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Sunrays kissed my skin, dusting my normally pale shade with gold. Seagulls squawked above and waves crashed against the shore while the salty scent of the ocean penetrated my nose. Being the dark, brooding god of the Underworld, sunbathing on a beach was not my usual forte. But Hartley wanted to go and I had trouble denying her just about anything. Most people did.
My eyes shifted to her lying next to me in a scantily clad red bikini. A smile curled my lips thinking of the time we were under Hecate’s spell and Hartley donned one similar and lured me to her yard while she was in the hot tub. T-R-O-U-B-L-E, that’s what she was. And I loved every bit of her.
Her golden skin glistened under the sun, smelling of coconut while her dark brown and red hair shone with the brilliance of jewels. Her hazel eyes were hidden beneath sunglasses. She wore my red and silver ring on her index finger regardless of the tan line it was producing.
The last few months had been incredible—bliss really. My brother and his vengeful wife Hera had stayed away. No one had bothered us. And it’s started to scare me. It’s been too quiet. I’ve masked my tenseness from Hartley, reluctant to show my worry. I was waiting on the other shoe to drop and I know it was only a matter of time before shit hit the fan.
Callie squealed in the distance as Jake pulled her into the ocean, a foamy wave converging on them. It was strange having friends too—even if they didn’t know all of me. It still counted. Sort of.
Hartley’s shown good progress with them. She didn’t always dread spending time with them, especially if I was around. She still had her moments when she got that distant, icy look in her eyes.
Of course her chain to the Underworld was still present. I would never forgive Persephone for tricking Hartley into eating pomegranate seeds, forcing her to return to the Underworld. It broke my heart every time she donned that panicked expression as my domain called her, cutting off her air supply until she returned.
I’d been spending a lot of time with her above to counteract the effects. It was so hard to leave her, but I had responsibilities in my domain I could shirk. Graduation was only a few months away and Hartley was convinced she was moving to the Underworld with me for good. I told her she was nuts and couldn’t. She told me she had it all figured out. We could have a home above too, traveling back and forth.
Deep in my heart that was exactly what I wanted—for her to be with me always. But I was still worried the Underworld would change her. I knew she wasn’t afraid, but I didn’t want her giving everything up for me. Zeke’s warning still rung through my mind. He cautioned us Hartley couldn’t have it all. She’d have to choose one day. I was afraid she would choose me and end up regretting it.
“Hayden,” she sang. “I can feel you staring at me.”
My lips twitched. “I can’t help it,” I sang back.
She found my arm and trailed her fingertips lightly up and down, spawning tingles across my skin. “And I can feel you worrying.”
My smile faded. “I am not.”
Hartley cocked her head toward me before pulling her sunglasses off, her brow arching, unconvinced.
“I’m not,” I repeated.
She rolled over on the blanket until she was hovering above me, her elbows holding her. Her hair that had grown well past her shoulders tickled my bare chest. “Liar liar, pants on fire.” The corners of her lips twitched, threatening a smile.
I slipped my arm around her and pulled her to my chest, her roses and pine scent mixing with the salty air and coconut. “Well, baby, if my pants are on fire maybe you should remove them.”
She scoffed. “I’m sure all these girls would love that.” She motioned her index finger around, pointing out the girls staring furtively at me.
It was my turn to scoff. “I’m not the only one being ogled.” I motioned my chin toward a group of guys walking past us again, trying to check Hartley out. I shot them a glare while I slid my hand down to cover her ass. They scurried by.
Hartley tsked. “Hayden, are you threatening guys again?”
My lips pursed. “Define threatening?”
A giggle tumbled out of her mouth. “You’re so bad.”
I wiggled my brows suggestively. “I heard you had a thing for bad boys.”
“Nah. That was just a fluke. I like more of the all-American jock type—blonde hair, blue eyes, plays a dozen sports… that sort of guy.”
Without warning, I flipped her so she was on her back while I hovered above, my lips barely an inch from hers, her breath blowing raggedly on my face. “Still don’t like bad boys?”
“Nope,” she breathed, her body arching into mine regardless.
“Now who’s lying?” My lips sealed against hers in a searing kiss. When I pulled back distant fire danced in my irises, reflecting in hers.
Her delicate fingers slid into my hair, massaging. “Mmm baby.”
A shiver rolled down my spine and I growled. She knew what she was doing. “Hartley,” I warned. If she kept it up I was going to lose control with her right here on the damn populated beach.
“Let’s go somewhere…” Her words trailed off as a shift occurred through the crowd.
We both glanced toward the shore to see none other than Poseidon strolling out the water in all his sea godly glory. His wet, shoulder length blonde hair dripped trails of water down his bare, tanned chest. His green board shorts plastered against his bottom half, outlining his impressive muscles.
I groaned and rolled over, my eyes watching the females start to drool unabashedly at him as he headed our way. “Great. There goes any privacy we might have had.”
Hartley pointed to the left. “He’s not the only one coming.”
Aphrodite was sauntering down the beach in a skimpy white bikini and a tan fishing net sarong that might as well have been nonexistent for all it covered. Pearls and shells twinkled in her long platinum blonde hair.
Every male within a half mile radius was growing catatonic—or just growing.
I sat up, Hartley following me.
“Your eyes are flaming,” she whispered.
“That’s because I’m angry.” I matched her teasing tone.
She laughed and kissed my shoulder, leaving behind a hotspot. “We’ll have plenty of us time in a minute Hayden. You should be nice to them. They both helped us when we were under that stupid spell.”
I sighed and squashed the insults I wanted to release.
“Littlest bro,” Si said as he reached out to tap my fist with his. “You’re finally getting a suntan.” His aqua eyes sparkled as waves crashed in them, mirroring the ocean before us.
“Yep.” I hitched my thumb toward Hartley. “Blame her.”
Si unleashed a dazzling smile. “Hartley, my beautiful little seashell.” He bent on one knee and gripped her hand, kissing her knuckles.
I punched him in the shoulder. “Cut it out.”
“Oh Hayden.” Aphrodite flipped her white blonde hair from her face. “Don’t be unkind. He means no harm. He knows you two are destined for each other.”
“Still doesn’t mean I want him kissing any part of her,” I grumbled.
“Hey guys,” Hartley said, ignoring my irritation.
Aphrodite skipped over and kneeled next to Hartley hugging her while Si slid to my other side.
“How have you two love birds been?” she asked, grabbing Hartley’s suntan lotion.
I abruptly stood and pulled Hartley up. “We’re going for a swim.” I motioned to our blanket. “Make yourselves comfortable.”
“Don’t be rude Hayden.” Hartley glowered at me with her hands stuck on her hips. It was so damn cute.
“I’m not.” Without warning I tossed her over my shoulder, pulling a squeal of surprise from her. “You guys understand right. I’m a selfish god. I don’t like to share.”
“Totes baby bro.” Si leaned back on his hands with a smirk. “If she were my sexy siren I’d probably stow her away in one of my caves and never let her out of my sight.” He winked knowingly.
Aphrodite wiggled her fingers while a furtive smile curled her luscious lips. “Have fun.”
I chuckled darkly knowing full well what I had in store for Hartley. “We will.” I smacked her ass.
“Hey! You better watch yourself Hayden or I’ll…”
“You’ll do what?” I asked, toting her toward the water, ignoring the onlookers.
“I’ll torture you with painstakingly slow kisses.”
I grinned. “Sounds like a plan baby.” I flipped her upright and positioned her until her legs wrapped around my waist and hands curled across my neck.
“You’re so bad.” She couldn’t fight the smile splitting her lips.
“I know.” The waves hit us, but I stayed steady and swam several feet out into the ocean where our legs no longer touched.
“Now that you have me all the way out here what are you going to do?” she asked, a wicked twinkle in her eyes.
“Oh, I’ve got something much better than floating in the water.”
Her brow arched curiously.
“Take a deep breath and hold it. We’re going under for a minute.”
“Okay,” she slowly drawled out, but placing her trust in me regardless and following my instructions.
Moments later I dove under the water, holding her tightly and moving in super speed. I’d have to remember to thank Si later for giving me the covert okay.
Only a few seconds passed before our destination was in sight. I swam into the underwater cave, the magic shimmering over us as we passed through the doorway only gods and demigod could access. We popped up in the middle of a sparkling pool of water.
“Wow. Where are we?” Hartley asked as her wide hazel eyes traced the glittering green, blue, and gray walls of the cave.
“One of Si’s places.”
She glanced at me questioningly. “Does he know you took me here?”
The corners of my mouth quirked. “He said it was cool.”
“Riiight. You two have your own secret communication now?”
“Of course.” I winked and started swimming us to the edge of the water. I helped Hartley up before pulling myself onto dry land.
“This place is pretty cool,” she said, sliding her hand across a wall trickling with water. “How come it’s wet here and completely dry in the center?” Her head tilted up to survey the ceiling. “Shouldn’t water be dripping everywhere?”
“It’s magic. Si’s doing.”
She nodded. “Of course.” She found one of his many stashes of seashells and started riffling through them with several oohs and aahs.
I stood back and watched the water leaving trails across her wet skin as it dripped down her curves I knew so well and yet not well enough. Her dark hair curled around the long ends while the red gleamed in the sparkling light. Heat stirred within me, spawning crimson flames in my eyes.
“Wow, look at this one.” She held a giant iridescent conk shell up before gently setting it back in the basket.
My feet slowly carried me toward her, my heart shuddering in my chest. I let my fingers curl around her hips and pulled her flush against my chest with a tiny gasp from her mouth. “I didn’t bring you here to look at shells Hartley,” I whispered gruffly into her ear.
She shivered against me. “Oh. Well…” Her head tilted back so she could peer into my face, a smile twitching hers when she noticed my flaming eyes. She batted her lashes demurely. “What did you bring me here for Hayden, baby?”
Ah shit. She was good. She knew exactly what it did to me when she called me baby. I growled in her ear before leaning down and planting kisses along her neck, teasing that sensitive spot behind her ear. “I brought you here to have my way with you.”
Hartley suddenly spun around, catching me off guard, and pressed against me while she wrapped her arms around my neck. “What makes you think it’s not the other way around Hades?”
She’s done it now. My heart slammed against my ribcage and whole body tingled with desire. “You know how to press my buttons, don’t you?”
She bit her lip and tilted her head in that way that drove every male in the vicinity nuts. “Yep.”
My lips crashed on hers, igniting a fire between us so intense I thought we’d burst into flames. Her mouth opened beneath mine, inviting my tongue in to taste hers. Oh and what a taste.
I wrapped my arms around her waist and picked her up, forcing a little cry of surprise from her. I walked until I found a huge bed with white gossamer curtains surrounding it, fluttering in the air like currents in the water. I sat Hartley down and ripped them open.
Her eyes landed on the bed with white and blue satin covers. She bit her lip hesitantly which only served to spur me on.
If I didn’t have her soon I was going to explode.
“Are you sure this is okay with Si?”
“Absolutely.” My brows knit and I pulled up short. “Unless you don’t want…”
“Oh I want.” She hooked her fingers in my swimming trunks and drew me closer. “I want very much.”
I picked her up and gently laid her on the bed before hovering over her. “Hartley, baby, I love you more than anything. Words cannot describe how much… I mean there’s nothing that compares…”
“Hayden?” she interrupted.
A mischievous glint entered her hazel eyes. “Why don’t you show me how much you love me?”
A crooked smile curled my lips. “Challenge accepted.” I fitted myself between her legs, bringing out a moan of pleasure from both of us. I pulled on her bikini top string, slowly untying the knot. “I haven’t taught you how to make clothes disappear yet, have I?”
Her brows shot up. “No.”
“Remind me to when we get back to the Underworld.” Without another word I snapped my fingers and her top was gone, displaying a glorious sight before me.
As soon as we returned to the beach from swimming it started to sprinkle. I glanced up at the swollen, gray clouds and wondered if Zeke was raining on our parade. My eyes met Hayden’s and I could tell he was wondering the same.
I suppose it didn’t matter where we were whether it was the beach, my house, his house, or the Underworld, as long as we were together. I just hated this day was ending for our friends—if it was Zeke’s doing.
Callie, Jake, Hayden and I piled in to Hayden’s new black Tahoe he got specifically so we could carry other people around. He wouldn’t say so, but he’d do anything to make sure I spent quality time with my friends. I’d never fully be the Hartley Walker I was before I died and split my soul. I was okay with that. I loved my friends, but I also loved the Underworld. I think Hayden’s finally starting to come around to the idea. He hasn’t quite noticed me bringing more and more of my belongings to the castle. If he paid more attention to our room he’d realize half the clothes in his closet were mine.
Boys. So clueless—even a millennia old Greek god.
“That rain totally came out of nowhere,” Callie said, wrapping a dry towel around her.
Jake draped his arm over her petite shoulders, pulling her close and nearly swallowing her tiny form. “Yeah I know, but that’s how the weather is in SC babe.”
She nodded, shaking her blonde, shoulder length hair, tricking water into her towel. “I’m just glad you guys came back in time. You were swimming forever. We couldn’t even see you in the ocean.”
My eyes slanted over to Hayden’s while my cheeks flushed thinking about what we’d actually been doing. He of course smiled like the naughty little boy he was. I rolled my eyes. “Yeah. We were pretty far out.”
Hayden took us on the scenic route through the country side. The car ride was quiet for a while, the sound of tiny raindrops pattering against the car and cats pawing across the windshield lulled me to sleep. That was until Hayden slammed on the breaks.
My eyes popped open and I sat up at full attention in time to see a giant wooden wheel careening onto the road before us. Callie and I both squealed while the guys smashed their arms across our torsos as an extra precaution. If I wasn’t a demigod Hayden would have bruised my ribs.
“What the hell is that?” Jake asked, leaning his head between the seats, his wet copper hair touching my shoulder.
I watched the wooden wheel teeter and then finally hit the road with a resonating crash. I glanced over to see Hayden glaring at it, his jaw flexed and body tense.
“What is it?”
“Everyone stay in the car.” He quickly slipped out.
Like I was going to let him boss me around. “I’ll be back.”
Hayden wasn’t surprised I followed, but he didn’t appear any less irritated. I grabbed his hand, his fingers instantly curling around mine. His face paled as we neared the colossal, man sized wooden wheel. It looked ancient and charred in places. Indentions bit into the end of four, equally placed spokes as if something had been bound.
“Shit,” Hayden cursed, his eyes flaming crimson.
“Hayden, what is it? Where did it come from?”
That one word sent chills trickling down my spine and goose bumps across my flesh. Well, I guess this was the end of our peaceful life again.
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