Acheron (Page 67)

Acheron (Dark-Hunter #15)(67)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

He held his hand up to her so that she could place hers against his. It was the closest they could come to touching. Part of him wanted to release her at any cost.

But having suffered the way he had, he couldn’t live knowing he’d hurt someone else like that. At least not unless they deserved it.

"Go with my love, Apostolos. Do us both proud."

Fading back to New Orleans, he stood on the balcony of his apartment at 622 Pirates Alley that overlooked the courtyard of the St. Louis Cathedral. It was dark, but he could hear the music drifting up from the Old Absinthe House below, as well as laughter and chattering from people on the street. There were Daimons in the alley stalking victims, but before he could even worry about it, Janice was there. He watched the Trini Dark-Hunter follow them toward Royal Street where he knew she’d dispose of them.

Tonight he had bigger concerns than the Daimons who trolled from victims. Someone had a journal Ryssa should never have written. He could go back in time and seize it, but he didn’t know how that would disrupt the present. What changes it could incur. It could all work out well.

Or the earth could end.

He leaned against the railing, considering his options. Had he already sown his own destruction? He’d given Tory a key that had seemed harmless and now she was the greatest threat he could think of.

Protect the girl, Apostolos. Keep her safe . . .

He cocked his head at his mother’s voice inside his head. "What are you saying, Matera?"

I shouldn’t tell you this, but the survival of the world hinges on hers. Keep her safe.

Ash laughed as he was struck by a line from the TV show Heroes. Save the cheerleader. Save the world.

"Why are you telling me this?" he asked.

Because I love you. Now go.

Ash hesitated, but at the end of the day he knew the truth. His mother wouldn’t have told him that unless it was truly important.

Fine, he’d protect Soteria.

And he would protect himself.

"What are you doing, Apollymi?"

Apollymi turned away from her fountain to find Savitar standing in her garden looking angry at her. "Get out, you bastard."

He refused to move. "You shouldn’t have told him that."

She lifted her chin in defiance of the Chthonian. For all his power, he was no match for her and he knew it. "Who are you to lecture me on what should and shouldn’t be done?"

His eyes flashed from lavender to silver and then turned a dark vibrant blue. "You are tampering with fate."

She snarled at him. "I am protecting my son. If that’s a crime, then punish me. Oh wait, I’m already being punished for protecting him. So be it."

Savitar narrowed his eyes on her. "This isn’t a game."

"No, it isn’t. I don’t play those. I never have." She started past him, but he caught her arm and stopped her.

"I didn’t have to contain the powers of the gods you destroyed on Atlantis the way I did when you went wild on them. But for me, the other Chthonians would have torn you apart for that."

Apollymi refused to be intimidated by him or anyone else. "So what? You want me to thank you?" She snatched her arm free of his grip. "The only thanks I owe you is for helping Apostolos learn his powers. For that, I will always be grateful to you. But that’s as far as my gratitude goes. If you really think I fear you or those other mortal gods you run with, think again. In this universe, only the primal source outpowers me. There is nothing I fear."

His expression turned cold, brutal. "Not true. You fear the loss of your son and so long as you fear that, you’re as controllable as the rest of us."

She hated the fact he was right. "Don’t push me, Savitar."

"And don’t push me. You may be a goddess by birth, but I’m a lot more than just a Chthonian and you know that. I survived a hell you can’t even imagine and its fires forged a core of steel within me. You want a battle, pick your sword. But remember the number of gods before you who sought to kill me and failed."

She raked him with a heated glower. "In turn, you’d do well to remember that I destroyed not only my entire pantheon, but my very family to protect my child. Don’t get in my way, or we will find out once and for all which of us wields the most powerful sword."

Savitar wanted to choke her for her obstinacy. But then she’d always been this way. Stubborn to the core of her being. "Fine, but consider what happened the last time you tried to protect him. The suffering your tampering caused Apostolos. Is that really what you want?"

Her eyes teared up and he hated himself for giving her that pain. "Damn you."

He scoffed. "I was damned long before this. Let fate unfold as it should, Apollymi. I beg you to stay out of this. For all our sakes."

Her crystal tears glittered like diamonds on her dark blond lashes. "Keep him alive for me, Savitar. Otherwise you know what will happen."

He inclined his head. "I will do what I can but in the end we both know that only Apostolos can make the fate we want for him."

Because if Acheron screwed this up, he wouldn’t be alone in his suffering.

The entire world would be destroyed.


Ash knocked on Tory’s front door. He heard the women giggling like girls in the living room before Kim snatched the door open and gave him a devilish grin that made him nervous.

"You like black, don’t you, Ash?"

Not sure if he should answer, he frowned. "It’s okay."

"But what’s your favorite color?" she asked, stepping back so that he could enter the house.

He walked in and wondered if maybe he shouldn’t be running in the other direction. What were they up to? "I’ve never thought about it."

Pam cleared her throat. "But if you had to pick one, what would it be?"

He flexed his hand on the strap of his backpack. "Anything not white." That was Artemis’s favorite color and the thought of it made him sick to his stomach.

Tory huffed at his evasive answer. "Could you narrow that down a bit?"

Pam tsked. "She’s not going to let you have peace until you answer."

Still apprehensive over what they had planned, he shrugged. "Uh, okay. Red I guess. Why?"

Something came flying at his head. Without flinching Ash caught it and it squeaked. Scowling, he opened his hand to find a small red demon duck that had black horns . . . it strangely reminded him of Simi in her demon form.

He scowled at the women. "Uh . . . thank you?"

They burst out laughing.

Ash glanced around at them as Kim moved to sit beside Pam. "You ever feel like you’ve just walked into the middle of a movie and they forgot to tell you what it’s about?"

Kim waved her hand in dismissal. "Happens to me all the time at work. I just go with it."

Pam laughed. "Which is really bad when you consider she’s a labor and delivery nurse."

"Oh shush," Kim said, playfully hitting at her friend on the arm.

Pam and Kim grabbed their jackets from the couch. Pam shrugged hers on. "Well since Ash is back, we’ll leave the two of you alone. Ash, if she throws another hammer at you, let us know and we’ll take her to task for you."

Baffled, he didn’t move or speak again until after they’d left. "You have interesting friends."

Tory locked the door as she smiled in pride. "No, I have the best friends in the world. I don’t know what I’d do without them."

Ash felt his heart sink as he thought of Nick. "Yeah I had one of those once."

She turned to him with a frown. "What happened?"

He slept with Simi and I killed him for it. Well, not in actuality. He’d only cursed Nick to die which was the same thing as having pulled the trigger that ended Nick’s life. "We don’t talk anymore."

They only fought and tried to kill each other. And it was all his fault. In one fit of anger, Ash had destroyed their friendship.

She placed a comforting hand on his arm. He was sure she thought nothing of it and yet it touched him deep inside that she would even bother to reach out to him at all. "I’m so sorry, Ash. I can’t imagine what I’d do without my girls. It’s so comforting to know that I can call on them anytime of day or night and they’d be here as soon as they could. Everyone should have friends like that."

"Yes, they should."

Tory picked up the pizza remains as she remembered Ash telling her that he had no family either. "So who do you call whenever you’re down?"

He shrugged off his backpack. "I don’t."

She paused. "You don’t ever get down or you don’t call anyone?"

He looked around the room. "So am I sleeping on the couch?"

She didn’t miss the fact he was changing the subject away from the personal topic. "No, I have a spare bedroom upstairs. You can even leave your backpack there and have no fear that I’ll touch it."

He nodded slowly.

The silence was a bit awkward as she tossed the pizza boxes in a garbage can. "We finally got everything the burglars screwed up put back in place. OCD reigns supreme once again."

"Good. Did you figure out what was missing?"

She ground her teeth at the innocent question. "Nothing."


"Obviously they were looking for something that wasn’t here-like you and the police thought. Which makes me wonder when they’ll come back."

"You want to go to a hotel to sleep then? I’d offer you my place, but I only have a one-bedroom efficiency. At four hundred square feet, there’s not a lot of room for two people."

Wow, that was a small place to call home and it told her a lot about his solitary nature. "Do a lot of entertaining, do you?"

He smiled. "I told you, I like to be alone. But I do have some friends we could crash with if that would make you feel more comfortable. Their places are huge and you’d have plenty of room to get away from me. I’m sure some of them even have toolboxes should you need them."

She patted his arm again as she laughed at his gentle jibe. "If it makes you feel any better, I missed you on purpose with the hammer. I’m a championship hatchet and ax thrower. Believe me, if I’d really wanted to hurt you, I would have."

He snorted. "Not really comforting from my perspective. You don’t date much, do you?"

Tory laughed again as she thought about that. "I try, but it never goes well for me."


"Yeah. It’s like I’m cursed or something. Any time I get really close to a guy, he either discovers he’s g*y or he has a freak accident and decides to break up with me."

"Freak accidents that include hammers?"

She rolled her eyes. "No, but one guy did break his leg while trying to climb into bed with me. Kind of put a major kibosh on my love life. Not to mention a serious blow to the ego. Oh well . . . you haven’t eaten. Would you like some food?"

He shook his head. "No thanks. I grabbed a sandwich at my place."

She looked at him suspiciously as she tossed away the last of the beer bottles. "You know we’re Greek. We’re supposed to eat and eat a lot."

"That’s a bad stereotype."

"Not in my family, it isn’t. In fact, it’s more like an Olympic sport. My aunt Del is a twig of a woman who has been thrown out of all-you-can-eat buffets because she plows through food like a line-backer in training camp. In my family, we women cook and you men eat. That’s just the natural order."

Ash crossed his arms over his chest as he noticed the curve of her ass as she bent over to pick up a small napkin that had fallen on the floor. Damn, that position went through him like fire as an image of her doing that nak*d tortured him. He could make some serious use out of her like that . . .

His breathing suddenly ragged, it was all he could do not to reach out and cup her in a place that was guaranteed to get him slapped hard. Then again, it might be worth it.

"Well I truly don’t eat much so don’t worry about feeding me."

She straightened to scowl at him. "Are you like some sort of weird vampire? You never take off your sunglasses and you only subsist on beer . . . then again, that also sounds like a frat boy and I have seen you out in daylight . . . So ends my vampire fantasy."

If only his fantasy of her nak*d would end as easily. "And on that note," which was a little close to home for his tastes, "I’m going to take my stuff upstairs. Which way do I go?"

"Second door."

Ash headed for the stairs and as he ascended them, the family photos on the wall struck him again. Tory was so completely normal. He’d spent so little time around people like her that he couldn’t help but smile.

But more than that, he wondered what it would be like to have grown up in such a large family environment, loved. Everyone looked so happy in all the photos. Tory was standing with cousins in Greece as they hugged each other. There were more photos of them in Theo’s deli in New York.

His favorite was one of Tory around the age of fourteen on a boat with Geary. The two of them were wearing brown wide-brimmed hats with white sunblock on their noses while they were locked in an embrace and laughing. Before he could stop himself, he reached out to touch her face. And against his will, he tried to imagine someone holding on to him like that, someone who was that happy to be with him.