Welcome my high school friend, Shayla Kersten! ~DD
Hiya, all! I’m Shayla Kersten, author of gay romances filled with hot manlove! *cackle* I’ve known Delilah Devlin for more years than either of us will admit. I could tell you tales! Woo howdy! But then, so could she so we pledge to remain silent in mutual self-defense. I’m totally jealous of her vacation. I can imagine her sunning herself on the ship’s deck as I freeze my posterior off in frigid Arkansas!
FOR OLYMPUS’ SAKE is my first foray into time travel. Why I haven’t dabbled in science fiction before, I don’t know. I’ve been a scifi geek since I was a kid. So while I’ve written gay vampires and lots of gay cops, FOR OLYMPUS’ SAKE is the first—but not the last—scifi story! I have the first book in a new scifi series coming out after the first of the year. Enjoy this excerpt from FOR OLYMPUS’ SAKE and be on the look out for ANGEL MOON—space cowboys with fangs! (Special thanks to Brandy W for the ANGEL MOON prompt! *cackle*)
FOR OLYMPUS’ SAKE
By Shayla Kersten
Copyright © SHAYLA KERSTEN, 2009
Stephen Liatos’ career as an archeologist hit a brick wall a long time ago. His love life crashed and burned right behind it. When a young, golden intern claims to have the key to the illusive artifact known as Aphrodite’s Necklace, Stephen’s life takes a strange turn. Suddenly, he’s in the middle of the hottest wet dream he’s ever had. Until all hell breaks loose. Literally.
Alex’s mission was to retrieve his mistress’s necklace. He didn’t need a passenger along for the ride, although Stephen’s overactive libido makes for an interesting trip. Nor did he expect to end up in Hades instead of Olympus. Now he has to get the necklace and Stephen out of the Underworld before they both become permanent residents.
Stephen Liatos looked up when his office door opened. His body tightened as the new intern Alex stepped into the room. His brain reminded his cock of the trouble young interns and assistants could be. Stephen’s punishment for screwing one of his students led to exile at a completely excavated ruin. Nothing new had been discovered at Knossos in years.
Alex stood a couple of inches taller than Stephen and had a body that looked like he was a Greek god come down from Olympus. And he had a profound effect on Stephen’s libido in spite of the danger—or maybe because of it.
“Can I help you?” Stephen winced at the slight crack in his voice. Grabbing a bottle of water, he hid his embarrassment behind a long drink as the desk hid his physical reaction.
“I found the site of Aphrodite’s necklace!” Alex’s enthusiasm filled his tone and brightened his face.
“What do you mean?” Stephen scowled across the desk. A flush of heat crawled up his neck. Surely, he knew about Stephen’s history of tilting at windmills. “The necklace is a legend, not a real artifact.” He’d once believed a lot of things…
“No, it is real. And I know where to find it.” Alex was practically dancing with excitement. “Would you drive?”
Stephen ran his hand through his hair. To be young and so naïve again. He was tempted to tell Alex to get back to the job he was assigned, but the young man needed to learn from his own mistakes. “Okay. Let’s go.” Maybe getting away from worrying about the museum’s budget would make the world look less gray today.
Pushing away from his desk, Stephen stood then grabbed his jacket against the blustery winter day. Situated between the Mediterranean and the Aegean Seas, Crete didn’t get very cold weather but the damp wind could be chilling. “Lead the way.”
Stephen lagged behind Alex for the short walk down the corridor to the parking lot. A small trowel, a ruler and a couple of brushes in Alex’s right back pocket raised his wrinkled T-shirt enough to reveal the contours of his denim-covered ass.
The view from behind both raised and lowered Stephen’s mood. His body reminded him of how long it had been since he’d been up close and personal with something other than his hand. Too bad his personal rules now made the staff off-limits. Especially the young hardbodies also known as grad students and interns.
Alex scurried across the parking lot to Stephen’s truck. He swayed from one foot to the other, waiting on Stephen to catch up.
Lowering his head, Stephen hid the small smile forming. Once upon a time, he’d had been as enthusiastic as Alex about archaeology. Now at nearly forty, Stephen understood that the find of a lifetime was usually in someone else’s life. Instead of putting a damper on the young man’s mood, Stephen unlocked the car and climbed in.
“So where to?” Stephen asked as he started the car.
Alex stuffed his tall frame into the seat next to him. “The Minoan ruins.”
“But they—” Explaining how many times the palace of Knossos had been searched—by Stephen and others—wouldn’t do any good. Stephen started the car. “Knossos it is.”
Alex’s fingers clenched and unclenched around a piece of paper as his body rocked back and forth in the seat.
“So, where do you think the necklace is?” Even though he was convinced Alex was on a fool’s errand, Stephen’s curiosity finally roused its head.
“Near the fresco of the leaping bull in the east wing of the palace.”
Stephen traced an image of the fresco in his mind. With the brilliant colors lost to the ravages of man and time, restorations filled in the patterns to illustrate the former beauty of Knossos. However, he couldn’t remember any structure that might contain hidden secrets.
Keeping his gaze on the road, Stephen held back his opinions. Some days he didn’t recognize the bitter, cynical man he’d become. Reality ripped his dreams apart in too many ways, too many times. Digs that didn’t pan out, relationships that soured because of his work-tracked mind. And not to forget the lover who charged him with sexual harassment because the grades Stephen gave him weren’t good enough.
Even the gods and goddesses he’d once believed real seemed to have failed him. Since few people worshipped the ancient ones anymore, he didn’t even have someone to talk to about his loss of faith.
He swallowed against the bitterness of his life. If he disappeared tomorrow, no one would miss him. The world would go on without blinking at his fate. Even the museum ran without real guidance from him.
The short drive from Iraklion ended at a parking lot with few cars present. The winter, as mild as it was, wasn’t a big draw for tourists and the natives had lived in the shadow of antiquity all their lives. No novelty there.
Stephen pulled his truck into a spot near the gate. “Lead on.”
With the door already half open before the vehicle stopped, Alex leapt out then rushed for the gate before Stephen could climb out.
Following at a more sedate pace, Stephen felt a little sorry for Alex.
Once Alex realized his discovery was nothing more than a dream, the young man would lose some of his excitement. Each washed-out lead would chip away at his morale until he was as empty as Stephen.
He picked up his pace but didn’t strain to catch up to Alex. He could find the fresco in his sleep. Many times, Stephen had combed every square inch of the palace, at first in search of a dream then later seeking solace from the simple antiquity surrounding him.
Strange how the ruins could both frustrate and calm him. The irony of his existence…
Wind swirled and peppered him with dust. His steps faltered as he closed his eyes and shrugged deeper into his jacket. Through narrowed eyelids, he found his way around the next corner.
A sharp light—like the aura of a migraine—forced his eyes closed in a hard blink. When he opened his eyes again, the brightness was gone and only Alex remained.
Kneeling near the leaping bull fresco, Alex used a trowel to pry at a crease where the wall met the stone floor.
“What are you doing?” Stephen rushed toward Alex. “You’ll damage the wall.” Dropping to his knees next to Alex, Stephen grabbed the trowel. “We don’t have permission to excavate within the ruins.” All he needed was an intern getting him fired.
“But I don’t need to dig deep. Just need to remove a little of the material blocking the opening.” Alex’s face contorted into something resembling pain. Something Stephen could understand.
“Give me a brush.” Stephen held out his hand.
The younger man’s expression blinked from fear to elation. His smile revealed gratitude and a touch of something else… Avarice?
If the ruins did cough up a new artifact, Alex would be acclaimed in archaeological circles. If the find were significant, he’d make headlines around the world.
Jealousy welled up, threatening to consume Stephen. For a split second, he thought about walking away and taking Alex with him. Why should Alex find the very thing that ruined Stephen’s career? Then again, if the necklace existed, it didn’t matter who found it. Stephen’s reputation would be restored.
Stephen took the offered tool. With gentle strokes, Stephen brushed away dust and dirt until a widening crack appeared. A few more strokes revealed what appeared to be a small lever. “Hold this.” Stephen handed the brush back to Alex. Stretching out full length on the cold stones, he pressed the side of his face to the ground to get a better view.
“Damn.” Whatever the contraption was, it was a new discovery. “We need pictures and measurements before we go any further.”
Alex’s hand appeared, holding a small digital camera. “Here.”
First maneuvering around until he had the best angle, Stephen took a couple of shots of just the opening. A quick check of the display showed the camera had picked up the detail of the lever. In the appropriate photo software, any further details should be clear. “I need—”
Alex dropped a ruler into place before Stephen could finish his request.
“Thanks.” Stephen captured a few more shots of the niche with the ruler for a record of the measurement. His stomach churned with a combination of dread and excitement. The find could be nothing more than dust.
After so many years of disappointments, Stephen was surprised at the thrill of anticipation rushing through his body. The sensation was almost akin to sex. Even now, slow tendrils of desire tightened his khakis. The smell of dirt and the feel of the cold stone aroused his longing, his dreams of great finds, ancient treasure beyond belief.
Dreams of a young fool.
Handing the camera back to Alex, Stephen slipped his finger into the opening. Not much more than the width of a finger, he couldn’t see the lever as he traced its length.
“Open it.” Alex’s tone was harsh and almost commanding.
“We should wait.” Stephen pulled his hand away. “We should study it more. Try to determine what the lever does before we do anything else.”
“I have studied it. It opens a small compartment containing Aphrodite’s necklace of red diamonds.” Alex’s voice dropped to an almost reverent whisper. “The Heart of Hephaestus.”
“The what?” Stephen had never heard that designation for the necklace.
The legend claimed the necklace was created by Hephaestus, Aphrodite’s husband, and stolen in a fit of anger by her lover Ares. If Hephaestus discovered the theft, all hell would’ve broken loose on Mount Olympus and possibly set off a war between the gods. However, the legend was only found in a few ancient Greek scrolls and never made it into the general pantheon of Greek myths handed down to present day. And no resolution to the conflict was ever recorded.
“Just open it,” Alex growled.
Stephen glanced up at Alex. The young man’s soft features seemed to harden. He looked much older than the twenty-two declared in his records.
“Do it.” Alex leaned forward, his gaze fixed on the small crevice.
As if mesmerized by Alex’s tone and words, Stephen obeyed. Wiggling the lever to determine if it turned or pulled out, he felt a slight give on a down stroke. Encouraged, he pressed in that direction. A slight resistance held then the lever popped down.
Stephen yanked his hand back, fearing he’d damaged something. With a soft rattle of stone, a hiss of air rushed out. The stale odor teased Stephen’s nose along with a puff of a dust. A small drawer, the width of a CD tray on a computer and maybe twice the thickness, appeared, blowing dust and dirt toward Stephen. Holding back a sneeze, Stephen peered into the tiny compartment as it slid open.
“Fuck.” Stephen rose up on his arms to see what the niche revealed.
A break in the overcast sky must have dropped a ray of sunlight into the dark recesses. A brilliant red glow shone from the dark.
Alex dipped his head and murmured a soft whisper. “…most…goddess… Call your servant…”
Goddess? Someone else who believed?
Before Stephen could question him, Alex grabbed the artifact from its hiding place. The wind picked up, twirling around. The clouds closed ranks with a vengeance, darkening the sky more than before, but the rosy glow grew brighter. Swirling dust forced Stephen’s eyes closed.
Alex’s voice grew louder but the words weren’t intelligible. The chant seemed to stir the wind faster.
Stephen crawled up next to the wall, leaning into the fresco to keep him from flailing against the wind. He forced his eyes open in time to see a brilliant red vortex twisting behind Alex. Tornadoes weren’t something Stephen had experienced—and he’d never heard of a red one—but he had no other term to describe the funnel of wind threatening Alex.
Reaching for Alex, Stephen pulled the young man toward the scant protection of the ancient wall. The vortex must have gripped Alex already because his body pulled in the opposite direction. Stephen lost his hold on Alex.
“Alex!” Stephen dove toward the younger man. His mind ceased questioning the strange events. His only purpose now was to save Alex. Grabbing hold of Alex’s shirt with one hand, Stephen held on until he had his other hand around Alex’s wrist.
Alex’s loud yells and curses kept Stephen hanging on. He wouldn’t let Alex go to his death…
The world twisted around Stephen. The walls of Knossos blurred and faded into the blinding red light. Nausea gripped Stephen’s stomach as his vision narrowed with darkness. His last conscious thought muttered out unheard over the roar of the wind.