I gazed into the creamy depths of the stone of power lying heavy in my palm. I had the Air Eyid stone.
Ian, descendant of the Fire Eyid, had the Fire Eyid stone.
Slipping my necklace over my head, I jumped to my feet and paced the length of my room. I’d thought Ian, with his sexy, dark hair, eyes sharp as jade, and a Jersey Boy-jacked body, had been a hall god on Earth. He’d duped me into thinking he liked me, and tried to dupe me into giving him my Air Eyid stone. But his heart was as black as his hair, with a burnt-out, corpse of a soul. I swallowed to lubricate my parched throat. And I, in my pathetic innocence, had almost given him my Eyid stone.
Then he’d revealed his plan to me, a plan that would eliminate the Water Eyid, turn Eyidora into desert, destroy humanity, and devastate all seven globes in the planetary chain. He planned to become a new god in this new Eyidora. And then he tried to kill me. Just because I didn’t agree with him. Just because I refused to let him to destroy Eyidora. Just because I refused to hook up with him.
Now we were working against each other, each trying to find the other two missing Eyid stones before the other. A tremble worked up the backs of my legs and skittered up my spine. I shuddered once, violently, and then took a deep, calming breath. If Ian caught wind of where I was going… and why… My swallow clicked in my throat.
He would hunt me down and kill me.
I straightened, dug my nails into my palm, and lifted my chin.
I’d beat him once. In fact, I came close to killing him. I could beat him again.
It was hard keeping secrets from him, though. The gods weren’t the only ones who could ransack my head while I slept; other Eyid-emos could connect with me through dreamstate as well. And Ian was a constant nightmare, alternating between taunting me about trying to save the globe and trying to persuade me to join him. The guy was numb-nuts crazy.
Still, part of me was glad he wasn’t dead. I’d been called a lot of things — childish, selfish — but I wasn’t a killer, evil soul or not, and I was relieved not to have the weight of murder pressing my chest.
But would the globes be better off if I had killed him?
I didn’t want to think about that. I closed my eyes, and the still-childish part of me longed for my mom. There was one place I could go to feel close to her. I bolted from my room and scurried down the hall. Head down, focused on reaching the Portrait Hall – where I hoped I could sort out my nightmares and insecurities – I rounded the corner and smacked into a very firm, very warm obstruction.
An exotic, coconut scent invaded my head and warmed my veins. My breath evaporated in a tiny gasp, a mental sigh popping like a bubble inside my head. A tongue of electricity caressed my spine, and my stomach muscles spasmed. I didn’t need to lift my gaze to know what I’d just run in to.
I stepped back. We stared at each other in the cold hallway, and that faint buzz of electricity I felt whenever I came into contact with Tuggin skittered over my body. My conflicted feelings about him battled in my chest, taking a couple of nicks at my heart. While my body initiated a melt-down sequence when I gazed at his ice-blue eyes, longish, dirty-blond hair, and over-all Greek Godiness, my brain registered several shortcomings in the demeanor department. Emotionally he was a void – a zero, a big, fat nothing – and snarkier than a hornet trapped in a used pee cup. Not to mention that he disliked me. Immensely.
His black tunic brushed against muscled arms and wide chest, which narrowed down to a pair of solid hips and long, strong, legs. I bit my lip, trying to not think about what lay beneath those clothes. I tried to douse the heat slipping through my gut, but the flare of nostrils indicated Tuggin had already spied the taint of my infatuation. I sucked my lips between my teeth. Damn, but he was serious hall-god material.
Tuggin leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. His gaze held the warmth of a glacier and the softness of boulder. I tried to meet him glare for glare, the trickling warmth that had ignited my spine a moment ago icing over.
As my Menta-protecter, Tuggin always knew what I was feeling, and what I was thinking. Mentas were trained to fight, to influence people’s thoughts, and to read emotions. Those powers made them pretty well-suited to protecting Council members and Eyid-emos. That was, of course, before the war had erupted generations ago, and those Council members and Eyid-emos who weren’t killed went into hiding. At that point, the Mentas took control of Eyidora.
Those powers also enabled Mentas to become very adept at assassination.
And Tuggin was dammed good at his job; he’d saved my ass on more than one occasion.
I lifted my chin. I was descendant of the Air Eyid, and I had the same powers as Tuggin. And I was learning to use them. Uncle Sal had been teaching me to block lunta intrusion so that no one could force me to do anything against my will. Hiding my emotions, however, was impossible. My emotions always seemed to erupt, no matter how hard I tried to empty my body of feeling.
Tuggin’s gaze melted down my body like butter, then slid back up, coming to rest on my necklace. Goose bumps collided against my skin. I wrapped my arms over my chest, aware that my nightgown didn’t hide much, and wished I’d at least grabbed a bathrobe. And why hadn’t I used the comb to brush my tangled hair rather than pry the board from my wall?
“Going somewhere?” he asked.
I sighed in response to his lilting voice; an alien, seductive voice that had the power to seduce a nun from her convent. Realizing I was melting, I straightened my spine and lifted my chin. Again.