Zerina twisted on the bed, trying to loosen her wrists that were tied to the headboard.
“You really shouldn’t do that. You’re only hurting yourself.”
Startled at the sound of a voice she recognized when she believed the room to be empty, Zerina jerked her head upward, searching the room and finding her cousin Jinx sitting cross-legged on the bottom of the bed.
“Untie me! Hurry!” her voice screamed in her mind.
Hades had taped her mouth shut when he had left to greet an expected visitor.
Jinx winced. “Please lower your voice. Your screaming is hurting my head.”
“You can hear me?”
“Of course.” She rolled her eyes at her.
No one knew all of Jinx’s different powers. She guarded her secrets as closely as the Moirai. Zerina thought the woman herself didn’t know all she was capable of.
“Don’t just sit there. Untie me.” Biting back the desire to yell again, Zerina forced herself to calm down.
Jinx shook her head. “I can’t. I’m not really here. I’m projecting my image from above. I’m trying to find a way in, other than actually dying, which I really don’t want to do.”
Zerina fell back onto the pillow. “If you can’t help, then go away. Tell my mother and father where I am so they can help me.”
“Don’t be mad at me. You know I would help if I could. Do you really want me to tell Fate and Valentine where you are? Hades is protected by Mother. It could start a war.”
Zerina lifted her head again to stare at her cousin. Jinx was right; if Fate and her father found out she was in Hades’ domain, they would stop at nothing to help her.
When Mother gifted Hades with the Underworld, she promised him no interference from the gods. She would not break her word, nor would she let anyone else. If she allowed Jinx to go for help, it would start a war that could not be won by the Moirai. They would be destroyed. If the Moirai were destroyed, time itself would stop and the world would cease to exist.
“Promise me you won’t tell them,” Zerina requested vehemently.
“I promise. I’m not stupid. I’m well aware of what would happen,” Jinx reminded her. “You still look like you’re angry with me.”
If Zerina could grind her teeth in aggravation, she would. Jinx always managed to get on her nerves. To look at the woman, you would never believe the power she held. Jinx didn’t look a day over eighteen, perpetually youthful. Her looks were plain, unassuming. She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty. She would pass unnoticed in a room full of gods and goddesses. Her diminutive size at barely five feet had often made her the source of teasing. Many had underestimated her to their determent. Not many laughed at her anymore. They were too frightened.
She was the daughter of Merlin and a fairy, who swore he had seduced her. Neither had wanted Jinx, and she had been tossed back and forth between them until she had grown strong enough to survive on her own.
“I’m not angry. I just don’t want you to be here when Hades returns. I don’t want him to become angry with you.”
The hurt disappeared from Jinx’s chocolate-colored eyes. “Oh.” She adjusted herself, lying down sideways on the bed. “He can’t see me; only you can.”
“If you can’t help, why are you here?”
“So you won’t feel so lonely and scared. Is it working?”
“No,” Zerina said drily.
Jinx’s tinkling laughter filled the room. “You always make me laugh. You’re my favorite cousin.”
“Only because I was the one who didn’t leave when you appeared. Things tend to go wrong whenever you’re in a room.”
Jinx tilted her head to the side in question. “Why didn’t you leave when others would? It’s not my fault things happen. Fate still blames me for falling down that flight of steps, doesn’t she?”
“Maybe a little. You did bump into her.”
“Even your father doesn’t like me, and he’s supposed to be a saint.”
Zerina glared. “Supposed to be?”
Jinx shrugged. “Can a saint be an adulterer?”
“He made a mistake. He said he had never been tempted by a woman until you convinced him to try to teach you potions.”
“He blamed me? For that? I only wanted him to teach me how to make a love potion. When he refused, I attempted it on my own. Is it my fault he drank it before I could throw it away?”
“Yes, you could have told him the truth when he asked what you were making instead of lying and telling him it would make someone stronger.” Zerina was still talking to Jinx through her mind.
“How did I know he would see Juno? That was an accident, pure and simple.”
“I don’t know about that,” Zerina said doubtfully. “How about Achilles?”
“That definitely wasn’t my fault! I told his mother how to protect him; how could it be my fault that she forgot to dip his ankle?”
“How is that—”
“You convinced Deianeira to use a love potion on Hercules, which poisoned him.”
“I offered her my love potion, not to make her own,” Jinx argued back.
“Did or did Mother not warn you to stay away from earth? Despite that, you went to earth, to New York, and when there, confided to one of the humans that money was useless. It took years for the earth to recover.?
“Okay, that one might have been my fault. If everyone is always so worried about being around me, then why did you always stay and talk to me?”
Zerina’s face flushed in embarrassment. “Transporting is my weakest gift.”
Jinx laughed harder. “You stayed because you were afraid of where you would end up?”
“Yes,” Zerina confessed.
“And I thought you stayed because you liked me.” Her laughter died. “I don’t know how I feel about that.”
Zerina sighed. She couldn’t understand how a woman capable of producing such devastation could be so sensitive.
“Are you still trying to find a way in to help me?” Zerina prodded when Jinx remained silent.
“No, I’m resting. I’m trying to decide if I still want to help.”
Zerina began kicking out at the image at the bottom of the bed.
“What are you doing?” Jinx asked.
“Trying to kick your ass!” she screamed inside her head.
The sound of the door handle moving had both women looking at the doorway.
“Leave,” Zerina warned, the tape across her mouth preventing her from snapping at the woman when she saw her jump up from her relaxed position, only to sit crossed-legged on the bed again.
The door opened wider, showing Hades.
Zerina swallowed hard, keeping her gaze away from Jinx. She could practically hear her panting at the vision standing in the doorway.
To say Hades was seductively handsome would be an understatement. It was whispered among the immortals that Mother had sent Hades to the Underworld to protect him from the jealousy of the other gods. Staring at him, Zerina believed it.
Hades was short for a god, only reaching six feet. But what he lacked in height, he made up for with the aquiline nose that made her feel inferior. Mother had gifted him with a Roman nose, but the rest of his features were pure Greek. His jaw was square, and his chin was firm, not soft. Zerina had seen the same one on boxers—deadly and ready to take on anyone who dared to challenge them.
She wanted to rip his clothes off and lick every inch of his body, then go back for seconds. Although she was a virgin who had never been touched by a male’s hand, her body ached for his, as if he alone could quench the fire within her.
She had been taught since birth to control her emotions, and she did so now with iron control, though the voice in her mind told her she was lost and alone, so why not enjoy herself until she was rescued?
Zerina glared at Jinx sitting at the bottom of the bed, placing the thought in her mind.
Jinx gave her a mischievous smile then returned her attention to Hades.
“My love, I just received a visit from your mother. It seems she is concerned about your safety.”
The indifferent statement goaded her anger. Her mother would be worried sick. The fact that he found it amusing made her want to smack the smirk off his face.
Leaning against the doorframe, his arms elegantly crossed against his chest, Hades didn’t try to conceal the mocking twist of his mouth as he stared at the beauty on his bed.
Zerina’s glorious blue eyes shot sparks of temper in his direction; however, the gag he had tied around her mouth kept her from yelling the obscenities at him he had become familiar with since her arrival. Her hands were tied to a hook he had conveniently placed at the head of his bed. It was one of the most tempting sights Hades had ever seen, and he had seen it all.
“She seems to think your gentle little soul might be in danger. She doesn’t know you at all, does she?” He walked forward, reaching his hand out to trail his fingers up a slim thigh that was visible, since her gown had ridden up in her struggles.
Zerina snapped her foot out, attempting to kick him.
Hades burst out in laughter. “No, she doesn’t know you at all, but I have an idea, and what I don’t know, I have every intention of finding out.”
“If you don’t want him, can I have him?” Jinx asked mischievously from the bottom of the bed.
Zerina ignored her, keeping her eyes on Hades to see if he could see Jinx.
He gently removed the binding from her mouth, brushing his thumb against the curve of her cheek.
“Don’t touch me!” she spat, scooting away from his touch.
The touch of his skin on hers was electrifying, making her eyes nearly roll back in her head. Her iron control had her stumbling from the bed, her hand going to her waist, trying to calm the rioting nerve endings that had sent a jolt directly between her thighs.
Dark eyes looked at her with amusement. “Why so skittish? I was just checking to make sure your skin wasn’t marked from your binding.”
“Don’t play games with me. You know what a touch from you does.”
His lower lip curled sensuously as he studied her heaving breasts. “Ah, beautiful Zerina, am I too much for you to handle?”
“Yes,” she admitted honestly. “Take me home, Hades. You have the power to return me. If my father and mother find out where I am, it will start a war with the Moirai.”
“That they will not win. Mother will not interfere, so they would be on their own. If they start a war, it will be at their own doing, which is how you ended up down here in the first place.”
“I ended up here because Grimm found me searching for Cara and took me.”
“Cara took a soul that wasn’t meant for her. Grimm hates to leave empty-handed.”
Zerina ground her teeth. “Grimm thought you would do the right thing and return me home.”
Hades shook his head. “My servant knows me well enough to know I don’t let anyone leave my domain once they enter.”
“I know what you’re about to say,” Jinx broke into her thoughts. “I wouldn’t if I were you.”
Recklessly, Zerina didn’t heed her warning.
“You allowed Persephone to leave.”
“That’s true. Demeter was always butting her nose into our business. Your mother, on the other hand, I could get used to seeing on a regular basis.”
Fate and Demeter couldn’t be compared. Both Fate and her sister Destiny made all the goddesses envious. The only goddess who was just as beautiful was Persephone. Her mother had told her once that Hades had fallen in love with her on sight.
If she was still the queen of the Underworld, Zerina might have been able to convince her to persuade Hades to return her home. But Persephone was no longer there. When she had returned to the Underworld after staying with Demeter for the six months that Hades had promised, she had returned carrying Zeus’s child … twice. Hades had divorced her with the spoken words that had dissolved their marriage, denying her entry back into the Underworld where he ruled.
“You think so? My mother would make Demeter seem like a saint.”
“Then it’s a good thing she has no idea where you are.” Hades waved his hand toward the doorway. “Are you ready to return to your room?”
“If you’re refusing to listen to reason, yes!” Zerina swept her long gown out of her way as she stormed toward the door.
In the short time she had been in the Underworld, every time she had argued with Hades, he would send her back to her room.
“Take your company with you.”
Zerina turned back in shock, seeing Jinx was just as startled.
“You see me?”
Hades sat down on the bed, leaning on his elbow as he stared at the small woman. “I can see anyone who enters my domain, even if they are just projecting their image. You’re a cute little thing.”
Zerina crossed her arms when Jinx impishly smiled at Hades.
“Are you flirting with me?”
Hades laughed. “A little.”
“I may be small, but I have all the right parts in the right places,” she flirted back.
“Jinx!” If she could have jerked the woman off the bed, Zerina would have.
Jinx lowered her voice, as if Zerina couldn’t hear every word the fairy said. “She’s a stick in the mud lik
e her mother,” she whispered conspiratorially.
“We’ll have to see what we can do about that,” Hades whispered back.
Fed up with the two, she went through the door, seeing Grimm waiting. Giving her cousin the cold shoulder, she followed him down the long, black marble hallway to the door of her room. He held the door for her, giving her a mocking smile. She wanted to smack his smug face. If she had the opportunity to make him pay for bringing her to the Underworld, she would. When she returned home, apprising her mother of his betrayal would be her first priority.
“You left me?” Jinx asked as her image appeared on her bed.
“I didn’t think you would care.” Zerina huffily sat down on the bed, seeing Grimm close the door.
“Can you blame me?” Jinx fanned her face. “He’s hot as hell.” She threw herself down on the soft bed.
Zerina ignored her, trying to think of a way to escape. Her eyes went around the large room. The bed was huge, sitting next to a window that gave the appearance of the sun and trees outside. There was a table with two chairs and another chair that sat beside the window. The rug that covered the floor was thick and warm, unlike the cold marble of the floors in the rest of Hades’ castle. On the walls were pictures of women during time periods. Each so beautiful she could understand why the artist had decided to capture their beauty on canvas. Being a Moirai, she knew who each of the women were.
The Countess of Báthory that had been rumored to bathe in the blood of virgins. Zerina knew that rumor was true. Shivering, she looked at the next picture. Martha Needle, who, growing bored with her husband and three children, decided to poison them and her brother-in-law. Her eyes traveled to another wall, where a picture of an Egyptian queen was placed.