Awakened (Eternal Guardians Book 8) (8 page)

She cleared her throat and focused on the box. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be feeling, but she knew if she wanted off this island, she had to get through these labors. Her fingers shook as she worked the latch, and embarrassment rushed through her when she realized he had to see it.

Great. Now he knew she was interested.

She freed the latch and pulled the scroll from the box. Then frowned.

“What does it say?” he asked.

“It says I have to find something called an aegis. It’s hidden somewhere on the island.”

“The aegis is a shield, sometimes bearing the head of a gorgon.”

“Do you know where?”

“No.”

Her gaze dropped to his firm mouth, and she watched as his top teeth sank into his bottom lip. A burst of heat rushed through her, imagining those teeth nipping at her own lip. But it faded quickly when she realized he was probably leaving at any moment.

Why wouldn’t he? His job here was done. Disappointment washed through her all over again.

“I might have an idea where to look,” he said.

Hope lifted her gaze back to his eyes—his mesmerizing, hypnotic eyes—and that heat came rushing back. “Does that mean you’ll help me find it?”

He grasped the spear leaning near the door of the cave, took her elbow with his other hand, and steered her into the jungle. “That depends on whether or not you want me to stay.”

Ribbons of electricity arced from her elbow into her chest and down to her groin, warming her in a way she’d never felt before. Electrifying her in a way that made her feel alive.

“I want you to stay,” she said quickly.

He smiled down at her as if he liked that. “Then for now,
oraios
, regardless of the consequences, I’ll stay.”

CHAPTER FIVE

D
amon walked behind Elysia as they trekked through the jungle, mesmerized by the sway of her hips in the short skirt and the flex of muscle in her thighs and ass. He really needed to pull his head out and stop drooling over her. She was a recruit. Assuming she made it through the labors, odds he’d be assigned to her during her training were slim. The attrition rate for recruits was high. The likelihood she’d be booted before she made it to seduction training was even higher.

All kinds of sultry, erotic images filled his mind as he thought of training Elysia in the art of seduction—her naked in Aphrodite’s pleasure pools, tied blindfolded to his bed, writhing as he drove her to the brink with his hands and tongue and body.

Tearing his gaze from her delectable ass, he swiped the perspiration from his forehead and told himself she was just a recruit.
Just a recruit
. So she was hot. They were all hot. So she’d rescued him. She was supposed to rescue him. And so she remembered things she wasn’t supposed to remember. That didn’t make her special. It just meant whoever had wiped her memories had done a shitty job.

If she isn’t that special, then why in Hades haven’t you left yet?

“Good fucking question,” he muttered.

Elysia glanced over her shoulder. “Did you say something?”

“No. Don’t mind me.”

“Huh.”

Fabulous. Now she was trying to piece together what he’d said. He swiped at his forehead again and looked down at the path to keep from staring at delectable backside. He shouldn’t be here. They’d been wandering around this damn jungle for a good four hours, and he had no idea where that stupid aegis was located. He wasn’t helping her. She didn’t need him. The smart thing would be to forget this mini-obsession and head back to Olympus before Athena cued into the fact he’d gone AWOL.

His chest smacked into something hard, and a soft grunt sounded at his front. Too late he realized Elysia had stopped and that he’d run right into her.

“Damn it.” He reached for her shoulders so she didn’t fall facedown and pulled her back against him. “Sorry.”

“Shh.” Her hand gripped his at her shoulder.

Heat rushed from her back into his chest and stomach and thighs, and with just that little contact, he grew hard and achy, exactly as he’d done last night.

Holy hell, he wanted this female. Wanted her in a way he hadn’t wanted another in he couldn’t remember how long.

“Do you hear that?” she whispered.

He couldn’t hear anything but his pounding heart and raging libido. But her words forced him to focus on the jungle around them. When brush rustled somewhere to their right, he realized they weren’t alone.

Adrenaline spiked, kicking him into action. Grasping her hand, he pulled her off the path, his eyes scanning the vines and trees around them for anywhere they could hide.

A hillside rose to their left. He pulled Elysia with him as he moved around the base, looking for a copse of trees or a boulder where they wouldn’t be seen or—

He spotted what looked to be another cave. Moving quickly, he pulled Elysia in with him, only to realize it curved to the right six feet and stopped.

“What are we—”

“Shh.” He pushed her as far back into the darkness as he could, until her back was pressed up against the rocks and he closed in at her front. “The monsters on this island are only supposed to come out at night, but I wouldn’t put it past Zeus—or Athena—to change the rules.”

The gods were always doing shit like that. Twisting the order of things to fit their needs. He hated that about them. Hated their selfishness and how he was stuck in the middle of their stupid world.

“You’re still in the sunlight.” Elysia’s fingertips curled into his shoulders, and she pulled him into the warmth and softness of her body. “Get closer so they can’t see you.”

His adrenaline spiked all over, this time not from fear but from awareness. The silky skin of her thigh brushed his leg, but she didn’t stop. Just continued to pull him in tighter. He lifted his hands to brace himself against the rocks so she wouldn’t feel threatened, but the hard tips of her breasts grazed his chest, distracting him from his surroundings. And when she pulled him in again, his awakening erection pressed against her warm, soft belly, making all thoughts but her fade into the background.

Holy Hera.
She had to feel that. It was highly inappropriate, not only because they were currently being stalked by monsters but because this wasn’t a seduction session. He wasn’t supposed to be turned on by her. He wasn’t even supposed to be with her.

She didn’t move, just held him tightly against her. He knew he needed to pull back, to put space between them, to do something, but he was too afraid to move and alert her to his raging erection.

Slowly, he released the rocks above his head, let his hands drop to her shoulders. Her skin was smooth and silky, the muscles firm and strong. His gaze drifted down to her face, but this far back in the corner, darkness made it hard to see her expression. He could tell she was looking up at him, though. Knew from the warmth of her breath against his neck that she was watching him. Sensed by the way her quick breaths lifted her chest to rub against his that she was as aroused by him as he was by her.

She shifted closer, and her breasts pressed harder against him, sending the already pounding pulse in his ears into overdrive. His hands drifted down her shoulders, along her slim torso to rest on her hips. And when she sighed and moved even closer still, whatever reservations he’d had before seemed nonexistent.

He lowered his head, eager to find her mouth in the dark, but she stiffened against him, and sucked in a breath that was more shock than arousal. He stilled. Listened. And realized what she’d heard.

A voice. Feminine. Just one, though.

“Did you hear that?” Elysia whispered.

“It’s another recruit,” he whispered back.

She lifted her head, and even though it was still too dark to see her eyes, he knew questions swirled in her dark eyes.

“There are several recruits on this island,” he went on, even though all he wanted to do was kiss her. “All searching for the same things.”

“The aegis? Is there more than one?”

“I don’t know.”

Her fingers slid from his shoulders to his chest, and she gently pressed him back a half step. “Then we have to get back to searching.”

He knew she was right, but he wasn’t ready to let her go.

Reluctantly, he stepped back. The voice had faded, which meant the other recruit must have moved on. Before he could back out of the cave, Elysia said. “Wait. Do you feel that?”

The only thing he felt was her heat still swirling around him like a vortex in the small space, but he stilled and tried to focus so he could figure out what she meant. Cool air drifted over his calves.

“This cave goes farther back,” she said with excitement. “We should check it out. Just in case.”

“Let me look.” Damon crouched. She was right. The cave opened to a crawl space big enough for a person. What he’d thought was sunlight from the opening was actually light coming from deeper in the cave. “There’s some kind of illumination.”

Elysia knelt beside him, her arm brushing his in the process, sending shards of heat all through his torso. She shifted in front of him on her hands and knees and moved into the crawl space. “Come on.”

He hesitated for only a split second, watching the sway of her sweet ass as she wiggled through the tight space. If another recruit found the aegis before she did, all his little fantasies about her were going to poof right out of his grasp. If he wanted to go back to what they’d just been about to do, he needed to stop fucking around and get busy.

A scraping sound echoed ahead. Damon crawled after Elysia, grunting as his shoulders and back hit the top of the tunnel and his knees scraped along the rocky floor. Just when he was sure this passageway was nothing more than a hoax, Elysia gasped.

He pushed to his feet when the tunnel opened to a large room. Light shone down from a hole in the ceiling, illuminating a pedestal made of stone. He let his eyes adjust, then sucked in a breath when he saw what had made her gasp.

A metal shield that looked to be millennia old sat on the pedestal. As he drew close, Damon caught sight of the silhouette of a mermaid imprinted into the metal.

“Wow.” Elysia stopped in front of the shield. “I thought you said it was a gorgon head.”

“I’ve never seen an aegis from the Sirens.” Truth was, he’d never stuck around long enough to care what items a recruit had to find after rescuing him.

Elysia grazed the shield with her fingertips. A burst of light filled the room, highlighting the walls, the floor, the tunnel they’d just crawled through. She pulled her hand back, and the light slowly dimmed until it was nothing but a bright spot at the base of her neck. A turquoise amulet appeared at her throat, anchored by a chain around her neck. An amulet surrounded by swirls of silver that oddly resembled marine life.

Wide-eyed, Elysia reached up to touch the amulet. “It’s cool, like water.”

Damon ran his own fingers along the edge of the jewel. “That makes sense. The ancient Sirens were thought to be mermaids. Seductive females enchanting sailors who ventured near.”

“I’ve read Homer.”

Surprise lifted his gaze from the amulet to her face, highlighted by the glow of the stone. And again he was struck by the fact she remembered more than she should. “You have?”

“Long ago, when I was in school.”

“In the same school where you learned about the gods?”

“The same place.”

Memories flickered in her eyes, ones he couldn’t read. But he could tell that whatever she was seeing was more than a fragment. And that meant she wasn’t simply a memory swipe gone wrong. She was different from the other recruits. Somehow, she was more than any other female who’d been marked for the Sirens. And for reasons he couldn’t explain, he
had
to know more about her. He had to know everything.

“Damon?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you all right?”

He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that she was closer than she’d been moments before. Had she stepped in or had he? He glanced down only to realize his hand had moved from the amulet at her throat to lie over the beat of her heart—and her left breast.

Realizing what he’d done, he dropped his hand and moved back. Holy Hades, this female was doing a number on him. Arousing him in ways no female had, making his thoughts scatter and swirl. What the hell was happening to him?

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