Tales of the Arcana Royale #5
Dimitri Abraxas, who serves at the pleasure of the Goddess Demeter, is determined to find Prometheus’s flame. He will leave no earthly stone unturned to decipher clues as to its location, for the world needs it more than ever.
One look at Amazon librarian Jaimela and he knows the answer is within reach…but the sphinx harbors more than one secret. To awaken it, he must rouse the Amazon who would take the prize for her own. But unless they can put aside their differences and combine their quests, they will lose to the greatest foe of all…the Arcana Royale.
Each story in The Tales of the Arcana Royale Series is standalone story that can be enjoyed in any order.
Book #1: The Legal Vampire’s Golden Goddess
Book #2: The White Tiger Shifter’s Wild Amazon
Book #3: The Vampire Prince’s Missing Mistress
Book #4: The Witchborn Detective’s Porcelain Prisoner
Book #5: The Greek Hero’s Lost Librarian
Originally released as Behind the Curtain from Samhain Publishing.
Read An Excerpt
The evening crowd was both thicker and thinner than what he’d experienced earlier in the day. The gaming tables were more full, and the theatre level seemed to be doing a humming business—though more than one person had stopped by the entrance to the darkened Midnight Mystery Lounge and protested. Apparently the closure did not sit well with some of the guests.
The second-floor mezzanine was quieter. The shops remained open, but the employees seemed to be working on mundane tasks like stocking and inventory, rather than on handling an overflow of shoppers.
Dimitri preferred the quiet. From this vantage point, he had a clear view of the Sphinx where it rested on a ledge between the waterfalls. The creature’s silence did not offer any kind of surcease to the danger. If anything, he suspected a ruse of some type. A trap.
The lack of whispers sent a tendril of unease up his spine. Awake or not, the awareness he’d heard in between the threads of so many conversations couldn’t simply vanish. It didn’t have to. The physical form it used here remained here, but several other possibilities existed—it had another form it could move about in or it had simply turned its attention to another plane accessible from this particular crossroad.
Positioning one of the world’s most premiere supernatural resorts directly on a crossroad was good business. Practically, it meant whoever held control of the structure also controlled the crossroad. However, the power exchange would go both ways. Those who managed and owned this place were likely as bound to the power as the power was to them.
“Power corrupts.” He leaned against the railing, ostensibly scanning the eddies in the crowd below, but he kept his attention on the silent sentinel above. He wanted to know the moment life flickered back into the creature. His training allowed him to stand motionless for hours, but the lack of activity would draw more attention to him than if he were to wander, so he chose instead to work his way through the line of shops, under the pretense of seeking a present.
The shop workers paused in their endeavors only long enough to inquire if he needed assistance. He declined as often as he agreed. The selective interference would further obscure his motives from any surveillance. The constant awareness would take its toll after a time, but he’d hardly begun to exhaust his patience when she arrived.
A sense of her battered at him from the moment she stepped off the escalator. He made his way through his current shop, some kind of junk temple to Las Vegas souvenirs, and back out onto the mezzanine. The Sphinx hadn’t moved, but he identified at once the source of his disturbance. A woman—and the disturbance was definitely feminine—leaned against the railing, one fist tapping it in an almost-thoughtful beat.
It took him a moment to recognize that his heart beat in tandem with each strike of her knuckles on the metal. Folding his arms, he leaned back against the storefront. Were they anywhere else, he would have used the shadows to meld into—all the better to observe.
That in mind, he took the time to catalogue what parts of her he could see. She was tall—taller than average. If he had to guess, he’d say 177 centimeters. Perhaps a shade taller. Her lean build was muscled, the plain cotton T-shirt and jeans could not disguise the strength glimpsed in the definition of her arms. Her damp hair fell in a straight line to her lower back, despite the tie holding it up.
It probably hung lower unbound, and his palms itched to free the mass and find out. She seemed to be intent on the crowd below. After a moment, she walked along the rail at a slow pace, her clenched fist riding the metal. Amusement pricked him. Her mannerisms, her slow, purposeful walk and her apparent distraction were all very familiar.
He used the same techniques during his surveillance.
She turned fractionally, looking away from the crowd below long enough to skim the few people on this level and he waited. The strength of her profile seemed to have been cut from the same marble as the statues that had decorated so many temples over the centuries. Smooth alabaster skin, rounded—but not remotely soft. Between her choice of clothing and her skin tone, it would be easy to mistake her for just another human.
Completing the turn, her gaze met his and he didn’t see anything remotely human in her indigo eyes. Every sense in his body went on alert. Her jaw tightened and her lips compressed. In every quest there were moments of knowing, and this one was unmistakable.
The indigo-eyed warrior staring him down was a seeker. Recognizing her offered him the first true blade of clarity since he’d begun traveling the twisting paths to this crossroad. Recognition flickered in her eyes and she abandoned the railing, stalking toward him with purpose, every motion of her lean body an act of pure grace.
And then she stood in front of him, her chin raised. She held his attention fully and he read the question in her eyes, but he waited for her to ask. Some might call it a power play, but he merely relied on his instincts.
“Who are you?” She didn’t disappoint, cutting straight to the knowledge she desired.
He could give an answer to her very direct question, or he could see how far into the game she planned to play. “Who are you?”
“No one of any import.” The bald-faced lie would have bothered him more, except for the confidence beneath her words. She believed it. “Who are you?” she repeated the question.
“Someone of moderate import.” He didn’t plan the teasing jest in his response, but the corner of her mouth quirked up into the barest hint of a smile.
“By whose definition would it be moderate?” she teased him with another hint of her smile, and a glimpse of deliciously feminine laughter in her eyes.
“Does it matter?” It did, but he wanted a genuine smile. If the barest suggestion of one softened her features so much, the image she would present with real humor had to be intoxicating.
She looked away, breaking their eye contact, and turned her attention to the others passing by. It was more the act of bored disinterest than concession and it irritated the hell out of him. “Probably not. But without context, moderate means next to nothing.”
Her gaze clashed with his once more and he read a similar hint of frustration. Beyond that, he saw more. The moisture in his mouth dried up and his lungs burned.
She had what he wanted. Dammit.
In the game they played, she held the ultimate advantage. She knew where it was.