Eternal Guardians, Book Three
Isadora was floating again. The gentle push and pull echoed in her mind, tugged at her consciousness, dragged her from the depths of something murky and dark.
Images drifted through the haze, ones that made no sense and couldn’t be real. A seven foot glowing blue man with floor-length hair. Yellow acid hitting her in the face. A field of daemons and a woman with soulless black eyes wearing a long, blood-red robe. And then there was him.
Her blood warmed and a tingle lit off in her skin as the image morphed and shifted. This male most definitely wasn’t blue. He was tall, muscular, powerful. With short, jet-black hair and hands that seemed to span the width of her rib cage. She couldn’t make out his face, but his voice was familiar when it whispered in her ear. And when his arms came around her, the feel of his body was hotter than anything she’d ever felt.
She shifted, tried to reach for him because his touch felt so wickedly good she wanted it all over again. Anywhere. Everywhere. Only as she held out her hand, the image swirled and dissolved leaving behind only the swish and sway of the wind.
No, not wind. Water.
Isadora listened closer. A strange sense off foreboding washed through her, pushing out all that heat from before.
She rolled to her stomach, groaned because every muscle in her body ached then drew in a mouthful of sand. Pushing up on her hands, she coughed as she dragged her eyes open.
Blinding light burned her retinas. She dropped back onto her butt and winced as pain shot up her spine and down her legs. Holding up her hand to block the glare, she forced her eyes open again.
Her surroundings slowly came into view. She was sitting on a beach. The sound she’d heard was indeed water, but nothing seemed familiar.
Her mind spun, and tendrils of panic wedged their way into her chest. Where was she? And how in Hades had she gotten here?
A figure moved to her right, and she looked that way only to be blinded all over again by the setting sun. She winced and squinted at the shadow coming toward her.
The mystery face was shrouded in shadow, dark hair wreathed in a halo of light from the sun behind. But even from this distance she could tell he was male. Male and massive and very impressive, especially wearing next to nothing like he was.
Tingles rushed over her as he drew closer. A smattering of dark hair covered his olive skin and impressive chest, catching the light as he moved. Her eyes drifted lower, to chiseled six—no eight—pack abs, to black pants that rode low on lean hips and were rolled up at the calves, to strong, perfect, bare feet throwing sand as he moved with the grace of an Olympian.
For a fleeting moment she had the feeling she was in the presence of a god. She held her breath as he stopped feet from her, and though she tipped her head back, squinted to see clearer, his face was still cast in shadows.
He dropped a rope on the sand at her side, one she now realized had been hooked over his shoulder as he’d dragged something behind him. Sunlight glinted off his muscular arms and chest, accented the droplets of sweat gathering on his tanned skin she could now see was marred with thin white scars.
“You’re finally awake,” he said in a clipped and familiar voice as he rested his hands on his hips. “About damn time.”
Wait. Gods didn’t have scars, did they? They were immortal. They couldn’t be hurt, not like humans and Argoleans. She tipped her head the other way, tried to get a good look at him. Still couldn’t.
“It’ll be nightfall before long. Unless you want to get caught out here in the dark, Princess, I suggest you get your ass up and try putting some weight on that leg.”
He began pulling seven and eight foot sections of wood from the rope he’d looped around the bundle. Tree trunks, she realized, none more than five inches wide, stripped of their limbs so they formed long poles. Her mind tumbled again. What on earth were the trees for? And who the hell was he?
The setting sun flashed over muscles in his arms and back that flexed and rippled beneath his skin as he worked. Three long red gashes, equally spaced, cut across the middle of his back. Another ran down the outside of his left bicep, this one redder and deeper, the puckered ridge indicating the injury had happened more recently than the others.
She tried to make sense of what was happening and who he was. As if he felt her eyes on him, he turned and glared at her.
And in the split second his face shifted from shadow to sunlight, Isadora gasped.
The voice finally registered. She scrambled back on her hands and feet, stopping only when her back hit something solid.
Demetrius’s glower darkened, but he didn’t say anything, just clenched his jaw and went back to loosening the rope around the bundle of logs. But Isadora’s heart rate shot into the triple digits. The last thing she remembered was sitting in her suite at the castle, staring into her mirror as she’d prepared herself for the binding ceremony with Zander, and seeing a vision of her and Demetrius locked in an erotic scene.
Her hand shot to her mouth and her eyes clamped shut. She couldn’t even think the words, let alone remember the image. The first glimpse of the future she’d had in over a month since losing her power of foresight. She forced her eyes opened and looked across the sand to where Demetrius was now laying out the logs two feet apart.
Holy Hera, what was going on?
He turned before she could collect herself and marched her direction. She tensed as he drew close and tried to scoot back more, but the wall—no, it wasn’t a wall. It was some kind of lean-to shelter built out of more logs and twigs and foliage—stopped her.
His mouth was set in a hard line, his jaw covered in a thin layer of stubble, his dark eyes flat and resigned as he leaned close. For a second she thought he was going to touch her, and her body stiffened, the heady scent of sweet male sweat and something else she couldn’t quite place drifting in the air to make her lightheaded. But instead of grabbing her, he reached past and picked up something at her back, then turned and walked away without a word.
Curious, she shifted forward, and that’s when she realized he’d grabbed a rope from the mini shelter at her back. Only it wasn’t like any other rope she’d seen before. This one was green and consisted of a number of differing vines, woven together like a braid.
She watched as he strapped boards together. He worked in silence, his muscles flexing and relaxing as he moved, his skin shining with a thin layer of sweat. Head still spinning, Isadora sat silent, unsure what to say or do. Glancing around, she took a wider look at where they were.
Behind her, green mountains rose. To the right and left the white sand beach stretched in infinity, bordered with forest and dense brush and the occasional palm tree here and there. The air was temperate, the push and pull of the water, familiar. In front of her lay a pile of black ashen logs, as if from a recent fire, and off to her right, just out of her reach, a collection of spears of differing lengths, all made of wood, the tips chiseled to dangerous points.
Unease drifted through her chest. There was no other sound besides the gentle lap of water and ropes thwacking wood where Demetrius worked. There were no other people anywhere close, no signs of life either. She knew they weren’t in Argolea—at least nowhere she’d ever been—but nothing else made sense. And though she didn’t mean to, her eyes kept straying back to Demetrius as he worked. At the play of muscle and bone beneath his tanned skin. At what he was doing with his big, powerful hands.
Warmth gathered low in her belly. A warmth she didn’t want and didn’t understand. What was going on? Why was he here? And where the heck was here, anyway?