Authors: Sandy Rowland
A Fantasy Romance
Sandy L. Rowland
Sandy L. Rowland
Apollo’s Gift © 2013 Sandy L. Rowland
All rights reserved
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This ebook is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, businesses, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
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Books by Sandy L. Rowland
To my husband Rob, who continues to make love real.
Something drew Cassie Priam to Delphi.
She trudged the path, her hiking boots crunching with each step. The fragrance of cypress, wild flowers and sun-baked earth brought visions to her mind of another time. Ancient Greece, when seekers of knowledge had climbed Mount Parnassus to bring gifts to the oracle, and gain wisdom. Cassie had dreamed of the path she now trod, but those night visions centered in a time three thousand years ago when Apollo had ruled the spot.
The summer-blue sky welcomed her. Cassie stopped to adjust her wide-brimmed hat, opened her bottle of water and gulped. The cool liquid splashed over her lips, leaving drops, trickling down her neck and between her breasts. The temple wasn’t much farther. Odd, but she’d known the place before ever setting foot amid the columns, as if she belonged there.
She’d always had an interest in Greek myth, but these last months bordered on obsession. This trip was supposed to get her mind off her last break-up. It had shaken her. Friends insisted she join them for a summer in Europe, gain a new perspective, maybe have a fling with some hot Italian or Greek. Yeah, like that was going to happen. She’d shared a few meals with a nice guy called George, but it was too soon to risk her heart. While her friends had enjoyed the nightlife, she’d huddled in her hotel room and read Homer. No wonder guys dumped her. She was a math major for hell’s sake and didn’t have a romantic bone in her body, much less an adventurous spirit.
Her friends were still sleeping off their dancing and wine when she’d left early this morning. Tonight she’d fly home to Washington. Back to her well ordered and predictable life of logic and reason. She’d welcome it after this bizarre fixation with Delphi.
Turning off the Via Sacra path, she entered the site. Stone lined the area, half tumbled and decayed. The foundation remained a footprint. When she closed her eyes she could imagine the grandeur of perfectly chiseled pillars towering above her. And envision the carefully guarded crevice, the world’s navel, where the oracle had raved her prophecies.
Sun heated her khaki shorts and lemon yellow t-shirt until sweat dampened them both. Cassie pulled off her hat, fanned herself with it and moved into the protective shade of a secluded cypress tree. She sat on the ground amid the weeds and leaned back against a rock slab of decaying wall. Summer warmth leached from the stone into her bones. Staying up late reading and waking early to make her trek added to heat-induced drowsiness. She just needed a quick close of her eyes.
* * *
Cassie squinted against harsh light. “It’s that dream again,” she grumbled. She shielded her eyes from the glare with her hand. Her vision adjusted. Sure enough, she sat in the rough robe of a priestess amid pristine columns of Delphi in its prime. Even her dreams were dull. Babbling nonsense over a pit. How silly was that?
“Cassandra,” said a male voice loaded with seductive timbre.
She shifted her gaze in the direction of the voice and locked onto an incredibly handsome man standing beside a pillar. A mane of golden waves topped with a laurel wreath crowned his classic features, and accentuated eyes as blue as the Mediterranean set against a golden tan. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Blinking, she focused on the exquisite masculine form. Not a statue, but worthy of marble. This was an interesting change. “Um, you must have me mixed up with someone else.” The man had to be a god. No mortal looked that good. This dream was looking up. She shifted her toga and got to her feet.
He smiled, the kind that movie stars flashed and weakened more than a girl’s knees. “There’s no mistake. I’ve brought you a gift.”
He strode toward her, his muscles rippling with fluid movement. The man was beyond beautiful. She didn’t bother asking how he knew her name. It was a dream and the rules of logic held no sway here. But after being dumped by the last guy, she was cautious of a tryst, even with a vision. “I’m not who you’re looking for.” She twisted her linen garment in her fingers.
He closed the distance between them. Even in the day’s heat, she felt warmer with him near. His mouth tightened. “You’re my Cassandra.”
“Your Cassandra?” She’d just read the story of the Trojan War again last night. Her stomach plummeted. If her dream cast her as Cassandra ancient prophetess of Troy, then this hot specimen had to be…“Apollo?”
“Yes.” His gaze pierced through her like twin beams of cobalt light.
“Of course!” Standing in the presence of a god should have terrified her, but it didn’t. This was only a dream, making conversation with deity no big deal. Maybe he came from a bit of over-ripe goat cheese she’d eaten earlier.
“You remember me?”
“Not really, but you do seem familiar.”
His full lips tightened into a firm line. “I am Phoebus Apollo. Son of Zeus. God of light and prophecy, among other things.”
“You’re fantastic, so imperious and arrogant. Much better than I’d imagined.”
“Imagined?” His eyes narrowed.
“Yes. You’re better looking and have such a commanding presence.” The dream Apollo didn’t appear to enjoy her compliment. Sparks shot from his eyes and it creeped her out.
Apollo.” The ground quaked, knocking her to the earth. “And you are Cassandra, my priestess, Oracle of Delphi and my consort.”
The ground continued to shake. The man’s body lifted four feet above her and hovered, glowing like a lit candle. Her heart slammed against her ribs. She tucked her head and curled into a fetal pose, trembling. Cassie awaited the god’s wrath. If she died in her dream, would she expire in real life?
The shaking stopped. She waited, but nothing happened.
Cassie opened her eyes to slits. She hadn’t been annihilated. No thunderbolts streaked across the sky, and no fissure gaped to swallow her whole. Tremors had put her off balance, but they weren’t worthy of panic.
Get hold of yourself
. This was only a dream. Any minute she’d wake. And since this was her dream, she refused to cower. Lifting her head. Why not enjoy it and have a little fun? “Great Apollo, what is your will?” She did her best to sound serious and sat back on her heels.
He floated like a cloud. “I’ve come to give you a gift.”
“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” she murmured. “Thank you for the offer, but I couldn’t possibly accept.”
“It is my will.” Another tremor sent her to all fours and her hand struck rough stone.
“Fine.” She shifted to her bottom and rubbed a red patch on her palm. “What is it?”
He landed beside her, his white robes fluttering in the breeze. “The greatest of all gifts, prophecy.”
She got to her feet and glared at the dream masquerading as Apollo. His warm breath grazed her cheek. “Oh, no,” she argued. “That never turns out well.”
“I admit that in your previous incarnation things didn’t go as I’d planned.” He shrugged one shoulder. “But I’ve negotiated with Hades, and paid a high price so your soul could take form in this body.” He leaned over her. “You’re my Cassandra, Princess of Troy.”
“Whoa! You bought my soul?” She backed up into a marble wall. “Even if I believed I had one, I’m sure it would belong to me. Who said you could buy it?” This was a nightmare. “And this whole prophecy deal, that was a disaster. Apollo gave Cassandra that gift and then cursed her so no one believed her warnings. I think I’ll pass.”
“No, faithless, mortal woman. The curse came by way of your lie. You promised me your virtue and then spurned me.” His honeyed voice had taken on a definite edge.
“Hey, not me.” She threw her hands up in defense. “Cassandra was murdered ages ago and my
is not open to discussion. I don’t even believe in gods and prophecy.”
Wake up, Cassie. Wake up.
“Hear me.” He stroked her hair with the tips of his fingers sending a tingle over her scalp. She wanted to move away but couldn’t, his soft, seductive tone freezing her in place. “You have a chance to make amends and give yourself to me. Honor your promise and all will be well.”
“For who?” Even for a dream, this was a pretty lame line.
The corners of his mouth twitched. “You are still pure.”
“Well, that’s none of your business.” Heat rushed into her face. She brushed the dirt from her robe and glanced at him from the corner of her eye.
“I am a god and discern that you haven’t known a man.” A satisfied smile spread across his full, perfect lips. “I am pleased.”
“Right,” she grumbled. The man was exasperating.
“You doubt me.”
This had gone on too long. “Enough already. You’re part of a dream brought on by hot sun and a romantic location, nothing to take seriously.”
At least six foot five, he towered over her like an ionic column. He moved closer, pressing her against the wall. Her heart thumped in response.
He’s a dream, a deliciously tempting dream.
He leaned in, his mouth a kiss away. His breath tantalized with the scent of nectar. “I’m real and eternally serious.”
She licked her dry lips. Maybe she was wrong and this wasn’t a nightmare but a really, really good dream.
“This is no dream.” He brushed his lips over hers, soft, warm and as addictive as the fabled ambrosia. She leaned in wanting more, but he denied her. “It’s done.”
“What’s done?” she murmured.
“The gift is given.”
“Once given, I can’t take it back.”
Panic tightened her chest.
It’s a dream. Damn it
. “Take it back.” She sputtered and spit. Something had to rid her of his gift. “I won’t use it. Prophecy or not, nothing can make me tell people.” She wiped her wet mouth on her sleeve.
A beautifully irritating smile spread over his mouth. “Ah, Cassandra, you haven’t changed. The same argument you tried in your last incarnation. I’ve missed this.”
“Ugh.” She stomped her foot. “This is my dream. I’m in control and I refuse.”
He tilted his golden head and studied her. “I think not. It’s against your nature to leave thousands to die when you have the ability to warn them.”