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Santorini, Greece, 1996
"my kingdom for a gun."
Shaking his head at Geary's hostile words, Brian calmly opened the car door for her as she approached their small taxi that waited in the heart of the crowded Greek thoroughfare. "You don't have a kingdom."
She paused on the sidewalk to glare at him. Given the fury in her system, she couldn't believe he'd dare point out the obvious to her. She'd been known to verbally let serious blood when only half this riled. Truly, the man had no sense of self-preservation. "And I don't have a gun--looks like I'm shit out of luck all the way around, huh?"
Still, he was his ever present calm self--which didn't really help her mood. For once, couldn't he get ticked off, too? "I take it you didn't get the permits . . . again."
She could have done without that "again" part. Really. "What was your first clue?"
"Oh, I don't know. That stomping stance as you walked down the street, clenching and unclenching your fists like you're already choking someone, or maybe it's that way you're looking at me like you could claw out my eyes when I haven't done anything to piss you off."
"Yes, you have."
She could tell he was fighting a smile. Thank goodness he had the good sense to keep it hidden. "And that is?"
"You don't have a gun."
He snorted. "Come on now, you can't shoot every Greek official who gets in your way."
Brian stepped back to let her enter the taxi first. At six three, he was a good-looking man in his mid-forties. Very distinguished and intelligent. Best of all, he was independently wealthy and more than capable of financing their latest venture in futility without complaining too much.
Unfortunately, he wasn't into bribing public officials.
Was it too much to ask that she find a corrupt financier? Surely Brian should have some vice, and at the moment she couldn't think of a more self-serving one than that.
"So what do we do now?" he asked as he joined her in the car.
Geary sighed, wishing she had an answer. Her team was waiting on her boat at the docks, but without the permits that allowed them to excavate the mounds she and Tory believed to be a city wall, all they could do was dive over the surface of what they'd found and do nothing more than admire it.
Sad comfort that. It'd been the best lead they'd had in years. "I want another silt sample."
"You've already tested and retested those."
"I know, but maybe it will help to convince them to give us the permits." Yeah, right. She'd been given the run-around particularly good and the words from her latest visit still rang in her ears.
"This is Greece, Dr. Kafieri. There are ruins all around us and I will not allow you to begin tearing up the floor of the Aegean, which is a busy shipping area, when all you can give me is another this-is-Atlantis story. Really. I've enough treasure hunters trying to pilfer our national history for their own gain. I don't need any more. We here in Greece take our history most seriously and you're wasting my valuable time. Good day."
It was enough to make her want to bang her head on the man's desk until he either relented or had her committed. This wasn't about treasure, but trying to tell that to him had been as futile as trying to fly with wax wings.
"There has to be some way around this."
Brian stiffened. "I won't be a part of anything illegal."
And unfortunately, neither would she. "Don't worry, Brian. I don't want to go to jail for this, either."
But there had to be something else she could do. . . .
If only the pain in her head would let up enough so that she could think. But the throbbing pain, much like the official, seemed determined to ruin her day.
She leaned back in the seat and watched the beautiful buildings and landscape of the town drift by while people went about their business on the sidewalks. How she wished she could be carefree enough to roam in and out of the stores, shopping and laughing like the majority of them. Unfortunately, she'd never once been a tourist anywhere.
Geary Kafieri was always all work and no play.
Neither of them spoke as the taxi wended its way through the narrow streets to the dock where their research boat was waiting. While Brian paid the fare, Geary got out and made her way up the gangway to face their team with her gloriously redundant failure.
Tory met her first. At fifteen and very average in height, Geary's cousin had long drab brown hair and thick glasses. She was an awkward teen who had more interest in her books than much of anything else. Even though Tory didn't remember her father, Theron, she was just like him. Finding Atlantis was her only ambition.
"Well?" she asked, her young face expectant.
Geary shook her head.
Tory let out an expletive that made Geary gape. "How could they not let us excavate? What's wrong with those people?"
"They think it's a waste of time."
Tory screwed up her face in distaste. "That's stupid! They're stupid!"
"Yes," Geary said drily. "We're all stupid."
Tory scoffed at that. "I'm not stupid. I'm a certified genius. But the rest . . . Stupid."
"I told you not to bother."
Geary looked past Tory's shoulder to find her other cousin, Cynthia, joining them. Named for the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis, Thia hated everything to do with Greece. The only reason she was here was to get college credit and follow her latest fixation, Scott, who'd thought this would be a fun summer activity. Not to mention the small fact that had Thia stayed at home in New York, she'd have been forced to work in her mother's deli, which she hated even more than Greece.
At a cool six two, the titian-haired beauty was also one of the few women taller than Geary--something that was quite a feat given the fact that Thia was barely eighteen.
Geary frowned as she noted Thia's long blue skirt and white long-sleeved embroidered Grecian blouse. "I thought you were sunbathing," Geary said.
Tory leaned forward to whisper in her ear. "She was, and she took her top off earlier, hoping Scott would see her bare boobs and join her. He didn't, but the men on a passing boat almost fell overboard before Justina made her go belowdecks."
Thia curled her lip. "You little nark. While you're confessing things, you should tell Geary how you almost set fire to her reports because her cat scared you and you knocked over Teddy's Bunsen burner."
Tory blushed before she pushed her glasses up on her nose. "Genius, but not graceful. C'est moi."
Geary smiled at the girl as Tory spoke the terrible truth. Grace had never been Tory's virtue, unlike Thia, who had more than her fair share. "It's okay, Tor. I'd have just made you redo them."
Thia gave a heavy sigh as she cast her gaze around the deck. "Is this not the most boring place on earth? I can't even get Scott to come up from below for more than a split second."
Obviously. If nudity didn't inspire the man to come up, nothing else would.
"He's down there with Teddy," Thia continued in an irritated tone, "draped over an excavation map--like that's ever going to happen. What is it about this godforsaken country that every time I bring a guy here he loses his mind?"
"Maybe it's from being around you too long," Tory said, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear. She leaned forward to whisper to Geary in their own unique language of ancient Greek and Latin. "I think she sucks the testosterone right out of them and then digests it for her own."
Thia went instantly stiff. "What did she say about me?"
Geary shook her head at Tory before she responded. "Why does it always have to be about you, Thia?"
"Because it is." And with that, she flounced off.
Tory let out a tired breath. "One day I hope she finds someone who can put her in her place. I'm tired of watching her emasculate poor Scott. I swear she has to be part succubus."
"Oh, don't go there. I wouldn't wish her on anyone."
"Good point." Tory paused before she turned a probing stare on Geary. "So tell me what happened."
As if she wanted to relive that misery. "Not much to say. They refused to give us permits . . . again."
Tory actually stomped her foot. "Ah, man. That's so not fair."
"I know," she said, patting Tory's arm. "We just have to be patient."
"To heck with patience. At the rate they're going, I'll be in retirement and will have to dig with a cane." She let out a sound of supreme disgust. "This is the closest we've ever been to finding the city. I know Atlantis is right there. I can feel it!"
A chill went down Geary's spine. Tory was just a little too close to their fathers in personality for her tastes. The same insanity that had possessed them drove Tory, too. It was like a madness in her blood that kept her working late into the night after everyone else had retired.
There were times when it truly scared Geary. All of the people in their family who'd ever shared Tory's level of dedication had met with an early death. It would destroy not only Geary but also their grandfather should anything ever happen to their youngest family member.
She was what they lived for.
Then again, Geary had often suspected that Tory used it as a way to distract herself from the pain she felt at being an orphan. The poor thing had no memory of either of her parents. Their work was the only way Tory could feel close to them. It was all they'd left their daughter.
"It'll be all right, Triantafyllo." Geary used the nickname their grandfather had given Tory. "Now I'm going to lie down for a bit and see if I can stop some of this headache that's brewing."
"Okay. I'll be below with Scott and Teddy reviewing the data that will be absolutely useless if we can't excavate. But what the heck? I'm young and have plenty of time to waste. You on the other hand . . ."
Geary blew her a raspberry. "I'm not that much older than you."
As she sashayed off, Tory tossed back, "Yeah, uh-huh. Get a cane, Grandma."
Geary shook her head at Tory's play, then cringed as pain sliced through her brow and throbbed behind her eyes.
Brian frowned as he joined her on deck. "Are you okay?"
"Another headache." She'd been getting a lot of those lately. Of course with her luck, it was an inoperable brain tumor and she'd probably end up at Thia's mercy so that her cousin could finally torture her without end . . . perish that thought. "I'll be fine. I just need to lie down for a few minutes."
"If you need anything, call."
I need a permit. Hello?
If only she could say that out loud and not lose her much-needed funding.
"I will. Thanks." And with that, Geary headed belowdecks to the small room she shared with Tory. There wasn't a lot of privacy on a research boat, but honestly it didn't bother Geary. Not like it had when she'd been Tory's age. The difference between them was striking. While Geary had hated the lack of personal space, Tory was ambivalent to it. All the girl cared about was their quest.
But even with their differences, Geary adored her cousin. Tory was the closest thing she'd ever had to a sister, and since Tory's parents had died before the girl reached six, their entire family had embraced her and raised her as their own.
Copyright © 2007 by Sherrilyn Kenyon. All rights reserved.