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"GEARY, QUICK! THERE'S A BODY OVERBOARD!"
Oh good God, who had Thia attacked now?
Aggravated, Geary looked up from Tory's notes at Justina's call. Geary's second in command was pointing over the side of the boat. As Geary rushed to the side to peer over, she handed the notebook back to Tory. Sure enough, there was someone struggling in the waves. And by the looks of it, he was quickly losing his battle.
"Christof!" Geary shouted for the boat's captain. "We need…" She paused as the body sank down below the hungry waves.
There wasn't time.
Her heart pounding from the rush of adrenaline, Geary kicked her shoes off and dove over the side. The coldness of the water stunned her as it covered her completely. Kicking her legs, she swam upward until she broke the surface so that she could look about for him.
Even though the water was clear, Geary had a hard time finding the guy below the surface. She had to keep diving down, then returning for fresh air before she dove back to search for him. Thank God she was a strong swimmer who was trained as a lifeguard and a certified diving instructor. But then it was expected of her as an underwater recovery expert. She had to be as nimble in water as a fish.
She just wished she'd had time to get her gear before she'd come in after him. If she didn't find the guy soon, he'd be dead, especially since he hadn't resurfaced.
Her lungs burned from holding her breath as she dove under the water again. Her ears were buzzing and popping from the pressure as images of him drowning consumed her.
Geary had been twelve years old when Tory's father had drowned only a few miles from this very spot. Images of her father trying to save Theron's life tore through her now as she remembered her father diving for him. Her father pulling Theron out of the water and doing everything he could to resuscitate him.
It'd been awful and the last thing she wanted to do was relive it.
C'mon. Don't you dare die on me. Where are you? She slowed her speed and turned about as she floated weightlessly in the sea. The light refracted and danced in the blue and green water, highlighting various fish and foliage, but there was no sight of the man she sought.
She frowned at the foreign voice in her head, not understanding the source of it, but she couldn't help obeying it. Looking down, she spotted him just below her. Even though he was trying to swim, he was sinking fast...
His long black hair danced in the water as bubbles floated around him and he waved his arms and legs to no avail.
Relieved she'd found him but scared it might be too late, she headed for him as fast as she could. She came up behind him, then pulled his large body against hers and kicked them toward the surface.
Good grief! The man was huge and made of solid muscle. With next to no fat on him, he was like an anchor in the water. It took a great deal of effort to get them to the surface.
By the time they broke through, both of them were sputtering and coughing.
"Hold on," she said to him. "I've got you." Even so, she half-expected him to fight against her. Most drowning victims did.
But not him. He went limp against her as if he trusted her completely.
Justina and Teddy were in the water already with a life preserver. Together, they got the man into the harness and had him hauled on board, then they followed suit.
By the time Geary was on board the Simi again, she saw the unknown man lying on the deck, covered with a blanket, while Thia was giving him mouth-to-mouth. Geary couldn't see the man's face for Thia.
"Is he dead?" Geary asked, rushing over to them as worry tore at her.
Just as she reached his side, the man coughed up a gallon of seawater. Gasping, he turned quickly to his side and started hacking and wheezing while Thia pounded him on the back to help him clear his lungs. His slick wet skin was completely bronzed and perfect, except for the deep welts that marred his back. The scars were old, but even so they were prominent enough to let Geary know how much they must have hurt when he received them. It reminded her of the way sailors were beaten for punishment back in the old days.
Why would a modern man have such scarring? Who would have beaten him like that and why?
And he wore nothing except a thin pair of long white pants that were plastered against his perfect body… and they showed absolutely everything, right down to his religion and the fact that this man had been rather gifted in a certain department.
He might as well be naked.
"Now there's a man who doesn't believe in underwear, huh?" Justina said in a low tone for only Geary's hearing as she wrung out her hair. "Not that I'm not grateful for it. He has the nicest ass on the planet. No wonder Thia grabbed him for resuscitation. I wouldn't mind a little mouth-to-mouth action with that body, either."
While Geary pretty much agreed with those sentiments, she didn't comment as Tory draped a blanket around her shoulders.
"Hell of a fish you found there," Christof said as he brought more blankets for them. He gave one to Justina and Teddy.
Ignoring him, Geary knelt down beside her catch. The man held himself up with one muscular arm as he continued to breathe in short, sharp gasps. His tangled wet black hair fell over his face, completely obscuring it from her and the others. The tendons of his hands were well defined and beautiful, which made her curious as to what his face would look like.
Would it be as scarred as his back or as pristine and beautiful as the rest of him?
"Are you okay?" she asked in Greek, assuming since they were in the Aegean that he would understand her better in Greek than any other language.
He nodded as he continued to struggle to expel the water from his body. It was almost as if he wasn't used to his own lungs.
His breathing ragged, he lifted his head to look at her through the strands of his wet black hair. And as soon as their eyes met, Geary gasped and fought the urge to cross herself and spit as she came face-to-face with the intense blue eyes of her dreams.
It couldn't be…
It wasn't possible and yet there he was before her in all his almost naked glory. She knew those perfect, sardonic lips. The slash of his dark brows over eyes that were so pale a blue they radiated. She knew that strong jaw, dusted with whiskers. It was one she'd teased with her teeth and tongue for hours on end.
Against all reason, it was him.
Something hot and needful went through her like a sharp needle as she fought the urge to reach out and touch him to make sure he was really here.
Arik couldn't do anything more than stare at Megeara. She was even more beautiful in reality than she'd been in her dreams. Her deep blue eyes captivated him as tendrils of her wet blond hair hung down over them. Her pale skin begged for his touch just as her partially opened mouth needed his kiss.
He started toward those lips, then coughed more as he tried to breathe through the stinging pain in his chest. His body shook uncontrollably as he was assaulted by horrifyingly intense sensations and emotions. Even the cries of the birds above him were piercing to his ears—the droning of the ocean. And the heat of the sun on his skin… it was blistering. Never had he felt so out of control. Why wouldn't his body obey him?
Why the hell couldn't he stop coughing and shaking?
He half-expected Megeara to pound on his back as her accomplice had done. Instead, Megeara's touch was gentle as she lightly hit him to help dispel the water from his now human body.
Then she started to gently rub his back in a circle. Chills spread over him as he felt a heat the likes of which were unimaginable. Forget the heat of the sun, this was even more scorching.
No one had ever touched him so gently and he'd never really felt a touch before, especially not against his flesh. All he wanted was to pull her into his arms and taste the taut nipples that were so apparent through her wet white shirt.
If only his body would obey him.
"I think he's going into shock," Megeara said to the others. "Grab more blankets."
Another woman pulled Megeara away. "Let me look at—"
"No!" he snarled, reaching for Megeara's hand to keep her by his side. He hadn't come this far to lose sight of her now.
Megeara covered his hand with hers in a soothing caress. "It's all right. Stay calm." She took a blanket from a young woman with glasses, then wrapped it around him.
Arik closed his eyes and savored the fleeting sensation of her hands on his shoulders. The feel of her skin on his… it was electrifying. Hot.
If only he could stop shaking.
Geary wasn't sure what to do. She exchanged a frown with Althea, who was on board as their physician.
"I need to check him out and make sure he's okay," Althea said in English.
Geary agreed. "I know."
"I'll be fine in a few minutes," the unknown man said in perfect, accented English. His voice was so deep and resonant that it literally echoed around them. Those intense, predatorial eyes pierced her. "Just don't leave me."
Geary found herself nodding even though the possessive command of that tone made her want to run. It wasn't in her nature to let anyone tell her what to do, but in his case, there was something unnaturally compelling about him. Alluring.
Honestly, she didn't want to leave him. And that really did scare her.
Her heart hammering, she used a corner of his blanket to towel dry his hair, then brushed it back from a face that was truly flawless.
"Do you prefer English or Greek?" she asked him.
"It doesn't matter."
Wow. He was extremely bilingual. He was also extremely exposed, and the sight of him with those pants clinging to his every asset brought the most wicked images to her mind. In her dreams, she'd twisted that body of his like a pretzel and licked every inch of it.
Okay, so it wasn't quite that body. In her dreams, there had been no scars. But his body was close enough to the one she was used to to evoke a fervent heat inside her.
Geary brushed a drop of water off his cheek with the blanket. "What happened to you?"
He looked away. "I don't know."
Thia gave her a wicked grin. "Well, it isn't every day we fish a nearly naked god out of the sea, now is it? Glad I came back early from my shopping trip. This was definitely worth it."
The man snapped his head toward her and gave her a fierce scowl. It was obvious her words touched a nerve with him.
"Thia?" Geary said in a steady tone. "Do you mind?"
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever. See if I save his life next time he's drowning." Turning around, she headed belowdecks.
Christof stepped forward. "We should report this to the authorities."
Even more fury snapped in those pale blue eyes. "No!" His tone was firm and commanding. "No authorities."
Teddy exchanged a frown with her. "Why? You running from them?"
"No. I just don't want to be interrogated when I can't remember anything."
Christof narrowed his eyes on him. "Do you know your name?"
He hesitated. "Arik."
He looked up at Geary with a confusion that tugged at her heart. "I don't remember."
Geary tilted her head, not sure what to think. Something deep inside told her he was lying, but she wasn't sure about what. "Did you hit your head?"
"He could have amnesia," Tory said. "If he fell from a boat he might have been run over by it. Or maybe he was beaten and then thrown overboard. Could be pirates."
"He's not bruised," Christof pointed out. "And there hasn't been a lot of pirate activity here for several hundred years."
"Yes, but I said could. Weird and unusual things happen all the time. Did you know that there were seventy-five pirate attacks on civilian boats last year alone? Six more were against the U.S. Coast Guard. One group even tried to take over a cruise ship."
Ignoring Tory's statistics, Geary dropped the blanket to Arik's shoulders. "What was the last thing you remember?"
"I… I don't know."
A strange, warm feeling came over her as she watched him. The whole moment was so surreal. She couldn't believe she was looking at… Arikos.
That had been a dream and yet the man before her was an exact copy. A copy named Arik.
Could they possibly…
Don't be stupid.
It was just some strange coincidence. Maybe some sort of premonition.
Her face flamed red at the thought. Well, not that kind of premonition. She wasn't about to jump naked into a pool of chocolate with this guy.
"Okay," she said quietly. "Teddy, take Arik below and find some clothes for him."
Arik started to protest leaving her, then stopped himself. She was skittish of him. He could sense it. If he pressed her too much, she might bolt and push him away.
That was the last thing he wanted.
No, he must tread carefully in order to gain her trust. He was here, in her realm. And he'd have plenty of time to seduce her shortly. For now it was best to humor her.
He stood up slowly, his eyes never wavering from her gaze. As a wave crashed into the boat, he staggered slightly and almost lost his balance.
Megeara reached out, her hands steadying him.
Arik closed his eyes as heat from her touch seared his every nerve. There was nothing to compare to the sensation of human contact—to the feeling of those delicate hands touching his flesh—and he couldn't wait to feel them stroking the part of him that was hard for her.
He bent his head low so that he could inhale her sweet, feminine scent of open air and woman misted with a light touch of perfume. It was even more intoxicating than it had been in her dreams, and he wanted to bask in it.
Even more he wanted to smell it on his sheets and flesh. To drink her in for hours on end until he was fully sated and content.
Geary tensed at the feel of Arik's hot breath against her damp skin. What was it about this stranger that set her entire body on fire?
She forced herself to step away from him even though what she really wanted to do was walk closer to that magnificently muscled body.
His eyes showed his longing as he met her gaze again and he noted her actions. "Don't be afraid of me, Megeara." He all but purred in her ear. "I would never hurt you."
It wasn't until he'd left that she realized he'd called her by a name no one used.
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