Fantasy Lover (Page 23)

Fantasy Lover (Dark-Hunter #1)(23)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

"Let’s see if she’ll lust for you now."

The throbbing pain of the cut had been unbearable and the blood had poured down his face the rest of the day. By the next morning, the wound had vanished without a trace.

His father’s wrath had been immeasurable.

"Julian?"

Startled, he jerked at the sound of a voice he hadn’t heard in over two thousand years.

He looked around the room, but didn’t see anything.

Unsure if he’d heard the voice, he spoke quietly. "Athena?"

She materialized before him, just inside the doorway. Though her clothes were modern, she wore her hair in a Grecian style piled high on her head with black ringlets falling down around her shoulders. Her pale blue eyes were gentle as she smiled. "I’ve come on behalf of your mother."

"She still can’t face me?"

Athena looked away.

Julian felt a sudden urge to laugh. Why did he even bother to hope his mother might want to see him?

He should be used to it.

Athena fingered one of her dark ringlets as she watched him with an odd half-sad look on her face. "You have to know I would have helped you had I known about this. You were my favorite general."

All of a sudden, he understood what had happened to him all those centuries ago. "You played me against Priapus, didn’t you?"

He saw the guilt an instant before she shielded it. "What’s done is done."

His lips curling with anger, he glared at her. "Is it? Why did you send me to that battle when you knew Priapus hated me?"

"Because I knew you could win, and I hated the Romans. You were the only general I had who could have vanquished Livius, and you did. I was never prouder of you than I was the moment you took his head."

Bitterness roiled through him. He couldn’t believe his ears. "Now, you tell me you’re proud?"

She disregarded his words. "Your mother and I have spoken to Clotho on your behalf."

Julian paused at her words. Clotho was the Fate in charge of lives. The spinner of destinies. "And?"

"If you can beat the curse, we can return you to Macedonia, back to the same day you were pulled into the scroll."

"I can go back?" he repeated in numbed disbelief.

"But you won’t be able to fight anymore. If you do, you will change history. If we send you back, you must swear to retire to your villa."

There was always a catch. He should have known better than to think for even an instant that they would really help him. "To what purpose?"

"You will be in your own time. In a world you know." She looked around the room. "Or you could stay here, if you prefer. The choice is yours."

Julian snorted. "Some choice."

"Some is better than none."

Was it? He wasn’t sure any longer.

"And my children?" he asked, wanting, no, needing his family to restore the only two people in life who had ever meant anything to him.

"You know we can’t undo that."

He cursed her. The gods could only take from him. Never once had they given.

Athena reached out and touched him lightly on the cheek. "Choose wisely," she whispered, then vanished.

"Julian? Who are you talking to?"

He blinked as Grace paused in the hallway.

"No one," he said. "Just myself."

"Oh," she said, accepting his lie without question. "I was thinking of taking you back to the Quarter this afternoon. We could visit the aquarium. What do you think?"

"Sure," he said, leaving the bathroom.

She frowned, but said nothing more as she headed for the stairs.

Julian went to the bedroom to change. As he was pulling on his pants, he caught sight of Grace’s photographs on the dresser. She looked so happy in her childhood. So free. He particularly liked the picture where her mother had her arms wrapped protectively around Grace’s neck while the two of them laughed.

In that moment, he knew the truth. No matter how much he might want otherwise, he could never stay here with Grace. She had said it herself the night he appeared.

She had her own life. One that didn’t include him in it.

No, she didn’t need someone like him. Someone who would only bring the unwanted attention of the gods down upon her head.

He would beat the curse, and then he would take Athena up on her offer.

He didn’t belong here. He belonged in ancient Macedonia. Alone.

 

Chapter 10

Something was wrong. Grace could feel it in her bones as she drove them into the Quarter. Julian sat beside her, staring out the window.

She’d tried several times to get him to talk, but he remained tight-lipped. All she could figure was that he was depressed by what had happened in the bathroom. It must be hard for a man used to being in control of himself to lose it that way.

Pulling into the public lot, she parked the car.

"Ooo, it’s hot," she said as she got out, and was immediately assaulted by the thick, heavy air.

She looked over at Julian who was truly dazzling in the dark sunglasses she’d bought for him. He’d already started to sweat.

"Is it too hot out here for you?" she asked, thinking of how awful it must be for him in jeans and a knit shirt.

"I’m not going to die from it, if that’s what you mean," he said sardonically.

"Just a little testy, are we?"

"I’m sorry," he said as he joined her. "I’m taking things out on you that aren’t your fault."

"It’s all right. I’m used to being a scapegoat. In fact, I’ve made a profession of it."

Since she couldn’t see his eyes, she couldn’t tell if he was amused by her words or not.

"Is that what your patients do?"

She nodded. "It can get really hairy some days. I don’t mind the women yelling at me so much as the men."

"Have they ever hurt you?" The protectiveness in his voice startled her. And it felt strangely wonderful. She’d missed having someone to be protective of her.

"No, they haven’t," she said, trying to dispel the tenseness of his body. And she hoped it stayed that way, but after Rodney’s call, she wasn’t so sure that he might be the one exception who ended up hurting her.

You’re being ridiculous. Just because he’s creepy doesn’t mean he’s dangerous.

Julian’s face was stern and harsh. "I think you should find a new occupation."

"Maybe," she said dismissively. She had no intention of giving up her job. "So, where would you like to go first?"

He shrugged nonchalantly. "Makes little difference to me."

"Then let’s go to the aquarium. At least it’s air-conditioned."

Taking his arm, she led him across the lot, and down the Moonwalk toward the aquarium.

Julian remained silent as she paid their admission, and then led him inside. He didn’t speak again until they walked through the manmade water tunnel that allowed them to watch all the different species of sea creatures in their natural habitat.

"Incredible," he breathed as a huge stingray swam over his head. The look on his face reminded her of a child. An inner light sparkled in his eyes, warming her heart.

Suddenly, her pager went off. Grace cursed, until she saw the number.

Someone was calling her from the office on a Saturday?

How weird.

She dug her cell phone out of her purse and called.

"Hey, Grace," Beth said as soon as she answered. "Listen, I’m down here in my office. We were broken into last night."

"No! Who would do such a thing?"

Grace caught the curious look Julian directed at her. She offered him a tentative smile as she listened to Beth Livingston, the psychiatrist who shared office space with her and Luanne.

"I have no idea. They’ve got a crime scene unit down here taking prints. As far as I can tell, though, nothing important was taken. Did you have anything valuable in your office?"

"Just my computer."

"It’s still here. Anything else? Money or anything?"

"No. I never leave valuables there."

"Hang on, the officer wants to talk to you."

Grace waited until she heard a man’s voice. "Dr. Alexander?"

"Yes."

"I’m Officer Allred. It looks like someone took your Rolodex and a few files. Any idea who would want them?"

"No, I don’t. Do you need me to come down there?"

"I don’t think so. Basically, we’re just pulling prints, but if you can think of anything else, please give us a call." He handed the phone back to Beth.

"Do you need me?" Grace asked.

"Nah. There’s really nothing you can do. It’s actually pretty boring."

"Okay, buzz me if you need something."

"Will do."

Grace hung up the phone and returned it to her purse.

"Is something wrong?" Julian asked.

"Someone broke into my office last night."

He frowned. "Why?"

"I have no idea." Grace duplicated his frown as she thought the matter over. "I can’t figure out why anyone would want my Rolodex. Since I bought my Palm Pilot last spring, I haven’t even used it. It’s just odd."

"Do we need to leave?"

She shook her head. "Nope."

Julian allowed Grace to lead him around the various tanks as she read the foreign writing to him that explained the different breeds and habitats.

Gods, how he loved the sound of her voice when she read to him. There was something so comforting in it. He draped an arm over her shoulders as they walked. She placed her arm around his waist, curling one finger in his belt loop.

The gesture warmed him. And it was then he realized he lived for the feel of her body close to his. And he’d like it a whole lot more if they were both nak*d.

When she smiled up at him, he felt his heart pound out of control. What was it about this woman that touched him in a way no one ever had before?

But then he knew. She was the first woman to see him. Not his looks, not his body, not his warrior’s prowess. She saw inside his soul.

He’d never known such a person existed.

Grace treated him like a friend. And she was genuinely interested in helping him. Or at least she seemed to be.

It’s part of her job.

Or was it?

Could a woman as wonderful and kind as her ever really care for a man like him?

She stopped at another plaque. Julian stood directly behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. She idly stroked his forearms as she read.

His body on fire for her, he leaned his chin down to rest on top of her head as he listened to her voice and watched the fish swim. The smell of her skin invaded his head as he longed to be back at her house where he could strip her clothes from her.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted a woman as badly as he wanted Grace. In fact, he didn’t think he’d ever wanted one the way he did her. He wanted to lose himself inside her. To feel her nails scoring his back as he made her scream in release.

May the Fates have mercy on him, but she was under his skin.

That’s what truly scared him. For she held a place inside him that could hurt him in a way he’d never been hurt before.

She, alone, could finally break him.

It was almost one before they left the aquarium. Grace cringed as soon as they went back outside where the heat assailed her. On days like this, she wondered how anyone had survived before air-conditioning.

She looked over at Julian and smiled. Now he was someone who could finally answer that question for her. "Tell me, what did you guys do to survive days that were this hot?"

He arched an arrogant brow. "This isn’t hot. If you want hot, try marching an army across a desert, wearing armor with only half a bladder of water to sustain you."

She cringed for him. "Now that sounds hot."

He didn’t respond.

Grace glanced over to the square, which was packed with people. "Do you want to see Selena while we’re out and about? She should be at her stand. Saturday is usually a big day for her."

"I’m just following you."

Taking his hand, Grace led him down the street, over to Jackson Square. Sure enough, Selena was at her stand with a client. Grace started to walk past without interrupting them, when Selena waved her over.

"Hey, Gracie, you remember Ben? Or rather Dr. Lewis from school?"

Grace hesitated as she recognized the portly man in his mid-forties.

Remember him? He’d given her a D, and brought down her entire average. Not to mention he had an ego the size of Alaska, and loved to embarrass students in class. In fact, she remembered one poor girl crying when he handed out his sadistic final exam to them. The man had actually laughed at the girl’s reaction.

"Hi," Grace said, trying not to let her distaste show. She supposed the man couldn’t help being obnoxious. A Harvard Ph.D., he thought the world revolved around him.

"Miss Alexander," he said in that same snide tone she remembered and loathed so much.

"Actually, it’s Dr. Alexander," she corrected, delighting in the way he widened his eyes in surprise.

"Forgive me," he said in a voice that was anything other than apologetic.

"Ben and I were talking about ancient Greece," Selena said, casting a devilish grin at Julian. "I’m of the opinion that Aphrodite was the daughter of Uranus."