Authors: Rosanna Leo
Copyright ©2012 by Rosanna Leo
First published in 2012
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Published by Liquid Silver Books, Imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana. Copyright 2008, Mara Lee. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the authors.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Conservator Maia Douglas is an expert on ancient Greece and its mythology. She would never tell anyone at the museum where she works, but she's always had a secret crush on the mythical Eryx, Greek god of love. There is nothing she loves more than to tend to her favorite statue of him, and her nighttime dreams are filled with luscious images of Eryx making love to her.
One day, the peace at Maia's beloved museum is shattered when a new director arrives. A man who looks exactly like her image of Eryx. As Maia watches, he manages to upset her ordered museum world, at the same time he inflames her with unwanted desire.
Maia does not know that her new boss is actually the god Eryx, disguised as a mortal so he may work in antiquities. Although he is the god of love, he has forsaken his sexual nature because of a curse that has killed any woman he's dared to love. Though he fights it, Eryx is drawn to Maia with a force he's never experienced in a thousand years. But can he convince her of his true identity? And can he protect her from a vengeful goddess who seeks her destruction?
For Doug, with all my love
Mt. Olympus Present Day
"I wanna play with some mortals. Female mortals."
Eryx, son of Aphrodite, looked up from the neat stack of papers on his Chippendale desk. He frowned at the intruder, his cousin Dionysus. “Don't you ever knock?"
Dionysus, beautiful in his smugness, merely shrugged. “You're the only god I know who keeps an office. No one else has a door.” He plunked his big frame down in the Herman Miller chair in front of Eryx's desk. “I'm bored."
"You're always bored.” Eryx's blond brows met in a frown as he returned his gaze to his papers. “So why are you here?"
"Because I want you to come with me."
"Oh, come on, Eryx. I hear there's a new club open on the Vegas strip. Topless waitresses."
Eryx spared him a glance. “Seriously? You've seen and done it all before. You can't tell me you're intrigued by the idea of topless waitresses."
Dionysus squirmed a little under his cousin's harsh gaze. “I know. I'm predictable. But it's been ages since we've had any fun together."
"There's a reason for that.” Regret darkened Eryx's green eyes. “You and I and waitresses and wine ... we don't mix well.” He sighed and returned his attention to his papers.
The god of wine arched a perfect dark brow. “We mix very well. The difference between you and me is that I don't beat myself up with guilt every time I break some mortal's heart. There was a time when you didn't either."
Eryx jotted several names into a notebook, and then looked up, as stern as a Catholic school religious studies teacher. “Dionysus, don't you understand by now? I can't. Someone will get hurt."
"If you're worried about..."
"No. Don't even say her name out loud.” Eryx huffed. “I've been able to stay under her radar for the last few decades. I'd like to keep it that way."
"What are you worried about? She'd never do anything to hurt her beloved Eryx!"
"It's not me I worry about."
Dionysus crinkled his nose, so straight and perfect it should be on a statue. “You know, cousin, this goddamn noble routine is getting pretty tired."
"What about you?” Eryx rolled his bright eyes. “There has to be more to life, even this life, than carousing with loose women and getting drunk all the time. It's gotten old."
"So instead of bonding with your cousin, who happens to know where all the best orgies are, you prefer to sit here alone and shuffle papers."
"I'm not just shuffling papers."
"Oh, right.” Dionysus smirked. “I forgot. You shuffle people."
Eryx just stared at his cousin, knowing he was wasting his breath. How could he ever make the god of lusty alcoholism comprehend that his work fulfilled him? As much as anything could fulfill him.
In a quest to make a difference, as much as to keep busy, Eryx worked in antiquities. For hundreds of years, he had been descending to earth in the guise of various antiquities experts. Depending on his mood, he might be a famous archaeologist or a professor or a writer. His favorite venture was to take on the role of a museum curator or director. In this capacity, he could bring his firm hand to museums around the world, ensuring the mortals were doing justice to ancient Greece and its treasures. Nothing gave him more pleasure than to swoop down on an unsuspecting museum staff to see who was doing his job properly. Shake them up a little. Maybe even downsize the ones who were dead weight.
There was only one thing which gave him more pleasure, but he couldn't go there.
He put down his pen and sighed, trying to return to a less sexual train of thought. “Doesn't it bother you that the mortals have forgotten us? We used to be great. We used to be able to influence the outcome of wars. Now, we're just ... myth."
Dionysus picked at the lapel of his Armani suit and shrugged. “It's not so bad. They may not believe in us, but we still retain our powers."
"Parlor tricks, nothing more."
"Well, I like my parlor tricks.” Like a magician at a child's birthday party, he swirled his finger dramatically through the air and a tall glass of red wine materialized in his hand. He took a sip and smiled at Eryx, waving the glass under his nose. “Don't suppose you'd like some? After all, you're Aphrodite's son. You are the god of love. You're supposed to have
Eryx pushed the glass away. “You may not believe in what I do, but at least my work ensures the world of ancient Greece lives on. We ought to be remembered in some way."
"Whatever.” He narrowed his dark eyes at Eryx and took another large swig. “But don't flatter yourself I don't know the truth."
"You work like a fiend so you won't be tempted by women. Tempted by lust. You're just on a misguided quest to save them all. But you won't. Eventually, you'll crack."
"I can't afford to crack."
Dionysus leaned forward in his chair, his gaze calculating. “How long has it been since you had a woman? How long, Eryx, since you spread a plump pair of legs and...?"
Eryx's green eyes flashed in warning. “Don't go there. You, of all people, should know better."
His cousin sighed and pushed himself away from the desk. “Fine, fine. And to think the god of love was forever changed because of a few lost souls. Well, I'll be on my way, then. No wingman for me tonight.” He stood, and then inclined his head toward Eryx's paperwork. “What is your current project anyway?"
Eryx peered back at him, gauging his level of interest. Should he even tell Dionysus? His cousin lived to get him into trouble. Still, each new project filled him with excitement, and he really had no one to share it with. The other gods couldn't care less. His mother, the goddess of love, was too busy being, well, herself, to get involved in her son's projects. As for his father... He was too busy playing soldier.
And it's wasn't as if he had friends the way mortals did.
Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to just give Dionysus a high-level overview. Of all his cousins, he was closest to Dionysus. Even if his influence could be described as debauched on the best of days.
Eryx concentrated on the papers on his desk. He then passed his hand over them. Immediately, a mist formed a few inches above the papers. Within seconds, the mist separated and a tiny 3-D image appeared from it. The image of a museum. “This is the Toronto Museum. They're in the midst of renovating. They have an extensive, important Greek collection. I thought they could use some help."
"Toronto, eh? Sounds cold.” An involuntary shiver passed through Dionysus.
"It's summer, dumbass."
"I'll still be warmer in the arms of my topless waitress. Or five.” Dionysus smiled his most beguiling smile, the one with which he had charmed the pants off mortal women for centuries. And then he disappeared.
Eryx had already forgotten his capricious cousin. He ran a hand through his wavy blond hair and gazed upon the little image of the museum in Toronto.
museum. He'd make it his. And by the time he was done, they'd be very thankful for his guidance.
He indulged himself in a tiny smile, his full lips tightening into the merest of tight grins, and went back to work.
Toronto, Present Day
Maia Douglas woke with a start. She looked around, disoriented. Then she remembered. She'd only put her head down on her desk for a minute. Her brown eyes bleary, she peered toward the clock on her office wall. Seven o'clock. “Dammit. Naps at work. Bad idea."
It may have been after hours and the last tourist may have already been long gone, but she knew she was playing a dangerous game. One of these nights, she'd sleep right through and wouldn't get her work done.
It was her fault for insisting on working late. She could work during the day like a normal person, but she loved the tranquility of the museum at night. Besides, she hadn't been sleeping well lately anyway. Might as well work through the night.
She rubbed her eyes and gathered her wits. She took a sip of her cold coffee and stared at the wet spot on her blotter where she'd dribbled a little. “Ugh. Real dainty, Douglas."
She pushed away from her desk. As foggy as she was, she knew it was the perfect time to do her preliminary inspection. She hated doing her work when people were milling about anyway. She gathered up her collapsible stool, a notebook, and her Holly Hobby satchel, the one containing her pencils and various tools of the trade. Thus armed, she stumbled out of her office.
Maia looked around the conservation office. All the other conservators were already gone for the day. No surprise there. She was the only one who kept such ungodly hours.
Taking the stairs up to the fifth floor, she made her way to the new Gallery of Greece. This part of the museum wasn't open to the public yet, and the entrance was still shrouded by opaque drop cloths. She knew it wouldn't open officially until it passed muster with the new director.
His Lordship was due any minute, and everyone at the Toronto Museum was nervous. There was a reason for it. Eric Lord's reputation preceded him. He was from a family of museum experts, although she'd never met him in her travels. She'd read articles by his grandfather—another Eric Lord—when she was a student, and had been impressed with his keen insight into the ways of ancient Greece. But the current Eric Lord was known the world over for his slash-and-burn style of museum administration. She'd heard he was a downsizer, a ruthless one. Why, last year he'd eliminated a whole department at one museum in New York for their so-called inefficiencies.
Maia sniffed. “Well, Eric Lord's not the only museum royalty around here. And no one knows this place like I do."
Maia's father, Dr. Jim Douglas, was the famed archaeologist whose work formed the basis of the Toronto Museum's Greek collection. Maia had basically grown up within its walls. So if Eric Lord was planning a cull in Toronto, he'd be a fool to get rid of her.
Pushing aside the cloths at the entrance, she entered the Gallery of Greece. One of the cleaners was just finishing up in the gallery. She made sure to sashay around the trail from his wet mop. “Hey, Wally. How's business?"