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Heart of Atlantis -- Alyssa Day

Heart of Atlantis
Warriors of Poseidon -- Book 8 -- Berkley Sensation
Coming Dec. 4, 2012 ISBN: 978-0425241790

Alaric, Poseidon's High Priest, has made a vow to Quinn, the woman he loves and the leader of the Resistance: to save her friend Jack before his last bit of humanity has been drained. Should Alaric succeed, there's one danger-he may lose Quinn to the love of the man whose life he saved...

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excerpt

Prologue

The wilderness near Sedona, Arizona—just past twilight

Alaric, sword at the ready, stepped into the path of the oncoming vampire and struck its head from its body before it had a chance to get anywhere near Quinn.

“Stay down,” he shouted at her, another futile plea disguised as a command. She wouldn’t listen. She never listened.

Quinn, all smoldering heat and explosive fury wrapped up in a small, dark-haired package, smiled at him, and he nearly lost his balance.

“A gentleman wouldn’t keep yelling at me,” she said, firing one of the many guns she kept on her at all times. Then firing another. “Why are they attacking now? How did they find us? I’m sick to death of battling vampires and shifters, and it’s bad enough when we know why they’re after us. This? This is just crazy.”

“I never claimed to be a gentleman, and most vampires are, by their very nature, insane,” he said, launching himself into the air toward a pair of wolf shifters that clearly intended to claim either a rebel leader or a high priest of Atlantis—or both—for a late night snack. The moonlight glinted blue streaks in Quinn’s untidy mop of hair, and he had a fraction of a second to wonder why he was noticing her hair in the midst of a heated battle. Why the scent of her skin and curve of her lips formed the puzzle pieces of his greatest obsession.

He refused to admit the truth of it, even to himself. Battle now. The rest of it later.

Alaric released the energy sword and conjured ice daggers as he flew up and over the shifters, and then hurled both of them down at precisely the exact time and angle needed to simultaneously pierce both of their hearts. They fell, thudding to the ground together in a shapeless mass of unrealized rage and thwarted ambition.

Enemies were here to deal death tonight, and Alaric, who’d been Atlantean warrior and high priest to Poseidon for centuries, had no intention of allowing even one of them to succeed. Not if he could help it.

“Beware,” he called out, but a tiger’s scream drew his attention from Quinn after she shot an attacking wolf shifter.

Jack, one of fewer than a dozen tiger shifters still in existence, fought like a berserker from old, only a dozen paces from where Alaric and Quinn stood. A vampire’s head rolled from its body seconds after Jack struck. Serai, the Atlantean princess Jack protected, trembled and backed away.

“Help Serai,” Quinn shouted at Alaric. “She’s just out of stasis after eleven thousand years. It’s not like she knows how to protect herself from this.”

But seconds later Serai transformed into a beast that had been extinct for millennia, using ancient magic long forgotten. A shimmer of brilliant silver power surrounded her, and then a saber-tooth tiger roared where an Atlantean princess had shivered in the cool night air.

The cacophony of battle, rude and loud and clashing, stilled for a frozen moment in time as attackers and defenders alike swung toward the sound of an ancient, deadly predator. The forest itself froze as nature’s darkest memories conjured up long-forgotten fears.

Quinn’s small guns barked out a warning—once, twice, thrice—and Alaric whirled to find a dead vampire slamming into the ground at his feet. He looked up to meet Quinn’s gaze, all smoke and mystery in the moonlight.

“I may not have any magic, but I do okay,” she said, shrugging her slender shoulders.

Before she’d finished speaking, Alaric was leaping toward her, calling power to himself and forming energy spheres in both hands. The trio of bloodsuckers rushed at Quinn with deadly intent, and Alaric knew that whoever had masterminded this attack had painted a target on her.

Kill the North American rebel leader, and maybe the entire human rebellion falls apart.

He almost laughed at the thought. Maybe not the rebellion, but a single man—both warrior and priest—yes, that man would fall apart. And the world would be lucky to survive it.

Quinn saw him coming and swung around in a half circle so he could stand at her back. She fired her guns, and he hurled energy spheres in both hands, dealing oblivion and the true death to vampires and shape-shifters both.

When the wave of attackers subsided, either dead or regrouping, Alaric heard the single vampire who was actually on their side shout Serai’s name.

“That’s Daniel,” Quinn said. “What happened?”

“Serai has fallen,” Alaric said grimly. “Whether from wounds or from too-ambitious use of her magic after eleven millennia of stasis sleep, I cannot tell from here.”

Daniel flew through the air toward Serai and landed with one foot on each side of her waist, standing over her prone body. He snarled something at her and then slashed his crossed daggers at an attacking vampire with such preternatural speed that even Alaric almost didn’t see him do it.

He saw the vamp’s head roll across the ground, though.

“We have to help them,” Quinn said, and she started to run.

Alaric did not waste a single breath arguing with her. He simply followed her.

Protected her.

Until someone else screamed, and Quinn skidded to a halt so abruptly that he nearly knocked her over.

“The tiger is down,” someone cried out, anguish raw in her voice.

“Jack? Jack!” Quinn shouted his name and changed course. Alaric knew that if Jack were killed,
Quinn might not survive it. The shifter and Quinn had fought the rebellion together for long years, as close friends and powerful allies.

But they’d never been lovers. Or so Alaric hoped, but doubts stalked him some days with caustic thoughts. Thoughts he only wrestled with in the deepest reaches of the dark, when nightmares donned their garments and walked the surfaces of mortal minds.

He knew that Jack loved her. That was hard enough to accept.

He shook his mind free of mental meanderings as they reached Jack, and Quinn collapsed down to her knees on the cold, rocky ground and fell on top of the blood-soaked tiger.

“Jack!” she screamed, over and over and over, like a hammer beating at the fragile bulwarks of Alaric’s sanity. “Save him. You have to save him.”

Alaric called to Poseidon to lend him the magic he would need to heal the dying tiger. He threw his head back, closed his eyes, and strained every muscle and tendon as he forced his body to hold power beyond measure. He turned to Jack and thrust the power into the tiger’s body, only to have it slam back into him in a vicious backlash that knocked him off his feet and smashed him to the ground.

Alaric could heal nearly any wound, but even he, high priest of the sea god himself, could not retrieve those who had gone past the gates of death. Now it only remained to destroy the woman he loved. He drew in a deep breath, in spite of the acrid scents of battle, bile, and blood that infused the air.

“I’m sorry, Quinn. He’s dead.”
As the rebel fighters who were still capable of walking drew near, Quinn screamed her denial and threw her body over Jack, as if to protect him from the Reaper’s merciless gaze. But death came to all mortals—even Atlanteans—and Alaric’s only thought now was to remove her from this place before their enemies returned. He met Daniel’s gaze and realized that the vampire was experiencing Quinn’s anguish through the blood bond, even as Daniel held a semiconscious Serai in his arms.

“I cannot help her,” Daniel said quietly, his face grim.

“We must leave before they return. We’ve lost more than half of our fighters, and I have no idea what reserves of soldiers they can call upon.”

Alaric crouched down next to Quinn. “You can't stay here. You know Jack wouldn’t have wanted it,” he said, touching her arm.

“No, leave me alone!” She wrenched away from him, but then grabbed his hand and pulled it toward Jack’s prone form.

“Wait. You can heal him,” she said imploringly. “You healed me before. I’ve seen you heal lots of people. You can do it. Fix him.”

“He’s gone, Quinn. I can heal grievous wounds, it is true, and you know I would do anything for you, but I cannot heal death. Only the gods can do that.”

Quinn screamed again, tears rolling, unheeded, down her face; sorrow pouring forth from a wellspring too deep to be denied.

Serai, conscious now but still in Daniel’s arms, suddenly spoke. “He’s not gone,” she said, and icy chills chased each other down Alaric’s spine at the sound of her magic-drenched voice. “He’s almost gone, but a small part of him remains.”

Alaric stared at her and raised his hands as if to block any attack Serai might try. She made a dismissing motion and ignored him, focused entirely on Quinn and Jack.

“Put me down. There next to Jack,” Serai said to Daniel, who obeyed instantly.

Alaric’s eyes narrowed. Ally Daniel might be, but a primal wariness in Alaric warned him against allowing a vampire so near to an Atlantean princess. It was, however, a problem for another time.

Serai gently nudged Quinn to one side and lay across Jack’s body, but Quinn shoved her away.

“No! What are you doing? Get off him!”

Serai turned to Alaric and spoke to him through the Atlantean mental pathway.

She must let me try to reach him—I believe a tendril of his essence remains on this side of Death’s gate.

It took only a moment for Alaric to recognize the deep magic in Serai’s aura, and he gently pulled Quinn back and away from Jack.

“Give her a chance, Quinn. The ancients had magic we have long forgotten.”

Quinn trembled in his arms as Serai ran gentle hands across the tiger’s bloody fur. The princess began to sing wordlessly before turning to Quinn.

“Part of him lives, but only his animal side is still—barely—on this side of the river of death. I can call to the tiger that is Jack and help him come back, but his human side is almost certainly lost forever.”

Quinn’s suspicion all but radiated out from her body. “What are you?”

“I am Serai of Atlantis, and the Emperor gifted me with ancient magic not seen on this world since before my continent dove beneath the oceans,” Serai responded, silvery light shimmering around her. “I gift you his choice, as another once gifted me the choice of life or death for one I loved. Shall I let him seek out his ancestors in the afterlife or do you wish him to live, though it be perhaps only a half life?”

“I choose life,” Quinn said fiercely. “You make him live, do you hear me? No matter what it takes. Make at least part of him live, and I can find the rest of him somehow. Someday. You make him live.”

Serai began to sing, and currents of magic danced around her in a ballet of delicate power so intricate and complex that Alaric doubted anyone still walking the earth had seen its like. Mere seconds passed before Jack’s body arched up off the ground, and he coughed harshly.

“Does he know who he is?” Alaric demanded.

“Honestly, I don’t know what he knows,” Serai said. “Or who he knows. If he has reverted fully to tiger and only tiger, he’s not safe to be around.”

“Thank you. No matter what else, you brought him back from death. We’ll figure the rest out. I owe him that much,” Quinn said.

Alaric healed the tiger’s bloody wounds and tried to feel for a shred of humanity, but he could not. “I can’t tell. I just don’t know. Shape-shifters are too different from Atlanteans, and Poseidon’s power recoils from trying to analyze the mind of a tiger.”

“Your magic is unbalanced without the soul-meld,” Serai said, rocking Alaric back on his heels.

The soul-meld? When he was sworn to an eternity of celibacy and isolation?

“What do you mean? I am the most powerful—”

“Yes, yes, I’ve heard it,” Serai interrupted. “Most powerful high priest in the history of Atlantis. But it’s not true, you know. I’ve been around for all of them since Atlantis dove beneath the sea. Your power is not even close to that Nereus wielded. At least, before his wife died and he almost drowned the world.”

“What—”

Quinn cut him off. “I don’t care. I don’t care about any of it right now. Not the bankers, or the rebellion, or any damn part of it. I sure as hell don’t care about Atlantean ancient history. I’m leaving, and I’m taking Jack with me. Somewhere he can be safe, until we figure this out. I owe him that. I owe him my life, several times over.”

“Of course. I know just the place.” Alaric drew in a deep breath and called to power, and he swore a new and different oath—one that he had no intention of ever breaking. “I’ll take you there now, and I’ll never, ever leave your side again.”

He called to the portal, wondering if the capricious gateway magic would bother to answer him.

As the familiar silvery ovoid shape formed, he remembered his duty and turned to Serai.

“You should come with us, Princess,” Alaric said. “We can help you.”

“You need my help, priest. I have protection beyond your knowledge in the presence of the mage beside me.” She moved closer to Daniel, who snapped his head up and stared at Alaric.

“I can help, possibly. Let me try to reach Jack,” the vampire said.

“What can you do? Try to blood bond a tiger?” Quinn shook her head. “Go away, Daniel, there’s no need for your special skills here.”

“I have forgotten more magic than most of your human witches ever possess, Quinn, and one of my talents as senior mage of the Nightwalker Guild was to teach others to call out to the souls of dying mortals,” Daniel said. “Let me try. It can’t hurt him, not now. Maybe I can help.”
Quinn nodded, and Alaric, in spite of serious misgivings, allowed it. He felt the brush of powerful magic, so very foreign to his own that he couldn’t begin to comprehend it, and then the feeling passed as swiftly as a bird seeking prey in the cool night air.
The tiger shivered and then lay still. Daniel shook his head.

“I don’t know if he’ll ever return. All I know is that he’s somewhere in there. Deep inside, or maybe even not inside the tiger, but very nearby. But he won’t come back because we push him. He warned me quite specifically that if we try, he’ll choose never to come back.”

“If he thinks he’s more stubborn that I am, he’s sadly mistaken. Let’s go, Alaric. Take us away, and give me time to let this tiger heal and find himself again,” Quinn said, finally rising from her knees.

Alaric took her hand and called to his magic to lift Jack on a wave of power. He took a step toward the portal and then hesitated.

Duty, again. Somehow, after centuries thinking of nothing else, it was suddenly so hard to remember. He looked to Reisen, the warrior who had first betrayed Atlantis and now worked so hard to redeem himself. Or so Quinn said. Alaric had his doubts. One never trusted a traitor a second time. But Reisen wasn’t his concern. Healing the injured was.

“Do others here need healing? I forget my duties.”

Reisen shook his head. “No, we have only minor injuries in those still alive. You . . . you go to Atlantis?”

“You can return home,” Alaric said reluctantly. “Your exile was self-imposed. Conlan offered forgiveness and healing.”

Reisen didn’t move. “I have one final mission to perform for Quinn.”

The small human from Quinn’s group moved closer to Reisen and offered her thanks for his help as tears streamed down her pale face. She said something to Quinn; something about taking care of Jack, but Alaric didn’t listen. Didn’t care.

Everything he cared about in the world was wrapped up in Quinn’s happiness, and he’d failed her. He’d been unable to bring Jack back to himself. He started to follow her as she headed toward the portal, head bent, gaze on the ground. Her shoulders hunched around her neck, as if awaiting another blow.

Alaric issued a final warning to Daniel, whose quest with Serai must succeed, and then he and Jack, who still rested on his cushion of magic, followed Quinn into the shimmer of light, which would hopefully take them to the one place he doubted any would think to look for them.

Not even the sea god himself.

“Take us to Mount Fuji.”

Chapter 1
A hidden cave inside of Mount Fuji, Japan
The portal opened and Alaric, warrior and high priest of Atlantis, stepped through, followed by a shell-shocked rebel leader and a five-hundred-pound tiger shape-shifter who might have permanently lost his humanity.

“Oh, Alaric,” said the ancient man who stood waiting for them, sighing and shaking his head. “You do get into the most fascinating trouble.”

“Interesting you should say that, Archelaus,” Alaric said. “I need a place to hide for a time, while Quinn tries to help Jack remember that he’s human, too, and not just a tiger.”

Quinn barely glanced at him, her eyes dull with pain and exhaustion, but she never let go of his hand. It was more physical contact than he’d allowed himself to have with her in a very long time.

Archelaus took them all in with his sharp gaze. The old man, long since retired as mentor to the Atlantean warrior training academy, never missed anything.

“And Atlantis? Are the Seven Isles still in jeopardy?”

“Aren’t they always?” Alaric sliced a hand through the air in dismissal of the topic. “We need a place to rest. Food. A refuge—we need to hide a tiger.”

Archelaus pointed at something behind them. “Who is that?”

Alaric whirled around, shocked to see a stranger—a delicate, dark-haired woman—step out of the portal.

“Who are you?” he demanded, pushing Quinn behind him. None but Atlanteans could call the portal, and this woman clearly was not Atlantean, but of Asian descent.

She blinked in apparent confusion. “Konnichiwa,” she began, offering a basic greeting in Japanese, but then she continued in ancient Atlantean as she slowly collapsed until she lay curled up on the ground next to the tiger, who ignored her completely. “I am the spirit of the portal, and I am this woman, who came to Mount Fuji to die.”

“You came here to die. We came here to force Jack to live,” Quinn said, and then she started laughing; a terrible, almost hysterical laugh. “Lucky we have Poseidon’s high priest with us, isn’t it?”

Alaric stared down at Quinn and fought the tidal wave of unfamiliar, unwanted emotion threatening to swamp him. “Yes. I will do what I can for him, as I promised.”

Archelaus sighed again. “You have amazingly bad timing, my friend.”

“Timing has nothing to do with need,” Alaric snapped, finally out of patience with the day, the situation, and the centuries of standing alone as priest to a capricious god.

“Timing has everything to do with danger,” the older man returned calmly, as he draped his sweater over the unconscious woman who’d claimed to be what she couldn’t possibly be. “The vampire goddess Anubisa is back from her sojourn in the land of Chaos, and this time she swears to destroy Atlantis and every member of the Atlantean royal family. You have never been more needed by your people in your entire life, I would imagine.”

“I am needed here,” Alaric said, staring at Quinn. “Atlantis can burn in the nine hells for all I care. I have sacrificed enough to Poseidon. My days as high priest are done.”
Quinn collapsed onto a low bench against one wall of the room or cave or wherever they’d ended up. Strange that she’d spent more time in caves since becoming the leader of the North American human rebel contingent than she’d ever dreamed possible. Straight from caves in Sedona, where she’d battled vampires and evil bankers, to Japan. A wave of grief and exhaustion, fought back and repressed for far too long, swept through her and threatened to drown her in futility and despair.

Jack. Her comrade; her partner in the rebellion. Her friend. She could finally admit she loved him with some small part of her stony, blackened heart, although it wasn’t the kind of love he might want. She loved him like a brother; the one she’d never had and had never known she wanted. Her big, scary, wounded warrior of a brother, who just happened to shift into a quarter ton of tiger sometimes. They’d fought together for years—years of trying to fight back the tide of darkness after the vampires announced to the world that they were real and then promptly proceeded to try to take it over. No matter how hard they pretended otherwise, vampires viewed humans as sheep for the slaughter. Unfortunately, most people were easily fooled or else too apathetic to care that the town’s new mayor or sheriff just happened to be a bloodsucker making a power grab.

Easy enough to make people disappear from behind the authority of a badge. Even the FBI’s P-Ops division had discovered that, when they’d found traitors in their midst. The president fired the director of Paranormal Operations and half of his staff when that inconvenient truth had surfaced.

Quinn sighed, fully aware that her brain was jumping from thought to thought in a futile effort to quit thinking about Jack. If they couldn’t help him . . . but they would. Alaric would. She refused to question her unshakable belief in Alaric or even to peer more closely at the reasons for it. She didn’t have time to get involved with any man—and certainly not with a man who was bound by both sworn oath and magic to Poseidon. The sea god himself, swimming out of the page of legends and into the middle of her pain-wracked, screwed-up life.

She stared at the floor, unable to muster even a spark of interest as Alaric conferred with the older man. Archelaus. Although older might not apply. Just because the man looked to be at least a century old, appearances were deceiving with Atlanteans. A casual glance would put Alaric in his early thirties or even late twenties, until the one doing the glancing looked into the dark caverns of those emerald-green eyes.

Ancient eyes. Centuries of brutal knowledge, blood, and death had passed before them—those eyes which were always faintly glowing with the overspill of magical power he couldn’t quite contain. He was at least five hundred years old. Strong enough to be the most powerful high priest Atlantis had ever known, or so some said.

Differences of opinion on that subject had been emerging, however. Politics. Like she gave a flying crap about politics. Bottom line: he didn’t look like a man who’d lived half a thousand years . . . until you looked into his eyes.

He was nearly six and a half feet of pure, primal warrior. His black hair had grown past his shoulders; it had been a few inches shorter when she’d first met him. Not much time for haircuts when a man was saving the world, probably.

She laughed to herself. He’d saved her life and broken her heart. Strange that healing one bullet wound could accomplish all of that.

She closed her eyes but could still see his face, as if it had imprinted on her mind with the strength of a hammer into molten brass. A face too strong—too male—to be called beautiful, but too perfect to be called anything else. All hard lines and sculpted angles. The face of a man who commanded absolute obedience, unqualified respect, and . . . something else. Something he’d never wanted.

Terror.

Vampires and rogue shape-shifters alike were terrified of the rumors and the reality. Quinn had heard men call him the high priest of death—but they never called him that to his face, or even very loudly. That, by itself, was no bad thing in a warrior priest, to be feared by his enemies.

But it was more than that. Even Alaric’s allies sometimes feared him, and Quinn had seen how brutal a blow that was to him. Poseidon’s high priest would be called a wizard of the highest level if he practiced his magic in the human hierarchy. Hell, he blew the hierarchy out of the water.

Ha. Water. Atlantis. She’d made a funny.

Alaric shifted to capture her in his hot green gaze, and she wondered if he knew she’d been thinking about him. Archelaus said something, and Alaric turned his head back toward the man, giving Quinn the chance to study him unobserved. Even in ripped and bloodstained clothes from the battle they’d just fought, his body was a seductive delight, worthy of starring in any woman’s fantasies. All hard muscle and perfect proportion. Even she, who’d spent the past decade or so surrounded by warriors and soldiers in her rebel army, had to admit that Alaric was in a class all by himself.

And he could never, ever, be hers. Even now, devastated and destroyed by what had happened to
Jack, she felt a dull pang at that.

He turned toward her again, and this time he stared a blazing path down her body. Probably looking for any injury he could heal with his magic. She, herself, wasn’t much to look at. It never failed to surprise her that an Atlantean god of a man would be interested in a scruffy, skinny freedom fighter who dressed in other people’s castoffs and hadn’t worn makeup since she was sixteen years old. Back when the world was innocent of all the dark and twisted things that did far worse than merely go bump in the night.

Alaric headed toward her with that nearly vampire-fast speed of his, and he was kneeling before her almost before she’d seen him take his first step.

“Are you injured?” It was command more than question. The Tell Me Now was implied.

“No.” She lifted her chin, knowing he’d read her defiance. Not caring much.

His eyes narrowed, and he gently grasped her jaw in one strong hand, tilting her chin to the side.
“You lie. Blood is seeping from this scrape on your neck.”

A pulse of blue-green light shimmered briefly, and she knew from the accompanying warmth that he’d healed her.

She attempted a smile. Failed. Settled for truth. “Your manners could use some work. ‘You lie.’ Really?”

He released her chin but rested his hand against her now-healed skin, as if unwilling to break the contact. “How is stating fact a breach of manners?”

This time, she did smile, although it was a mere quirk of her lips. He was untamed and always would be, like the other feral man in her life.

“Jack,” she said, her voice anguished. “Alaric, will we ever find a way to restore his humanity?”

Her warrior priest turned his powerful gaze to the tiger, lying so still on the ground.

“I will do all in my power, Quinn, but I cannot lie to you. The chances are not good.”

  • Excerpt from HEART OF ATLANTIS, December 4, 2012, by Alyssa Day

reviews

Nominated as Best Paranormal Romance of 2012 by Romantic Times Book Club

Jam-packed with mortal danger and full-throttle adventure, there is also a true romantic reckoning between these compelling protagonists. – Romantic Times Book Club, Top Pick!
 Nominated as Best Paranormal Romance of 2012 by Romantic Times Book Club

Touches of humor are intertwined throughout this story full of fights and romance enhancing it so you can’t bear to put it down. This action-packed book blends romance and paranormal perfectly[.] – Night Owl Romance Reviews, Top Pick!

Readers of this series have waited a LIFETIME for this final installment of Alyssa Day’s seductive, action packed, thrilling Warriors of Poseidon series. . . Heart of Atlantis is filled with taut suspense, delicious betrayal, and dangerous antagonists.—Smexy Books Romance Reviews

This was a wonderful book to end this series, whether it is the final end or just the end of the arc. Thank you, Alyssa Day for giving us this fabulous series, and such a wonderful group of Warriors and their mates.  Bravo Alyssa, for giving us a beautiful ending in Heart of Atlantis, as I loved every moment of it.—The Reading Café

HEART OF ATLANTIS brings readers back into a world that is brimming with mythology and history. Vast in its intensely complicated world building, Day has already created and cemented this unique world throughout the series and in this book, she really plays around with it. Readers are thrust into exotic locales filled with danger and intrigue. This book felt larger than life and I love that that sense of epic grandness was played up.—Under the Covers Book Blog

I have been reading the Warriors of Poseidon series since the first book, Atlantis Rising, was published in 2007. . . Each time I re-read this series, I fall in love with it again.—Seductive Musings

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