Acheron (Page 90)

Acheron (Dark-Hunter #15)(90)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Apollymi scoffed. "Do you think he would ever trust you to make a trade for her?"

"No. That’s why I’ve had my demons summon Jaden. Jaden will broker the deal. That way I know Acheron won’t use his powers against me and I won’t use my demons or powers against him."

Apollymi rolled her eyes at the ridiculous boast. She was ever amazed by the arrogance of people who seriously overestimated their abilities. "Little girl, you have no powers."

Satara laughed evilly. "Oh Apollymi, for all yours, you greatly underestimate me if you think that." She faded out.

If she rolled her eyes any further back, she’d go blind from it. Apollymi turned to Strykerius. "I understand the need for family, but if I were you, I’d let that one go before she drags you down to a depth so low you drown in it." Then she too faded back to her garden where she could speak to Apostolos alone.

As a mother, she hated delivering bad news to him and that made her hate Satara all the more. "There’s nothing I can do, m’gios. They’ve gone to Jaden who will contact you with the terms to get her back."

She could feel Apostolos’s impotent fury. "Matera-"

"They have the bracelets on Soteria. If I try anything, Satara will kill her."

He sighed wearily. "What do they want?"

"Ryssa’s journal."

"Which one?"

"They didn’t say, but I’m sure Jaden will tell you all you need to get her back." And once Satara was free of that bracelet, she was going to wish she’d never dared to cross Apollymi or her son.

Ash pulled away from his mother and wished her well. Right now he had bigger things to concern himself with. If Satara wanted one of the journals, there was only one reason.

She wanted to kill Artemis and Apollo.

"Damn it, Ryssa." Why had she always felt the need to journal her every thought? Yet those words had comforted him over the centuries.

Now they were the greatest threat he’d ever known.

He grimaced as a severe pain cut through his back. For that alone, he should let Satara have at Artemis.

But unfortunately, her death would end the world.

There was nothing to be done for it. He’d deal with Satara, but for now he had to secure Soteria.

Closing his eyes, he took himself back to their room in Sanctuary. He walked to the other side of the bed and froze.

There was no backpack.

What the hell? He looked around for it, but as he couldn’t even sense the items it contained, apprehension shrank his stomach tight. This wasn’t good. No one should have had access to this room or his backpack.

Leaving the room, he went outside to find Aimee who was waiting tables. She pulled aside into a quiet corner at his approach.

"Hey," he said in a low tone. "Have you seen anyone in our room upstairs?"

"No, why?"

"My backpack’s missing."

Unaware of how important it was, she frowned. "Let me go ask and see if someone knows something."

Ash tapped his thumb against his thigh as he struggled to locate the pack with his powers. Nothing came to him. It was as if it’d been sucked out of existence.

When Aimee returned shaking her head, he knew something had gone seriously wrong.

Since the backpack didn’t appear to be in the human realm and it wasn’t in Katoteros or Kalosis, there was only one more likely place.

Olympus.

Pissed to a level only Artemis could elevate him to, he went to her temple and found her sitting on her white chaise as if she hadn’t a care in the world. As if she hadn’t beaten every fragment of skin from his back. And when she looked at him with a cold, simpering smile of pride he knew she’d f**ked him over yet again.

"What did you do?" he demanded.

"I’ve done nothing."

"Don’t lie to me, Artemis. I’m not in the mood."

At least that succeeded in wiping the stupid smile off her face. "I’m not lying to you. You haven’t asked me any real questions."

He hated playing the literal game with her. "Fine. My backpack’s missing. Have you seen it?"

It appeared instantly at his feet.

Artemis let out a slow breath of disgust. "I don’t know why you love that matted out rag."

"Ratted out."

"Whatever. You should think about getting a new one."

Ash didn’t respond as he knelt down to search it. The moment he opened it, his fury ripped through him with a renewed vigor. "Where are Ryssa’s journals?"

"Safe."

Yeah and she so wasn’t at the moment. "That is not an acceptable answer."

She rose slowly from the chaise in a swirl of red hair and white cloth. She was regal and cold as she raked him with a snarl. "It’s the only answer you’re going to get. Those books posed a risk to me and I’ve now illuminated it."

"Eliminated, Artemis. Damn, learn to speak." He jerked the backpack closed before he stood to confront her eye to eye. "Those journals are my property. I want them returned to me, right now, along with my mother’s medallions and the Atlantean dagger."

She didn’t even have the sense to look scared. "No."

Ash roared at her as she continued to taunt him with her nonchalance. "Don’t test me!"

"Or what?" she snapped. "We both know you’d never hurt me. You’ve sworn it. I’m safe from your wrath." She actually smiled at him as if his anger amused her. "Forget your human and I’ll forgive you for what you’ve done." She reached to touch his face where she’d slapped him earlier.

Ash grabbed her hand to prevent it. "I want my property back."

Her nostrils flared. "And I want mine. Shall we make an even exchange? You for the journals."

"I’m not your property, Artemis."

"Then I don’t know what you’re talking about with the journals and other matters."

He tightened his grip on her wrist, wanting to slap her so badly that he was amazed he kept himself in check. "Did you ever really love me? Even a little?"

"Of course I did."

He knew better. She wasn’t capable of it. Disgusted, he shoved her hand away from him. "But only because I belonged to you and you alone. Even as a god, you don’t think of me as your equal. To you I’ve never been anything more than a toy to be discarded when you’re bored or through with me." He stepped back from her. He picked his backpack up and slung it over his shoulder, intending to leave.

She followed him. "If you want to save the life of your human, Acheron, you have to give me what I want. Swear to me that you’ll never touch or see her again and you can have your stupid journals and toys."

Ash looked at her as desolate pain tore through him. In all his life, he’d wanted only one thing. Someone to make him feel the way Tory did whenever she looked at him.

And now Artemis was demanding he give that up.

To save Tory’s life.

His back burned from Artemis’s anger, reminding him of how broken their relationship was. How could he go back to her when he’d found something so much better?

Then again what good would standing his ground do if Tory were dead? Could he live with the thought that she’d died because of him?

There has to be a way out of this. You’re a god, not some worthless pawn.

No, he was through playing this game. "I won’t pay your price, Artemis. And you should know that by asking it, you’ve severed the last vestige of me that ever cared for you."

She laughed bitterly. "You’ll be back, begging for me to help you. Begging for the life of your pitiful human. I know you, Acheron."

He shook his head in denial. "No, you don’t. And that’s the most pathetic part of the sum of us. In all these centuries, you’ve never bothered to learn the most basic thing about me at all."

His heart sick with worry for Tory and hatred for Artemis, Ash returned to Sanctuary to page Jaden. Unlike many of the gods, Jaden refused to embrace modern technology. He’d banned all cell phones from working anywhere near him, but Ash had managed to talk him into a beeper so that he could at least page the broker so that they could partake of the one thing Jaden did like about the modern age.

Video games.

He’d barely dialed the number before Jaden appeared beside him looking as ill as Ash felt.

"Is Tory all right?"

Jaden crossed his arms over his chest and nodded. "She’s angry and indignant-not that I blame her in the least-but she hasn’t been hurt."

Thank the gods for that. But it was only an extremely temporary relief. "I don’t have the journal they want."

Jaden let out a low whistle. "That is going to be a problem. Can you get it?"

The answer would have made him laugh if it wasn’t so sickening. "If I swear myself to eternal slavery to Artemis. Yes."

Jaden snorted. "I’d rather trade places with Prometheus and have my innards ripped out every day."

"So would I."

"Then what are you going to do?"

That seemed to be the question of the day. If only he had some solution. "Can you buy me some time?"

Jaden hedged. "Demons aren’t exactly patient as a rule and particularly in this case. They seem to think that the journal will somehow free them."

"Free them from what?"

"Being servants. Living underground. Having to suffer the presence of Daimons and their stench-can’t really blame them there. Escaping death matches with you and Sin every time they pop out of the ground-again can’t blame them for that. But still . . ." Jaden shook his head in bitter amusement. "You have to remember that what we’re dealing with here are Sumerian gallu demons. The next to the lowest form of demon on the demon food chain. They’re simple demons really. Lowly. You know . . . morons."

Ash snorted. "They were bright enough to take her out of a Were sanctuary without getting caught."

Jaden arched a single brow over that. "That could probably bring Savitar over."

He wished. But their laws didn’t work that way. "Humans aren’t a protected class."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Savitar shares your ‘all humans are vermin’ mind set."

One corner of Jaden’s mouth twisted into an evil smirk. "I wouldn’t say all humans are vermin. They do have their uses-especially the females for brief periods of time. They’re just so . . . pathetically human."

"Which is why you deal with demons."

"Who are even more pathetic than humans when you think about it. Personally, I’d rather play video games. Wouldn’t it be great if we could suck the souls of the people we hated into the box, shoot them down and then dance in their entrails?"

Acheron rolled his eyes at the glee in Jaden’s voice. "You woke up on the wrong side of the oak tree, didn’t you?"

"Yeah. I have my own issues to deal with and, right now, the primary issue appears to be f**king over one of my only friends. I’ll do my damnedest to buy you some time with the demons, but you need to come up with a miracle quickly." He started to fade out.

"Hey, Jaden?" Ash waited until he’d rematerialized before he spoke again. "Thank you. I know you don’t have to do what you’re doing for me and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it."

"It’s okay. I’m sure one day I’m going to need help bending some rules backwards. And when I ask for your help I don’t want to hear any shit from you."

"Anytime, agriato."

Jaden inclined his head respectfully to him as Ash spoke in Jaden’s native tongue and called him brother. It wasn’t a language the demon broker heard often. He gave Ash a slight imperial bow before he vanished.

Ash stood alone in the room that seemed so empty without Tory here to fill it. Though she was tall, she was very slight of frame, almost frail in appearance and yet her spirit was so enormous that it filled the emptiness inside him in a way nothing had before.

Just trade yourself to Artemis for her and be done with it.

"You are not a whore to be bartered and sold!" He swore he could hear Tory’s indignant voice in his head. And for the first time in his existence, he didn’t feel like one.

Ash lifted his chin as a surge of pride and power swept away the pain of his beating. The pain that had lived inside him for so long that he’d almost forgotten anything else.

Taking a deep breath, he let his true voice out and spoke the words that now burned inside him. "I am the god Apostolos. The Harbinger of Telikos. The Final Fate of all. Beloved son of Apollymi the Great Destroyer. My will makes the will of the universe. I am not your whore, Artemis, and I will never be your slave."

He was through bartering and playing. Tory had done something no one else ever had. She’d given him self worth and a resolve he’d never known before. A woman like Soteria Kafieri wouldn’t love a piece of shit. She wouldn’t love a whore who crawled at the command of a goddess he despised.

No, Tory deserved more than that. And the love he felt for her made him better than his past. He loved her not only for who and what she was, but for the way she made him feel every time she looked at him.

No one was ever going to hurt her so long as there was breath in his body.

If Satara wanted a fight for Soteria, the bitch was going to get one.

CHAPTER 18

Tory ground her teeth at the indignity of her stance. Her hands were chained over her head to a board. Her legs had a degree more freedom, but they too were chained into a wide stance and she hated it. It was so degrading to be held like this and to not be able to get free. She couldn’t even scratch the itch on her nose and it was making her crazy.