Acheron (Page 95)

Acheron (Dark-Hunter #15)(95)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Ash’s head buzzed and his shoulder ached as he finally slaked some of the hunger that had been tearing at him for days. The blood was so good. So warm and satisfying. He licked and sucked, drinking it in until he was normal again.

But as he returned to himself, his anger mounted that she’d let him go so long without nourishment. Even though he hadn’t been able to speak, he remembered her watching him through the door.

"You’ll eat when you please me . . ." She knew what those words did to him and he was tired of her abuse.

"Artemis, you . . ." His words trailed off as he pulled away from her throat and realized it wasn’t Artemis he was holding.

It was Tory and she was extremely pale from the blood loss.

Horror filled him. Her neck was savagely torn from his teeth, her brown eyes half-hooded as she struggled to breathe. No! His soul screamed out. How could he have hurt her?

How could he be so far gone that he hadn’t even realized it was Tory he tasted?

Because Artemis had kept him without food for too long. And then she’d thrown a human in with him, knowing a human couldn’t survive his feeding.

"Oh gods," he breathed, choking. "Stay with me, baby. I’ll get you help."

She coughed as she reached up to touch his lips that were covered in her blood from his feeding. He saw the fear in her eyes and the pain that he’d caused her. The guilt was more than he could bear.

"Soteria?" he whispered her name like a prayer. "Akribos?"

She expelled one last breath before her eyes glazed over and her hand fell limply to the ground where it landed palm up.

Unimaginable grief tore through him as he realized he’d just killed her. Throwing his head back, Ash bellowed from the weight of guilt and pain that assaulted him.

He would never have hurt her. Never!

Then he saw Artemis at the door, safely tucked on the other side of it, watching. The satisfaction in her eyes made him want to gouge them out.

He carefully laid Tory down before he charged at the door, determined to get to the bitch who’d taken everything from him. Again. "Why!" he roared.

She narrowed her eyes in pitiless fury. "You know why." Then the door darkened and left him alone with the body of the only woman he’d ever really loved.

The woman he’d just killed. And in this room where his powers were negated, he couldn’t heal her or bring her back. Tory was dead and he’d killed her. Throwing his head back, he roared with pain.

Tory was wandering through a thick, oppressive fog. She felt lost and disoriented. The last thing she remembered was seeing Ash. Seeing the look of horror and fear on his beautiful face while her neck throbbed in pain.

Now there was no pain. There was nothing. No light. No sound. No smell.

The deprivation was terrifying.

"Ash?" she called, trying to get her bearings.

"He’s not here, little one."

She turned at the thickly accented, kind voice behind her to find Apollymi standing there in the darkness. "What are you doing here?"

Apollymi held her hand out to her. "I stole your soul the moment you died and brought it to Kalosis, but I can’t keep it unless you allow me to. I wouldn’t allow it if I were you. Souls are too precious to squander and yours in particular has great value to me."

"I don’t understand." She put her hand into Apollymi’s and the moment their skin touched, she had total clarity of everything that Apollymi knew about her and Acheron-more than that, she saw the memories of Ash and how he died. Of Artemis turning her back on him and leaving him while he reached out for her to help him.

How could she have done such a thing?

Tears welled up in her eyes and then when she saw her own death and the satisfied look on Artemis’s face as Ash cried out, she wanted blood.

"Artemis killed me?"

Apollymi nodded. "She’s still punishing my son and there’s nothing I can do to stop it . . . but you, Soteria, you can."


"I can send your soul back to your body for a brief moment of time. Once I do, the only way you can return to the living is to drink the blood of Apostolos before your soul flees your body again."

Tory had a hard time believing that. "What?"

Apollymi patted her hand. The dim light reflected in her crystal tears as those swirling eyes glowed warmly. "I am a goddess of destruction. His father was a god of creation. Inside Apostolos, our powers are joined and he is one of the rare gods who can both create and destroy life. It’s his creative powers that Artemis uses to bring her Dark-Hunters back to life. Without feeding from him, she’d never have that ability. And like Artemis, if you feed from my son, you will share his powers with him. You will have the ability to cure yourself and to return to your life. More than that, you’ll have the powers to protect yourself and I will send my priestesses to serve as your guardians to make sure that no one ever harms you again."

It all sounded too good to be true. She could return to Ash and the world with the powers of a god . . . Surely it couldn’t be that simple. "What’s the catch?"

"It’s the same catch Artemis used on Apostolos. Once you feed from him, you will always have to feed from him."

Tory cringed as she remembered the pain of Ash biting her. "Blood?"

Reluctantly, she nodded. "Please, Soteria. Do what I can’t. Save my son from that monster who willfully hurts him. Apostolos will never willingly take the blood of another and bind that person to him. Not after the violent way Artemis tricked him into bondage. But if you return and you feed him and he feeds you, he will be free from that bitch forever."

She looked away as she considered what would come. "I can stay with Ash?"

"Yes and I will give you enough of my powers to make sure that neither Artemis nor any other enemy of Apostolos will ever be able to harm you again."

The depths to which Apollymi would go for Ash touched her and it reminded her of her own mother-a mother she missed every day of her life. "But what about you? Won’t that weaken you?"

"It will, but I don’t care. I want my son free and I want him happy, no matter the cost to me. I’m tired of seeing the weariness in his eyes when we speak. Of seeing the pain that I can’t soothe. Will you help him? Please?"

Tory tightened her grip on the goddess’s hand, wanting her to know how sincere she was. "I would do anything for that man."

Apollymi smiled. "I thought your cousin Geary would be the one to free my baby. But the moment I first saw you when you were only ten, poking around the ruins of my temple under the Aegean, I knew you were the one. It was why I never allowed any other man to touch you."

She covered Tory’s hand with her other and held it tight. "Soteria. The keeper of Atlantis who stood at her post even against my anger, and who went down fighting to protect what she loved most. You do your namesake proud."

Apollymi pulled the necklace from around her neck and then folded it into Tory’s palm. "When are you are ready to fight for him, press that to your heart and you’ll have the powers of a goddess. Forever."

Tory held the necklace in her hand and studied the red swirling mist inside a translucent stone. Grateful for the gift, she embraced Apollymi.

Apollymi was stunned by the hug-no one had touched her with so much affection since the night she’d conceived Apostolos. Closing her eyes, she held the girl close. "So long as you’re kind to him, you will always be my daughter. If you ever need anything, call for me and I will answer."

"I won’t let anything happen to him again. I promise."

Apollymi kissed her cheek before she pulled back. "Then go to him, Soteria. He needs you."

Nodding, Tory stepped back and pressed the stone to her heart. The moment she did, a searing pain ripped through her. "Ow! You didn’t tell me it’d hurt."

Apollymi shrugged. "Birth is never painless and especially not a rebirth."

She wasn’t kidding. Tory felt like something was shredding her from the inside out. Nauseated and dizzy, she blinked at the darkness that was so oppressive it was blinding.

The next thing she knew, she was in Ash’s arms again. He sat on the floor, holding her to him, cheek to cheek, as he rocked her and whispered to her, "Please, Tory, please don’t be dead. Please don’t leave me alone. I don’t want to live without you . . ."

Those heartfelt words choked her, but what stunned her the most was the wetness of his cheeks.

He was crying.

For her.

Lifting her hand, she brushed her fingers against the whiskers of his jaw. He pulled back with a startled gasp. "Soteria?"

She nodded, then she felt the hunger his mother had mentioned. It burned through her with an unbelievable ferocity that lengthened her incisors. Determined, she met his gaze. "Let me stay with you, Ash."

Ash couldn’t breathe as he understood what she was asking. What she needed. And for the first time in eternity, he was willing to bleed in order to give her life. "Are you sure?"

She nodded.

He brushed his hair aside and tilted his neck for her. Closing his eyes, he braced himself for the pain of her bite. For the hated sensation of her breath on his neck while she fed.

Tory paused as she felt him go rigid. It took her a second to realize why. Ash couldn’t stand to have anyone breathe on his neck and yet there he sat, offering himself to her without complaint or comment. In that moment she loved him all the more.

And with her newfound senses, she knew his neck wasn’t the only place she could feed from . . .

Ash opened his eyes as she moved away from him. Frowning, he watched as she dipped down and bit into his inner thigh. He sucked his breath in sharply as a wave of desire blinded him and hardened his c**k which was only a few inches from her mouth. But greater than that was the shock that she hadn’t grabbed his hair and hurt him while she fed from his neck. She was being gentle and considerate, and when she looked up at him, her eyes matched his.

That deep swirling silver that he hated so much was beautiful on her. They were bound together now. His powers. His blood. They were hers too. But even so, he wanted her as she’d been. Kissing her lips, he turned her eyes back to the brown color that had stolen his heart the first time she’d looked around the room in nervous panic.

This was the woman he loved. The one he couldn’t live without.

Tory felt a raw unimagined power deep inside her. She could hear everything now. See the most minute color changes in every object. "Is this how you see the world?"


It was all so vivid. Overwhelming. At the same time her body was hot and needy. She looked at him and he actually blushed before he clothed himself.

Clearing his throat, he indicated the door with a tilt of his head. "We can’t do that here."

"Artemis," she growled the name.

He nodded. "We’re still locked in her temple."

"Not for long." Rising to her feet, she went to the door.

Ash scowled as Tory closed her eyes and held her hands out by her sides. He felt the wind of his grandmother stirring around them. His jaw went slack as he realized what was happening-his mother had surrendered part of her powers to Tory. She didn’t just have his inside her.

And the combination of his powers with his mother’s . . .

Scary stuff that.

The thought had barely finished before the door splintered into a thousand fragments.

Artemis shrieked from the other side, then ran to her throne room.

Ash stood up and went to Tory. "Let’s go home."

She shook her head. "You go on ahead. I’ll be there in a minute."

He paused at the odd note in her voice. "Tory . . ."

She gave him an impish smile, cutting his words off. "I’m just going to talk with her. Don’t worry."

Yeah, right. Don’t worry? Was she insane? And for once, he wasn’t sure which of them was in the most danger.

Ash hesitated, but ultimately he trusted Tory. "Remind her that I’ll know if she hurts you and if she does, there’s not enough power on Olympus to protect her."

She kissed the tip of her finger and pressed it to the tip of his nose. "Don’t be such a worrywart. We’re just having girl talk."

Ash somehow doubted that. Knowing Tory, it would be more like a cat fight. But he wouldn’t interfere. It was time someone took the goddess down. "All right, baby. I’ll be waiting at my apartment."

Tory didn’t move until Ash was gone. The moment she sensed his powers safely back in the human realm, she headed in the direction Artemis had run off to.

Her new powers surging, she went to have a long overdue Come-to-Jesus talk with the goddess.


Artemis kept waiting for all of the powers to fade from her temple.

They didn’t. She felt Acheron’s primary ones leave, but there was more still here. Powerful. Cold. Calculating.

That wasn’t Acheron.

And when Soteria came through the doors of her bathing chamber and into her throne room with a deadly lope, the blood completely drained from Artemis’s face. There was no denying the woman wanted a piece of her and was ready to fight for it.

Still she refused to let the girl see her panic. "You’re nothing to me, human."

Tory scoffed, and spoke to her in perfect Greek. "Oh you’re wrong about that, Artemis. I’m not nothing. I’m the one who’s going to kick your butt if you ever go near Acheron again."