Warriors of Poseidon -- Book 3 -- Berkley Sensation
June, 2009 -- ISBN: 0425220419
Poseidon’s warriors swore an oath eleven thousand years ago to protect humanity from those who stalked the night. Now those powerful forces are uniting. So are two souls who are all that stand between justice and the eternal darkness…
A warrior prince…Lord Justice made the ultimate sacrifice for his brother and paid for it with an unimaginable torture. Now he’s back, rescued from death, his sanity shaken, and his mission inescapable—the search for the lost Star of Artemis. But the beautiful human female whom he has sworn to protect is shadowed by an evil that could destroy them both…
A woman of science…The archaeological artifacts of Atlantis speak to Dr. Keely McDermott, sharing visions of life long ago. The ancient revelations have cast her into a world between past and present, between reality and illusion—and, when she meets the fierce Atlantean warrior assigned to guard her, between terror and temptation. Now as their two worlds collide, so too will danger and desire…
A quest for a lost star…Atlantis is unleashed.
BUY: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BAM | IndieBound | BooksonBoard | Kindle | Audio
Read Excerpts | Read Reviews
Four months ago: A cave deep underneath Mt. Rainier, Cascade Range, Washington, United States
Justice took inventory of his condition, his weapons, and his chances, as he’d done so many times before in his centuries as a warrior and came up with:
2) worse, and
3) odds-on favorite to be a dead man in the next five minutes.
Condition, physical: Currently lying flat on his belly on the cold, damp dirt of the cavern floor. Face smashed down on the side of a wet and soon to be seriously enraged tiger. Peacock-egg-sized lump on the back of his head from rough handling by the vamp and the wolf shifters who’d carried him down the long dank tunnel from the surface. Possible cracked rib or two. The ketamine they’d darted him with was mostly worn off, due to the nature of his Atlantean immune system, but he wouldn’t bet any gemstones on his ability to transform into mist.
Condition, mental: Fury bordering on homicidal rage. In other words, standard operating procedure. Ha. SOP. Poseidon picked his warriors carefully, or so he’d always heard.
The sea god must have been multi-tasking the day he’d decided to add Justice’s name to the list.
Weapons: None. The sword he’d worn for hundreds of years--indeed since the king of Atlantis had given it to him with not a single word of explanation but only a look steeped in contempt—gone. One of the two shape-shifters standing guard over Justice and his furry tiger friend Jack stood off toward the mouth of the cave, fondling Justice’s sword like he couldn’t believe his luck. A faint glow from the cavern beyond silhouetted their shapes against the utter dark of the small cave in which they’d dumped him, and he watched in impotent fury as the shifter raised his sword in the air as if admiring his new toy.
Sure, it was all fun and games until an Atlantean warrior sliced your guts out.
Justice would have smiled if he wouldn’t have ended up with a mouthful of wet tiger fur. They’d taken his daggers, too.
The better to kill them with.
He tried to reach out toward his brother down the shared Atlantean mental path, but nothing but a harsh static buzzed through his mind. The drugs were probably still interfering with his access to his powers over water and energy, too. He’d assume he was powerless.
Never rely on the unreliable when you’re otherwise weaponless against two wolves and a potentially drug-crazed tiger.
Chances: He’d bet on himself against most shape-shifters, even in close quarters like this, but five hundred pounds of tiger? Even Jack, who was sort of a friend when he walked on two legs?
He’d have to call it even odds. And that was before he ever got to the two wolves. So maybe he’d have to take out the wolves first.
Because Justice knew one critical fact: he’d rather spend eternity roasting in the lowest of the nine hells than spend one more minute with his face pressed into the rank animal stench of a wet tiger.
The shifters finished their muttering about sneaking out to see the action and moved off, as stealthy as a couple of drunken water buffalo. Before today, Justice would have bet a Roman emperor-turned-vampire as powerful as Caligula would have hired a better class of help.
He’d have been wrong. No wonder the Roman Empire had fallen.
All the better, though.
Justice waited long enough to be sure they weren’t faking the move, then leapt up and away from the still unconscious but ominously twitchy tiger. Maybe the action knocked something loose in his drugged brain, because he suddenly knew his brother was finally arriving. Lord Vengeance to the rescue, just freaking great.
Of course, Vengeance didn’t know that he was Justice’s brother.
“I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you,” Justice growled; then, more loudly so he could be heard: “Damn, Vengeance better appreciate this.”
He whipped around to see Vengeance standing at the tunnel entrance, sword at the ready. Ven said something about cat hair and tiger pillows, but Justice barely heard it, because the booming sound of an unseen bell smashed through the air. He covered his ears, but the percussive waves of noise threatened to crush his skull beneath their power.
A flash of foreknowledge swept through him and he somehow knew – just knew – that the next hour would change everything.
Then the goddess walked into the room clothed in the body of Ven’s woman, and everything inside of Justice that was not the primitive, savage descendant of his Nereid ancestors shattered. Insanity and battle lust washed in a blue-green haze across his vision and, as he stared at the brother he wanted so desperately to acknowledge, his last rational thought was one of regret.
Had it been minutes or hours? Justice crouched on the stone ledge, hidden from sight and surveying the carnage. Dead and dying shifters and vampires littered the stone floor of the cavern. The stench of the acidic decay of the vamps combined with the coppery metallic tang of blood to rot the very air they were breathing. The flickering lights of the torches on the walls illuminated garish displays of broken and torn open bodies.
He’d done his part, but been careful to stay out of sight, drawing his opponents behind the cavern’s many rocky outcroppings. Even the preternatural senses of the vampires had been overwhelmed by the wash of blood and nobody had seemed to notice him.
Nobody still living, at least.
Justice was planning to be the trump card, and any good gambler knew the value of never revealing his hand. He glanced down at the blade of his sword, gleaming wetly in the flickering dark.
No trump card had ever dealt such a deadly hand. He was the Joker, and the Queen of Death was next on the list.
He heard her voice, though, and knew he’d failed. The vampire goddess Anubisa had captured Vengeance and his woman in spite of Ven’s strength and Erin’s powerful witchcraft.
Justice had failed them.
He’d failed his family.
As he listened, options, strategy, and desperate measures swirling through his still only semi-lucid brain, he heard her say it. The words he’d dreaded. Anubisa was going to take Ven with her. She was giving the rest of them to Caligula as a little gift.
Justice shot up and began to show himself, then stopped, frozen, when he saw Anubisa holding Erin while Ven dug the point of his sword into his own heart.
“If you truly wish for my voluntary service, release her now and swear the oath for her safety. Or I will run this sword through my heart, and you will be cheated of your goal,” Ven said, grim determination hardening his features.
Justice nearly staggered as the truth of what he must do slammed into him. To save his brother – to save Erin, who might possibly be able to save his second brother’s unborn royal heir – he must make the ultimate sacrifice.
Worse, he had to make them believe that he wanted to do it.
Acid washed through his veins as he prepared himself to face an eternity of torture. He almost laughed at the thought. It was no less than he deserved.
No more than he’d expected.
Below him, on the cavern floor, they were still talking. He couldn’t hear it, though. Couldn’t make out the words. Nothing but a vast ringing noise smashed through his skull, until he heard the bloodsucker goddess issue her demand, in a voice sheathed with blood and ice that sliced through the haze of his mind.
“Do you voluntarily accept my service, Lord Vengeance, blood kin to Conlan?” Anubisa demanded.
Justice forced down the grief and bile threatening to make him puke and stepped further out from behind the shielding rock and onto the ledge directly above and across from her. This needed to be a performance to outshine all performances.
Good thing he had the best poker face in Atlantis.
He sucked in a lungful of air and called out to her. “Of course he doesn’t, you evil bitch. You’re holding his girlfriend as collateral. He has no choice.”
The shock on her face pleased him. He’d surprised a goddess. Maybe he had a one in a thousand chance to stay alive.
Anubisa shot across the cavern floor, and he leapt down to meet her, standing braced and silent until she jerked to a halt, only inches separating them. The burning red of her eyes deepened until they glowed, and then she freaking sniffed him; inhaling his scent like something so beastlike that his skin tried to crawl off his body.
“You smell like --"
“I smell like the blood kin of Conlan and Vengeance,” he said, flashing a smile that tasted like death. “I’m their brother, and I offer myself in his stead.”
Ven exploded in denial, but Justice barely heard him. The geas was kicking in, biting into his nerve endings. He’d been cursed to kill anyone he told the truth of his birth. Either kill them or his mind would shatter.
He picked option C. Shacking up with a vampire goddess. At least maybe he’d have a little fun before she killed him.
Everybody was staring at him. Right. Time to start acting.
He laughed. “You think I’m lying, don’t you? Precious pampered royal princes, never imagining that dear Daddy may have done the nasty with someone who wasn’t their mother. Someone who wasn’t even their species.”
Anubisa shook her long black hair away from her face, staring intently into his eyes as if to discover if he were telling the truth. Ancient vampire goddesses didn’t show emotion. But there was something—just a flicker—in her eyes that allowed him to believe she was buying it.
“The mating I forced on Conlan’s father bore fruit? Oh, that is entirely too delicious!” She threw her head back and laughed, and the shifters who were still alive began to howl.
“Yeah, well, this delicious fruit is going to start killing everyone in this room, thanks to the geas laid on my ass, if you don’t get me out of here,” Justice said, trying to think of a way to convince her. “You wanted voluntary? Well, trust me, after centuries of having to take orders from my brothers, with their overblown sense of entitlement that came with being the royal heirs, I’m more than ready to try out the other side.”
Ven protested again but Justice cut him off, then sheathed his sword and smiled down at Anubisa. “Me for him. Willing service.”
Then, though it took every ounce of courage he’d ever even dreamed he possessed, he put his hands on her shoulders, yanked her to him, and kissed her. It was more challenge than kiss, and she shuddered beneath his touch, first stiffening, then melting into his embrace.
So the vampire goddess was at least something like a mortal woman. He could use that, and he might yet survive. Soul intact or not.
When Justice finally raised his head, Anubisa’s eyes had faded from glowing red to black. The world shifted into insanity as, for one single moment, she appeared to be almost mortal. A woman whose beauty was so dark and terrible that any man would willingly dive through her frozen depths to his own destruction.
“No man has willingly kissed me for more than five thousand years,” she whispered. “I accept your offer, Lord Justice, blood kin to Conlan and to Vengeance.”
“No!” Ven shouted, but he was too late. Anubisa put her arms around Justice’s waist and soared upward toward the far-distant ceiling of the cavern. As they rose, Justice remembered the healing ruby that she carried – the gemstone that might save his unborn niece or nephew. He caught her lips in another kiss and moved his elbow so that it knocked the cloth-wrapped bundle from her arms, figuring that was when she’d kill him.
Shock number three thousand or so of the day: she didn’t even seem to notice.
So be it. Ven and Erin would be safe--Prince Conlan, his woman, and their unborn child would be safe.
Justice had—almost--gained a family, and his actions this day would keep them safe. His ruined soul for the innocence of new life. Death or insanity was the smallest of prices for such value.
But he wanted to say it. Needed to say it. Just once. He bent his head and gazed at Ven, and uttered the word he’d been forbidden to say for so many centuries. “Brother.”
Then Anubisa whispered something in a long-dead language, and his reality fractured, kaleidoscoping into the void.
Archaeology Department, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio; Present Day
Dr. Keely McDermott unlocked the door to her office, glad that the few students wandering the long, fluorescent-lit hallway didn’t pay much attention to her. She didn’t feel much like answering questions after the long flight from Rome.
As she hauled the heavy bag containing her precious tools into her office, she made a mental note to order a new Marshalltown trowel. Hers had seen better days and, like most archaeologists, her tools were her most prized possessions. She’d keep the old one for sentimental purposes, maybe. It had been her first, and it had brought him to her. Her warrior.
She glanced down at the tiny wooden carving of a fish that rested against the front of her t-shirt, hanging on its delicate silver chain. The old Marshalltown had discovered the delicate carved fish for her. Since first touching the fish three years ago, she’d spent more time than she probably should have lost in visions of her very grown-up version of an imaginary friend: the blue-haired warrior from hundreds of years in the past. He’d carved the fish while he sat next to a campfire, laughing and talking with friends. She’d caught her breath in wonder at that first image of him. He was beautiful; so primitively male that the sight of him had quite literally taken her breath away.
From the silken wonder of his multi-hued hair to his high cheekbones, strong neck, and the broad shoulders topping his muscular torso, he should have posing for a sculpture, instead of forming one from wood. The lines and muscled curves of his body had been so clearly defined in the flickering firelight of her image as he sat there, wearing only pants, head bent to his carving.
Even now, probably hundreds of years after that campfire had been extinguished, the emotional resonance of his touch shone through, sparkling through her nerve endings with an almost tangible caress each time the fish came in contact with her skin. No matter that her warrior had been lying in his grave for a very long time. Trust her to be the kind of freak who lusted after a guy who’d died centuries ago. But when she touched the carving, it offered a kind of comfort. And still, even now, a shiver of heat raced through her, bringing sensual longings she’d thought were as dead as the civilizations she studied. For him. Never for a living, attainable man.
Always for him.
She caressed the odd little fish’s wooden fin and, yet again, it was almost as if he were there with her. One of the few benefits of being a touch psychic. Her face twisted in a bitter smile. Lose all of your real friends, but find a hunk of phantom warrior to keep you company.
She sighed and wished for the thousandth or so time that she even knew his name. Anyway, whoever he was, it wasn’t his fault that she was a friendless freak. She’d definitely keep the trowel.
Finally snapping out of her private daydreams, she closed her office door behind her, glancing around at her space. Mementos of her travels and digs—casts from some of her finds and a few cherished gifts from the local citizenry. Colorful pottery and small carvings jockeyed for space on the shelves, while framed Stratigraphic drawings lined the walls, each showing the layers of history within the dig it represented.
Her precious books overflowed the crowded and dangerously bowing shelves of her bookcases and lined the walls in precarious piles. From the looks of the inch or two of dust on every available surface, the department secretary had followed her instructions to make sure her office was entirely undisturbed while she was gone.
Keely breathed a shuddering sign of relief at finally returning to the closest thing to a home she’d had in many years. The sterile apartment where she stored a few personal possessions had never been home; it was simply a place where she could go to shower and change clothes. She was always here in her office, in the classroom, or on a dig, living out of a suitcase.
But here, she’d carefully chosen every single object. Nothing that could disturb her—not a single object that could send her swirling into someone else’s emotions—was permitted anywhere in the room.
Here, she could finally remove her gloves.
Peeling them off, she dropped them on a corner of her desk, and a puff of displaced dust shot into the air to tickle her nose. Okay, undisturbed was fine—excellent even—but now that she was back a little housekeeping was in order.
She dropped into her chair and closed her eyes, letting the waves of exhaustion wash over her. Even after all these years, all these trips, she’d never gotten the knack of sleeping on planes. She had to be vigilant against unwanted touches. Too much of a chance that her head would drift to the side as she napped, her cheek might brush against the airplane seat, unleashing the emotions of thousands of angry, impatient, terrified, or otherwise overwrought fellow flyers directly into her vulnerable brain.
She eyed the ancient red and green plaid couch that stretched its lumpy shape against one wall, wondering if a nap wouldn’t be a good idea before she tackled the piles of paper, hundreds of voice mail messages, and everything else that usually piled up during months of absence.
Sighing again, she lifted the phone. She’d get a little done now, and then feel more virtuous about napping. She punched in her code, which only took her a few seconds to remember, found a pen and paper, and waited for the flood of messages to begin.
“You have no new voice mail messages.”
Keely blinked, then shrugged, figuring she’d messed up her code. Checking the bottom of her desk blotter, where she’d penciled it against just such an occasion, she started over.
“You have no new voice mail messages.”
Slowly lowering the phone, she felt the familiar acid begin to stir in her stomach. Bad airplane food and no sleep didn’t help when one was wondering why none of her colleagues had bothered to call her in more than three months.
They’d known she was gone. Of course. That was it. Just because she’d always come home to a torrent of messages didn’t mean anything. Or at least it only meant that people were finally wising up and calling her on her international cell phone instead of here, where she wasn’t.
Where she hadn’t been.
Except . . . she hadn’t gotten many calls in the field either. Of course, she’d ignored a few calls from George in the early days of the dig. The excitement of the discovery had taken every ounce of her attention. The famous Lupercale—the very sanctuary believed by ancient Romans to be the cave where the founders of Rome, twin boys Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf.
When the team had lowered the probes and then seen the outline of the imperial eagle, exactly as described in sixteenth century texts, right there at the apex of the vaulted ceiling, everyone in the room had started screaming.
Chills danced down her spine even now, at the memory. One of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time, and she’d been there. Naturally she hadn’t had time to return calls from her boss. Very few of her colleagues bothered to call her when she was out; they understood.
Except, everyone else in the department always seemed to call each other when they were on digs. Sharing the excitement and the wonder of discovery. She’d overheard conversations in the rare staff meetings she managed to attend. But somehow she wasn’t included in that circle of collegiality.
Sure, she tended to keep people at a distance. It wasn’t the gloves; in this age of Deal or No Deal, with Howie Mandel openly talking about his OCD issues, nobody thought a self-professed germaphobe was too far outside of normal. But still, when people became friends, they hugged. Touched. Wanted her to touch things. Hold their baby. Pet the dog. Admire the new object they’d acquired.
It was too hard to avoid it all. Too hard. Too conspicuous.
She couldn’t tell them the truth. She could never tell them the truth. She’d learned that the hard way with a few close friends in high school, and then with the one man she’d ever thought she loved. He’d left her. Called her a freak.
She hadn’t been able to deny it back then. Still couldn’t, now.
But it didn’t matter when she worked. Who needed personal connection when the ancient world unfolded before her very eyes? She’d counted on at least another six months at the Lupercale.
She should have known better than to count on anything, or anyone.
Now that the shape-shifters were out in the open, it had put a whole new spin on the Romulus and Remus mythology. Not to mention changed the face of jurisdiction. The Italian contingent of the European werewolves had taken over, throwing them all out.
“We’ll call you if we need you, Dr. McDermott,” one of them had all but sneered at her as he shoved her out of the dig headquarters. “Don’t hold your breath.”
The laughter that had followed her out had echoed disturbingly with an edge of moonlight-induced madness and, mindful of the twilight hour and the nearness of the full moon, she hadn’t argued.
She hadn’t gotten as far as she had by being suicidal, after all.
Shaking off the memory, she realized she still held the now-buzzing phone in her hand. She replaced it in its cradle, looking around her dusty office again. Undisturbed welcome or abandoned neglect?
Funny how such a simple thing as the lack of phone messages could change a person’s entire perspective.
Phones worked two ways, she reminded herself, reaching for the phone again. There was one person who would always take her calls. With her free hand, she ran a finger over the dusty edge of the single framed picture on her desk. The woman nervously smiling at the camera looked so much like Keely. The red hair was a little less vibrant. The laugh lines more pronounced. The athletic build had softened over the years, but she was still a beautiful woman.
Once, Keely had thought her the most beautiful woman in the world. Before the doctors, the disbelief, and the doubt.
The phone rang four times before the familiar click came through. Something about the phone lines out in the woods of eastern Ohio always made the connection sound like she was talking inside of a jar.
Either the bad connection or the resonance of twenty-eight years of mutual disappointment.
Keely swallowed, then managed to speak over the sudden obstruction in her throat. “Hi, Mom.”
Keely stifled the familiar impatience. Who else could it be? Her parents hadn’t wanted to risk a second pregnancy, since Keely had been . . . defective.
“Yes, Mom, it’s me. How are you? How’s Dad?”
“Oh, are you finally home from that terrible place? We just saw on the news that the vampires are trying to take over the Russian throne. That woman said something about being the princess Anastasia, who was turned vampire when her family was murdered. Do you think that could be true? You stayed inside after dark, didn’t you? We put in a whole second crop of garlic and are selling it like hotcakes, although who would want garlic hotcakes, right? Did you--"
“Mom,” Keely interrupted, marveling that her mother hadn’t seemed to take a single breath during the barrage of questions. “Mom, yes, I’m home and I’m fine.”
She knew from experience not to answer individual questions, or the conversation would never veer back on course. “But how about you? How’s your arthritis? How’s Dad?”
“Well, we’re fine, honey. But Daddy’s worried about you, especially since we haven’t heard from you in so long. Have you been suffering any from . . . your condition?”
Guilt mixed with pain bit into Keely. Somehow her parents could always cut her the deepest, even though they meant well.
Especially because they meant well.
“Mom, you know my condition is not a disease. I’m just a little bit psychic. When I touch objects, I get impressions—Mom, we’ve been over all of this for years and years.”
There was a silence on the phone, and then the quiet sound of sniffling, as though her mother were trying not to cry. Again.
Keely wondered how many other daughters caused their mother such heartache simply by existing, but tried to shove the thought away when the acid in her stomach lurched its way up to cyclone force.
“Do you still have to wear those gloves to avoid touching anything? Have you seen Dr. Koontz? He says if you’d try the hypnosis again--"
“No, I’m never going to see Dr. Koontz again, Mom. He thinks I’m crazy. He refused to believe me, even when I gave him proof by reading that pencil holder his son made for him.”
“That wasn’t very nice, Keely. Making up stories about his poor little boy locking his sister in the closet,” her mother said, voice chiding.
“It wasn’t a story, and if you’d watched him closely when I told him my vision, you’d know that he’d suspected his son of bullying for some time. Anyway, I couldn’t go back even if I wanted to. Dr. Koontz fired me as a patient.”
She hadn’t known shrinks could do that--fire people--but evidently they could. Like most people who’d seen her “talent” up close and personal, he’d never wanted anything to do with her again. Maybe some irony there. Even the shrinks thought she was a freak. Maybe she didn’t need to go there, even in the privacy of her own insecurities.
She hoped he’d at least gotten his son under control.
“Can I talk to Dad?”
“Well, he’s, um,” her mother’s voice faltered. “He’s having a little nap.”
Right. The lump in Keely’s throat was suddenly back, and bigger.
“Dad’s never taken a nap in his life, Mom. Couldn’t you at least try to come up with something believable?”
“Keely, you know that he loves you, he just doesn’t know how to deal with your . . . your problem.”
“Right, Mom.” She tried to keep the bitterness out of her voice, but could tell she was failing badly. “My problem. Well, hey, I need to go. Hundreds of voice mail messages to return, letters to answer. You know, from the people who do want to talk to me.”
“Keely! That’s not fair. You know I’m always so happy to hear from you.”
Keely softened. “I know, Mom. I was thinking I might come by for a visit this week. We could drive up to--"
“Oh, honey, this isn’t a good week. We, ah, we’re just so busy. I’ll call you this weekend and we’ll have another chat, okay?”
“Right, Mom. Okay. This weekend. I --" Keely’s voice faltered, but she took a deep breath and forced the words to come. Forced herself to say the words to the mother who didn’t even want to see her. “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too, baby. We’ll talk soon.”
After she hung up the phone, Keely put her head down on her arms, there on her dusty desk, in the middle of her silent office, and finally gave in to the tears.
“This character-driven tale will grab the reader’s imagination from page one . . . An epic thrill ride that should not be missed.”
– Romance Reviews Today
“A terrific romantic fantasy thriller.”
– Midwest Book Review
”Day is back and better than ever . . . She doesn’t skimp on the action, but this story also delves into the psychological, giving the characters real depth. Power and passion unleashed make for outstanding reading!”
– Romantic Times, Top Pick
“Action-packed adventure filled with magic and romance . . . superb job of world-building that will leave you stunned with the richness of detail. The characters of Atlantis are sexy, intelligent, and fascinating. I absolutely loved it and cannot wait for more!´
– Romance Junkies
“This character driven tale will grab the reader’s imagination from page one and hold it in thrall until the end. Imperfect, valiant heroes and the complicated women who love them are the highlights of the series, and this story lifts everything up to the next level . . . an epic thrill ride that should not be missed.”
– Romance Reviews Today, Perfect 10 review
“[R]eminded me of Golden Age pulp fiction, bigger than life, full of alpha heroes and smart heroines, Gods and Goddesses, mystery magic, and exotic locations.”
– Sci Fi Guy reviews
“What I wouldn’t give for one of Ms. Day’s alpha males!”
– The Romance Reader’s Connection
“Impossible to put down—I found myself riveted from beginning to end.”
– Joyfully Reviewed