Chapter Four – Hermes

 

I lick my lips again as I pause on the shoreline to assume a Superman pose that showcases my back and ass. I may have been blessed with good genes and a currently semi-godly constitution, but I also spend a few hours a week at the gym, honing what Mother Nature gave me. No reason not to let Joy soak up the results.

Also, I need to keep my back to her, because my front is sporting an erection worthy of an Olympian.

I can taste her on my lips. Well, not her, but the salt on her skin. I wouldn’t mind tasting every square centimeter of her, see if she’s savory all over or perhaps sweet as honey. Bet her rose-red lips are sweet. And thinking of her mouth makes my cock no less hard.

The cold water ought to help, but it doesn’t. Not even when it slaps my cock. Because my mind is stuck on Joy’s long legs. Is she a real redhead? Though flushed pink from the heat and the sun—and I hope yours truly—her creamy complexion indicates she might be. Besides, she has those cute little freckles, sprinkled across her nose and on the part of her cheeks visible beneath the rim of her glasses.

All women are beautiful, but she’s a stunner, with her long legs and voluptuous figure. And those lips… Are they naturally this shade or does she have lipstick on?

Blasted Olympus, since when do I care about whether a woman is wearing makeup or not?

She’s not. Why would she, when she just went for a swim? And now I’m daydreaming of her nipples. Are they the same color as her lips?

I dive in the water and come back up after a few strokes. The cold feels more tolerable now. Refreshing, rather than numbing.

Joy’s a writer. She must have an active imagination. I’d like to explore that, assuming it isn’t limited to writing about tempting, pale necks. Hey, I didn’t mean to overhear her reading that passage; I just picked it up as I approached. I should look her up. See what else she’s written.

Or I should leave the woman alone and do what I was hired to do.

C said this gig has something to do with my ascension, though, so maybe I am supposed to pursue Joy?

She was interested, by how her pulse sped up when she took me in, but I wish I saw her eyes. That moment when a woman’s pupils dilate with desire is my favorite part of the courting ritual. Well, that, and when I sink inside her warm body. Before the thoughts kick in. Before I know she is yet another wrong choice.

And I spoke too soon, about getting more comfortable with the water. A chilly current slices across my thighs like a million sharp needles. It makes sense, with the time of year and the fact that Paros doesn’t have the warmest waters even in August, but could the timing possibly have something to do with my thinking of what C said?

If he knows who my soulmate is, why not just come out with it? Fuck knows I’ve told him time and again that I’m dying to find her. To make her mine. Unlike Sei, I’m not in this for the ascension. I need to feel the sort of complete you can only be with The One.

Which is quite possibly bullshit, because many, many people are perfectly happy without said One.

I should just forget this whole soulmate thing and enjoy my human life until things unfold as they inevitably will.

Spending the evening with Joy may be very enjoyable.

My sight isn’t as strong as my hearing and sense of smell, but when she lifts her shades to the top of her head, I’m pretty damn sure her eyes are a brilliant green. Also sure she’s watching me dive and resurface, so I take my time twisting the water out of my hair and stretching.

Hades would laugh his ass off—assuming the stuffy prick remembers how to laugh—if he saw me preening. Why am I doing this? I showed her I’m interested. She responded. I’ll find her tonight when I’m off the clock, take her out to dinner, and tell her how fascinating I think she is. It never takes more than that to get a woman so spend an incredible night with me.

Except for Denny, my brothers don’t get why I do this. Why I don’t just fuck women, but also want to rock their world. They don’t get how every woman is a mystery I need to solve, or how I must give something back to her for offering me her truth.

They don’t get it, because they don’t know that when I’m inside a woman, I see her. I don’t read her thoughts or feel what she feels in the moment. I get to know all that makes her her. I see what she hopes for. What she lives for. What she fears or hates. I see her happy memories and her darkest secrets. And I know she’s not the one for me.

I should tell the guys about this, but Ares will find it too melodramatic, Hephaestus will find a way to make me hate myself for it, and Hades… Well he’s Hades. I don’t open up to the guy. Denny and Sei might understand—they always had a hint of supernatural mental abilities—but I can’t tell the two of them a secret and expect the others not to know. Except for the whole we’re-gods-in-waiting thing, which we’ve managed to keep pretty hush-hush for more than a couple decades, our weird little family sucks at keeping secrets.

I dive again and swim toward the open sea. Doing the butterfly stroke is showing off, but I’m so good at it. Why deny Joy the chance to see it?

Only, when I turn back toward the shore, she’s not there. Her towel and laptop are gone too. She walked away from this? From me?

What are the odds I hit on two lesbians on the same day?

But Joy was interested. Her body language said so, loud and clear.

Is she playing hard to get? Is she seeing someone? Of course she’s seeing someone. She’s gorgeous and has the warmest smile in the world. Her dating someone doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. I don’t want more than a night, anyway.

But what if she’s engaged? Or worse, married? I don’t do married women. It’s the one line I won’t cross when it comes to sex.

And why does my chest feel heavy?

I splash my way out of the water and wait for my swimsuit to stop dripping, before I stomp back to my room. Mood dampened, I take a quick shower and pull on my jeans and T-shirt, then call Ms. Rizou.

Turns out, she’s the hotel owner. She invites me to meet her in her bright, colorful office, and insists I call her by her first name, though she must be thirty years my senior. Plump and cheerful, she gives off that motherly vibe. She offers to make me something to eat, and when I decline, brings me homemade cookies to die for, alongside a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

An avid romance reader for years, Kalliroe had the brilliant idea of organizing this retreat with her nephew, during off season. Her dark eyes sparkle when she tells me how excited she is to meet some of the authors she loves, up close. More, to somehow contribute to their work, by providing a relaxing environment and delicious, home-cooked meals. It’s her third year running it, and she’s had such a great response, she’s considering holding a bigger one next year.

“I can hook you up with a couple of the authors after this week, for cover shoots,” she says. “Gods are making a comeback, you know.”

I sit back in my green velvet armchair, my heart slamming against my ribcage. “What…?” How does she know what I am? Does she know C? Would he tell her? And what does that have to do with cover shoots?

“With your name and…” She blushes adorably, looking much younger for a heartbeat. “Well, you’re out-of-this-world handsome, so you could build a career, shooting god-romance covers. Not only Greek gods, either. I bet you could do Thor, if you glowered.”

Huh. She has no clue what I am, but she thinks I could model as a god. Seriously, this day is one of the weirdest ever, and I’ve had my fair share of fucked-up days.

“Thank you. I’ll definitely consider it. Now tell me what you need me to do today, before I eat my weight in these.” I point at the plate of cookies and pop a fourth one in my mouth.

Kalliroe scrunches her nose. “They have a writing session after lunch, so you’re free till that’s done, but I need you to work dinner and drinks. We couldn’t afford more than one professional model, so my nephew and a friend of his will be helping you with the mingling. They’ll be dressed as a biker and a billionaire, both big sellers with romance readers, and I was gonna put you in a cowboy outfit.” She winks. “Shirtless, of course.”

“Of course.”

“But now I’m thinking a chlamys,” she says.

The cloak ancient Greeks wore? I chuckle. “And you happen to have one of those lying around?”

“No, silly.” She laughs and pats my hand. “But I do have crisp white linen and a sowing machine.”

The lady is a go-getter.

“Do you need to measure me?” I ask.

“Nah. I’ll go with a one-size-fits-all approach. Be here at seven forty-five, to get ready. I’ll send Thanasis to buy you a pair of sandals. What size should he get?”

“Forty-six. I’ve got big feet.” I shrug. “So I’ll be a Greek god tonight?”

There’s that blush again. “Or a Roman one. Cupid, maybe?”

Seriously? Do I look like a brat that plays with sharp sticks? “Why not my namesake?” I ask.

Kalliroe claps, delighted. “That’s brilliant. Why didn’t I think of it?”

Something tells me C did. I should call him and ask if he’s found my soulmate and is being sneaky about it, or if maybe this is his way of announcing my existence to the world, but I’m not the control freak Sei is. Predetermined or not, this is my life, and I’m going to live it, surprises and all.

On my way back to my room, I hear Joy’s lilting voice from behind a closed door. “It can’t be easy to tell someone you’re immortal. Makes sense he’s afraid of rejection. So what does he do?”

I almost trip over my large feet. She clocked me?

“I mean, he’s a vampire. Feeds on blood. Scary creature of the night, and all. And she’s innocent and fragile. Does he have sex with her before he reveals his true nature? That’d be dishonest. Pfft. I should scrap this whole thing and start over.”

She’s talking about her book. It’s giving her trouble. Maybe, after my shift, I can show her how an immortal takes an innocent woman to bed.

That’d be dishonest.

Not if I don’t lie about my intentions toward her.

What are those intentions?

Screw this. There will be no more thinking of Joy until tonight. I’ll grab a bite, and then find something or someone to keep me busy till I have to put on that chlamys.

 

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