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GEARY WAS LAUGHING WITH TRIUMPH OVER HER DAY AS the water splashed against her body. She was just about to go diving into the sea without her equipment to find Atlantis when she felt someone touch her arm.
She turned to find Arik there.
Joy rushed through her with a heady excitement and she did what she'd been wanting to do all day—she pulled him against her and kissed him for everything she was worth. The surf splashed up and over them, but instead of being cold, it was warm and soothing.
She growled at the taste of his mouth on hers, at the sensation of his hard arms enveloping her as their tongues danced together. His corded muscles rippled under her hands while he pulled her so close to him that they were virtually one person.
Oh, it felt so good to be held by him. To have all those muscles pressing against her body. She buried her hand in his hair, pulling at it slightly so that she could feel even closer to him.
"You are the absolute best," she breathed against his lips before she nipped them with her teeth. "Thank you for the permits."
He nuzzled her neck, sending chills over her. "Anytime."
She pulled back from him and literally ripped the white shirt from his body before she threw him on the ground and straddled him.
The beach elongated so that the waves would no longer overrun them. Instead, the sea pulled back, leaving them the damp beach, which wasn't sandy. Rather, it was like lying on a bed of rose petals.
Arik was completely shocked by her behavior as she groped and fondled him as if she were overwhelmingly consumed by her hunger for his body. This was the Megeara he'd expected to meet in the human realm. But she'd been so reserved all day that he'd given up hope of her receiving him like this ever again.
Now she was ferocious in her lust. His head swam as she buried her lips against his neck and tongued him until he thought he'd die from the pleasure of it.
He laughed in the back of his throat. "You're certainly rowdy tonight."
She slid down his body as she continued to lick and please every part of him. "You've no idea. It's been killing me all day to be so close to you and to not touch this body. God, you're gorgeous and sexy."
He trembled as she worked her way from his neck to his nipples and then down his abdomen until she got to the waistband of his jeans. Normally, Arik would have melted them off, but he was curious what she'd do in this mood.
She virtually shredded his pants in an effort to get to him. She tore chunks of the denim and tossed them over her shoulder until he was completely naked. He lay there on his back, watching her as her hands explored him at length. She attacked him with fervor, and he loved every second of it. As good as it'd been before when he merely fed from her emotions, it was even better now that he had his own to draw from.
He hissed as she found his hip bone and went to work on it with her mouth while she cupped him in her hand and massaged him until he was rock hard for her. He literally shook from the ecstasy of it.
He traced the line of her back with his hand, dragging his nails gently over her flesh until chills erupted all over her body. Needing more of her, he dipped his hand down to brush through the soft tangle of curls at the juncture of her thighs. He licked his lips, already tasting her, before he sank his fingers inside her.
She was so wet and ready. He toyed with her, biding his time until he could fill her completely.
Geary couldn't wait to taste him. Her eyes hooded, she watched the pleasure on his face as she toyed with his cock and he stroked her where she ached most. She loved the sensation of his hard body against her curves. The way his small hairs tickled her skin.
But it was enough of playtime.
Drawing her breath in in sweet expectation, she moved to draw the tip of his cock into her mouth, where she gently tongued him. The salty-sweet taste went through her as she moved lower. She felt him shudder under her. Giddy with the sensation of it, she drew him in even deeper, wanting to taste and please him for the rest of the night.
Arik cupped her face as he watched her. He loved it whenever she did this. He didn't know what it was about this one act, but there was nothing more pleasing to him. With his hands on her cheeks, he felt her jaw working under his fingers while she consumed him. His body was on fire, and in the back of his mind he wondered how much better this would be while he was awake.
What would her mouth really feel like on him?
It was weird to think about it, but he was technically a virgin. He'd never taken a woman outside of the dream realm. Until Megeara, he'd never really cared about that.
But now he did. He wanted to know what it was like to really share his body with her. To have her touch him like this while they were conscious.
Geary looked up to see Arik watching her. There was a look of extreme pleasure and one of amazement in his eyes. How she wished she could see a look like that from a man in real life. She'd never really had a boyfriend for any length of time. It was why she kept men at arm's length. She didn't like being hurt. Didn't like being disappointed.
It was so much safer to be alone, and yet as she lay with Arik she wanted to know what it would be like to have someone with her. Someone who was a part of her.
Someone to trust.
In less than a day, the man Arik had given her more than anyone else ever had. He'd given her her dream. And now he was here in her dreams, loving her.
Wanting to feel even closer to him, she pulled away to lay her body down on his.
Arik closed his eyes at how good Megeara felt against him. Her flesh was warm and soft against his. He held her close, reveling in the feel of her as he cradled her with his body. She leaned back to kiss him before she slid herself onto him.
He sucked his breath in sharply as pleasure pierced every part of his being. She made love to him furiously as the surf crashed around them. The waves rolled up but didn't quite reach him.
He could focus on nothing but the slick feel of her body as she took him in all the way. He held her hips, urging her even faster.
Geary rocked her hips against his, seeking peace and closeness. He was so deep inside that it made her ache. She loved having sex with this man, and she couldn't help wondering if the real Arik would be as kind and tender as her dream lover.
You could find out.
Yes, but that would leave her vulnerable and that was the last thing she wanted. Geary Kafieri had no desire to be hurt by anyone. It wasn't worth it. Especially since she knew Arik would be dying soon. To let him in would be to invite agony on herself, and she'd had so much pain already. Everyone she loved died. Everyone.
Except for Tory. It was why Geary was so protective of her. God help Geary if anything ever happened to her cousin. She wouldn't be able to live and she knew it.
But as she felt Arik inside her now she wanted a future she knew she could never have, and it broke her heart.
It was her lot in life to be alone. There was no use fighting it.
At least she had him in her dreams.
Smiling at him, she quickened her strokes until she finally felt that moment of absolute pleasure right before her body released and blinded her with ecstasy.
Arik leaned his head back as he felt her body clutching his. Lifting his hips, he buried himself deep inside her before his own orgasm claimed him and she collapsed on top of him.
Now this… this was what he'd wanted. Truly, there was nothing more spectacular in this world or any other than Megeara. He held her tight against him as his heart continued to race. He'd never been more content.
She leaned up on one arm to stare down at him as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. Never had he seen a more beautiful woman.
Arik cupped her cheek in his palm, looking up at her as he laughed from his exhaustion. Megeara's eyes glowed in the moonlight as she kissed the line of his jaw.
"Now if I could only get you to do this while we're awake…"
She laughed, which caused her breasts to brush against his chest. "Never. I can't afford to be like this awake. No one respects a woman of easy virtue."
"Oh, I assure you that's not true. I would always respect you."
"Yeah, right." She pulled back to sit up.
Arik couldn't breathe at the sight of her resting on his hips as the moonlight cast shadows over her bare body. He reached up to trace the outline of her nipple as she glanced off into the ocean.
He watched her face as she began to frown. "What's wrong?"
He turned his head to look and went instantly cold. The surf was rolling against the shore, but what made him pay attention was the strange motion of it. The whitecaps began to slowly form faces, and those faces started rising out of the water in liquid forms that became solid.
Children of the Furies, the Dolophoni were essentially the assassins of the gods. And they'd been the ones who'd rounded up the Oneroi centuries ago for Zeus to punish.
Now someone had unleashed the Dolophoni against Arik. He knew it. There was no other reason for them to be here. They weren't something Megeara would have conjured, and he could feel inside that they weren't from her dreams.
They were here to kill him.
"You need to go, Megeara." He slid out from under her.
Geary was frozen to the spot as ten people emerged from the waves, completely dry. Two women and eight men. As tall as or taller than Arik, they left the sea like a pack of rabid dogs ready to attack.
Their heads were bent low as they headed straight for Arik with a deadly swagger. Not a word or sound could be heard. Not even the surf. The air no longer moved. It was static and charged with the coming conflict.
Arik stood his ground as skintight black leather armor appeared over his body and his hair magically pulled itself back into a ponytail. Spikes grew out of his forearms and one out of his left knee.
One of the men, who was at least six inches taller than Arik, had a bald head with a phoenix tattoo on one side of his face, the tail of which coiled down and around his neck. He wore a sleeveless black T-shirt that accentuated the bulging muscles of his arms, black leather pants, and a studded neck collar. Metal vambraces covered his forearms, and he carried an ax over one shoulder.
Another man was two inches shorter and much leaner and had short bright green hair that he had spiked on top of his head and over his eyes. He wore a pair of black wraparound sunglasses and carried a black staff with silver spikes poking out of both ends. His bare arms were covered with colorful tattoos, and a row of nine hoops hung from his left ear. He had two more hoops on his bottom lip.
The next man had short-cropped dark auburn hair that framed a face of perfect masculine beauty. His brown eyes flashed red as he drew an AK-47 out of the folds of his long leather coat.
The man beside him had the entire right side of his torso bare. His long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail while his left shoulder and arm were covered by black plate armor. There were scars all over his cheeks, and his black eyes were deep set into his face.
Two more appeared to be twins. They were equal in height to Arik, with short brown hair, and where one had three hoops in his right ear the other wore them in his left. Unlike the others, they were each dressed in slacks and a button-down shirt, with black leather overcoats that flowed around their booted feet. They moved slow and easy, with a fluid grace, as if synched to each other. Their faces were perfectly sculpted.
Two steps behind them was a man who had to be a minimum of seven feet tall. His blond hair was short and he was built like the Terminator, with a demeanor that would make the cyborg look weak. This man's face was rugged and harsh, and it was obvious he lived to bathe in the blood of others.
The last man was lean and wiry. Steel spikes were wrapped around his arms and over his hands. He wore tall biker boots with flames rising up from the toes to meet at the skulls at the top of them. Shirtless, he had the body of a ripped gymnast.
All of them wore an expression that said they were here for war.
One of the two women was even taller than Geary, with black hair streaked with bright green. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and the green seemed to be snakes. They slithered around her shoulders, coiling about her neck as they hissed and snapped.
The other woman was much shorter but no less lethal. Trim and lean, she was corded with muscles and had bright red hair and sharp features.
Geary scrambled for her clothes, not that the others even seemed to know she was there. Their attention was only on Arik.
"Who sent you?" Arik asked defiantly.
The man with the gun answered by firing it straight at Arik. He recoiled before he backflipped to the left and threw his hand out. It functioned as a gun and returned the bullets to them. He "fired" more bullets with his other hand.
The group dodged them before the woman with red hair threw out a circle that exploded all over Arik. It knocked him flat on his back and sent shooting sparks into the air around them.
Arik hit the sand with a force so lethal it shook him to his bones. Damn them. His senses were rattled, but he'd battled enough in dreams to know that this was his domain. He might be mortal while awake, but in here he was still a god.
And they were fucking the wrong Skotos.
No one took him out in his realm.
Growling, he flipped himself back to his feet and manifested a whip. He slung it out for the woman who'd stunned him and caught her about the waist. The cord bit into her and would have cut her in half had she been anyone but a Dolophonos.
As it was, it only cut deep and sent her to the ground.
The green-haired man paused to look at her as she writhed.
"You're strong," he said, betraying a set of vicious fangs. "Not many people get a shot off on Alera."
Arik swung the whip again, causing them to dodge it. "First mistake. I'm not a person. I'm a god. You want to fight in this realm, you need reinforcements."
The bald one dove at him so fast all Arik could see was the vapor trail. He caught Arik about the waist and they went down hard. Arik rolled with him, slugging him before he kicked him away. Before Arik could regain his feet, the other woman was on his back. He flipped her over his head and punched her in the chest. Without missing a beat, she sliced at him with a dagger that narrowly missed him.
The one bad thing about the weapons the Dolophoni used was that they were made by Hephaestus and that was one god who knew how to forge a weapon that hurt.
More to the point, he forged weapons that killed other gods.
Arik caught her around the neck with his whip, but before he could hurt her, one of the men kicked him from behind.
Letting go of the whip, Arik twisted around to confront him. But first Arik had to dodge the bald man's ax. Arik caught it in both hands and kicked the giant back.
He didn't budge. All he did was laugh.
"Laugh at this, asshole," Arik snarled, head-butting the giant. He staggered back, releasing the ax to Arik.
Instantly the other man swung his staff at Arik's feet, then his head. Arik dodged, then countered with the ax, which the man deftly ducked. He brought the staff up and planted it in Arik's ribs.
Arik felt the bite but didn't react to it other than to swing the ax. The man dodged it again, but one of the twins came in with invisible block of some kind that shattered the ax into shards.
Cursing, Arik barely rolled out of the way of the staff swing. The man lunged at Arik's feet.
Arik jumped up, then caught the staff with both hands. He snatched it right, unbalancing the man before he swept his feet out from under him. Wresting the staff from the man's hands, Arik sank one end of it into the man's chest.
Screaming, he disintegrated on the sand.
One down. Nine to go.
Arik twirled the staff around and tucked it under his arm as he turned to face the others, who treated him with more respect. They weren't as cocky now as they'd been on arrival.
Their faces were marred with disbelief as they appeared to be speaking to one another mentally. Let them. Arik didn't need to hear their thoughts to know they planned on mangling him.
Arik backed up as they circled around him. They were sizing him up and he knew it. Feinting at him only to back away to test his reflexes and assess his weaknesses.
He toyed with them. Giving them false impressions. False reactions. Be damned if he was that stupid. He hadn't lasted this long in dreams by allowing others to get the better of him.
One of the twins came at Arik's back. He twirled with the staff, into a crouch so that he could swipe the man's feet out from under him. Arik rose to his feet to finish the attack, but before he could the other twin knocked him back with a punch so raw it lifted him off his feet and sent him flat on his back in the sand.
Arik swung the staff at the same time he rolled back to his feet. He ducked the knee the bald man sent toward him and turned away from the sword the woman was trying to skewer him with.
Geary could barely think as she watched the deadly dance of Arik with the others. She'd never seen anything like it.
Arik used the staff to lift himself up from the ground and drove his feet into the man with auburn hair. Then Arik swung around to attack the bald man and the twins at the same time.
But she couldn't leave him to this on his own. Even for a dream, this was getting bloody, and honestly, this wasn't what she wanted in her subconscious.
Wanting control again, Geary walked over to them. "Excuse me?"
Arik paused at her call, which allowed the bald man to deliver him a staggering blow to his face. He twisted back before snarling at her. "Run, Megeara."
"Run from what? They're circus freaks, and while this is mildly entertaining, I'd like to go back to what we were doing before they interrupted us." She waved her hands at the others. "So you guys, go poof."
The twins approached her slowly. "This isn't a game, human. Listen to the Skotos and go. We're not bound by the laws of the Oneroi. Killing humans is nothing for us."
Was that supposed to scare her? Yeah. What had she eaten for dinner that it was manifesting like this?
Oh yeah. Crab cakes. Those never really agreed with her. She'd eaten two of them. Maybe that was why there were twins. Or she was just tired, which was the most likely explanation.
At any rate, she was tired of this part of the dream.
"Well, aren't you all scary in black? Oooo. What are you two masquerading as? Evil Man and his trusty sidekick Bad Boy?" She let out a tired sigh. "Look, this is really annoying me. I want my dream back and that means all of you have to go now."
One of the twins reached to grab her, but before he could, Arik was there. He pulled her by the arm, away from the others.
He paused to send a fiery blast back toward them as they ran forward. "You have to go, Megeara."
"Not without you."
Arik wanted to curse the fact that she couldn't distinguish reality from her dreams. If she died on this plane, she died in her world, too. Same as him.
She stopped and grimaced. "Why are you playing with them? Just snow them in."
He didn't understand what she meant until she snapped her fingers and blocks of ice encased the Dolophoni. His jaw went slack as it stopped them dead in their tracks.
A human shouldn't have that ability. "How did you do that?"
"It's a dream, silly. I've always had control in my dreams. As a kid I used to pretend I was watching TV and if I didn't like the dream, I just changed the channel. Like this."
Suddenly the beach was gone. They were in a summer meadow with no sign of the Dolophoni to be had.
Arik's jaw slackened even more as he felt the sharpness of solar heat and smelled heather and wheat. How was this possible? Humans couldn't control dreams like this. If he didn't know better, he'd swear she had Oneroi blood in her.
But she didn't. There was a scent and aura that all the gods had—even those who only held a bit of god blood. Megeara had none of that. She was fully human.
Before he could ask how she'd gained control away from the Dolophoni, she captured his lips with hers. For a heartbeat all he could sense was her. With every part of him.
Unfortunately, he had more to focus on than how good she tasted.
"Please, Megeara. I would love to stay with you, but I can't."
She frowned up at him. "What are you talking about?"
He kissed her on the forehead before he pulled away. She had gotten them away from the Dolophoni, but they were still out there, looking for him, and they wouldn't stop until he was dead. They wouldn't care who got in the way. All that mattered to them was completing their mission.
The last thing he wanted was to see Megeara hurt.
"I'll be with you soon."
And with that, he pulled out of her dream.
Arik awoke in the hammock to the taste of blood in his mouth. His entire body ached to the point he could barely draw breath.
What was going on? None of this should be happening.
He didn't know why the Dolophoni had been sent after him, but then the why didn't matter. All that counted was the fact that they wouldn't stop until he was dead.
They'd found him in the dream realm.
It wouldn't take them long to find him in the human world, too.
Holding his breath, he rolled out of the hammock and fell to the deck. He groaned as pain assailed him. He tried to stand, but his body wouldn't cooperate. With no choice, he lay on the deck, looking up at the stars that twinkled silently in the sky above.
And as he watched them, bitter laughter filled him. How absolutely apropos.
His dream had just turned into a nightmare.
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