Disbelief washed through her as every part of his presence in her world hit her. "Then my father was right. It did exist. Right here. Right where he said it was."
Again Arik nodded to confirm her words. "You were swimming over its harbor this afternoon when you found the box. You were right there, Geary. You really touched it."
Tears actually came to her eyes at the thought of her completing her task. Of her holding in her hand one of the keys to her promise. "Was I really?"
"Yes. You were right, Megeara. And so was your father."
She covered her mouth with her hand as she took a step back. It was one thing to suspect but an entirely different one to know.
"Then we’re there," she said with a giddy laugh. "We’ve found it."
But Arik didn’t mirror her joy. He was tense and serious as he eyed her with warning. "That’s the good news for you. The question is do you want to know the bad?"
Not really. She’d rather savor the good stuff. At least for a second or two. But there was no use in delaying the inevitable. As the old nursery fable went, one could never outrun trouble. There was no place far enough to avoid it. "Oh sure, what could be worse than what happened here tonight?"
He shrugged. "I don’t know. Does the fact that the goddess Artemis blew up your boat today top that or not?"
Geary blinked as those words sank in. Honestly, in all her wild imaginings, that one had somehow eluded her. She much preferred the thought of Arik as an arms dealer or assassin.
"Excuse me?" she asked, hoping he might have been playing with her.
"You heard me correctly. Artemis is one of many who want you to stay away from Atlantis."
"And what did I do to earn this privilege?"
"Basically the same thing you did tonight," a deep male voice said from behind her. "You were meddling in a place you didn’t belong."
Geary turned at the foreign voice, then stiffened at the sight of the rest of the people who’d attacked Arik in her dream.
DREAD FEAR WHIPPED THROUGH GEARY AS SHE SAW THE doom in the eyes of the ones confronting them. "I’m really getting tired of these guys."
Arik made a rude noise in the back of his throat. "Believe me, I share your sentiment entirely."
That didn’t really comfort her. "So what do you suggest we do?"
Arik shrugged with a nonchalance she couldn’t even begin to fathom. "There are nine of them and two of us. They have the powers of a god and we’re human." He gave her a very Sean Connery/James Bond mysterious kind of smile. "Therefore, I suggest we run. Fast."
Before she could even think to respond, Arik shoved her in the opposite direction of the mean army of darkness that was out to shorten their lives. Geary’s heart was pounding as he took her hand and led her through the alley and down the cobbled street at a pace that would make a sprinter proud.
She had a moment when she thought it might work, but that hope died quickly as one of the women appeared out of nowhere in front of them to block their way.
The goddess tsked at Arik. "What’s the matter, Skotos? We bathed and everything. Surely you don’t want to leave us without at least saying hi."
"Hi." Then without hesitating, Arik let go of Geary and kicked the goddess away.
Spinning about, the goddess countered with a staggering blow to his solar plexus. Arik grimaced, then backhanded her so hard, she stumbled back.
Geary grabbed at something on the woman’s waist that looked like a billy club attached to her belt. She jerked it free before she struck the goddess with it across the back. A blinding light sparked on said contact and was followed by a vibrant burst of power so strong, it knocked them both apart.
"You okay?" Arik asked.
All Geary could do was nod.
He kissed her on the cheek before he took the club and turned to face the others.
Rattled by the surge that continued to burn through her body, Geary stumbled away while he moved to engage the twins again.
That deeply hypnotic female voice whispered through her mind. It was the same one that had been calling to her for weeks now. But she didn’t have time for it. Geary shook her head to clear it.
"Listen to me, Megeara. Use the medallion you wear. Place it under your tongue and let me into you."
"What?" she breathed.
"Just do it, child, and I will take care of them for you. Trust me. I can protect you."
Yeah, she was gone, seriously gone, and yet even as the thought went through her, what harm would there be in trying it? She and Arik were already getting their butts kicked. What harm could it do?
After all, they were fighting a band of gods out to kill them and, given all she’d seen in the last few minutes, what was a few more leaps of faith?
"I can’t believe I’m doing this." She pulled the small coin up and placed it in her mouth, under her tongue.
She grimaced at the salty metallic taste. But that only lasted a nanosecond as something warm invaded her mouth. Whatever it was, it didn’t stop there. It spread through her like lava, heating her body and making her heart race.
And as it went through her, images filled her mind. Images of an ancient world. Of a hall filled with gold.
She saw the face of a beautiful blond woman who had mercurial eyes that swirled like a silver mist.
Words whispered through Geary in a language she’d never heard before.
Then something snapped. Geary felt as if she’d been pushed outside of her body so that she was nothing more than a ghost, looking down on the others-yet she was still in her body. Only someone else was in complete control of her. It was the strangest sensation. To be cognizant and not responsive. No matter what she tried, her body ignored her instructions.
One of the gods came up to attack her. She laughed at the warm power cascading through her before
she headed toward the man to confront him. He swung at her. She ducked like a seasoned pro and elbowed him in the knee. Hissing painfully, he dipped as his knee gave way.
She rose quickly, then swung her arm so that she caught him under his chin with her fist. That blow sent him twisting, straight to the ground.
Deimos approached her next. She wasn’t sure how she knew that it was him, but she did.
He backed up. "Aekyra Apollymi?"
Are you Apollymi?
Even though his question had been asked in Atlantean, she knew it and, better still, answered it even against her will. "Naiea."
He took another step away from her. As he did so, her hands heated up even more. She threw them out and a blast emanated from her fingertips that flooded the alley with light.
Two seconds later, the gods went flying as if she’d struck them all with lightning.
Arik raised his hand to shield his face as he felt the heat of an Atlantean god bolt. But what stunned him more than the fact that he felt the impact of something that hadn’t existed for over eleven thousand years was that it had come from Megeara.
"Apollymi!" Deimos snarled in Atlantean. "This is not your fight. Back down."
"Naiea, Olygaia eta."- Yes, it is, Olympian. The voice was Megeara’s and at the same time she spoke the Atlantean words like a native. "Anekico ler aracnia."
Victory to the spider. It was an old Atlantean saying that meant "patience wins the day."
"Ki mi ypomonitikosi teloson semerie."
And today my patience ends. Even though her teeth were clenched, her voice was loud, clear, and angry as she snarled the words in a tone he could tell reached all the way to the halls of Olympus.
More important, it was enough to convince the Dolophoni that they didn’t want even a tiny piece of the Destroyer when she was in this mood. Deimos looked to the others before he called for a retreat.
They vanished instantly.
Arik wiped the blood from his lips as he made his way cautiously to Megeara’s side. Even though he lacked his powers, he could feel Apollymi’s essence as it filled Megeara’s body. Her eyes were swirling in color and dotted with silver. Rage and vengeance bled from every part of her.
She started after the others, but he pulled her to a stop before she could pursue them and possibly hurt Megeara in the process.
"Ochia, Apollymi. Anekico ler aracnia epitrepedio. Efto ler kariti u topyra."
No, Apollymi. Let the victory go to the spider. This is not the time or place.
She hissed at him and would have attacked had he not pulled the necklace from Megeara’s lips. The abruptness of it caused her to collapse against him. He lifted her in his arms and held her there while the goddess was forced to retreat out of Megeara’s body. He held her close as she trembled.
Geary could barely breathe as a foreign weakness invaded every part of her. She’d been so strong before; now she was as weak as a newborn. Leaning her head against Arik’s neck, she was grateful for his support, because at the moment she couldn’t even lift her own arms.
"What was that?" she asked weakly.
"The Atlantean goddess Apollymi. Even though she’s trapped in Kalosis, she can reach out and at times possess people and the elements. Her powers are a pittance on this plane to what they would be if she were free, but they’re still impressive."
"Why did she do that? Why possess me?"
"Because she needs you to free her and if they kill you, she has no hope."
"I don’t understand."
"You must have pure Atlantean blood in your ancestry. I think that’s why you can hear her when most can’t. It’s the only thing that makes sense… Before it was destroyed, there were two races who inhabited Atlantis. The natives who were born of the Atlantean pantheon and the Apollites who took refuge there after they were thrown out of Greece. Apollymi needs the blood of an Atlantean to break her seal and to summon her out. Because of that, she would protect you for all she’s worth."
Geary had to straggle to raise her hand to her necklace so that she could see the writing on it. "I thought this was only a coin."
"No. That is the medallion that was worn by her priestesses. Whenever they were in danger, they would do as you did, place it in their mouths, and she would protect them."
Wow, hell of an insurance policy. There weren’t many people who could have a goddess at their beck and call. Made Geary wonder what Apollymi would do for a false alarm.
Then again, given how easily Apollymi had fought the Dolophoni off, Geary didn’t want to even think about it. With that kind of power, Apollymi could easily turn on the person who wrongfully summoned her.
"Why didn’t our attackers just pull it out of my mouth once I started fighting them?"
"They’re from the Greek pantheon. I doubt they knew that trick or I’m sure they would have." He slid her slowly down his body until she was on her feet.
It took Geary a full second before she was able to stand again. And even then, her legs were so unsteady that she held on to Arik’s arm for support. The warm smell and strength of him steadied her even more, and she was grateful for his presence. "How is it you know the trick?"
He gave her a devilish grin. "The benefits of being an ex-Oneroi. Since we can trip through anyone’s dreams, we know a lot of tricks the other gods don’t."
"But not how to fight those guys in human form," she reminded him.
He looked a bit sheepish, which she found intriguing and endearing. "Well, not and win. But in my own body and in my realm… I’m lethal."
Geary could feel the muscles of his biceps working under her hand as she stared up into those clear eyes. In her dreams, she’d kissed that mouth a thousand times. Had run her tongue over the stubble of his chin and had licked every inch of him. It amazed her that he’d been as captivated by her as she was by him. But more than that, she found it almost impossible to believe.
"Did you really come here for me?"
He nodded, his eyes scorching her with their heat. "Yes."
"And are you disappointed?"
One corner of his mouth lifted into a seductive smile. "Only that you don’t rip off my clothes and have your way with me… in chocolate."
Geary shook her head at him as she went over everything she’d discovered in the last twenty-four hours.
She should be horrified and on one level she was. But on another she was actually relieved that he was a god on the human plane. At least now she understood part of what had been happening to her.
Though it didn’t make it better, the explanation went a long way in saving her sanity.
She took a step back from him as she tried to comprehend everything. "I don’t really get all of this. How did you first find me in my dreams?"
He took her hand in his and held it while he explained. "We have rooms that are like chambers where I live. We don’t have to use them, but they make connecting with humans a bit easier-they can amplify our powers, and it gives us someplace to rest undisturbed while we’re doing it. The only drawback is that it allows the powers-that-be an easier way to monitor us while we’re at it. Whenever we’re in the strobilos , we hover about and drift in and out of dreams. Whenever we find someone who is having a vivid dream we’re drawn to them."
"And you were drawn to mine."
Incredible. She couldn’t imagine being able to do that. To spy on people and participate in their sleep.