Geary froze at his words as dread consumed her. "Arik did what?"
Solin looked ill. "Oh, don’t tell me you didn’t know that, either?"
" No," Kat said, stressing the word. "She didn’t."
Solin wiped his hand over his face. "Okay, I’m just going to stand here and be quiet."
"It’s too late, Solin," Kat said from between clenched teeth. "You’ve already done your damage."
"Wait," Geary said as her mind whirled with thoughts. She looked down at the leather-bound book in her hands. "We can save Arik."
They exchanged a frown before Kat shook her head. "I don’t see how."
"Oh c’mon, you’re both in the pantheon. Shades have been brought back before." She held the book out to them. "Look at Orpheus and Eurydice. Hades allowed her to leave."
Solin snorted. "That’s one example out of thousands Hades has denied, and laughed at while he did so."
Geary glared at him. "I thought you were going to be quiet."
"As much as I hate to admit it, he’s right," Kat said with a sigh. "Not to mention Eurydice never made it out. Orpheus looked back before he reached the surface, and she was snatched right back into the Underworld. Hades is a selfish bastard that way. He never willingly lets go of a soul."
Apollymi cleared her throat in Geary’s mind. " Were you not listening to me earlier? Why do I even bother? Just call me Circe or Cassandra for all the attention I’m paid. Why do I have to resort to them anyway? Ferandia would be a better example, but since she’s Atlantean no one knows that story, do they? No. So I have to resort to those insipid Greek tales, half of which were stolen from us. But that’s another matter. Point is, no one ever listens to a trapped goddess…"
Laughing in spite of everything, Geary realized Apollymi was right and she was going to take the goddess’s earlier advice. She looked up at Solin. "Oh, Mr. Dream Master, where’s Persephone?"
Solin narrowed his eyes. "You’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking, are you?"
Kat grinned. "You want to move the mountain, you give it something it can’t resist. Geary and Apollymi are right. Hades won’t even look at us. But he listens to his wife. We need her."
Solin was still shaking his head. "And if she won’t help?"
"I’m not going to think about that," Geary said sternly. "I can’t afford to."
Solin looked reluctant, but in the end he agreed with them. "All right then, let’s go."
"None of you are going anywhere."
Geary froze as M’Adoc appeared in the doorway before them.
And he wasn’t alone.
GEARY TOOK A STEP BACK AT THE SIGHT OF M’ADOC AND the Dolophoni… at least that’s who she assumed they were. There were three of them, but she’d never seen them before. Unlike the first group, these were all women. Dressed in black leather, with black hair, nails, and lipstick, they looked mean and nasty. They were also fanged, with eyes so dark, she couldn’t even see where the pupils ended and the irises began. All they needed was snakes in their hair to be even…
Oh wait, one of them had that. Black snakes slithered out of her ponytail to curl around her neck and hiss at them. Lovely. Just lovely.
Solin moved to stand in front of Geary and Kat. "This is over, M’Adoc."
"No, it isn’t. Not until she’s"-he indicated Geary with a jerk of his chin-"dead. Now either you and Katra can hand her over and leave or you two can bleed."
Solin let out an exaggerated breath. "Looks like I’m bleeding then. Unlike some people I know"-he duplicated M’Adoc’s action, indicating him with his chin-" I keep my word."
M’Adoc narrowed his eyes before he turned his head to address the women over his shoulder. "Kill them."
Geary tensed for the coming fight. Before she could even blink, Kat turned to her and grabbed her. Kat whispered something in Atlantean and then she kissed Geary fast on the lips.
Stunned beyond belief, Geary closed her eyes as she felt something hot and powerful spreading through her body and Kat stepped away to confront the others. For a full ten seconds Geary couldn’t move as indescribable power filled her. It was comparable to when she’d held Apollymi’s medallion in her mouth, only this felt stronger, deadlier. And this time she was definitely in charge and not someone else. The power was incredible. It was as if her brain was alive and growing.
And when she opened her eyes, she no longer saw in the same colors. Everything was more vibrant
now. More vivid.
The snake-haired woman seized her. Without thought, Geary dodged the punch and returned the blow with one so fierce, it knocked the woman off her feet and sent her flying. Literally. She cleared the ground by a good five feet before she slammed into the wall and fell to the floor. The snakes hissed and strained in anger.
Kat dispelled her attacker every bit as easily. But Solin appeared to be reticent to strike his. However, when the woman backhanded him and laid open his cheek, he changed his mind. Head-butting her, he knocked her to the ground, then turned to face M’Adoc.
The three women came to their feet to renew the fight. They took a step forward in unison.
Geary was expecting it to be Zebulon, but it wasn’t. Instead, there was another Dream-Hunter who was leaner than M’Adoc and Solin. He appeared between them and held his hand up for the women who strangely obeyed him. His ebony hair was long and braided down his back. He was dressed all in black and held a look that said "I’m in the mood to kill anyone who pisses me off." But more than that, there was an aura of power around him so strong that it actually made the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
"Whose side are you on, D’Alerian?" Solin asked as he wiped the blood away from his face with the back of his hand.
"Ours," another man answered as he appeared beside D’Alerian. Equal in height to D’Alerian, he wore his black hair cropped short and had on a pair of jeans and a -button-down shirt. His eyes seemed to be a blue so pale, they looked colorless. Those eyes were eerie and deadly as they settled on Geary with purpose.
M’Adoc smiled in approval. "So you finally see my way of things."
It was D’Alerian who answered. "No. We can’t let you kill the human. It’s wrong and this isn’t who and what we are. We protect, we don’t assassinate."
Kat and Solin exchanged a puzzled frown.
"What’s going on here, M’Ordant?" Solin asked the newcomer.
"We’re taking M’Adoc into custody."
M’Adoc cursed. "Are you insane? You can’t do this."
D’Alerian turned to face him. "Yes, we can, and yes, we are."
The women looked confused but didn’t interfere as D’Alerian covered M’Adoc with some sort of shimmery web. M’Adoc tried to fight, but it held him tight and constricted more with every movement.
Finally, it was so tight that all he could do was curse them.
"It’s called a diktyon ," Kat answered Geary’s unasked question. "It’s something Artemis uses to capture animals and not hurt them. Although how they"-she indicated the Dream-Hunters-"ended up with one
of them I don’t know."
D’Alerian looked at the women. "Your services are no longer required. Furies, return."
They vanished instantly while M’Adoc continued to curse the others. "Do you understand what you’re doing? What the gods will do to us?"
D’Alerian’s eyes were sad and dark. "Sometimes our worst enemies are ourselves, M’Adoc. You are becoming the very thing they fear us to be, and that we can’t allow." He met Geary’s gaze. "You understand that you can never speak a word of us to anyone?"
Like this was something she’d be bantering about? Yeah, right. "Who would ever believe me?" she asked seriously.
D’Alerian nodded in approval. He took a small ring from his pinkie and placed it in Geary’s palm. "I know what you plan and I wish you luck with it. Give this to Persephone and tell her that Neco supports you, that you’re calling in the favor she owes him."
Geary was baffled by his actions and his words. "What?"
He closed her hand over the ring. "Don’t question it, Megeara. Just do it."
Grateful and amused by his commanding tone, she couldn’t help teasing him. "You’re a bossy bunch, aren’t you?"
One corner of M’Ordant’s lips twisted. "You’ve no idea." An instant later, he vanished with M’Adoc in tow.
D’Alerian offered her a kind smile before he released her.
"What’s really going on?" Solin asked D’Alerian as he turned to leave.
The humor fled from his face and he returned to being stoic again as he addressed Solin over his shoulder. "Nothing that concerns you, Skotos. Just know that we’ll keep M’Adoc away from you."
She saw the suspicion on Solin’s face. "Given our history, why would you do that?"
There was true regret in D’Alerian’s eyes and in his stance as he turned to face Solin. The sincerity on D’Alerian’s face was heart wrenching. "I was wrong for what I did to you, Solin. I’m sorry."
Solin scoffed in derision. "Rote words to you, Oneroi."
"No, it’s heartfelt, I assure you." He hesitated as if considering the repercussions before he spoke again.
"Things change, Solin, and so do people. Even gods."
Solin froze as he finally understood what D’Alerian was telling him. "After all this time, you trust me?"
D’Alerian nodded. "Arik did, and you proved yourself by protecting Megeara even when it could have cost you your life. You had nothing to gain and everything to lose. I think that makes you trustworthy."
Then he did the most unexpected thing of all. He offered his hand to Solin. "Brothers."
"Brothers," Solin said, taking D’Alerian’s hand and shaking it. "Thank you."
He inclined his head to them before he vanished.
Kat cocked her head as she frowned over their exchange. "What did I just miss?"
"Nothing," Solin said quickly. "It’s just Oneroi weirdness." He let out a deep breath as he faced them. He smiled at Geary. "Last I heard, Persephone was on Olympus with her mother. I can’t go there, but Kat can and she can take you with her."
Geary didn’t understand that. He was a god and should be as welcomed on Olympus as any other god.
"Why can’t you go there?"
"Solin is under a death warrant," Kat explained. "There are too many gods who would kill him on sight if he were ever dumb enough to pop into their backyard."
"Oh," Geary said in understanding. How awful for him. No wonder he’d been so angry over them in the past. It sounded like he was fully entitled to it.
Geary stepped forward and kissed him on his cheek. "Thank you for your help, Solin. I really appreciate it and I’m sure Arik does, too."
Solin nodded. "Just make me one promise."
"And that is?"
His gaze burned into hers. "If you get Arik back, you won’t be stupid again. Love is a rare thing, Megeara. Hold on to it with both hands."
Tears gathered in her eyes as she realized he was speaking from his heart and from a past he had no intention of sharing with her. But his words were too genuine to be an arbitrary recitation. "I fully intend to."
"Then it’s worth it."
That confused her. "What is?"
Solin chucked her gently on the chin. "Whatever they throw at me." He inclined his head to Kat. "You two kids have fun, and good luck." Then he vanished, too.
Geary frowned at Kat. "Is it just me or was that the oddest exchange?"
"No," she breathed, "it wasn’t. You’re just missing part of the story. Remember, at one time the Oneroi had feelings. Some of them were in love and even had families at the time they were rounded up and punished."
A bad feeling went through Geary as she noted the ominous tone of Kat’s voice. "What happened to their families?"
"Let’s just say Zeus was really angry."
It didn’t take a genius to ascertain what that would have led to. "He killed them."
She nodded grimly.
Even though Geary had guessed it, she was still aghast that he’d be so callous to his own family members. " All of them?"
Kat nodded again.
Tears gathered in Geary’s eyes as the magnitude of their punishment truly hit her. She couldn’t imagine the horror that they must have been put through. No wonder M’Adoc was psycho. "Did Solin-"
"No," Kat said quickly, cutting her off. "He was the family they tried to destroy and he survived by the skin of his nose."
"Arik told me that, too. God, I feel so bad for them."
"All of us with any decency do, but there’s nothing to be done for them as a group. Not unless you go up against Zeus, and that takes more god power than what we have." She offered Geary a smile. "But right now we have one god in particular we might be able to help."
She was right. Before they plotted a war, they needed to win a battle, and Geary was ready to take on all of Olympus for Arik. "Let’s get on it."
GEARY DIDN’T REALLY KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM Olympus and the gods. True, she’d spent the whole of her life listening to her father and grandfather tell stories about them. But that had only been speculation on everyone’s part.