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Persephone: Mythic Writing Contest Honorable Mention!

KM Herbeck’s story was an honorable mention for the short story contest “Persephone is a Badass!” The theme was about how Persephone is a badass, and KM’s story illustrates it well while also showing the archetype’s softer side. And while also including vampires. 🙂

Here are the first 1500 words! (There are about 4,900 words total, so it’s a quick read.)

*

Persephone

by

KM Herbeck

*

Persephone glared at the sliver of pale morning light cast across the dark wood floor. Dawn had come again to claim her from his embrace too soon. Morning was always bittersweet. She hated leaving the hushed darkness of this room where their scent stained the air. She hated leaving him. But she was made for the sunlight, and he for the darkness.

“Perhaps we could pluck the sun from the sky, create a world of perpetual night.” Hades said, as if reading her thoughts. The sound of his voice sent a delicious chill down her spine.

The ebony silk whispered as she turned to meet his dark gaze. “You forget. No sun, no flowers.” Persephone smiled playfully and coiled a tendril of his long, jet black hair around her finger. His hand reached up to press hers against his chest. There was no heartbeat beneath her palm. His chest did not rise and fall with breaths.

He’d long forgotten the mannerisms of the living.

“Of course,” he agreed sullenly.

Persephone smiled. She felt his eyes follow her from the bed and around the room as she collected her things and dressed. “Valentine’s Day is this weekend. Busy, busy,” she reminded him.

Her floral shop was a compromise long in the making. While Hades cared little about the world beyond the high, ivy-covered walls of his sprawling mansion, Persephone longed for the freedom of the living, the freedom of moving beneath the sun. Here in the macabre haven he’d created for his coven, she’d begun to feel imprisoned, stifled by the darkness, a stranger to things she couldn’t understand.

And so he’d funded the creation of her own flower shop where she put her passion and love to work, giving her a break from the Underworld where he was king, and she his queen. Each morning he handed her off to the day, and each evening she returned to let him taste the sunlight on her skin.

“I’m sending Cerberus with you today.” Hades held a hand up against Persephone’s immediate protest. “Until this business with the Hunters is under control, it’s best to be safe. Your being human won’t deter them from using you against me.”

Persephone cast him a fiery glare over her shoulder as she shimmied into her blue jeans. “I can handle myself against other humans.” She said tightly.

With a deftness that her human eyes could hardly perceive, Hades was standing before her, their bodies mere inches apart. His onyx gaze captured her pale blue eyes. “It is not your strength that I doubt. Or your determination. These monsters are ruthless. They wouldn’t spare you for your humanity because it has been tainted by me.”

Persephone shivered as Hades traced his knuckles down the bare flesh of her arm. “Persephone.” He whispered her name like an incantation, as if he were summoning his queen. Her body responded in an overwhelming wave of ecstasy. She was just as helpless against his touch now as she had been more than twelve years ago when his sudden presence had swallowed her life whole.

Hades’s lips descended on hers, ice against fire, death against life. His arms encircled her waist in a possessive embrace. She was crushed against him, lungs burning for air while her body burned for more. His fist knotted in her hair and drew her head back to expose the soft flesh of her neck.

“Hades, I have to go,” she gasped as his kisses trailed down across her collar bones. “Tonight, I promise.”

“Tonight is not soon enough,” he murmured against her skin.

She laughed and pushed him back with little enthusiasm before slinking away with a purposeful sway in her hips. She wanted nothing more than to crawl back into their nest of ebony silk and while away the day in his arms. But they had an eternity together. Though he’d vowed never to change her, she was kept alive and young by his blood. In small doses, his life force was a fountain of youth, a remedy to nearly every human ailment.

“You tease,” Hades said, eyes alight with hunger.

“Of course.” She slung her messenger bag across her chest and adjusted her blouse. “And please tell Cerberus to keep his distance. I don’t want him chasing away customers again.”

“As you wish.”

Persephone admired Hades from the doorway, her hand resting on the antique glass knob. He stood at the center of the room like an alabaster statue, wearing nothing but his skin and a longing expression. Loose coils of hair fell down around his shoulders to brush his chest. With her eyes she traced the line of his tapered brow, the softness of his cheekbones, and the sharp line of his jaw. He was beautiful and deadly. She never forgot the latter of the two. She’d been so frightened of him once. Frightened and equally enraptured.

“Back at dusk,” she promised.

“I’ll be waiting.”

“It’s going to be quite difficult keeping you safe from a broom closet,” Cerberus scolded. The passenger seat could hardly contain the huge bulge of muscle that was Hades’s right-hand man. The seatbelt strained across his barrel chest. His knees brushed the glove compartment even with the seat pushed back as far as possible, and his bulbous thighs pressed against the center console. He kept his pale brown hair cropped close to his scalp. His cobalt eyes scanned the traffic around them as if he expected a threat to spring up at any moment. Tension caused his mouth to form a tight line.

Cerberus was human like Persephone, but barely so. Like her, he used vampiric blood to prolong his life and youth, and for the added benefit of superhuman strength. Though he looked to be in his mid-thirties, it was impossible to say his exact age.

Persephone rolled her eyes. “It’s an office, not a broom closet. Plus, you’ll be able to watch all the security monitors from there. So you get to do your job, I get to do mine, and we’ll be out of each other’s way. Agreed?”

A low growl was Cerberus’s only response. Persephone couldn’t blame him. If anything happened to her, it would be his own ass to pay. Plus, for his size, her office was a broom closet.

A thick blanket of fog cast Los Angeles in a glow of mystery. Traffic was at a crawl as usual, and car horns blared their impatience. The sidewalks bustled with pedestrians. It would be a good day for business, Persephone thought with a satisfied smile as she pulled the car into her designated spot behind the shop.

Cerberus was out and waiting by the back door before Persephone had the keys out of the ignition. “Anxious to get into your broom closet?” she teased. She unlocked the back door and held it open for him to enter.

She savored the heavy perfume of flowers as she flipped on the lights and began to boot up her register. The system dinged with a fresh round of orders that were put in overnight; all requests for a bouquet of red roses. Persephone frowned. There were so many more ways to signify love than with red roses.

Two hours later, the fog had finally lifted. The sun beamed golden in the street outside. Sunset Boulevard brimmed with life. A steady stream of patrons came and went, and slowly the racks of Valentine’s gifts dwindled. Persephone was lost in the tendrils of wisteria and fuchsia, plucking wilted flowers and tossing them into a trash bin at her side when the bell above the front door chimed.

“Be with you in just a moment!” She called.

“No need,” a man’s voice said close at her side.

Persephone jumped. The trash bin clattered to the floor, spilling its contents across the tile. She spun toward the voice. The man towered above her, his hand resting on the metal frame holding the hanging flowers. His brown eyes were amused. A wicked grin twisted the corner of his thin lips.

“I already know what I’m looking for,” he said.

Persephone internally steadied herself and put on her best business smile. “Awesome. What can I get for you then?”

The man seemed to think about it for a moment. “Kora. I’m looking for Kora.”

Her heart seized in her chest. A cold sweat broke along her spine. She swallowed down the lump growing in her throat and forced her face to betray nothing of the panic slowly growing inside. “I’m sorry? I don’t believe we have that here.”

“Oh, I think you do. It’s such a beautiful flower. I can’t blame anyone who would want to pluck it from the ground at first sight, to hoard it for their own greed. It’s taken me a very long time to find this flower, and it’s just as I imagined.” He leaned in close. She could smell his breakfast on his lips. Bacon and eggs.

Her smile fell. Whoever this man was, he knew who she was, who she used to be. There was little point in putting on airs. She glared up at the man. “Who are you?”

His own grin widened with arrogance. “My name is Pirithous. I’ve come to take you home. I know that beast has kept you prisoner for more than a decade, but I don’t want you to be afraid. My partner and I are going to make sure he can never hurt you again.” If he was trying to sound soft and comforting, he failed.

*

Click here to continue reading.

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© Copyright 2016 by KM Herbeck.  All rights reserved.  No part of this work may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission of KM Herbeck.


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