Acheron (Page 61)

Acheron (Dark-Hunter #15)(61)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Ash held his hands up in frustration. "Why can’t I ever win with you? If I want to sleep with you I’m a pig and if I don’t I’m a jerk. What do you want from me?"

She stood in the open door of her car and stared up at him with those soulful eyes that seared him all the way to his gut. "I want you to translate the journal and to keep your hands to yourself."

"And yet still be attracted to you?"

She let out an evil laugh. "Exactly. Now you’re getting the hang of it." She clapped him on the arm. "I’ll see you tonight at seven."

He couldn’t wait, he thought sarcastically. Maybe he ought to have Simi come with him. Every time he was around Tory, he felt the deep need for protection. At the very least he should make sure he wore a cup tonight so she couldn’t cold-cock him when he wasn’t looking.

What kind of masochistic bastard was he that he kept getting involved with women who loathed him?

You should forget about teaching her anything.

Yeah, but she held a part of his past and if he didn’t get her away from Atlantis and Didymos, there was going to be even bigger problems. May the primal source take mercy on him if she happened on another of Ryssa’s journals. He had what he thought were the most damning of them. But he didn’t know what else his sister had written about. Tory and her obssesive quest had to be dealt with.

The last thing he needed was for the Dark-Hunters to find out that his mother was the one who’d created the Daimons they spent eternity fighting against and that they were being led by a tsoulos who was still selling himself to protect them. It would be disastrous for him.

No, he had to help her enough to get her sidetracked off this quest. Maybe he should find something Lemurian and get her on that topic. After all, its past had nothing to do with his.

You could just kill her.

That would be Savitar’s answer. But Ash couldn’t do that either. Theo had buried most of his family already and if he knew anything about his old friend it was how much Theo loved his family.

No, he’d have to find another way to move the inert mass that was Tory’s obstinacy before it was too late . . .

Scylla and Charybdis. Like Odysseus, he was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Tory had everything laid out perfectly. Her notebook, the journal and a beer on ice for her prickly tall guest. She was on the couch, nibbling on a cheese cube when there was a knock on the door at the precise minute the clock struck seven.

Dang . . . how punctual could one person be?

Getting up, she went to the door and opened it to find Mr. Goth all decked out in a long pirate-styled leather jacket, black pants and a pair of black boots with neon green skulls painted on them. His hair was damp as if he’d recently bathed and he smelled like strawberries. He was also still in those dark sunglasses.

"Come in," she said, stepping back to let him enter.

He bent his head down so as not to bump her doorframe and went to the armchair where he dropped his backpack on the floor and then took his coat off. He laid it over the backpack and kept the fingerless black gloves on his hands.

She frowned at the tattoo on his muscled biceps that peeked out from under his black T-shirt. "I thought that was on your forearm."

He glanced down at the tattoo and shrugged. "Should we get started?"

Before she could shut the door, his cell phone rang.

He let out a tired sigh before he flipped it open. "It’s Ash. Go."

She went to open the beer and handed it to him while he listened.

He gave her a grateful smile as he took the beer. "Uh, no. That would be really unwise. Trust me, she has no known sense of humor about anything male . . . Okay I’ll see what I can do." He hung up and dialed the phone at the same time he took a swig of beer.

"I’ll be right with you," he told her, then he spoke to someone else on the phone. "Hey, Urian, I need you to ride herd on Zoe in Seattle. She’s one step away from running afoul of Ravyn who’s threatening to behead her . . . No, I won’t be able to get up there for a few days." He took another swig. "Thanks." Hanging up, he put the phone in his back pocket.

Tory frowned at him. "So what exactly is it that you do?"

"I’m a wrangler."

"A wrangler?" she asked, amused by the mere thought of him on horseback with a black cowboy hat decked out with skulls. "Like a cowhand?"

He laughed. "Yeah, only I wrangle people with nasty attitudes. You’d like them. Most are real jerks."

"Ah, a true meeting of the minds then."

"Something like that." His phone rang again. Growling, he pulled it out and looked at the number before he opened it. "No . . . You don’t have to ask it, I know what you want. The answer is no. Hell, no, since it’s coming from Dominic." He hung up and then dialed another number. "Hey, Alexion. I’m forwarding some calls to you for the next hour or so. I’m not in the mood to deal with it right now." He flipped the phone closed again, then dropped it into the pocket of his coat on the floor.

Raking one insanely large hand through his black and red hair, he sat down in her armchair and looked up at her. "I’m ready when you are."

"You sure? You look a little tense and I don’t want to make any sudden moves in case you’ve had a lot of caffeine or something."

One corner of his mouth quirked up into a charming half smile. "I’m fine."

Tory went to the coffee table and picked up her journal so that she could hand it to him. "What’s the best way to do this?"

He took the journal and carefully opened it before he balanced it on his thigh. "How much ancient, ancient Greek do you know?"

"Extremely fluent."

He spoke to her again and she recognized it as Greek, but had no idea what he was saying. It was beautiful gibberish.

She frowned. "Is that the same dialect as the journal?"

"No . . ." he said in English before he switched back to Greek, "Can you understand what I’m saying to you now?"

"That Greek I fully comprehended."

"Okay," he said in English. "You’re good with the Iron Age language. That’ll help."

Tory crossed her arms as she tried to understand the time period the journal covered. "So the diary is from the Bronze Age."

He rubbed his thumb over his brow. "What did your dating tell you?"

Her cheeks heated as she was forced to admit the fact he’d pegged her correctly in Nashville. The troll. "It was basically inconclusive."

"I’ll bet," he mumbled, then louder he said, "Brace yourself. The journal is from the Stone Age. The Mesolithic period to be precise."

Tory sputtered in disbelief. There was no way it was that old. Not even slightly possible. "You’re screwing with me."

He shook his head slowly.

Tory stared at it. "No. You’re wrong. Completely and utterly. It’s just not possible. Do you understand what you’re saying?"

"I understand totally."

Still she refused to believe him. "They didn’t have books then. They weren’t civilized. They didn’t have writing . . . they didn’t even have houses! People were still living in caves. They barely had fire."

He remained completely stoic under her tirade. "And you know this how? ‘Cause you lived during that period?"

"Well no, but the archaeological record tells us that writing isn’t that old."

"And the archaeological record is only as sound as the latest find." He held the journal up. "Congratulations, Dr. Kafieri, you just extended it."

Stunned, Tory couldn’t do anything other than stare at the book in his hand. "It’s too well preserved to be that old."

He shrugged nonchalantly. "It is what it is."

"Yeah, but if it is that old, how do you know the language when we’ve never had anything from that period in written form before now?"

"I told you, it’s basically the same language I was raised with. I lived in a pocket community where our Greek isn’t the same as what you were raised speaking." He inclined his head to the book. "This is my language."

Tory shook her head as she tried to fully comprehend the importance of her discovery. Of what he was telling her. It was so mammoth. So much more than she’d ever hoped to discover. "Do you understand the significance of finding a diary this old?"

"More than you do."

"No one’s ever going to believe it. No one." They’d laugh her out of the profession if she even tried to present this.

Ash took another drink of beer. "You’re probably right about that." Because he was going to make damn sure of it.

Her eyes bright, she cradled the diary against her like a precious infant. "I’m holding something that someone once cherished . . . eleven thousand years ago. Eleven thousand years ago," she repeated. "My God, Ash, do you understand how old that is?"

Better than she could imagine.

"This book could tell me everything. What they ate, how they lived . . ." Tears filled her eyes. "With this book, we’ve unlocked a world that no one alive has ever glimpsed before. I can’t believe this discovery. No wonder no one knew the languages or that the equipment couldn’t get the right date. It was coming up with dates, but no one believed it so we kept testing and retesting. Oh my God," she breathed. "Eleven thousand years ago. Just imagine how beautiful the world must have been."

Not from his perspective. Personally, he’d like to be able to purge most of those years out of his memory. "You’re getting your skin oil all over the journal. You might not want to do that given its age."

She immediately set it down. "Thanks. I tend to get carried away sometimes." She sat next to him on the floor and captured his gaze as she braced her hands on the arm of his chair. "What else can you tell me about it?"

Again, more than she’d ever believe. He could tell her who every person in it was and introduce her to two of them who were currently living and breathing. That was scariest part of all. But the contents of it were harmless. All it showed was how sheltered and naive Ryssa had been as a girl. How precious she’d been. "What else do you want to know?"

Before she could answer, her phone rang out with Ozzy Osborne’s "Bark at the Moon." "Hold on a sec. That’s David."

Ash leaned back in his chair while she went to answer it. You know you shouldn’t have told her what the journal was. But then it didn’t really matter. There were only a handful of beings who could read it and one of them was human. Besides, better he look at it and read the book first. Now he knew he had nothing to fear from it. But he needed to keep Tory near him and distract her from this quest before she found a journal that was damning.

It could have raised questions he didn’t want answered.

"That’s terrible! Was anyone hurt?"

Ash frowned at the stress in Tory’s voice before he turned his attention to her call.

"Okay, just keep me posted. Thanks, sweetie." Her features were pale as she returned to him.

"Is everything all right?"

"No, someone attacked a member of my crew in Greece yesterday."

Ash frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Oh it was awful. We lost some research and a couple of artifacts that’d just been brought up. David said Nikolas tried to stop the muggers, but he couldn’t. He’ll be all right, but he’s really banged up from it." She shook her head. "I swear we’re cursed. Every time we get close to bringing up large chunks of the find, something bad happens."

"Maybe it’s the ancient gods telling you to leave it be."

She snorted. "Maybe, but I can’t. Both of my parents gave their lives to prove the existence of Atlantis. My uncle sacrificed his life and his sanity to it. My cousin may have given up the search, but I swore on my parents’ graves that I wouldn’t. Not until my father’s reputation is restored. I’m tired of him being the punchline at parties whenever someone brings up Atlantis." She looked at him. "I’m sure you have no idea what it’s like to be mocked and ridiculed-"

"You don’t know me well enough to make that assertion."

"Sorry," she said quietly. "You’re right. Who was that redhead by the way?"

Her constant shift in thoughts baffled him. "What on earth are you talking about now?"

"In Nashville, you were with a beautiful redheaded woman who got up and left in a pique. Who was she?"

Damn, she’d been attentive. "An old friend."

"You were really nasty to her. By the way she was acting, I assumed you two were hooked up."

It was his turn to snort at the very idea. "Oh I can guarantee you we’re not an item." That would involve Artemis admitting openly that she was intimate with him. So what if they had a daughter together and half her pantheon knew they slept together, she still couldn’t bring herself to admit he was anything other than her platonic pet.

"You were still mean to her," Tory chided.

He had to bury the ire he felt at her condemnation when she had no idea how much shit he’d taken from Artemis over the centuries-including the fact that she’d kept his daughter’s birth a secret from him for over eleven thousand years. The goddess was lucky he hadn’t killed her over that little stunt. "Look, my private life is private. If that’s the only topic you’re interested in, I’m leaving."