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Atlantis Betrayed wop-8 Page 11

by Alyssa Day


  The sight of her face, ravaged by emotion, unlocked a door he’d forgotten was even buried deep inside his heart. He heard the click as the first barrier he’d erected all those years ago opened a slow and painful inch. It was enough to help him come to a decision.

  “I need to tell you about me,” he said. “Why I’m here for that sword. Although I don’t really care about the sword, I just need the Siren.”

  “Need?” Hopkins said. “That’s an interesting choice of words.”

  “A deliberate choice of words. I’m from Atlantis, and unless I retrieve that gem, the Seven Isles cannot rise from beneath the sea.”

  He didn’t know what he’d expected, but it certainly wasn’t what he got. Declan burst out laughing. Hopkins snorted in apparent disgust. Fiona did neither. She just looked at him, shock and then anger written on her face.

  “If you don’t plan to tell us the truth, that’s one thing, but don’t insult me by making up fairy tales,” she said. “Did you think that since I write those stories in my books that I’d be charmed by another one?”

  “Atlantis. Of course,” Hopkins said. “Know many mermaids, do you?”

  “Mermaids don’t exist. I’d hoped that I could get a little trust on faith, but evidently I haven’t earned it yet,” Christophe said. “So here goes.”

  He called to power, reveling in the burning sensation as it flowed eagerly to his command. Towering sweeps of power, its intensity increasing every time he called to it these days. So much power that he almost feared that one day it would consume him.

  Maybe one day it would. But not this day.

  He formed twin spheres of blue-green energy in his palms and held them up in the air before sending them flying around the room, dipping and floating around and over Fiona, her brother, and Hopkins.

  “My tie with Poseidon, as a warrior sworn to his oath, is one source of my magic. Water is our element to call.”

  “Sure it is,” Declan said, grinning. “Cool magic trick. Do you—” His laughter muffled the next words, but he finally managed to get them out. “Do you ride whales down to Atlantis?”

  Christophe glared at the youngling and contemplated how angry Fiona would be if he hoisted her little brother out the window and left him dangling by a ribbon of water. He decided against it based on the way she was already clenching her fists at her side.

  A simpler demonstration, then.

  A flick of his fingers sent the energy spheres whirling to two corners of the room. Then he called to water, the purest form of his magic, and it, too, responded willingly. He channeled the silvery streams of water to form a vortex around his body starting at the carpet and working its way up to the elaborately painted ceiling. He threw his head back and concentrated, though it was a simple enough working. He wanted this to be perfect—she was watching.

  Why it mattered so much, he wasn’t sure. He just knew that it did. He formed twin streams of water into perfectly symmetrical spears and hurled them directly at Declan. Hopkins jumped up, no doubt going for his gun, and Fiona cried out. Declan had no time to do anything but gasp before the streams spiraled into starfish shapes directly in front of him and, one after the other, splashed into the boy, thoroughly drenching him.

  “No,” Christophe said over Declan’s sputtering. “We do not ride whales, either.”

  * * *

  Fiona fell back into her chair, torn between warring impulses to laugh or yell at Christophe. Those spears had been terrifyingly real, but how many times had she wished for a bucket of water to drench her joker of a brother? The smile threatening to break free of the tight clamp she had on her lips faded, though, when she realized all that water was soaking her sofa, table, and the surrounding area. Even Hopkins hadn’t escaped entirely, and he looked about to murder Christophe at any moment.

  “Fabulous. You’ve got a store of parlor tricks, and you’ve drenched my furnishings. Does any of your magic show include picking up the bill for the cleaning?” She folded her arms across her chest and glared at him, which made not the slightest dent in that cocky grin of his.

  “As a matter of fact,” he said, raising his hands in the air again. She tried not to notice the sculpted muscles in his forearms beneath his rolled-up sleeves, but she was only human, after all.

  Which, as he seemed to be trying to tell them, he might not be. Which was brilliant. She’d only just been hoping for more complications in her life.

  Christophe gestured and a warm breeze swept through the room, flowing softly over Fiona before moving on. As she watched, the water soaking Declan and his surroundings simply disappeared. It didn’t dry, leaving her brother rumpled and wrinkled. No, it was just gone as if had never been there.

  Which, perhaps, it hadn’t been.

  “Sweet!” Declan yelled, patting himself and the pillows thoroughly. “Dry as a bone. That was awesome. Can you teach me that?”

  Fiona ignored him. “Illusion?” She’d no sooner said the word than Hopkins was shaking his head.

  “Definitely not. That water was real. A fine trick, and quite powerful,” he said, frowning at Christophe. “But still no proof of this fantastic tale of the lost continent.”

  “It was never lost. We just hid it,” Christophe told him.

  “Of course,” Fiona said, throwing her own hands up in the air. Sadly, that didn’t cause any wild magical incident or she would have made them all disappear. She needed a nap and a headache tablet, not necessarily in that order. “You hid it. So how did you get here? Submersible? Dolphins? Magic bubbles?”

  He lifted an eyebrow, and those wickedly gorgeous green eyes of his began to glow. “Magic bubbles is actually pretty close. We have a magic portal.”

  Hopkins rolled his eyes. “A magic portal. Of course you do. And probably a yellow submarine, too. I’ve had enough of this, Lady Fiona. I still suggest we throw the man out and take our chances. After all, if he discloses your identity, we can happily tell the authorities about his little expedition to the Jewel House, can’t we?”

  “Hopkins! You rolled your eyes,” Declan said, grinning. “The nation will surely fail at any moment.”

  “I can call the portal and we’ll all take a step through to Atlantis,” Christophe gritted out. “Bunch of cynics.”

  “I believe you,” Declan said.

  “You believe in forest fairies, too,” Fiona pointed out.

  “And Saint Nicholas, until you were at least thirteen,” Hopkins added.

  “Hey, a sense of wonder is not a bad thing,” Declan said, blushing.

  Christophe closed his eyes, clenched his jaw, and raised his hands in the air again. Fiona caught her breath, in equal parts worry and anticipation. What would he conjure up this time?

  They all leaned forward, waiting . . . waiting.

  And, finally, after two long minutes—nothing happened.

  Christophe opened his eyes and blew out a breath, then muttered a long string of words in a language Fiona had never heard, though it had a bit of the fluidity and musicality of Italian. Maybe Italian crossed with Greek, on second thought.

  From the tone of his voice and the way he glared viciously at the empty space in front of him, she had the feeling she didn’t want to know the translation.

  “Magic portal out of service?” she suggested sweetly. “Down for repairs?”

  “Water damage, maybe,” Declan said, breaking into a fresh peal of laughter, in spite of what had happened to him the last time.

  “The portal can be capricious,” Christophe snapped. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like opening.”

  “The door has feelings,” Hopkins said slowly before turning to Fiona. “Lady Fiona, I fear we should call the home for madmen. Unfortunate that Bedlam closed. He’d have fit in quite well there.”

  She ignored Hopkins’s jibes and studied Christophe’s face. The frustration there was too real to be feigned. Either that or he was the best actor she’d ever seen. It was up to her to make the decision and stand by it.

  “Lo
ok, let’s leave it for now,” she finally said. “You’re either from Atlantis or you’re up to something so secret you can’t tell us about it. For whatever reason, I’ve decided to trust you, at least until you prove me wrong. Tonight you and I go pub-hopping in the low places to find out what we can, and Declan will use his computer magic to find out what the word is on the Internet.”

  She shot a warning glare at her brother when he looked like he might argue. “I need you on this, Dec. Nobody else has the skills you do.”

  “I’ll put out word in my own network. Discreetly, of course,” Hopkins said.

  “You still haven’t told me why you were after that particular sword,” Christophe said.

  Fiona shrugged. “I generally select an object that has no right to be where it is. An objet d’art with shaky provenance, where the owner either stole it personally or bought stolen merchandise, for example. Those owners are usually reluctant to get the police involved, and of course there are no insurance investigators involved, since the companies won’t insure stolen art.”

  “Makes it easier to fence, too,” Declan added.

  She groaned. “I’m winning big sister of the year, aren’t I? Introducing my baby brother to the world of stolen art before he’s had his first real girlfriend.”

  “Hey, there was Nora,” he protested, blushing fiercely.

  “You were twelve. Anyway, to continue, this time was different. Word was put out through one of my usual fences that a buyer was interested in Vanquish. This buyer is supposed to be some oil hotshot, too, because my five favorite words were spoken.”

  Christophe tilted his head. “Free pints at the pub?”

  “Money is not an object.”

  He laughed. “Women. Who can understand them?”

  Hopkins nodded until he caught her glaring at him, and then he pretended to brush a speck off his spotless coat.

  “This doesn’t make any sense, and I hate coincidences,” Fiona said, all but smacking herself in the head for her own stupidity. “Suddenly some rich oil guy wants Vanquish? At the exact same time you show up wanting it and someone else wants it enough to kill for? What don’t we know about this stupid sword? I think we should make a point to find out what my contacts know about this mysterious buyer. I didn’t ask enough questions this time, since so many programs need money so urgently. Maybe the buyer is counting on that?”

  “I agree, we need to find out exactly who this buyer is and why he or she wants the sword so much. But I need the Siren. Just the Siren. You can have Vanquish,” Christophe said, suddenly serious.

  “What good does that do me? The value of the sword will drop considerably without it. I’ve got several new . . . ah, new dresses to buy,” she finished lamely; suddenly unwilling to admit the truth and have him think she was playing the philanthropy card.

  “New dresses. Right. I wasn’t born yesterday, Princess,” he said, stalking across the room toward her until he had her backed into the wall. “I know all about your Robin Hood tendencies. Which charities were supposed to benefit from this heist?”

  “Ironically enough, we are saving the whales, though that’s with my own money,” she whispered, her heart pounding from his nearness. His masculine scent teased her senses, and she suddenly wanted to lean in and press her lips to his neck.

  A black-sleeved arm inserted itself between them, rather ungently pushing Christophe away from her. “AIDS, children with autism, shelters for battered women, the homeless, a literacy group, and single mothers are on the list this time, to be precise,” Hopkins said. “In point of fact, you have a charity engagement tonight. For the whales, I believe.”

  “Maybe Christophe should go. Some of his relatives might be there,” Declan said, his voice strangled to hold in the laughter.

  Christophe took a step back, the heat in his eyes and his sexy smile reminding her of all the things he’d done to her the night before. Definitely not thoughts she wanted to have right then.

  “Try to remember I can kill you with both hands tied behind my back, kid,” he told Declan. “If your sister is going, I’m definitely going. And I didn’t say I was taking the Siren out from under you, Princess. I’ll buy it from you.”

  “Oh, no,” she protested. “You cannot attend this function with me, not after this afternoon. I’ll never hear the end of this. Also, buy it with what? Have a spare few million euros lying around?”

  “I’m going,” he said, implacable.

  “Did you happen to bring your tuxedo with you from Atlantis? That’s the only way you’ll get into that ball. Very snooty,” Declan said.

  Christophe’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open in an expression of sheer horror. “A tuxedo? That might be a deal breaker.”

  She put the image of how fabulous he’d look in a tuxedo firmly out of her mind and shrugged. “Guess you’re not going, then.”

  “A tuxedo it is,” he said, lips curling away from his teeth. “I have things to do now, which apparently include finding a tuxedo. When should I be back?”

  Hopkins checked his watch. “Ten past never?”

  “Keep it up, funny man.”

  Fiona sighed. She really, desperately needed that headache medicine now. “Half past seven should do it,” she said.

  “Fine. Leave the tuxedo to me,” Hopkins said. “If you’re really going to allow this outlaw to accompany you, I’ll be sure he looks at least somewhat presentable.”

  Christophe just laughed. “Three hours? That’s enough.” He nodded and turned to leave but stopped at the door, whirled around, and strode back across the floor to where she still stood near the wall. He put his hands on her shoulders and stared intently down at her, his eyes glowing again.

  “Don’t worry, Princess. We’ll figure this out.” Before she could respond, or stop him, he bent and pressed a brief, hard kiss against her mouth and left the room. He was gone before she could form a coherent response.

  Hopkins cleared his throat. Loudly. “Shall we plan on an Atlantean wedding, then?”

  Chapter 16

  Three hours later, Christophe stared in disbelief at himself in the mirror of a lavish guest room decorated in dark greens and golds and paintings of fox hunts. Very traditional, proper British. He felt like a warrior trapped in a teapot.

  “I look like a buffoon.”

  Hopkins sighed. “You look impeccable. You are a buffoon. There’s a difference.” He held out a scrap of black cloth. “I presume you don’t know how to tie this, either?”

  Christophe glared at him. “Been a little busy. Slaying vampires. Fighting rogue shifters. Saving your puny asses over and over again.”

  “Please refrain from commenting on the state of my buttocks,” Hopkins said, making short work of the tie. “Also, you have never once saved me or mine from anything.”

  “Not yours, specifically. Human asses, generally.” Christophe checked out his reflection again. He looked worse.

  “I think this tie might be choking me,” he said, tugging at it with a finger.

  “Yes, I’m sure Lady Fiona will enjoy listening to you complain all evening. Do let me know how that goes.” Hopkins left the room, closing the door with a polite but firm click.

  “May as well get this over with,” Christophe told his reflection. “Nice monkey suit.”

  He left the room and headed down the hall and then down the winding staircase to the front foyer, figuring Fiona wouldn’t go straight to the garage. He spent a few minutes on the way down checking out the paintings of people who were probably Fiona’s ancestors and wondered if the blank, empty space on the wall had been for the dastardly grandfather she kept talking about.

  A ping at the edge of his consciousness signaled Denal trying to contact him. He reluctantly opened the mental doorway.

  I haven’t found out much. Humans don’t know anything, and the shifters aren’t talking. Alaric specifically forbade me to go to any vampire hangouts without you, something about safety in numbers, and they’re not up for the day anyway.
Spring sunshine. Where do you want me to meet you?

  Christophe laughed out loud at the “safety in numbers” comment. Alaric, like most of the rest of them, still treated Denal like a youngling, and undoubtedly didn’t want him anywhere near any vampires. It wasn’t fair—the warrior was sworn to Poseidon like the rest of them and had slain more than his share of vampires.

  Not his worry.

  Change of plans. I want you here at Fiona’s house. Hells, more like a mansion, really. Anyway, I want you to come keep her little brother company while we go out to some charity event.

  Denal’s amusement came through loud and clear.

  Charity event? Really? Did you have to dress up?

  Just get here, already. Christophe projected his location on the connection and then leaned against a wall, arms folded, waiting. Women were never on time, anyway; he probably had time to take a nap if he could find a comfortable sofa nearby.

  The faint sound of an indrawn breath interrupted his mental musings, and he looked up to see Fiona posed on the landing of the staircase, looking like the princess he’d named her. Or a goddess.

  Aphrodite had nothing on her.

  The bodice of the shimmering green gown hugged her curves like a lover, and the bottom floated around her legs like the whisper of a dream. A single, square-cut emerald hung suspended on a silver chain between her perfect breasts, and smaller gems hung from her delicate ears. Her silken hair was pulled up and back into a style that had been popular in Atlantis thousands of years ago according to the mosaics in the palace garden pools. Popular with goddesses, too, if one believed the paintings and sculptures that graced the palace.

  That made sense. The goddess thing. There was no way he was good enough for this woman. The thought stabbed him in the belly like a dagger, and he realized he was standing there staring.

 

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