She slapped lightly at his knee. "Don’t be so testy all the time."
"Yeah well, I don’t like talking about myself and I despise personal questions."
"Fine. All I want is that brain of yours for a few." She handed him a shallow Rubbermaid container of baklava.
Ash frowned. "What’s this?"
"I told you. Baklava."
"And I really don’t eat it, but thanks for the thought." He returned it to her.
"Your loss." She grabbed a triangle of it before she set it back on the table. "Now teach me how to read this."
Ash opened the journal again. "There are a few additional characters and diphthongs that aren’t in the classical Greek you’re used to. The endings and conjugations are also different."
She nodded, then pointed to a word. "Adelphianosis. Is that ‘brother’?"
He was impressed by how quickly she identified the unfamiliar language. "Yes."
She frowned. "So if I’m reading this correctly, it says that her brother . . ." she pointed to the word before it. "Styxx?"
She shook her head in confusion. "Why is he named Styxx? That was a female goddess name."
He’d always thought it an odd choice for his brother’s name too, but what the hell? No one had asked him and Ryssa’s parents had never been right in the head. "And how many men are named Artemis?"
"Good point. It just seems strange to me."
"Well that’s why it has the additional X at the end. It’s to differentiate the masculine from the feminine forms."
"Ah, that makes sense." She looked back at the book in his lap and he felt a strange dipping sensation in his stomach. Like a punch only it was more sexual than that and it took him completely by surprise.
He didn’t react to people like that.
Yet he had this sudden compulsion to lean forward and just breathe in her scent. To touch her cheek and see if it was really as soft as it appeared. Or better yet to take her hand and press it against the sudden bulge in his pants that cried out for her body. His c**k tightened at the mere thought of her unzipping his pants and touching him.
Unaware of his sudden mood, she trailed her finger down the page, trying to decipher Ryssa’s neatly written words. "So this is her talking about a fight with her brother?"
It took a full three seconds for those words to descend past the desire he had to kiss her. "Uh . . . yeah. Her brother was angry because she was planning to visit her aunt in Athens and she didn’t want her brother to go with her because he was annoying to travel with."
Tory glanced up as she heard the deepening of Ash’s voice. She couldn’t tell where he was looking since he still wore those dark sunglasses. "Can you see all right?"
"Why don’t you take the sunglasses off?"
"I see better with them on."
"Oh," she dragged the word out as she had sudden clarity. "You’re one of those, aren’t you?"
"Vain guy who needs glasses, but doesn’t want anyone to know it and you can’t stand contacts so you wear prescription sunglasses instead." She rolled her eyes. "I’ve had several of you in my classes. Really, no one will think less of your manhood for needing glasses-that alone does not a geek make." She indicated hers by tapping a fingernail on the lens. "Look at me. I’d rather be able to see than be vain about it."
Ash hid a smile at her latest wrong conclusion about him. Without commenting, he reached for his beer and took a drink while she returned to the journal.
They sat there for over two hours as she learned his native tongue. It was so strange to hear someone else speaking it after all this time that he couldn’t help but be warmed by it. There was even a part of him made homesick from the sound. It was a feeling he didn’t get often since he’d had a less than desirable existence there, but then home was home.
Even a bad one.
And honestly, he liked having this connection to someone. He’d been alone for so long. Had taught himself to trust no one. Yet he found himself wanting to trust her and he didn’t know why. Perhaps it was her fierce loyalty. He craved someone to be that loyal to him. If only they would . . .
"What do you mean the journal wasn’t there," Costas Venduras asked as he narrowed his gaze on his underling. As members of the Atlantikoinonia-a society founded to serve the goddess Artemis-it was their sacred duty to protect anything relating to Atlantis.
George swallowed nervously before he answered. "We took all the artifacts the man had with him, but the journal wasn’t in with them."
"You know what the oracle told us. Atlantis can never be uncovered. Use whatever means necessary to ensure that all the artifacts are returned to the sea or destroyed."
George nodded. "Yes, sir. As the goddess wills it, it will be done." He started to leave, then hesitated. "By the way, we think the young professor might have the journal with her in New Orleans."
Costas felt his temper rising at the mere mention of that nosy little trifle who’d been a source of aggravation for him for over a decade. "Then send a team to recover it. In fact, our little professor has become too much of a liability for us and our cause. I’m tired of dealing with her. Signal the others with a TOS for Dr. Kafieri."
"Termination on sight. Yes, sir. It will be done."
Ash was still in bed, not quite awake, but no longer sleeping when his phone rang. Assuming it was another Dark-Hunter in need of something stupid, he answered it without even looking at the number.
"Hey, Ash, it’s Tory. I’m at the grocery store. What do you want tonight?"
You on a platter . . . He forced himself away from that uncharacteristic line of thought. "I really don’t eat much, Tory. There’s nothing I need."
"Oh come on. You didn’t grow to the height of a mountain without eating someone out of house and home."
Actually he had.
"There has to be something you live on besides beer and if you say wine, I will hurt you."
He smiled in spite of himself. "I swear to you, there’s nothing I want."
"You like frustrating me, don’t you? Fine, I’ll make falafel and humus-you’re Greek. You’ll live with it, like it, and you’re going to eat some whether you want to or not. I’ll see you tonight."
What was it with Tory and food? She was almost as bad as Simi. How could a woman that skinny eat all the time? He tossed his phone down, then rolled onto his back and covered his eyes with his arm, not wanting to get up yet. He’d been out late the night before hunting Daimons after he’d left Tory’s house. Something was brewing here in New Orleans, but he couldn’t figure it out.
Stryker was plotting something. He could feel it.
But he didn’t want to think about Stryker right now either. Letting his thoughts drift, they came back to a pair of beautiful brown eyes circled by small glasses and set into the face of the most frustrating human being on the planet.
Before he could stop himself, he imagined her nak*d in bed with him. Her hair falling forward over her face as she leaned over him for a kiss . . . His c**k hardened instantly.
Unable to stand it, he reached down to move himself so that it didn’t hurt.
"You want a hand with that?"
Moving his arm, his eyes flew open to find Artemis in bed with him which instantly killed his peaceful mood. "No."
She pouted. "Oh c’mon, Acheron. You’re not really going to let all that go to waste, are you?"
He rolled over to give her his back. "I’d rather masturbate."
She punched at his shoulder. "You’re in one of those moods again, aren’t you? I hate when you get so sullen with me."
Then why did she keep coming around him when it was his natural state in her presence? Well that, and severely pissed off.
"What do you want, Artie? It’s not like you to pop into my bed and you know better than to come to Katoteros. How the hell did you get past Alexion anyway?"
"He’s too preoccupied with his wife to notice me these days."
Note to self, kill Alexion again later. At least make the bastard wander around the shores of the Isle of the Dead for a while.
"So why are you here, Artie?"
"You want me here."
Yeah, like an alien rectal probe up my sphincter. "How you figure that?"
"Since you can’t see it because it would impact your future, you told me to always let you know whenever something happened involving the Atlantean remains."
And she’d already failed to tell him about the diary which could have been disastrous for him if it’d been one from Ryssa’s twenties. "And?"
"Well I just had those people arrested in Greece for excavating without a license. Say thank you, Artemis."
Ash turned his head to look at her. She was literally simpering with pride over what she’d done. "What people?"
"You know, that pathetic-looking archaeologist that we saw? Her people. They’d uncovered the site and were pulling things out of the water yesterday by the handfuls. Found all kinds of things. I know how upset you get when people do that, so I had the authorities go arrest them and confiscate the artifacts."
"Did you happen to have anyone beaten up while you were at it?"
"Why would I do that?"
He scoffed as he rubbed his forehead. "You seem to get off on seeing someone beaten."
She narrowed those evil green eyes on him. "You are in such a foul mood. I don’t like to see you beaten either."
He’d seen the gleam of sexual satisfaction one time too many in her eyes while he was being punished to believe that. She loved making him bleed. It was the only time she felt more powerful than he and it made her even hornier than she was right now.
"Whatever you say, Artie."
"Then roll over and satisfy me."
"I have a headache."
She brushed her hand through his black hair, turning it blond. "You can’t get a headache."
"Sure I can. I have a hundred twenty pound one rubbing on me even as I speak."
She slapped at his bare back. "You’re such an ass**le." She bit him hard on the arm before she vanished.
Grimacing, Ash rubbed at the spot. At least she hadn’t torn his skin out. This time.
"I had them arrested."
He sighed as he realized those would be friends of Tory’s. He better get up and go deal with it. Tory would be furious and scared for them.
Stryker glanced up to see his half-sister, Satara, standing in the doorway of his office. Because they’d had different mothers Satara had been spared the Apollite curse of death that Stryker bore, but then again, since their father had given her to Artemis to be a permanent servant to the bitch, he wasn’t sure which of them had the worse life.
Today, Satara’s hair was coal black like his and she wore a tight, red leather dress that clung to every deep curve of her body.
"What brings you here, sister?"
"Auntie Artemis, of course. You said to always tell you when she was in a tizzy over something. She went off on a big one last night."
"It seems a team of archaeologists stumbled onto Atlantis. The real one. And some of the artifacts, including a pristine journal, were recovered."
Stryker sat back in his chair. "One of Ryssa’s journals?"
"Given the way Artemis reacted, my guess is yes."
Oh this was good. The humans had no idea that Apollites and Daimons lived among them and they’d gone to quite a bit of effort to make sure it stayed that way. But if one of Ryssa’s journals was uncovered . . .
It could tell everything about them.
It was bad enough he and his Daimon brethren had the Dark-Hunters after them. The last thing they needed was for their food source to get scared and start hiding from them at night. They only had a few hours each night to hunt or die. This could be bad.
"I need you to find that journal."
Satara walked forward to lean on his desk. "Artemis is already one step ahead of you."
He pondered that. Artemis seldom ever bothered herself with anything other than chasing after Acheron. "Why does she want it so badly?"
Satara shrugged. "I guess her fear is someone will learn that it wasn’t Apollo who sank Atlantis. Or maybe Ryssa knew about Artemis’s relationship with Acheron and wrote about it."
Stryker’s mind whirled with other possibilities. "Or maybe there’s something in that book that tells Acheron’s weakness. Maybe even a way to kill him or Apollo and Auntie too."
Satara’s eyes sparked with new interest. "I’ll find that book."
"You do that. And if anyone gets in your way-"
"Forget Jake Gyllenhaal and Shia LaBeouf, have you ever seen a better looking man in your life?"
Tory frowned as she walked past a group of female students who were giggling and agog over who knew what.
"I don’t think he goes here. I’ve never seen him before, but I’d kill to have him in at least one class."
"I’d kill to have him under me!"
"I’ve seen him around. He’s been at the bar Sanctuary on Ursu-lines a couple of times when I was there partying with friends. I think he’s hooked up with that tall blond waitress who has such a nasty attitude."