Authors: Jenna Bennett
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #General
Tall, Dark, and Divine
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Jenna Bennett. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
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Covet is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Liz Pelletier
Cover design by Heather Howland
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition July 2012
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Jell-O, Diet Coke, La-Z-Boy, Miss Universe, Coke, Kool-Aid.
Thunder boomed and lightning crackled across the sky. There was a moment of breathless silence, as if creation were gathering itself, and then the deluge started. Fat drops of rain hit the pavement like tiny bombs and exploded, and in a matter of seconds, the gutters ran high with water. The humans on their way home from work huddled under umbrellas and folded-up newspapers as they scurried past the windows of Made in Heaven matchmaking service, while Eros watched, grimly amused.
The god of love rather enjoyed seeing the mortals in his charge struggle with life’s little inconveniences.
He hadn’t always. Once upon a time, he’d been full of the milk of human kindness and had wanted nothing but good for everyone. Especially the mortals—poor, pitiful creatures with their weak bodies and finite lives. They deserved what little happiness they could grasp in the short time allotted to them.
But that was before the love of his life, beautiful Psyche, had called him a workaholic and run off with some overdeveloped Viking warrior with braids and more brawn than brains. Some Norse godling without a thought in his head except fighting all day and fucking all night and then getting up to do it all over again the next morning.
Ungrateful wench. And after everything Eros had done for her, too.
He lifted the bottle of ambrosia-laced wine and took a deep swallow as he watched a tall young man under an oversized umbrella hurry past the window.
Well, it would be the last time he made
mistake, anyway. Never again would he get emotionally involved with a human. It just wasn’t worth the trouble.
You spent years of time and effort pursuing them. You let work fall by the wayside, so people and animals didn’t fall in love, mate, or marry, while the earth grew dry underfoot. You braved the Underworld for them, you woke them from infernal sleep when they stupidly opened the box they were explicitly told not to, and you lowered yourself and went crawling to mighty Zeus himself to ask for help in making them immortal, just so you could keep them with you forever. And then, after just a few thousand years, this was how they repaid you. By whining that you worked too much and didn’t love them enough before they left you for someone else.
Mortals. Couldn’t live with them. Couldn’t—unfortunately—live without them.
On the opposite side of the street, a sweet-faced young woman came out of the door to the dog bakery and stepped into the rain. Within five seconds, her soft brown hair was sodden and clung to her head like seaweed, while the thin T-shirt molded to her breasts in a way that would have brought a mortal man to his knees.
Eros scowled. She was late today.
Had she come out a minute earlier, he could have made sure the man with the umbrella—Harry Mitchell from the accounting firm down the block—offered to protect her from the rain. Once Harry got a good look at that T-shirt, chances were Eros wouldn’t even have to intervene. Now there was nothing he could do, at least not without exerting effort or possibly setting down his glass of wine… Neither of which held the slightest appeal.
But Harry must have reached the subway stop on the corner by now, so Annie Landon was on her own. And he had missed another opportunity to make a match.
Eros took another swig of wine and turned from the window as the door to the outer office opened. A sleek brown head popped through and a perfect nose wrinkled in disapproval.
“Drinking again?” Ari said. “Do you really think this is the time and place to celebrate?”
Eros shrugged. “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”
Ariadne, office manager of Made in Heaven and the minor Cretan goddess of the labyrinth, was not amused. She opened the door all the way and stepped through, slender hands on her hips. “It’s five o’clock
. That’s not the point. I feel like every time I see you lately, you’ve got that bottle in your hand.”
“It’s usually a different bottle.”
For added measure, Eros lifted today’s bottle to his lips and drained it. When he lowered it, Ariadne was still there, but now she had closed the door to the outer office and was leaning against it.
“Don’t you think you should lay off the ambrosia, Ross? You don’t even use a glass anymore. Much more of this, and I may as well go to work for Dion.” Her voice was less disapproving and more concerned, at least.
“It’s human wine.” Eros crossed the room to drop the empty bottle in the recycling bin he had installed after his drinking reached Olympic levels, before planting his butt in his ergonomically correct chair. Live a few thousand years and you start to appreciate the little things. Ariadne stayed where she was, her back against the door. Eros continued. “It’s grape juice, basically. But if you want to join Dion and his band of drunks, I can’t stop you.”
He tilted the chair back and put his Italian-leather-shoe-clad feet on the desk. Ariadne’s eyes narrowed.
“You know I can’t. Dion and I don’t get along. And I like working for you. At least I like it when we actually
work. What I don’t like is watching you sit around the office all day, draining bottle after bottle of ambrosia. And don’t bother denying it, because I know you sneak it in there.”
Eros shrugged. So what if he did? Human wine didn’t affect him, so if he wanted to get a little groove on, he needed something stronger. And a few drops of ambrosia never hurt anyone. It wasn’t like he’d die of alcoholism, after all. He was a god. Immortal. Any liver damage he caused just righted itself overnight.
“That’s not the point,” Ariadne said again, and Eros realized he must have spoken the words out loud and didn’t even realize it. That wasn’t a good sign. “Ever since that tramp Psyche left you for what’s-his-name—”
“How could I forget? Erik and Psyche. Gods.” She shuddered. “Anyway, ever since she left, you’ve been moping around, drinking too much and hardly sticking your nose into anyone’s business. You do know that things are bad out there, don’t you? Divorce statistics on the rise, marriage stats plummeting, and the environment going to Hades in a hand basket? Floods, droughts, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions?”
Eros made a sound he thought she might take for confirmation. Sure, he’d known things were deteriorating. The sexual revolution and all that. But if the earth was starting to change, that wasn’t good. That hadn’t happened since he fell in love with Psyche and was too preoccupied to tend to business.
Ariadne continued, shaking her head in exasperation. “Silly mortals; they think it’s their fault. They’re making battery-operated cars and holding earth summits to try to reverse the damage. When what they should be doing is yelling for you.” She grinned.
“There’s a little more to it than that…” Eros tried, but he couldn’t help returning her smile. “What can I do for you, Ari? Time to leave for the day?”
Ariadne nodded. “A few of us are going out for drinks. I thought, if you’re going to drink anyway, you might want to join us.”
Eros tilted his head. “At Dionysius’s Bar?”
“For my sins,” Ariadne said.
“I thought you didn’t like Dion.”
“I don’t.” Her voice was dry. “Brita, on the other hand, likes him a lot. I think she’s considering bagging herself a god.”
More like shagging a god
, Eros thought, but he didn’t say it. What the Cretan goddess of hunting, Britomartis, did on her own time was none of his business. And he’d long ago given up on keeping Dion from sleeping around. He loved the guy—they went back millennia—but there was no denying the god of wine and debauchery was a dog. If Brita expected anything beyond a trip upstairs to Dion’s bachelor pad, she was bound for disappointment.
Still, it couldn’t hurt to keep an eye on things. There wasn’t much wine left upstairs anyway. He might as well stop by Dion’s with the girls and have a proper drink. In a glass. Get drunk with company instead of alone for a change. “Oh, all right. Fine. I’ll come.”
“I’ll wait for you. That way you won’t change your mind.” Ariadne made for the door. “I’ll let the others know to go ahead.”
Eros nodded. He waited until she’d gone into the reception area and closed the door behind her before he took his feet off the desk and headed for the adjacent bathroom. Being a Greek god was all well and good, but it didn’t mean he shouldn’t put his best foot forward when he went out.
It was hopeless.
Annie sat on the toilet seat and put her elbows on her thighs and her chin in her hands, staring morosely at the inside of the stall door. Lose Weight Effortlessly, one of the ads there said, accompanied by a picture of a woman in a bikini who didn’t have an ounce of fat on her and probably never had.
wouldn’t have a problem finding a man.
However, Annie didn’t look like a supermodel. Not tall enough, not thin enough, not beautiful enough.
Sure, she could stand to lose a few pounds. Maybe even more than a few. But there was nothing she could do about her height—it was what it was, a respectable five feet four inches—and trying to boost it with heels just made her feel—and possibly look—stupid.
Maybe that was the problem. The stupid heels.
She stuck out a foot, turning it from side to side.
look good—and considering the money she’d spent on them, they damn well should. They were made from patent leather, fire-engine red, with crazy high stiletto heels and a thick sole that gave her a total five extra inches of height. When she walked, her more than ample ass shimmied the way she’d been told a man would like. Her foot was bent at a hideously awkward angle, though, throwing all her weight—including those extra fifteen pounds—forward. Her toes were screaming at her, and by the time tonight was over, they would probably be permanently deformed.
Amazing, the lengths a woman would go to get a guy.
And it didn’t even work. She’d been here for thirty minutes, sitting at the bar with her fuck-me shoes on display, sucking in her stomach in the tight dress, and no one had even offered to buy her a drink. Nuts.
She wasn’t bad looking. At least no one had ever run screaming from the sight of her. Her hair was an average medium brown, and her face was pretty unremarkable, really. She had a nose, a mouth, and eyes—blue—in the usual proportions and places. Her nose was perhaps a bit on the small side compared to her mouth, but no one had ever complained before. Her shoes were hot, and her dress was black, which was supposed to be sexy, right? And the deep
neckline certainly did its best to emphasize her assets.
So what was the problem?
Why was it that in the past thirty minutes, no one but the bartender had flirted with her, and he flirted with anything in a skirt?
It was her first time here. This little hole-in-the-wall bar was only five or six blocks from her apartment, but she hadn’t ever really noticed it before. It wasn’t like she was in the habit of going out drinking alone, after all.
The door to the restroom opened, and for a moment Annie could hear the buzz of voices from the bar. Annie saw a flash of hot pink and a flash of dark blue move past the crack in the door and heard the clicking of heels on the concrete floor. The newcomers didn’t seem interested in the stalls. They made directly for the mirror above the sink, chattering animatedly.
“I can’t believe you actually got him here!” one woman said. She sounded like she might be the one in the hot pink. Annie imagined a Paris Hilton type busting out of a skimpy dress; someone who’d wear the kind of shoes Annie had on right now, but who knew how to walk in them.
“He needed to get out,” another voice said. It was crisp and precise, with a slightly indulgent undertone, and Annie imagined a cool brunette, maybe someone slightly older or at least a lot more self-possessed. The navy blue. She wore—Annie ducked down and snuck a quick peek under the stall door—black pumps. Not too pointy, nor too high. Perfect business attire. She’d probably come here straight from work. The pink was wearing sandals. Sky high and wrapped halfway up her calf.