Fantasy Lover (Page 14)

Fantasy Lover (Dark-Hunter #1)(14)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

He walked on ahead of them. Grace watched the sinuous way he moved. Like a deadly, sleek predator. He had his thumbs tucked into the front pockets of his jeans, and seemed oblivious of the women who gawked and sighed as he passed.

In her mind, she could just imagine what he must have looked like in his day, wearing battle armor.

Given his arrogance and moves, he must have been a fierce fighter.

"Selena," Grace said quietly. "Didn’t I read in college that the Spartans beat their sons every day just to see how much pain they could endure?"

Julian answered for her. "They did. And once a year, they held contests to see who could endure the harshest beating before crying out."

"And a number of them died from the contests," Selena added. "Either during the actual beating, or later from the wounds."

It all came together for Grace. His earlier words about being trained in Sparta and his hatred for the Greeks.

Selena passed a sad look to Grace before she spoke to Julian. "Being the son of a goddess, I imagine you can take quite a beating."

"Yes, I can," he said simply, his voice devoid of emotions.

Grace had never wanted to reach out and hold anyone as much as she wanted to hold Julian right then.

But she knew he wouldn’t welcome it.

"You know," Selena said, and by the look in her eyes, Grace could tell she was trying to lighten their moods. "I’m kind of hungry. Why don’t we grab a burger at the Hard Rock?"

Julian drew his brows into a deep V. "Why do I constantly feel as if all of you are speaking a foreign language? What is ‘grabbing a burger at the Hard Rock’ supposed to mean?"

Grace laughed. "The Hard Rock Cafe is a restaurant."

He looked aghast. "You eat at a place that advertises its food is hard as a rock?"

She laughed harder. Why had she never thought of that?

"It’s really good. C’monn, I’ll show you."

They left the Brewery and headed across the parking lot to the Hard Rock Cafe.

Luckily, they didn’t have to wait long before the hostess called them to be seated.

"Hey!" a guy said as they neared the hostess. "We were here first."

The hostess gave the man a cutting glare. "Your table’s not ready yet." Then, she turned a pair of goo-goo eyes at Julian and smiled widely. "If you’ll please follow me…"

The woman swung her h*ps like nobody’s business.

Grace looked drolly at Selena as she silently indicated the girl’s actions.

"Don’t knock it," Selena said. "It got us in here in front of ten other people."

The hostess showed them to a back booth. "Now you just stay right here," she said, touching Julian lightly on his arm, "and I’ll make sure your server comes right over to you."

"What are we, invisible?" Grace asked as the hostess left them.

"I’m beginning to think so," Selena said as she took the booth facing the back wall.

Grace slid into the opposite seat. As expected, Julian sat next to her.

She handed him a menu.

"I can’t read this," he said before giving it back to her.

"Oh," Grace said, embarrassed that she hadn’t thought of that. "I guess they didn’t teach ancient soldiers to read."

He stroked his chin with his hand and looked a bit peeved by her comment. "Actually, they did. The problem is, they taught me to read and write ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Egyptian hieroglyphics and other long-dead languages. In your own words, that menu is Greek to me."

Grace cringed. "You’re not going to let me forget the fact that you heard everything I said about you before you appeared, are you?"

"Most likely not."

He laid his arm across on the table.

Selena looked down from her menu and gasped. "Is that what I think it is?" She reached for his hand.

To Grace’s amazement, Julian let Selena lift his right hand into hers and look at the ring on his finger.

"Gracie, have you seen this?"

Grace sat forward to where she could see it. "Not really. I’ve been a bit distracted."

A bit distracted, yeah, right. That would be like calling Mount Everest a bump in the road.

Even in the dim light, the gold shone. The top of it was flat and had a sword surrounded by laurel leaves engraved into it and inlaid with what appeared to be rubies and emeralds.

"It’s beautiful," Grace said.

"It’s a friggin’ general’s ring, isn’t it?" Selena asked. "You weren’t just a run-of-the-mill soldier. You were a friggin’ general!"

Julian nodded grimly. "The terms are equivalent."

Selena let out an awed breath. "Gracie, you have no idea! To have a ring like that, Julian was someone of major importance in his time. They didn’t just hand those out to everyone." Selena shook her head. "I am impressed."

"Don’t be," Julian said.

For the first time ever, Grace envied Selena her Ph.D. in ancient history. Lanie knew so much more about Julian and his world than she could ever hope to.

But she didn’t need that degree to understand how terrible it must have been for Julian to go from being a commander of men to being enslaved by women.

"I bet you were a great general," Grace said.

Julian turned his attention to Grace and the raw sincerity he’d heard in her voice when she’d said that. For some unfathomable reason, her compliment warmed him.

"I held my own."

"I bet you kicked major butt," she said.

Julian smiled. He hadn’t thought about his victories in centuries. "I did put a major hurt on a couple of Romans."

Grace laughed at his use of her slang. "You’re a fast learner."

"Hey," Selena said, interrupting them. "Can I see Cupid’s bow?"

"Oh, yeah," Grace said. "Can we?"

Julian took it out of his pocket and set it on the table. "Careful," he warned Selena as she reached for it. "The golden arrow is loaded. One prick and you’ll fall in love with the next person you see."

She pulled her hand away.

Grace picked up her fork and used it to drag the bow over to her. "Is it supposed to be that small?"

Julian smiled. "Didn’t you ever hear the phrase ‘size doesn’t matter’?"

She rolled her eyes at him. "I don’t want to hear it from a man as large as you."

"Gracie!" Selena gasped. "I’ve never heard you speak that way before."

"That was extremely mild considering what the two of you have said to me the last few days."

Julian brushed her hair back over her shoulder. She didn’t flinch this time.

He was making progress.

"So, how does Cupid use this thing?" Grace asked.

Julian let his fingers slide lightly through the silken strands of her hair. Even in the dim light, it shimmered. He longed to feel it draped over his bare chest. To bury his face in it and let it caress his cheeks.

Shuttering his gaze, he imagined the feel of her body surrounding his. The sound of her breathing in his ear.

"Julian?" she asked, shaking him out of his reverie. "How does Cupid use this?"

"He can either shrink down to the size of the bow or he can make it bigger to suit his purpose."

"Really?" Selena asked. "I didn’t know that."

Their waitress came running over to them, pulling out her pad and ogling Julian as if he were the daily special.

Inconspicuously, Julian slid the bow off the table and returned it to his pocket.

"I’m so sorry I made you wait. Had I known you hadn’t been helped, you better believe I would have been here the minute you sat down."

Grace frowned at the young woman. Damn, couldn’t Julian have five seconds without some female throwing herself at him?

Does that include you?

She paused at the thought. She was just like all the others. Staring at his butt, drooling over his body. It was a wonder he could stand being anywhere near her.

Scooting over in the booth, Grace promised herself that she wouldn’t treat him that way.

He wasn’t a piece of meat. He was a person and he deserved to be treated with respect and dignity.

She ordered for the three of them, and when the waitress returned with their drinks, she also brought out an order of buffalo wings.

"We didn’t order these," Selena said.

"Oh, I know," the girl responded. She smiled at Julian. "We’re backed up in the kitchen, so it’ll take a few extra minutes to get the food out. I thought you might be hungry, so I nabbed these. If you don’t like them, I can get you something else. But don’t worry about it, they’re on the house. So, would you prefer something else?"

Oh, the double entendre was thick and made Grace want to wrench the strawberry-blond hair out by its roots.

"These are fine, thank you," Julian said.

"Oh, my God, could you say something else to me?" the girl asked, practically swooning. "Oh, say my name! It’s Mary."

"Thank you, Mary."

"Ooo," the girl crooned. "That gives me chills." With one last hungry look at Julian, the girl left them.

"I can’t believe this," Grace said. "Do women always do this to you?"

"Yes," Julian said, his tone edged by ire. "That’s why I hate going into public places."

"Don’t knock it," Selena said as she reached for a buffalo wing. "It definitely comes in handy. In fact, I say we take him out more often."

Grace scoffed. "Yeah, well, if that little critter scribbles her name and number on the bill before she hands it over, I might have to hurt her."

Selena burst out laughing.

Before Grace could ask anything else, Cupid sauntered into the restaurant and approached their booth.

The left side of his face had a light bruise where Julian had struck him. Cupid tried to appear casual, yet she sensed his tension, as if he were ready to flee at a moment’s notice. He quirked a brow at Julian’s short hair, but said nothing as he sat down next to Selena.

"Well?" Julian asked.

Cupid let out a long sigh. "You want the bad news, or the really bad news?"

"Oh, let’s see… how about we make my day special, and start with the worst, then work our way up?"

Cupid nodded. "All right. At worst, the curse will most likely never be broken."

Julian took the news better than she did. He merely nodded in acceptance.

Grace narrowed her eyes at Cupid. "How can you do this to him? Good Lord, my parents would have moved heaven and earth to help me, and yet here you sit without even an I’m sorry for him. What kind of brother are you?"

"Grace," Julian said with an edge to his voice. "Don’t challenge him. There’s no telling what consequences it might bring."

"That’s right, mort-"

"You touch her," Julian said to Cupid, interrupting him, "and I will take that dagger at your side and cut your heart out with it."

Cupid slid farther away from Julian. "By the way, you left out some really important details."

Julian gave him a shuttered glare. "Such as?"

"Such as the little fact you slept with one of Priapus’s virgins. Man, what were you thinking? You didn’t even bother to remove his robe from her when you took her. You knew better than that. Why would you have done such a thing?"

"If you recall, I was rather angry with him at the time," he said bitterly.

"Then you should have picked one of Mom’s followers. That’s what they were there for."

"She wasn’t the one who killed my wife. Priapus was."

Grace felt her lungs seize at his words. Was he serious?

Cupid ignored his hostility. "Well, Priapus is still raw over it. He seems to view it as the last insult where you’re concerned."

"Oh, I see," Julian growled. "Big brother’s mad at me for daring to sleep with one of his consecrated virgins while I was supposed to just sit back and let him murder my family on a whim?" The fury in Julian’s tone sent a shiver up her spine. "Did you bother to ask Priapus why he went after them?"

Cupid rubbed a hand over his eyes as he let out a ragged breath. "Yeah, remember when you routed and defeated Livius outside of Conjara? Livius called out for vengeance against you right before you beheaded him."

"It was war."

"And you know how much Priapus always hated you. He was looking for an opening to go after you without fear of retribution, and you gave it to him."

Grace looked to Julian, but no emotions whatsoever showed on his face.

"Did you tell Priapus I wanted to see him?" Julian asked.

"What are you, crazed? Hell, no. I mentioned your name and he about blew a gasket. Said you could rot in Tartarus forever. Believe me, you don’t want to be near him."

"Oh, trust me, I do."

Cupid nodded. "Yeah, but if you kill him, you’ll have Zeus, Tisiphone, and Nemesis to deal with."

"Do you think they scare me?"

"I know they don’t, but I really don’t want to see you die that way. And if you’d stop being pig-headed for three seconds, you’d realize it yourself. C’mon, do you really want to pull down the wrath of the big man?"