Moira rolls her eyes and smacks her lips. “Can you make other things too, or is this where your culinary skills end?”
I don’t even try to suppress my cocky grin. “I am a fucking god, when it comes to cooking. It’s a talent, really. I know what tastes good.” Holding her gaze while I say that is a little too much, but she takes another bite and hums, and nothing is too much—nothing is enough—when compared to the pure delight in that sound.
“Oh my God. Like seriously, how do you not weigh two-hundred kilos, if you cook like this?” she asks. “I gained ten kilos when I first learned how to make filo pastry; I baked pitas on a daily basis.”
I chuckle. “I try not to indulge too often.”
She shakes her head, not looking at me. “He cooks like this and has self-restraint. With my luck, must be an ax murderer. At least I’ll die happy.”
This time I give a full belly laugh. She’s fun. Damn it.
No, not damn it. Fun is good in an associate. It will make time fly when we work together. The two of us. And Phaedra and Nancy, on most nights, but they’ll be serving, while Moira tends the bar.
And after eleven, when the kitchen closes, I’ll be helping her. Working beside her.
Where I can smell her hair and bump into her accidentally and be reminded of how off limits she fucking is.
My amazeballs burger tastes like ash. Moira’s doesn’t seem to have the same issue, because she bites off one chunk after the other, humming and moaning and groaning and closing her eyes and licking sauce off her lips and driving me nuts. My jeans are digging into my cock that throbs with need, as she sucks and licks her fingers clean—I’ll need to start wearing boxer shorts, if I’m to spend more time in her presence.
Her bare knee touches my leg, and I feel her heat through my jeans. She doesn’t move away, and before I can stop myself, I slide lower in my seat so the length of her thigh presses into me. She smells like the earth after the rain, and I want to inhale her.
I hop upright, almost toppling my chair over. “Beer?” I need to get some distance between us, even if it’s for a few seconds. I take advantage of the opportunity, to adjust my dick. That’s better.
“Only if you have an alcohol-free one,” she says.
I do, and I bring us a bottle each, no glasses. I pop the caps, and she clinks our bottles together and takes a swig. A dollop of foam almost escapes her mouth, but she catches it with her tongue. That’s an agile tongue. Fast, too. And those lips…
I force the rest of that thought out of my mind and wedge a fry past my teeth. Chew slowly. Fight to swallow it. I don’t care about the food; I need to know more about Moira. If Hermes and Sei felt this intensely attracted to their mates when they first saw them, I understand why they have these stupid grins on their faces all of the time, now that they went ahead with the bonding. Would I be this happy, if I gave into fate and tied my eternity to Moira?
I feel like someone landed a punch on my solar plexus. Or I assume this would be what a punch on the solar plexus would feel like, for a mortal. I may be pre-ascension, but like my brothers, I’ve had a supernatural threshold for pain all my life. This hurts, though. It’s as if a giant hand tightens around my chest, hard enough to crack my unbreakable ribs.
Sei and Hermes had the option to give in. I can’t sleep with someone more than once—a couple times, tops—without essentially stealing their free will and making them subject to their basest desires. Nobody can be with me. Nobody can love me. My prolonged touch tears through all kinds of mental and psychological constraints.
It drove Ariadne to madness.
I see her in my dreams, half-crazed, trying to end her life when my powers tore through the spell Theseus cast on her. I shouldn’t be remembering. My brothers don’t recall their original lives. Hephaestus claimed earlier that he remembered not having a relationship with Aphrodite, but that might have been to piss Ares off.
Or maybe they each remember something but don’t wanna talk about it. I sure as fuck plan on keeping my memories a secret.
While I’m busy, self-flagellating, Moira polishes off her plate. She looks forlornly at the licked-clean slab of wood, and her puppy eyes pull my mood back from the gutter, though they leave my mind there.
“Want another?” I ask.
She pats her stomach. “Can’t fit anything else in here.”
Pity. I wouldn’t mind listening to her moan in pleasure a little longer, and since feeding her is the only way I can safely achieve that… I arch an eyebrow. “You sure? Because my chocolate soufflé may possibly be better than my burger.”
Moira groans and tosses her head back. Her hair is dry now, curls escaping the bun to tumble loosely around her face. “I’m so very tempted—chocolate is my weakness—but I can’t. I’m sorry.” She looks heartbroken. How adorable is that?
And since when do I consider women adorable instead of fuckable? “Maybe tomorrow, then.” I shrug. This isn’t a good idea. I do feed my staff occasionally, I like to have a good relationship with them, but I don’t do so on a daily basis. Plus, I don’t want to sleep with anyone else who works for me.
Not sleep. Sleep implies a deeper connection. What I’m feeling is attraction. I want to have sex with Moira and get it out of my system. But I won’t do that, either. She’s my employee. I won’t be like the creep she ran away from.
Moira watches me as if she can see through my skull and into my brain. For a drawn-out second, I’m convinced she can. My brothers and I have always been able to hold mental conversations. Joy and Hermes can read each other’s thoughts. Same with Sei and Irine. But Moira isn’t an Olympian or bonded to one. She can’t know what I’m thinking. She probably can read facial expressions, though, so I try not to look like a miserable jackass.
“Do you treat all your new employees this way?” she asks. “Making them burgers and fries and soufflés?” She gasps. “You mentioned girls. Do you only hire women, so you can surround yourself with a harem?”
I compose my face into a somber expression. “You caught me.”
She goes quiet. Does she think I meant it? I said I don’t get involved with people who work for me.
I’m about to explain, when she shrugs. “You know what? I don’t even mind, as long as I have access to food like this.”
She’s joking, but my cock doesn’t know that. It strains against denim. I shift in my seat. I should say goodnight. We ate, we chatted, and the rain must have stopped by now. No reason to stick around. I can clean the grill in the morning.
“So I’d better get going,” Moira says. Her face falls. “Need to arrange some stuff.”
“With your old job?” The reminder of what brought her here tonight has my pulse racing again. Her old office must be within walking distance. I can find the guy tomorrow and put the fear of an Olympian in him.
She pushes back her chair and gets up. Smooths my sweater down her curves and looks down at her ballet pumps that have lost their shape after their watery encounter. “Yeah, you can say that. My shoes are dry. Hope my clothes are too. I’ll change and be out of your hair.”
I want her to leave. She has to leave. So why does the fist around my lungs squeeze again? I rise too, and with my longer strides make it to the door first. I open it a crack. It’s drizzling outside, but the road is practically a river from earlier, clogged sewers adding their fill to the debris floating down the street. I can’t send her out there in these paper-like shoes. Besides, no taxi will drive here in this. Rain in Athens causes major traffic jams.
I close the door and lean against it. Moira is outside the staff bathroom, watching me expectantly.
I shake my head. “You’re not going anywhere. Crash in the back for the night. I have a spare set of keys behind the bar.”
Her eyes widen, and she licks her lips, but is motionless other than that. Does she think I mean to trap her here and do things to her against her will? I take a slow step toward her. “Come, lock up behind me, and you can have my keys too.”
“Why?” She straightens her shoulders, but the stance doesn’t seem defensive, and there’s no fear in her eyes.
Good. I’d never want her to be afraid of me. “To make sure I won’t come back to perv on you,” I say.
Her laughs sounds genuine. “You wouldn’t do anything stupid. I know where you live.”
Why does the reminder make me feel warm inside? All my employees know where I live, because they’re the only women I’ll never mess around with. I’m a fucking joy to work for, if I say so myself, and treat them like family. Like they’re my sisters.
Except I can’t see Moira as a sister. Not when I catch a glimpse of her legs under my hoodie. Not when she lets her hair down and it frames her face. Not when she sucks her bottom lip between her teeth.
I have something much bigger for her to suck on.
Okay, need to put a lid on these thoughts. She’s off limits.
“Do you need me to get you anything before I turn in for the night?” At fucking ten in the evening?
Her gaze lights me on fire, the way it lingers on my mouth. “Nah, I’m okay. More than okay. I’m in your debt. Seriously, can’t thank you enough. If there’s anything I can do…”
I have a couple things in mind, but I keep my mouth shut. “You can come upstairs with a sweet cappuccino before you leave in the morning.”
“I’ll bring croissants too.”
“Awesome.” I wave her over. When she doesn’t move, I go to her and hand her my keys. “Lock up and make yourself comfortable. If you’re cold, there’s an electric heater. Turn it on a few minutes before you get into bed, and you’ll be nice and toasty.” Nice and toasty? Am I a grandma now?
She crosses her arms, and it takes effort not to stare at the swell of her breasts. Thank Chaos the hoodie doesn’t have a deeper neckline. “Why are you going out in the rain, if I’m not allowed to?” she asks.
Because I need to cool down. Though the water will probably evaporate when it touches my skin, the way she’s lit me on fire. “I will be under it for literally thirty seconds,” I say instead. I clasp her wrist over the fabric and lead her to the exit. Linger there. This feels like a first date. If it were one, I’d be kissing her right about now.
Not a date. I should go home. Now. I smile and bring her hand to my mouth, to ghost the briefest of kisses across the knuckles. “Goodnight, Moira. Welcome aboard.”
It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.
I step outside and wait till I hear the telltale snick of the lock. Good girl.
I look up at the sky, where the clouds are making room for the stars to reluctantly appear. Scattered droplets of water do nothing to wash away the memory of her smooth skin against my lips. I desire her. More than that—I hunger for her.
It’s only because I can’t have her. Knowing I wasn’t allowed to touch the wall socket made me shove my finger in it more than once, while I was in middle school. C yelled and punished me by taking away my TV time, but the satisfaction of breaking the rules more than made up for that loss.
I’m not in middle school anymore, though. Besides, I’ve always respected other people’s boundaries, and Moira doesn’t want me; she only sees me as her friendly boss.
She did seem to flirt at times.
Nah. Wishful thinking. This is good. If I stop thinking of her as the forbidden fruit and start thinking of her as the disinterested fruit, I won’t be tempted to make a move.
But I still want her. Still think of her alone in that room, in that cot. Will she be wearing my hoodie all night, her scent rubbing off on it?
Chaos, I’m hard.
Hiring Moira may be the worst decision I ever made. If I sent her on her way, I might never see her again. Never be tempted again. I could ask C to start keeping track of her once more, after I had him stop when I decided I wouldn’t ascend. This way, I could avoid her at every turn. It would be the logical, responsible thing to do. Because I honestly don’t want to be with her.
I could have called Sei and asked him to stop the rain, so I didn’t have to spend my evening with her. I could have told her Ares was wrong, and the position was filled. Why didn’t I? And why tell her to stay the night? So I can obsess over hearing her move? Which I can’t do, anyway, because I’m not Hermes?
I stuff my hand in my pocket and roam for my keys as if they could be lost in the ten-by-ten centimeters of fabric. They’re not here. Obviously. Because I’m an idiot and handed Moira the entire bunch instead of just the bar key. Nice going, Denny.
I stop in front of my building’s door and drop my head against the wood with a thud. Hermes isn’t gonna appreciate my dragging him out of bed—where he spends most of his free time, if I got that right—but I’d rather deal with my brother’s pissy mood, than go back to Moira and risking having my inhibitions dissolved for a change.
I turn around and sweep my gaze across the street. It’s empty, the rain having driven everyone to shelter. “Hermes,” I scream inside my head. “Need a couple seconds of your precious time.”
A heartbeat, two, and then my brother appears, swathed in a chiton. No, wait. It’s an actual bedsheet. “Did Sei put you up to this?” he grumbles. “Is it payback for when I did it to him?”
I raise both palms in the air. “No, man. I’m stupid and left my keys in the bar. Can you zap me upstairs?”
Hermes purses his lips. “In the bar? With the half-naked chick? Did she rob you or something?”
It takes me a second to put a name to the feeling clawing its way up my sternum. It’s jealousy, and it’s irrational. Hermes and I have shared more bed partners than I can count, in this lifetime and—from what I hear—our first one. The thought of him seeing Moira’s exposed body fills me with rage I cannot explain, though. “You saw her naked?”
“Half-naked. She only has a hoodie on. Yours, if I’m not mistaken. What happened? She wouldn’t leave, so you made a run for it?”
I shake my head. “She walked in, soaked to the bone. Ares offered her a job—”
“In your bar?”
I shrug. “To make up for being the reason Argyro quit.”
“I see.” But he doesn’t.
“That’s Moira in there,” I say. But of course, he doesn’t know her by name. Doesn’t know what she’s supposed to mean to me. That she’s— “My soulmate.”
Hermes clasps my shoulder. “Fuck.”
“Yeah.” By the time the word’s out of my mouth, we’re in my living room. “Thanks,” I mutter. “Wait. How did you see her?”
He slouches, clutches at the sheet with both hands, and gazes down at his bare feet. To someone who doesn’t know him, he’d look contrite. “I initially misjudged your exact location. Blinked inside the bar.” When I scowl, he adds, “Hey, I’m still getting the hang of it. If you think you can do better, be my guest.”
No, thanks. “Did she see you?”
“Nah. She was looking at something on her phone.” He straightens and looks me in the eye. “What are you going to do about her?”
My turn to shrug. I summon every milligram of nonchalance I can muster and say, “Nothing. She’ll be working for me. You know how I feel about that.”
Hermes laughs. “Irine is working for Sei. Doesn’t stop them from humping like bunnies every chance they get.”
True. “Yeah, well, I’m not like that. I keep my personal and professional lives separate.”
“M’kay.” He gives a slow nod. “Got to see what odds Hades gives me on your making it through the week without making a move. G’night, bro.” And the asshole disappears before I can yell that they have no business betting on my self-control.
Getting ready for bed is easy when you’re single—toss what you’re wearing onto the floor, brush teeth, slip naked under the covers, pull on your dick while thinking of Moira.
Except the last part is a first for me. I seldom need to take care of my own hard-on, and on the few cases no bedmate is available, I certainly don’t do so while thinking of someone specific. A perfect heart-shaped ass, maybe. Heavy, round breasts, definitely. A warm, greedy mouth or a sleek pussy? Fuck yeah. But those body parts never ever accompany a cute nose and dimples and hazel eyes and long, dark lashes.
Tonight, I fantasize about Moira while I pull on my cock, shoot my load, and then shower. She’s in my head when I doze off.