“E-Excuse me,” Persephone stammered, holding the dish of baklava in her shaking hands. She took a step backward and turned on her heels, feeling suddenly small and insignificant. He wouldn’t even accept her gift. Not to mention that she slaved over it for hours, making sure all the layers were perfectly even. Now she just felt a crushing weight pulling her down with each step as she walked away.
Before she’d pulled her eyes away from the painful sight she swore she could see a look of guilt or regret in his eyes. She didn’t dare look back though, the image was painful enough once. She didn’t quite understand her feelings for Hades, but it definitely didn’t feel good to watch her walk up and claim him like that.
Keep it together, at least until you get home.
She pushed the down arrow on the wall in front of the massive, sleek elevators. While she waited, staring down at her toes, she heard a hissed, hushed argument down the hall. Then she heard a scuffle against the floor before a very audible slap of skin against skin followed by stomping heels fading further and further away.
She was grateful when the elevator doors opened, allowing her to step in. She pushed the button to the garage floor and waited for it to take her all the way down. So many thoughts swirled around in her mind about him and about Minthe. She tried to silence them but they just became more intense.
Eventually she made it out of the elevator and walked out to the spot where Hermes said he’d be waiting to pick her up. Sure enough, there he was, red hair blazing and smile expanding as he caught sight of her. “Persephone!” He jumped up and waved at her, bubbly and excitable as always.
She forced herself to smile back as she approached him.
“How was your day?” He reached out to hug her but stopped when he saw her expression. “What happened?”
“Nothing.” She bit her lip, throwing the baklava into a trash can beside her, tired of looking at it.
Hermes frowned but decided not to pry further, offering his hand to her to lead them up the stairwell out of the parking garage. Once they reached the cool air at the surface he took her in his arms and launched them into the air, taking her home. She still wasn’t used to the sensation and froze up, refusing to look down.
They reached her apartment complex quickly and he touched them down to the ground very gently. She released her hold on his arm and took a step, “Thank you.” she began walking up toward the complex before he stopped her by taking her hand.
She looked up and he had a nervous smile on his face as he asked, “Persephone… Uh, do you think.. I mean, are you busy right now?”
She pulled her hand away gently, “I can’t have guys over right now, Artemis will flip out, sorry.”
“Oh, ah, it’s fine I understand.” He looked down then smiled at her, “I’ll see you later.”
“See you.” She turned to walk away, needing to get away from the outside world for a while.
Once she made it up to the apartment she unlocked the door and walked swiftly through the empty living room and kitchen, making her way to her bedroom so she could get out of her clothes and have a nice relaxing bath. She stripped everything off and laid it on her bed. She set her cell phone on the nightstand and walked through the double doors that led to the pristine bathroom and her favorite big porcelain bathtub.
She reached down to turn the dials and get water flowing, finding a temperature she liked and activating the stopper, dripping some lavender oil into the tub along with some herb soaks. As the bathroom steamed up she stood in front of a full length body mirror, tilting her head and taking in the sight of herself.
She took inventory of her curvaceous body, running her hands down her sides and feeling that familiar soft pudge around her hips leading down to the thick middle of her thighs. She suddenly wished she were taller. She couldn’t help but imagine what Minthe’s body looked like. It was no doubt sleek and athletic, lacking curve but making up for it with lean muscle.
She sighed. Maybe that’s just what he prefers. She couldn’t hold that against him. She shouldn’t even be thinking things like this, comparing herself to her when clearly he was out of her league entirely. After all, he was a king. What was she? A silly little spring goddess who just barely entered his realm.
She felt crazy for even imagining he and her could ever be together.
She hates how much she thinks about him.
While the tub is still filling she dips her toes in, then gradually lowers herself in to lie down and sighs once fully submerged. She sits up to reach at the taps and turn them off, lying back and closing her eyes, letting the warm water soothe her.
When she closes her eyes all she can see is his face.
“Gods!” She opens them rapidly, huffing at herself. “Get it together.” She dips her head beneath the water, holding her breath and willing herself to think of anything else. When she pops up to the surface again the smell of lavender fills her nostrils. The image of their kiss is seared into her mind and it keeps replaying over and over. She hadn’t even realized how bad she wanted him until she’d seen someone else kiss him like that. It’s like it kicked everything she was already beginning to feel into overdrive and now it drove her crazy.
She wondered about that new crown she saw him wearing, puzzled as to why he was suddenly wearing a crown. He seemed so uptight and afraid to talk to her the way he had before. It’s like someone is telling him what to do because he seems held back, cut off.
She starts washing her hair to distract herself, but nothing is working.
After spending twenty more minutes thinking herself into a corner she decides enough is enough and stands up out of the bathtub, toweling herself dry then slipping into her fluffy robe.
She walks out into the kitchen and her heart falls into her stomach at the sight of Apollo, leaning on the kitchen counter and sneering at the sight of her in her robe.
“Hey there, gorgeous.”
She folds her arms across her chest defensively and to hide her nipples that she knows he’s trying to get a peep at. “What are you doing here again?”
“I always seem to come at the perfect time.” He takes a step toward her, she takes an automatic step backward.
“Stay away from me, Apollo, you shouldn’t even be here.”
“Excuse me?” He reached out and snatched her wrist in his aggressive grab.
She tugged away, then exploded, “Don’t you ever touch me AGAIN!”
Artemis appeared in the doorway with an armful of groceries. Persephone tore her eyes away from him, which were now budding tears. Artemis approached slowly.
“What is going on here?”
She was tired of lying for him so she followed the wave of boldness her anger gave her while she had it, crying, “Your brother shouldn’t be here, Artemis! He is touchy and I don’t want him around.” She turned to look directly at Apollo before spitting, “I hate him!”
Then, not wanting to explain herself she ran to her room and locked the door behind her. She threw herself onto her bed and let the tears rip out of her, sobbing into her sheets and letting the full bodied cries inhabit her. She was tired of holding it all in. She was glad she’d finally exploded at him because he deserved it. It felt good but she knew there would be more to deal with later but for now she didn’t care and just let herself cry it all out.
She drifted between her sobs, eyes falling shut from crying them swollen, breathing turning from ragged slowly into a calm slumber.
She woke to a buzz against her hip. She opened her eyes and sat up groggily in the dark, reaching at it. She squinted at her phone which read “Hades”.
She answered and before she could speak he sighed, “Kore,” it sounded like a sigh of relief.
“Hades,” she returned in a reverent sigh, happy to hear his voice.
“I’m sorry about earlier.”
“About what?” She yawned and her voice sounded hoarse.
“Are you alright? You sound like you’ve been crying.”
She cleared her throat, “I do not.”
He paused before responding, “I never meant to hurt you. Truly.”
She felt her throat close up, tears threatening once more. “I’m f-fine.”
“You’re a terrible liar.”
She had nothing to say to that, just trying to regulate her breathing so she wouldn’t lose it.
“Look, I… I shouldn’t even be calling you. Especially at this hour, this is highly inappropriate but… I just felt bad after the way you left today.”
“What time is it?”
He paused, then replied, “Almost two in the morning.”
“I apologize.. again..”
She sighed, frowning.
“It’s fine. You and Minthe seem very happy, what do you have to be sorry for?”
He sighed deeply. A silence hung on the line between them.
“Did she hit you?”
“She shouldn’t be hitting you… you know that right?’
He sighed again, sounding sad as he said, “And I shouldn’t be doing this. She has her reasons to be upset with me.”
“What reasons? What do you mean by ‘this’? We aren’t anything. You made that abundantly clear today.” She felt the anger and jealousy bubble up inside her in a way she’d never experienced before. The intensity of it surprised her.
“Persephone… is that jealousy I detect?” Why was he smiling? She could hear it in his voice and it infuriated her.
“Is it funny to you!? Is this what you do? Just prey on innocent, naive girls?”
“No, no, I… I think we’re misunderstanding each other…”
She glared, not wanting to say another word to him.
“Could we… speak in person?”
“No, I need to sleep.”
“Can I come pick you up?”
“No, I said I can't!”
“I can be there in fifteen minutes.”
The anger she felt started to subside at the thought of seeing him, just him. Plus the eagerness in his voice made her weak. “Three-hundred percent scoundrel.”
“I’ll be there soon.”
The call ended. She looked down at her phone, shaking her head at herself. Why did she keep falling for him? She should learn to keep her distance by now but every time he just said something that made her heart swell.
She slipped out of her robe and got into her bra and underwear, walking to her closet to pick out a new outfit. She chose a casual loose sweater and a pair of jean shorts. She pulled on socks and tied up her boots, grabbing her phone and stuffing it in the back pocket of her shorts. She walked through the empty, dark living room and kitchen, sneaking out quietly and shutting the door behind her.
She walked down to the lobby and waited by the big windows so she could see his car when it pulled up. What if that tabloid was onto something? What kind of a woman was she to be waiting around for a man she knew was dating someone to come pick her up? Especially in the middle of the night. Mama would have a heart attack. At the same time she felt it was no one’s business but their own.
She was lost in her thoughts yet again and hardly noticed the time passing until the sight of his sleek black car pulled into view. She stood and walked out across the lawn to him, biting her lip to keep her expression neutral.
He stood, clad in a dark overcoat, he walked over to the passenger side to open the door for her. His crown was gone. She circled his car and said a soft thanks as she sat down, touching his arm briefly. She watched him circle back around then return to his seat, shutting the door behind himself.
Without saying a word he began driving, heading up the highway quickly. She stole a glance at him, his stoic, hard features set into stone as he focused on the road. He almost looked like a marble statue, sitting there with the poise and grace of a sequoia tree.
She decided to break the silence.
“Where are you taking us?”
“Should I be?”
“Nope.” she caught a sly grin on his face.
“What are you playing at?”
“Patience, we’re almost there.” He turned off the highway and cruised down a long winding road. It led through a column of high trees that led further into a dense forest. She’d never been to this part of Olympus and was curious to see where he was going. He drove a bit further then pulled off onto a dirt road, driving for a few more minutes before pulling up to a canopy of trees that led to a lush meadow.
He moved to get out of his seat and she followed, shutting the door behind herself, smiling up at him as he was circling the car to open her door. He locked the car and began walking toward the meadow. She followed at his side, looking out at the beautiful surroundings. Everything was drenched in silver moonlight. He offered his hand to her when the grass got taller but she refused it, teasing him,
“I can handle a meadow, Hades, this is kind of my area of expertise.” She walked through the tall grass, parting it in front of herself as she waded through it, unable to see through the top because of her height.
She didn’t see him smile down at her because he was following behind.
He followed her to the clearing where the grass parted and gave way to a giant field of wildflowers. She walked out to the spot where she saw the smallest amount of flowers and folded her legs under herself gracefully, sitting down then gazing up at the sky with her large eyes.
He couldn't help but stare at her thick-lashed gaze and suddenly he felt jealous of the moon.
His eyes trickled down her features, biting his lip at the inviting roundness of her body, the smooth curve of her form. His fingers twitched with desire to reach out and touch her. The feelings weren't going away, they're just getting worse it seems. He thought having Minthe would cure his desire but nothing seems to help. He tries to remind himself his intention was to speak to her here but he can't help but imagine other ways they could spend time in the meadow.
He strides out toward her and sits himself beside her, keeping a safe distance from her, clearing his throat, “I'm sorry to interrupt your beauty sleep, but I really don't believe you need any.” He laughed a weak little chuckle.
She looked up at him with confusion in her eyes, her eyebrow furrowed, “I don't understand what's going on with you.”
“Neither do I.” He admitted, casting his gaze down at his hands.
“What's wrong?” She scooted closer, spreading her warmth. That inviting, enveloping pink glow that surrounded her sunk into him as she reached down to place a small, soft hand over his. “You can tell me about it.”
He looked down at the stark contrast of her glowing warm skin lying atop his stone-like cold, hard blue hands. Her touch clouded his mind. He opened his eyes to look at her and was blown away by what he saw.
She was leaning toward him, sweater hanging off her shoulder, exposing an expanse of warm, freckled skin and a portion of her breast as it nearly burst out of her bra.
But the look on her face is what really made him choke. Her lids hung heavy over her eyes, she was biting her plump lip and staring at him while flower petals sprouted out around her cropped short hair. She blushed and tried curling her fingers around his hand, testing the waters.
He responded by taking her hand and lacing their fingers together properly for the first time.
The air caught in her throat and she felt her heart begin to race.
His voice was low as he crooned, “I thought I knew myself.. I thought I knew what I wanted..” he looked down at their interlocked hands, then up at her glowing face, “But since I met you.. I hardly know who I am anymore.” He reached up with his other hand to stroke her cheek. “Everything feels different now.” He was amazed at how soft and silky her skin was.
She sighed and leaned into his cold touch, leaning further forward and letting her cheek rest against his chest. They broke the hand hold so they could wrap their arms around each other. Each sighed into the embrace.
Persephone felt her heart pound against him, knowing he had to be feeling it too. Her face grew warm as she heard his irregular heartbeat. She pulled up out of the embrace to reach up and cup his face in her hands.
He looked like a lost little boy under all the exterior strength and walls he put up. She saw right through him and they both knew it.
He sighed, “I'm sorry for getting you caught up in my mess.”
She just smiled sadly, radiating both beauty and pain.
He reached out to stroke her cheek again, wanting to do so much more.
“Why are you with her?” The bluntness of the question caught him off-guard. She just kept on surprising him.
“Why?” He repeated, not really knowing why. She waited, looking up at him with a hardness to her stare, clearly wanting him to make a choice. Her lips were held in a pout as she awaited his response.
He laughed again, a sad laugh, directed at himself.
“I don’t know why. We just… had been friends..with benefits.. so I decided to give it a fair shot at being a real relationship… I felt guilty I think.” He let his head fall into his hands, sighing, “I’ve never had a successful relationship.. I don’t know how to have one I guess.”
She was making a flower crown, softly knotting stems together, looking absolutely radiant as she said softly, “Mama always told me to get to know someone before giving myself over to them physically..” she looked sad, but also accusing.
“Your mother is wise.” He smiled.
“You deserve to be with someone who loves you, Hades,” She blinked her heavy lashes at him.
“You don’t think Minthe loves me?”
She gave him a knowing look, then shook her head. “I don’t sense it.”
He felt a little angry at her for judging his relationship, even though he knew she was right. “What do you know about love, young one?”
She finished tying up the flower crown she was making, holding it out on her fingers and leaning up to reach him, placing the crown on his head and smiling warmly. “I like this crown better on you.” His eyebrows were set in a hard line, she could practically see steam coming out of his ears. He waited for her to answer his question but she couldn’t help but giggle at the sight of him frowning, looking mad in a flower crown.
“Don’t you laugh at me!” He grabbed her wrists and shook her softly, faking anger more than feeling it. Her laugh melted what he had been feeling away. She teased back, squirming in his hold and laughing harder. They fought playfully, she struggled against his chest and he began tickling her. While she was laughing and squirming he took the opportunity to wrap his arms around her and fall backwards into the flowers.
She landed on top of him, hands on his broad chest, laughing and smiling down at him. As her laughing subsided she looked down, meeting his eyes, which were locked on her face.
“You never answered my question, by the way.” He reached up to stroke her cheek again but she caught his hand.
“I may not have experience like you do with relationships… and you may think I’m too young and naive to know what I’m talking about… but I know that love is kind... and I know that if you truly loved someone you would never actively hurt them.”
“What do you mean?”
“I could never hit you, Hades. No matter how badly you hurt me. I couldn’t.” They shared a gaze and he knew in that moment she was speaking the truth. He could sense how much love she had to give, it was practically radiating out of her. He sighed and sat up, letting her move off of him.
She surprised him by wrapping her arms around him, pressing her chest to his in a warm hug. He embraced her, then pulled back, gazing at her, eyes darting between her eyes and lips. He closed his eyes and leaned in to kiss her.
She pulled back to smile softly at him then closed her eyes and frowned.
“I’ll break it off as soon as I get to work.”
“No, Hades,” she pushed on his chest, “This isn’t fair to her.”
“Do you have any idea of the nasty things she’s said about you?”
“I don’t care. I still won’t do this. It’s not right.”
He shook his head, looking ashamed. “You’re right.” He reached to take her small chin in his hand, watching her with lovelorn eyes. “You have no idea how badly I want to kiss you.”
She blushed, “Oh, really?”
“Since the moment I laid eyes on you.”
“Hades, stop!” She covered her face with her hands, trying to hide the growing blush from him. Flowers sprouted out around her and he swore he saw her hair grow.
“It’s true.” He twirled a lock of her rapidly growing hair around his finger, “I haven’t been able to get you off my mind. You truly are the most gorgeous creature I’ve ever seen.” It felt so good to finally tell her all this. It was driving him crazy keeping it all inside.
“You really think that?” She darted her eyes away from him, looking at a flower.
“I know it.”
“You don’t think I’m just some silly little goddess who’s in way over her head?”
“Absolutely not.” He stood then offered her his hand. She took it and stood in front of him, having to crane her neck up to see his face. He leaned down to press a soft kiss to her forehead, “I should take you home, don’t you have class in the morning?”
“I could miss one class…”
“No way, I will not be responsible for your academic decline, Persephone.” He grinned. “Plus you could lose your internship and we wouldn’t want that, would we?”
She shook her head, pouting and folding her arms.
“Don’t worry, sweetness, we have an eternity to get to know each other better.”
She smiled at the nickname, rather liking it. He led the way back to his car and as they began walking she reached up to hold his hand and he responded by locking their fingers together and they both felt that melding of energy, his blue glow mixing with her warm pink aura, creating something entirely new and beautiful.