Ariadne? Seriously? He has a woman in there and is worried yet another found out? Ugh.
I should go.
I will go.
If he doesn’t open the—
He opens the door, fully dressed, hair pulled back from his face in a sleek ponytail. He doesn’t seem rumpled and recently fucked.
And that’s not why I came here. I came to tell him I know something is seriously off with him and his family, and I can’t work for him anymore. Also, he’s an asshole for stringing me along when he’s seeing multiple other women.
“Hey.” His smile is so wide, his cheeks must hurt. “I was just coming down.”
I cross my arms over my chest. “Everything okay with your grandfather?”
“Better than okay. I’ve been dealing with something, and he gave me a brand new perspective.” He steps back and opens the door wider, motioning for me to come in.
I don’t move, though I do take the opportunity to glance inside. Bed is made, and there’s no half-naked seductress in sight. Did he hide her in the bathroom or the closet?
“Does he appear and disappear at will too?” I ask. “Like Hermes?”
Dionysos works his jaw, and his eyes are liquid silver.
Say something, I scream in my head.
Can he hear me? I suspected he could, but—
“I can,” he says. His lips are pressed together in a hard line. “Can you hear me?”
I want to run away, but my feet are rooted to the spot. “What are you?” I ask. Aloud. Like normal people do. My stomach is doing cartwheels. “Never mind. I don’t want to know. I’m leaving. You and the job.” I force my gaze from his eyes and start to turn away, when his hand closes over my forearm.
“Wait,” he says.
“Why? So you can call me by someone else’s name again?”
Fuck. That’s so not my biggest problem.
And there’s the smile, making another appearance. “Please come inside. We’ll talk, and you’ll see there’s nobody else. Never has been.”
It’d be romantic if I believed him. Now, it’s teetering between creepy and outright lie. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I ask, “What about Ariadne?”
He chuckles, and my cheeks burn with rightful indignation. Unless it turns out Ariadne is his long lost Golden Retriever, and I really have nothing to be jealous of, he’s laughing at me.
“Come in. Hear me out. If you still want to leave afterward, I won’t stop you.”
A profound sense of sadness coils in my gut, threatening to dislodge my anger. But the sadness feels foreign. Not mine.
When he holds out his hand, I take it and let him lead me to his bed.
He must sense my hesitation, because he backtracks toward the kitchen area, putting a couple meters between us. “Sit. I’m not going to touch you, and the door stays open.”
I nod and sit, but tension bunches my shoulders. “Talk.”
“My grandpa can indeed blink like Hermes can. I can’t. Not yet. Sei, our eldest broth—”
“I met him,” I say drily. “What is blinking, and how do they do it?”
He shrugs, and hops on the bench, legs swinging. “You saw what it is. They will themselves elsewhere, and they’re teleported to that location. And they do it by not being mortal.”
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I swallow, but it’s like my throat contracts around razor blades. I slouch, because sitting upright requires more strength than I can muster at one thirty in the morning, and after that revelation. “Not mortal?” But he’s not like them yet?
Dionysos shakes his head. “Not like them, but not mortal.” He speaks in my head again.
It’s scary, but what’s scarier is that his presence in my mind is soothing. Is he using some not-mortal power, to stop me from bolting?
“No,” he says, lips moving and sound travelling through air and all. “I can’t do mind control, either.”
I hear the yet that he doesn’t say. “But you will, at some point?”
He nods slowly. “After I ascend.”
Ascend? Like to a higher plane? Is he totally mortal but crazy? In a cult?
He sighs. “We’re Olympian gods, for fuck’s sake. Not cult leaders. We’ve been reborn before, but never all at the same time, because the conditions weren’t ripe for our ascension. Now they are. We’re going to reclaim our position as kings of the world, but we mean humanity no harm.” He snorts. “Chaos knows the Titans would end us if we did. Sei and Hermes have regained their full power, and”—he bites his lip—“I believe I’m next.”
Well, shit. I made out with an Olympian god. And Titans are real too.
I should be terrified, but I’m too busy absorbing all this information, to react properly. Plus, there’s the shock, numbing me. “So you’re—”
“The Dionysos.” He tilts his head, studying me.
“And you have no powers now?” I ask, because it seems like the least threatening thread to tug on.
He sweeps the room with his gaze, before gazing at me again. “I bring down people’s inhibitions. It’s not a conscious thing. I can’t control it; it just is. I touch someone, and their hang-ups disappear.”
That doesn’t sound too bad. “So you’re like a glass of wine?” Fitting, since he’s the freaking god of wine.
His smile this time is sad. “More like a bottle or six, but without the alcohol poisoning.”
“Oh.” So my inability to control myself when he’s around, this insane attraction I feel toward him even now, is because of his power? My brain is finally registering fear, but I’m also angry and frozen on the edge of his mattress, unable to decide whether I should scream, cry, or hide.
“My power doesn’t work on you.” His voice is soft, his tone cajoling. “I swear. I was afraid it would, at first. That’s why I wouldn’t… With you. You know. But it doesn’t.”
He wouldn’t sleep with me because he was afraid of what his power would do? “How bad does it get?”
“It steals your free will. Makes you act on instinct and desire.”
And he says it doesn’t work on me. I’ve been a ball of instinct and desire since I walked into his bar.
He glides down from the bench and approaches me slowly, like I might attack. “I wish you’d trust me.”
When he drops to his knees in front of me, I flinch and lace my fingers together. I want to reach for him, but I don’t want to want it. “You haven’t given me reason to,” I say. “For all I know, my still being here is evidence of your power, overriding reason.”
He throws his head back and lets out a frustrated roar. “I couldn’t get you to eat the fucking soufflé, although you wanted it. Besides, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if I could get through your defenses.” In my mind, he adds, “Because you don’t want to be arguing with me; you want to be fucking me.”
God help me, he’s right.
“The way to ascend is by bonding with our soulmates.” He crawls closer, watching my face. “Until I met you, I was determined to never go through with the bonding. To live—and die—mostly human.”
I hear the words, but they make no sense.
“You’re my soulmate, Moira. My destiny. I’ve known about you since you turned eighteen, but I never expected to be so uncontrollably drawn to you. It’s like I’ve always known you. And as I found out before you came upstairs, I always have.”
Huh? My chest hurts. I’ve been holding my breath. I let it out and try to put my thoughts in order. I’m his soulmate, and bonding with me will make him a full-on god? “What exactly is bonding?” Let’s take it one step at a time.
“Essentially, bonding is tying our souls together for eternity. The bond starts forming as we develop feelings for each other, but it’s not complete until we promise to love one another forever. While making love.”
Wow. Wow. He’s talking forever, and my most long-term plan at the moment is tomorrow’s brunch.
He pulls the elastic off his ponytail, smooths back his curls, and replaces the band. “You should know that bonding will make us both immortal.”
As in, the forever is literal? Panic claws at my chest. “I should go.”
He’s close enough to plant his palms on the mattress, trapping me. “Listen to me. Please.” His body heat seeps into my clothes, to wrap around my body. If I lean forward, our lips will meet. I can melt into him, inhale his scent that’s so distinctly male, and let him tear off my clothes. Make me his. Forever.
“You said you wouldn’t stop me.” I need to be away from here. Now.