“It’ll take more than you have—a heart.” Her answer was brief and succinct.
Irritated, Hades waved his hand, transporting himself to the last step below her. “I made no promises to you. Your anger toward me isn’t justified.”
“That’s true. I am just as angry with myself as with you. I have castigated myself for blindly not seeing what was before my eyes. In my ignorance, I can only say that what my mother and Destiny gossiped about you had affected my judgement.”
“You based your opinion of me on gossip?”
“Yes, they spoke highly of you. That, unlike the other gods, you always summoned one goddess at a time, waiting until she returned before summoning another. That the list of goddesses waiting to be summoned were numerous, but that, unlike Zeus and Odin, you didn’t keep concubines. I guess they didn’t realize you’ve changed since your divorce. I didn’t expect what we shared to be forever, but I did expect faithfulness while it did.”
“Since you hate me, what’s keeping me from taking what I want?” His chilling voice sent a shiver down her back. Hades’ impenetrable expression and bearded jaw firmed until his lips thinned ruthlessly.
She stared back at him fearlessly, raising her hands in question. “What do you want that I haven’t already given? I gave you my friendship, which you broke. I shared your bed, which you must have enjoyed or I wouldn’t have been graced with a necklace to show your appreciation. You want me on my knees? Is that it? That is something you will never see.” She tried to push by him, but Hades forestalled her with a wave of his hand.
Her senses spinning, she closed her eyes, opening them when the world stopped swirling chaotically to find herself in Hades’ bedroom.
“Do you want to tell me that again?”
“What’s wrong? Is your pride hurt because I’m not begging for more? Is your manhood threatened because I haven’t?”
Hades’ eyes flashed at her angrily. She could practically see the fury radiating off him.
Zerina threw the book she was holding to the floor. “You want me on my knees? Fine!” She swept her gown to the side then bent her knees, lowering herself to the floor and staring up at him with her head raised to show her withering contempt. “Still not happy?”
Seeing the dangerous way he was looking at her, she didn’t suppose he was.
She feigned a look of adoration. “Is this what you want?”
“Let me show you what I want.” Hades reached out, pulling her to her feet then crashing his mouth down on hers, trusting his tongue into her mouth. She quiescently let him kiss her, not responding. When he realized she wouldn’t, Hades released her, giving her his back.
She could hear his rapid breathing, magnifying the tension in the room.
“May I go now?” She didn’t know how much longer she could hide behind the veneer of detachment.
Zerina went to pick up the book she had dropped, her eyes catching on a portrait that she hadn’t seen since her back had been turned to it.
“How could you?” she whispered. “Do you get a kick out of tormenting me?”
“Why should it make a difference to you? Don’t worry; I’ll grow tired of it soon and put it in the library when I do.”
Zerina stared him speechlessly.
Hades meticulously shrugged out of his suit jacket, placing it over the back of a chair, which he could just as easily make disappear. When he rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, she knew she was in trouble.
Even though he had given her permission to leave, he was preparing to take what little pride she had left before she did.
When a beautiful, slender woman appeared, she knew she was right.
Recognizing the goddess Ixcuina, Zerina walked to the bedroom door.
“Do you have a problem kneeling before me?”
“Hades, it is an honor to kneel before you.” The goddess’ sultry voice was the last thing she heard as she steadily moved down the hallway.
She regretted not closing his door when she heard the sound of her moans travel the length of the long hallway. Tortured beyond bearing, she almost ran the last few steps.
Shutting her door behind her, she leaned back against it, sliding down to land on her bottom and letting the book fall to her side.
She sat there until the sunlight turned to darkness and a table appeared with her dinner. It was the first time since the night she had spent with Hades that Grimm hadn’t appeared to ask her to have dinner with Hades.
Food was the last thing she wanted as she imagined Hades having sex with the erotic beauty.
She reached for the book at her side, placing it on her lap to read.
Hades watched Zerina walk to her room in his mind as he ran caressing hands over Ixcuina’s breasts, pinching her nipples to have her moan louder.
Seeing her return to the safety of her room, he then dropped his hands when he saw her sliding down the door in despair.
Satisfied that he’d had his revenge, he turned away to rebutton the sleeves of his shirt and put his jacket back on.
“You don’t want me?” Crestfallen, the goddess made no attempt to berate him or make an emotional storm. She did what all his concubines were supposed to do—cater to all his demands.
“Not for now.” Waving his hand, he reached out and gave her a large ruby necklace that he latched around her throat.
“Thank you! You’re so kind to me!” Her lovely blue eyes stared at him adoringly. “Just being with you makes me happy. I’ll treasure this gift, as well as the other ones you have given me.”
“Ixcuina, you have no idea the pleasure you’re about to give me.”
Hades waved his hand and sent the goddess away before she could misinterpret his words. With another flick of his wrist, he saw the new portrait appear on a wall in Zerina’s room.
She looked up from the book she was reading, yet had no other reaction. Then she rose, going to the table that Grimm had sent for dinner. He had expected her to rant or start yelling for Grimm to come remove the portrait. She didn’t do either. She merely poured herself a goblet of ruby-red wine. He expected her to lift it to her lips when she flung the contents at the portrait, splattering the image.
Hades chuckled in the silence of his room. He could easily replace it with another one, but he didn’t. He had proven his point.
Regrettably, he may have also proven that, if she didn’t want him, there were women waiting to take her place. The bone-crushing chill that invaded his limbs had him going to the fireplace, aware that the flames wouldn’t relieve the chill. There was only one thing that could.
Destiny tiredly looked over at the motorcycle compound where Broni and her husband lived. The survivors from the city had sought sanctuary there, taking over every available space. Their hopelessness was hard to watch.
She had watched over the humans for millennia, seen them living from small groups who fought for survival to building structures that rose to the sky. To see their final days retrograded to the point that their entire existence was threatened was disheartening.
“Are you ready?” Rocque and his pack waited by the path that led to the compound.
“Did we cause this?” As far as her eyes could see, there was nothing but destruction. Burnt shells of buildings that humans had built were now nothing but rubble.
Rocque walked back to her side, staring at the same devastation. “You know that answer better than I would.”
“Dionysus and Morgana started it—”
“Maybe so, but the humans have to bear their own part of the blame. Drearien couldn’t have struck in such huge numbers if their souls had been pure. Mother didn’t start this war. It’s not the first the time gods have tried to influence human’s behavior. Each time there were enough humans to fight them off.”
“There were enough humans to fight them off this time. It shouldn’t have come to this.”
“You just answered your own question, Dest
iny. Dionysus, Morgana, and whoever is pulling their strings couldn’t have pulled it off without help.”
“Not Zeus. Man. Man are their own enemy. I have fought this battle with them for centuries. They take the forests, only to make parks for the smallest of my animals to survive off their breadcrumbs.”
Destiny turned to face Rocque. The pain etched in his expression was agonizing.
“I have watched species be hunted down and killed, or forced to live behind cages for no reason other than human’s amusement. I can’t remember the last time I was able to run with a herd of wild elephants. Not content to exert their control of the land and the animals, they’ve caged their own selves in marking their boundaries and territories with cans of spray paint in a pissing contest that no one can win. The only way they can survive now is for man to band together, and I don’t see that happening.”
Sadly, Destiny didn’t think so, either. The only thing the gods could do now was help those who were strong enough to survive.
Rocque stayed by her side as they made their way down the path. There were massive semi-trucks lining the front gate. Behind it were the RVs with guards posted on top.
Destiny saw one of the guards scrambling down to run into the clubhouse. By the time they had reached the gate, Broni’s husband Rhys, Balder, a warrior from Odin’s court, and a man called Adam that Destiny had never met in person but had watched him making decisions that would affect his fate and others were there.
Recognition flared in Rhys and Balder’s gazes when they saw her step out from behind Rocque.
“Open the gate,” Rhys ordered. “Broni will be happy to see a familiar face.” Searching their grim expressions, Rhys welcoming expression hardened. “If you’re here to seek Broni’s help, she is mortal, and I won’t allow her to be put in danger.”
“Broni is my niece. I have loved her longer than you,” she smarted off to the warrior. “We don’t want to put anyone in danger; that’s why we’re here.”