A Touch of Darkness(7)

By: Scarlett St. Clair

Sybil seemed to understand. “Parents?”

Persephone nodded.

She learned the boys and Sybil were from New Delphi and also attended New Athens University like she and Lexa.

“What are you studying?” Persephone asked.

“Architecture,” the boys said in unison, which meant they were in the College of Hestia.

“I’m in the College if the Divine.” Sybil said.

“Sybil is an Oracle,” Aro said, pointing to her with his thumb.

The girl blushed and averted her eyes.

“That means you will serve a god!” Lexa said, eyes wide.

Oracles were coveted positions among mortals, and to become one, they had to be born with certain prophetic gifts. Oracles acted as messengers for the gods. In ancient times, that meant serving in temples. Now it meant serving as their press manager. Oracles gave statements and organized press circuits, especially when a god had something prophetic to communicate.

“Apollo’s already got his eye on her,” said Xeres.

Sybil rolled her eyes. “It’s not as wonderful as it sounds. My family was not happy.”

Sybil didn’t need to say it for Persephone to understand. Her parents were what the Faithful and the god-fearing called Impious.

The Impious were a group of mortals who rejected the gods when they came to Earth. Having already felt abandoned by them, they were not eager to obey. There was a revolt and two sides were born. Even the gods who supported the Impious used mortals like puppets, dragging them across battlefields. There was destruction, and chaos reigned. After a year of fighting, the battle was over.

The gods had promised a new life, something better than Elysium (apparently, Hades didn’t like that too well), but the gods delivered—they threaded together continents and dubbed the new landmass New Greece, splicing it into territories with great, gleaming cities.

“My parents would have been ecstatic,” Lexa said.

Persephone met Sybil’s gaze. “I’m sorry they weren’t excited for you.”

She shrugged. “It’s better now that I’m here.”

The goddess got the feeling that she and Sybil had a lot in common when it came to their parents.

Several shots later, the conversation lapsed into hilarious stories of the trio’s friendship and Persephone became distracted by her surroundings. She noticed small details like strands of tiny lights overhead that looked like stars in the dark above, single-stemmed narcissus on the tables at each booth, and the wrought-iron rails of the second story balcony where a lone figure loomed.

That’s where her gaze stayed, meeting a pair of shadowy eyes. Had she thought earlier that Adonis was the most handsome man she’d ever seen?

She’d been wrong.

That man was now staring at her.

She couldn’t tell the color of his eyes, but they ignited a fire under her skin, and it was like he knew because his full lips curved into a harsh smile, drawing attention to his strong jaw, covered in dark stubble. He was big, well over six and a half feet tall and dressed in darkness from his inky hair to his black suit.

Her throat went dry and she was suddenly uncomfortable. She fidgeted and crossed her legs, instantly regretted the move, because the man’s gaze fell there and held for a moment before sliding back up her frame, snagging on her curves. The fire he’d ignited under her skin pooled low in her stomach, reminding her of how empty she felt, how desperately she needed to be filled up.

Who was this man, and how could she possibly feel this way about a stranger? She needed to break this connection that had created this tangible, suffocating energy between them.

All it took was seeing a pair of delicate hands slip around the man’s waist. She didn’t wait to see the woman’s face. She turned toward Lexa and cleared her throat.

The group had moved on to talking about the Pentathlon—an annual athleticism competition with five different sporting events, including a long jump, javelin throw, discus throw, a wrestling match, and a series of short races. It was hugely popular, and the cities of New Greece were very competitive.

Persephone wasn’t really a sports fan, but she did love the spirit of the Pentathlon, and enjoyed cheering for New Athens in the tournament. She tried to follow the conversation, but her body was charged and her mind was on other things—like how it would feel to be taken by the man on the balcony. He could fill this emptiness, stroke this fire, end her suffering.

Except that he was obviously taken—and if not taken, otherwise engaged with another woman.

She wanted to look over her shoulder and see if he still stood on the balcony. She resisted for a while until her curiosity won out. She hated how disappointed she felt when she discovered the balcony was empty. She craned her neck, searching the crowd.