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Ruled By Pain: Goddess Unveiled Book One by Sarah Bale (1)

1

AUBREY

The drumming in my head matched the bass booming throughout the club. Closing my eyes, I leaned against the bathroom stall. The dream I’d been having over the last few months was too intense, and my restless nights were catching up. I just needed a little nap…

Old Gods will weep as their Beloveds fade-

Blinking, I pushed my hair from my face. Where was I?

“Hey. Hurry up in there. I’m about to piss myself!”

When I opened the door, a woman pushed past me to go inside. My friend, Mikayla, leaned against the vanity, waiting for me. Her fingers moved furiously over the screen as she texted, her blue hair covering her face.

“Girl, I was getting worried about you. Did you pass out in there?” She didn’t even look up as she spoke.

I washed my hands and replied, “I must have.”

Squinting, I looked at my reflection and cringed. The purple marks under my eyes made me look so much older. Ugh. I hadn’t drunk that much. Again, it was that stupid dream I’d been having. It left me feeling like I was forgetting something big, but I had no idea what.

I’d wake up each morning thinking I was supposed to be doing something or looking for someone. The thought made my stomach tingle. Okay. That was a lie. The one thing I did remember was the sex in the dream. Hot orgies with three men who were built like freaking Gods. I’d woken myself up more than once orgasming in my sleep. And, as much as I hated to admit it, they were some of the most intense orgasms I’d ever had.

“Earth to Aubrey. Let’s go. Those hotties from earlier want to buy us a drink. I call dibs on the blonde, though. He’s too tasty for words.”

My stomach churned at the thought of another drink. I waved my hand.

“I’m going to head out.”

“Aubrey.” The way she whined my name made it sound like four syllables. “You can’t leave. You never come out with us.”

I replied, “Girl, I feel like I’m going to vomit.”

That did the trick and she stepped away from me.

“Okay. Text when you get home. We’ll plan dinner.”

We both knew it would be several more months before I came out again, but I nodded and waved as I left the bathroom.

The dance floor was thick with writhing bodies, something I had no desire to be part of. A man tried to pull me against him, running his hands under my too short dress. The alcohol on his breath made my stomach churn for real. I pushed him away and finally reached the door.

When I stepped outside, I closed my eyes and inhaled. Finally. Now I could go to my apartment and work on my painting. A much better use of my time than this little outing.

A valet attendant stopped me. “Ma’am, you sure you want to walk? There’s a storm coming this way.”

May storms in Austin weren’t uncommon. The air didn’t feel heavy with humidity, so I figured I’d be safe.

I answered, “I only live a few blocks over.”

More like eight, but he didn’t need to know this. I crossed the street just for good measure and began my trek home. I was buzzed enough that my senses were heightened as I walked. It was moments like these when I felt like I could feel him most of all. Of course, this also meant I could sense other ghosts and they could sense me. Something I didn’t like to encourage.

Ahead, there was a dark shadow against a wall. My skin prickled, but I felt cold at the same time. I didn’t want this ghost to notice me, so I crossed the street again and fell in step behind a group of college students. They were hyped up from finishing finals and their excitement was contagious. I thought about following them to their party when the hairs on the back of my neck stood.

Casually, I glanced over my shoulder. Several feet back was a tall man in a hooded cape. Though I couldn’t see his face I knew he watched me. I shivered and moved around the group of college students. One whistled after me, but I didn’t turn. I hurried along the sidewalk, weaving in and out of the crowds. My heels clicked on the ground and I stumbled before catching myself. My too short dress shifted, almost showing my goods to the streets of Austin.

I knew I shouldn’t have come out tonight, but my friends – mainly Mikayla - begged me to. Said I’d stood them up enough times this month. Maybe they were right. That wasn’t the point. The point was I’d made a huge mistake by coming out. I looked over my shoulder. The man in the cape was closer now. Fuck! I turned the corner and began to jog. He’d followed me too long for it to be coincidence. And my stupid ass had left my phone at home, so I couldn’t call anyone for help.

If I could just get to the all-night diner a few blocks over, I’d be safe…

Rain began to pour from the sky and I shivered as the cold drops drenched me, making my dress stick to my skin.

He’s getting closer.

I closed my eyes, shoving aside the burst of pain I felt right in my heart. I knew how much energy it took for Christian to reach out to me. My heart pounded at the warning and I knew he was right. Whoever followed me was getting closer. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled and I could feel darkness drawing near, begging me to give in.

The feeling was always the same. Warmth and cold warring, or maybe it was good and evil. Hell, I didn’t know. All I knew was I didn’t want to give in because I might go somewhere I couldn’t come back from.

Turning another corner, I saw the flashing neon lights in the window of the diner. I sprinted down the sidewalk. Thunder boomed, and footsteps pounded on the cement behind me. My pulse thudded what sounded like warning. Too close. Too close. Too close.

I pulled the door open and ran into the diner, almost slipping on the greasy checkered tiles. A waitress behind the counter raised an eyebrow, dropping her cell into her stained apron as I approached.

“You’re dripping water all over my clean floor.”

We both looked down at the yellowing tile that’d seen better days.

“There’s someone following me out there.”

I glanced out the window but couldn’t see anything as rain streamed down the glass. She looked, too, and shook her head, like I was crazy. But I wasn’t. I knew danger when I felt it.

“Shouldn’t be out on a night like this. Especially dressed like that.” She looked me up and down, a sneer on her mouth.

I wasn’t in the mood. “Is there a phone I can use?”

“Nope.”

“I just saw you with your cell.”

She gave me a look. “No public phones or restrooms.”

“But-”

“Are you going to get anything?”

I rubbed my temple. “A coffee, please.”

This woman was pissing me off but sitting in here with her was better than being out there with whoever was waiting. She poured me a cup in an old, yellow mug and slid it toward me. Grounds floated on the top and I caught a whiff of something soured. Gross.

“Three dollars.”

I glared and threw down a few bills. She tucked them into her pocket and I was certain she wasn’t going to put it into the register at the counter.

I grabbed my mug and sat at a table by the window. The rain was letting up and I didn’t see anyone on the streets. Maybe I’d been wrong. Maybe the man hadn’t been following me. I’d had a few drinks. It could have been enough to make me jittery. Right?

A door closed from the back of the diner and the waitress tittered.

“There you are, handsome. I thought you snuck out on me.”

I glanced over my shoulder to see who she was talking to. And then I froze. The man standing at the counter had to be the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen in my life. His bronzed skin was more than store bought, based on the hours I’d spent working at Tanz-R-Us a few summers ago. His hair was so black that it had hints of blue in it as well as streaks of grey. Through his beard perfectly bowed lips lifted in a half smile that made the waitress literally sigh out loud.

“Sorry. I needed a smoke.” His voice was liquid sex, all velvety and smooth.

“In this weather? You’ll catch a cold out there.”

Gee, where was all that motherly concern when I came in?

She batted her eyelashes. “Do you want another cup of coffee?”

“No, I need to be going.”

He reached for his wallet, but she waved her hand at him.

“No, sir. This one’s on me.”

“Thank you.”

He turned, and I finally got to see his eyes. Holy shit. Aquamarine jewels stared back at me in surprise. My mouth opened, and I stood, as if compelled. He crossed the room until he was right in front of me. Good lord, he towered over me.

I shivered at his nearness and ached to run my fingers through his hair.

“Who are you?”

His deep voice made my stomach quiver.

“I- I-”

I couldn’t remember my own name!

He leaned in and I swear my skin singed at the nearness.

“I don’t have time for games, little girl.”

Okay - apparently whatever I was feeling wasn’t mutual. Talk about a buzz kill.

“I-”

He cursed and turned away, heading toward the door.

“Wait!” I blurted out.

He turned, arms crossed. I felt like I was being engulfed by flames as I stared at him. And then something glimmered from his chest. It gleamed in the light as it took form until it was a black thread. Slowly, it weaved through the air coming right for me. I wanted to run, but I was frozen in place. Right before the thread touched me I felt sunlight kissing my skin.

And then there was pain – so much pain. I gasped, leaning forward. His face contorted, too, and he moaned.

“No. Not this.”

Suddenly, the thread vanished, and we were left staring at each other.

“What just happened?”

His eyes narrowed. “Nothing.”

And then he was gone.

My legs gave out and I sat in the chair. Holy crap. How much had I drunk at the club? That was the only explanation…

The waitress came over. “I’m about to close up for the night. There’s a gas leak down the street.”

She acted like nothing had happened. Like a string hadn’t just come out of the chest of the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen in my life and entered mine.

She cleared her throat and tapped her foot. Right. What did she just say?

“Gas leak?”

She pointed. “There’s a bus stop across the street.”

I shook my head. “I’ll walk.”

My legs quaked as I stepped outside. The rain stopped, leaving the city smelling like a wet dog, but I barely noticed. I took a single step and a cab pulled over without being waved down, which was a miracle in itself.

“Need a ride?”

I nodded and climbed in, spouting off my address. The further I got away from the diner the better I felt. Like a weight lifted from my shoulders.

I yawned, and the driver laughed, glancing at me in the mirror.

“Long night?”

I nodded. “It’s been strange.”

“Storms tend to do that.” He pulled up to my apartment building. “Have a good night.”

I slid off the seat. My eyes were burning, and I could barely keep them open as I climbed the flight of stairs. I swear, my bed was calling to me as I entered the front door. Stumbling down the hallway, I face planted into my bed as sleep took over.

* * *

HADES

The rain stopped falling as I returned home. Home. What a fucking joke. This place was anything but.

Vedah waited for me in the hallway and my heart quickened.

“What is it?”

“She’s worse, my Lord.”

The ground trembled as I ran. I took the stair two at a time to my beloved’s chamber where she floated, suspended in air, as she’d been for months. But now tears streamed down her face. I brushed her cheeks, my own eyes watering at her suffering.

Vedah said, “She’s not going to get any better. And the longer you drag this out the worse you make it for her.”

I didn’t turn. “You were not asked to follow.”

Vedah came further into the room. “Are you listening to me? You are causing her pain. If you love her-”

“How dare you question my love for her! Get the fuck out of here.”

Vedah stood on the other side of my beloved, shaking her head. “You’re a dick, you know that?”

I swear, if anyone else had said that to me I would kill them. But she was the one person I couldn’t touch. Not without consequences that couldn’t be undone. The Fates certainly had shown their sense of humor when they assigned Oracles to the three realms because Vedah had been a pain in my ass for a very long time.

She sighed and left the room. When she was gone, I took my beloved’s hand into mine. Cold. As death.

No!

I turned from her and left, going deeper into the palace to my own quarters. She’d never liked my rooms, saying they were too depressing and dreary. But what did she expect? She was light, and I was dark. Where she brought joy, I created pain.

I sat in the black iron chair next to my bed, rubbing my temples. I shouldn’t have gone out tonight, but I needed to get away. Since my brothers didn’t seem to mind when I went above ground anymore, I’d went to the first place that showed up in my mind. An odd place, that diner. The food was horrible and the coffee even worse.

But then that woman had shown up in that silver dress clinging to her body. Her dark hair fell down her back in waves, begging me to grasp it while I fucked her.

Warmth spread across my stomach, but I would not give in.

Standing, I paced in front of the fireplace. Years of doing just this had made the stone flooring smooth and slick. My shoes barely even made a sound as I walked.

Vedah warned me this would happen. Said I couldn’t fight it. But she was wrong. And that woman at the diner meant nothing to me. Not when my beloved was still here.

I paced until my mind went blank. Finally.

I stripped down and climbed into bed, giving in to sleep. Here, I still had my beloved and nothing else mattered.

* * *

I walked down a hallway in my palace, drawn to her rooms. I’d never been able to stay away. When I entered, she wasn’t there, but water ran in the bath chamber. She loved her bubble baths that left her skin smelling like sweet flowers. My gut quaked. Was that right?

Shaking my head, I walked into the connecting room. She stood behind the privacy screen, her silhouette making me hard. Her arms were raised as she removed her gown, giving me a naughty peek of curves. The gown was tossed over the screen and she hummed to herself. An odd song, one I’d never heard before.

The water splashed as she stepped in, still out of my sight. She swam to the deep end of her bath and I wished I was in the water with her.

I moved closer, drawn to her. “My love?”

She paused. “Who’s there?”

“Very funny. Come where I can see you, so I can help you bathe.”

She was still and then, did as I said. But it wasn’t my beloved. It was the woman from the diner, naked as the day she was born. My cock strained to be released from my silly pants. Mortal clothing was one thing I’d never understood over the years.

She licked her lips and swam toward me, like a siren luring me to my death. And then she rose from the water, reminding me of a different goddess. A bead of water ran down her neck and landed on the rosy peak of her breast. I stared at it, mesmerized.

“Please.”

I glanced up and found her watching me, heat in her eyes.

“Yes?”

“Please lick it off.”

I groaned. “As you wish.”

I kissed the base of her neck where her pulse pounded wildly and then moved lower. Her skin was so tan and warm against my lips. I reached her breasts and looked up.

“Here, my little flower?”

The term left my lips like it was meant to be. She flushed and nodded. I licked the round mound. She tasted like honeysuckle. I knew she craved more, so I latched onto her nipple and sucked. She moaned and urged me on.

“Oh god, I’m going to come.”

I pulled back. “Now that just won’t do.”

She blinked, eyes full of passion. “Why not?”

“Because we should both feel pleasure together.”

Her eyes went to my bulge, which was getting painful.

“Oh, yes. Yes!”

She reached out, hands shaking, and unzipped my pants. Her touch was like fire on my skin and I loved it. I scooped her up in my arms and carried her to her room, placing her on the bed.

“I’m going to fuck you properly,” I said, taking my pants off.

She stared at my body, her nipples hardening into round marbles.

I stroked myself. “Does my little flower like what she sees?”

She nodded. “You’re perfect. And mine.”

It was true. I was hers.

She laid back on the mattress, beckoning me. I wanted to get to know every inch of her body, but she shook her head.

“Not now, my dark Lord. Tonight, I just want to feel you deep inside me.”

My cock twitched, agreeing. I moved over her and entered her in a single thrust. We both sighed. She caressed my cheek as I moved in and out of her body, worshiping her. She cried out as she shattered around me and I was right behind her. Damn. I hadn’t felt anything like that in a long time-

I jerked awake, shaking with the intensity from my dream. No, that hadn’t been just a dream. It was more than that. Somewhere in my palace, the woman from the diner slept. I knew this because I felt the string that bound us together urging me to find her. If I ignored it, I had no doubt that my feet would take me to her whether I wanted to or not.

I left my bed and jumped in the pool in the corner of my room. The icy water made my teeth chatter and forced my cock to retreat to its normal size. When I felt more in control, I stepped from the water.

It was time to find her.