Death?Thanatos has walked the Earth for centuries. One woman stirs his passion and obsesses his immortal heart. Nyssa. Lifetime after lifetime he loses his love due to the vengefulness of fate. Sleep?Hypnos is Thanatos?s brother also loves Nyssa. Together they will battle time to unravel the fabric of fate in an attempt to give Nyssa one more lifetime and a chance to fulfill her destiny. ~~~Excerpt~~~Dressed in worn grey slacks and a black turtleneck sweater, Thanatos sat at a sticky wobbly table, watching and blending in with the shadows.
The god of death was quiet, doing his best to be as unworthy of notice as possible. The Queen of Hearts Bar and Grill bustled with joviality as the dozen or so patrons cheered and drank. There was some sporting event on the large television in the corner of the room and men shouted, made bets, and over indulged in the beer these modern Americans were so fond of drinking.
He looked at the top of his table; playing cards lay scattered, shellacked in a clear plastic on the surface. Everything in the bar had playing cards affixed to or painted onto it. A combination of red and white paint on the walls, and a playing card border, gave the place a cheerful feeling.
She seemed comfortable here in this rural tavern. He relished her casual teasing manner, watching her every movement. Thanatos hungered for the sight of her. The years of waiting had been sheer torment.
The mortals drank and gambled, casually enthusiastic in their vice. These men didn?t know it, but they were marked for a violent death. He couldn?t see one who?d die peacefully in bed after a long life. A moment of sympathy filled him. His sisters could be real bitches, and these men would eventually become their sustenance. He couldn?t see their deaths clearly, so he knew their fates had intertwined with the woman tending the bar, his woman.
?Hey sweetheart, sell me a pull tab. If I win, I?ll take you home tonight and rock your world. I love a girl with a nice round ass. What?cha say, baby?? A man in his fifties spoke loudly, drunk. He licked his lips. His lust emanated from him strongly. The drunken man?s desire, completely tainted with thoughts of pain and punishment, focused directed at Thanatos?s woman. Water-grey eyes traveled over her body with interest, but remained hard and cruel.
Thanatos?s hands balled up into fists. He held them under the table and took a deep breath, struggling against the urge to kill the foolish man. He felt his glamour waiver and refocused to hold the plain, inconspicuous form he used when he walked among mortals. If he became a muscular seven-foot-tall tattoo-covered god with wings and a bad attitude, these tavern goers would run away screaming. Or worse, snapping pictures with the camera phones they all carried. These times of instant communication made keeping secrets almost impossible.
?Thanks so much, Frank, but no thanks.? The woman tousled his hair as if he were a child.
A man relaxing at the bar burst out laughing. Another joined in, and soon they were all laughing themselves into tears, except Frank. Frank glared at her. She didn?t see the danger.
Thanatos?s hands bled as his nails dug into his palms, he?d clenched them so tightly. He fought his natural urge to protect her. Frank stood up so quickly his bar stool fell and slid across the room. He gave her the finger. She chuckled. The irate man looked at the surprised men who sat along the bar. They stopped laughing, watching his reaction.
?Fuck all of you assholes. No one laughs at me. She?s lucky anyone offered her fat ass a lay.? Frank stomped out, slamming the door open with the full force of his rage. The walls shook. A card shaped clock fell from a nail, clattering onto the grey floor. Everyone remained silent. The whole room was still except for the banging of the screen door outside as the energy dissipated from the forceful treatment it received. Then a skinny man sitting at the end of the bar started laughing again. A short chubby man stood, retrieved the stool and returned it to the bar. ?Hey don?t worry about him.? The speaker was tall and thin, dressed in worn dirty work clothes. ?Frank?s an asshole.? She smiled at the slurred words of comfort, unfazed.
?I own a bar. I?ve seen dogs with bigger bites than Frank. The next round is on the house.? A jubilant shout went up in unison from her clientele.
She was beautiful in a way that defied human eyes. Around thirty-six, her full figure and soft curves made him hard. Thanatos had never experienced her at such a mature age, it just made him even more desperate to relish every moment she had left. Long reddish brown hair this time, he liked it. He?d never been disappointed with her incarnation. Her eyes twinkled, so big and grey he could see the color clearly, even from across the room. Each time she looked so different, and yet the same. The last thirty years had been hell, pure complete hell. He?d tried so hard to stay away, break the cycle. Knowing she was out there in the mortal realm had burned in him like fire, eating him alive, torturing him.
She noticed him there, in the shadows. Frowning, she leaned over to whisper in the ear of the younger, shorter woman standing behind the bar with her. Both of them wore red t-shirts with the tavern logo and denim jeans. He could see Nyssa was the woman?s superior from the way she?d been instructing and directing the woman earlier. The woman moved to the end of the long ?L? shaped bar, retrieving a fresh beer for one of the thirsty patrons. His woman moved in his direction. He couldn?t breathe. The first meeting was always the hardest for him.
?Hi, what can I get you? I hope you haven?t been sitting long. I never saw you come in. Two for one tap beers during the game.? Her bright smile warmed him. He was always cold unless she was near.
I just want to touch her one more time. Just once and I?ll accept this. I?ll let her die this time. Thanatos felt desperate. He couldn?t speak. Emotion clogged his throat.
?Are you all right?? Her head tipped to the side a bit. A puzzled look crossed her face. She wrinkled her nose just a little, adorable.
?Yes, thank you. I?ll take a glass of red wine.? Her surprise made him realize his mistake. ?Forgive me. Give me a bottle of your darkest beer please.? One of her eyebrows shot up.
?Sure thing. There?s plenty of room at the bar, you can see the game better from there.? Curious and kind, her tone reminded him why he couldn?t get her out of his head. She was always in his heart, century upon century. Her t-shirt clung to her breasts. Thanatos tried not to stare, but her frown told him she?d noticed his eyes trained on her chest.
?Thank you.? He gave nothing away. He could see it irritated her as he watched her frown deepened. He knew her well enough to know how much she liked solving puzzles. She shrugged. He remained where he was. She was back with a bottle of beer very quickly. When she handed him the beverage their hands touched. He felt the electricity of the contact. She flinched and pulled back.
?Ouch, static can get bad in here during the fall, sorry. I haven?t seen you here before. Are you new to our fair city? We have happy hour specials every night of the week, and almost every Saturday night local bands come and play.?
He could feel her gaze on him. I can?t look her in the eyes. If I look, I won?t be able to stop myself from saving her. ?Thank you, just passing through.?
?Okay then, thanks for stopping in. I?m always happy to have a new face here. There?s still room at the bar.? He nodded without looking at her. His heart beat wildly in his chest. ?Are you sure you?re all right?? Her genuine concern touched him. There was something special about her. Magnetism pulled him to her. He couldn?t fight it. Thanatos wiped his hands on his thighs to keep himself from reaching for her.
?Yes. Thank you.? Her shadow left the table. He looked up, she was already back to the bar serving another customer. He gazed at her longingly.
If only they had more time?time was his enemy.
He was a king of hours, endless immortal time, but after loving her, he was a slave to her humanity. He?d never felt vulnerable before he?d fallen for her. She?d changed the universe. She made his existence worthwhile.
?Coward,? His brother?s voice startled him.
?Hello Hypnos, why are you here?? Thanatos kept his tone quiet and neutral.
?The question is why you have come, now, after all this time. You can?t do it, can you?? The accusatory tone set him on edge. He glanced over to where the other man sat. His lips thinned in disapproval.
?Leave. Now.? He didn?t need Hypnos?s taunting presence. Today would be difficult enough without his brother?s interference. Worse, he wasn?t even trying to hide his godhood.
Six-five and massive, his brother?s handsome face caused riots among mortal women more than once. The man hadn?t dressed to blend in. His black t-shirt stretched over his taunt body as if it would rip at any moment. He wore black leather pants, and thick silver chains on his wrists and neck. The tattoo of the moon on his right upper arm had the words sleep well written in Latin and permanently inked on his immortal body. Other symbols for sleep covered both of his forearms. Hypnos?s golden blond hair had been crew cut the last time he'd seen his brother, but now he wore it loose in a shaggy glorious golden mane. Riots?eesh!
They were twins, but not identical. Thanatos wore his raven black hair long, tied back in a ponytail. His face was always bearded, it grew too quickly for anything else. He didn?t have his brother?s strong jaw, green eyes, or straight nose. His eyes were black, the color of death. His color. He?d never been the handsome brother, but that hadn?t mattered to her. She?d always chosen him. Her eyes saw something in him no other had seen. She was the only person who?d ever made him feel like he was more than his duty, as if he could be part of life instead of destruction.
?You know as well as I that Atropos won?t give up until she?s permanently in Hades? realm. Her thread of fate and yours can?t intertwine. Why do you constantly try?? Hypnos?s weary tone irritated him. ?She should?ve been mine. If you?d let me have her she?d have been safe,? Hypnos spoke with unapologetic assurance.
?She hasn?t got a thread. This isn?t right, but if this is what must be to keep her from worse pain, it must be. I have to see it. I can?t let her die alone. I can?t imagine turning my back while our sisters feed on her corpse. I want to be there to guide her in peace, at least they?ll give me that, and you know they will.? He slammed his fist onto the table. ?I?m not the only one who?s played a part in this.?
?I love her too, but we have to accept this. It?s getting worse, if we don?t let it happen this time I refuse to think of what they?ll do next. Accept it.?
?Shall I accept it as you have? Never. I?ll let it happen, but I?ll never accept a world without her. I wish I were mortal so I could die with her.? Thanatos scowled at his twin. ?You?ve had years with her Hypnos, even if it was only in her dreams. You promised you?d stay away too, but I know you haven?t, I have my sources.?
?You know nothing of my work. Mortals die without dreams. How could I let that happen?? Hypnos crossed his arms over his chest and glared.
?Keep your voice down. The mortals are starting to notice,? Thanatos knew he was raising his voice.
?I don?t care if they know me. Let them tremble.? He knew they weren?t whispering anymore, and he no longer cared. He couldn?t help blaming his brother. He?d been the one to speak to Atropos; he should?ve kept her to the bargain.
?It is my birthright. I had to give her dreams.? When he gazed across the room, there was a look of profound sorrow on Hypnos?s face. Thanatos felt a moment of camaraderie in the pain they mutually endured. ?If you had to go to her every night would you have been able to leave her??
?You didn?t have to stay with her, every damn night. You could?ve just done your job and left.? He picked up the bottle of beer and took a deep drink. ?You know she?d never have allowed you liberties if she?d been able to choose.?
?Hi.? They?d been so engrossed in the argument they hadn?t noticed her return. ?I see you brought a friend with you, are you both ?just passing through?? I can?t believe I didn?t see either of you come in. So what language were you two just speaking? Sorry I?m nosey.? She smiled brightly. The hot look she gave his brother sent a red-hot shaft of jealousy into Thanatos?s heart.
?We were speaking English.? Thanatos lied.
?Wow first my eyes, now my ears, what?s next my memory? Sorry. So what can I get for you?? She flashed Hypnos another brilliant smile, her precious attention fixed on him.
Did she just bat her eyes? Gods I know that look, she?s hot for him.
Jealousy made his emotions almost impossible to control. Thanatos did all he could not to attack his brother, somehow he managed to stay calm.
?I?ll take the same drink you just served my brother.? He smiled back, almost flaunting his supernatural beauty.
How can he smile at her when he knows what?s about to happen?
?Great. Brothers traveling together, very cool, I?? Her voice trailed off as she looked at Thanatos. His eyes met hers, the very act he?d been trying desperately to avoid. ?Do I know you? Your eyes, they look?never mind. Sorry.? She blushed and fled.
?Damn it, Hypnos. I don?t want this to be any harder than it has to be, on her, on either of us. Now she?s upset.? Thanatos couldn?t look at his brother.
?Something you want to tell me?? Dammit. Thanatos glared at his brother. Hypnos just grinned, cocky as always.
?Don?t look at me like that. I have nothing to say.? Thanatos took another swig from the bottle.
Hypnos shrugged. ?Suit yourself.?
?What?s she called?? He couldn?t resist asking. Hypnos would know her name. He?d spent years in her dreams.
?Nyssa,? Hypnos?s voice held no emotion. He gazed at the wall.
Thanatos stared at his brother in disbelief. Blood dripped down his palm from the deep punctures his nails had left his hands due to the force of his clenched fist. ?You lie.?
Hypnos wore a faraway expression, wistful. His twin pulled himself from wherever his mind had been. ?Nyssa is her name now, just as it was. Fitting,?
?Nyssa,? Thanatos breathed the single word with reverence. As if he?d conjured her by saying the name, she appeared at the table with Hypnos?s beer. He noticed her hand shook a bit, as she set it down. She looked at them both for a moment, the color drained from her face.
?On the house,? she stated, then left without another word. She returned to her place behind the bar, but every now and again, she?d glance at their table and grew paler.
The door to the bar flew open with a loud bang. The conversation and laughter died as the men all turned to gaze at the newcomer. Frank stood in the doorway. The bright afternoon sun haloed him making it hard for the mortals to see, but Thanatos saw. He held a twenty-gauge shotgun in his hands.
Frank raised the gun and began shooting. The man who?d picked up the barstool was the first one to die. More shots rang out, more blood. Nyssa bled from a wound in her stomach. She crawled across the floor. A smear of red coated the grey floor behind her as her precious lifeblood left her body. Thanatos gripped the table so tightly his arms shook. He rose. His brother pulled him back down to his chair. He watched her suffering and it tore through him ripping apart his heart, making him crazed. ?I have to stop this.?
?No. If you try, you?ll only make it worse. They?re already here.? Thanatos looked where his brother pointed. Several dead men lay on the cold cement floor. Frank pulled a pistol out of his belt and fired more shots.
Six of their sisters, the Keres, Hovered over the bodies of the dead feasting, mortals couldn?t see, but the brothers did. Taina, one of the few he could actually stand to carry on a conversation with looked up at him. Blood covered her mouth. She smiled at him gruesomely. Then she returned to her grizzly meal. He?d come to keep them away from his woman?s soul. If anyone would be leading her to the underworld, it would be him. He couldn?t give her the peaceful death she deserved, but he could at least see she had as little trauma as possible after the fact.
Neither brother spoke as Frank continued to kill. He reloaded the shotgun. The petite young girl who?d been tending bar with Nyssa suddenly jumped up from a hiding place and made a dash for the phone. A blast rang out. She screamed. Thanatos watched her slide down the wall in a bloody smear, the phone still in her hand as she attempted to call for help. A middle-aged balding man tried to tackle the gunman. A shot to his face, at point blank range, stopped him from being a hero. He fell to the ground already dead.
Nyssa tried to crawl to where the brothers sat undisturbed. No one else in the bar could see them now, and yet she could. She held out a bloody hand towards them, trembling, looking for help. She?d always been more than mortal but even after all these lifetimes he had no idea what she really was or why she had no fate. He felt wild with rage. Her death shouldn?t be like this. That bitch Atropos always manipulated everything so she suffered, because of him. They?d had a deal that as long as he stayed away from her she could live out a mortal lifetime, undisturbed. The promise was that after a long life he?d be able to go to her and lead her to the underworld. This morning that small piece of solace tore away from him. He?d felt those around her had a change in fate which would lead to her imminent and violent demise.
?I?ll make this easier for her. Stay here and don?t do anything foolish.? Hypnos spoke authoritatively, and then he was gone.