He clears his throat, breaking that rhythm and even that, the sound of him clearing his throat, it makes my heart beat faster, raises goosebumps along my bare arms.
And then he speaks.
One word. My name.
I haven’t heard his low, rumbling voice in years, and I’ve forgotten what it does to me.
He draws it out, voice gravelly, thick, like he hasn’t spoken in a long time and rather than hear my name on his lips, I feel it like ice-cold fingers running down my spine.
He’s the only one who calls me by my given name, and it stirs something inside me I wish it didn’t. It has a power I wish it didn’t.
“Hades,” I say, using the name I’d given him when I’d first met him as a child, back when my head was full of fairy tales and mythology and heroes and gods and happy endings.
Now, well, now, things are different.
I’m grateful it’s too dark for him to see my face, to see how his presence after all this time affects me.
“What are you doing here?” I ask, somehow managing a level tone.
“Waiting for you.”
Waiting for me. Of course, he is. I knew he would be, didn’t I? From the moment I heard he was back in town.
I force my legs to move. To walk to the side table where my father kept the bottles of liquor—where he keeps them—on top of a mirrored tray. I have to remember to speak in the present tense. He’s still here. He’s not gone.
I pour myself a vodka, taking my time while I have my back to Hades the intruder, the unwanted, while I try to check my emotions.
I swallow the contents of the glass, savoring the burning sensation as I pour another, listening to liquid spill into crystal. Listening to blood thud against my ears as my heart races at his presence.
Leather creaks and I stiffen.
He walks too quietly for me to hear but it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to hear him. I feel him at my back.
The hair on the nape of my neck stands on end and I wish I had more protection than this dress with its open back offers.
“Vodka still your drink?”
Heat radiating off him roots me to the spot before he even touches me. Before the knuckles of one hand brush the exposed vertebrae of my spine leaving goosebumps in their wake except his touch isn’t icy. It’s warm.
I remember the last time he touched me. I wish I didn’t, and I try very hard to push the memory away as my body craves something it can’t have. Something it will never be allowed to have.
The word has an energy all its own and it makes me think about Hades and Persephone.
The abduction of Persephone.
Hayden closes his mouth around the beating pulse at my throat and I stop breathing. My glass slips from my hand. It bounces, unbroken, on the thick carpet splashing vodka against my legs.
He dips his head closer as I turn mine ever so slightly. I inhale deeply, taking in his scent and for one crushing moment, I close my eyes and I feel him.
I just feel him.
He makes a sound, something primordial. And when he moves, the scruff of his jaw brushes my cheek, warm breath tickling my neck.
I hear his moan before he pulls away and I stagger at the loss of him.
I shift my gaze up to his, the green-gold glinting in the moonlight like a precious jewel. I force myself to breathe, command myself to be unaffected. I fail at both.
His gaze hovers at my mouth before returning to my eyes and I feel him at my back, his body tight.
And this is my power. This one thing.
He wants me as badly as I want him.
But Hades condemns Persephone. He tricks her and steals her away, carrying her to the underworld, to his Kingdom in Hell.
That’s what Hayden Montgomery will do to me if I’m not careful.
And just like that, the spell is broken.
He knows it too.
I turn to face him as he steps backward and looks me over. His gaze stops at my left hand and one corner of his mouth curves upward when he returns it to mine.
“My brother couldn’t keep that pussy happy?” he asks crudely.
I narrow my eyes, tilt my head to the side and watch him drink a swallow of whiskey.
“What do you want, Hayden?”
His eyes darken. “You really want me to answer that?”
“You can’t be in here.”
“I’m paying my respects to your father.”
“Like hell you are. You’re not welcome. Not in this room. Not in this house.”
“Wasn’t always the case, was it?” His gaze skims over me and he leans forward, trapping me between his massive body and the wall at my back.
I have to remind myself that he cannot see the pounding of my heart as it tries to beat its way clear out of my chest.
I have to remind myself that he’s only human.
He is no more Hades, God of the Underworld, than I am Persephone, daughter of Demeter.
He’s just a man.
The grin that spread across his face makes me wonder if he’ll prove me wrong as he brings his glass to his mouth and drinks, then sets it down on the mirrored tray beside us. I half-expect him to touch me. To kiss me.
But he does neither.
Instead, he walks to the door, places his hand on the doorknob but stops. He turns back to me, eyes narrowed. He looks me over once more and that icy shudder is back.
“Time.” He says it again, that one word, and then he’s gone.
I don’t need to ask what he means. Just like I didn’t need to ask what he wanted. I already know.
I knew it before either of us walked in here.