He laughed deep in his throat as she pulled him into the bedroom. "Well, in that case, let the torture begin."
D’ALERIAN PAUSED INSIDE THE HALL WHERE M’ORDANT was waiting for him. M’Adoc was there as well, still bound by the diktyon .
"Are they safe?" M’Ordant asked.
D’Alerian nodded before he moved toward M’Adoc, who glared his hatred at them. "I can’t believe you two have betrayed me."
The hostility saddened him. "We’re not betraying you, Adarian. We’re going to help you."
"What are you planning exactly?" M’Ordant asked.
"I’m taking him to Acheron. There’s a Dark-Hunter who needs someone strong to help him with his nightmares." He looked at M’Adoc. "A few months with Zarek in Alaska and I think you’ll see why it’s so important to let go of your hatred."
"Bullshit. You can’t send me away."
M’Ordant frowned. "Why send him to Alaska? He can tend the Dark-Hunter from here."
"No, he can’t. Here he poses a threat to us. His emotions are out of control. If any of the other gods see the way he’s been behaving, we’re screwed. We can deal with Wink and Hades knowing. But Zeus learning… In Alaska, no one will know." D’Alerian looked back at M’Adoc. "You can stay there a short time, and once you have a better handle on yourself I’ll come get you."
"I won’t stay there."
"Are you going Skoti then?"
"Then that’s your assignment. Take it or leave us."
M’Adoc’s jaw twitched with his fury, but ultimately he conceded. "Fine. I’ll go. But only for a short time."
D’Alerian nodded before he removed the diktyon . Then he flashed the two of them out of the chambers and into the human realm. They materialized in the living room of a Dark-Hunter’s home in New Orleans.
Kyrian Hunter. A former ancient Greek general, he was now one of the Dark-Hunters who helped to guard mankind from the Daimons, or vampires as they were better known, who preyed on humanity.
D’Alerian had been assigned to the general since the day Kyrian had sold his soul to Artemis for vengeance on the man who’d killed him. Nightmares had plagued him ever since.
But D’Alerian could at least mitigate them most of the time.
It took D’Alerian a moment to get his bearings in Kyrian’s home as Acheron entered the room and came to a stop. At six eight and with long green hair and dressed in black leather pants and a shredded Sex Pistols T-shirt, Acheron was a hard man to miss.
"Greetings, gentlemen," he said, his voice thick with its Atlantean accent.
Before D’Alerian could speak, a young man on a skateboard came rolling through the room and almost collided with them. He skidded to a stop not far from Acheron, then cursed at the long black mark his wheels had left on the floor.
"I’m so friggin’ dead," Nick Gautier whispered loudly before he kicked the skateboard up and grabbed it in a tight fist.
Acheron snorted. "Relax, Nicky, you’re not as dead as I am."
"That’s what you think. Kyrian’s gonna stroke when he sees that." Trying to scrape the mark up with the toe of his tennis shoe, he met D’Alerian’s gaze. "So what brings you here? Kyrian’s not hurt, is he?"
Acheron offered the eighteen-year-old a kind smile. "They’re here for me. Why don’t you go see what Rosa’s baking and give us a minute?"
Nick frowned at him. "You hurt?"
"Nick, space. Now."
Nick made a face at Acheron. "Go, Nick, fetch. Here, boy, here," he groused. "You should let me borrow one of those leather collars you wear and give me a tag with Kyrian’s number on it. ‘In case of loss, call my owner.’"
Acheron snorted. "Trust me, Nicky, we’re not lucky enough for you to get lost."
D’Alerian frowned as Nick left them alone. "That boy has issues."
"You have no idea." Acheron closed the distance between him and M’Adoc. "You really want to go to Alaska to help Zarek?"
M’Adoc looked askance at D’Alerian. "I’m told I have no choice."
Acheron nodded as if he understood. "Well, I appreciate it anyway. The gods know he could use it. I’ll take you to him tonight."
"Thank you, Acheron," D’Alerian said before he flashed himself back home.
"Ah jeez. Nick!"
Ash turned at Kyrian’s irate shout to find the general standing in the doorway near the black mark Nick
had left on the floor. A few inches shorter than Ash, Kyrian had short blond hair and was dressed in black. "I’m going to kick your ass, boy! How many times have I told you no skateboards in the house?"
Nick came up behind Kyrian with a face as white as chalk. Ash had seen condemned men look less panicked.
"It’s not Nick’s fault," Ash said quickly as Nick stopped behind Kyrian’s back with his eyes wide. "It’s these new biker boots. Sorry. I was so stunned when M’Adoc showed up that I skidded on the floor."
Kyrian gave him a suspicious glare, but since he couldn’t prove Ash was lying, he let it go. "Well then, could you fix it?"
The mark vanished instantly.
You’re the friggin’ best ever, Nick mouthed at Ash from behind Kyrian’s back. He held his hands up in a silent gesture that said Ash rocked. I love you, man .
Kyrian turned sharply to glare at Nick, who immediately acted as if he were just scratching his head.
"You called me, boss?"
"No. I’ve called you a lot of things, but boss has never been one of them. And it never will be, either."
Nick raked his hand through his long brown hair. "Dang, he’s in a bad mood tonight. You need to get laid, boss."
"Shut up, Nick."
Deciding silence on this issue was the better part of not getting his ass kicked, Nick cleared his throat.
"Well, if you guys are through ordering Fido around, he needs to go walk his mom home from work. I don’t want nothing happening to her, you know?"
Kyrian scoffed. "I don’t know why you bother; Nicky. You’re the one who’s going to be the death of her one day."
It was Ash’s turn to scoff at that. "Not bloody likely. I’d be the death of her before Nick would. That kid lives, breathes, and dies for that woman." He smiled at Nick. "Give Cherise my best."
"Will do. Night, all."
Kyrian let out a heavy sigh before he grabbed his long coat from the couch and shrugged it on. "I’m out to patrol, too. I heard there’s been a lot of Daimon activity on Bourbon Street lately, so Talon and I are going to do some extra rounds. I’ll see you guys later."
Ash turned to M’Adoc, who was eyeing him strangely.
"Why don’t you tell your Dark-Hunters about the Spathis? This one in particular needs to know."
Ash hesitated. Maybe M’Adoc was right. For centuries Ash had kept silent about the group of Daimons who lived a lot longer than any of the Dark-Hunters suspected. Daimons who served his mother,
Apollymi, and who came out to prey on Apollymi’s enemies. But the Spathis had been virtually dormant for centuries now and he hoped they would remain so.
"We all have our secrets we don’t want out, don’t we, Adarian?"
M’Adoc’s gaze narrowed as he caught Ash’s meaning. "You know what’s happening to us, don’t you?"
"I know, but don’t worry. The Greek gods aren’t exactly my drinking buddies. I couldn’t give two shits about them or their curses. I owe the Oneroi too much for helping me with my Dark-Hunters to ever question you."
M’Adoc cocked his head as if he couldn’t fathom Ash’s reasoning. "With this information, you could own us."
Ash flinched as bitter, painful memories surged through him, but he banished them. "Contrary to Nick’s opinion, I don’t ever want to own anyone. It’s wrong to take away someone’s independence." And on that he sought to change the subject. "D’Alerian says that you and Zarek can help each other. I hope so.
Z’s too decent a man to keep suffering. If you can take any of it off him, then I’ll owe you ."
M’Adoc frowned at him. "I wouldn’t say that if I were you. Being indebted to a god isn’t the way to maintain independence."
"Yeah, believe me, I know. But it’s all right, M’Adoc. I can see the future. You’re going to be fine."
M’Adoc glanced to the door where Kyrian and Nick had vanished. "You can see my future so clearly.
It’s a pity you can’t see your own."
"What’s that supposed to mean?"
M’Adoc cleared his throat. "It’s not my place to say. I’m a dream god. Not one of fate. Take me to this Zarek and let me see what I can do for him."
Ash obliged, but even as he did so he couldn’t shake the feeling that something had transpired this night that he should have picked up on. As a god of fate, he knew that somehow he’d just set something into motion and, knowing his luck, it was most likely something he shouldn’t have.
ONE MONTH LATER
GEARY STOOD ON THE DECK OF HER NEW BOAT AS THE WATER lapped gently against it.
While she stared out over the crystal blue sea that was as timeless as her quest she could hear Cynthia below playing an old Andy Gibb album. They were right above the spot where Atlantis rested. Where
Geary had held the old box and had touched a tiny portion of that lost, mythical city.
Two weeks ago, she, Arik, and Kat had retrieved everything that had marked this area and they’d destroyed every piece of evidence that Geary and her father had collected.
No one would ever know what they’d found.
Arik came up behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and kissed her on her shoulder that was left bare from her sagging tank top strap. "Are you having second thoughts?" he asked warmly in her ear.
She shook her head as she felt her love for him swell through her. "How could I?" She smiled.
He leaned his cheek against the top of her head as he rocked her gently in his arms. "All you wanted was to save your father’s reputation."
"And so I have. I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks. I know the truth. That’s enough for me."
"Are you sure?"
She nodded. Even Tory had taken it better than Geary had expected. True, the girl hadn’t been pleased, but she hadn’t argued, either.
Sitting on the couch at Teddy’s house, Tory had stared at Geary in disbelief. "What do you mean we’re through?"
Geary had flinched at Tory’s irate voice. "It’s over, Tor. We now know our fathers weren’t crazy and that they didn’t die in vain. It’s enough. Atlantis wasn’t meant to be discovered by us. She needs to stay on the bottom of the sea forever."
Geary had expected Tory to shout. Instead the girl merely got up calmly and gathered her books.
"I see. So are you shipping me back home to New York?"
"Not right away. I thought we could enjoy the rest of the summer together… Are you sure you’re okay?"
Tory had shrugged. "I’m fine. The boat’s gone. The research is gone, and you’re giving up. How can I change any of that?"
Even so, Geary had expected more of a fight from her cousin. "You’re taking this a lot better than I thought you would."
Cradling her books to her chest, Tory had merely sighed. "I’m a sane, rational person, Geary. I know when I can’t change something. If I thought throwing a fit would sway you, I’d do so. But I know you better than that. If you say it’s over, then it’s done. All I can do is hope you’ll change your mind one day."
Tory had then laid down her book of Plato and headed for the door. "I’m gonna go make Thia’s day by telling her the news. You two have fun."
And so their zealous quest had ended with nothing more than a whisper. What had seemed so important at the time had turned out to be nothing more than a fool’s errand when put in perspective. Yes, finding
the island was important, but not nearly as much as enjoying the lives of the people who really mattered.
Atlantis would always be there. But Tory, Thia, Scott, and the others wouldn’t. At last Geary had come to understand the secret of Atlantis. It wasn’t the power or the history. It was to value those around you-to treasure family. To love unconditionally in spite of faults and suspicions.
And as Tory had predicted, Thia had been ecstatic over the news that they were through seeking it.
But for Tory and Geary it was bittersweet.
Arik moved away from her, bringing her thoughts back to the present. "Close your eyes."
Frowning at him, Geary obeyed. She felt his hands at her neck an instant before something cold slide between her br**sts. She opened her eyes and found a beautiful necklace there. It was a gold sun, the rays of which were outlined by diamonds. "It’s beautiful."
He smiled. "Kat sent it to you. She said in her note that it was a gift from Apollymi to let you know there were no hard feelings for not releasing her."
He nodded. "Apollymi had said, ‘Victory to the spider.’ She’s waited this long to be free, what’s a few more centuries?"
Geary shook her head, grateful the goddess wasn’t holding a grudge against them. "I miss Kat." She’d left them a week ago to head off to a new assignment for Artemis. Apparently there was some woman in Greece being pursued by Daimons whom Kat was supposed to watch over.