“Because no one ever lets me win,” she complained.
“I tried, but when I do, it makes you angry.”
They walked back down the hallway and down the steps, returning to the game room, where the handsome god started throwing darts.
Her eyes slipped over the back of his body, noticing how his shoulders bulged when he threw the darts. Forcing her eyes upward when they had slipped to his ass underneath his dark jeans, she was determined to ignore the longing to touch him that had been bad enough when she had first met him and was now starting to reach a fever pitch level the more she began to know him better.
Six moons had passed since Hades had accepted her friendship. She had made a tactical mistake growing closer to Hades. When he dropped his arrogant attitude, he was the perfect companion. He never let her become bored, playing childish games like hide-and-seek and giving her time alone when she needed it. They talked after she read a book, entertaining her with his opinion. He had even started watching movies with her and Jinx. They no longer ate in their room, dining each evening with Hades.
The first time they had dined with him, she had felt sorry for the wraith that had served them. The soul had been so nervous he had spilled a jug of wine. She had seen it trembling in fear.
“Why is he so afraid of you?” She had risen from her seat, wanting to soothe him. Instead, her hand had gone through its cloak. “They all run from me and act like I’m the reason they’re here.”
“That’s not why they’re afraid. I warned them to stay out of your sight. I didn’t want you afraid of them. They are still nervous about being seen by you.”
She had shaken her head. “You knew I wouldn’t be afraid of them.”
“Okay, I didn’t want you asking me to release them.”
Zerina had taken a bite of her steak. “Now that, I believe. I wouldn’t interfere. You forget, I know how the souls down here earned their fates.” Zerina had pointed her steak knife at the wraith that had been handing Jinx a basket of bread. “Aaric was a thief. He envied other’s possessions. He spent his life stealing those possessions. One was an old woman who became so frightened when he showed his sword her frail heart couldn’t take it, and she died before her time. It breaks my heart when one of my souls are returned too soon. It hurts just as badly when I see my souls follow a path that will earn a place here. When I was younger, my mother helped me understand.”
“What did she help you understand?” Hades hadn’t touched his food as he listened to her.
“That my souls’ fates aren’t predetermined, regardless of who the parents are, or which environment they are born into. Free will isn’t free. Everything comes at a price. Souls can live a good life and be rewarded, or live one that is bad and pay the cost with their soul.”
“It must have been a hard lesson to learn.”
“It was. I asked my mother if you ever made any exceptions.” Zerina had stared down at her plate, her appetite disappearing.
“What did she say?”
“That it wasn’t up to you. That it was Mother who made the decision. She said Mother has never changed her mind once a soul reaches your doorway.”
“Do you ever grow tired of being their warden?”
“I’m more than a warden. I’m a judge, executioner, master. Do I grow tired?” For a minuscule second, she saw a look cross his face before it became impassive once again. “No.”
Zerina thought back to that night, truthfully being able to say she had become his friend. He was patiently teaching her how to win at chess and put up with Jinx, who was always getting into things she wasn’t supposed to. When he had found out Jinx had been feeding Cerberus leftovers, Zerina had heard his yell from her room. She had run to Jinx’s room, where the fairy had hidden behind her. It had taken her awhile to calm Hades down before he left, threatening to throw Jinx into the cauldron if she did it again.
Hades turned. “What are you smiling at?”
“I was thinking about Jinx.”
Hades shuddered. “She’s no laughing matter.”
“You can’t fool me; I know you like her.” Zerina picked up another dart and threw it. She didn’t hit the bull’s eye, but she was coming closer.
Proud of herself that she was getting better, she turned and saw the enigmatic look on his face. Becoming embarrassed without knowing why, she went forward to take the darts out of the board. Usually, Hades or Jinx did.
As she pulled the last dart out, the dartboard blinked.
She dropped the darts, screaming. When it blinked again, she started fainting, feeling herself fall. Strong arms scooped her up, carrying her to the couch.
“Zerina, calm down. It’s gone. Zerina, stop!” When he gently shook her, she realized she had been screaming.
“How could you throw darts at it, knowing it was real!”
“I didn’t intend for you to know.”
At his comment, she wanted to punch him. The only reason she didn’t was because she had learned that particular lesson.
Fuming, she crossed her arms, her movements making her realize she was sitting on his lap. She started to jump up, startled at the intimate position, but he moved his hand to her belly, pressing her back down.
Feeling his cock becoming hard under her bottom, without conscious thought, she wiggled down on him harder. The blast of passion was so intense and sudden it was like trying to stop a tidal wave with a shot glass.
Her back arched as her head fell back in surrender, unable to combat the storm of lust that swept through her. She gasped in ecstasy, grasping handfuls of his shirt and beseechingly trying to tug him closer.
“Hades …” He started to lift her off him, but she tightened her grip.
“Hades …” Feeling his intention to pull her away from him, she closed the distance, kissing him as she moved her hands to his dark hair to hold him still. “Don’t … Please, Hades.” She passionately tried to tempt the god to put out the fire that his touch had created.
She didn’t want his protection from the feeling he had invoked. She wanted to give in to the desires. She wanted—no, she needed—to become his willing captive.
She had always assumed herself immune to wanting a man whom other women desired. She wanted a life with a god or an immortal who could give her happiness the way Valentine had their mother before he had become unfaithful. Her father had had only two women in his existence, yet Hades had had so many he probably couldn’t name them all.
She was royalty. Zerina could pick and choose who she invited into her bedroom. Fate was queen of the Moirai. She had been by Mother’s side since the beginning. Her devotion had never been in question. She had used that power to keep her daughters away from court, not wanting them to fall into the traps that other goddesses had fallen for.
They had benefited from it, growing up in a loving home, unspoiled by the excesses of Mother’s court. It was only when Fate and her father had broken up did she learn of Odin wanting to take his place. Her mother had refused him, her heart broken by Valentine’s betrayal with Juno. In hindsight, she realized why Valentine had betrayed her. They had been friends more than lovers.
Her marriage that was centuries old had ended when they had lost the tiny child she was carrying in her womb when Juno had confronted her with Valentine’s infidelity.
Merlin had been summoned to bind her mother’s power so she wouldn’t transport herself until the child was born. No child could survive being transported in the womb. It was a death sentence.
Zerina had already known the soul that was meant for her mother’s fourth child. Her son would have been glorious. Only an urgent plea from Mother would have made her transport in her condition. The reason she had been summoned remained a secret, known only by Mother and her.
After her parents had parted, Fate had become aware of Odin’s interest in her. His determination to bed Fate had been stymied by Fate herself. Zerina still remembered the whispers between her mother and her aunt, ta
lking about his pursuit of her.
When her mother had told her that she was carrying another child and Odin was the father, Broni and Cara had been shocked, while Zerina had not. She had known the second the child had been conceived, and while her mother railed at Odin that he had used trickery to gain access to her bed, Zerina knew that Fate was aware of who she was making love to that night. She just didn’t want to admit it to herself, and certainly not to Odin.
She wished she could use a trick of her mind to deceive herself that she didn’t want Hades, but Mother above, how she wanted him. His earthy sensuality was hard to resist, and the feel of his hard cock underneath her was nearly impossible to fight.
His groan filled her mouth as he deepened their kiss, parting her lips to breach the opening no one had before. Taking command, he delved into the soft recess of her mouth, stroking her tongue until her fingers curled into his hair, demanding more.
She unconsciously rubbed her breasts against his chest and wiggled down on his lap. Her head fell back on the arm of the couch as he pressed her down, seeking more, opening her mouth wider. She willingly surrendered to his demands.
Hades slid his hand up her thigh, bunching her gown and giving him free reign to touch the aching part of her that was becoming drenched in need. His first touch on her pussy had her stretching out like a feline wanting to be petted.
She shyly kept her eyes closed, unable to watch herself behave so wantonly. Her behavior was so uncharacteristic, while her heart fought her body’s desires. When he explored her opening with a finger, her heart momentarily won.
Dragging herself off Hades’ lap, panting, she stared down at the seductive god, unable to move away from the blaze of desire he was putting out. Like someone who had been frozen, his body beckoned her closer to feel the warmth of his flames.