Xerxes waited for the correct time, knowing his agents were in place. He watched the smooth interaction with his covert sentinels from a distance. When the camp settled down, his agent in charge signaled all clear. Activating a device that provided him with an invisible cape of camouflage, he needed to evaluate, personally, how close Jessica was to opening the final chamber of the old entrance of his under-world city.
To his disappointment, she wasn’t close enough to the main entrance that it was imperative to abduct her tonight. Xerxes was, in another way, relieved. Adhering to his planned schedule would attract less attention and lessen securities chance of detection. This way her disappearance and that of the artifacts was easier to handle.
Xerxes’ unique attraction to the beautiful scientist made the decision difficult. Personally, having her in Atlantis sooner, versus later, was preferable. Nevertheless, salvage of the artifacts and confident no other personnel on the site was as well-informed as to require abduction made timing crucial. Her partner, to his knowledge, knew too little to be of any concern. Afterwards, when the problem of dealing with Marcus was resolved, he planned to offer Mr. Lance a position as Councilor of Antiquities. Filling the position with the young archaeologist should eliminate the tension inside his council and rid Atlantis of a security problem more serious than the entrance’s discovery. He was convinced Marcus was the traitor, and if he weren’t, he was close to retirement age. Aware Bruce Lance would miss Jessica after her abduction, even though their relationship was platonic, the young man might attempt to find her, creating another security problem. Xerxes smiled; confident his solution would deal with this concern.
This was the time he looked forward to, a direct meeting with Jessica. He wondered if the drug laced drink, given her the day he rescued her, continued to be potent enough to cloud her memory. According to Ambassador Barrous, until Jessica was directly confronted with the situation of her first rescue, or that of a similar situation, the drug’s influence remained effective.
A highly targeted, alien memory blocker, he had full confidence in his off-world friend’s substance purposefully carried on the yacht-subs for such an occurrence. The use of the memory blocker reduced the need to add to Atlantis population in such cases as a required rescue.
“Excuse me.” Xerxes’ remarkably accented voice politely elicited Jessica’s attention from outside her tent.
Xerxes grinned, seeing her silhouette against the tent fabric startle at his interruption. Her shadow rose gracefully to open the tent door, and she appeared in reality through the tent door and stepped out. He presumed she expected to meet a Marine in camouflage fatigues, instead the surprise of meeting a stranger reflected on her face. Watching her eyes travel over his taller build, she tilted her head back to look up and meet his gaze. A flicker of confused, recognition flashed in her eyes and his breath caught in anticipation of identification.
“This is a closed dig, sir. How you got past the guards…How did you get past the guards?”
“I apologize,” Xerxes expressed gallantly, his Atlantean accent heavy when he didn’t conceal it to sound like an American, “but I have information to trade for new information, and I have traveled a considerable distance. Are you Ms. Carter?” He enjoyed the surprised look in her warm brown eyes and the way her loose dark red hair cascaded down her back as she looked up at him, relieved she didn’t know him. He smiled down into her upturned face and employed all his willpower not to pull her into his arms, lose his fingers in her hair, and kiss her.
Jessica regarded him suspiciously. “Yes, I am, but who are you, and where are you from?” Again, he saw a flicker of disconnected recollection cross her face. Momentarily she seemed perplexed. Innocent of how alluring her unconscious vulnerability made her appear.
“I come from Chile. We’ve had a similar find in my country. But excuse my poor etiquette, Xerxes Kallias,” he introduced himself with a slight nod. His perusal traveled boldly over her. Loose silk blue pants with a matching thin-strapped top draped low across her well proportioned bust. She blushed slightly, giving her face a heated glow. Where will the strength come from to leave her and return to Atlantis? He could take her tonight. With his agents in place, it would be so easy.
“I’d be most interested to hear about your find, Mr. Kallias. Perhaps you could come back in the morning…” She paused. “When did you locate your pyramid?” She asked, her curiosity winning out.
“About the same time you found this one, but not from a drought, my government was damning a river.
You said in Chile?” A puzzled frown crossed her face.
“Yes…” Xerxes stare drank in every detail. His scrutiny seemed to make her conscious of her attire, her face reddened. Aware of her discomfort, he chided himself for enjoying her uneasiness. She bristled under his stare, her eyes flashed.
“Tell me? Is your find a Mesoamerican pyramid or more a latter dynasty Egyptian pyramid?” Despite the obvious effect of his presence, she attempted to remain professional.
“A strange combination, it seems to prove a pet theory. I have always held, in some way they are connected.” Xerxes informed her, unaware his desire shown clear in his eyes. He dropped the pitch of his voice to a magnetic, erotic resonance caressing her with each word. They discussed archaeology, but his tone conferred passion. He held Jessica’s full attention staring down into her face. Her lips slightly parted, he leaned forward. Did he dare taste them? They stood close, their bodies almost touching. “Possibly…these two will prove they are…” His gaze held hers as it had at the mall. “Perhaps, Ms. Carter, you are correct, I should not have come, so late.” He apologized amiably, the last of his words trailing off. His will power regained. “I should go now.” Still holding her attention, Xerxes offered his hand in a professional manner. Mesmerized, Jessica extended hers.
* * * *
Xerxes Kallias’ touch was devastating. Passion was foreign to Jessica, until now. Firmly enclosing her hand in his, Xerxes drew her fingers upward, caressing them with his lips. Before he freed her, he turned her hand over brushing her wrist with his lips. Her mouth went dry, her knees weak. Captivated by the power flowing from this strange man into her tingling body, Jessica couldn’t speak. She was in a daze as he drew her nearer. He closed the last few inches between them without resistance.
Strong, warm arms surrounded her. His gaze held hers, and for a brief time, his lips caressed hers. Heat flowed from his lips, searing hers. Her blood raced through her body. He released her hand, and, as if in a dream she slipped it around his neck to pull him closer. Slowly he drew away.
She lowered her hand, smoothing it along his jaw as if in a dream, watching him in amazement. He grinned, took several steps back, their gazes still joined. In a blink, he turned and disappeared from sight. She stood immobile, stunned, never having experienced such an encounter before. Suddenly she gasped for air, just realizing she was holding her breath. She gazed around on a moonless night.
Puzzled, she grabbed her flashlight and scanned around the campsite. Chills ran down her spine, her nerves raw. She wasn’t intimidated, only plagued with a mounting sense of arousal, perplexity, and intrigue. The warmth of his lips on her wrist clung to her skin. Her mouth was alive, sleeping desires awakened. Deep inside, the distant memory of a young man in her past, a frightening event, and a strange encounter was shaken awake, but she couldn’t put it all together. Confounded, she clearly saw the expression in his gaze, but due to the lack of light, not the color of his eyes.
Slipping back inside her tent, she put her jeans and a shirt on over her lounging clothes. She gathered up her laptop computer, jumped in her Jeep and drove to the guard station.
“Did you let a tall, blond man on site this evening…strange accent, said he was from Chile?”
“No, of course not, Ms. Carter,” Merk, one of Captain Curtis’ seven particular group answered.
“Then search the area. I just had a visitor.” She could swear he wore a knowing smile on his attractive caramel face. Her eyes narrowed slightly in suspicion. His Creole hazel eyes danced with merriment.
“Yes, Ms. Carter.” Moments later searchlights came on. The entire area, the size of a football field became brightly lit and was thoroughly searched. Only the tread marks of Xerxes’ Tevas remained as evidence of his visit.
“I’m going to my apartment for the night. Please, put a guard on my tent, or in my tent, have someone sleep there if you wish, enjoy the air conditioning. Good night!” Jessica informed Captain Curtis noting his gaze held the same aware expression as Merk. She wondered if he knew more than he acknowledged. Shifting her Jeep, she drove away.
At the apartment, she tried to relax and allowed herself a glass of wine while she soaked in a hot tub before bed. Jessica attempted to but couldn’t dismiss the visitor’s haunting stare or the vaguely familiar voice of Xerxes Kallias. Her conscious memory fogged, she failed to connect their previous encounters. His now real persona sat at the edge of an entranced recollection—watching. Perplexed by the intrinsic emotion he aroused and she was unable to shake, Jessica found it infuriating, in a way foreign to her.
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