Dream-Hunter (Page 32)

Dream-Hunter (Dark-Hunter #11)(32)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Geary knew then that M’Adoc wasn’t lying. "Is this true, Arik?"

He cursed before he shoved M’Adoc again. "I have no intention of fulfilling that bargain."

M’Adoc looked at her. "As I said, he has no conviction. We don’t understand human emotion and we can’t handle it. When he returns to his true god state, he will come back here for you and kill you. As promised."

"Bullshit!" Arik roared.

Geary wanted to believe in Arik’s rage. She needed to. But part of her was drawn toward M’Adoc. He made a convincing argument.

He looked at his brother with those cold, unfeeling eyes and it made her wonder if that’s what Arik would look like once his time had expired. "You know it’s true, Arik. When you are no longer corrupted by human emotion and Hades tells you to kill her you will do it. You won’t have a choice and you won’t have any feelings left for her."

"Never!"

"Not even when you’re chained in Tartarus, under Hades’ constant abuse?"

Arik flinched. He couldn’t help himself. Too many centuries of torture hit him at once, and those had been doled out by Hypnos. No one was better at making a god suffer than Hades. Everyone knew that.

Arik met Megeara’s worried gaze.

"He’s telling the truth, isn’t he, Arik?"

Arik watched as she backed away from them. He released M’Adoc and turned to face her. "Megeara, please…"

She shook her head back and forth as she looked at him as if he were scum. That look cut him straight to the marrow of his bones. "Why didn’t you tell me about this?"

"Because I was stupid, okay? I didn’t want to hurt you." He reached for her, but she stepped away.

"You intended to kill me?"

He tried to explain, but his tongue seemed to thicken in his mouth as fear seized him. How could he even begin to make her understand? "It wasn’t like that."

"Then explain it to me."

"I’d already made the deal when Hades set down the terms. I had no choice. He sent me here before I could even try to renegotiate."

"And so you intended to kill me," she repeated.

"In the beginning, yes, but-"

"But what?" she asked, her tone ragged with pain and rage. "There’s no but here, Arik. You fully intended to kill me. How could you?"

"He’s Skoti."

"Shut up!" he snarled at M’Adoc. Arik turned back toward Megeara. "Please, baby." He reached for her again.

She stepped back. "Don’t touch me."

Arik couldn’t breathe as he saw the tears in her eyes. The betrayal. She was hurting, he knew it. He could feel it like his own pain. It cut through him, lacerating his heart. "I would never hurt you. You have to believe that."

"Great words for a man who’d planned my death from the beginning, huh?"

She was right. How could he ever convince her that he’d changed? He was Skoti and Skoti were nothing.

He turned on his brother, hating him for telling her. "Damn you, M’Adoc."

"There’s nothing to damn me over, Arik. I’m not the one in the wrong here. You are. You should never have made that bargain."

He wanted to kill M’Adoc for this. But he was right. It’d been wrong of Arik to come here. He should have been content to stay with her in her dreams.

M’Adoc spoke calmly. "Skoti are forever selfish, Megeara. It’s why we must police them. They become mad with their hunger to the point they don’t care who they harm or how they harm them so long as they get what they want. Arik wanted you and so he was willing to kill you for it." He met Arik’s gaze. "If you truly mean what you say now, then for once, do the decent thing. Surrender yourself to me."

Every instinct inside Arik rebelled at the very idea of it. Every one. They would kill him and he knew it.

But then he would die anyway. Hades would never allow him to renege on their bargain. No one backed out of a deal with the devil.

And perhaps this was the kindest end. Megeara hated him now. She thought him the lowest of forms. If he left with M’Adoc, she wouldn’t grieve for him or ask herself if maybe there was something she could have done to save him.

She would be at peace.

That would be the best gift he could give her.

"He’s right, Megeara," Arik said, forcing all emotions out of his tone. "I would have killed you once I returned to my natural state. I’m sorry."

Geary couldn’t breathe as he spoke those words. Part of her had still believed in him over M’Adoc. She didn’t want to think that her Arik could ever harm her.

But if what they said was true…

It stung her so deep in her heart that she felt as if she’d die from the pain.

Arik turned to M’Adoc and whispered something to him. She couldn’t hear it, but M’Adoc inclined his head before Arik sighed. "Then I’m ready to go."

His crystal gaze met hers and the love she saw there singed her to the spot. "Good-bye, Megeara."

She noted the satisfaction in M’Adoc’s eyes.

Satisfaction…

" Even in human form we feel nothing." M’Adoc should have no emotions at all. None.

But he was satisfied.

Realizing that if M’Adoc could feel, he could lie, she opened her mouth to stop them. But before she could make a single sound, M’Adoc placed his hand on Arik’s shoulder and the two of them vanished from the boat.

"No!" Geary shouted, her heart pounding as reality crashed through her.

Arik was gone.

He was going to kill you, her mind tried to rationalize. But the scariest bit was that part of her didn’t even care. It wanted him back no matter what.

She felt the boat slowing down.

Kat came out on deck and approached her slowly. "Where’s Arik?"

Unable to even begin to explain Arik’s disappearance, Geary burst out laughing hysterically until she started crying and gesturing hopelessly toward the prow. She honestly felt like she was having a nervous breakdown. How could she tell Kat everything? The woman would think her crazy and who could blame her?

Gods in the real world? None of this would be believed. Ever.

Kat scowled. "Hon, are you okay?"

"No," she said, trying to gain a handle on herself. "No, I’m not."

Kat cocked her head in a gesture that reminded Geary of Solin whenever he was "listening" for

something preternatural.

"What are you doing?" Geary asked.

Kat let out an uncharacteristic curse. "M’Adoc was here? How could you let him take Arik?"

That snapped Geary out of her hysteria.

Surely, not…

"If you tell me that you’re one of them, then I’m absolutely going to freak out."

Kat’s face was deadly earnest. "Then you better freak."

"Good God, is no one what they seem? Is Kichka the Egyptian goddess Bast in disguise?"

"No, Kichka is a cat."

Uh-huh. She was supposed to believe that after the bomb Kat had just dropped on her? "And let me guess. You’re a god, too, right? Which one? Athena? Hera? Oh, what the heck? Aphrodite?"

Kat gave her a droll stare. "No. I’m not a god. I’m a servant to Artemis."

"Artemis?" Yeah. That just sounded so much better… not. "The goddess of the hunt, huh?" Geary looked down at the wood deck. "There must be some kind of vapors coming up off the floor of the sea-like the oracle of Delphi. That’s why I’m seeing and hearing all this insanity." She nodded, liking the sound of that argument. "I’m hallucinating, aren’t I?"

"Oh, get a grip," Kat said irritably. "If you can accept Solin, Arik, and M’Adoc, you can certainly accept me, too."

"One would think that, wouldn’t they? But I’ve known you too long to think that all this time you’ve been hiding a secret like this from me."

"And now you know why I wasn’t thrilled when you found Atlantis and wanted to start digging around the city."

Well, since she put it that way, it did make sense. "And were you in on my death plan with Arik, too?

Are you the one who killed my father?"

Kat’s eyes blazed in anger. "Excuse me? You don’t need to be tossing around ludicrous accusations like that. I had nothing to do with your father’s death. I loved that man. He was weird and strange, but I loved him and I would have done anything to keep him safe. While you were off in America, I was here with him, doing the best I could to help him and keep him alive even though he was bent on killing himself."

Tears filled Geary’s eyes at the truth. "I’m sorry, Kat. I’m just upset and I don’t mean to be taking it out on you."

Kat nodded. "No offense, but you should be sorry. How could you let M’Adoc take Arik?"

"Arik was going to kill me."

"Hardly."

"It’s true," Geary said past the lump in her throat. "Arik admitted it."

Still, Kat scoffed. "Arik loves you, Geary. It’s so obvious it’s painful. No man, god or otherwise, watches over a woman the way he does you and then lets her die, never mind kills her. That’s just stupid."

"Yeah, he loves me now, but when he loses his emotions next week, what then? M’Adoc said that he’d kill me without question. He said that Arik would have no emotions or choice but to do as they said."

There, it sounded rational. Kind of.

"Arik?" Kat asked incredulously. "Do what he was told? Please. He hasn’t followed the directions of any god in thousands of years. That’s why he’s Skoti."

All of Geary’s fears that M’Adoc was lying came rushing back. "What are you saying, Kat?"

"No offense to you, kid, but what I’m saying is that you just ordered a man who loves you to his death."

CHAPTER 18

WITH HIS HANDS CUFFED BEHIND HIS BACK, ARIK DIDN’T flinch or struggle as M’Adoc hauled him into the sanctity of the triumvirate’s hall. He’d never been inside this place before, not even in dreams. It was the sacred domain of the triumvirate who zealously guarded it from all the rest of their kin.

No one knew why, but Arik had to give the guys credit. It was an opulent palace made of glass and gold that they’d constructed here. It was fit for a dream god and even Zeus would be at home… The council room where they were was decadently comfortable with padded chairs and even a laptop computer that was so out of place as to be funny… if Arik wasn’t about to die.

M’Ordant was seated before it, and as they came in he looked up with an unguarded expression that showed both confusion and shock-two emotions he shouldn’t have. "Damn, M’Adoc, how did you manage this one?"

M’Adoc shoved Arik against the solid glass table, the corner of which bit into his hip bone and bruised him. He had to grind his teeth to keep from lashing out at M’Adoc. But Arik had given his word and so long as the god kept his and didn’t harm Megeara, Arik would submit even though it went against every part of his genetic makeup to do so.

M’Adoc shrugged as he moved to stand beside Arik. "He surrendered willingly. In exchange for our keeping his human safe."

There was no missing the stunned look on M’Ordant’s face.

"Was there no fight?"

Arik turned his head slightly as he heard D’Alerian’s deep voice from behind him. He couldn’t see him, but he could feel D’Alerian’s presence. Of the three of them, his had an unmistakable aura. He wasn’t the most powerful, but his presence could be felt all the way to the marrow of someone’s bones.

"He knew better than to fight me," M’Adoc said in a sinister tone.

"Get over yourself, M’Adoc," Arik snarled. "You had nothing to do with this. There was no need in my staying in the human realm any longer since all you did was hurt Megeara by telling her of my bargain with Hades." She would never forgive him, and that hurt even more than a thousand beatings. Strange how originally the thought of her death had meant nothing to him. Now he grieved over every tear and doubly over the ones he caused her. "Just take me to Hades and end it."

M’Adoc took him by the arm. His lips were twisted as he raked Arik with a sneer. "Oh no, Arikos. I don’t think so. See, I hand you over to Hades and he’s going to start questioning how it is you have so many emotions that you’re willing to surrender yourself to save a simple human’s soul."

"Because Hades made him human," D’Alerian answered in a dry, stoic tone. "There won’t be any questions over it. It would only stand to reason."

M’Adoc turned on him with a hiss. "Are you willing to take that chance?"

D’Alerian’s jaw flexed. "There’s no chance involved, Adarian. He is human, by Hades’ command, and he acted as a human. The god would expect no less."

Arik frowned as D’Alerian used M’Adoc’s real name, Adarian. As part of their punishment and to push them away from the idea that they were individuals of any merit, many of the original Oneroi had been stripped of their names and given new ones to designate their roles. D’ meant that D’Alerian was normally assigned to watch over immortals such as the Dark-Hunters. V designated a human helper-as an Oneroi, Arik’s name had been V’Arik or V’Arikos, which he now hated since it sounded like a vein condition. And the M’ was reserved for those who policed them all. There were many who called D’Alerian M’Alerian. But for reasons no one understood, D’Alerian continued to use the name they’d given him before he’d risen to the ruling ranks.