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TRES: Part 1

Ancient Warriors, Modern Women, Waking Desires


















TRES by Jules River

Published by 2Rivers Publishing

Copyright 2017 Jules River

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without

Permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law

For permission contact :

2riverjules@gmail.com


Cover by Rebel Edit & Design







Table of Contents


Prologue


Chapter 1


Chapter 2


Chapter 3


Chapter 4


Chapter 5


Sneak Peek Part 2


About the Author


Stay Connected


Acknowledgements

















~Prologue~


Germania, AD 315



Four days after defeating Roman General Titus Quintus Dives Demetrias, the warrior chieftain Warin, respected and feared as “The Fist That Protects,” received a missive regarding a pending attack. With his brothers, Dunstin and Cenric, he set out to meet the informant at an abandoned castle near the Elbe River, a two-hour ride from their encampment.

When they arrived just past midday, the door of the burnt-out fortification hung open to a dilapidated hall where the high ceilings crumbled and birds roosted in the rafters. The smell of beeswax overpowered the dank musk of the structure, and as they stepped inside the warriors found a circle of burning candles on a large granite platform.

In the center of the ring of candles lay a piece of parchment. The brothers had a bad feeling, but drew their weapons and moved forward cautiously to read the parchment. As soon as they entered the circle, chanting arose from the darkened rear of the hall. As one, the brothers turned to the sound, and stood side by side with weapons at the ready.

Tingling.

That’s how it started. They felt tingling throughout their bodies.

While their minds fought furiously to identify the danger, their limbs became heavy and frozen. A hooded figure came before them, and slipped the drawn weapons from the warriors’ hands, one by one. They were helpless to stop him.

Their heartbeats became sluggish as thickening blood pumped ever more slowly through their veins, as if it were mud flowing through their bodies. In but a moment, the mud turned to clay, and the clay to marble.

All the while the chanting never ceased, until the warrior brothers were as solid as the stone platform upon which they stood.

The hooded figure, with a grim smile upon his youthful face, turned and disappeared into the mists of time.




~1~



“You don’t want to double cross me, Mr. Bhat. That would be an error on your part,” As two rough unscrupulous looking men came in the back door and flanked Mr. Bhat.

Faye gestured behind her. “My friends wouldn’t like that very much,” She warned the shady black market dealer in the back room of the low class Indian brothel.

Faye was still holding the dagger she had come to purchase. She had just handed over the payment in a small woven bag full of cash as they had agreed on before the meeting. She didn’t have time to be excited about finding the dagger she and her family had been looking for the entirety of their lives. The sounds of raunchy sex seeping through the thin dirty walls made her skin crawl nearly as much as the dangerous men standing before her.

Mr. Bhat had insisted her two companions wait outside the backroom. She had known it was risky to go in alone, but she was confident that her two security men would protect her if she were unable to protect herself.

“It is worth more to you, I think. I want double the price for the dagger.” He jerked his head, telling his men to move toward her. The two men started around the stack of crates that separated her from them.

“Jake,” Faye called over her shoulder, not taking her eyes off of the men coming toward her.

Jake and Dale shoved the door open immediately.

“Ma’am?” Jake asked as he and Dale took in the two new men and moved in front of Faye. Dale pulled his jacket to the side while putting his hand on his hip, revealing the gun on his belt.

Mr. Bhat’s men stopped instantly. Then they went for their own guns. Apparently, Mr. Bhat had thought she would be easy to double cross.

Jake and Dale had their guns drawn before the two goons had their hands on their weapons.

“Dale, I’ve got these two, you take out Mr. Bhat back there.” Jake tossed his head toward the sly-looking criminal.

“My pleasure.” Dale turned his gun on Mr. Bhat. The red dot went straight to his heart and fixed there.

Mr. Bhat looked down and saw where the bullet would pierce his chest. He looked back up at Dale, assessing if he had it in him to shoot. The calm deadly glare Dale returned gave him a clear answer.

Mr. Bhat sneered in indication for his men not to pull their guns, “No need to for this to get messy.” Changing his tactic, he said in a light, joking tone, “You can’t blame me for trying. No hard feelings.” Spreading his hands wide, “Enjoy yourselves of what we offer here, we have something for everyone.”

“I’m taking the dagger for the already inflated price we agreed upon. You have your money; our business is concluded. Good day, Mr. Bhat.” Faye said sternly with disgust and distrust clearly written on her face.

She wrapped the dagger back in the fabric and stuffed it in her oversized shoulder bag, then she headed into the darkened hallway, which stank of incense and unwashed bodies. Jake and Dale covered their exit behind her. Faye was glad to be out of the heavy stench of the building to breathe fresher air again.

The three of them jumped in a cab and headed straight to the airport where Faye had a private plane waiting.

“That was a rush and a little scary,” Faye said, pumped up on adrenaline.

“We’re just glad you weren’t hurt and we were able to do our job,” Jake answered calmly.

“I’m so excited, my family has been looking for this dagger my entire life.”

Faye couldn’t wait a minute more, she called her sister on the way.

“Come on Mira, answer the phone, I just found something wonderful.” Faye sighed impatiently as the call went to voicemail.

“Hi Mira, Faye here, just found one of the ‘Big Three’ and you decide not to be available, anyway call me.” She hung up, mumbling, “Fine, Lyra will find out first.”

She speed-dialed her twin, “Hey Lyra, I did it!” Faye continued in hushed tones, “I found the dagger. It has the Latin word ‘Tres’ engraved on it. What do you think three means in all of this? It was crazy, I found it on the black market—big surprise there—in some hole in the wall in India. We almost had to shoot our way outta there.”

Lyra, in her typical, no-nonsense manner, stated, “Where are you now? We need to meet. Does Mira know?”

“I'm about to catch a plane out of India, headed to New York -- oh hold on, Mira's calling.”

As she switched over to Mira, her big sister instructed, “I need you on a plane to Germany asap.”

Faye sarcastically replied, “Hi, Mira, nice to hear from you, too. By the way, I've got the dagger.”

“Hello, little sister. That’s great.” Mira started in a sickeningly sweet tone, then she snapped, “Now get on a plane to Germany, I have procured a castle that contains the statue. I'll text you the details. And Faye, I am really happy you found the dagger.”

Smiling, Faye hung up, switching back to Lyra. “Well, ‘Ms. Large and In Charge’ just told me to get to Germany immediately. She found the statue.”

“I know, she texted me,” Lyra clicked off, abruptly hanging up on Faye.

“Well, how do you like that?” Faye grumbled to herself as she hung up. “They couldn't even bother to be excited after all these years and they have the most annoying habits.”

“Ma’am?” Jake asked.

“Change of plans, guys. I’m going to Germany. You can either fly with me or catch a commercial flight back to the States. It’s your call, the job’s finished.”

Jake and Dale looked at each other before Jake answered, “We’ll catch a flight to the States.”

“I bet you’re eager to get home. Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Sure, I’ll answer if I can, ma’am.”

“Do you like your job?”

“Absolutely. We get to see the world, use our specific set of skills sometimes and the pay’s real nice in the private sector.”

Faye smiled, “You guys are great to have around. I appreciate your specific set of skills. Thank you.”

Dale nodded in acknowledgement.

“Call us anytime you need us, ma’am.” Jake said with a grin on his handsome face.


***

Once Mira was off the phone with her sister, she stood in front of the life-size marble statue of three stunning warriors. It was shockingly realistic. Every line, every muscle on their bare chests and every detail of their faces stood out in perfect relief. They appeared so alive, it seemed as if they would respond to her touch.

Mira could not resist reaching out, running her fingers along the scar on the fiercest one’s face, down his neck and onto his huge muscled chest before flattening her hand over his heart. The look of this warrior, the angry expression on his roughly attractive face, the scars on his massive beautiful body, all called to her deeply as a woman. She half expected to feel his heart beating. She gasped as she realized how warm the marble felt and quickly pulled her hand away, chastising herself for letting her imagination get away from her.

What some might call a premonition, she suddenly had a feeling they rested on the cusp of a life-altering adventure, that something exciting was rushing toward them. She shook off the feeling.

Still with many arrangements to make before her sisters arrived, Mira began to walk away, yet was unable to resist the pull of the compelling stone warrior before her. She stopped and looked into his eyes, attracted in a way she could not understand. Minutes passed. Finally, shaking her head as if to release herself from a spell, she turned and left the room.

***

Warin, the warrior Mira had touched, felt such pleasure it was painful as he watched her walk away. He had been drawn to her the second she walked into the office the first time. Infatuated almost. It had been days since a maid had dusted; therefore, touched him or his brothers in their stone form, but they had never felt anyone’s touch before now. And for Mira to be such a comely woman. . . His reverie was abruptly interrupted when his brother Dunstin’s thoughts loudly came to him.

By the agonizing groan you let out when she stroked the scar on your ugly face, your thoughts said you felt that. Did you? How did it feel? Dunstin asked.

Something is happening. This is different. It must have to do with this woman, Mira. I did feel her touch and it was everything you could have imagined, Warin told his brothers.

She spoke to a sister, that found a dagger. I hope her sister is as lovely as she. I would bet my sword arm we too can feel. Do you think it could be my dagger? Cenric speculated.

I wouldn’t get my hopes up, but I agree something different is happening. I hope she has more than one sister, Dunstin added. She's a real beauty. Good thing you’re already rock hard. Wouldn’t want you to embarrass yourself. They all chuckled in their minds.

Dunstin continued, She seemed drawn to you, she barely looked us over.

I too am drawn to her since the moment I saw her, I would say unnaturally so. I feel a change coming. Warin admitted.

For whatever reason, they still could not understand, Warin and his two brothers, Dunstin and Cenric, had been cursed seventeen hundred years before by an unknown sorcerer. After all those centuries had passed nothing had happened like what happened with Mira.

The curse turned their bodies to marble, but left their minds aware. They could see what was in front of them, and hear what was within hearing. They could not feel when touched, until now.

It was a special kind of hell.

The brothers could also hear each other’s thoughts if they concentrated hard enough. Their companionship is all that kept them sane these many long years. That, and the hope of freedom. They had given up the hope of vengeance a long time ago.

Over the years, they had learned German and later English and a smattering of other languages through glimpses of the world as it moved on around them. Then, six decades ago the warriors had been placed in the private office of their previous owner’s father, who eventually passed away leaving everything to his son, the last owner of the castle. For the past thirty years, this office which held the latest technology in abundance had allowed them up-to-date knowledge of the world today.

Suddenly, they had television, music, and eventually computers. The German collector and businessman had been an insomniac workaholic and had the televisions on nearly twenty-four hours a day. He constantly watched the news and markets from all over the world, especially Europe and the United States. They had nothing else to do but learn and absorb all the changes the world had made. It’s amazing what you could learn when all you did was listen for seventeen hundred years.

Some of the conversations the brothers had with each other when discovering or discussing some modern technology, like the first time they saw airplanes on television, were quite exciting or at times heated. They were not excepting of the advances of the world at first, but they had time to get used to them and had eventually decided to embrace them and be ready if the chance to be free again ever occurred. Their plan was to adapt and survive. Learning gave them something to focus on other than their stone prison.

After the German collector died in his office several weeks ago, from what they gathered by the conversations held in front of them, they were now in the possession of the beautiful Mira and her family. That gave the warriors hope. Mira seemed to know at least a little something of their curse, since she had been actively seeking the statue—them.

***

As Faye and Lyra pulled up to the castle, they were filled with quiet excitement. The sisters were getting closer to their goal. A journey set upon by their late father, Dr. David Banks, a renowned archaeologist.

Twenty-five years ago, when Mira was a baby, Dr. Banks had found an ancient codex when he was excavating a medieval site in Rome. The book told of a sorcerer’s curse on three brave warriors, how they were tricked, and how the sorcerer stole their weapons as their bodies turned to stone. It was written the sorcerer was later robbed of the weapons – the sword, the axe, and the dagger – and they were eventually scattered across the globe. As the curse played out the warriors would remain frozen until they were reunited with their weapons, and it hinted at other things that would have to be done as well. They had yet to find the missing pages that told of the tasks.

That was the mystery Dr. Banks could not resist trying to solve. Even after his death, his daughters had continued his cause, after all they had helped him their entire lives.

Once the twins, Faye and Lyra, were born, both their parents were deeply ensconced in finding the statue, the weapons and figuring out the curse. David and Virginia Banks took their three little girls on every exploration with them. The girls had the run of the archaeological sites their parents were a part of. Growing up the sisters learned all about and worked with their parents in the family business of buying and selling antiques. They went to all the museum exhibits and fundraisers with their parents from the time they could walk.

Tragedy struck when the Mira was six and the twins were only five, when their mother was killed in a car wreck in Frankfurt, Germany. Their father never completely recovered from her death. He dedicated his life to breaking the curse, sometimes almost to the point of neglecting his girls; they were always well cared for, but emotionally he was not always available. He was often preoccupied with his work. His daughters knew it was his way of dealing with the grief of the loss of his wife and partner.

The Bank’s sisters now had the statue and the dagger. If only their father had lived to see how close they were to undoing the curse. None of them were sure they believed anything would happen, but their father had spent most of his life trying to reunite the artifacts. Regardless, the daughters would work to find the remaining weapons, and when nothing happened, they would donate the collection to a museum in memory of their father and mother. For them it was about achieving their parents’ dream, a way to honor their parents’ dedication and work.

At the sprawling front steps, Mira met her sisters with a hug. They were often snarky with each other, like sisters could be, but they cared for each other and were very close. The driver brought the luggage in while the quiet, capable-looking housekeeper directed the bags upstairs; then they were introduced to the dedicated household staff, who had all been employed at the castle most of their lives and were grateful to have been kept on by the new owners.

Mira took her sisters directly to the statue, down the steps to the private study. The study was a spacious room with vaulted ceilings. The floors were smooth marble tiles with earth-toned Persian rugs scattered about. The walls were mirrored, giving the windowless room an even larger feel and magnifying the treasures within. It had fast become Mira’s favorite room in the castle; she spent most of her time there because oddly enough she didn’t feel alone.

It was a unique room; several oversized televisions and computer monitors were attached to the walls on either side of the entrance. Two desks, a dozen feet apart, faced each other on the back wall. In the center of the room large, luxurious cream velvet sofas, separated by an ornately carved low table, formed parallel sides of a roomy seating area that, with the addition of twin leather club chairs on opposing ends, still managed to feel cozy.

The warriors were angled in the far corner of the room, flanked by other pieces of priceless art and objects. The clever placement of statue, furniture and mirrors ensured the entire room could be viewed from any angle.

As soon as they walked into the well-appointed study, Faye and Lyra’s gazes were drawn to the statue. They stared for an astounded moment before they drifted over to the statue. Never had they seen anything like it, of such quality and fully life sized. They circled the figures, just fascinated by the superb detail of the fine-looking warriors caught in a pose, at the ready. Each had an arm raised with an empty hand that looked as if it should be gripping a weapon and a fierce look upon their faces.

They could easily make out wrist and bicep cuffs as well as the tops of daggers sticking out of their boots and strapped to their thick belts. The first one even had on a large ring. They were shirtless, but had what was probably supposed to be leather strapped across their chests, most likely to hold their larger weapons, that none of the warriors in the statue had. Other than that oddity, the detailing was exquisite, with even the eyelashes and facial hair visible. All three of them wondered who could have been such a skilled artisan.

The warriors’ stone eyes seemed to shine with intelligence, as odd as that seemed. One could easily imagine them being dipped in a thin layer of white chocolate, the detail was that amazing. Too amazing really. They had never seen anything like it before.

Luckily Mira had made an offer on the castle and another directly to the accountant handling the sale. The piece would be priceless on the open market, and they would never have been able to afford it then. They had a single hand-drawn rendering of the statue from the only time it had been on the market in the last two centuries, after which it had disappeared from public view. Convincing the accountant to sell the castle fully furnished was the only way they could have acquired such a priceless statue.

Just as one warrior beckoned Mira, Faye and Lyra were also drawn to one man in particular, and each sister seemed unable to keep from deferentially touching the statue that called to her.

“The drawing did not do prepare me for this stunning masterpiece,” Mira commented.

Faye chuckled, “No, it didn’t. Do you remember when we first saw the drawing when we were little girls and we each picked a warrior. Mine was this one.” Faye reached for Cenric's face, which appeared to have a five o'clock shadow on his strong jaw.

Lyra reached for Dunstin's exceedingly bulging bicep just below his arm cuff. She wondered what type of metal the cuffs would have been made of.

Mira and Lyra gave a slight laugh, before Lyra said, “Yes and this one was my guardian. He was going to be my big teddy bear. He doesn’t come across as being very cuddly though.”

“Oh yes, I remember. You were so cute and sweet. What happened?” Mira asked.

“Har Har.” Lyra responded dryly.

The twins gave each other strange looks before Faye asked, “Do they feel warm to you?” Mira and Lyra agreed, “Yes.”

Mira speculated, “Maybe there is something to this curse. We believed in it once.”

Faye ran her hand down Cenric's back and exclaimed, “Wow. Just, Wow!” She eyed the muscled statue longingly, then realized how ridiculous she felt over a statue. “I mean, look at the craftsmanship. Can you imagine what they would look like in real life?”

Lyra grudgingly pulled her hand away from Dunstin's chest, which she had been skimming with her fingertips, absently measuring his width with her hand. She flippantly replied, “They would be big, taller than average, if you like that sorta thing. They would have practically been giants in their time, the statue is obviously an exaggerated version if it is in the image of the real men. Yes, the craftsmanship is remarkable, I’ve never seen anything like it before,” She tried to downplay their attractiveness and her reaction to the statue, especially to the one particular warrior.

She was drawn to him in the oddest way. She thought back to the time when she was a child; her father allowed her to hold the ancient codex for the first time to study at her leisure. She had never wanted to let go of it. Everything having to do with the warriors seemed to have a magical quality.

After they all pulled their gazes away from the warriors, the sisters sat down on the couches in front of the statue. Faye pulled the dagger from her shoulder bag and unwrapped it from the velvet covering. Lyra took the dagger for a closer examination, being very careful with the blade.

Lyra inquired, “You said you almost had to shoot your way out with the dagger?”

“Yes, I would have, for sure. Good thing I took Jake and Dale with me. They stepped in just in time. Those guys were planning on double-crossing me,” Faye explained.

“I didn’t realize you had taken security with you. I’m glad you used the company we usually use. So, you were able to get Jake and Dale this time, that’s great. You know they’re from Texas, right?” Mira asked.

Faye nodded.

Mira went on with a dreamy look on her face, “Jake is my favorite, but Dale is a close second. I just love those Texas guys.”

Faye and Lyra said simultaneously, “Don’t we all.” Then the three of them burst out laughing, before they got back to the business at hand.

The dagger was wicked-looking, as long as her forearm and open hand combined. It had an extremely sharp blade and an ornate handle. Engraved on the blade near the hilt was the word ‘Tres.’

Mira looked at the dagger and noted, “The dagger is of Germanic origin; however, the engraving is clearly Latin. Which doesn’t make sense because they were mortal enemies at that time in history.”

Faye piped in, “Unless the curse has something to do with the engraving or someone added it later after it had been stolen.”

“Yet another mystery,” Lyra said, “Only time will tell, hopefully.” Then she laid out what business plans she had for them. “I have several leads on the sword and the axe; fortunately, they are relatively close. There is a silent auction four nights from now in Brussels, and the next morning I have set up an appointment with a private dealer in Amsterdam. Then later that evening a museum in Prague is ready to make a trade of some of its artifacts in storage. They all have something that could be one of our pieces.”

Mira decided, “Faye and I will go.”

Lyra agreed. “You two can handle that while I stay and take care of other business. I will have a tech team come to update, well, everything. Just looking at the desks, I can tell those computers are more outdated than I would like and I must have high-speed internet.” She was busy looking at the computer system, internet and cable. “Luckily, it’s not as bad I would have thought. The old guy had this office fairly well hooked up to modern technology. Anyway, if I have time, I will also work on trying to figure out what the three tasks are that must be done to keep the warriors free, if they can be released from the stone, or whatever is supposed to happen.”

They all agreed with the plan, then decided they would go freshen up before they came back with a bottle of wine to catch up with each other; they had each been in different locations for the past few months.

***

Cenric and Dunstin were the ones who suffered after Faye and Lyra ran their eager hands over them.

Dunstin spoke to his brothers in what passed for excitement for him, They have the dagger and did you hear that? They are actively searching for our other weapons and they know of the curse. Then he grumbled, if you like that sorta thing… She liked it all right. Teddy bear? Just wait until I'm free, that ill-tempered, long-legged wench will admit she liked it. Then he moaned as if in pain, Oh, but I had not remembered clearly how exquisite a woman’s touch was. I’ll show her my exaggerated version.

Warin sighed, We know what you mean, Dun. Keep your lust to yourself. You’re giving me a headache. Who are these security men from Texas? But more importantly what are these three tasks that must be completed to keep us free?

Cenric excitedly stated, I don’t know, there is much to these women we don’t know. We have learned more from the three sisters in minutes than we have learned our entire incarceration. They have renewed my hope of freedom. Ah, my dagger, I could almost feel it in my hand again. The temptress with curly hair and green eyes is mine. I can still feel her hands on me. Just think, they could be back in just a few days with the axe and sword to free us. Then, what, we have tasks to complete so we can stay free? He sounded eagerly hopeful as well as thoroughly put out.

Yes, Cen, they could, or it could take longer. We must have patience. After all, we have waited this long. They are well on their way to freeing us from this hell of a prison. It would appear they plan on completing the tasks. I would like to know why they wish to free us. I don’t trust them, even though they have been drawn to us since they were children. It is fortunate you two chose the other sisters, I claim the eldest one, she will have the answers I seek, among other things. Warin staked his claim without missing a beat.

***

Mira was the first sister back to the study; she carried a bottle of wine and glasses. She was glad to see Lyra was next to return, she wanted to speak to her alone.

“So, what’s up with Faye and that cage fighter she has mentioned several times? Have you heard anything about that situation? I know he’s fighting tonight, that’s what reminded me.”

“I was going to ask you the same thing. What is her deal? Yeah, I mean the guy is hot and a real badass.” She rolled her eyes before she continued, “but he was accused of beating up his last girlfriend,” Lyra added, “I met him once, he did seem really sweet and into Faye, but you never can tell. All I know is she went out with him with a group of friends a couple of times. She even went to watch him fight not long ago.”

Just then Faye sashayed into the room.

“Hey, you don’t mind if I put on a fight, do you? I wanted to watch Rob Wills in his MMA fight tonight with Santiago Ramirez. I have money on this fight.” She turned on the large TV’s flanking the doors, and scrolled until she found the fight. “The previous owner really liked his cable channels, I’m surprised he has all of these. I figured I would have to stream it off of my tablet.”

Mira and Lyra gave each other a what-the-heck look.

Then Mira asked Faye, “OK, so what’s the deal with you and this Rob guy? He seems to have a bad reputation, and since when did you start betting on fights? You don’t have a gambling problem, do you?” She gave a little nervous laugh and joked, “It’s like I don’t even know you anymore,” trying to keep the mood light and not put Faye on the defensive.

Faye laughed, “No, I don’t have a gambling problem. No twelve-step program needed. I knew you two would freak. Seriously though, look at him, that’s a fine-looking man letting out some serious aggression right there,” as she pointed to him on TV. “Oh man, can he kiss. Rob absolutely has a thing for me. He asks me out all the time, he’s so sweet, and such a gentleman…” She saw the worried looks on her sisters’ faces, so she decided to stop making more out of it than there was and relieved their anxiety. “But I’m not feeling it. I like him as a friend. Oh, and his ex-girlfriend was crazy, she was beating on him, so rather than hurt her, he called the cops. She accused him of hitting her, so they arrested him as well. She was taken in for a psych evaluation last I heard. He really is a nice guy. And he always wins. You gotta like a man who’s hot and looks so good when he makes you money.” She laughed. “We’re just friends, but I do enjoy watching him fight.”

Lyra exclaimed, “Why didn’t you start with that? Mira was worried about you. We know what a simpleton you can be sometimes, especially when it comes to men.” Trying to keep a straight face, she subtly stepped behind the sofa, putting distance between herself and Faye.

Mira almost spewed wine on the pretty cream-colored sofa at Lyra’s comment. Faye just gave Lyra a dirty look, then shrugged, admitting Lyra was not far off, before they all burst out laughing. Then they sat down to watch the fight and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine. They cheered and yelled during the fight, thoroughly getting into the moment.

During the fight, Lyra said, “Well, he really does have some mad skills, he’s nice to watch, I’ll give him that. He has a great physique too.”

“Santiago’s not bad, either, look at all those tats on that muscled back. I’m not usually one for tattoos, but he sure wears them well,” Faye added.

An awed Mira exclaimed, “Yes, he does. Did you see how Rob kicked Santiago in the head with that jump-spin kick? That was impressive. Faye, friends would be good, but just friends, though. Right, Faye?” Faye and Lyra both laughed and nodded in agreement.

After the fight, Mira and Lyra decided to get some much-needed rest, and went upstairs to bed. It had been a long day, and the next few days were going to be busy.

***

Cenric, who had been boiling, was somewhat less angered about Faye’s insistence the fighter was just a friend. None of the brothers were happy with the women taking so much pleasure at watching the fighters.

Having felt Cenric’s displeasure, Warin said, You would have no worries, Cen, you could best him with very little exertion.

Yes, brother, Warin is right. You have more brawn, and you are faster than him too, Dunstin assured him.

I know, my only concern was that she liked him, but I know she will like me more, Cenric arrogantly stated. At least now we know they like big men. Strong men who can fight, like us. he added optimistically.

I am surprised that these women ogle men like they do. They sounded like men themselves talking. That must be part of women’s equality we have heard them speak about on the news, Warin mused.

Yes, very polite men, Dunstin joked, causing them all to chuckle.

***


Faye stayed behind; she needed to make a phone call. She wanted to call her friend Rhonda who she hadn’t had a chance to talk to in weeks. When Rhonda answered, she put her on speaker while she looked through the papers Mira had set out on the desk.

“Hello, Rhonda. How are you, girlfriend?” Faye asked.

“I’m good, stranger. What have you been doing? We’ve been playing phone tag for weeks.”

“I know, it’s been crazy with me, lots of traveling. So, tell me how are things going with you? Are you still seeing that mechanical engineer, Tucker?”

Rhonda laughed, “Yes. He seems to be one of the good ones. He has potential to be the one.”

“You sound happy. How long have you been seeing him?”

“Three months. I know it’s early, but I’ve never felt like this with anyone else and he seems to feel the same way, but he’s sometimes hard to read.”

Faye sat down at the desk and gave her friend her full attention.

“If you’re happy, I’m happy for you,” Faye said sincerely. “How is it different with him?”

“It’s hard to explain. We both want the same things, we have chemistry, he brings me coffee in the mornings, he makes sure I don’t forget to eat when I’m busy. I don’t know it’s lots of little things I guess. What about you? Have you met anyone of interest?”

“He brings you coffee? Why haven’t you married him yet?” They both laughed.

“No, I haven’t really met anyone I could see myself spending much time with. I’ve been so busy with work and traveling so much, I haven’t been in one place for long. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never find anyone.” Faye said dejectedly.

“Come on, you’re really young and beautiful. You have plenty of time, you’re still carrying your v-card. Are you even ready to settle down? Do you know what you want?”

“Thank you. Yes, I think I am. I want some normal in my life.”

“Explain what normal means to you.”

Faye thought about it before she answered, “Well, I want a home, not just a house. I want someone to care about me with the same intensity as I have for them. I want three children, so they can be close like am with my sisters. I want to put down roots. As great and interesting as my life has been, normal and roots is something I’ve never experienced before.”

“All of that is very doable. Hey, I have an idea. Tell me what would be your idea of the perfect man for you?”

Faye laughs, “I don’t know. Someone strong.” She glanced over to the statue. “He can’t be weak in body or mind. If I have more of a backbone than him, forget it. I’ll walk all over him, and while that can be satisfying short term, I couldn’t stand it and I wouldn’t be able to respect him. We definitely would have to have chemistry like you said.”

Rhonda agreed, “Yes, you’re a passionate person. You wouldn’t do well in a bland relationship. What else?”

“He would have to want to settle down and have a family as well. You know being faithful and all that business. He’d have to be sensitive to a point. I don’t want someone who cries at the drop of a hat.”

They laughed.

Rhonda said, “Remember that guy you dated in college? The one that cried anytime you disagreed with him or you were too busy to see him. Why did you go out with him for two whole months?”

“Oh, yes, because he had an uncanny ability to find the most amazing shoes. He was great to go shopping with, but I didn’t want to deal with his drama during finals. In all fairness, he never actually cried, but close. It was bad enough afterwards, he called whining for weeks after I broke up with him. That was the last soccer player I ever dated. Absolutely not someone like him. I need a good rousing fight every now and then, and not someone so emotionally sensitive.”

Chuckling Rhonda told her, “Yes, fighting then making up is so worth it. Well now you know what to be on the lookout for in a man. Just make sure you’re open to him when he comes along.”

“The opportunity will not be missed,” Faye said happily. “It’s getting really late here, and I feel jet lagged after all the traveling lately. Thank you for talking me through this. I really am happy for you. Call if you need anything.”

“No problem, that’s what friends are for, and same here, take care.”

They hung up. Faye looked to the statue again, and gave a heavy sigh, before she went off to bed.


***


Cenric had listened intently to Faye’s phone conversation. It was enlightening. His brothers stayed silent. He was surprised they didn’t take the opportunity to tease him in some fashion as was their habit.

He was pleased with her wants, and if he could have moved, his chest would have been puffed out after her description of her ideal man. He was certain he could fill that position easily. It seemed he and Faye had similar pasts in that they rarely lived at home and they had similar desires for their future. A future he now had hope in getting. He too longed for a home and family, a good woman to take care of and warm his bed at night and to care for his children.

His entire adult life before he was cursed was spent going from one battlefield to the next. He too had traveled more than he had been home, and when he had been home they were busy working diligently on battle plans late into the night and getting themselves and their men ready for more battles with hours and hours of practice and training every day. He didn’t get to spend his time having a family. They still found time to lay with women often, but it was meaningless, simply scratching an itch.

Faye was a woman he wanted to talk to, know her dreams and goals. He would claim this woman as his own.


***



The next morning Lyra walked into the office with her long, bed-tousled hair, still in her little sleep shorts and fitted tank top, a cup of coffee in one hand, laptop in the other, and a bad attitude plastered all over her face. She sat down and started working away on her computer, sipping her coffee. She certainly got the men’s full attention looking beautiful in her natural form.

A few minutes later Mira came in, looking conservatively sophisticated with hair perfectly styled, dressed in a demure pencil skirt, a fitted cashmere sweater and heels, also carrying a cup of steaming coffee. She picked up her laptop, sat on the couch, started working. She never said a word to Lyra.

Shortly after that, Faye came dancing in wearing fitted, low-rise yoga pants, a snug little half shirt showing off her flat tummy, her hair a gorgeous curly mess, music blaring on her phone.

That’s all it took. Lyra jumped up with a snarl on her lips, snatched the phone away from Faye, turned off the music, stomped back over to her computer, and continued to work.

Faye yelled, with a frown on her face, hands on her hips, “Hey! Why did you do that? I was dancing.”

Lyra gave Faye a long Don't-make-me-smack-you look, and said succinctly to Faye, “Your loud, obnoxious dance music and your annoying dancing are a rude distraction first thing in the morning, while I'm trying to work.”

Faye did not take that very well. She walked up to Lyra, turned her music back on and started dancing in Lyra’s space. That’s when the yelling started.

After a moment, Mira could not take it anymore. Always the referee, she got up, walked between her sisters, handed Lyra her coffee, Faye her ear buds, and pointed in opposite directions. “Stop acting like children.”

The twins obviously didn’t like being admonished by their older sister, especially since what she said was true.

Faye complained to Mira, “Can you believe her! She's so rude in the mornings.”

Mira just gave a quick laugh, “You’re the one who messed with her before she had finished her first cup of coffee.” Which explained everything.

Faye walked off, mumbling about grumpy people with their coffee addictions.

***

The warriors quite enjoyed watching the little show that morning, as well as the sisters as they worked in front of them most of the day.

“This was the best view we’ve had since being turned to stone,” Dunstin said.

“I couldn’t agree more, brother,” Cenric agreed.

Warin watched Mira as she smiled when she spoke on the phone to clients. He loved the way she paced, the calm sway of her body, and her natural elegance. Her sisters looked to her for guidance, and she seemed to take care of them all. She had an inner beauty, as well as being gorgeous on the outside. Everything about her called to him. She belonged to him already; she just didn’t know it yet.

“It sure makes the time passing easier,” Warin said.

Cenric loved how laid back Faye always looked, her smooth way of moving, how she would just break out in dance or song as the mood struck her. She was vivacious and energetic, and this often overflowed to her siblings. She was a happy, likable person. She was pure sensuality. He wanted her desperately.

“How long must we endure this sweet torture?” Cenric moaned.

Dunstin couldn’t keep his eyes off Lyra’s smooth, waist-length hair that she braided and unbraided repeatedly, and her constant circling of the room with such efficient movement. She was so organized, reserved, precise, uptight, and a little standoffish. She was sexy as hell. He could not wait to see her respond to him. He had no doubt she would make him work for the honor, but he would have her.

Eventually Faye and Lyra left to shower and change, coming back looking just as professional and polished as Mira. On several occasions throughout the day each of the sisters wandered over to the warriors, stroked an arm, a face, or a chest, driving the stone men crazy with want, but loving it all the same.

Oh, don’t stop there, sweetheart. I will be returning the favor as soon as you free us Cenric promised.

That’s a promise I too intend to keep. Warin confirmed.

They don’t stand a chance once we’re flesh again, Dunstin assured his brothers.


The next day played out similarly, except on one of Faye’s spontaneous dance breaks in the evening, all three of the women jumped up and danced. It was very sensual, as if they were each dancing just for their warrior.

Afterward the sisters laughed, hugged and had wine together, reminiscing. They spoke about their unique childhood and unconventional education. How much they enjoyed traveling all over the world with their father and oftentimes a tutor to archaeological sites. What wonderful skills they learned, such as Taekwondo in Korea, Latin in Rome, how to prepare fine cuisine in France, and they each spoke at least one other language, to name a few.

They also talked about how much they missed their father, how happy he would be that they were making progress on his life’s mission. Their conversation was a little sad, yet held an understated happiness, and contentment with where their lives had brought them.

The three warriors learned much about the three sisters in those few days.






~2~


Mira and Faye prepared to fly out in search of the remaining two weapons. First on the list was the silent auction in Brussels. While Lyra waited at the castle for their computer equipment to be upgraded, she caught up on family business and continued looking for leads to the missing axe and sword.

Much of their antiquities business could be done via email or phone, using private couriers when dealing with reputable establishments. Fortunately, their father had been well-established before his death, and the sisters had been immersed in every aspect of the trade from a very early age.

They were exceedingly good at their jobs, and their business thrived because of their talent and hard work. However, when dealing with unknowns in the antiquities business or with outright black markets, it just had to be done in person, and could oftentimes be dangerous. That is why they used ex-military for security from the same reputable company each time they needed extra protection, which lately turned out to be more often than they preferred.

Their father had justified dealing with objects on the black market as a necessity. He used to tell them, that piece could be lost forever to the world if honest people like themselves didn’t buy them and bring them back to the public. The sisters didn’t like it, but agreed.

After the slightly obscene expense of purchasing the castle and its contents, which included an extensive collection of rare paintings and statuary that included the warriors—the sole reason for the purchase—the business needed tending. Lyra was thinking ahead and working on replenishing their funds; she had a feeling they were going to need it and to complete this endeavor it would be costly.

Mira, Faye, and Lyra had coffee together that morning in the seating area of the office. They could not keep from glancing at the statue.

“We need to discuss a plan on how you two are going to handle the shady people who will be at the auction in Brussels. This one is not exactly on the up-and-up, being held by a private collector who deals mainly in black-market merchandise,” Lyra said.

“Also, we need a plan to outbid the competition, which we expect to be fierce, and to get out in one piece with the weapon, if this truly is the sword we’re seeking,” Faye added.

“I called in a six-man security team to meet us in Brussels. If we do have trouble, we will have backup to handle it with us. I’m sure the security there will be heavy; it’s when we leave that could be tricky,” Mira said.

“We will have six men, we could bring four in with us and have two stay outside to follow us or wait at the airport,” Faye suggested.

“Or you could take two men inside, have two men follow in a separate car and have the other two at the airport,” Lyra said.

Once they talked out their options, and they had a solid plan of action, Mira and Faye got ready to leave for Brussels, hugging Lyra goodbye.

“You two be careful and call me when you know something,” Lyra told them on their way out.

After Lyra’s sisters left she changed into yoga pants and a tank top, pulling her long hair in a high ponytail that hung almost to her waist. Once back in the office, she immediately started making calls to various clients regarding consignments for specific pieces they had acquired and were ready to ship. This was relatively fast and somewhat easy money for them.

After hours of phone and computer work, Lyra needed to stretch; she was very tense with her sisters going to that particular auction. Being in the same room with the statue was calming, yet somewhat unsettling at the same time. It seemed to draw her eye constantly, always beckoning Lyra to seek its nearness, to touch it fondly. She never quite felt like she was alone in the office; it wasn’t a bad presence, but a comforting one.

Lyra was waiting for an important call, so rather than go to the gym to relieve her stress, she sat on the plush Persian rug in the middle of the office and began to stretch her tense muscles. She started with splits in both directions, then worked her way through a series of yoga poses that concluded with the extended scorpion pose, which always calmed her mind as it stretched her spine.

After she meditated a bit, Lyra walked over to the statue, to Dunstin; she didn’t know his name, but this warrior always drew her attention, even as a child from the drawing of the statue. Studying his hard, beautiful face closely, she ran her hand up and down his arm.

She began to wonder aloud, “What were you like? What could you have done to be cursed? Were you even ever real? If we can, should we set you free? Were you bad men who deserved to be turned to stone? This could all be a mistake.” After a few more moments in thought, and frankly admiring him, Lyra turned to leave the office with so many questions unanswered. She needed to change and eat lunch, and be ready for the tech team that would arrive that afternoon.

***

Dunstin was not the only one enthralled with the sensual woman stretching and moving before them. It had been years since they had been in the same room with a woman so young and vibrant and to see her do something so beautiful and graceful was too tempting not to watch.

Dunstin growled, You had best not be watching her. I have staked my claim for her. All the while knowing they could not help but watch either. When she came over and touched him, and looked at him as she had, it was wonderful torture, but her words unsettled him. He was certain his brothers were disturbed, too.

It was confirmed when Cenric asked, What if they all have second thoughts about freeing us? She could change the others thoughts about breaking the curse.

Warin responded, They are women with strong minds; their thorough plans for this evening prove that. They would research our history if they have doubts. Have faith, brothers. They will set us free.

***

After lunch Lyra went back to the office. The computer technicians who arrived were two handsome men around her age, and they could not take their eyes off Lyra. They also were huge flirts with her as they installed the new equipment. By the time they were finished she knew Killian and Werther were native to Hamburg. They were fresh out of college and handsome in a boyish kind of way, but not nearly so appealing as the men in the statue. Lyra enjoyed flirting as well as the next woman, when she had the time and inclination. This was one of those days.

Killian, the taller and more brazen blond, put on the charm when he asked Lyra, “It is Ms. Banks isn’t it? Please don’t break my heart, and tell me you are married or in a relationship.”

Lyra glanced sideways at them and gave a slight laugh, “Oh, come on. No, I am not.” She flirted back, “Why? Are either of you married? I bet both of you have wives at home and a half dozen kids already.”

They both looked horrified before Werther, the darker, stockier tech, spoke up, “I could be soon, if you would go out with me tonight.”

Lyra gave them her serious face, “Ah, sorry, I’ll be too busy for a while. I’m here strictly on business. Besides I’m not in the market to settle down and have a half dozen kids.”

“Well neither are we. Come on, beautiful girl, surely you could find some time to go out with us? Everyone needs to live a little.” Killian begged sweetly.

“What do you do for fun around here anyway? What would going out with you entail?” she asked, genuinely interested.

“We like to dance and drink at the clubs. You would have fun, we would make sure you did,” Werther assured her.

“I can tell you are a wonderful dancer, you should join us,” Killian praised.

“Really, and how did you come to that conclusion?” Lyra asked skeptically.

“You have a dancer’s body and you move so beautifully. You like to dance, admit it.”

“That’s really more my sister’s thing.” She discouraged.

“You have a sister? Bring her too, the more the merrier.”

Lyra was not sure she wanted to encourage them, even though they were cute and probably would be fun to hang out with. She could not keep from glancing at the statue while she contemplated their offer, before she decided, “No, she’s not here now, and I am way too busy, I’m working under a deadline,” she fibbed.

“At least let us exchange numbers in case you change your mind,” Werther proposed as a compromise.

“All right, that I can do.” Lyra leaned over the desk as she reached for her phone. She happened to glance in the mirror as she did, only to see both guys as they completely checked out her bottom. She just rolled her eyes, and thought how easily led men could be, then chuckled to herself, before she turned with a broad innocent smile on her lovely face and looked back to them. She entered their numbers into her phone, and they urged her to call them if she needed anything.

“You could give us your number as well.” Werther suggested.

“That won’t be necessary. I have your numbers if my plans change.”

Once they left, Lyra chuckled, “They were fun.” Smiling, she immersed herself in work once again, completely forgetting the interchange ever occurred. Even though Lyra was the least approachable of the sisters, she still had men hitting on her wherever she went. Sometimes when men flirted with her it was a bit annoying, with her not being a people person and preferring to keep to herself. Her sisters had often told her she came across as being rude sometimes, but she wasn't one to worry if people took her the wrong way.

***

Dunstin was enraged the entire time those boys were there. He had to watch Lyra flirt back while they made advances toward her, and stripped her naked with their lust-filled eyes. He was relieved she did not accept their offer to go out. If he were not a statue, they would have known Lyra belonged to him. She would not need their phone numbers. When he was freed, he would make sure she did not flirt with anyone but him. The way she looked toward him before she declined to go out with them, made Dunstin think she already had an idea that she belonged to him. That thought appeased him somewhat.

Cenric took the opportunity to torment his brother, Looks like Lyra likes to tease. I hope you’ll be able to handle her.

Warin teased, You’ll have to take her in hand right away, lest she go running to another.

Laugh it up now, was Dunstin’s grumpy reply. Don’t think you two will have it any easier with her sisters. Do you think men will not act the same way around them? Do you think they do not flirt as well? That effectively put Warin and Cenric in bad moods as well.

***

Mira and Faye walked into the silent auction, stopping at the top of the four sweeping steps that lead into the intimate ballroom. They stood gazing over the small gathering a moment. They took note of the competition, the glass display cases along the walls that held the items to be auctioned, and the larger items beside them that didn’t fit in the cases. They even noticed the waiters who carried trays of champagne and hors d'oeuvres. They found the host and his personal bodyguards, and identified the rest of the heavily armed security circulating around the room.

Faye commented, “Looks like the usual rough crowd we were expecting.”

Mira responded, “So far, no real surprises. Let’s hope it stays that way. There are a few new faces, as predicted.”

Getting out would not be the problem, but getting home with the treasure and their virtue intact was always an issue. The sisters loved every opportunity to dress up, and they did not go unnoticed as they made their appearance on the landing in sleek, fitted designer gowns enhanced with heavy beadwork. They were stunning, long curly hair perfectly in place, plunging necklines exposing copious amounts of cleavage, extreme slits showing off toned legs in sky-high heels. They were dressed to distract. It was an old tactic, yet effective.

There was not a man in the room who did not stop to look them up and down with want in his eyes. Mira and Faye were quite a distraction in a room filled with many more men than women. The men in that room may have worn tuxedos, but they were no gentlemen. They were sharks who took what they wanted, either by fair means or foul.

But Mira and Faye were always discreetly armed. Jeweled daggers tucked neatly in as decoration for their long hair. They knew how to use the tiny weapons and were not afraid to do so if necessary. Two of their security team waited just outside the ballroom in the corridor, on alert for signs of trouble. The host was obviously cautious. He didn’t allow any security in the main ballroom other than his own.


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