The last thing she thought she would do is agree to go to a book club meeting.
The last thing he thought he would do is become transfixed with a human woman.
Sena walks into a world of fantastical creatures and mythological beings. She's forced to work through her past experiences and deepen her understanding of herself to survive.
Throughout the ever turning world she's thrown into, she knows two things for sure: One, a vampire is falling for her. Two, the one thing she wants most - is offered to her on a silver platter - by a greek god.
What, or more appropriately - who will she choose?
I slammed the book I had been reading on my desk and glared at the woman in front of me.
“Go and tell that vampire to find his way out and if I ever feel his presence here again, I will create a cage in the deepest part of the ocean and allow him to rot there for eons,” my voice stretched and filled the study, making the messenger tremble slightly.
She nodded and ran out of the room quickly. I looked down at my clenched hands and sighed. I fanned my fingers and slumped back in my chair, letting my arms rest across my opened book. A small tapping sound interrupted my thoughts which only made me hang my head even lower.
“Leave me!” I ground out. Does peace not exist in a single corner of this underworld? A window to the far corner slid open and a short blonde man flew in slowly.
“Tough night?” A heightened voice came from him as he glided down towards me. I tilted my head slightly to watch him. My lifted eyebrow told him all he needed to know. “Okay, okay, sorry. Here’s the thing. There’s this vampire that’s been tryin’ to get in touch with you. I think you know who I’m talkin’ ‘bout.”
I just kept staring, waiting for the part where he thought I would be intrigued by his information. He continues on. “He knows where Evros is, Hades. He heard about how you’re tryin’ to track him down. And how your stake in his life parallels his own plans. I think this is your best shot. His own kind is against him.” I was standing by the time he finished the last sentence. I stepped towards the middle of the floor and called my shadows to me.
Within another blink, I was standing in front of my river Styx and a very annoyed-looking vampire. When his eyes landed on me, he froze. I walked towards him and spoke low. “I hear that you can deliver me the location of Evros?”
His nod is nearly comical with how aggressive he moves. “I can! I can bring him to you. I just need some help, that’s all. He escaped a long time ago and I don’t know how strong he is now. I just need some more power,” he rushed out, his steps gaining closer.
My hand fanned out, this time without the intent to control an emotion. The vampire flung backward, like a ragdoll being carried off by a storm. I brought my other hand downward and called my bident to me. It materialized with a rush in my open palm.
“You may borrow this,” I began as he struggled to his feet again. “It will not behave the same, but it will enhance your…mediocrity. Once I change its form, it will calm its manner. A warning, vampire. I will not be able to sense it or call it to me once this is done. If you happen to lose it…” I let the threat hang in the air and allowed his own imagination to finish the thought. I only hoped he had more creativity than wit.
I closed my eyes and willed the change in my staff. The air shimmered for a moment and then a dagger weighed lightly in my hand. It hummed with anticipation at being able to roam. It was finally free to soak up glory once more. The target made its song all the more delectable.
I tossed it to the vampire who caught the blade with ease. “This is…pretty,” he uttered softly, admiring the dagger.
“Eloquent aren’t you?” I sighed. “Do not disappoint me, vampire. Just because one of your kind has remained elusive for so long, does not mean that you are so easily lost amongst these realms. I will have a few of my vassals join you, shortly. Now, leave.” I turned and began to walk back to my study. As I went, the vampire's praises floated around the concave, stone walls, echoing along my path.
I sat down at my desk and allowed my forehead to fall atop my opened book. A small sigh escaped me and I could not help a shudder that suddenly made its way through my form.
“Persephone…when will you appear? It has been hundreds of years and you still have not come. Where is your soul? Why does it not come back to me?” My voice whispers, barely audible above the crackling of my fireplace.
Another knock at my door. “Enter,” I say with a crisp tone. Hermes saunters in and collapses on a violet sofa that sits across the room, nearest the window. “I’m waiting for some gratitude,” he says with a wink in my direction. I simply narrowed my eyes. He laughs and leans forward. “In all seriousness, Hades. Why isn’t she here yet? Every other god that has died has appeared within a century or so. How long has it been now?” He sat back, patiently waiting for an answer.
He wasn’t going to get one. I didn’t have the answers. Many assumed I knew all of death, but it was far from the truth. There were some things that eluded even me. Like her. Suddenly, a thought gripped my soul and hope fleeted its way to the surface. The fates! I had not even thought of them. It's been eons since I last visited them, but they knew all. They might have some inclination to her whereabouts.
I stood and strode across my study to retrieve the scroll. I unfastened the string that held it together, unraveling the contents. Ink blotted letters split from their papyrus imprisonment and fell to the floor. They flailed slightly and then went still again.
“Moirai,” I said with determination. Hermes’ eyes went wide and he slowly stood up and walked closer to the window.
“I have never met the Fates and I continue to never wish to do so. I will take my leave. Have fun!” The window shuddered as he went through. Coward. I looked back over at the letters that had begun to froth and tremble as more erupted from the scroll. They rushed together and spun along the ground. Slowly, bare feet appeared. Then the hem of a powdery blue dress. Eventually, rounded grey eyes stared back at me.
“Which one is at the forefront?” I questioned the girl in front of me.
“We gave you this sacred scroll for when you happened upon lives of concern to us and lives that threatened the balance. Not to pull us from our duties when you feel lonely,” the child spat out.
“Ah, Atropos then. I simply-”
“We know not where she is. Now, we are busy. We have a thread that refuses to obey. We must see to this,” her curt words were harsh, despite her youthful pitch. I had suspected this answer.
“The powerful Fates are being troubled by a single human life?” I mocked immediately out of irritation. They had always looked down on everyone and made it wholly known.
“None of your concern, Zeus’ brother. This thread will be handled. This Sena has a troublesome future ahead of her. Many details to work through,” she spoke as she slowly melted back into droplets of ink, ensuring I could not ask any more of them. The letters wiggled along the floor and slipped back to the scroll, nestling into their papery home.
“I really detest them,” I grind out as I consider my next move.
I felt my whole body turn hot and tingles erupted over my neck and cheeks. Embarrassment bled out over my blurry eyes and shaking hands as I bent down to pick up the book. I had tried to place it back on the shelf and entirely missed the mark. The novel nicked the wooden shelf and slammed on the thin carpet floor.
Any possible way to make myself known in this world, I take it. All of the nerves I possess dread their existence the moment I leave my home for the stress I will undoubtedly be putting on them. Just as I am sliding the book back where I think I remember it belonging, I meet the eyes of a worker. And cue another shot of tingles and heat that rushes through my body.
I am never returning to this store ever again. Nope. Never. Nobody will ever see this clumsy face again. Goodbye Cruela street.
I wander the store for another five or so minutes to try and make my swift exit seem less apparent. I imagine no one truly noticed me, but my nerves took over and instructed my path to the car. There are half a dozen Sire Books in a rough 300-mile expanse. They just suddenly were around one day. Everybody behaved as if they had always been in the area but the actuality is that they just suddenly popped up one Saturday evening. I seemed to be the only one that questioned the appearance of these massive bookstores. Although, it did not last long as my love for books outweighed my curiosities about how they came to be. It is a good thing that there are so many of them anyway, I was running out of places where I could go. I already embarrassed myself out of 4 locations.
As I pass the doors to a breath of freedom, I hear an alarm suddenly start up. I plunge my hand into my purse and grab my keys. I fumble to quickly press the unlock button and the car quiets. Apparently, today is going to be one of those days.
I take a long breath and slump into my driver's seat. I pull the small sun shield down and prop open the mirror. My brows are furrowed and my brown eyes appear a little wider than normal. I take another breath and my face softens, slightly. I brush my fingers through my black waves of hair and try to lessen the frizz on top. After a few pats, I decided to just pin it up. I look at the thickened bun atop my head where wisps of hair cradle my warm complexion. Good enough.
I just wanted a book. Or five. That’s all. Why can’t one day go smoothly? Why can’t I just have a normal day where something goes right!? Just once. I look at my features again. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I wish I could see what I saw before. Why…I shake my head roughly and slap my hands on my steering wheel.
“Knock it off Sena, let’s just go. On to the next!” I breathe out and roll my windows down. The drive takes a little over an hour, but the feeling of going into a bookstore is like nothing else, so each minute is well worth the wait. This one sits on the side of a massive hill and there is a nestling of trees in the back that expand out further than I can see. Peaceful. I park and leave my car unlocked this time. I don’t need the alarm going off and being told about it over the intercom. That bookstore will never see my face again. Was that the third one or the second?
I walk in and the smell of mint hits my nose within seconds. The atmosphere here appears slightly more dim and calm. There are only a handful of customers walking around. I head to the fantasy section and do my best to keep away from shelves or people. Even the air seems cooler than in the other bookstores. I begin perusing and reading synopsis after synopsis. Gently picking up each book and settling it back down with as much grace as I could muster.
They have a massive collection of books! I love it here! Please don’t mess this one up Sena! I can feel my grin widening and I do my best to shove it down. If I am over here grinning all alone, I am going to look like a mad woman. I wander around for roughly two hours and decide that I have all that I want. I heave the four books that I picked out in my arms and head to the cashier.
The woman smiles warmly at me as I enter the queue. I take the smile as a sign to come up and place my books on the counter. Her loose curls bounce with each movement. “Did you find everything you were looking for? Or more?” Her voice comes out high and excited.
I chuckle my agreement enthusiastically. “I actually meant to only purchase two even though I set aside enough money for much more than that. I am under budget for once.”
She nods and responds within moments of my statement. “Oh! Well, you got all these fantasy novels so I would feel awful not telling you about our event today! In about twenty minutes we are actually just starting the first day of our new book club. I have the book here if you want to take a look. It’s on sale today to try and get more to join in. So far we only have team members.” She finishes ringing up the books I had brought to the counter. Her hand lay on my pile of books awaiting my answer.
“Oh uh…um. Well.” I stammer a very lengthy reply out. I always say no to things. I never involve myself in activities and stay as close to home as possible. Maybe I could just go this once. This is an opportunity to be part of something. He forced me into the shadows. I am so much more than a mere shadow.
“Okay!” She startles at my abrupt reply. Her mauve curls had to be moved out of the way, as they sprung from behind her ears. A rich umber-skinned hand shoved them aside as I continued. “I would love to be part of this event and I will go ahead and purchase the book. It’s on sale after all.” I finish with a bright smile. She hesitates for a small moment and then grabs the book and expresses her excitement about my decision.
Nearly 15 minutes later, I find myself in the back of the building on a beautiful patio area. The ashen marble encases several seating areas as well as a chess table. It all seemed luxurious against the forest backdrop. There was hardly a ray of sun coming through the trees as it was making a quick descent at this point. Only three other members, the cashier woman included, sat in metal chairs surrounding a crystal table. Everything out here seemed as if it was taken from a museum. I felt my cheeks heat every time anyone looked over at me and I kept a very shy smile plastered to my face trying to figure out if I should talk or not.
The cashier woman spoke suddenly. “All we are waiting for is Boss and then we can start.” She smiles at me and looks down at her phone.
Okay…maybe I can make some conversation here. Or introduce myself. I should say something. Right?
I go with the most simple question I could possibly think of. “Oh, Boss? Is your supervisor part of these events?”
One of the guys chuckled a little. He was incredibly tall and his features were lanky and reptilian. He could most likely wrap his entire self around the table as if it was Midgard and him, the protector. The only other person had very handsome features. They appeared average height with bright blonde hair gliding in wisps down to their ears. Their eyes were the most astonishing though. The silver was that of a bright winter storm that beckoned you to walk into the epicenter, so it could swallow you whole. I almost shivered looking into those eyes that were surrounded by a warm sandy complexion.
They responded “Actually, it is the one that owns all of the Sire Books. He shall be joining us this evening. This was all his idea.”
I froze for definitely too long to seem normal. The owner…of ALL the stores!? I am going to meet someone with that kind of status. What is he doing hanging out with strangers on a weekend!? My breaths began to come in a little faster and I looked down at my clothes. I had on oversized sweatpants and a small shirt that had random mythology names written across it in a teal overlay. My long black hair was pinned in a loose bun and I did not even don mascara.
And then he was here. Suddenly appearing from around the corner. He was quite above average height with an incredibly intimidating aura cascading around him. He is dressed in simple black jeans and a loose white button-up shirt. The sleeves were rolled up to show off an opulent watch and bracelet duo. He had rounded glasses against his warm copper skin. His hair was pinned in the back just as mine was and appeared to be the same shade of twilight.
My eyes meet his amber ones. He had stopped walking as I took him in. He seemed to be doing his own assessment. He only hesitated for a few mere moments and then continued towards us.
“I am so happy we have a real member that is not being paid to be here.” His voice is exactly what I would imagine Hades to sound like if he were real. A note of authority, mystery and a feeling like his voice came from the depths of another realm. “What is your name? Let us all introduce ourselves,” he enunciated each syllable in that deep tone. His eyes did not leave me as he spoke.
Silence spread throughout the cool evening. I guess they are waiting on me. Breathe Sena. “My name is Sena. This is actually my first time even here, at this store.”
The cashier woman spoke next. “I am Kithra. I’m actually pretty new, so we are in the same boat, Sena.” Her smile enhanced mine by several degrees.
And then the reptilian man went next. “The names Jud.” His voice even had a small tremble that reminded me of a hiss. He shook his brunette hair out of his eyes and smirked towards me.
Next up were stormy eyes. “You can call me Raye. I have been here since the beginning.” Raye spoke with a sharpness that did not quiver or denote timidity in the slightest.
I looked at who everyone called the Boss expectedly. He was still looking right at me. “Welcome, Sena. And thank you everyone for coming to my book club. In this setting, you may all address me as Evros. I am looking forward to our discussions, discoveries, and new adventures.” His lips curled into a smile, exposing an extended canine. He leaned back and pulled a book from his bag to set it on the table. I didn’t even notice he brought anything with him before it appeared and then disappeared in the next breath. Just as my nerves were screaming at me to leave, he spoke up. “Let us begin.”
What did I get myself into…