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Authors: Scarlett St. Clair

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BOOK: A Touch of Chaos
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“And…um…how exactly do you torture me? In these dreams.”

“Not pleasantly,” said Hades.

“List them out, Hades,” Hermes said.

There was a change in his tone, something a little more aggressive, almost as if he were giving a command.

For a moment, Hades resisted. He did not like taking orders, but if Hermes wanted to hear all the ways he'd earned his wrath, then so be it.

“I have considered castration, but I think you'd find that too pleasant,” said Hades.

The god pursed his lips and then shrugged. “Fair.”

“I had to nix anything that requires restraint too.”

“Unfair,” said the god.

“I could send you into the Forest of Despair, but it's likely your greatest fear is a life with only one sexual partner.”

“A
tragedy
,” Hermes said.

“Which means I'd take a different approach.”

“You really have thought about this,” said Hermes.

“First, I'd curse you to always appear homely to any potential lover.”

Hermes gasped.

“Then, I would ensure you never find your rhythm again. That applies to dancing and sex.”

“You
wouldn't
,” Hermes said.

“The sight of your penis would make everyone gag.”

“You beast!”

“Those aren't even my favorites,” said Hades with a smirk. “My favorite is that every television series you start never finishes.”

“No!” Hermes bellowed. “It is true what they say. You are a cruel god.”

Hades shrugged. “You asked.”

“I did,” said Hermes. “I hope it helped.”

Hades could hear the grin in his voice, but he didn't understand.

“What?” he asked, looking in the direction of the god, but he found he was no longer there.

Once again, Hades was alone, and while he hated the dull ache of disappointment that bloomed in his chest, he felt far more present than he had before.

With his focus renewed, he continued through the labyrinth. He had no way of knowing where exactly he was going—if he was closer to the center or farther away. He did not even know where he
should
be heading. He just knew that stopping was worse.

That was giving up.

At some point, he turned a corner and came face-to-face with a different kind of darkness. He halted at the edge of it, hesitant. He knew he had not made it to the end of the labyrinth. He suspected this was the middle—or closer to it at least.

How vast was this darkness? How endless?

He had nearly lost his mind surrounded by walls. What happened when there was
nothing
?

He let one foot slide forward and then the other, and as the dark pressed in on him from all sides, he had the thought that this was the kind of thing he would face if he was to enter the Forest of Despair—nothingness, a void.

Loneliness
.

Bright lights flooded his vision, and they burned away the dark so suddenly, his eyes watered.

Theseus's laugh echoed in the space that Hades could now confirm was the center of the labyrinth, and it truly did go on for miles in each direction.

“You look ridiculous,” the demigod said.

Hades blinked, adjusting to the light, and saw Theseus opposite him. Of the two, he was the one who did not look the part. He was too clean and too tidy for the madness of the labyrinth, dressed in his tailored blue suit and pressed white shirt.

“I suppose I would have been disappointed if you hadn't tried to escape.”

Hades glared and held his claw blade tighter.

Theseus noticed and clicked his tongue.

“Hera will be distraught to learn you killed her pet,” said Theseus.

Hades continued to say nothing.

“You know, Hades, talking to you is like talking to a brick wall.”

“Then maybe you shouldn't.”

Theseus smirked. “But I have
so much
to say,” he said. “And so does your wife, apparently.”

Hades ground his teeth. He did not know what Theseus was referring to exactly, but it sounded like Persephone had done something to piss him off.

“Perhaps you can tell me how you manage to keep her quiet,” Theseus continued. “Or is it that your dick is always in her mouth?”

Hades gripped his knife tighter.

“Maybe I will have to try that,” Theseus said.

Hades charged. Racing across the floor of the labyrinth, he jumped, vaulting through the air, roaring as he brandished the deadly claw.

Theseus did not move an inch as Hades barreled toward him. A sliver of unease trickled down his spine. He knew he had missed something, and then it hit him—literally.

A heavy weight sent him crashing to the floor. He
landed hard, his body denting the ground. He realized quickly that he was trapped beneath another net. His fingers tightened around the lion's claw as he attempted to cut himself free, but he could not move his arm.

Still he tried to saw at the threads, breaking out in a cold sweat as Theseus approached.

The demigod crouched before him, watching Hades's struggle before he spoke.

“This would all be quite honorable if it wasn't so pathetic,” he said, plucking the claw from between Hades's fingers. He studied it and then slammed it through Hades's hand and into the ground.

Hades couldn't even scream. All he managed was a pained gasp.

He glared up at Theseus, breathing hard between clenched teeth, and watched as he reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small envelope, pouring the contents into his palm.

“You've earned this,” Theseus said, blowing something into Hades's face.

It was some kind of powder that invaded his nose, mouth, and eyes. He started to cough, and he couldn't stop. His eyes watered, and his chest burned. He needed water—he needed to
breathe
—but then he tasted blood on the back of his tongue.

His vision swam.

I am going to die
.

CHAPTER IX
PERSEPHONE

The Underworld was different.

The air smelled like sulfur, and the sky was full of ash. When the wind blew, Persephone could feel the grit of it against her skin, rough and blistering.

There were other things too. The souls had channeled their usual merriment into preparing for war. Cerberus remained restless and three-headed, uninterested in play. All the while, the glassy obsidian mountains of Tartarus taunted Persephone, a constant reminder of what had occurred in the arsenal.

As much as she recognized she was queen of this realm and now possessed power over it, she could not bring herself to hide the changes, the slow decay. It seemed fitting given what had occurred—what was
still
occurring—and concealing it with vines and flowers felt insincere. A corpse was still a corpse, even covered in colorful flora.

There was a part of her that wondered if the
Underworld was dying, and if that was true, did it also mean Hades was dying? She pushed those thoughts away quickly. She could not bear to think like that right now. It felt like giving up, and she would
never
give up. She would fight for Hades until the world ended, and when there was nothing left, only her rage would remain.

“Have you heard anything?” Yuri asked.

Persephone met the soul's wide-eyed gaze. She frowned, realizing she had become so lost in her thoughts that she had heard nothing the girl had been saying.

“About Hades,” Yuri added to clarify.

Persephone's gaze fell to her cold tea.

“No,” she whispered.

Hermes and Apollo were on the hunt for Theseus's men. The challenge was finding someone close enough to the demigod who would know the answers to the questions they had, though they were finding that very few knew his plans, if any.

Hecate was continuing to trace her ring, which was proving to be far more challenging than either of them expected given that it seemed to be traveling with Theseus and revealed a rather mundane routine for someone so sinister.

Nevertheless, learning the demigod's movements was still an advantage. Perhaps they'd find someone to interrogate.

“Are the souls…” Persephone started to ask if they were afraid, but that was a ridiculous question. Of course they were afraid. It had only been two days since Theseus had released the Titans and the souls had to fight the monsters that had escaped Tartarus. They'd been brave, but there had been consequences, as she
knew there would be, namely that some had not been able to withstand the trigger of battle and Thanatos had to take them to Elysium.

It had hurt everyone. It hurt now.

“Do they feel safe?” she asked instead.

“As safe as they can,” Yuri replied, and she looked out her open door. “Preparing for the worst makes them feel better.”

The street was busy with souls who were repairing or reinforcing their homes. Ian and Zofie continued to forge weapons, their hammers striking in an uneven rhythm.

It was almost like they did not trust her magic, though how could they when she did not even trust it herself? It was new, still foreign. It lived on the fringes of her energy, reminding her of the way Hades's magic always waited in the wings, primed to protect her no matter the cost.

Persephone's eyes burned with tears, and after a moment of quiet, Yuri whispered, her voice quivering, “I just wish everything was normal again.”

Persephone hardened against those words.

It was such a natural thing to say when things felt uncertain, but the longer she lived with loss, the more the idea of normal angered her.

There was no normal. There was only the past, and it was hopeless to wish for it even at her loneliest, because nothing could return to the way it was—not in the aftermath of this.

“There is no ‘normal again,' Yuri,” Persephone said. “There is only new and different, and neither are always good.”

The soul frowned.

“Persephone, I—”

She rose to her feet before Yuri could finish, knowing what her next words would be.

I'm so sorry
.

And she could not stand to hear them either. She could not even explain why, but they were just words, empty ones people said when they had nothing else to give.

“Thank you, Yuri, for the tea.”

She fled before her emotions got the best of her and teleported to the Asphodel Fields. By the time she arrived, she was already in tears. She looked out on the Underworld from where she stood, her arms crossed over her chest. The wind picked up, whipping her hair, and the asphodel around her swayed, grazing her gown.

She felt sick and lost, and she did not know where to go, because every part of this place reminded her of Hades, yet he was what she wanted most.

She closed her eyes, and cold tears spilled down her face.

“Lady Persephone.”

She swallowed hard and looked over her shoulder at Thanatos. She did not care to hide her pain. He could feel it anyway.

“Can I help you?”

She knew what he was asking.

Thanatos had influence over emotion. He could ease her suffering. In the past, she'd refused. She'd wanted to feel because she felt like she deserved it, but this was different.


Please
,” she said. The word was a plea, a broken cry.

Thanatos offered his hand, and she took it, warm and soft against her own, and suddenly peace fell over her. It was like…picnics in the meadow under the starry Underworld sky and baking cookies in a small kitchen with her best friend by her side. It felt like the fun of rock paper scissors and hide-and-seek.

It felt like…the first time she had looked at Hades and recognized her own soul.

“What are you thinking?”

She shivered at the sound of his voice, and chills pebbled her skin.

She opened her eyes.

“Hades,” she whispered and touched his face, grazing the stubble on his cheek.

He felt real enough, but she had been fooled by this before and did not think she could face the pain of waking alone again.

They were lying in the grass beneath a twisted oak. She knew this place. They had been here before—they had rested and made love beneath this tree. It was at the very edge of Elysium. If she were to sit up, she would see the gray waves of the ocean cresting the horizon.

“Where are you?” she asked.

He laughed as he studied her with those dark eyes, his body pressed against hers.

“I'm right here,” he said. “With you.”

She shook her head, her vision blurring with tears.

She knew otherwise.

“Darling,” he said, his voice a low rumble, his fingers in her hair. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead. She closed her eyes tight, focusing on the feel of his kiss, warm and heavy.

Real.

When he pulled away, he let his nose drift along hers.

“It was just a dream,” he said, and she opened her eyes again.

“You speak as if you live inside my mind,” she said.

Hades stared at her and frowned, his eyes drifting to her lips, and she was suddenly aware of a keen hunger tightening her stomach.

“What will it take? To prove to you this is real?”

“Nothing you do will convince me,” she said. “Unless you can tell me where you are.”

He was quiet, watching her.

Then he leaned closer, and the air between them felt heavier than his weight on her body.

“Lost,” he answered before his mouth dropped to hers.

His kiss was like a brand that seared her skin. She opened her mouth against his, and his tongue slipped inside.

He tasted different, his mouth devoid of that smoky, sweet edge, but he smelled the same, sharp and earthy, like long shadows cast by firelight. She tried not to think about the change and what it meant.

He pulled away again, but she could still feel the brush of his lips against hers as he spoke. She kept her eyes closed as he whispered, “Live in this moment with me.”

Her resistance melted away, broken by the same plea she had made before. Her mouth collided with his, and her arms went around him, hands pressing into his back, bringing his entire body flush with hers.

As they kissed, Hades moved against her and she
lifted her hips, needing to feel him where she ached the most. Each lush stroke coaxed a fire beneath her skin and stole a little more of her breath. By the time he left her mouth, she was ready for him, so aware of how empty she felt.

“Hades.” She breathed his name as his lips trailed along her jaw and down her throat before he buried his face between her breasts, hands gripping. Her fingers sifted through his hair, tightening when his teeth grazed one nipple, then the other through the fabric of her dress.

Finally, he looked up.

His eyes were dark but just as brilliant as they were when he was in his true form. They possessed a fire of their own, a liveliness that only erupted when he was looking at
her
. She felt as though a void had opened in the pit of her stomach, and somehow, she became even more hollow.

“Yes?” he asked.

“Fuck me as a god,” she said.

“If you wish it,” he said.

“I wish it.”

Hades's gaze was unwavering as he bent and pulled one of her nipples into his mouth before sitting back on his knees. She did not like the distance, but she liked watching him undress. When he was naked before her and he had dropped his glamour, she sat up and pulled her dress over her head.

His gaze on her bare skin made her feel primal and possessive. It ignited her with a will to dominate. She moved onto her knees, and Hades took her into his arms, lifting her up the incline of his thighs until she was seated against his length.

“Drop your glamour,” he said, “so that I may make love to a goddess.”

From this position, she was elevated slightly above him, and she used that to her advantage, teasing him as she brushed her mouth against his.

“If you wish it,” she whispered.

“I wish it,” he said, his tone low, almost feverish.

She let her magic go, and it fell away like a shiver down her spine.

Hades held her tighter, lifting her body higher. She knew without words what he was asking, and she answered, guiding the head of his cock to her entrance. She braced her hands against his shoulders as she seated herself on him, breathing through the pleasure as it coursed through her body, rattling her mind.

She wrapped her arms around him tighter, and as they moved together, all she could focus on was the feelings he conjured. This was a magic of its own, separate from any divine gift, and it let her live in a single moment of pure ecstasy, far from the grief and sorrow of her life.

Except for the part where it wasn't real, and suddenly her arousal was cut through with pain.

Persephone twined her fingers in Hades's hair and drew his head back, her lips colliding with his as tears streamed down her face.

“Lie down,” she said as she pulled away.

Hades held her gaze but did as she asked, shifting onto his back. She adjusted her position, her palms flat on his chest.

“Tell me,” he said, though his body tightened beneath hers as she began to move.

“There is nothing to say,” she replied. Reaching for his hands, she brought them to her breasts.

“You always have something to say,” he said, teasing her flesh with his fingers.

“A god once told me that words mean nothing,” she said, growing breathless.

“Your god was a fool,” he replied, his hands falling to her hips where he gripped her harder, moving faster.

“Oh?” she asked on a moan.

“Some words are not meaningless,” he said.

She could no longer say anything, and he did not speak as her body seized with pleasure. It wasn't until she collapsed atop Hades that he finished, whispering the words against her temple.

“I love you, Persephone.”

“Persephone.”

She squeezed her eyes tighter, clinging to her dream a little longer, but already she could feel the weight of Hades's arms slipping away.

BOOK: A Touch of Chaos
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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