Accidentally Paranormal Series, Book 10


Dakota Cassidy

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Chapter 1

Jesus in a flippin’ muumuu, Quinn! What the hell happened?”

Quinn Morris’s stunned eyes flew to her college study partner and much younger friend Ingrid Lawson’s face, crimson from the heat of the Grecian day.

Hysteria threatened to take over, forcing Quinn to put a hand to her chest to catch her breath before mumbling, “Something?”

Quinn winced when Ingrid lifted a finger and pointed it directly at her. The digit trembled a little as it silently circled Quinn’s chest area. Her mouth opened then snapped shut, as though she couldn’t quite put into words what she was seeing.

Quinn nodded in agreement because, yeah. Holy, holy shit! Plucking at the front of her billowy white blouse, the one she’d specifically picked for this trip because it looked like it was straight off the back of some eighteenth-century poet, she looked down into it.

Then she gazed upon her nearly shredded bra, and gasped. The sound of her shock echoed off the Parthenon columns and reverberated in her ears.

Then she looked once more and gulped.

Oh dear.

Ingrid fisted her hands and brought them to her forehead, shaking her head as though she were trying to shake off some terrible memory.

Which was odd…

When she looked back up at Quinn, her eyes, hidden beneath the dark gothic makeup she favored, bulged from her head. Her words burst out of her mouth like a ball from a cannon. “OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod! Boobs! Big, big boobies!” she shrieked, her multicolored Mohawk bending in the humid breeze.

Quinn nodded numbly, a hot wind swishing her flirty skirt around her ankles. “So, so big…”

Ingrid clutched the straps on her backpack, her voice shaky. “How did this happen?”

“Um, I don’t exactly know. But I can tell you one thing for sure. They’re no longer the size of crab apples. In fact, they’re a lot more like Shawna Sutter’s cantaloupes now, don’t you think?”

Even in her horror, Ingrid managed to scrunch her face up in distaste. “Don’t even mention that woman’s name at a time like this. No one, and I mean no one, wants to be like Shawna Sutter or her stupid cantaloupes!”

Quinn shrugged a little, because even in their shared horror, the truth was the truth. “But you have to admit, she has really nice cantaloupes. Igor seems to think so anyway.”

Igor—her cheating, lying, bottom-feeding almost-fiancé, and the very reason she was here on her dream trip to Greece with Ingrid instead of him—now belonged to Shawna “Cantaloupes” Sutter. Lock, stock, and brainless banter.

“Igor is a bag of dicks!” Ingrid yelped. “Forget about him and that stupid, vapid, silicone-sporting Shawna and explain why you’re literally sparkling like a bunch of rhinestones on some cheap, homemade beauty-contestant dress?”

Quinn’s eyes flew to her hands and forearms, but she paused. “Do you think it looks cheap? As sparkling goes, I think it’s sort of glowy and ethereal.”

Sort of.

Ingrid scoffed her impatience, letting her hands slap her thighs. “Is that really the point here, Quinn?”

She took another deep breath, inhaling the hot air and realizing, no, that wasn’t the point at all. She backtracked in her mind, trying to remember how this had all gone down. “Remember that little old lady on the tour bus on the way here?”

Ingrid nodded and wrinkled her nose. “The one who smelled like a goat?”

“Uh-huh. But it’s not her fault. She raises them to sell their milk. A girl’s gotta make a living. Anyway, did you hear the story she told me about there being a golden apple etched in one of the Parthenon’s columns?”

Ingrid’s breathing hitched, her lower lip, glossed to the max, curled inward. “Was that before or after the anus-head called you to ask where his nostril clippers were? I can’t even believe the size of that dick’s clangers.”

Enormous. Igor’s clangers were enormous. So was his anus-head. “I know, right? Especially seeing as he was doing it from between the very sheets we used our Bed Bath & Beyond fifty-percent off coupon for.”

Ingrid’s eyes narrowed, the crinkle of her leather, spike-studded vest crackling when she threw her arms up in the air. “Did he actually tell you he was in bed with that cantalouped trollop?”

Quinn shook her head, letting her straw bag fall to the ground. Suddenly, everything felt very heavy. “Not exactly. I heard Shawna in the background, attempting to pronounce the color fuchsia from the package. I know the word was on the package of sheets because it’s hard to find sheets in fuchsia. Or fuck-see-a, as per Shawna’s interpretation. Igor, in all his kindly professor-ness, helped her sound it out.”

Ingrid’s eyes grew glittery with outrage. “Ohhh, I told you when you packed all the things you had in his apartment you should have taken the sheets, Quinn. I don’t care if the fifty-percent off coupon came from a sale circular addressed to him. He deserves sheets made out of burlap—not Egyptian cotton.”

Quinn’s arms sagged forward a little, but only a little, because it was hard to relax them with her huge new knockers in the way. “You’re absolutely right. I was just trying to be fair, but my regret is real.”

Ingrid peered at her, rolling her hand for her to continue. “So the old lady on the tour bus. Before or after Igor called?”

Grabbing the length of her long braid, Quinn wound it around a finger and tried to remember. “I think it was after. It had to be after, because then she heard you give me hell for even answering the phone, knowing he was on the other end of the line. So of course, she heard my pathetic story about how I’d saved a lifetime for this trip and thought Igor should be the one to take it with me because…well, you know the rest…”

The rest being Quinn’s intention to propose to Igor in the place she considered one of the most romantic on earth.

Ingrid’s head fell back on her shoulders, her pale throat exposed to the glaring ball of buttery Grecian sun. “Oh, you did not fall for that story she fed you, did you? She must’ve heard you going on about how Igor was a total jerk, and how you’d had it with romance and love for good.”

“Well, I have,” she defended. She had, too. All her life, her mother had told her to knock off the daydreaming about her Prince Charming and find a man who was real—if she had to find one at all.

If real meant finding a man who scratched his love sac and burped while watching the Playboy Channel, she’d rather keep daydreaming about her Mr. Darcy.

Until her ugly breakup with Igor, that is. Since the night she’d found out he’d been sleeping with a leggy redheaded waitress who worked at the Spotted Pig, two doors down from the bookstore where she worked, she’d thrown in the towel.

Ingrid’s ringed fingers flashed in the sun in protest. “Stop. Even with everything that’s gone down with that cheating slug, you still listened to that crazy woman on the bus. Which means you, in all your unicorns and cinnamon sticks, could manage to find romance at the urologist’s. You’re a diehard, Quinn. Your soul-mate take on life alone could feed a buffet of the love-starved. It’ll come back. Right now, you’re just butthurt. That aside, she was probably just trying to make you feel better. And you, an expert on all things Greek and mythological, fell for it? I don’t get it.”

She bit the inside of her cheek. She had fallen for it. Which meant her romantic bone still needed work if she was going to be more of a realist about love. “To be fair, it was a really compelling story.”

She loved a good story. Almost any story, in fact. As long as it was about love—tragic, happy, or anything in between. Until she’d decided no more romance. She’d promised herself from here on out it was sci-fi and cookbooks only.

“Quinn Morris, you know the ins and outs of Greece and all its rich history almost better than you know your own home country. You did not believe her, did you?”

Quinn crossed her arms over her chest in exasperation. Well, she almost crossed them. Her big, big balloons really prevented a lot of extracurricular activity. “Blame, blame, blame. How could I not investigate what she told us, Ingrid? I mean, you have to admit, even you were a little curious about a mysterious golden apple no one’s ever heard about. It was pretty spectacular. How could I not at least take a peek? Seriously, I actually thought she’d probably go home and wet clear through her Depends laughing after feeding me such gibberish, but…”

Ingrid’s eyes rolled upward. “You did it anyway. Now, if you tell me that you actually confessed your heartbreak to a damn produce item in some marble column like she told you to do because she claims the gods can hear your love woes, I’m going to deflate your new cans one at a time. Ping-ping,” she said, making a gun with her forefinger and thumb

Quinn gave her a sheepish look. “But I did find the column with the apple. It looked just like it had been stamped there. So I thought, what the heck? Who better than Aphrodite’s shoulder to cry on, right? Goddess of Love, blah, blah, blah. And before you say another word—I was just talking out my grief over my breakup, Ingrid. You know, kind of like one big, ugly purge, never really-really expecting anything to come of it, and then…”

“And then?” she asked in that tone she used when she became irritated with Quinn, who was usually much more cautious and less impulsive.

Except today, of course. Today she’d thrown caution to the wind like she was pitching for the Yankees.

The hot breeze whipped at Quinn’s flowing skirt, tugging at her sunhat with the silky pink tulle streams of ribbon tied around the brim—another piece of her “must haves” wardrobe for this trip. Because it was romantic and frilly and she loved both of those things.

Quinn?”

She gave Ingrid another embarrassed glance, her mouth dry. “And then I said something about Igor being a wolf in sheep’s clothing and how he was going to regret his infidelity so hard. And I swear to you on my beloved copy of Keats, I heard a deep rumble of laughter.”

Ingrid’s eyes grew suspicious, flying upward and then to the surrounding landscape, brilliant and white under the glare of the sun, clearly looking to see if anyone else was around.

Wait—why isn’t anyone else around? How could the Parthenon be so deserted when it was one of the biggest tourist attractions in Greece…?

“Get to the big, big boobies, Quinn,” she ordered, pulling her phone from her backpack.

To not go all the way with this was just putting off the inevitable. “So then the wind picked up with a huge gust of hot air, all while I was going on and on about Igor being a cheat, and how ridiculous that must sound to someone like Aphrodite and a bunch of gods who aren’t exactly opposed to a good genital jamboree. And…”

And?

Quinn swallowed hard, her gulp loud and thick. “And then there was this weird, soothing vibration coming from the ground that rumbled my feet. It spread up my legs and worked its way all along my rib cage. It was incredibly peaceful…er, at first. But then the pillar shook with a god-awful heave, splitting the marble and shooting chips of rock at me in every direction—and it fell! I swear! It fell right out of the column. Just splat, hit me on the head and rolled right to my feet.”

“The apple?” Ingrid squeaked.

“Yes! It was as if the column had given birth to it. I swear I’m telling the truth, Ingrid, because look!” She dug around in her straw bag and retrieved the apple, holding it up as it gleamed, gold and perfect in the sun.

Ingrid’s breath shuddered in and out, her voice skipping when she spoke. “This made your boobs bigger? An item from the produce section?”

Quinn whirled in a circle, letting her arms flap open wide. “I don’t know, Ingrid! I just know the second it fell from the column, my boobs inflated at least two cup sizes. How, I ask you, does Shawna even breathe with these things?”

Ingrid held up a hand and took a long breath, her eyes again scanning the area surrounding the Parthenon. “First, put that thing down.”

Quinn obliged, setting the apple at her feet—feet she could no longer see past her poofy chest.

“Don’t touch it again. Now, I’m calling Nina. She’ll know what to do. So let’s just stay calm and breathe.”

Fear sped up Quinn’s spine as a mental picture of Nina Statleon formed. A brooding, hoodie-wearing, angry, foul-mouthed woman who was nuts with a capital Crazypants. And though absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous sans makeup and all manner of finery, she was, oddly, very, very pale.

Nina, along with Marty Flaherty and Wanda Jefferson, were Ingrid’s bosses at the office she worked in while studying to become a vet tech. The basement office in Manhattan Ingrid never allowed Quinn anywhere near when they had study dates. Which now, come to think of it, was pretty strange.

Nina evoked fear in her belly after their last encounter, when the woman had discovered what Igor had done and how Quinn had considered not taking this trip to Greece. Nina had been full of all kinds of opinions about it. They’d been littered with colorful language and sometimes even threatening stances and the words “limp” and “dick”.

She was the one who’d suggested Ingrid come with Quinn in Igor’s stead, to keep Quinn from throwing herself off the top of Mt. Olympus.

Which was a hasty assessment of her mental state, if you asked her. Okay, so she’d cried. She’d cried a lot that night she and Igor broke up and Nina happened to witness it. Cried so much, Nina had offered to chew her way through Igor’s chest and eat his heart for her.

No doubt a kind act of girl-power solidarity. But she hadn’t just cried about Igor. She’d cried because no matter what she did, Quinn Morris sucked ass at getting a relationship right.

Regardless, she was a little afraid of Nina

But it didn’t make any sense that they’d call her for anything unless they needed a creative swear word or the eating of someone’s face.

Quinn latched onto Ingrid’s arm. “Nina? Why would you call her? How can she possibly help me with my huge lady lumps?”

Ingrid looked as though she was weighing her options and then she said, “There’s some stuff you might need to know about Nina and my other bosses, Marty and Wanda. But not right now. Right now, I just need you to trust me, Quinn.”

Trust. Sure. What else did she have but trust—and big boobs.

Holding up her phone, Ingrid grimaced. “Ugh! I can’t get a damn signal. Stay right here and don’t move. I’m just going to go over there and call her.”

“But—”

“Not another word, Quinn. I know Nina scares you, but she’s not just my boss, she’s a good friend, and she will know what to do. She can help, and I promise to tell you why later.”

Quinn couldn’t imagine Nina as helpful. Maybe she’d be helpful if World War III erupted, but in something as sensitive in nature as this?

Fat chance.

She watched as Ingrid walked away, stomping over the debris of the column, kicking up dust with her heavy black work boots in search of a cell signal.

“Quinn Morris?” a deep, velvety voice asked.

Whirling around so fast she almost lost her hat, Quinn found the face that went with the voice.

Oh, and the body.

Yes—dear future soul mate and Jesus forgive her—the body.

She blinked in the glare of the bright sun. “Yes?”

A man with wavy hair like rich dark chocolate and sprinkled with golden highlights approached her. He took the strides separating them with confidence, on thighs that bulged beneath his tailored white trousers. When he stood before her, the apple resting in the gap between their feet, he smiled at her.

Winningly. Beamingly. His smile left deep grooves on either side of his mouth and flashed a set of brilliantly white teeth offset by a deep olive complexion. Yet, Quinn was able to note, even in her fear, his smile didn’t quite reach his liquid amber eyes.

No. His eyes were cold and wary. And suspicious. Very suspicious.

“Who are you?” And hey. How did he know her name?

The upward tilt of his lips grew sly, and his burnt-orange knit shirt rippled against his broad chest when he said, “That’s my apple. Excuse me, if you would.”

In a matter of seconds, Quinn not only realized once more the enormity of what had just occurred with the pillar, but that possibly the apple could be some sort of rare Greek artifact, and this beautiful man was some kind of Indiana Jones in search of his Temple of Doom.

It wasn’t every day an apple plopped from marble as if it had fallen off a tree. Which had to mean it must have some kind of value, and she’d found it.

The chiseled man eyed the apple. His expression flashed with apprehension so briefly, Quinn might not have caught it if she wasn’t looking, but he instantly relaxed his utterly gorgeous face and covered up any trace of his worry with an arrogant gaze down at her.

Huh. Yeah. Something wasn’t kosher here. Without thought, she gave him a blank look to distract him before swooping downward, using a deft hand to sweep the fruit off the ground.

“That’s my apple,” he repeated, low and easy.

“I beg to differ.” She held it up, ignoring the fact that he could be dangerous, and waved the gleaming fruit at him. Just who the hell did he think he was? “I think it’s my apple.”

He edged closer, his spicy cologne lodging in her nose, his stance not quite one of menace but most definitely one of impatience. The sheer size of him made her knees waver.

“I assure you, it’s my apple,” he cooed in a silky-rich timbre.

Quinn’s eyebrow cocked upward in haughty fashion. “By what authority?”

“My ancestors’.”

“And who are your ancestors?”

“You’d never believe it.”

“Try me. An apple—a shiny golden one I’ve never heard of in all my studies on Greek mythology—just fell out of a pillar in the Parthenon. A. Pillar. I’m game for just about anything.”

His luscious lips thinned in obvious aggravation. “It’s none of your business.”

Quinn bristled. Hold on. Maybe this was an enormous archeological find and he was some bad guy who wanted to sell it to the highest bidder. What if this was a part of Greek history and he was going to cheat the people of this fine country out of something rightfully theirs and sell it for some ridiculous amount of money?

Briefly she thought of all the movies she’d seen and the idea that maybe she was going too far with the fantastical.

But how far was fantastical? Didn’t an apple just fall out of some inanimate marble? Didn’t she have boobs reminiscent of basketballs?

Planting her free hand on her hip, she used her best I’m-in-charge-of-this-rodeo voice and said, “I guess it’s my business if you hope to prove this is really your apple. If you don’t want to share and give me a good reason for claiming ownership, I’m sure the Greek authorities would be pleased to hear all about this apple falling from a pillar, which is insane to begin with. But I bet they’d really like to hear all about how it’s yours.”

This time he didn’t just edge closer, he loomed over her, his height, in her estimation, a good ten inches taller than her five feet four. “Give me the apple, Quinn,” he demanded, his smooth jaw clenching.

When he spoke her name, it slid off his tongue like a dollop of warm caramel. And again, the romantic in her wanted to savor this moment and take the time to create a story for the piece of fruit and its connection to this walking, talking sex god. However, the big, albeit hot, goon obviously wasn’t going to let her.

No. He glowered at her. Glowered so hard, were she a tea rose in an English garden, she’d have withered under his glare.

Quinn smiled, suddenly filled with adrenalin and totally fearless. Maybe it was the way Igor had so callously treated her, or maybe it was just more than past time, but suddenly she was a take-no-shit kind of girl.

Holding the apple closer, Quinn glared back at him in defiance and brought the gleaming fruit to her mouth, taking a long lick, ignoring the bitter taste of the skin on her tongue.

Hot Stuff planted his hands on his lean hips with a sigh of exasperation and rolled his beautiful eyes. “Now why would you do that, Quinn?”

“Five-second rule. Whoever licks it owns it.”

He waved an admonishing finger, shooting her a teasing, almost playful glance. “No. I think you’re confused. The five-second rule is only in play when you drop food on the ground. It means it’s safe to eat as long as it wasn’t on the ground longer than five seconds. And you forgot to kiss it up to God, thus blessing the five-second rule. That’s the five-second rule.”

Confusion furrowed her brow for a moment. Was that the rule? She’d never been very good at those sorts of playground games. While everyone else was jumping double Dutch or playing hopscotch, she’d been too busy making up stories about Jane and Dick running off together into the sunset with Spot as their trusty sidekick.

“I don’t care what the rule is. I licked it. That means it’s mine.”

“This conversation’s a little ridiculous, don’t you think? Please hand over the apple.”

“No. Not until you identify yourself and give me a good reason to hand it over. Otherwise, it goes to the authorities. And where did you come from, anyway? I didn’t see you get off the tour bus. In fact, I didn’t see you anywhere here in the Parthenon.”

His lean cheeks puffed out in a huff of frustration. “On the count of three or I’ll take it from you, Quinn.”

Was he threatening bodily harm? Right here in the Parthenon? She began to back away. “If you touch me, I’ll scream. A lot. Loudly. With vigor!”

His hand snaked out, his fingers wrapping around her wrist, capturing her in a tight grip. The contrast of their skin—hers pale and translucent, his deep and dark—fascinated rather than frightened her.

“First, I don’t want to hurt you. Not at all. But I’ll be long gone by the time someone arrives to help you either way.”

She frowned up at him. “Hey. No fair. You said I had until the count of three.”

His grip loosened a little, his handsome face growing deceptively serene. And then he smiled gorgeously, as if in apology for breaking the rules of their game. “My bad. Onetwothree! Hand over the apple, Quinn!” he roared.

With all the strength she had in her, she jerked her wrist, bringing them eye-to-eye. “Not gonna happen.”

He sighed, visibly relaxing. Yet, there was a vein in his sun-browned temple that throbbed, giving away his impatience. “Quinn, Quinn, Quinn. Will you make me pry it from your pretty hands?”

Instead of heeding his words, which was certainly the smartest alternative to him roughing her up, she reacted by tightening her grip and shaking her head. “Nope.”

By God and Greece, or whatever entity, she was going to get this apple to the proper authorities.

But he tightened his grip, steely and unmoving. “You’re making an enormous mistake, and you’ve been warned. Now, for the very last time, please hand over the apple.”

Maybe it was his tone, all silky-sexy but so demanding, or maybe it was that she felt as if she were in some strange tug-of-war on behalf of Greece and all its lush history, but the hell she was giving him the apple.

The. Hell.

May the power of Indiana Jones compel her.

“And I said no!” With that, Quinn yanked with such force, her hand snapped back then forward, nicking the apple on her two front teeth.

Simultaneously, the tall, sexy man bellowed the word “Nooo!” so loudly her ears literally hurt before letting her wrist go and stumbling backward.

As the juice of the apple hit her tongue, Quinn gagged. For a piece of fruit that looked as if it should have its own display case in Tiffany’s, it was unbearably bitter, the juice running down the back of her throat like a trail of battery acid.

She ran her teeth over her tongue in a scraping motion. “Gak,” she spat, letting the remainder of the apple fall to the ground, where it trembled eerily then came to rest at her right heel.

His sigh of aggravation made the ground beneath her feet rumble and a warm wind stir to a frenzy. It whipped around her head, leaving behind the minty scent of his breath in her nostrils.

Which, if she wasn’t in some horrible nightmare, was impossible, wasn’t it?

“You’ve done it now, Quinn.” His tone rang with warning as he took another step back and crossed his arms over his chest.

She opened her mouth and made a clucking noise from the back of her throat to rid herself of the taste then wiped her knuckles over her tongue in repulsion, reaching into her bag for her bottle of water. “Tahth’s disgussing,” she said around her fingers.

His nod was sharp and all-knowing. “I’d bet it is, knowing my mother. But give this a second or two and you’ll see what you’ve done.”

Quinn pulled her fingers from her lips. His mother? “Your mother? And what exactly did I do but graze an apple, that tastes like a Jersey landfill, with my teeth?”

He glanced at his shiny gold watch with one raven eyebrow raised. “You’ll see in five, four, three, two, one.”

What was it with him and the counting?

But then Quinn’s body jolted forward, making her drop the water bottle as the earth began to crack beneath her and the skies darkened to a deep purple. She broadened her stance, leaning back against the stranger who’d swiftly moved to stand behind her, tucking her into the shelter of his rock-hard chest.

And for about a half second, his chest was a very nice place to end up sheltered—except for the fact that he was a traitorous, likely black-market dealer of stolen and exotic goods.

But she forgot all about that when images flashed in front of her eyes in a tornado-like funnel of Greek gods and goddesses sitting on thrones, shooting arrows and, oh my…Doing things she assumed only happened in the movies they ran on Cinemax in the wee hours of the morning.

And then there was silence—deafening and frighteningly still.

Dazed, Quinn’s hand went to her head to push back the wild tangle of her tattered braid from her eyes just as her chest heaved and her legs buckled, making her fall forward.

Vibrations of warmth skirted her spine, slipping along every available surface of her skin.

Fear turned to panic when she began to experience a simmering heat on her flesh worse than the hottest fever she’d ever had. It came in waves, rushing and relenting, bending and twisting until it finally subsided, leaving behind a residual warmth she had no words for.

As Quinn fought to gather her senses, the man let her go and paced before her in short jaunts, the heels of his loafers scraping against the loose stones.

He stopped to stand in front of her. His glare was angry, his sharply angled face tight. “Did I or did I not say the apple was mine?”

Once more, her mouth fell open. Words eluded her. Fully formed thoughts, too.

“And now look. Do you see what’s happened here, Quinn?” He grated out the question between clenched teeth.

“Wha…”

He shook a long finger at her. “Oh, I’ll tell you what. You’ve gone and done it now. Really done the hell out of it. I bet you’re wondering what exactly you’ve done the hell out of, aren’t you?”

Out of nowhere, Ingrid flew into her line of vision, skidding to a halt in front of her, eyes bulging when she scanned Quinn’s face. Her mouth formed an O then her jaw fell before snapping shut. “What in the ever-lovin’ fuck?”

Quinn’s gaze flew to the stranger’s before latching onto Ingrid’s, wide with surprise, in a plea for help.

“Oh. My. Hell!” Ingrid shouted, pulling at her backpack to dig out a compact with the name Bobbie-Sue on it and flipping it open. “Look!”

Quinn blinked at her reflection under the hot sun. Her hands flew to her eyes. Wow. If in the choosing, she would have had any say in her eye color upon her birth, this amazing shade of bright, swirly purple would have been high on her list.

Much higher than her own dull, mousy brown. And they weren’t just purple—they were purple with a capital P. As though someone had popped contacts from some Halloween costume store directly into her sockets.

“What did you do since I left you, Quinn?” Ingrid fairly seethed.

“I…” What had she done?

The man sauntered up to Ingrid, his bronzed arms crossed over his chest. “Here’s what she’s done. She’s—”

But Ingrid halted his explanation by backing up, pushing Quinn behind her and reaching into her pocket for her cell. “Who the hell are you?” she spat, yanking her phone out and flipping open the keyboard. She began to type without letting the man out of her sight. Her fingers flew as she eyeballed him with a fierce stare.

“I’m Khristos with a K, for future reference—a descendant of Aphrodite and the man who’s apple your friend Quinn here stole.” He bowed regally at the waist before rising and glaring his obvious displeasure at Quinn.

Ingrid’s stare whipped over her shoulder. “You stole his apple? Wait. It was his apple that fell out of the pillar? An apple did all this?” She swished her finger around the vicinity of Quinn’s breasts.

Khristos nodded curtly, clearly attempting to keep his anger in check. “It was definitely the apple that did,” he swept his hand up and down, “this.”

When Quinn finally found her voice, it was raspy and thick. “What is this?” She plucked at her shirt in disbelief. “Is the apple really why my…my—”

“Her cans are the size of life rafts? Are you serious?”

Khristos chuckled—fondly, if she was hearing right. “The gods, in all their antiquated, outdated beliefs, think only women with,” he cleared his throat, “um, fuller figures appeal to men. I’ve tried and tried to convince them to jump into the year 2015 with me, but old habits die hard. We’re still working on diversity and all sorts of sensitivity training when it comes to body shaming. That’s a real bone of contention with me. My motto is, all women should be loved, no matter their size or shape.”

The gods?

Ingrid nodded her head with a rapid motion as though she was giving a big “hell yeah” to diversity and healthy body image. Then she shook it off and glared at Khristos. “Okay, buddy, what the hell is happening here? And I warn you—I know people who’ll beat the information out of you if you’re not willing to give it up.”

He shook his dark head of thick, shiny hair. “You’ll never believe it.”

Ingrid snorted a scathing grunt. “Hah! I’ve only heard that a million times in the past couple of years. Try me, pal.”

“You’ve never heard anything like this,” he assured her in silken tones.

“Don’t tell me what I have and haven’t heard, Chiseled Man. In fact, I’d lay bets you’d never believe what I’ve heard. So get on with it, and while you’re at it, step off!” She waved a hand between them, shooing Khristos away.

Ingrid flicked her stare back to Quinn and gripped her arm before she returned her gaze to Khristos. “Okay, so let’s get it on here. Out with the explanation. What does this apple have to do with my friend and her sparkly bits, glowing like a diamond in a display case?”

“Well, had your friend left the apple be as I’d asked, those charming traits would have disappeared. They’re simply a product of touching the apple and they fade rather quickly, given a day or so.”

Quinn breathed a sigh of relief. Okay, so no big Shawna Sutter boobs forever? Phew. Because hell on fire, big, big boobies were more work than she was cut out for.

“But alas…” he said with a forlorn, almost comical sigh.

Her antennae went up. Oh, sure. Of course there was an “alas”…an “aside”…a “by the way, your stupid, stubborn friend is a halfwit who just wouldn’t listen”.

“Alas?” Ingrid asked with a demanding tone.

Quinn held her breath.

He gazed at each woman, driving his hands into his pockets and rocking back on the heels of his casual loafers. “Alas, she broke the skin of the apple with her teeth when we struggled for control.”

Ingrid’s eyes narrowed and her stance widened. “And that means what, Hard Body?”

Oh, damn. Now he was making that frowny face. That meant bad—so, so bad.

“The explanation’s simple. Your friend now has the powers of Aphrodite.”

“The Goddess of Love and Beauty?” Quinn managed to squeak.

Khristos winked an arrogant eye. “And all that entails. Clearly, that entails a healthy glow. Know what else it means?”

Ingrid rounded on him, skirting his body in dodgy circles. “Okay, spit it out. What does it mean, Khristos with a K, descendant of Aphrodite?” she asked with a tone of defiant skepticism, leading Quinn to think Ingrid didn’t entirely believe him.

But was there any denying what had happened to her?

He planted a deliciously tanned hand on Ingrid’s shoulder to prevent her from continuing her dizzying circles. “It means Quinn and I are going to be spending a lot of time together. Do you know why that is, quick-footed one?” he asked, sarcasm lacing his words.

Quinn watched while Ingrid tried to hide her alarm behind the Nina technique. The show-no-fear, take-no-prisoners technique. Ingrid jutted her chin upward and sneered, “Why is that?”

“Because that apple is my curse, and now, because your friend not only refused to return it, but she bit into it, it’s hers, too. So that means wherever she goes, I go. I am the keeper of the apple and all its power.”

Quinn’s mouth fell open.

This big hunk of a Greek man, with all his ripples of muscle and silky hair straight out of a shampoo commercial, had to go everywhere she went?

Shut up.

It was like hitting the romance Powerball.

If she were still a believer in romance, that is.

Which she was not.

Not, not, not.

But the old Quinn?

She’d find that totally swoon-worthy.

Chapter 2

Quinn squinted at this man—this delicious, gorgeous man named Khristos with a K—and shook off the notion of anything romance related. No romance, even if he was a descendant of a Greek goddess.

Logic. That was all that was allowed right now. She might be a dreamer when it came to romance, but almost everything else about her was practical, from her money management right down to how she organized her spice rack.

She used to like to think her practicality came close to outweighing her romantic dreaming, that she’d somehow created a nice balance of the two. But after Igor, she decided romantic was losing and it was time she buck the hell up.

Use your logic and caution, Quinn.

Swallowing hard, she approached him carefully. “Why is the apple your curse?”

Khristos assessed her with a critical eye, crossing his forearms over his chest. “Let me rephrase that. It’s not really a curse. Though it sure as hell feels like it sometimes. I’m in charge of keeping watch over the apple. I’m rather more a guardian of sorts.”

Quinn bit her knuckle but her eyes were wide as her mind swirled with about a million dreamy scenarios, totally forgetting she was supposed to keep her practical self front and center.

But there was one scenario in particular that stood out. “Oh my God! You mentioned Greek ancestors? Is your ancestor really…” She paused. It was almost too amazing to believe. “Really Aphrodite?” The word slipped from her mouth in a hiss before she could prevent it.

He held his hands out, palms up in a gesture of resignation. “Ya caught me. She’s my mother.”

“Like the Aphrodite? Mistress-to-Ares Aphrodite?”

“Now, now,” he scolded, his eyes suddenly teasing. “We don’t like to talk about that anymore. It’s called moving forward and letting go of the past. But yes. That’s the Aphrodite I mean.”

Quinn almost squealed with joy. It was like a Greek mythology dream come true. Yet, her next words defied her excitement. Especially in light of the fact that the very idea was flat-out crazier than a bedbug.

“She is not. There’s no record of a Khristos listed as her son.”

He shrugged his wide shoulders and smiled. “Well, if you know my mother’s history, you know she…er, wasn’t above some bedroom shenanigans from time to time. I cringe talking about it, because really, who wants to visualize their mother doing that? But I’m a result of her shenanigans. Anyway, it looks like she wins this round.” He looked skyward. “Way to show me who’s the boss, Mom.”

Her son? No. This was nuts. He was no more Aphrodite’s son than she was…

Are what, Quinn? This from a woman who saw an apple literally plop from a column, shredded a bra like she was practicing for a gig to play The Incredible Hulk and whose skin sparkles?

Quinn licked her dry lips. “Okay, so taking into account this is a little on par with the second coming—”

Khristos clucked his tongue, interrupting her. “I feel like maybe that’s a little over the top. Though, knowing my megalomaniacal mother, she’d preen about the comparison. But how about we don’t give her that much weight to throw around?”

Quinn shook her head, still trying to process. “Fine. So skipping the comparisons and moving right along past my disbelief, why did she make you the guardian of the apple? For that matter, why would she leave something so valuable at a tourist attraction?”

Because who just leaves the entirety of their power out in the open? It was like leaving an atom bomb at a playground.

“Oh, she didn’t just leave it there. Make no mistake. My mother’s many things, but careless about her powers isn’t one of them. I was a little distracted today. I just set it down for a damn minute, too.”

“And how is she going to feel about you slacking off on your guard duties?”

He winced. Beautifully—perfectly, if such a thing were possible. “Well, I’m sure there’ll be a conversation.”

She almost smiled at the idea of this big man in trouble with someone like Aphrodite. “You think she’ll take away your X-box privileges?”

The sun grazed his cheekbone as he hitched his strong jaw. “At the very least, my dessert.”

Damn, he was making it hard to keep her focus. “So any special reason why she put you in charge of her powers?”

“Because my mother loves a good joke, and the joke was, let’s keep Khristos from ever having a moment’s peace.”

But wait. The magnitude of what she’d allegedly done began to sink in. Really sink in. Her stomach lurched. “Hold the phone. If the apple has the power of Aphrodite and I broke the skin, which technically means I’m now Aphrodite, isn’t your mother going to be really incensed that she’s lost her powers because you’re a crappy babysitter?”

“That’s fair, and I imagine there might be some discontent involved on her part. Maybe even a plague or some locusts, but don’t worry. I got this.”

“Plague…”

Khristos waved his hand in the air, the long fingers attached to it dismissing the obvious concern in her voice. “Bah. It never lasts long. She’s not as good at holding steady as she is one big burst of fury, but it passes quickly.” He winked as reassurance.

“I find I’m taking no comfort in this.”

“Quinn! What the hell are you doing? Quit talking to him, Miss Stockholm Syndrome!” Ingrid ordered, grabbing her arm, her phone in her other hand.

But Quinn waved her off. “Oh, please, Ingrid. I’m not his hostage, for heaven’s sake. Now, shhh. I’m just trying to find out what happens next.” She turned back to Khristos with an eager ear. “So what happens next, Khristos?”

Ingrid hopped around as though her mere motion would ward off any evil Khristos harbored. “What happens next is you stop consorting with the enemy, Quinn! I can’t believe you’re all chatting it up over here with him like he’s some guy you met at a damn bar. For the love of crackers, he claims he’s a descendent of Aphrodite. Have you lost your mind?”

“I don’t go to bars and you know it.”

But Khristos just chuckled at Ingrid’s assessment. “I find I’m a little insulted by that, Light of Foot. I have no desire to hurt either of you. I’m only doing my job.”

Quinn’s eyes narrowed, her breathing going shallow again. “Your job in correlation to guarding the apple—define that, would you?”

“Well, where the apple goes, I go. Now that you have the power of Aphrodite, you have to be taught how to use it, and I’m your teacher.”

Him? Mr. Long, Tall and Made Out of Granite?

Stop.

Quinn blinked, the heat of the day beginning to sap her energy and what was left of her critical-thinking skills. “You’re not serious. You’re going to teach me how to be Aphrodite? The Goddess of Love? How does one teach someone to be a goddess? How does a man teach a woman to be a goddess? Don’t goddesses wear togas and sit around all day, eating grapes while handing down orders? I can’t wear a toga. I work in a secondhand bookstore, for heaven’s sake. And while casual Friday is pretty casual at Baby Got Book, I think it at least demands pants.”

Before Khristos had the chance to rebut, Ingrid hopped between them, her face red. “Don’t you say another word, Quinn. And you stay away from her, got it, Khristos, descendant of Aphrodite? I’ll handle this from here on out, pal. You just go back to wherever it is you came from.”

Khristos closed his eyes as though he were silently asking for divine intervention before he opened them and smiled pleasantly. “I believe I’ve explained myself. I can’t go away. But you handle this however you see fit…Ingrid, is it? I’ll wait. The end result will still be the same.”

Ingrid glared at him, grabbing Quinn by the arm and smacking into her new boobs as she moved her out of Khristos’s earshot. “Put those things away, would you? They’re everywhere, for Christ’s sake.”

Quinn let her hands drop to her sides, slapping them against her thighs in exasperation. “Where would you like me to put them, Ingrid? There’s nowhere to put them but in a bigger bra. I mean, look at the size of them. Do you think I’m going to be able to breathe when I’m lying on my back? I’m going to suffocate myself with my own lady lumps. Wait. Maybe Shawna knows. I’d bet she’s an expert.”

Khristos stuck his face between the two of them, smiling. “Ooo, gossip. Who’s Shawna?”

“She’s the leggy redhead my ex cheated on me with, and her boobs are enormous. Just like these. Maybe she could offer me some tips?” Quinn said out loud before she was able to stop the words from falling off her tongue.

Ingrid rolled her eyes before giving Khristos a shove with a flat palm to his chest. “I told you to go away! Now do it before I sic my freaky-deaky, very violent friend on you. I swear, if you harm one hair on either of our heads, my friend will eat her way through your colon!”

Khristos made a comically funny sad face. “Already with the threats? Sad panda here. And we’ve just met, too. I was hoping we could be friends, because we’re going to be together for a while—a long while. Plus, I like my colon.”

Quinn fought a hysterical giggle when Ingrid hollered up at him, “Go!”

Ingrid grabbed Quinn by the arm and pulled her in. “Look, forget your boobs and focus,” she whispered. “I’ve been down a similar road before with my bosses. There are things I haven’t told you yet, Quinn. Things you’re going to have a hard time digesting. Things about Nina, Marty, and Wanda you need to know…”

“Cryptic,” Quinn muttered, totally missing what Ingrid was hinting at. But it did bring to mind the CIA covert ops secrecy surrounding her job and begged the question: Why wouldn’t Ingrid ever let her anywhere near where she worked for their study dates?

They met three times a week outside of a nighttime art history class they took together, and had found, over lattes and scones or tuna subs and green tea, that despite their age difference of ten or so years, and though they had little in common but their mutual love of animals, they enjoyed each other’s company. Quinn had witnessed the struggle Ingrid was having in art history, so she’d offered to tutor her.

It would definitely be more convenient for her to meet Ingrid than the other way around. She was done with work by five o’ clock, but Ingrid was only just then taking her dinner break. For her to travel all the way to the bookstore was crazy, and Quinn had told her that on several occasions.

But Ingrid always kept her as far away from her place of work as possible.

And that didn’t explain how Nina could help now. Unless she was tight with Aphrodite—which of course was ludicrous.

Quinn brushed Ingrid off and squared her shoulders. Maybe it was hysteria or shock or the heat, but she didn’t hesitate to wonder out loud what was next. “But Nina’s not here right now, is she? I am. Me and my gigunda boobs and sparkly skin—here with you and the man who claims he’s got an apple keeping him on a leash. We need to figure out if this guy is for real, right? Because my boobs aren’t kidding around. I really, literally grew boobs. So the natural question is, what’s next, right?”

Khristos sighed and rolled his head on his neck before answering. “We go back to wherever you live, Quinn. I move in with you, and I teach you the ways of Aphrodite.”

Oh.

Simple enough.

Wait. Move in with her? “Move into my apartment with me?”

“You’re not moving anywhere, pal!” Ingrid exploded, her face redder than ever. “You’re staying right there until I get someone here to help me. Now go over there, and do it now.”

Khristos lifted his wide shoulders in an easy gesture of defeat. “Okay, but I’m telling you—”

“Now!” Ingrid bellowed, pointing her finger to the steps leading up to the Parthenon, her chest rising and falling with the obvious effort it took for her to yell.

Quinn cocked her head in Ingrid’s direction as the dust of crushed rock swirled around their feet. “Why are you yelling?”

“Why the hell aren’t you?”

She paused a moment. Yeah. Why wasn’t she yelling? Or freaking out, for that matter? For that matter, why wasn’t Ingrid freaking out?

Sure, she was yelling and ordering this man around as if she knew what she was doing, but she didn’t appear any more freaked out than Quinn.

Quinn scratched her forehead. “You know, I don’t know. I should be pretty traumatized right now, shouldn’t I? I mean, a total stranger appears out of nowhere and tells me I now have the powers of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, shortly after my boobs inflate like someone used a bicycle pump on them, to name just one ailment. I should be trussed up in a straitjacket right now, but…”

“It’s shock. You’re in shock. When something like this goes down, it happens to every…um. It happens.”

Every what? Everyone? “So the last time you saw a friend’s dirty pillows grow right before your very eyes, they went into shock? Does this kind of thing happen often with you? Because remind me to leave you home if I ever take another post-breakup trip. I mean, what’s next? Nicki Minaj’s ass?” Quinn teased with a snort.

But wait…

Ingrid took Quinn’s hand in hers and gave her a grave look. It was just like the look Ingrid had when she’d found out the One Direction tickets she’d paid three hundred dollars for online were total fakes.

When Quinn had squawked at the amount of money Ingrid had lost, her friend reminded her, with just such a face, that Harry was priceless.

“Look, while we wait for Nina to get in touch with me, there are some things I have to tell you—about my bosses. And I’m just going to say it. You’re probably going to freak out, but we need Nina here like now, so I don’t have a choice but to explain. How she gets here to Greece alone is going to leave you in the fetal position, shitting chickens, but I have to prepare you.”

She was hot and tired and this I-know-something-you-don’t-know business was old. Quinn threw her hands up in the air, blowing her hair from her face in an exasperated huff. “Okay, you win. Prepare me.”

Chapter 3

Well, if nothing else, she now completely understood why Ingrid never wanted her to see where she worked.

Because vampires, and werewolves, and demons, and zombies, oh my.

Quinn stared up at Ingrid while Ingrid stared back down at her, with Khristos still in the distance on the Parthenon steps, scrolling through his phone.

She repositioned herself on Ingrid’s backpack, where she sat cross-legged, and held up a hand. Because Ingrid’s lips were moving, but the words coming out weren’t making any sense. “Stop. Let me process. Please.”

Quinn licked her lips and took a sip from her last bottle of lukewarm water. “Okay so, you used to work for a veterinarian named Katie in upstate New York, aka Deliverance-Land—Nina’s words, not yours. And one dark and stormy night, while trying to save what you all thought was an injured, escaped cougar from the exotic animal farm down the road from her practice, your veterinarian boss was scratched by the injured kitty and that turned her into a cougar too? Am I getting that right?” Because who’d want to screw up that story?

Ingrid bit her lip and winced. “Meow?”

Quinn’s eyes narrowed up at her. “Still too soon.”

Ingrid sucked in some air. “Sorry. I’m just learning how to prepare someone emotionally for finding out they’re paranormal. It’s a process. Nina was teaching me, but Marty and Wanda said she’s not allowed to help anymore because she’s an insensitive cur—Wanda’s words, not mine.”

“Well, it was Nina who said it would be the eff-word stupid to cancel this trip—one I couldn’t get a refund for, by the way. Not even when I threatened to slit my wrists with a butter knife right in front of that unshakeable travel agent. Nina said to not go to effin’ Greece because I was acting like some kind of panty waste over a dick of a man who wasn’t any better than the shit on my shoe, was effed up. Imagine my surprise that ‘cur’ is used when describing her in a sentence.”

Ingrid’s shoulders sagged. “Okay, forget Nina for a sec. Do you understand what I’m saying to you, Quinn? Really understand? My boss was a regular old human until she was accidentally scratched by the man who’s now her husband and she’s a cougar—forever. She shapeshifts from human form to cougar form. Nina, Marty, and Wanda were the ones who helped her get through the changes.”

Quinn’s mind whirred like a dervish when she gave Ingrid a dazed look. “Right, and Katie was just over forty when she was turned—so MILF jokes abound.”

“You forgot to tack on the ‘ha-ha very funny’.”

“Slacker be mine name.”

Ingrid peered down at her, pushing Quinn’s tangled hair from her forehead. “Now repeat after me. Nina is a vampire, Marty is a werewolf, and Wanda is what we teasingly call a halfsie. Half werewolf, half vampire—all of them accidentally turned into supernatural beings by some nutbag event. And I work for them as their receptionist at a place called OOPS. Out In The Open Paranormal Support. They assist paranormal people in crisis, and that’s why I know something paranormal has happened to you, and why I tweeted Nina. Because she’s an expert on this and she’s the only one of the three who can fly. Wanda’s tried, but her attempts have had some pretty rough results.”

“Right. The crash landing into the hedge maze at Nina’s castle.”

Ingrid grinned her approval. “Now you’re getting it!”

Quinn vehemently shook her head. “Oh, no, no, no. Don’t mistake this for getting anything. I’m just repeating what you told me. I still haven’t wrapped my head around cougar veterinarian. So forget hedge mazes and castles and zombies. Oh my God. Nina has a vegetarian zombie…”

Ingrid bobbed her colorful head. “Named Carl. He’s a great dude. Needy when it comes to a roll of duct-tape, but you’ll love him.”

Slowly, as the wheels in her head began to grind back into gear, some things were beginning to make sense—a connection of dots, if you will. Like how pale Nina was. “And Nina was already a vampire when I met her?”

“She’s been one for seven years now.”

“Is that what made her so crusty?”

Ingrid wrinkled her nose. “No. I hear she was always a little cranky, and FYI, I was petrified of her at first, too. I know she comes off as scary with all her swearing and threatening, but she’s a total mush.”

Quinn massaged the back of her neck. Right. Mushy-mushy. Hah.

She rose, handing Ingrid her backpack. “I’m sure she’s very warm and supportive.”

Ingrid nodded, pursing her lips. “I’m hearing sarcasm.”

“You’re not hearing things.”

Ingrid made a face, tucking her thumbs into her backpack straps. “Look, she’s good to me, Quinn. Nina, Marty, and Wanda pay me ridiculously well, way over the going rate for a receptionist to answer the phones at OOPS. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have enough money to buy a pencil, let alone pay for my tuition. Plus, it was Nina who suggested you not go by yourself to Greece. She said you looked like you needed a vacation—but you shouldn’t go it alone.”

Now Quinn wrinkled her nose. “Now, now. That wasn’t exactly what Nina said.”

Ingrid threw up her arms in frustration, her sigh grating. “Fine. She said the last thing you should be doing is hitting Greece alone because the idiot, romantic, rose-colored-glasses wearer that you are, you’d probably end up shackled to some olive farmer as your rebound. Okay? Happy? Despite her forward nature—insensitive, cranky, sometimes crass…okay, always crass—even she could tell you looked like hell, and Nina never notices anything about anyone unless it’s about her.”

Quinn clucked her tongue with admonishment. “Don’t forget the label suicidal. She said I looked suicidal.” And maybe she had for the first week or so after Igor had told her he wasn’t going to Greece with her at all, but leaving her for Shawna.

Red, swollen eyes and the muttered wish to have a bus run you over didn’t deserve a label as harsh as suicidal.

Everyone deserved a good cry when their bubble of romance was burst by the pin of infidelity. She’d gotten over the sobbing, gulping, four-bags-of-pork-rinds-in-a-row part of it, and she’d thought she was moving on to something much less pathetic when she’d stepped onto the plane to Greece.

“You still look confused.”

“It’s a lot to absorb.” Her head was spinning from the attempt to absorb.

Ingrid suddenly stuck a finger in the air. “Oh! I have the perfect way for you to relate to this. You know all those Molly Harper books you read about werewolves and vampires and love-sweet-love? It’s kind of like that only real.”

Right. This was exactly like that. Quinn frowned. “So back to Katie. Repeat the part about why Nina and company had to save her?”

“Remember the bit where I told you bad people wanted to kill Katie and her husband after they found out she was turned into a cougar?”

Panic seized Quinn from the tips of her toes to the top of her head. She gripped Ingrid’s arm. “Are you saying someone’s going to want to kill me because I bit an apple that tastes like donkey’s ass?”

“How do you know what donkey’s ass tastes like?”

“I don’t. I’m just assuming that ass, in particular a donkey’s ass, leaves an aftertaste.”

Ingrid kept her voice low, turning her body away from the Greek goodness of Khristos. “I’m not saying anyone wants to kill you. Not yet. I just know from experience, after knowing Nina, Marty, and Wanda for a few years now and hearing all of their client stories, that there’s always some bad dude who wants whatever it is the client stumbled upon when they have the paranormal accidents. The last case they had, it was dragon scales. Those scales turned not one, but two people into dragons, and the scales belonged to very bad people, and they didn’t like that someone accidentally swallowed them. And then there was baby dragon—”

Quinn’s eyes flew open wide in horror, clapping a hand over her mouth. Okay, she’d been willing to suspend disbelief for the most part, but what was next? Were-bears? “Stop it! Dragons? Now you’ve gone too far, Ingrid. Dragons don’t exist. I was willing to suspend my disbelief with Nina and gang, but a baby dragon is too—”

Ingrid squatted in front of her and shoved her phone in Quinn’s face. “Don’t make me show you, Quinn! I told you I have pictures and everything.”

She blanched, throwing her hand over her eyes. “No! No physical proof. Not yet. Please.”

Ingrid, peeled back Quinn’s fingers from her face, an eyebrow raised. “How could you doubt what I say is true after what’s happened to you?”

Quinn sucked in a breath, yanking her hair over her shoulder and re-braiding it. Okay, so fair enough. Nina really could lift a car, and fly, and Marty was a pretty, petite blonde with impeccable fashion sense one minute, a hairy, snarling, jagged-toothed animal on all fours the next. And Wanda? Well, she was a combo pack of both vampire and werewolf.

Composed once more, she let her hand rest on Ingrid’s arm, squeezing it. “So just because something’s happened to me, you think someone bad is going to want what I have? How many bad guys want bigger boobs, Ingrid?” Ridiculous.

But Ingrid shook her head vehemently. “Oh, no. No, no. That’s not the entire story. I can guarantee you that much. He said you have the power of Aphrodite. That’s huge! And I’ve seen things because of Nina, Quinn Morris. I’ve seen some scary things and I don’t believe this Khristos is telling us the whole truth about that stupid apple. There’s more. I just don’t know what. Which is why we need Nina. She’ll beat it out of him if need be.”

Perfect. That was exactly what she needed to top this trip off. Nina. But she kept her lips pressed together.

Or at least she really tried to. “Do you think it’s wise to consult—”

Ingrid threw up a finger under Quinn’s nose. “Do not. Do not say a single word. Nina’s the expert on this, and we’re going to listen to her advice. We’re in a foreign country, with a crazypants guy who says he’s a descendant of Aphrodite instead of doing what we said we were coming here to do. Flipping Igor the bird while you text him pictures of you slugging back ouzo belly shots off some slick Greek dude’s hard abs. So shut it.”

She tried really hard to do as Ingrid asked, but honestly, could one call the most gorgeous man on earth crazypants when there was a Nina? “I think you’re being incredibly unfair, Ingrid. Why is it so crazy to believe this man is the descendant of Aphrodite if Nina can be Dracula’s kin?”

“She’s not Dracula’s kin. Now knock it off and let me handle this. Caution is the better part of valor. Don’t speak to him; don’t even look at him while I keep trying to get in touch with Nina. Understood?”

“Okay. I’ll just be over here looking at my new taters while I sparkle. In the shade, where the sun isn’t eating a hole in the top of my head.” She pointed to the steps of the Parthenon where the sun had begun to move away.

“Okay, but I have my eye on you, Quinn, and you, too, Made Out of Marble Man!”

Khristos tipped an imaginary hat in Ingrid’s direction and smiled at Quinn when she sat down near the column farthest away from him.

They sat silently for a moment, her absorbing and processing this madness; him, hands folded around his knees, staring off into the distance.

Digging in her bag, she rooted around for a bottle of water. “Damn,” she mumbled.

“Problem?”

Quinn pushed herself back against the columns, trying to make herself as small as possible before she answered, a little freaked out now that Ingrid’s story was beginning to sink in. “No more water,” she croaked, her throat dry and sore.

He nodded his head. “I can help.” Lifting an arm, he began to snap his fingers when she shouted.

“No!”

Out of the clear blue, a bottle of water appeared, with delicious drops of condensation gleaming in the burning sun as they slid down along the plastic length of it. He rose and offered it to her, his brown hand strong and wide. “Drink.”

When she hesitated, he moved and sat down next to her.

God, he smelled heavenly. Like the earth on a spring day and Tide. Yet, she cringed farther against the column and closed her eyes. “You just made a bottle of water appear with the snap of your fingers. I think you have to go away.”

He scoffed, all sexy and rumbly-tumbly, as if she’d just accused him of trying to poison her. “Now, Quinn, what could I possibly do to you with a bottle of water?”

Hello. Big, big boobies here.

She popped her eyes open and looked at him with a scathing glance. “You, who claims to guard an apple that gave me boobs the size of fresh cantaloupes, and made a bottle of cold water appear out of thin air, are asking me what you could possibly do to me? In fact, I just asked Ingrid what’s next? Nicki Minaj’s ass?”

His laughter rumbled deep and low, echoing throughout the Parthenon in a delicious vibration that shot straight up her spine. “I promise you the water won’t give you Nicki’s ass. Though, gun to head, if I were going to give you someone’s ass, I prefer J-Lo’s.”

Her look must have been one of horror because he quickly added, “Kidding.” He unscrewed the top and handed it to her. “Drink.”

Licking her dry lips, Quinn couldn’t resist. She took the bottle from him, giving him one last look of hesitation. “If I come out of this looking like one of those Real Housewives who use so much Botox they look like merely going to the ladies’ room is a surprise party, I’m going to put your apple in a damn food processor.”

Khristos mocked a wince. “So many threats today from such tiny women. The female force is mighty in your circle, huh? Now drink before you dehydrate.”

Putting the bottle to her lips, Quinn took a small sip, letting it sit on her tongue to decide whether it tasted funny before she could no longer resist and chugged it, finishing it off. Handing it back to him, she smiled. “Thank you.”

“Another?”

At first her eyes narrowed in skepticism, but then she gave the front of her shirt a subtle glance and threw caution to the wind. “Please.”

Khristos snapped his fingers and yet another bottle appeared, as enticing as the first. He popped the top once again and smiled, easy and light. “So tell me about yourself, Quinn Morris. What are you doing here in Greece?”

Licking my wounds? Plotting my ex-fiancé’s death? She looked off into the vast horizon of blue and white puffy clouds. “Vacation.”

His dark eyebrow rose. “Really? How does this Igor factor into your vacation?”

Shame flooded her cheeks crimson. “You heard?”

“I did. The jerk.”

Anger spiked along her spine, and she wasn’t sure if it was still over Igor breaking her heart or that Khristos had heard her humiliating story. “He’ll get what he deserves. Mark my words.”

“Revenge can be very sweet.”

Suddenly she was tired of mucking about. She didn’t want to talk about Igor or Shawna or her embarrassing confession. Not if those words Ingrid had bandied about just moments ago had any validity.

If he was going to kill her for the apple thing, then she wanted a head start. The best way to get an answer was just to confront him. “Let’s stop pussyfooting around.”

Khristos cocked his beautiful head. “Okay. No more pussyfooting.”

“And I want honesty when I ask this very sensitive question.”

He nodded, his thick hair falling over his eye, making him look even more rakish than he had at first glance. “You got it.”

“Are you going to kill me for biting your apple?”

“It was an accident, right?”

“If you would have just let go of my hand…” She stopped justifying and shook her head. “Yes, it was an accident.”

“Then this time I suppose I can let you live. But I don’t spare lives often. Remember that as we take this journey, Quinn Morris,” he said, but his amber-brown eyes were teasing.

She smiled. For the first time in days, it wasn’t just for the sake of everyone around her. “Okay, good. So that’s settled. Now, I don’t want to waste any more time freaking out about this and panicking. I’ve heard when something paranormal like this happens, there’s a lot of that.”

Straight from Ingrid’s mouth, she’d heard it. Crying, whining, mourning your old life were all symptoms of the change—symptoms that made Nina want to throat punch the OOPS clients.

She did not want to be throat punched by Nina. She was a lover. Not a fighter. Okay, a former lover, but she’d still never be a fighter.

Khristos raised an eyebrow again, a clearly skeptical one. “You’ve heard? What kind of human are you?”

She shrugged her shoulders as her dilemma began to sink deeper and deeper into her brain—the ramifications of it all were beginning to wear her down. “The kind who likes to be prepared. So what’s next?”

Ingrid interrupted any hope he had of answering when she made a beeline for Quinn, her eyes blazing and angry. “Didn’t I tell you not to talk to him? You!” she yelped at Khristos. “Back off!”

Khristos sighed and slid back over to his side of the steps and leaned back on his elbows “Apologies,” he said with a smirk.

Ingrid’s phone dinged, making Quinn jump up and peer over her shoulder. While she kept one eye on Khristos, Ingrid held up her phone. “Finally! I’ve been trying to get a signal forever. So I gave up and tweeted Nina. Go figure Twitter works but I can’t dial internationally. Read.”

OOPS: @ingridbelieves Did u fucking say she’s sparkling?

Quinn nodded her head at the phone. Fucking yes, she did.

Ingrid watched Khristos while she tweeted, Ingrid Lawson Ingridbelieves: @OOPS Yes! Something’s happened. Man—big man involved. Help now. Come pls!

OOPS: @Ingridbelieves R u telling me I should leave my man and kid because the nitwit is glowing? Did u eat moron 4 breakfast?

Ingridbelieves: @OOPS She also has cans the size of water balloons. Come pls!

OOPS: @Ingridbelieves LOLLOLLOLLOL!

Quinn frowned then stuck her tongue out at Nina’s tweet. “How are my big cans funny? This is not funny! He’s claiming I’m the Goddess of Love. After this past week, where I’ve decided love blows some hefty chunks, I don’t think I can hold up my end of the bargain. So tell Nina to stop mocking me and do her job, which is to help someone in paranormal crisis.”

She couldn’t even believe she’d just repeated those words. But help was help.

Ingrid’s fingers flew over the keyboard on her phone. Ingridbelieves: @OOPS Come pls. He says Quinn’s Aphrodite!

OOPS: @Ingridbelieves The Goddess of Love?

Ingridbelieves: @OOPS Yes! Batshit, right?

“Khristos? Is that my favorite Greek ever?”

Quinn and Ingrid both whipped around at the sound of a familiar voice.

Nina used the word “favorite” in a sentence—referencing another person? One of these things was not like the other.

Khristos shaded his eyes and gazed into the far corner of the Parthenon. “Nina Statleon? Is that you?”

Quinn’s burning eyes went wide. “You know her?”

Nina’s form blurred momentarily as she moved from the far corner of the ruins to right in front of them in the blink of an eye. Her long dark hair poking out from beneath her hoodie, her usual dark sunglasses on her nose, sporting a white strip of zinc oxide for added sun protection.

She eyeballed Quinn’s breasts and whistled. “He sure does, Boobs. Dude, how ya been?”

“Get over here, you!” Khristos said with enthusiasm, opening his arms to Nina—to Nina—and she went right into them, as if hugging was her favorite pastime.

He chuckled as he squeezed her hard and let her go, smiling down at her. “If it isn’t my favorite vampire! I’m really good, lady. Damn, when was the last time we saw each other?”

Nina pushed her hoodie from her head with a wide grin, unzipping it to reveal a black T-shirt that read “I’m A Delicate Fucking Flower”.

A grin. Nina was grinning. Not scowling. Oh, the world really had tipped on its axis.

“Gods versus Vampires picnic of 2012. Remember that shit? Took Apollo out like he was GD wearin’ lace panties and a bra. Good times, my friend.”

Khristos barked a laugh, his head falling back on his shoulders, revealing a strong neck, thick with cords of muscle. “That’s right! That was one helluva play you made, too. Talked about it for days.”

Nina slapped him on his broad back while an astonished Ingrid and Quinn stood frozen and watched. “So what’s goin’ on here, man? Ingrid tells me Boobs McGee is Aphrodite? Seriously? Like she didn’t have big enough rose-colored glasses sitting on that snooty nose of hers? What in the ever-lovin’ hell have you done, Khristos?”

Khristos stood back and jammed his hands into the pockets of his trousers. “Me? I didn’t do a thing. She did. She nicked the apple with her teeth, and you know what that means.”

Nina lifted her dark sunglasses and rolled her eyes, the strip of zinc oxide beginning to melt on her nose. “The golden one? Aw, duuude.”

Khristos threw up his hands. “Honest to God, I look away for one minute and bam. It’s partially my fault. I was a little distracted—”

“With a hot, leggy blonde, no doubt?” Nina asked, her grin facetious as she moved to the shade beneath a column.

Khristos rolled his eyes, but his face split into a gloriously handsome grin. “I tried to tell her not to touch it, but she wouldn’t listen.”

Quinn knew she should speak up, say something in her defense, but she still wasn’t over the fact that Nina knew this man.

“What the hell was the apple doing here in the first place?”

Khristos looked up at the column and shrugged. “I only set it down for a minute. We had some kind of weird tremor, right, Quinn? Maybe a mini-earthquake?” he asked her. “And it fell on the ground and she grabbed it up.”

Quinn’s mouth dropped open.

Khristos shook his head. “Never mind. She’s still a little shell-shocked. You know, the whole body change? I know it’s a delicate subject with women, but as I explained earlier, you know what the gods were like back in the day, right? Ample bodies and lush curves were all the rage. Anyway, the apple fell from the column and then, well, you know the rest.”

Nina nodded then nudged Quinn with her shoulder. “Did he tell you not to touch the apple, doofus?”

Quinn frowned, not liking the ugly guilt she was experiencing. “Well, yes…but I thought he was nuts. I mean, I thought maybe the apple was some rare artifact he was trying to steal. I tried to get it away from him, but in our struggle, I nicked my tooth on it. I thought by keeping it from him, I was saving all of Greece!”

“See?” Khristos said, hitching his angular jaw in her direction.

Nina nodded, her next words laced with typical Nina sarcasm. “Job well done, Indiana Jones.”

Oh, blame, blame, blame.

Nina brushed her hands together as if she were over this. “Then we’re good to go. And thank Christ, too. I thought I was going to have to spend another piece of my damn eternity codling one more cockadoodie whiny woman. But you can take it from here, right, Khristos?”

Wait. Nina was just going to leave her here with her big, big boobies and an utter stranger-slash-alleged-god who said he had to teach her how to be Aphrodite?

Aw, hell no.

She was terrified of Nina. Every time she ran into her when she and Ingrid had a study date, she literally shook in her shoes and avoided her like the plague or, if forced into her company, sat quietly as Nina scowled at her.

But what if Khristos wasn’t being completely honest, like Ingrid said? What if, even though he knew Nina, she didn’t really know-know him? Did you ever really know a person? Wasn’t it true that when serial killers were revealed, all the people who knew them in their everyday lives were all in total shock because they never suspected a thing?

Nina was a beast, but she was the beast Quinn knew, and if something went awry, she wanted the vampire on her side.

Which meant—let the begging and scraping commence.

End of Extended Sample

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  • Heat Level:
  • 0 = General Audience - 13+
  • 1 = General Audience - 16+
  • 2 = Sensual love scenes - 17+
  • 3 = Explicit love scenes, adult language - 18+
  • 4 = Graphic love scenes, adult language and situations - 18+
  • 5 = Graphic love scenes, adult language, subject matter some readers may consider objectionable - 18+