As I was putting the last ornament on the tree, I suddenly knew you-know-who was there. I didn't turn around but fussed over the ornaments, making sure they were perfectly spaced.
"Hades, why are you here at my house?" Luckily my parents were out Christmas shopping. It would be hard to explain Hades' presence.
"Sharisse, mon cherie," came that voice that suggested the whisper of silk sliding off skin (he wished!). "I merely wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and give you a gift of my esteem."
Even though I knew I shouldn't, I turned around to face him. While I was desperately in love with Caz, Hades' nephew, something about this dark god gave me an illicit thrill. His wavy dark hair, his mysterious brown eyes--and that sleek, taut body that invited Bon Apetite! if I listened--were always a temptation. He was kind of like an exquisite, custom-made-to-order pair of shoes from Stuart Weitzman; the fit would be perfect, there would be none exactly like it--and I couldn't ever afford to give into the desire.
But that still didn't stop me from sneaking a peek.
He lounged in the doorway in his favorite pose, one shoulder against the frame, arms and legs crossed, his eyes glittering--and his luscious mouth quirked in a slightly sexy, mostly arrogant grin. Irresistible.
Pull yourself together and focus...
"Huh. Your gifts are too expensive to accept, Hades. Last one almost cost me body and soul. The Trojan Horse was a better deal." I started gathering the empty ornament boxes. He snapped his fingers and everything was tidy--he'd even cleaned the spot on the rug from who knew what spilled--and I think he did the windows, too.
It was hard not to love a man like that.
But I didn't.
And he was no man. He was Hades, Lord of the Underworld, Greek god.
And not to be trusted.
"Thank you," I said politely even if a bit cool.
He frowned. "I don't like your attention elsewhere when you're in my presence."
That's my Hades: it's all about him.
He waved a careless hand and two cups of frothy hot chocolate appeared, with extra marshmallows, the square-cut, homemade kind I looooove so much.
He knew how to seduce a girl, and sometimes, you just can't refuse no matter how hard you try. I took the cup and lifted it in wary thanks. He held up his left hand.
"I swear there's nothing devious in the drink or my motives."
Were oaths sworn with left hands binding?
"Want to sit?" I asked gesturing toward our couch.
He graciously inclined his head, said "Thank you," and then practically sat in my lap. I had to scooch over a bit. "Unless..." and his eyes sparkled, "You'd like to have lunch in Gstaad? The slopes are perfection. I checked before popping in here."
"How thoughtful," I murmured before sipping my confectionery addiction. Mmmm. Dark, not milk chocolate. Hades knew me well.
And yet, he didn't give up trying to seduce me even though I always refused. I'd think it was just a game he wanted to win (the girl who plays hard to get) but he was so intense--and relentless.
"Thanks, but no,"I said. "What would Caz think? He's already rescued me once from your clutches. Throwing myself into your company might make him think I was playing one against the other." I put the cup down, licking the marshmallow off my top lip.
His eyes followed.
It was time to find out what he really wanted, refuse, and send him on his merry way to torment someone else. Last thing I needed was for Caz or Persephone to drop in too. That could be awkward.
"Let's be honest for a change, Hades. Just tell me what you want. No games." His cup, along with mine, disintegrated into thin air and he leaned closer. I could barely breathe. Even so, I wasn't going to back away.Once you gave in to him, he owned you: figuratively, literally, physically--and eternally.
"Fine." His gaze held that intensity I so feared. "I want you."
Yeah, I know that. NOT happening.
I started to open my mouth to give the sweetest kiss my gluteous that I could when he stopped me.
"I'll give you ANYTHING. You want the Hope diamond? It becomes the Sharisse Johnson diamond. You want immortality? You won't age even a second. Name it."
Now most people might be tempted. Even considering I was a shopoholic (with limited funds), and yes, I liked pretty, pretty things, I didn't want anything. I had my parents, I had Caz, I had friends, and I was in the school of my choice, the Fashion Institute of Technology. No, there was nothing more I needed.
He slapped his hand over his heart and his fervent look told me he truly wanted the, er, pleasure of my company. "ANYTHING." His voice was almost hoarse.
If there was no limit... should I refuse? What would Caz think? Would Persephone find out? Even if she did, I knew that I'd be under Hades' protection; he was a gentleman that way at least.
I deliberated. One special gift. Only I could ask for it and get it.
I was going to do it. Sometimes, sacrifices had to be made.
Straightening my shoulders and taking a deep breath, I said "Okay."
His eyes widened and I swear I heard his indrawn breath. "Tell me what you want."
"No more war. Ever. Eternal peace on Earth."
He flushed and jumped up, scowling fiercely at me. "You can't ask that! It has to be for you!"
Standing abruptly with fists on my hips, I glared right back at him. "You said 'anything.' And it's what I want. I have friends and a cousin who are serving in the military. I know people who have lost family due to wars. Children die when nations go to war. No more war. Ever. That's what I want."
Hades ran his fingers through his beautiful mane, more agitated than I have ever seen him. "Can't you ask for something material? Or to be forever youthful? That's what most people ask for."
I eyed him coldly. "I'm not most people. That's why you're so obsessed with me. And besides, it's Christmas. Time to think about and help others." I know some people considered me shallow because I liked to have my nails done, look perfect, and be popular, but I had a conscience and wanted to do good.
He shook his head sadly. "I can't do that. There's a thing called free will. I can't interfere with it. I believe it's the basis of your own faith. Humanity has to decide for itself, like you had to agree to our initial contract."
I felt deflated. Here I was going to put myself on the altar of Hades' lust for a noble cause, and I was turned away.
At least I tried.
"There's nothing else I want, Hades," I said softly, knowing that if he couldn't give me world peace, then he couldn't abolish disease, pain, suffering, and other ills that plagued us insignificant mortals.
With sad, soulful eyes, he whispered, "Not even a new kitty?"
I laughed. True to form, Hades didn't give up. "Tell you what," and I grabbed his hand so we stood under the mistletoe. "Just one, promise?"
Back came his arrogant smile. "Just one."
I narrowed my eyes. "And no whisking me off anywhere, no three hundred year kiss, no telling Caz, no trouble for me, got it? Or I'll tell Persephone." With a resigned sigh, he nodded. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I pulled him in for a very seductive, memorable kiss. When I moved back, he was breathing hard. He nodded, actually speechless.
I heard the key in the door--my parents were home!
But he was gone.
My cat, Chanel, came running into the room, a new pretty silver bell on her collar and a note. I pulled the note off. It read:
My Darling Sharisse,
I'm sorry I couldn't give you the gift you wanted, although I'm not surprised you asked for it. And I know you won't accept anything from me, even if I promise 'no strings' but I can give you this-
Look out your window.
I moved over to the window; snow fell softly, already a thin sheeting on the grass, trees, street and rooftops. He was giving me a white Christmas.
"Thank you," I whispered.
"The pleasure was all mine," he whispered back.
And so I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a healthy and happy 2014, and a dream come true. To one lucky random person, I'm giving away an audio copy of Sirenz. Just put your name in the comments, tell your friends, family, etc. I will notify the winner before the New Year (you have plenty of time, but why wait? You might forget...) One entry per person.