Acheron (Page 63)

Acheron (Dark-Hunter #15)(63)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

"Are you serious? How on earth did I miss that? I must have been good and drunk."

Their comments faded out as Tory made her way to her office. But as she neared it, the female student body count got higher and higher or more to the point thicker and thicker. She actually had to push her way through them.

Yeah . . . this wasn’t right. She’d never seen so many people this interested in the Anthropology department before.

It wasn’t until she neared her door that she realized why.

Ash was there. Dressed in a long black duster that made her wonder just how many ankle length coats he had, he leaned against the wall with his arms folded over his chest. His was a powerful nonchalance that was riveting. She looked down and smiled at his crossed booted feet and the ever present black backpack resting behind them.

Those dark sunglasses were in place and today his long hair was pulled back into a ponytail. And his silver nose stud had been exchanged for one that looked like a small red ruby.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, reaching her door.

"Waiting for you."

She glanced around at the traffic jam he’d caused. "Really, you should have called. I think the Fire Marshal would have issues with this."

A slow grin broke across his face. "Sorry."

She opened the door and stood back. "You better get inside while I hold them off."

Picking up his backpack, he laughed before he complied.

Tory turned toward the collection of students. "See how exciting Anthropology is? He’s a leading expert in ancient Greece. Now you should all change your majors so that you can ogle men like him all day long. Or better yet, uncover nak*d male statues."

She closed the door to find Ash smirking at her. "Was that necessary?"

"Hey, I live to recruit students for the department. If I can make you good for something, then by golly I’m going to do it."

"By golly?"

She shrugged as she put her armload of books down on her desk. "Yeah, like you don’t have weird things you say, too. So what can I do for you?"

"I want to go back to that ‘make you good for something’ statement for a minute . . . Why do you hate me so much?"

Tory squirmed a bit under his hidden scrutiny and pointed question. "I wouldn’t say I hate you. The hatred has fallen down to a mild distaste."


She sighed as she returned some of her books to the shelves behind her desk. "Because everything seems so easy for you. Have you ever had a day in your life where people weren’t lining up to take care of you?"

"Yes, Soteria. I have. I assure you, my life has never been an easy one and you should be grateful every day you live that you can’t imagine what kind of childhood I had."

Tory paused at the note in his voice and the deadly sincerity of his words. "I’m sorry, Ash. I didn’t know."

He set the backpack down on the floor. "It’s easy to look at people and make quick judgments about them, their present and their pasts, but you’d be amazed at the pain and tears a single smile hides. What a person shows to the world is only one tiny facet of the iceberg hidden from sight. And more often than not, it’s lined with cracks and scars that go all the way to the foundation of their soul."

He was right and it made her feel guilty that she was so quick to assess people. It’d always been a fault of hers that she tried not to give in to. "You are amazingly astute for someone your age."

He snorted. "I told you, I’m older than I look and I’ve never had anything in my life that I didn’t pay for one way or another."

She shuffled a stack of papers into her inbox. "Now that I think about it, you’d have to be a glutton for punishment to keep coming near me given my acerbic personality where you’re concerned."

Ash offered her his hand. "Truce?"

"Peace, my brother," she said shaking his hand. "Now why are you here?"

Sighing, he stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest. "Well, I heard from a friend that some archaeologists in Greece had been arrested for excavating without a permit. I wanted to see if they happened to be your team."

She waved her hand dismissively. "Why would they be my team?"

"They were excavating a site they claimed to be Atlantis. Sounded like your guys to me."

"But we have all of our paperwork."

"If you’re sure . . ." he let his voice trail off meaningfully.

She screwed her face up as if she realized her luck would have them in trouble. "Wait. Let me call."

Ash sat down in the chair in front of her desk and stretched his legs out while she dug her phone out of her purse.

Tory frowned at his backpack on the floor and the way he kept it within easy reach. "What’s in that backpack, by the way? You’re always guarding it like it holds national security secrets or something."

"Dirty underwear."

She rolled her eyes. "Thanks so much for that image."

"You asked."

Shaking her head, she dialed David’s number. When he didn’t answer, she rang Justina. Again, no answer. Her panic set in as she tried for Bruce.


She breathed in relief as he answered. "Hey sweetie, I can’t get-"

"They’ve all been arrested."

Disgusted and afraid, she glanced to Ash whose handsome face was completely stoic. "What?"

"The whole team. I stayed on land to wait and sign for the new diving gear that was coming in and the next thing I knew, the boat was impounded and everyone was taken into custody."

Tory let out a frustrated breath. "How is this possible?"

"They say our paperwork is forged."

"Bullshit! It’s not forged. Solin helped us to get it renewed just last spring."

"Yeah and as usual Solin has fled the scene. We can’t find him either. For all I know he’s in jail alongside them."

"Oh good grief. Okay, you sit tight and I’ll see what I can do." Hanging up, she looked at Ash who sat as still as a statue. "You were right. My whole crew. Gone. Arrested. Perfect. Shoot me now and save me the expense of a bullet later."

He let out a tired breath as he rubbed one large hand down his thigh. "Don’t worry. I’ll make a call and get them out."

"You can do that?"

"I can do it." He pulled his phone out and flipped it open with a stern flick of his wrist.

Hoping he wasn’t lying, Tory sat behind her desk and held her breath while she leaned her head against her hands. How had this happened? Her poor team. They had to be terrified over this.

Ash spoke in that deep, rhythmic flawless Greek of his that sent a shiver down her spine. "Hi Gus, it’s Acheron Parthenopaeus. I need to pull in a favor from you. There’s a group of anthropologists who were arrested for excavating in the Aegean, this morning I think. Can you get them out and clear them of all charges?"

He laughed. "I know they think it’s Atlantis. Everyone wants to find a treasure. But I don’t want to see them hurt for a pipe dream. They’re harmless friends of a friend if you know what I mean. Get them out of trouble for me."

He tapped his thumb on his thigh while he listened. "No . . . I don’t think they need a lesson. I’m sure they’re rattled enough as it is. Give Olympia my best and let me know the minute the baby’s born. I’ll see the two of you next time I’m in Greece."

She straightened as he closed the phone. "Well?"

"He can get them out without a problem, but the artifacts are confiscated and there’s nothing he can do about that. If you guys go digging down there again, they’re going to execute you."

"You’re joking."

"Not really. The authorities are extremely hot over this."

"But we had the right permits."

Ash held the closed phone against his chin. "According to them you didn’t and they were one step away from issuing a warrant out for you because you took part of their national heritage out of their country without permission."

"What I have isn’t Greek, it’s Atlantean."

"The diary is Greek and they’re not stupid. Even if it was Atlantean, they’d claim it since it came out of the Aegean which is their territory."

Tory hung her head in her hands. "I can’t believe this. I was going to hand it over to them once I got a translation for it-I always give them whatever we find . . . just not necessarily as soon as we find it."

"Well Gus can get it smoothed over. Your guys’ll be out of jail shortly and it would probably be in your best interest if you get that book back to the Greek government before they reconsider their decision and issue a warrant for you."

She looked at him. "Thank you for all your help, Ash. Really. Thank you. I don’t know what we’d have done had you not heard about this and been here."

"I would say no problem but actually it is, so please don’t do this again. Calling in favors is something I try really hard not to do. It usually bites me on my ass somehow."

Tory gave him a wan smile, knowing that she’d put him in a bad position. "Tell me what I can do to make this up to you?"

"Just stay out of trouble."

"I plan to." She growled before she pushed herself away from her desk. "Okay, enough pity party, I-" Her words were interrupted by her cell phone ringing. "I’m holding that thought." She picked up the phone. "Yes? No, I’m not at home. Yes, please dispatch the police. I’m on my way."

Ash frowned. "What’s wrong?"

"That’s the alarm company. There was a three-alarm burglary at my house." She grabbed her purse and keys.

"I’ll drive."


"You’re too rattled to drive and you don’t need to go alone to confront burglars. I’ll go with you."

Tory was so grateful to him just then. She handed him her keys and followed as he led the way out of the building to the parking lot where she’d left her Mustang.

"What a day . . ." she breathed as she buckled herself in. "No, what a crappy week. I’m almost afraid to get up tomorrow."

Ash started the engine. "I know, first you met me-perish the thought-then your team got attacked. Now your house. Where’s a hammer when you really need one?"

She smiled in spite of herself.

"It’ll be all right," he said reassuringly.

She hoped so. But in the back of her mind, she was telling herself that it was a false alarm. That there was nothing bad at her house.

Please don’t let there be anything bad at my house. She couldn’t stand the thought of a stranger touching her things. Of her life being scrambled.

The moment Acheron parked out front, she knew better. Her front door was wide open and there was no sign of the police. She started to open the car door, but Ash stopped her.

"Wait for the police."


"You don’t want to contaminate any evidence before they get here."

He was right, but she hated it.

It was another fifteen minutes before the police arrived. They went in first and then motioned to let them know it was safe.

Tory felt her tears starting even before she entered the living room. Her entire house had been ransacked. "Oh my God . . ." The OCD in her was horrified by what had been done. Everything was out of order.

The police, a man and woman officer, looked at her sympathetically. "We’ll need a list of everything that’s missing."

Tory barely understood what they were saying. Covering her mouth with her hand, she stared at pictures of her parents and family that had been thrown on the ground. Her drawers had been opened and their contents dumped all over her floor. She hadn’t seen this much damage since she’d helped friends clean up after Katrina. "I can’t believe one human being could do this to another."

Suddenly Ash was there, holding her against his chest. "It’s all right, Soteria. Just breathe."

She held on to him, grateful he was with her. Grateful that he was holding her while her whole world was turned upside down. First Nikolas’s attack, then her team arrested and their equipment confiscated, now this . . .

The female officer frowned as she scanned the damage. "Is it just me or does it look like they were searching for something?"

Tory pulled back at her question. "What do you mean?"

The male officer indicated the drawers on the floor. "In most burglaries, especially when you have houses this close together and it’s daylight, they usually grab some big ticket items and run." He shined his flashlight at her television, still on its stand in the corner in front of her tall windows. "They didn’t even grab your TV."

The female officer nodded in agreement. "Not to mention, it appears the alarm was tripped on their way out of here. Like they were trying to draw you out or something."

Tory scowled at them. "Why would they want to draw me here? That doesn’t make any sense."

"No, it doesn’t," the male officer said, turning his light off and returning it to his belt. "Unless they were looking for something."

The woman offered her a kind smile. "We’ve got the CSI unit coming over to take some prints. There’s really nothing else we can do. Make a list of whatever’s missing and we’ll put it in your file and run it through the local pawn stores. Other than that, you’ll have to file a report with your insurance company."