by Alyssa Day
( Warriors of Poseidon - 8 )
Poseidon’s warriors have learned that the battle to protect humanity produces unexpected enemies—and alliances. And one of the most powerful of all Atlantean warriors will soon find both…in one daring beauty.
A warrior’s mission, a woman’s desire…
What could Christophe, powerful Warrior of Poseidon, have in common with Fiona Campbell, prim and proper Scottish illustrator of fairytales by day and notorious jewel thief known as the Scarlet Ninja by night? Answer: The Siren, a legendary Crown Jewel that Fiona has targeted for her next heist. It’s said to be worth millions, but to Christophe it’s invaluable. For the Siren also happens to be one of the missing jewels from Poseidon’s trident.
And the unnatural evil that could destroy them both.
But breaking into the Tower of London is a two-person job, so Christophe and Fiona team up to commit the crime of the century. As newfound passions fire their motives—and cloud their judgment—they realize they aren’t the only ones after the priceless gem. A dark force is shadowing their every move, and threatening to shatter their trust with revenge, betrayal, and a haunting revelation about the past.
(The eighth book in the Warriors of Poseidon series)
A novel by
This book is for Eileen Rendahl, who gave me laughter and love and a winery tour when the stress monster was crushing me. I couldn’t have survived this move to Japan without you.
And to Michelle Cunnah, who packed up her notebook and pencils, investigated the Tower of London for me, and even asked one of the Beefeaters how to steal the jewels and make a quick getaway. Now that’s friendship!
And, always, to Judd. Marrying you is the best thing I’ve ever done—here’s to our new adventure.
Books are like pancakes. They’re okay alone, but only truly spectacular when covered with butter, syrup, berries, and whipped cream. So this book is for the folks who are the strawberries: Cindy Hwang—calm, brilliant, and insightful—who quite probably leaps tall buildings in her spare time; Leslie Gelbman, Leis Pederson, and everybody at Berkley for working so hard for me and my books; Shelley Kay, who made my website so very cool; and finally, the funny and fabulous werearmadillos—Barb, Cindy, Eileen, Marianne, Michelle, and Serena. You’re all rock stars.
And a big thank-you to reader Arantza Cazalis Ruano, for the werewolf pub name The Melting Moon, to Judd for the vampire club name Daybreak, and to all my friends on Twitter and Facebook who help me out with odd research questions in the middle of the night. How did insomniac authors ever survive without you?
I hope you’ll love Christophe and Fiona’s story as much as I loved writing it, and as always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for spending some time with me and the Warriors of Poseidon.
As usual, a few apologies for taking liberties with the real world: First to the Yeoman Warders who protect the Crown Jewels. It is highly unlikely that any of that honorable group, founded in 1485, were actually shape-shifters. Also, Vanquish, the sword William the Conqueror first wielded and that figures so prominently in this book, is entirely a creation of my slightly twisted mind. It sounds like a sword old William would have carried, though, doesn’t it?
The Warrior’s Creed
We will wait. And watch. And protect.
And serve as first warning on the eve of humanity’s destruction.
Then, and only then, Atlantis will rise.
For we are the Warriors of Poseidon, and the mark of the Trident we bear serves as witness to our sacred duty to safeguard mankind.
Present day; London, England
Jack the Ripper must have been a vampire.
Christophe sat on the tiny ledge underneath the minute hand on Big Ben’s western face—twenty-five past midnight—thinking random thoughts and surveying the moonlight-drenched city that had always been like a second home to him. It was a perch custom-designed for philosophical reflection, with its view of the resilient heart of London spread out before him like one of old King George’s feasts.
The clock tower was arguably London’s most recognizable landmark. Perching on it, nearly three hundred feet off the ground, Christophe felt spurred to an unfamiliar longing to peer into the blood-drenched darkness of England’s past. Not so long ago, these modern sophisticates had fought war after war over territory, possessions, and how to worship which god. War bred its own evil shadow; reflected its black soul onto even the innocent. Or were there any innocent? Ever? Were all the so-called pure simply on an earlier stage of the descent into wickedness, hatred, and vice?
Christophe laughed out loud, startling a nearby pigeon into raising its head. “Sorry, buddy,” he told the bright-eyed bird. “Something about this damn place sends my mind to strange places every time I’m here. Jack the Ripper. The Scarlet Ninja, although at least he doesn’t hurt anybody. What a town.”
He shook his head. “Of course, now I’m talking to a bird, so clearly I’m also insane.”
He leaned back against the familiar gilt lettering, “DOM-INE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM,” and wondered if Queen Victoria the First had been honored to have each of Big Ben’s four giant clock faces proclaim that her people called out to their god to keep her safe.
Another, far more bitter, laugh escaped him at the idea that Poseidon would ever worry about keeping him safe. Centuries of fighting had taught Christophe the bloody and painful lesson that the sea god didn’t care much about keeping his Atlantean warriors anything but honed for battle. Throwing them to the wolves and the other shape-shifters, sure. Using them as cannon fodder against the vampires, no problem. Eleven thousand years after the original pact, the current members of the elite Atlantean fighting force were still fulfilling their sacred duty to protect humanity.
Humanity should protect its own damn self.
Not that it could, or had ever been able to, against the dark and ugly that crawled out of the night. Since the monsters had revealed themselves—more than a decade ago—to be more than the fictional fodder of nightmares and bad movies, the stupid humans had done more and more to offer themselves up on the proverbial silver platter, like the sheep the vamps called them. Christophe had suggested a few times that the warriors change their mission from protecting humans to rounding them up, stuffing apples in their mouths, and then jamming sticks up their asses.
Human-kabobs. Simple, easy, and everybody goes home happy.
The high prince wasn’t exactly down with the idea. Christophe “wasn’t a team player.” “Had a chip on his shoulder.” Insert psychobabble here. Conlan’s new human wife had the prince by the balls, and Princess Riley the former social worker was all about kindness and understanding.
Christophe would have preferred that Conlan just haul off and punch him in the face, like the prince used to do in the old days when somebody pissed him off. It would have been far less painful.
“Less painful than smelling your stench, for example,” he said to the vampire who was silently floating up the side of the tower, trying to surprise him. Probably thinking he’d found a midnight snack of the liquid variety.
“Interesting place to hang out, mate.” The vamp levitated up until he was eye level with Christophe. “Got a death wish?”
Christophe scanned the vamp, his gaze raking it from spiky purple hair to steel-toed boots. He blamed London’s punk rock scene. Bunch of lame-ass wannabes who were still trying to re-create the days of the Sex
Like this bloodsucker.
Christophe put a hand on the hilt of a dagger but didn’t bother to draw it. “You threatening me?”
The vamp shrugged. “Just pointing out that you’re pretty far up for a breakable human.”
Christophe bared his teeth in what passed for a smile with him these days, and the vamp flinched a little. “Not human. Not breakable.”
Holding his hands up in a placating gesture, Punk Boy floated back and away from him. “Got no beef with you. Just surprised to see somebody in my spot.”
“You’re Queen Victoria, then?”
The vampire laughed and, surprisingly, seemed to be genuinely amused. “Know your Latin, do you?”
It was Christophe’s turn to shrug. “I get by.” But then an inconvenient twinge of duty nagged at him, and he sighed. “You planning to kill any humanity tonight?”
“Any humanity?” The vamp floated a little closer, but carefully still out of reach, his pierced eyebrows drawing together as he studied Christophe. “What are you talking about?”
Christophe slid the dagger from its sheath and studied its liquid silver gleam of reflected moonlight, not raising his gaze to the vamp. “Duty, sacred oath, blah blah blah. If you’re planning to kill any humans, I need to end you.”
“I’d be stupid to say yes, then, wouldn’t I?” The vamp’s voice held genuine curiosity, and not a little wariness.
“Stupid. Vampire.” Christophe shrugged again. “Yeah, those words have gone together a time or two.”
The vamp eyed the dagger. “No, I’m not planning to kill anybody tonight. Or ever, for that matter. Who needs all the trauma, with synth blood and donors?”
Christophe judged the vamp to be sincere enough. He considered killing him with a thrown dagger anyway, just for something to do, but didn’t really feel like chasing his dagger all that way down after it sliced the vamp’s head off. Especially since his night wasn’t over—he still had to go steal one of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
He slid the blade into its sheath and shot a considering stare at the bloodsucker. “So. Here’s a question. Was Jack the Ripper a vampire?”
* * *
Campbell Manor, Coggeshall, Essex
Fiona pulled the scarlet leggings up, then the trousers, tying them at the waist, knees, and ankles, and fastened her belt over her jacket. Technically, it wasn’t ninja gear, but it was so important to have the right accessories these days, although no fashion magazine would ever feature her hand-worked leather tool belt with its many compartments on an Up-and-Coming Trends page. A memory flashed into her mind, though, as her fingers checked the snap on one tiny pocket that held her backup switchblade, and she laughed. Her assistant Madeleine had rushed into Fiona’s office just last week waving a glossy magazine in the air. Vogue UK had done a spread on the new color for spring: a gleaming scarlet. The red of a slash of bold lipstick—of freshly spilled blood. The red on Fiona’s calling cards, which the entire world had seen by now. TV presenters delighted in spouting breathless and inane theories as to her identity while showing the cards in their full silver-and-scarlet glory.
The Scarlet Ninja was setting fashion trends, even though everyone thought she was a he.
“Sorry, Dad,” she murmured, glancing out the window into the uncharacteristically clear night sky, as if he might be looking down at her from heaven. Spring weather was wet, wet, and more wet, but she’d planned this little outing for the one night this week that the meteorologists had promised would be dry. So unpleasant to plan impossible heists in the pouring rain, after all.
The expected knock came, and she heaved a sigh. “I’m not decent, Hopkins, please go away.”
The door opened and the man who was the nearest thing to a grandfather she’d ever had walked in, carrying a tray. “I prefer indecency in both women and foreign films. Chocolate?”
Fiona sighed again and tried not to grit her teeth at the sight of his perfectly combed silver hair and his perfectly proper black suit. It was after midnight, for heaven’s sake. “I don’t have time for chocolate. And I’m not a little girl anymore, whom you must coddle out of her nightmares. You should be in bed, wearing your lovely pajamas that Madeleine gave you for your birthday. You look like a butler, Hopkins.”
“I am a butler, Lady Fiona,” he responded, exactly as he had a billion or so times since they’d started this verbal dance more than twenty years ago, when her father died. “I was your father’s butler, may he rest in peace, and before that your grandfather’s butler, may God rot his vicious soul.”
“You’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead.”
“I said far worse when he was still alive,” he said dryly, raising one silver eyebrow. He whipped the cover off the silver pot of chocolate, and the aroma teased her senses. “Furthermore, should you ever catch me wearing silk pajamas decorated with tiny barnyard animals, please feel free to commit me to a home for the senile.”
“They’re sheep, Hopkins.” She clamped her lips together to keep the laugh from escaping. “You know, for counting sheep? It’s a sort of joke. Also, when will you drop the ‘Lady’ and start calling me Fiona?”
“Undoubtedly at the same time I begin wearing the barnyard animal nightclothes.” He poured the rich chocolate into a delicate china cup and handed it to her.
Fiona took the chocolate. It was just easier to go along on the little things. “She means well.”
“Faint praise, indeed,” he pointed out. His brilliantly blue eyes sparkled with amusement, though, and she wasn’t fooled. She’d caught him bringing chocolate to Madeleine just that morning.
“Down to business, Lady Fiona. Do you have your un-traceable phone?”
“Is it charged? When you broke into the British Museum—”
“How long are you going to hold that against me? I came out of that with an entire collection of jade figurines, including Tlaloc.” She pulled out the top drawer of the Louis XIV bureau until the faint depression in the wood bottom of the drawer was in sight. A muffled click signaled the opening of the hidden compartment, and she removed one of her scarlet hooded masks and a single glossy silver card.
“Yes, Tlaloc. The rain god. The wettest autumn in recorded history after you brought that home, if I recall. Thank you so much. We certainly needed more rain on our property,” Hopkins managed to say with a straight face. “A clean handkerchief?”
She froze, slowly turning her head to stare at him. “A clean handkerchief? Are you actually making a joke, Hopkins?”
He carefully folded her unused cloth napkin, its white linen folds as spotless as the gloves he still insisted on wearing, before he looked up and met her gaze. “I never joke. If an employer of mine is planning to steal one of the most famous gems in history from the Tower of London itself—which is, mind you, absolutely burglar-proof—then by queen and country she will have a clean handkerchief.”
Fiona stared at the spots of color flaming on his cheekbones and realized she’d been a fool. She’d spent all of her time worrying about the logistics of the job and no time at all concerned with the people who cared about her. She dropped her mask and the card next to the chocolate on the table and walked over to him.
“I’m not stealing anything tonight. This is just an exploratory expedition, you daft old thing. Now, give me a hug.”
She thought for a moment that he was actually going to refuse, but finally he sighed and embraced her, patting her back like he’d done when she was a child restless with the burdens of position and, later, tragedy.
He quickly released her and handed her the mask, which she tucked into her belt, and then the card.
“Do you really want to leave your calling card before you take the Siren? They’ll throw everything they have at the Tower to prevent you coming back, after you made Scotland Yard and Interpol look like fools the last time.”
She shrugged, glancing dow
n at the silver gilt card with the tiny figure of a scarlet ninja embossed in its exact center. “It’s only sporting, isn’t it? Besides, they’ll think I’m taking the entire sword. Perhaps that will mean different security measures.”
“Sporting might get you killed. Or sent to prison for a very long time.”
“Not tonight. This is just a scouting trip.” She shouldered her small pack and grinned up at him.
“After all, how dangerous can it be?”
Christophe soared through the air in mist form, circling the Tower of London as he had many times before, but this time with the goal of finding a way inside, instead of admiring the exterior. He recognized the irony of planning to steal William the Conqueror’s sword, famously and prophetically named Vanquish, from the tower whose construction old Will had first begun. Technically, he didn’t need the sword, and Prince Conlan probably wouldn’t like it if he took it—interfering with sovereign possessions and so forth—but just taking the Siren from the sword’s jeweled hilt seemed like a waste of opportunity.
Not that he had much need for what rumor claimed was a ceremonial-only, badly balanced sword. His own, left in Atlantis this trip, was utilitarian, simple, and deadly; undecorated except for the single emerald on its pommel. A line from an old nursery tale flitted through his mind, though perhaps in a different form than he’d heard as a child.
The better to fight evil with, my dear.
But, after all, why not? Calculating the ways and means of how he might remove the entire sword from one of the most fortified locations in the world made for an amusing way to pass the time. An endeavor that didn’t bore him.
Passing over the main gate and the long-unused moat, he floated over the bridge where millions of tourists crossed into the Tower grounds every year. He could have taken the easy route and made his way in as a tourist during the day, except first, he didn’t like crowds of smelly humans, and second, when had he ever done things the easy way? Not to mention that asking himself rhetorical questions was probably one of the unpaved steps on the road to insanity. Not far up from talking to pigeons.