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CHAPTER 1.




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  1. CHAPTER 1
  2. CHAPTER 1
  3. Chapter 1
  4. CHAPTER 10
  5. CHAPTER 10
  6. Chapter 10
  7. CHAPTER 10
  8. Chapter 11
  9. CHAPTER 11

 

SANTORINI, GREECE, 1996

 

"MY KINGDOM FOR A GUN."

Shaking his head at Geary's hostile words, Brian calmly opened the car door for her as she approached their small taxi that waited in the heart of the crowded Greek thoroughfare. "You don't have a kingdom."

She paused on the sidewalk to glare at him. Given the fury in her system, she couldn't believe he'd dare point out the obvious to her. She'd been known to verbally let serious blood when only half this riled. Truly, the man had no sense of self-preservation. "And I don't have a gun—looks like I'm shit out of luck all the way around, huh?"

Still, he was his ever present calm self—which didn't really help her mood. For once, couldn't he get ticked off, too? "I take it you didn't get the permits… again."

She could have done without that "again" part. Really. "What was your first clue?"

"Oh, I don't know. That stomping stance as you walked down the street, clenching and unclenching your fists like you're already choking someone, or maybe it's that way you're looking at me like you could claw out my eyes when I haven't done anything to piss you off."

"Yes, you have."

She could tell he was fighting a smile. Thank goodness he had the good sense to keep it hidden. "And that is?"

"You don't have a gun."

He snorted. "Come on now, you can't shoot every Greek official who gets in your way."

"Wanna bet?"

Brian stepped back to let her enter the taxi first. At six three, he was a good-looking man in his mid-forties. Very distinguished and intelligent. Best of all, he was independently wealthy and more than capable of financing their latest venture in futility without complaining too much.

Unfortunately, he wasn't into bribing public officials.

Was it too much to ask that she find a corrupt financier? Surely Brian should have some vice, and at the moment she couldn't think of a more self-serving one than that.

"So what do we do now?" he asked as he joined her in the car.

Geary sighed, wishing she had an answer. Her team was waiting on her boat at the docks, but without the permits that allowed them to excavate the mounds she and Tory believed to be a city wall, all they could do was dive over the surface of what they'd found and do nothing more than admire it.



Sad comfort that. It'd been the best lead they'd had in years. "I want another silt sample."

"You've already tested and retested those."

"I know, but maybe it will help to convince them to give us the permits." Yeah, right. She'd been given the run-around particularly good and the words from her latest visit still rang in her ears.

"This is Greece, Dr. Kafieri. There are ruins all around us and I will not allow you to begin tearing up the floor of the Aegean, which is a busy shipping area, when all you can give me is another this-is-Atlantis story. Really. I've enough treasure hunters trying to pilfer our national history for their own gain. I don't need any more. We here in Greece take our history most seriously and you're wasting my valuable time. Good day."

It was enough to make her want to bang her head on the man's desk until he either relented or had her committed. This wasn't about treasure, but trying to tell that to him had been as futile as trying to fly with wax wings.



"There has to be some way around this."

Brian stiffened. "I won't be a part of anything illegal."

And unfortunately, neither would she. "Don't worry, Brian. I don't want to go to jail for this, either."

But there had to be something else she could do…

If only the pain in her head would let up enough so that she could think. But the throbbing pain, much like the official, seemed determined to ruin her day.

She leaned back in the seat and watched the beautiful buildings and landscape of the town drift by while people went about their business on the sidewalks. How she wished she could be carefree enough to roam in and out of the stores, shopping and laughing like the majority of them. Unfortunately, she'd never once been a tourist anywhere.

Geary Kafieri was always all work and no play.

Neither of them spoke as the taxi wended its way through the narrow streets to the dock where their research boat was waiting. While Brian paid the fare Geary got out and made her way up the gangway to face their team with her gloriously redundant failure.

Tory met her first. At fifteen and very average in height, Geary's cousin had long drab brown hair and thick glasses. She was an awkward teen who had more interest in her books than much of anything else. Even though Tory didn't remember her father, Theron, she was just like him. Finding Atlantis was her only ambition.

"Well?" she asked, her young face expectant.

Geary shook her head.

Tory let out an expletive that made Geary gape. "How could they not let us excavate? What's wrong with those people?"

"They think it's a waste of time."

Tory screwed up her face in distaste. "That's stupid! They're stupid!"

"Yes," Geary said drily. "We're all stupid."

Tory scoffed at that. "I'm not stupid. I'm a certified genius. But the rest… Stupid."

"I told you not to bother."

Geary looked past Tory's shoulder to find her other cousin, Cynthia, joining them. Named for the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis, Thia hated everything to do with Greece. The only reason she was here was to get college credit and follow her latest fixation, Scott, who'd thought this would be a fun summer activity. Not to mention the small fact that had Thia stayed at home in New York, she'd have been forced to work in her mother's deli, which she hated even more than Greece.

At a cool six two, the titian-haired beauty was also one of the few women taller than Geary—something that was quite a feat given the fact that Thia was barely eighteen.

Geary frowned as she noted Thia's long blue skirt and white long-sleeved embroidered Grecian blouse. "I thought you were sunbathing," Geary said.

Tory leaned forward to whisper in her ear. "She was and she took her top off earlier, hoping Scott would see her bare boobs and join her. He didn't, but the men on a passing boat almost fell overboard before Justina made her go belowdecks."

Thia curled her lip. "You little nark. While you're confessing things, you should tell Geary how you almost set fire to her reports because her cat scared you and you knocked over Teddy's Bunsen burner."

Tory blushed before she pushed her glasses up on her nose. "Genius, but not graceful. C'est moi."

Geary smiled at the girl as Tory spoke the terrible truth. Grace had never been Tory's virtue, unlike Thia, who had more than her fair share. "It's okay, Tor. I'd have just made you redo them."

Thia gave a heavy sigh as she cast her gaze around the deck. "Is this not the most boring place on earth? I can't even get Scott to come up from below for more than a split second."

Obviously. If nudity didn't inspire the man to come up, nothing else would.

"He's down there with Teddy," Thia continued in an irritated tone, "draped over an excavation map—like that's ever going to happen. What is it about this godforsaken country that every time I bring a guy here he loses his mind?"

"Maybe it's from being around you too long," Tory said, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear. She leaned forward to whisper to Geary in their own unique language of ancient Greek and Latin. "I think she sucks the testosterone right out of them and then digests it for her own."

Geary laughed.

Thia went instantly stiff. "What did she say about me?"

Geary shook her head at Tory before she responded. "Why does it always have to be about you, Thia?"

"Because it is." And with that, she flounced off.

Tory let out a tired breath. "One day I hope she finds someone who can put her in her place. I'm tired of watching her emasculate poor Scott. I swear she has to be part succubus."

"Oh, don't go there. I wouldn't wish her on anyone."

"Good point." Tory paused before she turned a probing stare on Geary. "So tell me what happened."

As if she wanted to relive that misery. "Not much to say. They refused to give us permits… again."

Tory actually stomped her foot. "Ah, man. That's so not fair."

"I know," she said, patting Tory's arm. "We just have to be patient."

"To heck with patience. At the rate they're going, I'll be in retirement and will have to dig with a cane." She let out a sound of supreme disgust. "This is the closest we've ever been to finding the city. I know Atlantis is right there. I can feel it!"

A chill went down Geary's spine. Tory was just a little too close to their fathers in personality for her tastes. The same insanity that had possessed them drove Tory, too. It was like a madness in her blood that kept her working late into the night after everyone else had retired.

There were times when it truly scared Geary. All of the people in their family who'd ever shared Tory's level of dedication had met with an early death. It would destroy not only Geary but also their grandfather should anything ever happen to their youngest family member.

She was what they lived for.

Then again, Geary had often suspected that Tory used it as a way to distract herself from the pain she felt at being an orphan. The poor thing had no memory of either of her parents. Their work was the only way Tory could feel close to them. It was all they'd left their daughter.

"It'll be all right, Triantafyllo." Geary used the nickname their grandfather had given Tory. "Now I'm going to lie down for a bit and see if I can stop some of this headache that's brewing."

"Okay. I'll be below with Scott and Teddy reviewing the data that will be absolutely useless if we can't excavate. But what the heck? I'm young and have plenty of time to waste. You on the other hand…"

Geary blew her a raspberry. "I'm not that much older than you."

As she sashayed off, Tory tossed back, "Yeah, uh-huh. Get a cane, Grandma."

Geary shook her head at Tory's play, then cringed as pain sliced through her brow and throbbed behind her eyes.

Brian frowned as he joined her on deck. "Are you okay?"

"Another headache." She'd been getting a lot of those lately. Of course with her luck, it was an inoperable brain tumor and she'd probably end up at Thia's mercy so that heir cousin could finally torture her without end… perish that thought. "I'll be fine. I just need to lie down for a few minutes."

"If you need anything, call."

I need a permit. Hello?

If only she could say that out loud and not lose her much-needed funding.

"I will. Thanks." And with that, Geary headed belowdecks to the small room she shared with Tory. There wasn't a lot of privacy on a research boat, but honestly it didn't bother Geary. Not like it had when she'd been Tory's age. The difference between them was striking.

While Geary had hated the lack of personal space, Tory was ambivalent to it. All the girl cared about was their quest.

But even with their differences, Geary adored her cousin. Tory was the closest thing she'd ever had to a sister, and since Tory's parents had died before the girl reached six, their entire family had embraced her and raised her as their own.

Geary smiled as she entered their room and found Tory's nightgown and matted old brown teddy bear tossed onto her bed. Tory wasn't known for her neatness.

"Okay, Mr. Cuddles, you have to stay on your side. Don't keep sneaking to my bed. I have a tendency to kick in my sleep." Geary set the bear on Tory's unmade bed, then folded the pink flannel gown before she placed it under Mr. Cuddles.

A light smile toyed on the edges of her lips. She could hear muffled voices overhead as the boat rocked softly under her, lulling her into a bit of a stupor. She really did need some rest. Her sleep had been fitful lately. Probably a result of having too much on her mind.

Toeing off her shoes, she pulled back her spread and tucked herself into the narrow bed.

She fell asleep almost immediately.

The noises of the boat faded as she drifted through her dream darkness that was laced with white mist and a cooling breeze. Ever since she'd been a child, Geary had been able to rapidly fall into REM sleep… usually within five minutes, which was virtually unheard of. It was a strange sleeping disorder that no doctor had ever been able to explain.

Her dreams flowing, she found herself standing on a dark beach where the snowcapped waves crashed against a foreign shore. The sound echoed in her ears as she curled her bare toes into the wet, black sand.

"Megeara." The deeply masculine voice was warm and erotic as it rolled with an accent so exotic and strange that it whispered through Geary like brandy-laced hot chocolate. Rich. Smooth.

Intoxicating.

She groaned in her dreams as her mysterious lover appeared behind her. As always, he was breathtakingly handsome, with long black hair that tangled in the wind and with eyes so clear and blue, they seemed to glow, Every angle of his face was perfectly sculpted, and those mesmerizing eyes were set off by a pair of black brows that slashed above them. He wrapped his tanned arms around her and pulled her back against his wickedly bare chest that dipped and curved with perfect muscles.

He was divinity.

Absolute seduction.

And for the moment, he was all hers…

Closing her eyes, she allowed the scent of his raw, earthy maleness to seep into her until it made her completely drunk with pleasure. She leaned her head to the left as his hot lips brushed against her neck so that he could tenderly lick and caress her skin until her entire body burned.

She didn't know why she kept having these wildly erotic dreams. Why this incredibly sexy man haunted her. After all, Geary Kafieri wasn't known for her sensuality or femininity. Geary was as tough as nails. She'd spent her entire life fighting for her own beliefs, fighting to be her own person, and those battles hadn't left her time to cultivate the more girlie pastimes of makeup, hair, and feminine wiles.

From the moment she'd started down this path of restoring her father's reputation, she'd been trying to prove to herself to her colleagues and investors. That she could not only compete in a male-dominated field but also rule it.

And she'd succeeded admirably. So what if she wasn't the most ladylike of women? She had her accolades and had taken her father's failing company and turned it around in less than three years after his death. Kafieri Salvage was now one of the top companies in Greece, and while she'd rebuilt her father's company she'd managed to carry on his private research.

That had always been enough for her.

Or so she'd thought until that sultry night two months ago when Arikos had first appeared in her dreams.

From the moment she'd laid her unconscious eyes on him, she'd been captivated.

He turned her around in his arms to face him. Biting her lip, Geary looked up into his searing blue eyes. He wore a pair of black leather pants and boots with nothing else. His wavy hair flowed around his face as the gentle breeze teased it, and strands of it became caught in the whiskers of his cheeks.

"What has you upset today, agamenapee?" he asked in that tone that never failed to send a shiver over her.

Geary leaned her head against the hollow of his muscular shoulder so that she could just breathe in his scent and let it soothe her.

If only he could be real…

"They won't give us our permits," she whispered, tracing the outline of his nipple and watching while it drew taut. "And I could kill them for it. I know we've found Atlantis. I know it. I'm so close I can taste it and now… Now it's hopeless."

She ground her teeth in frustration, grateful that she had someone she could trust without having to put on her "game" face. Her staff expected her to be calm and collected at all times when what she really wanted to do was shake the official until he gave her what she needed.

Damn them for it.

"I'm going to fail," she said, her voice catching. "At the rate we're going, Tory's right. We'll be too old to even remember what it was we were looking for."

Arikos cupped her face in his large hands and stared at her with a frown. "I don't understand why this is important to you."

"Because my father died a broken alcoholic. I want everyone who ever laughed at him to have to eat their words. I want to prove to the world that my father wasn't a fool racing against windmills. I want to keep my promise to him. I owe it to him."

Arikos tilted his head and stared into her eyes as if he could see straight into her soul. "Finding it would make you happy?"

"More than anything."

"Then it is done. I will take you to Atlantis."

She laughed at the absurdity. Boy, when her subconscious went off into outer space, it really went off into outer space.

Even so, it meant a lot to her to have at least one person's faith. It didn't matter that he wasn't real. She needed his hypothetical support and she was grateful for it.

Arikos dipped his head down then and captured her lips with his. Geary moaned at the sweet taste of him. There was no one on this earth who tasted the way he did. No one who felt better in her arms, which was probably why he was relegated to her dreams.

But she was so glad to have him here. To feel the heat of his skin sliding against hers.

Oh, she could eat this man alive.

His hands deftly slid the white, flowing dress off her shoulders until she was naked before him while he nibbled and teased her mouth with his lips and tongue. It amazed her that she was so at ease with him, even in her dreams. In real life, Geary had never been the kind of woman to let any man whisk her off her feet. To let her passions rule her.

She was a woman of cold, hard logic and restricted emotions.

It was why she loved her dreams so much. Here she was free to have her way with Arikos without worry. There was no risk of pregnancy or disease. No worry about having to face him in the morning.

No risk of disappointment or cruel laughter. She was in control of her dreams and him. Her times with him were safe and warm and the best moments of her day.

He laid her down carefully on the sandy ground and covered her body with his. Oh, the feel of him like this was incredible. The leather of his pants caressed her legs as he separated her thighs with his knee.

He moved his mouth from hers, down toward her swollen breast that ached for his kiss.

Breathless and weak, she cupped his head to her as he flicked his tongue back and forth over her taut nipple. His breath was scorching against her flushed skin.

"That's it," he breathed as he dipped his hand down to ease the ache that wanted him inside her. His warm fingers stroked and teased her until she was cresting an orgasm. "Give me all of your passion, Megeara. Let me feel your pleasure. Let me taste it."

Kissing him wildly, she thrust her hips against his hand, seeking even more pleasure from him. "I want more," she demanded, reaching for his zipper.

He laughed wickedly. "And you will have it."

"Geary!"

The loud shout jolted her from her dream and left her heart racing even faster than Arikos had. Geary opened her eyes to find herself lying facedown on her bed.

Tory burst into the room. "You better come quick. Thia is about to drown Teddy. And I'm not kidding."

 

ARIK PULLED OUT OF THE DREAM WITH A CURSE AS HE hovered in the strobilos that gave him no form or substance while he spied on the human realm. Whenever a person awoke from their dream, it left a dream god in a vast nothingness. There was no sound, no color, nothing but blackness.

All he could feel was her fleeting emotions, and he was desperate to keep those.

"Megeara…" Arik called, wanting to return to what they'd been sharing. But he knew it was too late. His little fixation was stronger than the average human and didn't always come to him when he called for her.

Not even the Lotus serum could induce her to sleep until she was ready and agreeable. All it did was give her a headache as she fought against it.

Damn it. He wanted her back!

His body was aching with unsated need, but more than that he felt something strange in his chest.

Grief.

He craved her and he was angry at her loss. Never once in all the history of the human world had he felt anything like this. Dream gods were supposed to be devoid of emotions… at least all except for pain. That emotion alone had been left for them so that the other gods could control and punish them.

Only he didn't feel pain in his chest. He could still feel Megeara's emotions as his own, which told just how powerful her repressed passion and anger were.

She'd started out as a passing curiosity for him. Her dreams had been vivid and colorful. Two things most were not. The average person dreamed in black-and-white with a lot of mist.

Most dream gods avoided those, especially the erotic Skoti like him who were ever questing for the more daring humans. Why dance in the dreams of an unimaginative person when the point was to experience feelings and senses through the sleeper?

So his kind skipped through dreams, seeking those who could create beauty and give to the Skoti what they needed.

Megeara's dreams had been awash in clever sensations. He'd first come upon her while she was bathing in a river of chocolate.

Rolling over on the misty ground that made up one of the dream chambers, Arik closed his eyes to summon the memory. There were still the remnants of Megeara's passion inside him even though their dream connection was severed, and that allowed him to remember the pleasure of finding her that first night.

Even now he could taste the dream chocolate on his tongue as he'd licked it from her naked body. Feel the warm sensation of it sliding over his skin as they made love in it. He wondered now as he'd wondered then what that chocolate would really taste like on the mortal plane.

Why had it given Megeara so much pleasure?

Most of all, he burned to know what she would really taste like. How she would smell.

His cock twitched in sweet expectation.

"Arikos?"

He turned his head away as a bright light burst into his darkness. "Fuck off, M'Ordant," he snarled, recognizing the voice of his older half brother.

"Is that anger?"

Arik pushed himself up and moved to stand beside the god who was equal to his height. Like him, M'Ordant had black hair and translucent blue eyes. All of their race were marked by those colorings, along with an unearthly beauty.

This time when Arik spoke his tone was flat and level, as was befitting one of his cursed species. "How would I know? I have no emotions."

M'Ordant narrowed his gaze and if Arik didn't know better, he'd swear his brother was puzzled. Even though they couldn't truly feel, they'd learned to mock expressions. It made the other gods less nervous around them. "You've been spending too much time with the human. You need to move on to another."

That was the way of it. A Skotos such as Arik was only tolerated to help drain humans of excess emotions. If Skoti spent too long with one person, they could, in theory, make that person go mad or even kill them.

The Skoti were normally given a single warning and if they failed to heed it, an Oneroi would be selected to either punish or eliminate them from existence. M'Ordant was one of many who monitored human sleep and who kept the Skoti in line.

"And if I don't want to leave her?"

"Are you being argumentative?"

Arik gave him an arch stare. "How could I be?"

"Then you are done with her." M'Ordant vanished.

The wisest course of action would be to heed his warning. But Arik was too drawn to his human to pay attention to M'Ordant's words. After all, that would require fear… something Arik knew nothing about.

Closing his eyes, Arik could still smell the scent of Megeara's flesh. Still taste the salty sweetness of her body on his hungry tongue. Feel her touch on his skin.

No, he wasn't done with her. He was only beginning.


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