Her and His Models isn’t what I’d expect an altar to beauty to look like. Walls that puke-ish yellow color that’s everywhere the past couple years are decorated with framed pictures of gorgeous, expressionless people, and a row of obviously uncomfortable perforated-steel chairs lines the left side. Behind a plain, white desk to my right, a scowling man in his late forties is tapping on his keyboard’s down arrow like it’s inflicted him grievous damage.
I walk up to him. “Hermes Olympios, here to see Martina,” I announce in my most Sei-like voice. He’s the one who likes telling people what to do around the clock. I reserve my dominant tendencies for the bedroom.
The man tilts his head and studies me, from my sneakered feet to the painstakingly neat ponytail I sleeked my curls into while I rode the elevator up here.
“Martina doesn’t have you on her calendar, Mr. Olympios,” the man says. “I would know, since I make her schedule.”
I reach in the back pocket of my jeans and fish out her business card. I lay it on his desk, so he sees the handwritten digits. “The guy who told me to show up gave me this. It has her private number on it too. Should I call her and check?”
The guy stares at the card, huffs, pushes it back toward me, and stands. “Follow me.”
He means to the sandblasted glass door a mere half a meter away. He knocks and ducks his head in. “A Mr. Olympios is here to see you. You apparently knew that but didn’t bother telling me to add him to your day planner.”
I don’t hear Martina’s reply, but when he straightens and looks at me, his dark eyes are blazing. “Go right in.”
“Thank you.” I try to make it sound heartfelt and like I don’t notice his moue of distaste as he brushes past me on the way back to his desk.
I enter Martina’s office, and praise C, the woman is gorgeous.
Her hair is that perfect, midnight black, cut in a severe, short style that frames her high cheekbones and brings out the dark blue of her eyes that I only fleetingly glimpse when she glances my way. Her sleeveless white shirt is buttoned all the way to her neck and hangs loosely from her slim shoulders. No boobs to speak of, but I’m an ass man anyway, so I reserve judgment.
I approach her desk and hold out my hand. “Call me Hermes.”
Sadly, her plump red lips don’t curve in a smile when she asks, “How may I help you, Mr. Olympios?” She doesn’t look up from the folder she’s flicking through. People still use actual printed pictures? Huh.
I hook my thumb through my belt loop, as is if I wasn’t expecting her to shake my hand anyway. “Mr. C said you were expecting me,” I offer with my most disarming smile. I’m not used to women dismissing me at first glance. If anything, they tend to fawn. I don’t mean to sound conceited, but it’s true. I’m pretty striking. Martina’s indifference is intriguing. Could she be the one? I won’t know till I fuck her.
And odds are I will fuck her.
Martina looks me over and nods. “You’ll do. He said you were available for the next five days.” She opens her first drawer, fishes out an envelope, and slides it across her desk. “Plane to Paros leaves in an hour and fifty minutes. Be on it. Details, tickets, and spending cash are in here. Don’t fuck this up. And tell C our debt is settled.”
What’s happening? Why am I going to Paros, in October of all months? The island is hopping in the summer but should be dead now. And— “I’ve got less than two hours? I haven’t packed. I don’t—”
“You won’t need any clothes.”
Umm… What kind of modeling job requires me to be naked for five whole days?
My confusion must show, because she sighs and asks the ceiling, “What is it with men and following orders?” To me, she says, “Okay. Here’s the whole story, but you’re wasting time. There’s a writers’ retreat in Alyki. About fifteen authors. The organizers booked a male cover model to do the rounds and talk to them. He’d be the prize for a raffle, but the guy they initially booked got a bigger gig and ditched us. ”
“So I’ll be the prize? What exactly am I expected to do? Don’t get me wrong, I can keep fifteen women happy for five days”—if I stretch and stay hydrated—“but I’d like to know in advance what I’m getting myself into.”
Martina’s eyeroll puts C’s to shame. Her thick, dark eyelashes flutter rapidly, as she purses her lips. “I didn’t say they’re all women, and not everyone wants to sleep with you, Sugar Buns.”
Oblivious to my shock, she continues. “One author will win a cover shoot with you for their upcoming novel. The organizers will provide the outfits, and I’m sure the cash in there”—she points to the envelope—“can cover a few pairs of boxer shorts and socks till Friday. Now go. Tell Anthony if you need him to call you a cab to the airport.”
“Nah. I’m good.” Though Sei will probably make me his coffee-bitch for years to come.
Martina gives me a piercing glower. “Then what are you still doing here?”
Should I try to seduce the frown off her face? Fuck some good cheer into her?
“Is there something else?” she asks.
If she’s my meant-to-be, she’ll be a challenge. And one not to pursue until I’ve completed this mission. “Just wondering what my pay will be,” I say, since I can’t tell her what was really on my mind.
“Of course you were. Consider this your test drive. Come through, and we’ll talk money.”
I can’t resist one tiny little effort to get on her good graces. “I like a lady who drives a hard bargain.”
She does smile now, but it’s ice cold. “So do I. Like a lady, that is. Many ladies, rather. Only ladies. So unless you’re offering to be my wingman, your flirting is wasted here.”
Way to read the situation wrong, dude. “I’d love to be your wingman anytime,” I say as I let myself out. The need to have the last word is ingrained in the Olympios family genes, although they don’t all come from the same pool.
On the elevator down, I flick through the envelope Martina handed me. Cash, plane tickets to and from the island, another of her agency’s cards, a note with instructions to contact the organizers as soon as I arrive at the hotel, and a business card for said hotel, complete with a rough map of its position on the back. Looks like this place is right on the beach, too.
I call Sei the moment I’m in the men’s room, and he shows up on the first ring and fully dressed. Progress. To my surprise, he offers to blink me straight to my hotel room.
Perhaps I should do this the human way, board the plane, and then grab a taxi from the Paros airport to the hotel. “That sounds awesome,” I say. “Can you do the restroom-landing at the hotel reception?”
C wouldn’t have told me to call Sei if he didn’t want me to cut corners, right?
I know, I know. What C wants needs to stop being a factor in my decisions at some point, but times like this, it’s convenient.
Except when I materialize in a woman’s path. She walks into me, her breasts all but gift-wrapped in the top of a black two-piece suit. Colorful sarong draping down from around her waist and beach bag hanging from one shoulder, she looks ready for the beach, but for the fact that she’s also holding a laptop case.
I clasp her shoulders to steady her, and it feels like electricity flows into me from where my palms meet her creamy skin. “I’m sorry,” I mumble. Mumble? I don’t mumble. Especially in front of voluptuous females with curves I’d love to trace.
On the upside, the island may not be as dead as I feared.
She shakes her head, and her hat flies off to the side, revealing a beautiful, heart-shaped face and vibrant-red hair pulled up in a ponytail. Despite the oversize shades hiding her eyes, I’m sure she hasn’t noticed me and Sei. Men like us usually warrant a reaction, even if it’s one of objective appraisal, and she seems lost inside her own head.
I lean down and sweep up her hat. Hand it to her. She tucks it hurriedly under her arm with a thank you, and brushes past me before I can say another word.
I turn to watch her walk out to the beach. That ass is the kind songs are written about. When she clears the glass doors, I plant a fist on Sei’s shoulder. “That was sloppy work, Poseidon.”
A line forms between his dark brows. “I tried to make her look away.”
“Yeah. Luckily, it worked.”
He shakes his head. “No. I think she was just absentminded.”
Well, whichever the case, it worked well for us. This time. “Next time make sure no mortals see us pop in?”
Sei shrugs. “I didn’t recognize any mortal signatures within sight. Need to work on this thing more.”
His new powers are taking some time for him to adjust to, but at least he has them.
Sei waits with me for someone to man Reception and hand me a keycard to my first-floor room, and fudges the guy’s memory of what time I showed up.
I expect him to go now, but he comes up with me and looks around the clean, bright room when I open the door.
In true island fashion, it’s decorated with light-blue accents and blond wood on white.
“Nice. Not Olympian-Hotels-and-Resorts nice, but nice,” he says.
Oh, I doubt any of his hotels offers what the balcony of this room does. Overlooking the beach, it allows me a gorgeous view of the sea and the sky and the redhead with the laptop on her long legs.
Sei follows me outside. “You good?”
I spin and lean back against the wood banister. “Is it a stretch to ask you for a pair of swim trunks?” The water must be cold, but I can withstand a low temp. It’s good for the skin, too. Plus I look fucking amazing in a swim suit.
He scoffs, but twirls his hand in the air and a pair of shorts slap me in the face. “Now are you good?” he asks a little impatiently.
I nod. “Thank you, big bro.”
He gives me a half-hug. Pats my shoulder as I lead the way back inside. “No problem. When you’re back in Athens, we should all get together. There’s something I need to tell you.”
That doesn’t sound good. Last time he called for a gathering, he announced he’d ascended and was abdicating his throne in the new Pantheon. Now what? Is he moving to the moon or something? “Tell me now.”
“Nah. It can wait.” And the asshole puffs out of existence.
I hate when people do that. Not the blinking-away thing, the we need to talk thing. Never heralds anything good.
I take out my phone and drop my satchel on the double bed. Before I can call Sei and insist the fucker talk, the phone vibrates in my palm. Denny’s face appears on the screen above My Best Looking Bro. I chuckle. When did he mess with my phone?
“So you’re a model now,” he says when I take the call. I can hear his smirk.
“Hello, my best looking bro. News travels fast, huh?”
He full-out laughs. “Not as fast as you do. Paros? The hardships you have to endure…”
I go back out to the balcony. The redhead is still on the sun bed. She throws back her head, and I can sense her frustration. Her hair is wet; she braved the water. The sun, bright and warm despite it being October, makes it seem like her long tresses are on fire.
And now I’m dying to see if the same fire burns in her eyes.
Take off the sunglasses.
But I’m not Sei; I can’t force mortals to do my bidding. Yet. Not that I would. I’m all for free will.
“It’s off season, man,” I tell Denny.
“Yeah, and that makes it hell.” He clucks his tongue. “Need any help with the posing half-naked and the meeting women? I hear authors have wicked imaginations. Should I drop everything and come to your aid?”
C apparently gave him more info than he gave me. Did he think I’d turn the job down if I knew what it entailed? I obviously didn’t. He should know better. Probably does. Sometimes I think the man is overly dramatic for the sake of it.
“I’ll manage,” I say. “And now, if you don’t mind, I need to go mingle with my people.” I return inside and check the instructions Martina gave me again. I have to contact Ms. Kalliroe Rizou. She’ll tell me what I need to do.
My gaze falls on the unused ticket. The flight I was supposed to be on doesn’t land for another two and a half hours, so I have a good three hours to kill before I need to show up for work.
I only half-listen as Denny says bye, then hang up and change into my trunks. No better way to kill time than on the beach.