"Congratulations!" he said.
The Dark King's eyes moved to the ample woman behind him.
"This is my mate, Lynn," Talon said.
"Nice to meet you," Taylor said.
They exchanged pleasantries, then continued on. King Eros was waiting for them toward the back of the room. The crowd sensed the tension in the air and everyone's voice dropped as the two men faced each other for the first time in years.
"Hades," Eros said.
"Eros," Hades replied.
"Is this the female, who missed our appointment today?" Eros asked.
Hades grasped Taylor possessively. "No, this is my Queen."
"Oh for goodness sake." A dark-haired woman broke away from a nearby group and approached. "Kiss and make up already," she said.
Hades looked horrified by the suggestion. Taylor would've laughed, but she didn't think that he'd appreciate it.
"I'm Rachel," the woman said and hugged her.
"Taylor," she said, hugging her back.
"This is my husband, Eros," Rachel said. "He doesn't normally have such a stick up his b.u.t.t."
Taylor cracked up. "I wish I could say the same."
Hades gave her a warning glare.
"Men." Rachel rolled her eyes. "Did you get cake?"
"No, I haven't seen any food," Taylor said. "But I am starving."
Rachel squeezed her one last time, then released her. "Well we need to fix that." She led Taylor over to a table that she was surprised hadn't collapsed under the weight of the feast.
"The orange colored ones taste like chocolate. Trust me, you'll love them. How are you enjoying the Christmas party?"
Taylor ran her hand over her arms. "It's lovely."
Rachel smiled knowingly. "I'm not great with crowds either, but you do get used to it. So tell me all about yourself."
"Don't worry, I've heard it all. And seen it all since I arrived here." Rachel pressed her hand.
Taylor felt herself relax. Soon she was spilling her life story. She'd looked at Rachel a time or two expecting to see revulsion or at the very least judgment, but there'd been none. Rachel simply stood there and listened to her. Really listened. In that moment, they became fast friends.
By the time they returned to Hades and Eros, the men were laughing and exchanging war stories. Taylor had eaten until she was ready to burst and now she was tired. She looked at the Dark King.
Without a word, he reached for her. "We will hammer out the details of the treaty in the coming weeks."
King Eros nodded. "It shouldn't take long. After all, our fathers were able to work together peacefully for centuries. Why should we be any different?"
Taylor promised to visit Rachel soon. It felt good to have a friend on the planet.
They found Tabby and Linx long enough to let them know that they were heading back. Her sister had begged them to stay, but Taylor knew where she belonged. Hades escorted her out of the Atlantean Palace.
"I'm sorry, but between the crowd and the food I am beat," Taylor said.
"Do not apologize," Hades said. "I was looking for an excuse to go." His smile faded when they reached the top of the stairs. "Are you sure you want to leave?"
Hades shook his head. "The Keep is not nearly as grand as this place. It never will be." He looked around. "And your sister is here."
Taylor pulled away from him. "Are you trying to get rid of me again?"
He snorted. "Why would I do that, when I've only just found you?"
Taylor melted inside. "This place is incredible. Magnificent." She reached for his hand. She needed his warm touch. "I love my sister and I plan to visit her a lot, especially now that I've met Rachel. But like you," she looked around, "I don't belong here. This isn't me. Besides, you wouldn't be here."
The tension in his big body eased. "Then let us go home, my Queen."
She grinned and playfully shoved him forward. "Right behind you, Dark King. Race you to the transport." Taylor lifted her skirts and took off.
Hades roared, then jumped down the stairs. He landed at the base of them before her foot hit the last rung.
"You cheated," she huffed, then laughed.
"You know what happens, when you tease the Dark King," he purred, pulling her close so he could nuzzle her ear.
Taylor's eyes widened and she grinned. "Yes, and I can't wait."
OTHER RELATED titLES.
Phantom Warriors 1: BACCHUS.
Phantom Warriors 2: SABER-TOOTH.
Phantom Warriors 3: TALON Phantom Warriors 4: ARCTOS.
Phantom Warriors 5: LINX.
Phantom Warriors 6: RIOT.
Atlantean's Quest 1: THE ARRIVAL.
Atlantean's Quest 2: EXODUS.
Atlantean's Quest 3: REDEMPTION, ATLANTEAN HEAT.
Atlantean's Quest 4: THE RETURN.