A Touch of Darkness(5)

By: Scarlett St. Clair

That thought sent her stomach into a spiral. She looked around, wondering if Demeter’s spies were about. Had her threat to the waitress at The Coffee House been enough to keep the girl silent about her plans with Lexa? Since she’d told her best friend she’d come tonight, her imagination had run wild with all the ways Demeter might punish her if she were caught. Despite her mother’s nurturing ways, she was a vengeful punisher. In fact, Demeter had a whole plot in the greenhouse dedicated to punishment—every flower that grew there had been a nymph, a king, a creature that had incurred her wrath.

It was that wrath that made her paranoid and had her checking every mirror in her house when she’d returned to the apartment earlier.

“Oh, my gods!” Lexa was a vision in red, and eyes tracked her as she returned to Persephone’s side. “Isn’t it gorgeous?”

Persephone almost laughed. She wasn’t as impressed with the grandeur of the gods. She felt that if they could flaunt their wealth, immortality and power, the least they could do was help humanity. Instead, the gods spent their time pitting mortal against mortal and destroying and reforming the world for fun.

Persephone looked up at the tower again and frowned. “Black’s not really my color.”

“You’ll sing a different tune when you lay eyes on Hades,” Lexa said.

Persephone glared at her roommate. “You told me he wasn’t here!”

Lexa placed her hands on Persephone’s shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “Persephone. Don’t get me wrong, you’re hot and all, but…what are the actual odds you’ll catch Hades’ attention? This place is packed.”

Lexa had a point—and yet, what if her glamour failed? Her horns would catch Hades’ attention. There was no way he’d pass up the chance to confront another god on his premises, especially one he’s never met.

Persephone’s stomach knotted, and she fidgeted with her hair and smoothed her dress. She wasn’t aware that Lexa was watching her until she said, “You know, you can just be honest and admit you’d like to meet him.”

Persephone’s laughter was shaky. “I don’t want to meet Hades.”

She wasn’t sure why it was so hard to say she was interested, but she couldn’t bring herself to admit that she might actually want to meet the god.

Lexa gave her a knowing look, but before her best friend could say anything, shouts came from the front of the line. Persephone peeked around to get a look at what was going on. A man tried to take a swing at a large ogre guarding the entrance to the club. It was a terrible idea. Of course, Hades employed the creatures to guard his fortress. They were notoriously ruthless and brutal. The ogre didn’t even blink as his hand closed down on the man’s wrist. Out of the shadows, two more ogres emerged. They were large and dressed in black. They grabbed the man and dragged him away, down the sidewalk.

“No! Wait! Please! I just want—I just need her back!”

It was a long while before Persephone could no longer hear his voice.

Beside her, Lexa sighed. “There’s always one.”

Persephone looked at her, questioningly.

Lexa shrugged. “What? There’s always a story in the Delphi Divine about some mortal trying to break into the Underworld to rescue their loved ones.”

The Delphi Divine was Lexa’s favorite gossip magazine. There were few things that rivaled Lexa’s obsession with the gods—except maybe fashion.

“But that’s impossible.”

Everyone knew Hades was notorious for enforcing the borders of his realm—no soul in and no soul out without his knowledge.

Persephone had a feeling it was the same for his club.

And that thought sent shivers down her spine.

“Doesn’t keep people from trying,” Lexa said.

When she and Lexa came under the gaze of the ogre, Persephone felt exposed. One glance at the creature’s beady eyes, and she almost called it quits there. Instead, she crossed her arms over her chest and tried to avoid looking at the monster’s misshapen face for too long. It was covered in boils and it had an underbite that exposed razor sharp, yellow teeth. She wasn’t worried if the creature could see through her glamour. Her mother’s magic surpassed that of the ogres.

Lexa gave her name, and the ogre paused as he spoke into a mic. After a moment, he reached forward and pulled open the door to Nevernight.

Persephone was surprised to find that the small spaced they entered was dim and silent and filled with two more ogres. She recognized them from earlier when they’d dragged the man away from the club.

The ogres raked their gazes over Lexa and Persephone and then asked, “Purses?”