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Neon Gods: Chapter 23

Hades

“Hades, we’re going to be late.”

I sit on the floor while the three black pups play in and out of my lap. It took them most of the day to warm up to the space, and we decided to clear out a room near the interior courtyard so we have easy access to the outside for potty breaks. So much to consider, it almost distracted me from what’s coming.

Almost.

I look up and my breath catches in my throat. Persephone is beautiful in everything she wears, but she’s stunning in black. The stark color sets off her golden skin and blond hair. It doesn’t exactly cover up her brightness but gives the feel of a stray sunbeam that’s somehow found its way to the Underworld. The dress clings to her skin like oil, pouring over her breasts and down her hips to fall to the floor around her feet.

She looks like a fucking queen.

“Hades?”

I give myself a mental shake, but I can’t take my eyes off her. “You look beautiful.”

She glances down at herself and smooths her hands over her hips. “Juliette outdid herself with this one. It’s deceptively simple, but the cut and fabric are just masterful.”

I carefully move the pups off my lap and rise to my feet. “It wouldn’t look nearly as masterful on anyone else.”

“Now you’re just teasing me.” But she’s smiling as if my compliments make her happy. I have to rein in the impulse to promise to compliment her every day if it puts that expression on her face. Has she noticed how she’s slowly relaxed and unfurled in the last few weeks? I have. She’s stopped guarding her words so closely, has stopped considering each conversation like a battlefield she might not come out the other side of. Another clear indication of the trust she places in me.

In how safe she feels.

She nods at the puppies, her expression going indulgent. “Have you considered names?”

“Dog.” I don’t mean it. I only say it to see her roll her eyes at me.

She doesn’t disappoint. “Hades, you have three dogs. You can’t call them all ‘dog.’ They need names.”

“Cerberus.” I point to the largest of the three, the one who’s the clear leader, even at this age. “This one is Cerberus.”

“I like it.” She smiles. “Now, the other two.”

“I want you to name them.”

Her brows draw together, and for the first time since she walked into the room, she looks unsure. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Because she’s leaving.

Instinct tells me to back off, to protect myself, but the deadline makes me reckless. “Persephone.”

“Yes?” Is there hope in her tone? I’m afraid to assume.

There are a thousand things I could say right now, a thousand things I want to say. Spending the last few weeks with her has made me the happiest I can remember being. She challenges me and delights me in turn, and I have a feeling I could know this woman for decades and she’d still find ways to surprise me. I suddenly, desperately want this winter never to end, want spring never to come, want to stay with her here forever.

But there is no forever. Not for us.

I cross to her and cup her face in my hands. “If we were different people in different circumstances, I would get down on my knees and beg you to stay at the end of the winter. I would move heaven and earth and the Underworld itself to keep you with me.”

She blinks those big hazel eyes at me and licks her lips. “If…” She sounds so hesitant, I simultaneously want to gather her into my arms and don’t want to move in case she never finishes that sentence. She doesn’t leave me hanging long. “If we were different people, you wouldn’t have to beg. I’d plant my roots right here in this house, and it would take a catastrophic event to make me walk away.”

If. A key word, a vital word, one that might as well be a hundred-foot wall between us and that future I’m too goddamn foolish not to want. “We’re not different people.”

Her eyes go a little shiny. “No. We’re not different people.”

My whole body goes heavy as the truth settles in my bones. I love this woman. I have to steel myself to keep from doing exactly what I said, from dropping to my knees and begging her to stay. It’s not fair to her to pull a stunt like that. I don’t want to be yet another jailer who she’ll come to resent. Persephone wants freedom, and the only way she can obtain that is to leave Olympus. I can’t be the reason she doesn’t follow through on her plan. I refuse to be.

My voice is hoarse when I finally pull forth words. Not ones that will keep her with me. I might love her—fuck, the very idea makes me light-headed—but if I tell her, it will change things. It’s a trap I won’t spring. “Leave me a piece of you, little siren. Name the pups.”

She presses her lips together and finally nods. “Okay.” Persephone steps back, and I release her. I watch as she bends down to pet the pups now trying to climb up her legs. “This one will be Charybdis.”

Charybdis?

She ignores me. “And this little one will be Scylla.”

I blink. “Those names are…something.”

“They are, aren’t they?” She gives me a mischievous smile. “They’ll grow into them, I’m sure.”

Georgie bustles into the room, takes one look at us, and plants her hands on her hips. “What are you still doing here?”

“Naming puppies,” Persephone says easily. “Meet Cerberus, Charybdis, and Scylla.”

Georgie nods as if those names are completely normal and expected. “Good strong names for good strong dogs. Now get out of here and let me play with them.” She’d taken one look at us coming through the door earlier and declared the puppies the grandchildren she’ll never have. I have a feeling I’m going to have to arm-wrestle her to get time with them going forward, but we’ll figure it out.

I offer my arm to Persephone and she lays her hand on my forearm, as graceful and regal as the queen I named her earlier. As we walk through the halls toward the basement room, I allow myself to picture what it might be like if this didn’t have an expiration date. If she ruled at my side, a dark queen to my king of the lower city.

I wouldn’t let her stay in the shadows indefinitely. I’d fight to give her every bit of sunlight and happiness I could find.

It’s not in the cards for us.

I force my attention forward and stop us just short of the door. “You know how this goes. If you change your mind or want things to stop, tell me and it all stops.”

She gives me a ghost of a smile. “I know.” For a second, she looks nervous, but she shuts it down almost immediately. “I’m ready.”

“It’s okay if you’re not.”

Persephone opens her mouth, seems to reconsider. “I’m more nervous than I thought I’d be. We had sex in the shadows last time, and even if people were watching, it felt different. The fantasy feels so hot and present when I’m thinking about it, but knowing it will actually happen is a little…intimidating.”

I study her expression. I can’t tell if she’s got the good kind of nervousness or if she’s starting to regret asking for this. “You don’t have to do this.”

“I know.” The surety seeps back into her tone. “I know that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to when I’m with you.” Persephone takes a deep breath and squares her shoulders. “Maybe we can play it by ear?”

“That sounds like a plan.” I don’t know what I’m feeling right now. I’m not opposed to public sex in the spotlight. With the right parties involved and a clear set of expectations, it can be hot as hell. When Persephone finally confessed that it’s what she wants, I was just as turned on as she was.

I didn’t feel quite so raw that night. I knew I cared about her, but love? I’ve gone thirty-three years without feeling it, so I’d half convinced myself that I’m not capable of the emotion. Trust this woman to make a liar out of me.

I get us moving again and then we’re through the door and into the room. Despite my sending out invites this morning, the space is packed. They might be here to play, but they really showed up to watch another spectacle with me and the society darling I stole from beneath Zeus’s nose. If only that were the truth. Then I could keep her.

I take her hand and begin to weave through the room. The only path to the throne takes us through several sets of chairs and couches. It was designed that way, letting them look at me like a tiger in a zoo. Close enough to touch, but they know better than to try. I see familiar faces as we move through the room. Eros is here again, a man under one arm and a woman under the other. He gives me an arrogant smile as we pass. For once, no one seems to have started the party without us.

They’re all waiting for the show.

With each step, Persephone’s stride becomes more stilted. I look back and find her hazel eyes glassy even though her sunshine smile is in place. Her mask. Fuck.

My throne is empty, as always. I sink into it and pull Persephone into my lap. She’s so tense, she’s shaking, and that only further confirms what I suspect. I tuck her legs up and over my thighs, encompassing her as much as possible with my body. “Take a slow breath, Persephone.”

“I’m trying.” She sounds like she’s drowning. Not in desire. Not in anticipation. In fear.

I capture her chin and guide her face up until she meets my gaze. “I changed my mind.”

“What?”

I have to play this carefully. She won’t thank me for managing her, but I’m also not going to let her soldier on simply for the sake of doing it. There will be other nights, other opportunities. I’m not engaging in something that will harm her. I give her a long look. “I’m not in the mood to fuck your pretty pussy on the dais tonight.”

Relief flares in her eyes and she gives a shy smile. “I’m that transparent?”

“I’ve learned to read you better than most.” I lean in. “Though I’m telling the truth. I’m not ready to put you on display on that level yet. I like that we stay in the shadows, that what we have is just for us. Forgive me?”

“Always.” She relaxes against me and presses a quick kiss to the corner of my mouth. “It sounds so hot in theory, but now that I’m here…”

“If you decide you’re never ready to take it out of fantasy, that’s okay.”

She leans back. “But it’s something you want. Eventually.”

I take her hand and play my thumb over her knuckles. “It appeals to me, yes. Part of that appeal, however, is your enjoyment. If you’re not turned on by it, then it’s a moot point.”

“Mmmm.” She watches our hands. “Maybe we can start tonight with something in the shadows, in this throne? Then build up from there next time?”

“If you like,” I say carefully. I don’t comment that we would need a whole lot longer than six weeks to work through all the dirty things she’s got pinging around in that impressive brain of hers. It wouldn’t be playing fair, and I don’t want to hurt her, even in passing.

“But not tonight?”

“Not tonight,” I confirm.

“Okay.” She seems to relax further, then a sly smile pulls at the edges of her lips. “In that case, Hades, I would very much like to start the night off with you fucking my mouth while you sit on your throne.”

I go still. She’s had her lips wrapped around my cock dozens of times since the first, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to those filthy words coming from her. I won’t ever stop craving them, either. I don’t tell her that the night is young. She’s been vulnerable with me, and now she’s offering us something we both want to get us back on firmer ground. I release her and sit back, draping my arms over the chair. “By all means, little siren. Get on your knees.”

She wastes no time sliding off me and obeying. Even on her knees, she looks every inch a queen. She undoes the front of my pants and draws out my cock. The little tease licks her lips and looks up at me. “They’re all watching, aren’t they?”

I don’t have to look to know the answer, but I do it anyway. Now that they’ve realized the agenda has changed, there are a handful of shadowy figures who are already in the midst of scenes and fucking, but the majority of them are lounging on couches and chairs and facing our direction. “They can’t see clearly, but their imaginations are doing the work for them.”

“Mmmm.” She shivers, and this time it’s all desire. “They look at us and see you debasing Zeus’s property.”

“You’re not his property.” It comes out harsher than I mean it to.

She wraps a hand around the base of my cock. “I know.” Persephone gives me a heartbreaking smile. “Ruin my makeup, Hades. Put on a good show, just for us.”

Us.

This woman will kill me if she keeps talking like that, like it’s us against the world. Like we’re a team, a unit, a pair. I don’t correct her, though. Instead, I allow myself to sink into the fantasy the same way she seems to be doing. The fantasy of us.

I wrap her hair around my fist and steel my expression to something cold and contained. “Suck my cock, little siren. Make it good.”

“Yes, Sir.” She doesn’t hesitate, just swallows me down until she has to move her hand for her lips to meet my base. She gags a little, but that doesn’t deter her in the least. I’m not doing anything but holding on as Persephone picks up a rhythm easily enough, practically choking on my cock with every downstroke. But it looks like I am. As tears smudge her mascara and she leaves lipstick around my base and smears around the edges of her lips, it seems like I’m forcing her.

Even without looking, I can feel the sexual tension in the room heightening. But I do look. I survey the room while Persephone fights to take my cock into her throat, seeing those who look on the scene with lust and those who appear almost worried.

I hate it.

Every other time I’ve done a scene like this, it’s been to build another layer to the myth of Hades, to add to the reputation that I am a man not to be fucked with. They’ve looked at me with fear before, and it’s never bothered me because their fear serves a purpose. Persephone isn’t just some anonymous partner playing a role before she drifts back to her normal life. It doesn’t matter that she needs this scene, needs the end result as much as I do. The thought that they think I’m tarnishing Zeus’s fiancée purely for revenge sits like broken glass in my chest.

The fact that they believe that something as earthy and natural as sex can tarnish a person only drives those shards deeper.

Her fingers dig into my thighs and I jerk my gaze from the room to Persephone. She moves off my cock enough to say. “Stay with me, Hades. We’re the only ones who matter tonight.”

She’s right. I know she’s right. I close my eyes for a breath, two, and open them. The only one in this room who matters is kneeling between my legs, staring up at me with hazel eyes gone so hot, it’s a wonder we both don’t combust on the spot. She’s a beautiful mess and knowing that she allowed it for me? That’s some intoxicating shit.

“I’m here.” I clear my suddenly tight throat. “I’m with you.”

She smiles and takes my cock back into her mouth, resuming driving me out of my mind with pleasure. I don’t try to hold out. Not when Persephone is sucking me so sweetly, not when she’s turned this into something just for us instead of a show for them. I swipe my thumbs over her cheeks, catching her tears. “I’m almost there.” A warning and a promise. She immediately picks up her pace, sucking my cock like her redemption is on the other side of this orgasm.

I let go. The entire rooms shrinks down to her and me, and pleasure takes over. She swallows me down as I come, sucking me until I have to nudge her off my cock. Persephone licks her lips and gives me a happy smile. “I really, really love seeing you undone like that.”

I really, really love you.

Somehow, I keep the words inside. I can’t tell her that without chaining her to me, without ruining everything. But… I can show her. I can give her a gift in return for everything she’s given me over the last few weeks, cumulating in this scene. This woman doesn’t deserve to be on her knees. She deserves to be worshipped. She deserves to be on the throne as my equal.

I intend to put her there.

I tuck myself back into my pants. “Up.”

She must expect to end up back in my lap, because her eyes go wide when I move and nudge her onto the chair I just occupied. Onto the throne. Her brows draw together, but I don’t give her a chance to question me. I simply go to my knees before her.

Her eyes go wide. “Hades, what are you doing?”

For a moment, I can only stare up at her. Her dress spills over her legs and down to the floor, the dark throne behind her and careful lighting giving her blond hair a halo effect. Even with her makeup less than perfect, there’s no denying the power vibrating from every cell of her being. I thought she looked like a queen before, but I was fucking wrong.

She’s a goddamn goddess.


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