What was she talking about now? He’d never heard of such a thing before. He was constantly baffled by her. "What is Nashville?"
She gave him a "duh" stare. "Where you claim to have met me. Remember?"
He shook his head. "No. That was Vanderbilt where we met."
"Yes, and Vanderbilt is located in Nashville, Tennessee."
Arik froze as he realized what he’d just done. In her dreams she’d never made mention of what town the
school was in, and since he wasn’t from this plane there was no way for him to know it.
He cleared his throat as he tried, yet again, to cover his blunder. "Oh, it’s been a long time."
Instead of being comforted, she looked even more suspicious. "Six years isn’t that long ago, especially not for a man who remembered me so well. And I don’t see how a man raised in rural Greece could forget his trip to a bustling American city so easily, either. What’s going on, Arik?" She narrowed her eyes on him. "You didn’t meet me there, did you?"
"Of course I did," he said defensively. He had no choice except to try to brazen this out. "Why would I lie about that?"
Geary didn’t know what to think. But something wasn’t right with all of this. She could feel it in her gut and she could see it on his face. He was hiding something extremely important about their meeting. "How should I know why you’d lie? But you’re not who you say you are, are you?"
Yeah, right. "Be honest with me, Arik. Who the hell are you?"