A Touch of Malice (Hades & Persephone #3) - Scarlett St. Clair
“Changes of shape, new forms, are the theme which my spirit impels me now to recite. Inspire me, O gods, and spin me a thread from the world’s beginning down to my own lifetime…”
– OVID’S METAMORPHOSES
CHAPTER I – A TOUCH OF TORMENT
Rough hands parted her legs and skimmed up her thighs, lips followed—a light pressure gliding across her skin. Half-asleep, Persephone arched against the touch, restraints biting into her wrists and ankles. Confused, she tugged on them in an attempt to free her hands and feet but found the bindings would not give. There was something about this, the inability to move, to resist, to fight, that made her heart race and the blood pulse into her throat and head.
“So beautiful.” The words were a whisper against her skin and Persephone froze.
She knew that voice.
She’d once considered its owner a friend and now he was an enemy.
His name slipped from between her teeth—laced with rage and fear and disgust. He was the demi-god who had stalked and kidnapped her from the Acropolis.
“Shh,” he whispered, his tongue, wet and cold, slithered against her skin.
A cry tore from her throat. She pressed her thighs together, twisting against the foreign touch ghosting across her skin.
“Tell me what he does that you like,” he whispered, sticky breath bathing her ear, hand skating closer to her center. “I can do better.”
Persephone’s eyes flew open as she sat up, inhaling sharply. Her chest ached and her breathing was ragged, as if she’d just run across the Underworld with a wraith on her heels. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, to realize she was in Hades’ bed, silk sheets clinging to her dampened skin, fire blazing orange in the hearth opposite them, and beside her was the God of the Dead himself, his energy, dark and electric, charging the air, making it heavy and tangible.
“Are you well?” Hades asked.
His voice was clear, quiet—a soothing tonic she wanted to consume. She looked at him. He rested on his side; his exposed skin burnished by the firelight. His eyes glittered black, dark hair spilling over the sheets like waves in a starless sea. Hours ago, she had clutched it between her fingers as she rode him long and slow and breathless.
She swallowed; her tongue felt swollen.
This was not the first time she’d had this nightmare, nor was it the first time she’d woken to find Hades watching.
“You haven’t slept,” she said.
“No,” He replied, and rose beside her, lifting his hand to brush her cheek. His touch sent a shiver down her spine, straight to her soul. “Tell me.”
When he spoke, it was as if his voice were magic, a spell that coaxed words from her mouth even when they seized in her throat.
“I dreamed of Pirithous again.”
Hades’ hand fell from her cheek and Persephone recognized the expression on his face, the violence in his endless eyes. She felt guilty, having unearthed a part of him that he worked so hard to control.
Pirithous haunted Hades just as much as he haunted her.
“He harms you, even in your sleep,” Hades frowned. “I failed you that day.”
“How could you have known he would take me?”
“I should have known.”
It wasn’t possible, of course, though Hades had argued that was why he had assigned Zofie as her protector, but the Aegis had been patrolling the exterior of the Acropolis during the abduction. She had also not noticed anything out of the ordinary because Pirithous’ exit had been through an underground tunnel.
Persephone shivered, thinking of how she’d thoughtlessly accepted the demi-god’s help to escape the Acropolis, all the while he’d been planning her abduction.
She would never trust blindly again.
“You are not all seeing, Hades,” Persephone attempted to soothe.
In the days following her rescue from Pirithous’ home, Hades had been in a dark mood, which had culminated in his attempt to punish Zofie by relieving her of her Aegis duties—a move Persephone had halted.
Still, even after Persephone had rejected Hades’ decree, the Amazon had argued with her.
This is my shame to carry.
The Aegis’s words had frustrated Persephone.
There is no shame. You were doing your job. You seem to think your role as my Aegis is up for discussion. It isn’t.
Zofie’s eyes had gone wide as she looked from her to Hades, uncertain, before she relented, bowing deep.
As you wish, my lady.
After, she’d turned to Hades. I expect to be informed before you attempt to dismiss anyone under my care.
Hades’ brows rose, his lips twitched, and he countered. I hired her.
I’m glad you