Time Untime (Page 22)

Time Untime (Dark-Hunter #22)(22)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

"Alexion!" he called as he entered the throne room.

His friend and servant appeared instantly. Barely three inches shorter than Acheron, Alexion had once been an ancient Greek soldier and was one of the first Dark-Hunters Artemis had created.

He was also the first Dark-Hunter who’d died without his soul. To save him from suffering over Acheron’s mistake, Acheron had pulled him into Katateros, where Alexion existed in a noncorporeal form. While not ideal, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the alternative.

His blond hair tousled, Alexion was still buttoning his shirt. "What’s wrong, akri? You never bellow like that. Simi eat someone she shouldn’t?"

Ash ran his hand over the dragon tattoo on his forearm that was Simi in her dormant state. She was his Charonte demon and his personal bodyguard.

But more than that, she was his daughter, and he would do anything to protect her from harm.

"No, she’s fine. It was you I was worried about. Has anything happened?"

"In terms of what?"

Ash didn’t want to scare him, but at the same time he couldn’t take a chance on not warning his steward what might happen in the coming days.

"The gods might awaken."

Alexion froze for a full minute. Then he blinked. "You mean the creepy statuary in the basement is going to start moving around?"

"If they don’t reset the calendar, yeah." That’s exactly what’s going to happen. And when they do, they’re going to be pissed.

"Well, that sucks." Alexion sighed. "They’re not friendly to us, are they?"

Ash shook his head. "They have one hell of a grudge against me and my mother. You, they might spare."

Alexion laughed nervously. "I’m Greek and they hate us so I’m going to take that as a major nugatory. They spent a lot of time trying to kill us. So how do we stop this?"

"We have to retrieve the son of Sterope from the Mayan hell realm, along with Sunshine’s cousin."

Feigning laugher, Alexion slapped at his thigh. "You’re hilarious, boss. You ought to do stand-up. Stop, stop, you’re killing me."

Ash pressed his fingers to his forehead. Though he couldn’t get headaches, right now, he swore he had a migraine. "Times like this, I wish you were corporeal so I could give you a head slap."

Alexion sobered. "In all seriousness, can you go there?"

"Yes and no. I can, but I don’t know what my presence in that realm might unleash. The Mayan gods have been dormant like ours. But I don’t know if that means they’re asleep or on lockdown like my mother. If they’re on lockdown…"

"A foreign god in their domain is an ugly thing."

"Exactly."

"So who would know the answer?"

Ash considered it. "The Chthonian in charge of them is dead. Thank you, Savitar, for that PMS."

"Ah … So what Chthonian is in charge of South America, and are they friendly?"

"Ecanus, and he’s not on our side. He’s very much like Savitar and has withdrawn from the world to let things run their course. Since most of their gods aren’t active, neither is he. So long as the other Chthonians stay out of his territory, he doesn’t come down out of his mountain home."

"Ah … So who do we know who can go fetch our boy?"

"I can go."

They turned to see Urian standing in the doorway. Tall, and lethal, he had long white-blond hair that he wore in a ponytail.

Ash sucked his breath in sharply. "You’re the son of a god, too."

"Half-god, and I’m dead and soulless. I have no allegiance to any pantheon." Urian screwed his face up. "Except yours, of course, but no one gives a shit about the Atlanteans, no offense."

No offense … why did people always use those two words whenever they knew they were being offensive, as if it excused their behavior?

Alexion laughed before he spoke to Acheron. "And here I thought I went out of my way to annoy you." He laughed again. "Dang, Urian, you make it look so effortless."

Urian flipped him off.

Ash ignored the two men, who argued like brothers most of the time. "You really want to go do this?" he asked Urian. "Last time I checked, you were all about killing humanity, not protecting them."

Urian shrugged. "My father readjusted my attitude. And you’re going to need someone who can draw on major source powers to get them out of there. Someone who’s used to going in and out of hell realms."

Urian was definitely the expert in that. His father was the leader of the vampiric Daimons the Dark-Hunters had been created to fight against. For centuries, Urian had been his right hand, until Stryker had killed Urian’s wife because Urian had lied to his father to protect her.

And if that wasn’t cold-blooded enough, then Stryker had left Urian for dead. If not for Ash, Urian wouldn’t be here now.

But more than that, Urian was the grandson of Apollo-the Greek god of the sun and plagues. It might not be a bad thought to send him in, since there was no telling what kind of pestilence might be all over Ren. If anyone could curb it, Urian would be he.

"All right, but you’ll need someone to help track them down."

"I’ll call Sasha. Worst-case scenario, like me, he has no one to mourn him should he die valiantly from this rampant stupidity."

Ash narrowed his gaze on one of the very few people he trusted and one of only a handful he considered family. "That’s not true and you know it."

"I’m not talking about friendship, Acheron. We die, all of you would get over it. It’s not the same as losing your spouse or a child. As I said, we have no one to mourn us."

Ash winced for the pain he knew Urian lived with every day. The man had watched, one by one, as all of his siblings and his mother had died or been killed. He’d lost two adopted children and countless friends. But more than that, Urian had lost his most cherished Phoebe.

His heart aching for the man, Ash spun his wedding ring around on his finger with his thumb. While he’d known how much Phoebe’s loss had crippled Urian, he now, because of his wife Tory, had a new perspective on it that horrified him. The mere thought of losing his wife tore a hole so deep inside him that he was amazed Urian could function at all.

And he couldn’t even think about losing his son without wanting to kill everyone around him. For the first time in his eleven thousand years of life, he fully understood his mother’s rage where he was concerned. If anything ever happened to his family, he would make his mother’s anger look like a gentle summer breeze.

Every day Urian got up and managed to make it through without going ape-shit on the world was a victory for him. Ash had never known anyone stronger, and he respected the man immensely.

"I want you two to be careful and take Cabeza with you. You’ll need someone who knows the pantheon and who can speak and read their language."

Urian scoffed. "I read and speak Greek, Acheron. Tell me what on earth is harder than that?"

"Olmec and Mayan. You ever tried either?"

"That would be … no. Never had a reason to. Besides, I thought they were space aliens."

Alexion snorted. "He’s been watching a lot of History Channel lately."

Urian curled his lip. "Have to do something to drown out you and your wife. Wish you two would soundproof your room. Although I have yet to figure out how two noncorporeal beings could … never mind. I do not want to go there."

"And on that note, I’m heading back to the realm of humanity to help combat what’s already being unleashed against them."

"Are you sending Tory and Bas here for protection?" Alexion asked.

Ash shook his head. "I sent them to my mother when all of this started. Should we fail, I figure that’s the safest place. At least I know how far she’ll go to protect them."

"True enough. All right, I’ll go watch the statues and let you know if one of them twitches."

"Please do so."

Urian inclined his head to Acheron. "And I’m off to rendezvous with Sasha and Cabeza."

Ash didn’t move as the two of them vanished to attend to their duties. He ran his hand over his Simi tattoo and considered sending her to his mother as well. But he knew better. Simi would never leave him alone to battle what was coming for them, and that bothered him most. No matter how hard he tried, he could never let himself forget that he was the sole reason Simi had no mother-that Simi had been an orphan before he adopted her. Her mother had died trying to keep Apollo from gutting him. The poor Charonte had failed, but at least she’d tried.

Every time he looked at Simi, he saw her mother’s face and guilt stabbed him hard. It was why he couldn’t deprive her of anything, except for the killing of other creatures. That was the only thing he forbade her to do. Unless they threatened her first, and then it was open season on them and Simi could grab BBQ sance and have at them. No holds barred.

Closing his eyes, he tried to see the future, which for him shouldn’t be a problem. But because it involved so many people he cared about, he saw nothing at all.

The one thing he could feel was the heartbeat of the world that thrummed like a solid hum under his feet. It vibrated through him as the constellations aligned and the gateways were weakened.

Evil was coming and it wasn’t going to take prisoners.

Let the war begin….

Chapter 11

Ren cursed under his breath. Never in his life had he felt more worthless-which basically said it all about their situation and his inability to get them out of this realm. "I’m sorry, Kateri."

"Hey…" She pulled him to a stop as they walked through an endless forest. "You don’t need to keep apologizing for something you can’t help. We’ll make it out. We will."

"How can you have such faith?"

"Oh c’mon, you defeated death and came back to life. You have to have faith, too. I know you do."

The edges of his lips twitched at her words. Amazed by her ability to find amusement and to make light of an extremely bad situation, he stared into beautiful eyes that seared him.

Step away from her. Now!

For once, he didn’t listen. Before he could stop himself, he kissed her. The scent of her skin and the taste of her mouth sent his body into overdrive. Everything around them was going wrong. Everything. His primary powers weren’t working. They had demons after them. The First Guardian was missing. Choo was captured….

And she felt like heaven in the midst of hell. It didn’t make sense. He should be hating himself for his incompetence, but when he looked at her, he didn’t see disdain or contempt. He saw friendship. Kindness. Encouragement.

Worst of all, the same desire he had for her.

Instead of making him feel like he was lacking for getting them into this, she smiled and retorted with jokes that lightened his spirit. She didn’t call him stupid or worthless. Or accuse him of condemning her to this.

She made him feel like the man he’d always wanted to be. Like maybe, just maybe, he had some degree of value and sense. That he was worth being lost with.

Pulling back, he buried his face in the crook of her neck so that he could smell the faint remnants of her perfume. Valerian had always been one of his favorite scents, and on her …

His mouth watered.

Kateri held Ren close as she felt his heart pounding against her br**sts. It’d been so long since she was close to a man. Not eleven thousand years by any means, but quite a few months. The one thing she and Fernando had shared was their philosophy that work came first, no matter what. That there were many discoveries yet to be made and papers to be written. Lectures to be given and kids to be encouraged. She’d never found a man who could respect that. One who would share her with her work schedule.

You’re a geologist. What the hell do you have to work on at night and on weekends?

Research papers and class prep waited for no one, and writing took up a great deal of her time. For reasons she didn’t understand, she seemed to get caught in strange time warps. She’d sit down and start working on a paper, then the next thing she knew, it would be five hours later and her phone would be buzzing or ringing with either a text or call about why she wasn’t at home or wherever it was she was supposed to be. It was like the world stopped moving whenever she worked, and she would sit still for hours on end without getting up or sometimes even blinking.

But the simplest truth was that none of the men she’d dated had been worth her keeping up with the time to make sure she wasn’t late meeting them. While they’d been fun to hang out with for a little while, they invariably started bitching about her schedule and weird beliefs and habits to the point she hit the door running to escape them. They were never her priority.

Ren was different.

His beliefs made hers seem normal. If she were to talk about raven mockers, instead of laughing or rolling his eyes, he most likely would be on a first-name basis with a few of them. And the moonstone he’d given her said that he understood her fascination with rocks and minerals. That he felt the power they held and knew what it meant to reach for one in the middle of a crisis. He got it.

Most of all, she found him fascinating. The things he knew … the things he could do. She hadn’t thought about work once while they’d been together.

Well, okay, granted they were running for their lives, but still …

He held her attention completely. For him, she would gladly put her research aside. To make him smile a real smile, she would be late to class. How sick was that?