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CHAPTER 5




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

 

ARIK WAS FASCINATED BY THE BRISTLED TEXTURE OF THE blanket on Teddy's bed. It was scratchy and irritating. Why would anyone want that next to their skin? Even the pillowcase wasn't what he'd thought it'd be. In dreams, these items were as soft as air and they slid against his skin like warm water.

But here… He shivered.

This was a strange world mankind lived in. No wonder they escaped into dreams.

And he was tired of being here without Megeara. She was proving to be even more elusive in person than she'd been in her dreams. He didn't know where she was, but it was time he found her.

He'd just reached for the door when it swung open so fast he felt the rush of air against his skin.

A warm, sweet emotion went through him as he saw Megeara. At least it started out that way until he noted the look of anger on her face.

"What?" he asked, wondering why she was so vexed now.

"Solin Catranides is an only child."

Arik laughed at the ludicrousness of that statement. As a Dream-Hunter, Solin had thousands of siblings. Literally. "I assure you, he is not."

She gestured to the man behind her. "Tell him, Brian."

"I called a friend who knows him. She assured me that Solin has never mentioned a family of any sort."

Arik gave them a sardonic smile. "I'm sure he wouldn't mention our family to a woman when it's none of her business. Get him on the phone for me."

Geary glared at him over the commanding tone of voice he used. One thing she knew about Brian. He didn't take that tone any better than she did.

Brian's eyes flickered with contempt. "I've already made my inquiries."

"And they were wrong."

Brian tossed the phone at him. "You make your own calls, buddy."

"I don't know the number."

"Then you're screwed."

"Brian," Geary said in a gentle tone, trying to diffuse their prickliness. She took the phone from Arik and returned it to Brian. "Can you get Solin's number for me? I want to speak to him myself."

He curled his lip at Arik. "It's his brother. Shouldn't he know the number?"

"Brian, please. He could call any number in Greece and the person who answers it could be anyone pretending to be Solin. I want to make sure that I'm speaking to the right person."



Brian's features softened as he saw the sanity of her request. "Fine." He took the phone and dialed it. After a few minutes, he pulled a pen and paper from his pocket to jot down the number. He hung up and handed it to her.

Geary frowned at the number. "You're sure this is right?"

"It's the only Solin Catranides I know of. Whether or not it's his brother remains to be seen."

"Okay." She dialed the number and waited while Arik passed a smug look at both of them.

After the sixth ring, a man with a deep British voice answered in Greek.

Geary kept her eyes on Arik, who was watching her back with a blank expression on his handsome face. "Is this Solin Catranides?"

"No. Kyrios Catranides isn't available at the moment. If you would like to leave your name and number, I will add your message to the others."

Could he have possibly said that in a snottier tone? Really, the man should teach haughty-butler school—advanced studies. "This is a bit of an emergency—"



"They always say that, thespeneice. No offense. The master has no desire to be disturbed this afternoon by anyone."

She narrowed her eyes on Arik, waiting for him to slip and show her if he was lying or not. "Not even for his brother?"

"I beg your pardon?" The snottiness was vacant now, replaced by incredulity.

"I have a man standing in front of me who claims to be his brother."

Now the man's tone was completely flat. "The master has no brother, thespeneice."

Before she could respond, Arik pulled the phone from her band and spoke something in a language she didn't know. It sounded as if it was Greek-based, but it was something else entirely.

Arik passed another smug look to Brian, then to Megeara. He was getting tired of hex mistrust—not that he didn't deserve it It was merely causing him aggravation—an interesting emotion that. He didn't like it It was too… aggravating. "He's coming to the phone now."

Two seconds later, Solin answered in a peeved tone of voice. "Is this a joke?" he asked in the language that only the gods knew.

Arik answered in kind. "No, Solin, it's not. I need your help."

"If you are what you claim, and since you're using my native tongue I have no doubt that you are a relative, you don't need my help."

"Yes, I do. I'm trapped on the human plane for two weeks without my powers and I need your assistance until I can go home again."

"Don't you dare deny me," he said, clenching his teeth. "Because of you I turned Skoti. You fail to help me now and I can promise you that you'll never again sleep in peace. I'll spend the rest of eternity synched only to you. Every time you close your eyes, I'll be there… beating the shit out of you."



"My, that's some threat you've got going."

"No threats. Only promises."

Solin paused before he spoke again. "For the record, I don't take such promises lightly."

"And I don't give them lightly. If you doubt me or my skills, ask M'Ordant who I am and what I'm capable of. I've come a long way from the numbed Oneroi you turned centuries ago. I want your help, Solin. I know helping someone goes against your grain, but suck it up and assist me."

There was a few seconds of silence as if Solin was thinking. "If you're here as a human as you claim. I assume you have the barking of a god. Who is it?"

There was no need to hide that from him. If he really wanted to know, it wouldn't take him long to find out "Hades."

Solin snorted. "You bargained with Hades? Are you insane?"

"I was definitely sane and in control while I was Oneroi. Then someone changed that. What I am now is anyone's guess, even my own."

More silence greeted him.

"All right." Solin said at last "I don't make this a habit but you've made me curious. What do you need from me?"

"I need permits for an American archaeologist to excavate Atlantis."

Solin burst out laughing. "I know you're insane now. Have they really found the site?"

"Does it matter?"

"On this plane of existence, yes. You start poking there and you'll piss off people best left alone."

"Since the human's days are numbered, I don't think that's going to be a problem. Let her have a bit of a thrill before she dies. What's the harm?"

Solin sucked his breath in sharply between his teeth. "No. you didn't."

"Didn't what?" Arik asked.

"Promise a soul exchange with Hades. You do have nerve, I'll grant you that."

He wasn't sure if impressing his brother was a good thing or not but at least Solin sounded a little more agreeable.

"Aside from the permits, what else?"

"That's it. She wants to meet the official who grants them to make sure they're not forgeries."

"How soon do you need this?"

Arik glanced to the other two, who were watching him expectantly. "How soon can you do it?"

Another brief pause. "Give me an hour to arrange it. I have a few government friends who owe me. I just have to decide who I want to intimidate or blackmail."

Arik looked at Megeara and spoke in English. "He needs an hour to set the permits up. Can you meet him then?"

Her jaw slackened before she nodded.

"She can be there," Arik told Solin. "Good. I'll pick you up."

"Why?"

"Because I have to meet the god who's this arrogant and stupid face-to-face."

Arik wasn't sure if he should be flattered or insulted. Perhaps he should be a little of both. "Then I'll allow the good doctor to give you your directions." He handed the phone to Megeara, who was still gaping.

Geary couldn't believe what she was hearing. Was it really that simple? Could nothing more than a phone call gain her the elusive papers she needed? "Hello? Kyrios Catranides?"

"Yes, and you are?"

"Dr. Geary Kafieri."

"Nice meeting you, Doctor. As my brother said, I'll be needing directions on where to pick the two of you up so that we can procure your permits."

Geary still was a bit reserved. It wasn't in her nature to trust people, and especially not after all the years she'd been trying to accomplish what the two of them seemed to be able to do in one hour. "I thought you were an only child."

Solin didn't hesitate with his answer. "Yes and no. I have a number of half siblings. One of whom happens to be Arik. Now if you'll be so kind as to give me your address."

She did even though she kept expecting this to be a joke.

"Very good," Solin said once she finished giving him the address and directions for the marina. "I shall see the two of you in about an hour."

"Thank you."

He hung up.

Geary ended the call, then handed the phone to Brian. "He's getting us the permits. Do you think he can really do that?"

Brian shrugged. "If anyone can, he can. Solin travels in the highest of circles. Even those I can't ascend to… which tells you exactly how much money he has."

She looked to Arik, whose face was completely stoic. "And he's your brother?"

"Yes."

Brian cleared his throat. "Well, if you get those permits, I'll reconsider my backing."

That meant a lot to her. Without his backing, they wouldn't have any choice except to pack up and go home. "Thank you, Brian."

He inclined his head to her before he left them alone.

Arik offered her a seductive smile. "Are you happy now?"

"I don't know if 'happy' is the right word. I'm still suspicious of you and your motives."

He clucked his tongue at her. "After all this, how can you continue to mistrust me?"

Was he serious? "Can you blame me? I still don't know you and here you are making grand gestures for no reason. Why would you be willing to help me?"

"Because I find you fascinating. You were so passionate in grad school, and now you're on an impossible quest, just as I am. One has to admire that. Not to mention the small fact that you saved my life. Helping you with the permits is the least I can do." There was something in his eyes as he spoke that glinted and glowed. She felt like a snake with its master charmer who was luring it from its basket to the highway for it to be run over by a Mack truck.

"What do you want from me? Really?" she asked.

"Just a simple smile. Nothing more."

"I find it hard to believe something so small would satisfy you."

His grin turned wickedly warm. "It would at least tide me over for a bit."

Geary wasn't sure what to make of him. On the one hand, he was helping her out in a way no one else could. He didn't owe her anything at all, and yet…

Could it be as simple as he was repaying her for saving him? He was Greek and it made sense when put in that context. The Greek people had a strict code of ethics about what was right and wrong. Repayment would be something they would do without hesitation. Perhaps she was being too harsh with him.

"Okay, Arik. I'm sorry I've been so irritable to you. I just don't trust people as a rule, especially those I don't know."

"I understand and we did meet under extremely odd circumstances."

A tiny smile spread across her face as she remembered hauling him on board. "True."

His features softened to the most seductive look she'd ever seen from any man. "Shall we start over?" He held his hand out toward her. "I'm Arik Catranides."

She shook his hand. "Geary Kafieri, and I still want to know how you ended up in the sea."

He lifted her hand to his lips so that he could place a whisper of a kiss to her knuckles. "And I promise you that one day you will learn the answer to that mystery."

She wasn't sure why, but the hairs on the back of her neck lifted as an eerie chill went down her spine. It was followed by the memory of her dreams where Arikos had bathed her in chocolate whipped cream that he'd licked off her body slowly and easily. But this wasn't that man who'd seduced her.

Was it? Could it be that somehow her subconscious had held on to his memory all these years and it was only now that she needed him that she'd remembered him?

It didn't seem feasible. Yet how else could she explain his presence here on the boat and the fact that he'd been in her dreams these past weeks? She must have remembered him.

And now that she was more relaxed, there was something about him very calm and peaceful. Something that soothed her.

Except for his eyes. They spooked her. They seemed somehow omniscient and powerful. Probing and deadly.

"So where exactly do you live?"

He didn't answer. Instead, he moved behind her and wrapped his arms around her. It was what her dream lover had done a thousand times.

She stiffened in his embrace. "Who are you, Arik? Why are you really here?"

He rubbed his cheek against hers so that his whiskers sent chills over her. "You want Atlantis, yes?" He all but purred that into her ear as desire burned through her.

"Yes."

"Then what else matters?"

The heat in her body for one thing. It was unlike any she'd ever experienced before. All her life, she'd been forced to prove herself to others. And since her father's reputation had so impugned her own, she'd gone out of her way to not allow the fact that she was a woman make the more elitist scholars disregard her. She'd focused her entire life on being a serious scientist, to the exclusion of all else.

But with Arik, it was different. He treated her as a woman and he wasn't repelled by her protective barbs. He saw her as desirable. The novelty of that alone was titillating.

She wanted to close her eyes and lean back into him. To reach up and lay her palm against his whiskers so that she could feel the muscles of his jaw work. It was what she'd do in her dreams.

But this was reality and Dr. Geary Kafieri didn't have time for such play. Even though all she wanted to do was stay where she was, she pulled away. "I need to work."

Arik ground his teeth in frustration. But then it was the power of her that had lured him to her in the first place. I want you to stay

The thought had no sooner gone through his head than she turned on him with a vicious glare. "And I told you I have things to do."

He frowned at the anger in her tone. "Excuse me?"

"You said you wanted me to stay and I can't do that."

He cocked his head. "No, I didn't." He'd only thought it.

"I heard you loud and clear."

"But I didn't speak." How could she have heard him when he didn't have his powers?

Geary didn't know what to think. Something wasn't right about this. She could sense it. She needed to get away from him until she could sort through this.

Without so much as a good-bye, she left him and headed topside so that she could get a breath of fresh air and clear her thoughts.

Thia met her on deck. "Where's Mr. Cutie?"

"Down below."

A wicked smile curved her lips. "Now that's where I'd like to have him… down below."

Geary rolled her eyes at the bad entendre as a breeze brushed against her and gave her a shiver. She was still in wet clothes, and if they were truly going to meet with any Greek official she needed to change her clothes lest she offend him.

"Have at him, Thee. I'm sure he'd welcome that."

Kat laughed as she passed by them. "I really doubt that." Geary frowned at the odd note in Kat's voice. At almost six and a half feet tall, she, like Thia, towered over the rest of the crew, women and men alike. Kat was also extremely Greek, with blond hair and sharp green eyes. She'd joined their team only a few weeks ago—right after they'd found the wall they were trying so desperately to excavate. "Do you know something about our guest?"

Kat shrugged nonchalantly. "Nope. Why would I?"

"Hmmm…" Geary wasn't so sure if she believed that or not. There was something in Kat's demeanor that said she might be withholding information.

"Kat, you're from Greece, right?"

She laughed again. "Born and raised. I seriously doubt anyone comes more Greek than me, why?"

"Do you really think this guy can help us get our permits?"

Kat sobered. "I guess we'll know soon."

But not soon enough in Geary's book. "All right. I need to change before we dock. I'll see you two shortly."

Kat waited until Geary had vanished belowdecks before she looked at Thia, who at eighteen bore a frightening resemblance to the goddess Artemis. "By the way, I heard Scott was looking for you."

Her face lit up. "Really?"

"Yeah. You better run before he changes his mind."

Thia couldn't have bounded off faster if she'd been wearing Hermes' enchanted sneakers. Which was definitely a good thing.

That should occupy the redhead for at least a few minutes so that Kat could go visit their latest acquisition and not be disturbed or, more to the point, overheard.

As soon as she was sure Thia was out of the way, Kat headed to Teddy's cabin, where Arik had been taken. She knocked once on the door before she pushed it open.

Arik stood by the window with his arms crossed over his chest as he gave her a very cool once-over. "You're not Megeara."

"No, I'm not. But what I'd like to know is how a person like you made it onto this boat."

"A person like me?"

She nodded as she took a step closer to him. "Tall, dark haired. Sexy beyond belief with eyes so blue they glow? I suppose the question of the day is who's your daddy?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Who's your daddy?" she repeated before she expanded the question. "Morpheus or Phobetor?"

He gave her a suspicious look. "Who are you?"

"Katra Agrotera. But most people in this realm call me Kat."

She saw the recognition in his eyes. "Agrotera?"

"Yes," she answered his unasked question. Agrotera was one of the names often attached to the Greek goddess Artemis—a name often used by her servants. The very same goddess who'd sent Kat here to watch over the progress of this team. "I'm one of her koris."

"What are you doing here?"

"I used to work with Geary's father from time to time, back in the day when the two of them weren't speaking. Since she's getting a little close to the matter at hand, Artemis thought I should put a few roadblocks in front of her."

"And why is that?"

"Simple. Atlantis can't be found."

He scoffed at her. "You're the second person to tell me that in less than an hour. Why is it so important to Artemis that it stay hidden?"

"The why isn't that important. Just believe me when I say you don't want to go there… in more ways than one."

He didn't flinch or show any emotion, which given his birth made sense to her. Still, it was time he learned to fear.

When he spoke, his tone was level and deadly. "Megeara wants to find it."

"And people in hell want ice water. The entire history of mankind is written by people wanting something they can't have. She'll get over her disappointment, trust me." She approached him slowly and lowered her tone to make damn sure that no one passing by in the hallway outside could overhear her next words. "But that still doesn't explain how it is a Dream-Hunter is here, in the flesh, on this boat. I'm sure you didn't come to this plane just to help the good doctor on her quest."

He was more guarded than a priceless treasure. "I wanted to know what it was like to be human. Is that a crime?"

"On Olympus, it can be."

"Are you threatening me?"

"I'm warning you to forget you ever even heard the name of Atlantis."

"And if I don't heed your warning?"

"Oh, it'll get ugly. Real ugly."

He gave her a cocky grin. "My flesh is used to being stripped from the bone, little girl. Is yours?" He didn't give her time to answer before he continued. "You can't threaten or intimidate someone who won't be able to feel any emotions in a few weeks. Pain doesn't scare me since it's all I know."

"You're a masochistic bastard, aren't you?"

"Isn't that the very nature of a Skotos? After all, it's what your kind damned us to."

Kat paused at his words. It was true. What had been done to the Oneroi was deplorable and unfortunate. But it still didn't change the fact that he couldn't be allowed to uncover Atlantis. Artemis wasn't the only god who would be furious to have it exposed. This little Skotos was playing with a fire he couldn't even begin to understand.

"So you're just here to be human and experience the world? Nothing else?"

"Nothing else."

Kat could almost accept that except for one thing. "And how does Geary fit into this?"

"Who says she does?"

Kat laughed as she noted the speculation in his crystal eyes—he was hiding something. "Don't mistake me for an idiot. You have no god powers, I can feel it. While your kind does come to this plane from time to time to scope out victims, you don't lose your powers when you do it. You've bargained yours to be here and to be human, and you're helping Geary. Why?"

"First you tell me why Artemis is interested in this and then I might answer you."

He was quick and clever. She'd give him that. "All righty then. It appears we've come to an understanding. I stay out of your business and you stay out of mine."

"Fair enough."

Kat looked past him, out the porthole, to see the docks coming into sight. It wouldn't be long before he took Geary for the permits.

Kat stifled a shudder at that. "Just remember one thing, Dream-Hunter. You get in my way and I will sacrifice you for my mission."

He laughed low in his throat. "And to that all I can say is a resounding 'ditto.' I won't let you interfere with why I came here."

She arched a brow at that. "You would dare to threaten me? Have you any idea what happened to the last man who harmed a kori?"

He shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm not afraid of Artemis. Even though I'm human now, I won't be for long. My powers will be returned to me in full. Both you and your mistress would do well to remember that."

She tsked at his arrogance. "Oh, Arik, Artemis is the least of your problems if you succeed in finding Atlantis. There are powers so deep and dark buried with that continent that they make a mockery of Zeus. I'm only a minion in the grand scheme of things. You have much more to fear than either me or my lady-goddess. And on that pleasant note, I will leave you with only one more piece of advice."

"Which is?"

"Things are very seldom what they seem. Atlantis and what happened there was a blight on the nose of many a god and many a pantheon. As you know, the gods seldom agree on anything, but they are all united when it comes to this. You would do well to leave here as soon as we dock, and find a new playmate for your dreams."

"So you're lying to Megeara about your presence here. Pretending to help while hindering. How noble of you."

"And you're here to seduce her and do what? Kill her? Is that your plan?"

He looked away and she didn't miss the fleeting grief that darkened his eyes before he hid it. "Does my intent matter since you've already made up your mind to kill her?"

Anger whipped through her at his words. "I've never killed any human. I'm not that cold. Hell, I even tried to save her father and it's for him that I'm watching over Geary now, instead of allowing another kori to be here. I don't want to see her die. She's too decent a woman for that. So again, I say to you, move on."

"And if I can't?"

"Then you and I are at war."

"Unfortunate, but I can accept that." He moved to stand before her and she hated the fact she had to look up at him. It was what he'd intended by the action, but it would take more than that to intimidate her. "Stay out of my way, Katra. For your own sake."

Fine then. At least she knew the stakes. Now she just had to visit her friend and do everything she could to get Geary to throw Arik overboard as soon as possible. He was human at the moment and couldn't play with Geary's thoughts or emotions. That was a blessing.

"Oh, don't worry. I intend to be the thorn in your side until I drive you mad with fury. You may succeed in seducing Geary, but you're not going to hurt her. Not on my watch."

Arik had opened his mouth to return her comment when he heard the door behind them opening. He turned his head to see the woman Thia standing there, gawking at them.

"Am I interrupting?" Thia asked in a snide tone.

Kat shook her head. "I was just leaving." She gave him a stony look. "Remember what I said."

"Ditto to you."

Fury blazed in her eyes before she pushed past Thia and left them alone. Arik didn't move as he considered this latest turn. So Megeara had one of Artemis's koris as a protector…

That did put a bit of a crimp in things, but it by no means deterred him. He wanted to fully experience Megeara as a man. And nothing, not even Zeus himself, was going to stop him.

Now he just had to get Megeara to cooperate.


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