Ivy Jones has had a challenging life. She's learned to distrust men, and sworn off the male population. Even her cotton-candy pink chopper is a not-so-subtle defiance of all things masculine.
Excavating in an ancient temple, Ivy has the good fortune to make the find of a life time—an intact and perfect Athena. But the statuette is more than it appears, lying in wait, to be discovered by a believer of the Goddess herself. It takes possession of Ivy and life begins to take on some unexpected twists. Then The Athena is stolen.
Dane Knight knows trouble when he sees it. As a Navy SEAL turned Private Investigator, he has encountered more than his fair share, and has sworn off taking any new cases—until the theft of The Athena is brought to him. He's drawn into the assignment, unable to resist, especially after he meets Ivy Jones, the Museum's Head Curator. Dreams haunt him, dragging him deeper into the case. He begins to peel back the layers, and soon discovers there is more to the case than a mundane theft.
The Great Looking Pool rippled slightly, though no breeze stirred the pristine air surrounding Mt Olympus. Athena paused her passing as the summons came to her urgently. She had not been summoned in a very long time by the mortals from the Earthly Plane. The existence of man had become a sacrilege to Gaia. All of the beautiful temples and sacred ruins were being destroyed or ruined. The foul, loathsome creatures should have been wiped clean of the Earth long ago, the way they fought and bickered they should have annihilated themselves. But their primitive rutting kept them going. She understood the rare occasion of those who fell in love and created life between them. But to have the need for a male counterpart never made any sense to her.
Gazing down into the now glass smooth waters, the vision came clear to her. An Earth Daughter she was very familiar with, and one she favored, was in dire need of her assistance. She stood gazing, fascinated and appalled, at the scene unfolding before her.
Tearing her eyes from the looking pool, she turned angrily to leave the palace patio, only to run into her father, Zeus.
“Athena, my daughter, what troubles your heart?”
“Nothing I cannot deal with, Father.”
“Are the mortals restless again?”
Athena looked into her father’s knowing eyes. “Yes, I help one of my Earth Daughters.”
“Remember, you are not to get involved with the affairs of mortals anymore. We withdrew ourselves long ago, for a reason. The world of men has changed and you may not risk direct involvement. I trust your judgment and know you will do the right thing.” He laid an encouraging hand on her shoulder.
Athena stalked to her home with an idea and a plan forming in her mind.
Ivy Jones was in trouble and the only thing to soothe her was the deep thundering of chrome pipes as she rumbled down the road. Here she was free as the wind whipped against her face and lashed blonde tendrils of escaping hair from her cotton-candy pink, high glitter helmet. It was an exact match to the gas tank of her custom-made chopper body. The crossing of chrome and the black leather seat contrasted perfectly. Her black leathers silhouetted her lithe, rounded feminine form. However, what pleased her most was the fact that her perfect ride was considered an abomination to every biker man out there.
Usually, she was aware of the eyes following her down the block. Today, however, she was indifferent to the stares, her mind racing with the purr of the engine as she rumbled angrily through the city.
Not the best way to start a week. Monday was not among her favorite days of the week anyway. But to start by being accused of stealing her own artifact from the gallery and being placed on sabbatical during the investigation brought it to an all new low. She formed a mental checklist of everyone who worked for the gallery. Then she sub-divided the list into who would dare to steal the statue. There was only one who came to mind, but he wasn’t in town. Mind churning, she snapped back to reality and the traffic light ahead of her.
* * * *
Dane Knight sat in rush hour traffic of down town Seattle looking through the file of a new case he had just begrudgingly accepted. He watched in his rearview mirror for the bike to pull up. It was a natural curiosity of a bike owner to admire another’s wheels. A brotherhood of sorts in which the kinship was acknowledged in a high salute or wave of mutual respect.
He caught sight of the pink glitter helmet first, glinting in the sunlight, and his curiosity was piqued. The petite, thin framed woman stretched and straddled the chopper as she geared down to slow and make a right turn. The pink gas tank was a canvas displaying ”Goddess” in black, lacy scroll script and a red rose. As she passed him, his head whipped around to have a better look--he winced. It was pink.
As she glided to a smooth stop at the light, something about the bike caught his eye and prickled his mind. He had heard of this rider, knew her from descriptions lewdly given on the streets and in his brother’s bar, but there was something else. He watched her pass next to him in the line of traffic. When she paused to allow the passing traffic, it hit him. Her license plate. He picked up the file from the case and opened it. There, on the top, was the crisp, white sheet of all the people he was interested in reviewing. The first name--he traced with his finger over the page to the vehicles listed--was hers.
Flicking on his right blinker, he turned in line a short distance behind her to follow. He had her address, but this was easier. Watching people when they did not know they were being watched was a better way to see their true nature.
Soon the city thinned out into the urban sprawl. The neighborhood was nice enough, tidy yards with old style houses perched on little grass plots. Flowers bloomed and fluttered in the slight breeze along pathways leading to the front doors in a welcoming gesture. All very charming.
Keeping his eyes and ears riveted on her, he watched as she turned into the drive of a little white house lined in the same fashion with all white flowers. He pulled his car in front of the driveway, purposely blocking the entrance. Turning off the engine, he stepped out, softly letting the door click, and rounded the hood. He leaned against it, folding his arms across his broad, thick chest.
* * * *
Ivy knew too late she had been followed. She had been so wrapped up in her thoughts, she couldn’t quite remember when she’d picked her tail, but it was too late now. She could have turned and led her pursuer in a different direction, but in her foul mood she was ready for a confrontation anyway. Parking and swinging her leg over the low seat, she took her time taking off her helmet and shaking out her long blonde curls. With her helmet wedged between her hip and forearm, she sauntered coolly over to the male figure leaning against the hood of a new, shiny black Mustang. She perused him; his cool body language invited a challenge as he leaned against his car without a care in the world. If she was not so pissed off at the moment, she would say he was damn handsome. Six foot if an inch, jet black hair, black t-shirt, and jeans. His blue eyes twinkled at her in a sultry sort of way, making her pulse race, which only agitated her more. She stopped a good distance away in case he decided to lunge at her, but enough so she did not have to talk loudly.
“Who are you, and why are you following me?” she demanded.
He stood forward and withdrew his badge from his back pocket. He flipped it open and flashed it quickly before re-pocketing it. “You seemed in a hurry. Just wanted to be sure everything was alright.”
“You’re going to give me a ticket for speeding then? If so, let’s hurry it along. I don’t have all day to sit here.” The amusement in his eyes sharpened, making the anger in hers flash. She shook the long blonde curls away from her face. Just who did this jackass think he was?
“Well, Ms--Uhh.” He smiled coyly at her. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“That’s because I didn’t give it.” She snapped, her other hand fisting on her hip.
“Okay,” he dragged the word out. So it was a game she wanted. Fine, he was up for a little action. “I am a private investigator. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
She stiffened even more, giving him an indignant look. “Go to Hell. I’m too busy for this.” She turned and stalked toward her door. That’s when she saw her next door neighbor, a tiny little woman as ancient as the hills. She sat, conveniently, in the middle of a meticulous flower bed, scratching at invisible weeds. Ivy knew she had been listening. “Hello, Mrs. Peabody,” she said through clenched teeth. If she didn’t acknowledge her now, she would only come over later with feigned worry over her well being.
“Oh, hello dear.” Mrs. Peabody smiled warmly up at her and continued on as if nothing were going on. But Ivy knew better.
“Ms. Jones.” Ivy froze. “Ivy Jones, isn’t it?” A warm smile played on Dane’s lips.
Ivy spun around to face him, color draining from her face. He was toying with her, playing her like a cheap game. She gave no further comment, only headed for the back door. She felt him close behind her and stopped, turning to say something fierce to him. But, as she turned, she plowed straight into the wall of his brick hard pecs. It was a full body to body collision, and the heady musk of virile male enveloped her. She suppressed her own natural female instincts and fought to keep her deprived desires tucked neatly inside as she faced her pursuer once again. Why the hell did this one have to be so damn good looking? Why couldn’t he have just stayed by his car, down wind? She had a sudden vision of that tight body naked with her, and it seemed like the best thing in the world. His hands grasped her around the waist, and she moved quickly, pushing away from him. “What the hell are you doing?” Her breathy voice was sharp with surprise.
“Are you ok? I didn’t mean to stop short on you.” His voice was soft silk, smoothing her nettled quills. “Could we talk in private? Perhaps in the house?”
Ivy backed away enough that he was no longer bombarding her senses. “I don’t let cops in my house.” She recovered her waspish demeanor, quickly putting foolish, female notions away.
“Well, it’s a good thing I’m not a cop then, isn’t it?”
“I know. You’re a private investigator. I don’t care. Close enough. No PI’s. No cops. No men. You’re not coming into my house.” She wanted to run in the house, lock the door, and throw away the key. But she stood transfixed like a damn doe-eyed schoolgirl. This man was smooth; he stirred a deep need in her that she had locked away along time ago. He was dangerous.
“If that is the way you’d like it, Ms. Jones, perhaps we could discuss this over dinner?” He edged closer to her as she backed slowly to her door.
“I’m not going to date you, either,” she snapped at him. Alarms began to go off in her head as her pulse raced--hating him and wanting him, she hated wanting him.
“It isn’t a date. It’s a meal while we discuss the fine details of a case I have just taken on. Your name seems to head the list of people I need to talk to. You can come willingly, or I can send you a subpoena inviting you to come.”
Ivy kept inching backward until she felt the house at her back. She didn’t want to fight any more. She was exhausted and wanted to be left alone. Looking him square, she tried to harden herself against his scent. He was still standing dangerously close. She flinched as he leaned into her space; her hands came between them, resting on those brick hard pecs as a last effort to shield herself. She fisted his t-shirt when he stepped closer and wrapped his arm around her waist.
He leaned in so she had to look up at him “Be at the ‘Dragon’s Lair’ on First Street at seven o’clock tonight. Don’t be late.”
Her lips parted, but she didn’t speak. When he stepped back, she released his t-shirt, leaving wrinkled wad marks.
“Do you own another vehicle besides this one?” He smirked and cocked his brow as he nodded to her chopper.
“Yes, I do.” She barely recognized the husky voice coming from her throat. The fresh air between them was returning her senses to normal and her voice took on its slightly agitated tone. She crossed her arms across her abdomen.
“Good, use it. Leave the chick-mobile at home.” It wasn’t a request.
“If you think for one moment I’m going to let you tell me what to do...”
“If you have a problem with that, Ms. Jones, I will be happy to swing by and pick you up.”
Male, typically male. Staring at him with open contempt, she said nothing, but crossed her arms a little higher in her own silent defense. He fished a business card out of his back pocket and handed it to her.
“If you need anything...” A warm sultry smile showed dazzling white teeth, “And I do mean anything, that’s my number. Remember seven sharp, don’t be late.” He turned his back to her and strolled down the driveway. When he reached Mrs. Peabody, he smiled and said, “Have a lovely day, Mrs. Peabody.”
Ivy saw her blush and beam at him, the traitor. He stole another glance at Ivy as he ducked his head into the Mustang. The loud engine roared to life and, as he pulled away, she noticed the personalized plates--Stallion-2.
Ivy looked down at the card in her hand. It was just a plain white card, an armored knight with a lance on a horse in one corner, embossed with his name in black lettering and then his number.
An unwarranted chill chased up her spine as she watched him leave. She would have to watch out for this one.
The soft voice of Mrs. Peabody cut into her thoughts. “Well deary, when you come back to earth, let me know. If I were you, I would be trying to ride him rather than that vibrating contraption there.” She gestured to her bike with the little garden rake in her gloved hand. “It’s been long enough for you. I promised your grandmother I would look out for you and you need to get out! Experience the joy in life. It’s not going to come to you--although today it seems it just did. Life passes by awful fast; you better jump on and enjoy it before you reach my age. It gets a lot tougher then! Not to say I don’t indulge in some of my gentleman callers now and then.” Her grin warmed her wrinkly face, a delighted light in her eyes. “Use it while you’ve got it, deary. Before you know it, it’s all gone! Now go get ready for your date. You have only two hours left. Go on, get.”
Ivy shut her eyes, trying to purge the image of Mrs. Peabody and some of her callers from her brain. Mrs. Peabody had been her grandmother’s oldest and dearest friend before she died at the ripe age of eighty seven. She knew Mrs. Peabody had to be at least eighty five.
“I’d run you some competition if I were a few years younger. He’s worth the chase! Not many like that anymore. Tight firm rear end. Always a good sign.”
Ivy stared at her. “Of what?”
“Who knows? Who cares! It’s just good to see!” She resorted to a fit of sweet giggles and disappeared into her shrubbery, leaving Ivy staring after her.
This might possibly be the strangest day she had ever had. She entered the small tidy kitchen. The place seemed empty at times now that her Grandmother had passed on, even though she had left everything pretty much the same. Ivy was never home long enough to change much of it anyway, and even then she would drag her work home with her, reading and studying til the wee hours of the morning at times.
As Ivy showered, she let the warm spray lull her brain as sweet soap soothed her scorched ego. Now, in the safety of her shower, she let the details of meeting Dane Knight digest. How had he gotten to her? Men usually got out of her way when they saw her coming. But not only was Dane bold and strong, he was intelligent. Smart enough to turn her hot temper around and burn her with it.
Getting out of the shower, she dried and smoothed on a honeysuckle lotion. She would go and answer the questions he had, then find answers for herself.
* * * *
Athena could see Ivy had a desire and a need for male companionship, though she denied it to herself. This mortal man was a warrior, willing to risk himself to help her. She recognized the desire he had for her and the willingness to hold it in check until the time was right. It was almost as if Aphrodite had her hand in this. She would definitely seek out her sister to tell her to mind her own business.
Yes, she would help these mortals. She would give him insight, help him get closer to her. After she led the way, it was up to them to follow the path. But, for now, she would just watch.