Authors: Lauren Hammond
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Mythology, #Young Adult, #Paranormal
This book is dedicated to all the amazing book bloggers in the world who take the time to promote and spread the word about their favorite books and support authors they love. Many, many thanks to all of you.
Mount Olympus, Ancient Greece
ades barreled into Zeus, knocking him to the ground. The clash of their bodies sent a rippling clap of thunder through the sky. Zeus rose to his feet and with one flick of his finger, sent Hades flying through the air. Hades hit the ground with a thud. “You promised,” he growled, picking himself up. “You aren’t about to go back on your word, are you?”
“I know you want a queen, but maybe now isn’t the right time,” said Zeus.
“We had a deal,” Hades said, taking a few steps closer.
“I know we did and I am not going back on it.”
Hades knew exactly where this was going. Either Zeus had grown attached to this child or he had not yet informed the mother of his arrangement with Hades. “So, what are you suggesting?”
“I want you to wait for my next born.”
Hades shook his head. “I’ve waited seventeen years already. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be alone all the time?”
“I know you have been patient and your patience will not go unrewarded.”
This was bold of Zeus, but Hades could not be bargained with. “Perhaps you need more time to think it over.”
“My decision has been made, Hades. There is nothing to think about.”
Hades was about to explode when Demeter walked into the Hall of the Gods.
“Come Persephone,” she said, extending her hand behind her. Persephone grabbed Demeter’s hand and walked alongside her mother.
Hades lingered in the back of the room next a marble column and watched the young maiden. She was delicate and beautiful, with long willowy limbs, reddish-brown hair, and stunning jade green eyes.
He observed her for a while, smitten. Then assumed that she must be the child Zeus promised to him. He’d only been watching her for minutes and already this woman had his mind in a blunder. Closing his eyes, he listened attentively to the sound of her sweet voice and smiled to himself when her infectious laugh echoed through the hall.
Upon his descent to the underworld Hades came up with a plan. If Zeus wasn’t going to give him the girl, he was simply going to take her. And he’d make Zeus aware because in reality there was nothing he could do to stop him.
irens howled in the distance followed by honking car horns and tires peeling out. Hades propped himself up against a building, invisible to the human eye, and watched with a blank expression as an ambulance hurled around the street corner, it’s white and red lights turning in a circular motion.
A man lied in the middle of the street. His limbs were twisted and broken and blood oozed from every opening on the man’s face. His chest rose up lightly and even though he was feet away, Hades heard the man’s raspy, wheezing breaths. The Commander of the Dead felt the man’s life slipping away. With every weak breath that escaped the man’s lungs, he crept closer and closer to Hades’ grasp.
The man was hit by a bus. It was tragic, really. Hades had seen it happen, yet he did nothing to prevent it. That was the way the world worked. Mortals were born and died every day. It was not his place to interfere, even though he could if he really wanted to.
Police blocked off the scene of the accident with bright orange cones and yellow caution tape and a crowd of onlookers had formed to watch as the paramedics placed the unknown man on a gurney. Women cried out and a few of them were being comforted by their male partners. Hades closed his eyes and began to feel bits and pieces of the man’s life flash before his eyes. This occurred every time a soul was about to cross into his realm. This gave the God of the Dead the ability to administer proper judgment and proper placement once the souls of the departed reached him.
Using his invisibility cloak, Hades faded into the chaos of the crowd and hovered over the dying man. He reached out, prepared to latch onto the man’s wrist and pull him under when he’d heard a wild shriek in the crowd. “Jake! Jake!”
Hades straightened up and looked over his shoulder as a woman sprinted through the crowd of onlookers, pushing and shoving the ones in her way. Her strands of chestnut hair slapped against her face, her ivory cheeks were flushed and her eyes were rimmed in red. She howled out another painful shriek. “Jake! No! No!”
Hades stepped back as the woman reached the gurney and hurled her body over the dying man’s. Agony flashed in the woman’s hazel eyes as she ran her trembling fingers over the man’s mangled face. She sobbed, her voice strangled as the paramedics and police officers tried to pull her off the man. “No! No!” She fought them off, her arms flailing, her legs jetting out as she tried to kick the cops and paramedics. “Don’t die on me, Jake! Don’t die on me! I love…I love you!”
“Ma’am, we have to get him to a hospital!” a paramedic cried. “He needs medical attention!”
After a few more strenuous attempts the cops were able to pry the woman off of the man, they escorted her to the ambulance and helped her into the back. And she sat there, sobbing into her palms while the paramedics loaded the body. Once the gurney was secure, the woman laced her fingers through the man’s, lifted his hand to her mouth and kissed the man’s fingertips.
Hades waited until the paramedics closed the ambulance door before appearing inside. He watched the woman, a fierce loving look in her eyes as she brushed her thumb against the man’s limp hand. Her emotion struck Hades in a way he hadn’t been struck in centuries. He felt for her. Normally when he witnessed death he remained indifferent and just accepted what had occurred, but for some reason he couldn’t understand why this situation seemed different.
Maybe because he knew what it was like to love someone and watch them slip through grasp eternally. He’d been after his love for at least five thousand years. Chasing her from state to state, city to city, and from continent to continent. He’d suffered in pain every time he lost her. And he’d lost her a lot.
Standing there in the ambulance, persuaded by his own feelings Hades did something he rarely ever did. He leaned over the dying man’s mouth, sucked in a deep breath, and breathed life back into him. The man’s eyes flew open and he coughed out, gasping for air. The woman’s eyes bulged out and she cried tears of joy as she kissed every bruise on the man’s face.
A soft smile crawled across Hades’ lips as he vanished from the ambulance and returned to his realm. He sat down rigidly still on his throne and gazed out into the black abyss of nothingness known as the underworld. The realm in which he was the tyrannical ruler of. He peered over his should to his right, then to his left. The quiet engulfed him until all he heard were his own thoughts.
At times he cursed Zeus for damning him to a realm of nothingness, death, and despair, but then again there were times where he’d also praised Zeus. Hades had never been like the other God’s and Goddesses that previously dwelled on Mount Olympus. The wicked and despicable things he was capable of would haunt them to the core. He was sure of it.
Through the centuries, the tasks of running his realm had become tedious and repetitive to Hades. The task of damning the souls that had crossed the river Styx into his domain was becoming tiresome for the deceitful king. Of course he still had Cerberus, his dog, man’s best friend. Cerberus had proven to be extremely loyal. At times the three headed beast’s howling and barking would annoy Hades to the point, where he considered cutting off all three of Cerberus’s heads. But that was only a mere thought.
The gentle yet fierce guardian hobbled into the throne room, all three tongues hanging out. The dog whimpered and let out a soothing yelp as Hades gently stroked the dog’s middle head. “Good boy.”
The God of the Dead’s attention averted to the grandfather clock in the corner of the room and Cerberus’s spine stiffened as Hades rose up from his throne. “Stay,” he commanded the three headed dog that Hades called his only loyal companion over the last five thousand years. Cerberus howled and lied down on the floor, lowering all three of his heads in a gesture of obedience.
Hades lips turned up into a wry smile as he walked out of his throne room. Perhaps his kindness today was a sign. Perhaps he was close to getting her. The one and only person he’d ever been enamored with. The Goddess he’d been chasing for the last five thousand years.
It was fifteen minutes to midnight and Hades, God of death and destruction, paced along the banks of the river Styx with his hands balled into fists at his sides. Charon was late with today’s shipment of souls and that left Hades feeling uneasy. Hades didn’t like uncertainty. He ran a tight schedule in the realm of the dead and when the impervious schedule was interrupted, well, he knew Charon would be wise to stay away from him for the rest of the day.
He stopped mid-pace, kicking grey sand and focused on the fog, rising from the brownish, green murky waters of the Styx. There was an internal clock in his brain, ticking and as Hades closed his eyes he envisioned the hands of the clock moving as the minutes dwindled by. Filled with worry and impatience, Hades tapped his foot, folding his arms and drummed his fingers against his elbow. Anxiousness unfurled beneath his skin like a flesh-eating parasite. “The one day that I need him to be on time and he’s late,” Hades growled as he began pacing again.
Sand crunched as the rubber soles of his boots smashed it down and the noise ricocheted off the walls of the cavern—the opening—the crossing where the land of the living met with the land of the dead. The slick brown stone walls glistened with sludge, a slimy residue from the Styx’s choppy waters. Hades’ eyes centered on that sludge as he thought about all the punishment’s he’d have in store for Charon if he took any longer. But, before he came up with one, the soft plunking of wooden oars throbbed in his ears. Then the plunking intensified turning into slapping. Charon was close.
Hades stood on the edge of the dock as the old, feeble ferryman parked his ship, full of the dearly departed and descended down the rope ladder. Charon stood before his master clutching the brim of his hat, his fingers trembling. “I’m sorry master. So sorry.” Charon lowered his head and few wisps of white hair stood up while the lighting bounced off the bald parts.
“What was the hold-up?” Hades asked, gruffly.
Charon kept his head low, talking at his feet. “We had an indecisive soul, sire.”
An indecisive soul was the soul of a mortal who was stuck in the between, not quite in the land of the living, but still not able to cross fully into the land of the unliving. Hades scanned the row of occupants on the ferry, infuriated. “Which one was it?” His tone was flat and cold.
Charon lifted his head and nodded at a teenage boy in the back of the ship. “Him.”
Hades glared at the boy pre-adult boy, whose hazel eyes glistened with tears. Seconds later, Hades disappeared, reappearing in front of the boy. Fear crept up the mortal’s spine and he stiffened, unable to move. Then he started shaking. Hades examined him, hoping to scorch him with his gaze. Rage bubbled inside of the mighty God and Hades boomed, “Aren’t you a man?” The boy lowered his head and Hades blanched as he sniffled. But the boy did not answer.
“Answer me!” Hades screamed, shaking the entire ferry. The other passengers turned, eyeing Hades, fearfully.
“I’m, I’m only fifffteen,” the boy whimpered, stuttering at the same time.
Hades exhaled as the rage inside of him died down. He relaxed his stance slouching over, slightly. Even though, the young boy had taken too much of his time and Hades contemplated sending him to the depths of Tartarus, he knew couldn’t. Not because he wasn’t able to, but because despite his cold demeanor and mischievous ways, He had always been a fair and just God. And the boy didn’t deserve to spend an eternity being tortured endlessly. “Stand up,” He instructed the teen, calmly.
The boy rose from his seat, trying desperately to lock his trembling knees in place. Hades placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder and the young teen blanched, turning away. “Do not fear me,” Hades said boldly. Slowly, the boy turned toward Hades, peaking up at him from the corner of his eye. Then the God of the Dead closed his eyes and recited the same thing he’d recited for the last five-thousand years. “The realm of the dead welcomes you. Go forth and find your home in the Field of Asphodel so that you may live out your eternity in peace.”
Every soul on the ferry vanished. They’d been assigned to their forever. And then Hades vanished, appearing in his throne room. Walls of black and matching black marble tile floors engulfed him and he sat back on the red, velvet cushioned throne. He looked up at a cast-iron clock on the wall. Seven minutes to midnight. In seven minutes, he’d have another opportunity to take her, hopefully his last.
He recalled the first time saw her in the Hall of the Gods, trailing behind Demeter. Her mahogany hair glistened red in the sunlight. Her skin was a creamy peach color. And her eyes were the most stunning shade of Jade-green he’d ever seen.