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Authors: Scarlett St. Clair

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BOOK: A Touch of Chaos
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“Better,” Persephone muttered, her hands smoothing over him. He caught her wrists and kissed her palms.

She curled her fingers.

“Let me touch you,” she said. Her eyes brightened, taking on a fierceness that pierced his heart.

It wasn't that he did not want her to. It was that he already feared waking up alone.

Persephone placed her hands on either side of his face. “Live in this moment with me.”

He wanted nothing else. He wanted her to take up every second of every day, to live in every part of his mind, to never leave his side. She was the dawn of his world, the warmth he carried in his heart, the light that kept him looking toward the future.

He kissed her again and dragged her up his body. He would have sighed with the weight of her in his arms, but he swept his tongue into her mouth, groaning at the way her taste made his body tighten. With her arms anchored around his neck, he gripped her hips, grinding his erection into the softness between her thighs.

Fuck, she felt so good and
real
.

She wiggled against him, and as she did, he let her slide to her feet. He was completely naked now—by the mercy of her magic, his length heavy and full between them. She touched him, her fingers teasing the veins pulsing with his blood. He felt the roar of his need in his ears.

“Will you let me please you?” she asked.

She did not need permission, but he liked the way she asked. Her voice was low and husky, her eyes gleaming with lust.

“If you wish,” he said, his tone matching hers, resisting the primal urge to tangle his fingers in her hair as she knelt before him.

“I wish,” she whispered, her breath on his cock.

His muscles clenched, and he grew harder as she licked him. The tip of her tongue ran along every vein and the smooth edge of his crown before she teased his head with lavish strokes. He took a few deep breaths,
working through the pleasure blooming throughout his body.

Then she sucked him into her mouth, her hand working him up and down. He groaned, his chest tightening to the point that he could not take in air. He thought he would come, could feel his body reaching those great heights, just caressing the very edge of release.

He smoothed his hand into her hair, and she looked up at him as his cock slipped from her mouth, red, wet, and pulsing.

“Let me come inside you,” he said.

Her eyes darkened.

“If you wish,” she said.

“Oh, I wish,” he growled, dragging her to her feet.

He kissed her again and let his mouth run along her jaw and down her neck, teeth grazing, pausing to suck her skin. She clung to him, her fingers digging into his shoulders. He liked the bite of her nails, which made this feel even more real. He still wasn't sure what this was, but he no longer cared.

He shoved the straps of her dress down, exposing her breasts, then her stomach and hips. He kissed down her body, his hands smoothing over her skin as he did. He spent time teasing her thighs and burying his face between her legs, licking her swollen clit until her fingers twisted in his hair. He made his way up her body before taking her into his arms again, her wet heat settling against his erection, her breasts pressed against his chest.

Trapped within this tension, their eyes held.

“I miss you,” she said.

Her fingers danced along his lips before she kissed
him. He would take this distraction over the ache in his chest and carried her to what he thought was the tallest part of the labyrinth wall, but when he went to rest her against it, he found that they had fallen into a sea of black silk.

“This is a dream,” he murmured.

“Then it is a good dream,” she whispered.

He kissed her and made a slow descent down her body, taking time to tease and touch. She writhed, her thighs squeezing, and when he finally pressed his mouth to her heat, he found ecstasy.

CHAPTER V
PERSEPHONE

“Yes,” Persephone moaned at the press of Hades's mouth against her. Every part of her body felt raw and open, one whole nerve exposed to the pleasure of his touch. She could barely contain her need for him. It twined through her, tightening her muscles as he worked his tongue over her clit.

She took a deep breath, the pleasure already radiating throughout her body, but then he parted her soft and swollen flesh with his fingers, and she could barely contain her relief at feeling some part of him inside her.

“Yes,” she said again, looking down at him between her legs. He was staring back as he took her clit into his mouth again, sucking gently. “Fuck.”

She let her head fall back against the pillow. With each stroke, she grew warmer and the pleasure that knifed through her body built in intensity.

“Please,” she begged, though she was not completely sure what she was asking for. She wanted to come, to
feel her whole body tense with the pleasure of release. She was addicted to it and the way Hades pushed her closer and closer to the edge.

Hades tugged gently on her clit as he released her.

“What do you want, darling?” he asked, his voice a dark whisper. It made her shiver despite the perspiration breaking out over her skin.

She was hot and damp.

“More,” she said.

She needed him fast and slow, needed him to work deeper, and he did, caressing a place inside her that elicited so much sensation, she thought she would die at any moment. And then she did. Pleasure shot through her like lightning, seizing every muscle. She bent forward, body curling into itself as her orgasm crashed through her, exiting her body on a deep and guttural moan.

That was how she woke, to the sound of her release, with her hands between her legs and no sign of Hades.

A hot wave of shame fell on her, and the heat that had livened her body vanished. Cold, she drew her knees to her chest.

Gods
, it had all felt so real. She'd felt his weight on her. She could taste him on her tongue, and her lips were raw from his kiss. Now that she was awake, that pleasurable ache in her core turned into something nauseating.

It felt wrong to feel aroused in his absence, even if her feelings had been ignited by his role in her dream. The worst part, though, was waking without him.

This was a nightmare.

She rose from bed and shrugged on her robe before making her way to the balcony in the darkness. Outside, the Underworld felt different. She had yet to figure
out the source. Was it their union, Hades's absence, or Theseus's violation of their realm that had spurred the change? Either way, it put her on edge. She felt like, at any moment, something might explode—that the magic she'd called on to trap Iapetus might splinter and the Titan would finish tearing her world to shreds.

Because this was all she had left—this and the hope that she would find Hades before Theseus gave him over to Cronos.

She let her head fall into her hands as she braced them against the balcony rail, tears burning the back of her throat, but she refused to cry, blinking fiercely until she no longer felt the threat. Once it had passed, she lifted her head and noticed an orange glow from afar.

She stood straighter.

Strange
, she thought and teleported beyond the cover of the palace gardens where she noticed a fire in the Asphodel Fields. At first, a sense of panic overwhelmed her, and she teleported again quickly to the valley below, only to notice that the souls were gathered around it, using it for light. Some bent and carved bows, others were stitching pieces of leather into armor, and some were sharpening blades.

She turned her attention to the main road at the center of Asphodel, noting that every lantern was lit, making the sky look hazy and orange. Those who were not working near the fire were making repairs to their homes from the damage done during the rupture of Tartarus.

“Lady Persephone!”

She shifted toward the sound of her name.

“Yuri!” Persephone said and went to the young soul,
drawing her into a tight hug. She had not seen her since the chimera attack and had yet to thank her for distracting the monster. “Are you well?” she asked as she pulled away, studying the soul, uncertain of what she had faced as the battle continued.

Yuri seemed puzzled by the question. “Yes, my lady,” she said. “Are you?”

Persephone opened her mouth to respond, but she still had no words to describe exactly what she was feeling. Instead, she looked toward the roaring flames in the field beyond Asphodel.

“What is going on? Why are you all here?”

Souls did not really need sleep, but they tended to maintain the routines they had while living.

“We are preparing for war,” Yuri said, and while Persephone could see that, she still could not quite comprehend it. “After what happened, we think it is best.”

Guilt tightened her chest. She could not help thinking that they had chosen to do this in part because she had not been able to protect them.

If Hades had been here, things would have been different, though she knew she was not being completely fair to herself. She, Hecate, Hermes, and Apollo had done all they could to defend the Underworld from the threats Theseus had unleashed, and the souls had helped. They likely only wished to be better prepared for the next attack.

“The next attack,” she said aloud, her voice quiet as she looked toward Tartarus.

“What happened, Persephone?” Yuri asked, but Persephone was not really prepared to answer because
it meant revisiting the terror she'd faced over the last twenty-four hours.

It took her a moment to meet the soul's wide-eyed gaze. When she spoke, her voice was mournful. “I am still trying to understand that myself.”

The sound of a hammer on metal suddenly echoed throughout Asphodel, and Persephone's focus shifted to Ian's outdoor forge. She had first met Ian when he had presented her with a crown, a gift from the souls. Later she would learn that he had been murdered for his skill and the favor Artemis had bestowed on him. Any weapon the man created ensured its wielder could not be defeated.

Several souls worked alongside him, some forging weapons while others hammered metal into shields and armor.

The thing about those who lived in Asphodel was that their skills matched the century in which they lived. Some had worked with wood and leather, some with iron and steel, but no matter their expertise, they shared one thing—the ability to prepare for war.

Humanity was unchanging, and it had never been more apparent to her as it was right now.

She scanned the souls gathered when her eyes snagged on a woman with a long braid.

Her brows lowered, and her heart hammered.

She took a step forward.

“Zofie?”

The woman looked up from her work and turned to face Persephone, who could not contain her tears. She had watched the Amazon die, taking a blade to the chest. She'd screamed so loud, even now she could
hear the ring of it in her ears. It had all happened so quickly.

“My lady,” Zofie said, a smile spreading across her face. She bowed so low, she nearly touched the ground.

“Zofie,” Persephone said again and crossed the short distance toward her, hugging her close as she straightened. “Zofie, I am so sorry.”

The Amazon held her shoulders as she pulled away. “Do not apologize, my queen. You have given me honor in death.”

Honor
.

It was the thing she'd sought as Persephone's aegis, though she still did not know what had caused the Amazon such shame among her people. In the end, though, it did not matter because Zofie had found peace in the way she needed.

Perhaps Persephone could find the same peace, though she was not sure anything would ever remedy the horror of watching her die, even seeing the Amazon so happy in death.

Persephone's eyes shifted over Zofie's shoulder to Ian, who stood with the other souls gathered behind him. In his hands, he held a blade.

“Ian,” she said.

“My queen,” he said and bowed. “Allow me to present you with this dagger.”

She stared at the knife, which was sheathed in a scabbard inlaid with the same florals that adorned the crown he'd made for her—roses and lilies, narcissus and anemone. They climbed effortlessly over the hilt too, crowned with a piece of black obsidian atop the pommel.

As she took it into her hands, the dark gems he had set among the flowers glinted under the firelight.

“Ian,” she said again, this time a whisper.

“It is a symbol of your strength,” he said. “The blade is like you, unbreakable.”

She met his gaze, and again her eyes burned with tears. She did not feel unbreakable, but it meant a lot that her people thought she was.

She held the blade close to her chest.

“Thank you,” she said, unable to say anything else, and when she looked beyond the blacksmith and around, she noticed that more souls had gathered outside the smithy.

“All hail Queen Persephone!”

She was not sure who said it, but the souls responded by cheering, and then they knelt, and Persephone found herself at the center of their worship, completely overwhelmed.

Persephone spent a few more hours with the souls as they continued to prepare for battle. As much as she wished it were not needed, she felt it was necessary after what had occurred with Theseus. He had the Helm of Darkness, which meant he could return to the Underworld at any given moment unseen. Would he decide later that releasing Cronos into the mortal world was not enough? Would he seek to release more Titans or other monsters from the depths of Tartarus? Persephone had to hope that her magic would hold, that Hecate could protect the borders until Hades returned.

Pain sliced through her chest, sudden and sharp,
before it settled into a keen and constant pressure. It had accompanied her since leaving Hades at Alexandria Tower and had grown worse in the aftermath of her dream. She was tired of this feeling.

Her eyes fell to the blade Ian had given her, which sat on Hades's desk. When she had returned to the castle, she had come to his office, which felt more like a refuge than any other part of the palace. It still looked like he was here. It still smelled like him. She could pretend he was just away on business.

Hermes's magic scented the air, and the god manifested near the door. He had changed since their battle and looked far more casual in a pair of khaki slacks and a white button-down.

“Hey, Sephy,” he said, his voice quiet and a little melancholy.

“Any news?” she asked.

“Not about Hades,” he said.

Her heart sank, even though she had expected as much.

“I have come to extend an invitation from Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. She has requested your presence at Zofie's funeral.”

Funeral
.

It would not be the first time she attended a funeral after she had welcomed a friend to the Underworld, but she still dreaded the thought.

“When?” Persephone asked.

“She will be laid to rest tonight,” said Hermes softly.

Persephone swallowed and looked away toward the windows.

“I know I am Queen of the Underworld, but I am
not yet a Goddess of Death,” she said. “I do not know how to reconcile having watched Zofie die.”

“You did not just watch her die, Persephone,” Hermes said. “You watched her murdered.”

It had happened so fast. Zofie had found them, and as soon as she entered the hotel room, Theseus buried a blade in her chest. Persephone would never forget how her eyes widened or how she had collapsed to the floor. She would never forget the way she screamed or how it had hurt her throat. She would never forget how Theseus had made her step over Zofie's body and leave her alone to die.

It did not matter that the Amazon was content. Persephone lived with the horror, and she could not help wondering who else among her friends would fall victim to Theseus.

BOOK: A Touch of Chaos
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ads

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