King of the Tides
Loved Every Minute! Adam and Marlowe are officially my favorite couple in the Tides of Atlantis series!The Lusty Literarians
The Lusty Literarians
Shane did it again!Mrs. Teapotlane
Like with the first two books in this series, there's so much to love about this story!
If you're looking for an action-packed adventure with amazing world-building and romance with heart, then this is the series for you.
5 Star Amazon Review
King of the Tides was a wonderful, mythical adventure that combined the modern with the ancient in a beautiful way. The characters' relationship was beautiful and I loved the growth we see in both the relationship and in the heroine.Bookish Creation Book Blog
– that threaten Earth's Realm, secret agent Marlowe Casey is in a fight for her life. As poisonous demon venom seeps into her veins, Adam Atlas takes her underground. When things go from bad to worse, the immortal Atlantean does the unthinkable, something forbidden by the gods, to save her.
Now she's alive, but she's on everyone's hit list, Poseidon's, the demons'... even the cartels'! She has powers she never could have imagined. The only problem is, they're coming from the wrong team.
She needs a power greater than she's ever known to make things right again. She needs...
... THE KING OF THE TIDES.
18+ Adult Urban Fantasy paranormal romance. Contains explicit scenes, adult language, sex and some violence. If these things offend you, please don't buy this book.
Release date: January 29, 2020
Publisher: Amanda V Shane
Print pages: 330
Content advisory: 18+ Sex, sexual situations, violence, adult language.
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
King of the Tides
Amanda V Shane
Southern Florida Coast - 4,000 years ago
The roar of a man’s scream echoed through his head, then bone jarring impact before darkness seeped in, deeper and more pervasive than anything even hell had dealt him.
Much later, Atlas opened his eyes, squinting against the twinkle of starlight—something he’d thought never to see again. The constant ringing of his ears turned out not to be from falling through the cliffs of the Underworld as he’d thought. When he turned his head, he found the sea before him.
He watched, still as death, for he didn’t know how long as wave after wave lapped over the shore then thinned to splash against his body. The cadence pulled at him, lulling him back into oblivion—to the deepest depths of his sanity. Before long, ominous black spires of unbreakable stone surrounded him once more. The heat of a thousand fires licked at his skin and creatures untold crept into his vision. Then the one that had held him prisoner for millennia filled his bleary-eyed focus. Hades. Lord of the Hell realm.
“Son of Poseidon,” the god laughed, his voice echoing off the black mountains. “You trespass the Underworld and murder my beasts.”
“No,” Atlas said, though his parched throat could barely force out the word. “Sh-she… it was a lie.”
Hades laughed again.
“‘Tis the folly of man to be ruled by the heart. Did you not think it strange that she just appeared in your kingdom one day? An’iah escaped Tartarus with the help of your fellow humans, King Atlas. All who assisted her will be punished. But you…”
Atlas’s mind tried to comprehend what Hades said. When the young orphan girl had been brought to the temple on Atlan, she’d claimed to be under an enchantment. He’d thought her possessed by a spirit. His priests had taken her in and Atlas had formed an instant attachment—she’d looked so much like Bala.
His sister had died too young, before her fifteenth year. He carried the blame of her death like a millstone around his neck. Retribution from the gods had taken Bala. As the king of all Atlantis, he bore the brunt of their anger. He’d been unable to appease them enough when she’d fallen ill. An’iah had been his chance at redemption.
But it had all been a lie. The afflicted young girl turned out to be a demon, a lower goddess of Tartarus. She had a shrine of followers on Earth that no one had known about. They’d called to her through forbidden rituals, bringing her forth from the Hell Realm. They didn’t know that when their goddess came to them, she would be accompanied by pestilence. Sickness of not only the body but also the mind spread like wildfire throughout their tribe. They started attacking Atlas’s people—a planned distraction. In the melee, An’iah stole the Fire Stone crystal of Atlan then returned to the Underworld with it while the people of Atlas’s kingdom suffered in the streets.
“The only way to kill the disease is to stop it at its source.”
The words of Jar’rahn, Atlan’s head priest, had rung clear through the air of the ritual smoke. An’iah had taken the crystal to the Hell Realm and Atlas must get it back. Then he had to kill her with it.
That very same day, Atlas and the priests had beseeched Poseidon in his temple to open the pathway to Tartarus. Miraculously, the sea god honored their request. Atlas descended into Hell by way of the sea god’s Tides then searched the entire realm until he found her. An’iah had wielded his Fire Stone over her slaves, more beasts of Tartarus, no longer looking the innocent girl that had reminded him of his sister. Her skin had taken on a blackened cast and turned to leather. On her feet were hooves, her tail was made of hissing serpents. She barked orders at her minions in her demon tongue as they stirred a molten liquid in a great vat.
More poison! She would infect more—his entire kingdom, all of Atlantis even, if he did not stop her. He battled the mistress of Hell, wrestling the Fire Stone from her then wielding it in a way he never had before, not for healing or growth or transport the way the blessed Fire Stone had been used to build Atlantis into the most powerful kingdom in the human world, but for destruction.
Even he could not have foreseen what that would mean. But Hades knew.
The god of the Underworld’s giant fist squeezed Atlas’s throat as fire scorched his skin. The memory of that fateful encounter held him in a trance no matter how hard he tried to fight it.
“We both know that even a demigod cannot open Tartarus alone.” Hades said. “Poseidon sent you.”
He squeezed Atlas’s trachea, crushing it. There would be no answer coming. With his other mighty hand, Hades gave the merest pinch of his fingertips, breaking Atlas’s arm. The Fire Stone rolled out of his hand to the ground as all of his muscles seized in pain. The dark god loomed above him, the only break in the heat and flames that surrounded them. Then he bent, bringing the Fire Stone up to hold it inches from Atlas’s face.
“Is this what you were looking for?”
Atlas blinked. Agony rolled through his body with every tortured breath he took.
“I know what you would like to say, son of Poseidon. She stole from you so you would steal from her. But did you know that in killing her, you’ve ended an entire line of her descendants? Did you know that with this,” he held the Fire Stone aloft, “she sought to create a cure for their illness?”
Hades paused. He surveyed Atlas’s bedraggled body, hanging limp, torn and broken at the end of his fist.
“You stole more than you know, son of Posiedon. King,” the god sneered, “of Atlantea.” Atlas remembered the next horrific sight that met his eyes. Hades’ lips pulled back, revealing the god’s fangs. “Now I would steal from Poseidon.”
With those words, he threw the Fire Stone to the side. It never landed, but disappeared in a flash of fire and light toward the darkest pit in Tartarus. Atlas had only a moment, the blink of an eye through blood streaked vision, to see it before searing pain invaded his flesh. Forever marked.
Atlas’s eyes flew open, shattering the memory, clearing it away. The waves came closer, threatening to swallow him whole. He welcomed them for they shut out the call of the Hell Realm that would forever drag at his soul. Ever since the day Hades had branded him so long ago.
He hadn’t fought the coma that Hades had put him in then clawed his way out of Tartarus over centuries to drift out again and become food for the gulls on some unknown beach. If that was even possible. Half god, half mortal, death had never been able to end his misery, not in seven thousand years. Only sleep and dreams so torturous and vile had claimed him throughout that time. A soul trapped in Hell could wish for death all it wanted, but that was the one place such things were not possible.
Rolling on his side against the wet sand, he felt it scratch his skin. The cooling sensation that accompanied it was soothing. Something not experienced in the Underworld… ever.
A smile cracked King Atlas’s blistered lips for the first time in eons. He was out.
Their first meeting…
The day that annoying, nosy, know-it-all, human, Time Keepers’ agent crashed into his world (a world he’d had under control for thousands of years… give or take a few demon outbreaks) like a wrecking ball, right before all Hell broke loose in the Tides.
“Midnight, Agent Six.”
His words had rolled through her like bourbon earlier that night. Marley didn’t know what to make of the vibe Adam Atlas gave her, but it threw her off her game and she didn’t like it one bit.
With everything she knew about the supernatural, she’d thought nothing of meeting with the Atlantean. She was a skilled agent, trained to fight and kill creatures of the otherworld. She’d gone to his private office all alone with no apprehension. She was a big girl after all, maybe not physically, but she could handle herself around one guy. She didn’t care if he was some kind of demigod. That’s what she’d thought anyway. Then she’d seen him.
The memory of him standing in his office at the back of the bar he owned was etched into her memory. He could have been carved out of stone like some statue of old. Six four or five is what she would have guessed him at, every inch of him packed with hard lean muscle wrapped to perfection in an Armani suit. His black hair framed a chiseled jaw and a pair of coldly intriguing lips. She shook her head, the same way she had when she’d finally broken loose from the trance seeing that man for the first time had put her in. Good thing he’d spoken and shattered her divine perceptions of him. Right away he’d made it clear that he didn’t like the Time Keepers being in his city. He’d been brusque, borderline rude, then their conversation had ended before she’d gotten any information out of him, hence, the reason she was on her way back to see him again now.
She’d actually been glad when the fight that had broken out in his club had ended their meeting earlier. She’d whisked Cindy—her best friend slash person who knew nothing about the supernatural world she was unwittingly a part of—out of the bar then taken her back to their hotel.
They’d gone to Ramone’s Party Cove to get information. Cindy didn’t know the half of it. She thought they were only looking for some trace of Kay, their mutual bestie, who’d gone missing in this crazy town a month prior. They were both determined to find her, intent on combing every square inch of Miami if they had to, but Marley had a secret mission as well—meet with Adam Atlas, a.k.a. The Harbinger.
Her orders came direct from Commander Shepard Pierce, the leading officer of the Time Keepers and Cindy’s father. The Keepers were an ancient order that had been founded at the destruction of Atlantis, eons ago. Their princess, granddaughter of the goddess Arianrhod, had died when Atlantis fell. Through a trick of age old magic, she was destined to be reborn again and again until the stars aligned and she took her rightful place as a goddess with the powers of the Emanian Moon Pearl.
Marley couldn’t remember the rest of the lore she’d read. She only knew that both Commander Pierce and the Time Keepers believed Cindy was the final reincarnation of the lost princess. She was tasked with contacting Mr. Atlas to get his help in finding this pearl thing that would bring about her friend’s transformation. Then Cindy wouldn’t be vulnerable to the demons that were hunting her. There was also some business about an immortal protector that needed to be found. That was what the Keepers’ oracle in Rome had said during some kind of weird ritual that Marley wasn’t privy to. She wasn’t a mystic or a medium. She was just a soldier in this fight. That suited her fine. It was what she’d been determined to be ever since Commander Pierce had dragged her out of a back alley in Denver over a decade ago.
He’d saved her life that night. She repaid him by being the best Keepers’ agent she could be and protecting his little girl at all costs. The hardest part of it all was keeping secrets from her best friend. Cindy might be the person she secretly protected, but she was also one of the few people Marley had ever formed a real friendship with, aside from Kay.
So here she was in Miami, primped up like a tourist, nails done, hair highlighted, all to keep up the charade that she was a normal, modern day woman concerned about her friend. That was who Cindy knew her as, but as the car she’d hired got closer to Adam Atlas’s bar, she shed that character she played completely. She’d traded the Hawaiian print sundress she’d been wearing before for a black sports tank with discreet tactical pockets, black jeans and a black jean jacket, despite the heat. Now all she had to do was make sure she had her head on straight to meet with Atlas.
Once the car stopped in front of Ramone’s Party Cove, Marley paid the driver and stepped onto the curb. She walked up to the door, resolved not to give Atlas any ground to be a hard-ass.
Commander Pierce had told her they needed to make an ally of the immortal, but Marley didn’t trust anyone… especially, a non-human.
When she tried the handle on the door to the bar, she found it locked. Stepping back, she muttered an expletive. If she’d come all the way back down here in the middle of the night and he wasn’t even…
The lock snicked open.
She looked through the glass, but saw no one there. Cautiously, she pushed the door open then walked inside. Her shoes crunched over the messy debris still littering the floor from the fight. Atlas must have closed the club down early. Ramone’s was the only place on the strip not still jumping with activity.
She walked toward the back of the club, but jumped when something fell in her path. When she looked down, her eyes locked on a stuffed Captain Hook mascot head. Some jerk had been walking around wearing it earlier, handing out j-ello shots when she’d been here with Cindy. Seeing the decapitated puppet head like this was creepy. She nudged the thing out of the way with the toe of her boot then walked over to the bar and sat down on a stool to wait. It was midnight already. She’d give Atlas five minutes to make an appearance.
The bar was sticky from spilled drinks so she put her hands on the stool. Across from the counter, her reflection stared back at her from a mirrored wall where row after row of liquor was shelved or should have been. Half of it had crashed to the floor during the fight. What a shame, she smirked, then the reflection of her own expression caught her eye in the glass.
She looked into the mirror, liking what she saw—not the long dark hair and olive complexion, both nods to the Hispanic side of her heritage, or the clear green eyes she got from her mother. As far as looks went, she’d never tried to pass herself off as anything more than “cute” and that was only to throw people off. But that wasn’t what she saw when she looked in the mirror. No, she saw someone who’d beat the odds. She hadn’t become a victim of circumstances and she was damn proud of that.
With the Time Keepers’ help, she’d found her sense of purpose. She protected people, fighting the nightmares they didn’t even know they had. That was something that had never been done for her, not that it mattered now.
Restless from waiting, she stood on the base of the stool and leaned across the bar to look over the edge.
“If you want a drink, you’ll have to go top shelf.”
Marley jumped, nearly falling off the stool. She looked down the length of the bar. How had he managed to just appear?
“Mr. Atlas,” she said.
There he was—the mysterious immortal, dark and brooding. Actually, his face was the picture of impassive. Being in his presence made all the fine hairs on her neck stand up.
His unnerving, black eyes locked on hers and a fiery little sizzle shot through her middle. She didn’t want to be the one to break away first. She wasn’t afraid of him, wasn’t afraid of anything. She was prepared to kill monsters by the hundreds, deal with underground world mafia types and stand toe to toe with the baddest of the bad. That she hadn’t had the opportunity to do any of those things yet was beside the point. She had the training to handle all of the above. But something about this guy’s demeanor threw a kink in her well-honed armor.
Marley blinked then shook her head, pissed with herself for giving in, even more pissed for being turned on. The tiniest of curvatures appeared on Atlas’s lips. Dammit! He walked behind the bar, turning his back to her as he reached up. He pulled down a dusty bottle then found maybe the one glass in the place that wasn’t broken and poured a dark liquid into it. His night-filled eyes fell on her as he slid the snifter across the bar, just inches from her fingertips. Marley cocked her head at the glass.
“Cognac,” he said, as though he knew she would have no idea.
The liquor only reached about an eighth of the way up the short glass. It was the color of old blood. Marley looked up. She wouldn’t put anything past him. He could have been some sexy, dark beast from the deep, casually waiting to lure women into his lair with his brooding sex appeal and sinful good looks. Fuck, it wouldn’t surprise her to learn he was the damn devil himself.
His eyes, dark as the cognac he offered, stabbed through her. Daring her.
Finally, she took a sip.
“What do you think?” He asked, nodding at the glass.
Marley cleared her throat. It was good. Too good.
“Not really my thing,” she shrugged.
His lips ticked up at the corners again.
“And what is ‘your thing’, Miss Casey?” He started picking up broken bottles and throwing them in the trash. “Whiskey shots? I wouldn’t peg you as a cocktail kind of girl.”
“Well, you don’t know anything about me now do you?” Marley said.
Suddenly the room felt too hot. That one sip had trailed a warm path down her throat that lingered. Maybe the AC was off.
“I think you’d be surprised how much I know, Agent Six.”
Atlas’s voice dropped. He said her Keepers’ name through the space where his teeth met.
He was bluffing. Commander Pierce wouldn’t have shared any more information about her than what pertained to the case. The idea though, sent a lead weight crashing to the pit of her stomach. Her history prior to becoming a Time Keeper was, one might say, sordid. Baggage could have been her middle name if she hadn’t chosen to forget her life before becoming a Keeper’s agent.
Marley looked at the wrecked bar.
“That was quite the fight. That kind of thing the norm here?” She asked, changing the subject.
He shrugged his broad shoulders.
“There’s nothing normal about this place, Agent. But then I’m sure you already know that.”
Marley crossed her arms and leaned back against the gold rail on the bar.
“Look, Mr. Atlas, I’m not here to learn all your deep, dark secrets.” She said, even though he looked like a man who had many. “I’m just here to find out what you know about the prophecy. And if you have any information on the Moon Pearl…”
The crash of another bottle hitting the trash stopped her words.
Atlas stood there, hands on his hips, having just thrown the broken whiskey bottle. His hair spiked against his neck, blending with the edges of whatever tattoos he sported under his shirt collar. He glared at her, his black eyes catching the light. Finally, he spoke.
“Yes, your… organization,” he said the word like it was a tiring thing, “was very heavy on demands regarding the situation with your princess.”
“It’s a pretty serious ‘situation,’ as you call it.”
His head canted at her tone, his eyes moving, with… was that surprise or admonishment? She couldn’t tell. It was nearly imperceptible, but she caught it. He had no idea who he was dealing with.
“Our princess’s safety is our number one priority.” Cindy’s safety, she thought. “She should be yours too. If she’s found by the demons before she transforms, this whole gig goes up in flames.”
She wasn’t talking about his nutty bar or Miami even and they both knew it. More like the whole freaking world was at stake here.
“Your princess is only half the battle you know,” he said, sitting at a table.
“She’s the half I’m concerned with,” Marley was set to go off, but then Atlas tensed.
He wasn’t listening to her anymore. His eyes swept past the bar to the patio.
“What?” Marley asked. “What is it?”
She couldn’t hear a thing, but his eyes focused on the back door. He stood up and walked towards her. She had to move out of the way as he leaned over the bar right next to her then reached behind the counter. When he straightened, he held a massive machete in his hand.
As soon as he came up, three figures appeared from out of nowhere. The bar was dark but Marley saw the outline of cloaked bodies standing inside the double doorway of the patio exit. She reached behind her back to the Glock pair tucked in the waistband of her jeans—her girls—Kelly and Linda she called them.
“Don’t,” Atlas said, “guns aren’t effective on their kind. Get behind the bar and stay down.”
“Like hell,” Marley said.
She didn’t get the chance to argue before the figures flew forward to the center of the bar. Their hoods fell back, revealing ashy gray faces and the glowing blue eyes of the demons that Marley had heard about but not yet seen.
Her lucky night, she thought as the monsters swooped in around Atlas. Thinking fast, she hopped up onto the bar. Leaning over, she searched behind it until she found what she was looking for—a long butcher knife. The thing had probably only cut through limes till now. Whatever. If her guns wouldn’t work on these guys, there was no way she was going to cower on the floor weaponless. She looked under the cash register and, glory of glories, there was a crowbar. She grabbed that too then jumped back up.
The demons and Atlas all looked at her. The ghouls’ unholy blue eyes gleamed out of their skeletal faces. One of them hissed. Atlas’s face was set in a murderous glare… directed at her!
“Agent, I’m only going to say this once,” he said, “Get. Off. My. Fucking. Bar.”
His black stare flickered just as Marley felt the fine hairs on her neck stand up and she heard another hiss right behind her.
Shit! No guns? Marley squeezed the handle on the knife in her hand. Cheap plastic. What, Atlas couldn’t afford a real knife in his bar?
As the demon came up against her back, it wrapped its long gray hands around her shoulders.
Oh, hell no. Her training kicked in. She ducked forward fast, catching the thing by surprise. Despite its skeletal frame, the demon was heavy. Feeling its weight start to pull them both over, Marley jabbed back with the knife, then sunk the blade into its middle and shoved. In a method that had been beaten into her muscle memory, she used the demon’s own bony ass against it as gravity yanked it over her and onto the floor.
She straightened the butcher knife in her hand to see Atlas’s eyes glint red through his black irises just inches from her face. She raised an eyebrow, smirking. Probably came over to save her, he’d have been better off dealing with the rest of the creatures bearing down on them.
The demon she’d tossed lay in a heap on the floor. Marley put her hands on her hips. She couldn’t resist giving Atlas a little nudge of her chin. He didn’t react at all, just continued to stare at her with those spooky eyes of his. Two could play that game. She trained her gaze on his until the demon between them shot up off the floor.
Shit, it wasn’t dead! Marley jumped back, nearly falling off the bar. But then faster than she’d ever seen anything move, Atlas sliced his machete through the air in an arc, severing the demon’s head from its body.
The grotesque gray head fell to the ground then rolled. The blue glow of its eyes died out almost instantly. Yeah, there was no way she could do that with a butcher knife. She looked from Atlas’s blood covered blade to the man himself. There was no time to envy his weapon though because now they were surrounded by a crowd of very pissed off demons.
Marley watched as the fiends closed in behind Atlas. He faced her but cocked his head, in such a way that she could tell he knew they were there. The demons shot up to the ceiling and hung there looking down on them both like birds of prey assessing their meals. It made Marley wish she wasn’t the one standing up on the bar with the inferior blade. Then the hell creatures let out a chorus of blood-curdling cries as they dove down.
Moving at the speed of light, Atlas sliced through the air with his machete. Before Marley could register, he’d decapitated another two demons. She’d blinked and they were on the ground, but she didn’t stay in a stunned state for very long. There were more of the fiends—a lot more.
She jumped off the bar just as one of the demons flew up behind her. It landed directly in front of her. Momentarily confused by the miss, its head snapped side to side. Marley wasted no time. She pushed up out of her crouched position, into the air, to deliver a double drop kick right in the middle of the creature’s back.
Contrary to their wraith-like appearance, these guys were solid. Both of her feet pushed through the thing’s ribs and spine with a satisfying crack right before it went down. She reached for her gun to blow the demon’s head off, but then Atlas was there like the grim reaper to dole out yet another death blow.
Black ooze sprayed up from the floor, wetting the front of Marley’s pants. Good thing they were black too. Her eyes flashed up to Atlas. How’d he move so freaking fast?
“Don’t go blasting holes in my club, Agent!” He shouted at her before launching after two more demons.
‘Don’t shoot demons… stay off my bar,’ Marley mocked in her head. Anything else, Mister ‘I have a big-ass machete’? Oh, she was so jealous!
They’d taken down four, but there were a lot more monsters in the bar and some of them were getting out the front door. The last thing the world needed were these creatures walking the streets! She looked up at Atlas; three more demons were at his back. Her gaze flickered past them to the door then back. His chin dropped—a nearly imperceptible nod that, for her, was as good as reading his immortal mind.
With as little as that, she knew what to do. He dropped down, slicing back with his weapon and Marley sprang into action again. Flipping through the air with speed and precision, she landed her back flat against his then scissored her legs, rolling through the opening the demon he’d just stabbed made. Clearing the fallen beast, she popped up swinging left then right, chopping the demons on either side of her to pieces.
They pulled away hissing, and the opening widened. Not stopping to land anymore hits, Marley pushed forward. She’d let Mister Fancy Pants Machete Man take care of the rest. The swish of metal then two syncopated thuds sounded behind her as bodies hit the floor. They worked well together, her and Atlas, too bad he was such an insufferable ass.
She ran across the floor, leaping over fallen chairs and demon bodies with each stride, but just as she got close to the door, it blasted inward. An immense force hurled everything backward, including her. She shot through the air with no other thought than that she was heading straight for a wall of demons. Sailing through what felt like a slow motion nightmare, Marley tensed for impact. Blue-gray streaks swooshed under her legs, shooting for the door as she flew. Finally, she slammed, not into bodies, but into the top shelf of the liquor bottles that Atlas was so proud of. Everything came down.
She crashed onto her back as glass shards and liquid rained down on her. All she could do was shield her face, thankful she still had her jacket on. Once everything stopped moving, she pulled her arms down and sucked in a breath. The bar lights overhead shone right into her eyes, blinding her. With a groan, she rolled up onto her elbow then pressed into the floor to get up. Her hand slipped. She hissed through her teeth. Damn that burned. Falling back again, she lifted her hand to find a single line of blood welling up across her palm.
A shadow fell over her, blocking out the lights above as Atlas’s large body moved over her. She squinted, bringing him into focus. Double damn. If he wasn’t scowling at her, he might have looked like an angel of mercy come to deliver her from all this crazy bullshit. His glowing bronzed skin and, oh, those eyes of his… They were so deep and dark, gleaming in the low light of the bar.
Geez. She’d hit too hard, must have addled her brain. But she was fully aware of Atlas coming closer. His body heat radiated as he stooped down beside her. One of his hands came toward her and she shifted to reach for it.
“I said don’t move,” he growled at her.
She froze. Then he lifted her out of the mess with both hands under her arms like she was a two-year-old, carried her to the sink and plopped her butt unceremoniously down on the counter.
She was about to protest because it felt like she should, but then he stepped between her legs and scooted her closer to the sink. Again, she started to comment but his eyes narrowed and she pressed her lips together. Truth be told, she felt a little tongue tied and worried that it might have more to do with his touch than her hitting her head.
He turned on the water, pulling her hand under the stream to wash away the blood. Marley sat up straight, trying not to squirm as the pain of the water on the cut seeped into her backbone. Finally, Atlas turned off the water then brought her hand up under the light to examine it. The wound wasn’t deep, but fresh blood sprang up from it. He frowned then reached down under the bar to produce a white bar towel. Lifting her bleeding hand, he pressed the cloth against it.
“It’s fine,” she said, starting to slide down.
“Sit still,” he commanded. Then he stalked to the other end of the bar, all alpha male swagger. He returned with a first aid kit.
“So those are the demons that have wandered in through your portal, huh?” She asked, her heartbeat picking up as he came near in a way it hadn’t during all the fighting.
He pulled some bandages and alcohol out of the box.
“There are others, but, yes, the Miserians are the most recent scourge to appear.”
He held out his hand, nodding at her when she met his eyes. Not even thinking, she placed her injured hand in his palm.
“Is that normal behavior for those guys then?”
She tensed as he blotted her hand with a towel again. He looked at her. The tiniest movement around the corners of his mouth hinted at a smile. That was crazy though. Adam Atlas didn’t smile.
If he ever did though…
Panties would probably just fly off of their own volition and end up in a pile at his feet. A hot flush radiated from the base of Marley’s spine into her middle. She squirmed on the counter, dropping her eyes to her hand.
“Nothing to compare it to,” he said, “their behavior, I mean. This is the first time they’ve made their way to the Earth Realm. They were locked away beneath Tartarus and forgotten about for ages, but they’ve had help escaping.”
“From our side?”
From humans she meant.
He said nothing.
“So it’s true?” Marley went on.
What the Keepers’ oracle had said must be right, she thought. When the Underworld found company among humans, all Hell would be let loose. The prophecy—Cindy… She needed to get back to the hotel to check on her friend.
Burning pain seared through her hand suddenly, cutting off her thoughts.
“Ahh!” She cried out, hissing through her teeth. “Mother…”
“Shh,” Atlas said.
He’d poured disinfectant on her cut and hadn’t even warned her. She glared up at him. Then he did it. His white teeth flashed for half a second with a pinch of humor. Marley couldn’t breathe in that moment.
He pursed his amazing lips, brought her hand up and blew on it. That shouldn’t have made it feel better, but it did. More than that, it brought every sensual nerve in her body to life. She wiggled again. His eyes came up. She quickly looked anywhere but at him. No way was she making eye contact. He’d probably be able to read her mind then or something. She definitely couldn’t have him knowing that the two of them syncing up during battle with the demons had made her hotter than the Miami heat outside his bar.
“There,” he brushed his thumb over her fingers, sending another zing to her core, “you’ll live.”
She pulled her hand away from his grasp to lay it in her lap.
“This place is a wreck,” she said, trying to put a lid on all the nonsense he was making her feel.
Atlas looked at her. One of his sin dark brows lifted. The insinuation wasn’t lost on her—so was she. She had cuts and scrapes all over and probably the beginnings of a few bruises. He stepped closer, so close she could feel his breath again, but this time it moved her hair. She couldn’t breathe for what felt like forever. Then he reached into his suit jacket on the counter beside her and pulled something out of the pocket—a little black pouch. He moved away then opened the bag and started sprinkling what looked like salt on one of the dead demons.
“What are you doing? What is that? Are those drugs or something?”
He just stopped and stared at her like she must be the dumbest person on Earth. Marley rolled her shoulders back and brought her chin up. With no warning, he tossed the bag at her. She caught it in one hand.
“Open it.” He said.
Her eyes flicked up at him defiantly. His expression never wavered. She undid the drawstring on the bag and took a peek. It looked like sand or powder of some sort. She sniffed at it but there was no odor. She looked up at Atlas.
“Throw some on one of them.” He nodded at the headless demons on the floor.
She nearly laughed but when he continued to stare at her with those unnerving eyes of his, she slid down off the counter. Broken glass crunched beneath her boots as she walked across the floor then she pinched some of the grainy substance in the pouch between her fingers and threw it at the demon closest to her. Immediately, the corpse started to melt. In a matter of minutes, the entire creature had liquefied then evaporated, leaving behind no trace.
Marley’s mouth fell open. As much as she’d studied and trained to deal with otherworld entities, nothing could have fully prepared her for everything that had happened tonight. Atlas stepped up to her, took the bag out of her hand then proceeded turning the rest of the dead demons into slurpees. Once finished with that task, he stalked back to the counter and grabbed his jacket.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to discuss your business in Miami another time, Agent Six.” He said. “I have a prior engagement.”
She hadn’t gotten any answers yet, no assurances of his assistance.
“Tomorrow,” she pressed.
He lifted a jet black brow then reached past her to grab a towel from behind the bar and wiped black demon’s blood off of his machete blade. She couldn’t take her eyes off him as he shrugged into his jacket then hid the blade under the back of it. He pulled something out of his pocket.
“I almost forgot,” he said, “this is for your commander, though I don’t know why it came to me.”
He held a piece of paper out but didn’t move toward her. Marley folded her arms. Power play much? She thought to herself.
“It’s from your oracle—Eagle Eye. Isn’t that what you people call him?”
She ground her teeth in irritation then walked to where he stood.
“I thought you were supposed to be a friend to we people.”
His face hardened, jaw flexing as the tendons of his neck stretched the white collar of his somehow spotless shirt. It only enhanced the pointed spires of whatever kind of tattoo work he had going on underneath the expensive fabric.
“I don’t keep friends, Agent Six.”
She swore she saw sparks flash beneath his irises. It was rumored that Mr. Atlas was no stranger to the Underworld. In that moment, Marley had no doubt of it.
“Somehow,” he went on, “our paths have become entangled—the Time Keepers’ and mine. I guard Earth’s entrance to the otherworlds here and keep my city safe from threats like those.” He nodded at the still evaporating puddles on the floor. “For some reason, your commander thinks we have a common interest in that respect. We don’t.”
“There have been signs that this is where we need to be right now.” Marley said. “If we could change that, believe me, Mr. Atlas, we would. But if Eagle Eye is right, then the prophecy will play out in our time. We have to be prepared.”
His stare didn’t waver.
“Your organization has no idea what they are dealing with.” He came up close to her.
“We have our secrets, just like you, Mr. Atlas,” Marley met his eyes. “The Keepers’ main concern is to protect our princess and make sure she’s in the right place at the right time. That’s what the prophecy says. That’s why we’re here.”
He huffed out a breath, giving her his profile. Then he turned back and speared her with a look.
“Prophecies, curses…” he said, his lips sliding back from his teeth. “… dark things. Is that what the Keepers deal in, Agent?”
Marley didn’t answer. She blinked slowly then lifted her chin. His hand came up so fast she didn’t have time to think before he grasped her jaw and forced her head back. Her hand went to her gun on instinct, but she froze at the look in his eyes.
“What about you?” He asked. “Do you deal in the dark, Marlowe?”
She couldn’t move, held in thrall by what she saw—sparks in his coal fire eyes. They fairly crackled, shooting embers she swore she could feel on her skin, inside her… everywhere. Her breath hitched. What she’d give for the reprieve of ice cold air hitting her lungs just then, but there was only his heat.
His thumb moved. It brushed across her cheek, over her lips. She didn’t mean for them to, but they parted. She didn’t mean for the next breath she took to be audible or to slip over her tongue, soft as silk, either.
A shiver rolled through her.
“Enjoy your stay in Miami.” He said then moved away.
Marley blinked several times, feeling like an idiot.
“I’ll be back tomorrow.” She said, forcing the words out louder than she’d intended.
He gave her a strange look. The corner of his mouth twitched again or maybe she imagined it.
“Perhaps. Agent,” his head dipped slightly, more a dismissal than any show of respect. “I trust you can let yourself out. Solomon is here to orchestrate the clean-up crew.”
Her eyes darted left and right, not seeing anyone, but his meaning was not lost on her. Get out. Now, if not sooner.
He left then. Marley looked at the dark puddles on the floor.
“Shit,” she breathed, looking around.
The only lighting in the place was up over the bar and the red neon exit sign at the back. It all lent a very macabre glow to the interior of the club. Those wet areas added to the ambience. She couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She picked her way across the floor toward the door, careful not to step in a glob of dead demon.
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