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Tuesday, April 5, 2016
The Tenth Muse is now available to pre-order at Pride Publishing! You can order both the e-book and the paperback early, right here:
The Aphrodite Project is a brand new series at a brand new (to me) publisher! This series is a contemporary fantasy, where we follow the adventures of young Greek gods and Aphrodite's attempts to keep them from exposing the existence of the Pantheon to unsuspecting humans. This first case is all about her own son, Eros:
In a wicked game, the God of Love falls to his own arrow, and a gentle scholar learns how dangerous knowledge can be.
Aphrodite has had it.
It was bad enough that her son Eros walked a fashion show in drag, but did he really have to show the entire world his wings? Desperate to rein in the impulsive young god, she recruits the scholarly muse Rees to lure him back to Olympus until the scandal dies down.
After hundreds of years, Eros has finally located the reincarnation of his former love, Psyche. The only way to her heart is through fame, so the God of Love plans a daring campaign to win her back. Yet the closer he gets to Psyche, the more he’s drawn to a geeky young professor who came crashing into his life.
Eros drags Rees into his wicked world of high fashion and risqué parties, only to expose him to danger from an unexpected source. When Rees’ secrets come out, they threaten to destroy Eros’ love for him. Yet when Rees is kidnapped, Eros is forced to turn to the woman who set this catastrophe in motion—his mother, Aphrodite.
Reader Advisory: This book contains some scenes of kidnapping/captivity and graphic scenes of death and violence. This book also contains references to/discussions of rape.
“Oh, Eros…you fucking little son of a satyr…you’d better not—oh…ohhhh—”
Rees staggered back from the anachronistic machine on his studio workbench and pressed the heels of his hands over his eyes. He was firmly caught between swearing and laughing hysterically. Because what he’d just witnessed on the computer… He was grateful to be alone. It was bad. Very bad.
When Zeus finds out about this, lightning bolts will fly.
He shook his head in resignation and returned to the laptop his sister had brought him. He wasn’t sure what powered the thing, or by what magic it connected with the human world, but he’d fallen in love with the device on first sight.
But now he was cursing the screen. Because he didn’t want to witness Eros’ mind-bending, skull-crushing, cross-dressing misadventure. Still, he bit a knuckle, leaned closer to the monitor and almost stopped breathing. Rees had never met Eros in person, but was familiar enough with his image to know that the man moving down a long stage wearing nothing but women’s underwear was the darling son of Aphrodite, who just happened to be Rees’ mother’s closest friend.
It was like a train wreck, as the humans would say, and Rees couldn’t look away.
Eros sauntered, his body wrapped in a complex black corset, his privates barely hidden behind a filmy triangle of black silk. His muscular ass was bare and pale as that of a marble statue.
“Eros, I don’t know where in hell you’re hiding your balls, because they must be big as a Minotaur’s.” Rees felt heat in his face and knew he was blushing.
The camera cut tight to the god’s beautiful face. He looked wicked and sexy under a glistening mask of elaborate makeup. Bolts of silver and blue slashed across his face and down his neck. His long blond hair defied gravity, standing in a wild halo around his head.
His legs were buckled into black leather boots that rose to his thighs.
And he was wearing a bra.
Rees groaned again, chagrin mingling with reluctant arousal.
The air crackled with power as Rees’ sister entered the room. He didn’t turn to look at her, still mesmerized by the computer.
“By Hades’ whiskers…is that Eros?”
Rees nodded. “Yes. I think this is happening now.”
“Rees, that’s the Dark Angel’s live telecast. It’s one of the biggest fashion shows in the world!” Like his other eight sisters, Calliope spent most of her life walking among humans, whispering inspiration in the ears of artists, writers and musicians. She was frighteningly familiar with human culture.
“Do you suppose he hijacked that outfit from one of the girls? Because I know damned well that there’s never been a male Angel before.” She leaned down, looking closer at the screen.
As if in answer to her question, the camera panned back, showing a stunned audience and a parade of beauties who looked angry, resentful and outraged. In the audience, one particularly lovely woman was laughing helplessly.
“That’s Rosalinda, she’s one of the top models in the world. It’s nice to see her laughing.”
He kept an eye on the screen as he spoke to his sister. “Calliope, how likely is Ares to find out about this? Unless I’m way off, Eros is using his own wings. He’s just charmed the color to black.”
“Gods.” Calliope went sober. “When Ares gets hold of his son, he’ll make the maenads look like Orpheus’ maiden aunts.”
At the mention of the ill-fated god, Rees went breathless. He felt slightly sick. The brutal death of Orpheus was now a legend, one made resonant in its horror. The maenads were bad enough, but frighteningly, Ares was worse.
“Ares.” Rees shook his head. “He comes here sometimes, badgering warriors into rebirth. I’ve kicked him out more than once.”
“I don’t envy you.” Calliope gave a delicate shudder. “When he holds a grudge, he holds it close to his heart.”
On the screen, the shots faded to a scrolling list accompanied by music. Putting Ares from his mind, Rees studied the names, committing them to memory. Calliope reached around and closed the lid of the machine, and he glared at her. With a final glance at the computer, he followed her to the balcony that looked out over the streets below and leaned forward, resting on his elbows.
Strains of music rose on the sweet air, gently competing with the song of myriad birds as they flitted from tree to tree. Laughter echoed as the residents of the Elysian Fields wandered, serene in their eternal peace. There was no rebirth for Rees’ people, no more sadness and pain. They’d learned all they needed from their earthly lives and had chosen to drink the water of memory. They chose Paradise.
Everything was perfect here. Except when Ares came around to muck it all up.
Calliope tilted her head, peering at a handsome man below. “Is that Archilochus the Poet?”
“It is. I was pleased, though puzzled, that he opted to remain here.”
His sister laughed merrily. “Given that irreverent poem about abandoning his shield, I’m sure he still has Spartans after his head.” Her smile was slow to fade. Clearly she had a fondness for the poet.
“He does tend to stir strong emotion…even here.”
“That’s your kind way of saying that he pisses people off.” She squeezed his arm gently.
If there were reincarnated Spartans after Archilochus, he’d be fairly safe here, though he’d eventually become bored. Warriors and adventurers rarely chose the Elysian Fields. Hercules, Achilles and Jason had all chosen Hades and rebirth. Men and women of passion returned to their rocky human lives, leading Rees to one conclusion—life in Paradise was dull. He had no doubt Archilochus would eventually petition Hades for rebirth.
Rees looked down at the residents of heaven and had an epiphany—he did not belong in the Elysian Fields. Those men and women had struggled and fought for their peace. In all his existence, Rees had faced no decision more difficult than what shade of blue to paint the sky or which turn of phrase most perfectly described the serene beauty of Athena.
And he didn’t particularly like Athena.
He sighed heavily. What to do? He’d once approached his aunt Aphrodite about working on Earth with the hunters she employed. That hadn’t gone well. Aphrodite had politely considered his request then moved on to visit his mother, leaving Rees feeling rather silly. When she had men like Zagerus the Shadow working for her, what need had she for a second-rate muse?
Rees was an ornament. He was lovely to look at, gifted at entertaining and always said the right words at the right time. His skill with the sword and bow were flawless, though he’d never seen battle. His strategic abilities were legendary…in the chess circles. He knew nothing of the other world, yet he ached to learn, to prove himself.
Barely hearing his sister, he turned and stared behind him, into the rooms where he lived his endless life.
His studio was a vast, airy space peopled with exquisite statuary and colored with paintings and frescoes. Walls were lined with books ranging from truly ancient scrolls to the latest literary offerings from Earth. A large set of double doors opened into a small amphitheater where he lectured.
One wall held his most cherished possessions—a collection of ancient lutes, many too ancient and fragile to play. Not that he’d ever tried. When he held the lute, his usually skilled hands went numb and stupid.
“Calliope.” He took her hands in his and leaned in to kiss her soft cheek. Like all his sisters, she was beautiful. Exquisite. After all, the Muses were the inspiration for some of the greatest minds ever to have lived. Their faces graced paintings by great masters, their forms were immortalized in marble. Words describing their beauty danced through the years in verse and song.
He led her to a low chaise, and with a wave of his hand, a tall glass of wine appeared, its surface beaded with chill water. She took the glass and sipped, pleasure brightening her face. They sat quietly, for they’d existed so long in harmony that the siblings simply enjoyed each other’s company. He gazed at her in appreciation, taking in the soft golden curls nestling around her face and neck and the gentle brown eyes that were the mirror image of his own.
Those eyes were sad.
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